Vengeance of the Gods
"Now that she is dead, I must deal with
her spirit so that my children and I will not be affected by that
butter-wouldn't-melt-in-thy-mouth witch," muttered Lalobo as
she looked around to make sure nobody was watching. She had to slide
the feather from the middle of her thighs in such a way that no
one would guess what she was doing.
She slouched towards the newly cemented grave
of her co-wife, Min Okello (mother of Okello). "She
thought she deserved everything, and I, like a dog, was to just
watch," she said loudly to herself, scratching her kinky hair.
"I have children, too, but they have deserted me." She
sniffed and added with a sneer, "Her children buried her like
a princess, a lavish funeral. Let's see who wins, if not I, mother
of them all."
She glanced at Otto, who was too drunk to
even tell his hands from his legs, let alone realise that he had
defecated on himself. Lalobo turned away in disgust and hissed,
"I had to destroy him: he spoke too much. I am not sorry about
it." She let out an ear-piercing demonic laugh and added, "He
ate it in his food, that bull! I, Lalobo, waste no time on people
who stand in my way."
Not bothered by a soul, Lalobo parted her
legs to remove the Malibu stork feather. The medicine woman had
instructed her to keep it in between her thighs till the afternoon
of the eve of Min Okello's last funeral rites. She pulled
it out easily, since she wore no knickers, and buried it in the
mound of soil next to where the deceased's head was supposed to
be facing. Just like the medicine woman, Acen, had instructed her.
Min Okello had died of the swelling
of the stomach, coupled with a strange ailment called two rec
believed to have come from Sudan. This disease normally left
its victim with a scaly skin and a mouth producing rotten substance
resembling dead maggots. Her children, who lived in the capital
city, Kampala, took her to all the hospitals there but the doctors
could not diagnose her disease. Even Doctor Smith Clarke, the white
specialist in strange African diseases, shook his head in defeat
and referred them to the local medicine men. They at last found
a medicine man who seemed to know the disease and how to treat it.
But Lalobo's intrusion and supervision made him leave an irritated
man. Efforts to bring him back were futile.
Lalobo flattened the earth carefully to hide
the feather, which was to put Min Okello' s spirit at rest.
This was to stop her from taking revenge from the other world. Contented
that the last ritual was complete, Lalobo decided to visit Acen
on her way to the spring. Lalobo had no friend in the village; Acen
was the only person she could confide in. Most women hated her.
It was rumoured in the village that she had got her husband, Latim,
Acen was a frail looking woman in her thirties.
Her ears were enormous like a rabbit's. She had given birth to four
boys who had all died at barely the age of one. What perturbed people
was that her husband did not chase her away, neither did he hurl
insults or derogatory remarks at her. He instead resorted to getting
more wives. Poor Acen could not complain, for she had no children
of her own.
Acen was now seated under a tree. As Lalobo
approached, she could see that Acen had just shaven the sides of
her head, leaving just enough room for two rows that stood majestically
in the middle of her small head. This was a new hairstyle for sure.
"What do you want now from me, you wretched
woman? Haven't you killed enough people already?" Acen asked
Lalobo jokingly, as she walked towards her.
"Enough is never enough," Lalobo
said and laughed.
"Then you have come for more killer charms,
eeeeeh?" Acen asked.
"Nooooooo," replied Lalobo. "I
have come to share my happiness with you. Don't you know what our
people say, that one hand does not open the vagina? Ha ha ha,"
they both laughed like young girls.
"You woman and your dirty mind,"
Acen said. "Is that the best saying you could have used?"
"I am not the composer of proverbs,"
"I see. So if you want me to share your
happiness, where is the cock?"
"Next time," Lalobo answered, looking
at the mat. Acen got the signal and like a good mannered child,
she moved away a bit to allow Lalobo room to sit. A worried look
appeared on Lalobo's face. "Are you sure that I am a free woman?
Without vengeance to worry about?" she asked.
"Have I ever promised you air, tell me,
have I?" retorted Acen.
"You know I killed Min Okello
out of jealousy. She was a good woman. Even if she had sons and
I, on the other hand, was cursed with girls whose bastards fill
my house, that was no reason to kill her, you know," Lalobo
said, worried. "My worry, my friend Acen, is that the gods
may turn against me."
"You see, that is what I was worried
about. Why? Why?"
"Why what?" Lalobo asked, opening
"You have reported yourself to the gods.
When you commit a crime like you have, you never say it aloud because
the gods are always listening. Now they know you are a killer."
"Oh god Lagooro of my forefathers, what
am I going to do?"
"Don't worry, my dear friend, we can
also deal with the gods. But this time you have to bleed money,
because we need a virgin bull, a white goat, water from the middle
of the lake, a root of the kituba tree, a...
"Please do not continue," Lalobo
interrupted. "Where in the world do you expect me to find a
virgin bull and all that? You will soon tell me to bring a fresh
"You must finish what you began. Water
does not flow backwards."
"You said the feather wouId be
the last. Now where are all these virgin bulls, white goats, tree
roots and whatever else going to come from?"
"Woman, you never finish with these things."
"No buts; just do as I say."
"I cannot afford it."
"It is not about what you can afford. Just do as I say in two
days. You never know what these scorned gods are capable of doing."
"I came here to celebrate, not..."
''Celebrate after killing an innocent woman!
What do you expect after you and your big mouth couldn't keep quiet
about your deeds."
"I am confused, are you against me?"
"lt is not about taking sides. It is
about what you have done. You killed an innocent woman and I helped...
oh no! I didn't say it. Listen carefully, Lalobo, do as I have told
you and within two days. Excreta is dealt with while it is still
"Fine. I thought you we were supposed
to side with mortals, not spirits. But I was wrong, very wrong."
"Just do as told."
"Let me leave your sight before you add
a yellow sheep, a blue hen or a wingless eagle to the list."
She stalked away angrily and left wondering where on earth she would
find all those things.
Lalobo was now faced with a dilemma and needed to be alone. She
knew that back home, guests for Min Okello's last funeral
rites must have begun arriving. She tried to hurry to the spring
to get the water she should have got hours ago but her legs felt
as if heavy logs were tied around them.
At home, the relatives had started arriving. Min Okello's
children came in cars with loads of things as if it was a party,
Lalobo thought resentfully. She glanced at her stepdaughter Adong,
who was a replica of her mother Min Okello. Adongo ran towards
her stepmother and hugged her passionately. She loved her very much,
though Lalobo treated her coolly, making her feel like a child caught
licking sugar. But that did not bother Adong in the least: Lalobo
would always be her mother.
"Mother, I am happy to see you! How are
you?" Adong greeted Lalobo.
"I am fine. You no longer come to see
us," Lalobo complained.
"I have been busy, mother."
"Don't worry, my daughter, we will survive."
"I will come and see you again, I promise."
"My daughter, I have a big problem. I
don't have any money. I tried to brew local beer but it was too
dilute and nobody bought even a tot. I need money desperately."
"Don't worry, mother, we will arrange
No, I need something for the pocket."
"Don't worry. Everything is under control."
Seeing that her daughter was determined not
to give her money, Lalobo walked away. She had to get another prey,
but wherever she went, everyone turned her down. This sent the villagers
talking. Lalobo was the kind of person who would not even beg for
salt from the neighbours. "Perhaps something is amiss,"
they conjectured. One woman even said, "Lalobo is not herself
these days." Sometimes she made a mistake and asked the same
person twice for money, giving a different reason each time.
That night, Lalobo was awakened by a terrible
dream. She dreamt that she was being bitten by babies who said the
gods had sent them as their agents and told her the worst was yet
to come. Lalobo quickly got out of bed. She had to get money this
time by all means.
"Morning, mother," Adong greeted
Bad omen, Lalobo said to herself silently. Then loudly, "Morning."
Why does she have to look like her dead mother!
Lalobo walked towards the villagers who were flocking in. Most of
them came for the food and the local brew, arege. The young
girls were doing most of the work. Bored, Lalobo had nothing to
do but greet the villagers and watch what was going on. The compound
was extremely busy. People were fetching water, bringing firewood,
others bringing all sorts of food.
The elders were seated outside on low stools.
They drank beer from gourds and spoke in low voices as they waited
for the medicine man, Chan, who would fetch the spirit of Min
Okello from the unknown place to be questioned about her welfare.
Chan arrived late in the afternoon with a
group of assistants, all dressed in brown cow skins and bomo,
a creeping plant. He wore a hat made of feathers and adorned with
beads, cowry shells, claws of birds and snakeskins. On reaching
Min Okello's hut, he trembled like an aspen in the wind.
This was an indication that her sprit was disturbed.
Lalobo was frightened but remembering what
measures she had taken against such an eventuality, she felt calm
again. In her mind, she even had hatched a plan to distract Chan
if anything went wrong. Inside the hut, a stool was given to Chan
to sit on, while the assistants rattled the gourds to the family
members and the elders who had joined them. Then Chan began a familiar
song to which everybody chorused a response as they clapped their
hands. Chan danced, throwing his legs here and there, rapping, cursing,
appealing to the unknown. Suddenly, Chan began speaking in Min
"I am chained, set my spirit free."
Min Okello's voice spoke.
"By who?" the elders asked.
"She," the voice spoke again.
"Lalobo, my co-wife."
Chen trembled, sent a cataloguing gaze around
while everyone stared at Lalobo. She sniffed, got up but was shoved
down by the assistants. Chan got up, walking in the same springy
way Min Okello used to, prancing from one corner to the other.
Lalobo, scared that Chan, now possessed by Min Okello, was
aiming at her, fled from the hut. People got out and scrambled after
her, leaving Chan and his assistants.
"She killed Min Okello. Get her!"
somebody screamed. Everybody ran after Lalobo, hitting her with
stones, saucepans and potatoes as she ran. Complete anarchy had
Lalobo fell down heavily but people were still
coming after her. They had cassava sticks in their hands that they
had uprooted from a nearby garden. Some strong men carried big stones
all of which came crashing down upon her body.
"Spare me! Spare me! Let me explain,"
Lalobo cried out.
But nobody could hear her now. They were all
thirsty for blood and blood was what they would settle for. "Kill
the sorceress, kill the sorceress," they chanted. Children,
too, joined in the stoning and chanting as if it was a game of dodge
the ball. Soon, the stoning and chanting died down. What was left
of Lalobo was a horrifying sight of blood, weapons and flesh mixed
in one messy heap. Everybody turned away. Nobody said a word. Their
faces reflected the horror of what was left of Lalobo.
Beatrice Lamwaka, a member of Femrite,
writes short stories, poems, and articles for New Era magazine.
She is currently working on her first novel.