A Runner's Shadow Falls On A Rock by Dugald Bremner
A Runner's Shadow Falls On A Rock by Dugald Bremner
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The Untold Story

by Mercy Adhiambo

The people around were talking and their voices were rapidly rising. Although Sinjile knew that they were talking about her, she had not the slightest desire to listen to what they were saying. Her mind was occupied by her own thoughts … thoughts of what was ahead.

The tent under which they were seated was getting heated up and she felt sweat trickling down her back. She lifted the hem of her skirt and used it to wipe her perspiring face. She quickly put it down before anyone could notice.

"Sinjile, the day is finally here," her childhood friend Pwagua whispered, breaking the silence.

"It is," she replied.

"I wish you well," Pwagua said, squeezing her friend's hand.

Sinjile feigned a smile and one could easily notice the distant look in her eyes.

The drumbeats that had been sounding in the not so far distance were drawing nearer. Sinjile's heart leapt. She knew that in no time they would arrive and take her with them.

Her mother beckoned her. Uncertainty gripped her and she felt the urge to rise and run surge through her, but she knew that it was impossible. She could not run —not today. If she had wanted to run, she could have run then.

She dragged herself towards her mother. The nausea that she had been having since morning was building up.

"Mama," she called out when she reached the doorstep of the hut that her mother had entered.

"Come in," came a voice from inside the hut. The voice was not familiar to her and she was sure it was not her mother's.

She entered the house and strained her eyes to adjust in the darkness of the hut.

An old woman was sitting on a mat that was spread in the otherwise vacant room.

"Are you ready, Child?" she asked, looking into Sinjile's eyes.

"I am ready," she replied weakly.

Her mother appeared from the other room. She looked tired and her eyes were red and swollen. Sinjile knew that she had been crying. She had cried ever since the day the unspoken curse befell her daughter.

"I made you this beaded necklace," her mother said, giving Sinjile a necklace made of beautiful beads.

Sinjile murmured a low thank you and absent-mindedly caressed the beads. There was a moment of silence as they became lost in their own worlds.

"Mama, I am not well," Sinjile finally managed to say, her gaze fixed on the ground.

"Aii! You cannot be sick today. The village's hand is in your hands. You cannot go against your people, you have to do it!" the old woman blurted.

Sinjile's mother remained quiet.

"I do not want to do it," Sinjile said under her breath.

Another spell of silence began. The old woman stared hard at Sinjile until she blushed.

"Do you know what that would mean … ? The ancestors would not forgive us. You cannot sacrifice the whole village for your own sake. You should have known better and not gone to the granary at night!" screamed the old woman.

Her words stung Sinjile. She felt as if her stomach was on fire. She fought so hard to stop the tears that were stinging her eyes.

"It was not my fault, I swear," she interjected, trying to find words to express herself.

The drum beat increased in volume and tempo until it reached a deafening crescendo. They had arrived and there was singing and vigorous dancing outside.

"They are here, you have to take this fast," the old woman said, giving Sinjile a bottle of medicinal herbs.

Her hands shook as she took the medicine. She had taken so many of its type ever since the night that the nightmare began.

She gulped it down her throat and she felt the sharp bitterness of the medicine sting her tongue. A wave of nausea swept over her and she almost threw up.

The old woman's eyes searched her face, as if trying to find fault in her.

"That is to ensure that you are cleansed," she said when Sinjile gave her the empty bottle.

Her mother held her hand and led her outside. The people were waiting for her. Ululations rent the air when she appeared. The time had come.

"May the gods of good luck go before you," her mother said, patting her back gently.

Sinjile's eyes misted. This was the last time she would see her mother. She gave her a tight hug and her tears stained her mother's dress.

She had promised herself that she would not cry. After all, she had borne all the shame and discminiation. This day was going to mark the end of her tribulations. She was moving out of the village forever.

Pwagua came and held her hand. She too was crying, and together they let their tears flow freely. Pwagua had been the only one who had talked to Sinjile ever since it happened.

The whole village had talked about it — of course in hushed tones. Such a thing was not to be said loudly.

Sinjile had been attacked and raped by her paternal uncle when she had gone to get millet from the granary. Her mother, having waited for her to return, and realizing that she was taking too long to come back, had decided to go and look for her.

It was then that she found her twelve-year-old daughter weeping and bleeding. She had screamed and alerted the neighbours, thinking that her child had been attacked by a wild animal. Later when they realized that she had been raped, they declared her unclean.

Her childhood joy was gone. She could no longer share the water point with villagers because she was unclean. Her days became long and dull, and it was only Pwagua, whose father was a pastor in the big city, who visited her.

Since then, so many rituals were performed on her, and today was the day of the final cleansing. She was going to share a reconciliatory meal with her uncle, and then she would be sent from the village forever.

Her uncle was slowly advancing towards her and the singing was getting faster and louder. Her breathing became laboured and her nausea returned.

As he moved closer, the whole terrible drama of how her uncle had attacked her from behind and ripped off her clothes and stole her innocence replayed in her memory. It was intolerable.

She felt hatred — for her uncle and the whole village. They were thieves who had stolen her happiness. They were murderers who had murdered her childhood.

Suddenly, with all her might, she kicked her uncle in the stomach. He fell down with a loud thud and traces of blood oozed from his mouth.

"Ai! Get him some water," a woman screamed. The village momentarily held its breath. There was deathly silence.

Sinjile did not wait to see what happened next. She ran. She did not know where to go, but she ran on. She heard her mother's voice calling for her to stop, but she did not look back-it was over!

Mercy Adhiambo lives with her parents in Kenya where she was born 20 years ago. She started writing at a tender age of 9 years, and most of her writings focus on women and the girl child. Having been raised in a Community whose culture disregards women, her stories highlight the challenges that women and girls go through.

She is currently working as a volunteer for a Community Based Organization that advocates for Education of the Girls in her Community.

The Untold Story was one of the top contenders for the Fall/Winter 2007 Glass Woman Prize, http://www.sigriddaughter.com/GlassWomanPrize.htm

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