We all die. Fact.
What differs is the how.
The story I am about to tell you dear reader is told in hushed tones in our village. It is believed if the spirits hear you they will strike in your household.
It all starts with a very tall tree found amidst tea bushes.
About 200 feet tall. It is striking and noticeably stands alone. Like a flag post.
In the local dialect, it is called the Muna tree. This tree is wide enough to fit six well fed, pot-bellied men. Inside is a hollow space where all kinds of creatures live. Bees, squirrels, birds and owls which keep watch at night.
Nobody knows how old the tree is. The elder men and women claim they found it there.
On this particular day, the rumor mill in the market claimed a person had been spotted climbing the tree. This was highly unusual.
For a village starved off drama, it spread like a bout of chickenpox.
No sooner than later, an expectant crowd was gathered.
‘’ Who is that?’’ ‘’Oh! Not again!’’ ‘’ Wonders shall never cease?’’ People whispered.
THE MAN ON THE TREE
The sun was shining in all its glory. From the top of the tree, he could see the river meandering the vast landscape. He had underestimated the uphill task of climbing the tree.
It took him thirty minutes of maneuvering and catching his breath to get to the top.
He cursed out loud. People were increasingly gathering. This wasn’t ideal. The distance to the ground was frightful. He focused his sight on what was around him.
On the ground, the watchers could now tell who the poor bastard was.
It was the headman’s son, Kamaitha.
They wondered aloud what could lead a privileged boy like him to climb the tree. The most probable answer was left unsaid for fear of jinxing the situation.
Kamaitha was the most educated child in the village. You would always find him seated under a tree mumbling to himself with a book on his lap.
In the eyes of the villagers, he was a well mannered boy with no worries. I mean he lived a comfortable life.
Attempts to talk to him fell on deaf ears. Consequently, his parents were called.
The mother arrived first with tears in her eyes. She tore her headdress and screamed while rolling in the dirt. Women grabbed her and covered her in shukas to mask her sorrow and dignity.
On the tree, Kamaitha was in trance like state. It was pure bliss.
He closed his eyes and felt the soft cool breeze on his ears. The birds nested around him chirped and fed their young quite oblivious to his presence.
He thought of the stories of several men who had jumped to their deaths on this same tree. He felt an uncanny connection to them. Numerous thoughts crossed his mind. His family, his work, his unborn child… And then came thoughts of nothing.
At the foot of the tree, he noticed a figure approaching with a distinctive walk. It was his father.
People made way for the village headman. He had a solemn and inscrutable look on his face. Not even the sight of his grieving wife moved him.
He asked for a panga. The crowd wondered if man and son had gone mad.
Did he really want to cut the humongous tree? No one dared question him. All around was a thick cloud of tension and uncertainty.
Baba Kamaitha surveyed the full length of the tree. He remembered an old man who had warned him and advised him to cut the tree. It was cursed. True to his religious nature, he rebuked the man and told him off. Were the gods playing him?
Amongst a branch large enough to be a tree, he spotted his son.
He loudly cleared his throat and boomed, ‘’ Kamaitha, ûkoro ni kuruga uraruga ûkue! Waaga gûkua, ngûkûraga na fanga uyu nyitete!’’ (Kamaitha, if you choose to jump, make sure you die. If you don’t, I will kill you myself with this panga I am holding!)
WHATEVER GOES UP COMES DOWN…
Kamaitha stood up. As if in sync, a fierce wind suddenly blew. To this day, the people who witnessed, claimed the wind carried voices of women screaming.
He took a step towards the edge of the branch. For those below, it looked as if he had finally come to his senses and was beginning the long descent.
A firm determination filled him.
He was going out his own way. Neither the gods with their winds nor his father with the machete could take away that from him.
He took the final step with a wry smile and a fierce belief he could fly.
(TO BE CONTINUED)