Ndiyamasi

by Tololwa Mollel

Maliaki closed his eyes tight when his cousin blew out the lamp and chanted in their dark bedroom. Ndiyamasi Ndiyamasi, Ndiyamasi Ndiyamasi! Ndiyamasi was a monster in stories Grandmother often told them. He had two mouths and a single eye.

As Alfayo chanted on Maliaki pulled the blanket around his head, shutting his eyes even more tightly shut and plugging his ears. Only after Alfayo fell asleep did Maliaki open his eyes, unplug his ears and slowly pull back the blanket. Then he got up and lit the lamp. And he lay awake thinking about Ndiyamasi.

Late the next day when Maliaki stayed to play after school Alfayo headed home, and warned his cousin. “Don’t be late coming home, or Ndiyamasi will get you!”

Playing with his chums, Maliaki forgot all about Ndiyamasi or going home.

Darkness was falling when he finally left for home. He walked briskly on a path that wound through a jungle of coffee and banana trees.  A bush baby shrieked ka-ha ka-ha. An owl hooted tuwwuuuu. Maliaki began to run. Moments later he crashed into a dark hairy figure, and Maliaki screamed. “Help, help! Ndiyamasi! Help!”

Grandfather raised his flashlight. “Here you are! We wondered what had happened to you." As they walked home the moon emerged from a cloud. Maliaki noticed Grandfather’s dark hairy sweater.

At home, Grandmother had a good laugh when Grandfather told her of what had happened. She said to Maliaki, “You thought your grandfather was a monster?”

Later in their dark bedroom, Alfayo chanted. Ndiyamasi Ndiyamasi, Ndiyamasi Ndiyamasi……..!

Maliaki remembered how he had crashed into Grandfather, and his terrible screams. He remembered how Grandmother had laughed when Grandfather told her of the incident. He remembered how last night Alfayo had scared him about Ndiyamasi. And night after night before that.

Turning to his cousin, Maliaki said, “Don’t. Alfayo, don’t. Don’t mention his name.” He lowered his voice. “I saw him. I met ... Ndiyamasi!”

Alfayo stopped his chant. “Nooooo. You didn’t!”

Maliaki lit the lamp. He heard Grandfather shuffle about outside, checking windows of the sheds and barns in the compound. Every night Grandfather made sure all windows were closed, and bolted. Maliaki said to Alfayo, “Yes, I met Ndiyamasi. I was walking home when I heard footsteps behind me...”

“Footsteps?”

Maliaki nodded. “Shambling after me.” Maliaki shuffled. Ffu-ttuu ffu-ttuu ffu-ttuu. Ffu-ttuu ffu-ttuu ffu-ttuu. Alfayo, grinned, joined him. Ffu-ttuu ffu-ttuu ffu-ttuu. Ffu-ttuu ffu-ttuu ffu-ttuu.


Maliaki said, “I had gone into hiding when the single eye of Ndiyamasi lit up the night. Ndiyamasi called out. ‘You can hide a-a-a-ll you want, little boy, but I’ll find you.’ And find me he did.” Maliaki reached out. “The two mouths of Ndiyamasi growled.

“‘I said I’d find you!’”

Alfayo pulled away. “Ha-ha-ha. You won’t … scare me!”

Maliaki pressed on. “Ndiyamasi told me, ‘Scream a-a-a-ll you want, little boy. No one will hear you.’” “Sure enough,” Maliaki said, “when I opened my mouth no sound came out. And Ndiyamasi laughed.” Maliaki laughed, an ugly Ndiyamasi laugh. Hinya-hinya-hinya-hinya! Hinya-hinya-hinya-hinya!  Alfayo joined in. Hinya-hinya-hinya-hinya!  Hinya-hinya-hinya-....!

All of a sudden, they stopped to look up. They stared through the glass pane. Outside their window, someone – a dark hairy figure – approached.

Maliaki blew out the lamp, and whispered. Ndiyamasi!

A series of screams brought Grandfather dashing in. He pointed his flashlight at Alfayo. “What in the world are you screaming about?”

That night, it was not Maliaki who pulled a blanket over his face. It wasn’t Maliaki who lit the lamp and lay awake. It wasn’t Maliaki who thought about the two mouths of Ndiyamasi. And of his … single eye.


-

About the Author

Tololwa Mollel is an award-winning children's author, dramatist, storyteller and story maker who has written over sixteen children's books, several plays, short stories for adults, and stories for performance. Mollel’s books and short stories have been published internationally, including in Tanzania where he was born and have been translated into various South African languages, Korean, Spanish, Danish, Serbian and Swahili. Mollel has worked extensively in schools and libraries as visiting and resident artist across Canada where he now lives, as well as in the US, Australia, England and Tanzania. In his work, he combines writing, storytelling and story making, and dramatic form.
“You can’t go.”

“But why not Mummy? All of my friends are going.”

“I don’t care who else is going, you can’t go.”

“But Mummy…”

“It’s a school night and I said you can’t go, so that’s it!”

Dominic stomped to his room. He couldn’t understand why his mother was being so difficult.  Yes it was a school night, but all of his friends were going to the Exams Dun Lime -the EDL- so why couldn't he? Mummy never wanted him to enjoy himself; but whatever happened, he was going to that lime! All he had to do was come up with a plan.

Two weeks later, Dominic was no closer to figuring out a plan but since he had scored five A’s on his mid-term report, he wondered if this could be used to negotiate with his mother. Deciding to try his luck he found her in the kitchen frying fishcakes.

“So Mummy, what did you think of my report?”

“What did I think?” she asked, looking up from the bowl. “I am still in shock but very pleasantly surprised.  Good job!”

She gave him a quick hug, which he hurriedly broke.

“Mum! I’m too old for hugs!”

“You’ll never be too old for my hugs and anyway, I had an idea,” she announced, staring him straight in the eye.

“You? Had an idea? Was it a good one?” Dominic asked, cautiously. His mother was always coming up with ideas but most of them were not good; at least not for him.

“Well, seeing as how your grades have improved I was thinking that maybe you’d like to go to the school fete or lime or whatever it is.”

“I can go to the lime?  Are you serious?” Dominic shrieked in disbelief.  His mother was actually considering letting him go to the lime!

“Yes you can go, but there is one condition.”

“What condition?”

“You can go to the lime, as long as I pick you up by eleven o’clock.”

“Eleven o’clock?  You’ve got to be kidding me Mummy! No-one will be leaving that early!”

“Well, the choice is yours. Take it or leave it. You can go to your room and think about it.”

Dominic couldn't believe it. Sure he was elated to be going to the lime. All of his friends were going and it should prove to be a great time. He was going to drink lots of Coke and ‘Jones and Wuk up’ to local artiste Lil Rick’s songs but to be leaving at eleven o’clock? He would be the laughing stock of his class! No-one, and absolutely no-one, left that early. What was he going to do? He had to decide soon, because there was also the other matter of getting to kiss his new girlfriend Rosanna.

That evening at dinner, Dominic made his announcement.

“I’ll go to the lime, Mummy, and you can pick me up at eleven.”

“Are you sure, Dom?”

“Yes, I’m sure.”

“Well, okay then. It’s a deal.”

“Yeah, deal,” Dominic nodded but all the while wondering how in the world he was going to leave so early.  He let out a long sigh. He was going to need a miracle.

Wednesday dawned bright and early. The day seemed to move slower than normal, but finally, the bell sounded, signalling the end of the last period for the day.  What a relief!  Now he could go home and start to get ready.

“Well, you’re in good spirits today,” commented his mum as he came through the door that afternoon.

“Yeah, school was okay,” he replied, dropping his bag on the floor by the kitchen table.

“Put that bag in your room, please, and dinner will be ready in about ten minutes, so standby,” she instructed.  “And make sure you do everything you need to do before you leave here tonight for that fete.  The dog has to be fed, your school clothes for tomorrow have to be ironed, and don’t forget to …”

“Seriously, mum! I know what I have to do and I will do it, okay? Why are you always nagging me so?”

His mum glared at him over the rims of her glasses.

“You haven’t seen real nagging yet, young man, so you would be wise not to test me… especially today.”

Dominic hastily retreated to his bedroom. He quickly ironed his school clothes for the next day and cleaned his shoes.  He ate his dinner and spent a few minutes with his brown sausage dog, Lucky. After finishing his chores he laid out his party clothes on the bed and proceeded to take a long bath which included washing his hair and scrubbing his face several times with acne wash. He wanted to look good and smell even better for his special date tonight.

Dominic got out of his mother’s car at exactly half past seven in the evening.

“See you at eleven, Dom. Have a good time!  Oh, and don’t keep me waiting or there’ll be trouble,” his mother reminded him.

“Okay, okay. See you later,” Dominic replied, flinging the words over his shoulder as he ran towards the entrance. His night was about to begin!

It was almost three hours later when Dominic decided he needed a breath of fresh air and made his way over to a bench outside the school hall. Absently he glanced at the florescent hands on his watch.

“This watch has got to be wrong,” he muttered in disbelief. “It cannot be fifteen  after ten already!  I haven’t even kissed Rosanna yet so there’s no way I’m leaving early. This is my night with my girl and it’s all about going with the flow.”

Decision made, Dominic made his way back into the hall to look for his waiting princess.

At half past eleven, however, his mother was definitely not ‘going with the flow’. Unimpressed at being kept waiting, she sat quietly steaming in the SUV. She had been calling Dominic on his cell phone constantly since she arrived; the boy had not picked up once.

“He must know what time it is,” she thought to herself, peering out through the windshield into the shadowy carpark. “Even if his watch isn’t working, he can check the time on his phone or ask a friend. He’d better not be testing me.”

After another ten minutes of waiting and still no word from her son, Mrs. Sargeant turned the ignition in the car and drove home.

“You smell so good, Sanna,” whispered Dominic, his lips brushing Rosanna’s ear.

Rosanna giggled, looking up at him as innocently as she could, sending his hormones into overdrive. This was it!  He was going to kiss his sweet girl and become a real man; it was now or never. Lowering his face closer he lightly brushed his lips over hers.

“This page is for Dominic Sargeant! Calling Dominic Sargeant!”

Dominic froze. Who was calling his name so loudly over the public address system? He hadn’t even done anything yet!

“Paging Dominic Sargeant. Please come to the DJ booth urgently. Your mother is here to collect you.”

Loud laughter erupted through the school hall.  Dominic couldn't believe it. How could his mother do this to him? After all, it was only … oh no! His watch was literally screaming twenty minutes past midnight! Now he was in for it. He pushed Rosanna hurriedly away from him, pulled her back for a quick peck on the cheek and promised faithfully to catch up with her tomorrow at school (as long as he wasn't lying in a coffin at a funeral home).

Trying to appear a lot calmer than he felt, he pushed his way through the thick crowd to the hall’s back door. Once there he tried to peep upstairs to see if he could spot his mother in the DJ booth. At first he couldn't see anything but as his eyes adjusted to the light he saw a female speaking animatedly with the principal. She was standing a little way off to the side of the equipment table, her hands gesticulating wildly and with what looked like an extra-large walking stick in one of them.

But it couldn't be his mother because even in the dim light, he could see the woman’s head was covered in loads of ugly green foam rollers, loosely protected by some sort of hair net in fluorescent pink. The front of her mauve polka dot nightgown peeked through the yellow and blue striped house dress thrown over her shoulders. On her feet were the most hideous looking rubber-ducky bedroom slippers he had ever seen.

His mother must have gone back to the car after asking the DJ to make the announcement. He would just have to make a run for it and pretend somehow that he had been in the car park all along. Just as he turned to go outside, the DJ made another announcement.

“Well after all that dancing and ‘Jones-ing’ with Lil Rick, Dominic Sargeant’s mother is still here waiting on him.”

A loud chorus of boo’s threaded its way through the belly of the crowd in response.

“But we in here charged up so while Dominic remains missing in action let’s have some spotlights on this booth as we give a big hail to Mrs Elizabeth Sargeant! Come on Mrs Sargeant, show the young people a move or two! ”

Dominic was sure he had died and gone straight to hell. That woman he had seen with the principal, complete with rollers and bedroom slippers was his mother? The spotlight in the school hall packed with hundreds of students was on his mother? For sure it couldn't be his mother doing some kind of strange robot-type move and twirling a long bamboo stick in the air as if she was performing in a geriatric tuk band… or could it?

Well, there was absolutely no way on this earth he was going to the DJ booth. How and more importantly when would he ever live this horrible night down? Dominic could feel a serious migraine coming on as he waited for his mother outside.

“Hey Dominic,” shouted his friend Traverston. “You okay? Your mother’s on her way out. Be prepared!”

“She’s going to kill me when we get home, for sure,” lamented Dominic, holding his head in his hands.

Rosanna ran up behind Traverston.

“Actually Dominic, you’re mum’s pretty cool- for a mum,” she announced. My mother doesn't even know what ‘LOL’ stands for, far less how to dance. Anyhow look, she’s coming! We gone!”

Dominic tried to remember exactly what he had eaten for dinner. This must all be a very bad dream as a result of severe indigestion. But no, here came his mother smiling and strutting her ridiculous rollers, hideous housecoat and yellow duckies. She waved at his friends as they went back to the hall, got into the car and started it up.

“The next time I give you a time, that is the time, understood?” his mother hissed, glaring at him so menacingly he knew this scene with horror movie potential was far from over.

“Yes, please.”

“Good, because next time you will think Halloween come early when I turn up to an event wearing a black witch’s outfit and beating you in public with my broom- you got me boy?”

“Yes, please.”

“Anyhow, we’ll talk about this some more when we get home; these stupid curlers barely confusing my poor head.”

Dominic sighed unhappily, knowing that for the next few months the only thing he wouldn't be banned from doing was breathing. He gazed out of the car window as they drove home, thinking: what a lime of a night!


-

Gale Weithers was born and lives in Barbados. She is the mother of one teenaged son who is the inspiration for most of her short stories. Her poetry, essays and stories have all won several Barbados NIFCA awards from 2006 onwards and she is looking forward to publishing her first short story anthology shortly.


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