In a far distant land……many stories would start…..there lived one notorious boy ….I guess this was aimed at me but also intended to serve as a warning to anyone else who might dare similar adventures.
Life in the village was ‘divided’ into two compartments so to say, day and night, during the day it was all about work. Everyone was expected to give a helping hand in the daily household chores. In almost every family and especially where I came from, cooking was a girl’s designated assignment while jobs like looking after animals was left for the boys. I should say that, this was the common pattern but it was bound to change from one family to another depending on their situations.
Having been raised in a farming community it would be during the twilight window that we would start heading home for the evening. Boys would bring the animals from the field to be milked while men would be seen gathering their farm tools in preparation for heading home. Girls and women would be gathering firewood and fetching water in readiness for the night. This was one of the most dramatic hour of the day as everything that needed done before the end of the day was to be done in a crucible of immediacy for one obvious reason---the window between sunset and darkness is pretty small. Those children who left their work till the last minute found it really rough for the rest of the night.
As the darkness engulfed the earth the once vibrant village came to standstill as people headed back to their houses ushering deep silence throughout a vast region. Any shout made on one end of the village would travel far and wide. Families gathered around the fire as members caught up with each others on their daily activities. If by any chance children failed to finish their delegated work and their parents happen to be in bad moods then hell would break loose. At certain nights, the cries of children coming from different homes as their parents administered discipline in their best ways possible would be like an orchestrated music performed spontaneously from different locations. Ooooooiiiii, ng’iiiii,acha acha all adding to different effects to the music.
African culture is largely oral in nature and stories intended for history, entertainment or for a particular lesson would be relayed when families gathered together. It is a culture that is very rich in proverbs, riddles, fables, legends, myths, figures of speech dealing with nature, agriculture and such. Depending on the subject matter parents would retell, create imaginary stories or coin the already existing ones to suit their motive. More significantly, the stories are intended to stress on the consequences of a certain behaviour. What an excellent time to share them than a time when food was simmering in the pots or sufurias as we used to call them as everyone waited eagerly for the meal. This was the place and time that the African child would get extra coaching after school like mannerism in terms of how girls ought to seat, eat, respect for the elders among others would be taught and where necessary demonstrated.
Among many stories lies one that captured my young mind and stayed there till today---I guess it served the intended purpose. I have never bothered to investigate the origin of the story or whether it was a mere fabrication by our mum and dad. They told us this story at different times and location and coincidentally whenever they did so one of them would be absent. Whether that was a ploy employed to make us believe it was true, am yet to establish or should I say too late to do so.
The story goes that there lived a mysterious woman who roamed about during the night. Her name was Wambui Kihuruti. In terms of her physique she held features close to an ogre; one eye on the forehead and two on the back and had three fingers on each hand. She spoke in a woman’s voice but her body was manly built. She breathed fire from her mouth and nostrils and would only be seen at night. Those who had an encounter with her said that she carried strange paraphernalia wherever she went but two items were identified by every victim who happened to have been caught up in the ordeal—a fork and a spoon.
It is said that her work was to catch rebellious children and especially those that walked during the night. First if she got hold of such children she would let out a shriek accompanied by fire and out she would reach for her operational tools and performed her activity in a very methodical process. With her spoon she would crudely scoop out her victim’s teeth to the last bit. Next she would get out her fork with a grin on her face and using her three fingers she would gouge the eyes out one after the other. Having accomplished her mission she would leave to her mysterious village.
Having heard this same story again and again I had vowed within myself that I will avoid night outs. To this day I still fear darkness and more so watching films that are horror in nature which was as a result of being subjected to them in form of stories at very tender age!