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I covered my face as the village healer, or the 'Messenger of God' as he was better known, nicked the arm of the delirious man and drew blood. The man struggled violently but it was futile as he was in firm grasps of the healer's helpers.

The witch doctor's black lips, forever chanting, blew blessings towards the wounds and when he reached the end of his mantra, he lifted the gaping wound, forced it wider, and poured the fresh, unadulterated, and nauseating blood of the newly slaughtered leopard right in.

His chanting became louder and louder and at last he roared as he spread his arms towards the black night, beckoning to the dark forces to aid him. The feline's blood mixed into the wound of the now unconscious man.

"Come! Now! " He shouted in frenzy as his body convulsed.

The crowd hushed with awe and respect.

I cowed further down behind my mum, as the rest of the villagers inched forward with frenzy; each craning their necks for a better view. I shut my eyes. Somehow, at a tender age of seven, I could not will my
mind to accept the healer's way. I never did.

"Tomorrow," the healer declared, "we shall have the leopard man to protect us!"

Tomorrow arrived; the leopard man was dead.

The village mourned for forty days. They were in a state of confusion. The healer blamed the unnatural forces that came with the sudden wind. His magic, he had pompously declared, had been overridden by some forces, forcing him to go on a pilgrimage to the mountain yonder.

For forty days, the villagers were without a healer. For forty days, we were without any protection. Women and children got sick, men moped around-until the next return of the healer.

The healer did return, as always, and as always, the village's balance would be restored. Things would continue normally -- people would get sick for some reason or another and the healer would see to them. Some got better; others took a turn for the worse. Periodically he would disappear but would always be welcomed back with open arms. No one dared to go against the 'Messenger of God'.

I became the silent skeptic. Somehow, I could never accept the revered healer, the 'Messenger of God', the 'life giver'! Little did I know I would become one...

My parents, being rather eccentric, had brought me to the nearby town to be schooled, much to the chagrin of the rest of the community but their actions were never opposed as they had deemed us harmless.

I studied the language and the mind of the white man. I grew into a white man. I furthered my studies and had a penchant for chemicals and their magic. I became a white doctor. For years, I spent my time, my life, on the white man's soil. Soon, it was time for me to return. My heart swelled with pride as I made my way back to my sleepy village, yearning to be home once again. In my hand, was a white man's black bag, containing all the necessary equipment an aspiring doctor would need.

A massive celebration greeted me and we ate, drank, and danced the whole night long. Suddenly, in the midst of euphoria, there was a loud, drawn wail coming from one of the mud houses belonging to Aneke. Everyone rushed in, only to see her weeping over her newborn. The 'Messenger of God' elbowed through and touched its forehead, declaring the devil had chosen to reside in the newborn's innocent temple. He proceeded to make a holy drink of ash and water.

I stopped him.. He stared hard into my eyes. Other eyes, frightened but awed, shifted back and forth.

"No..." I said quietly.
"No?" he glared.
"No," I demanded.

Suddenly, he unleashed a torrent of mantras presumably cursing me and my seven generations to come but still I held on to my dignity. I reached into my bag and produced a syringe. The metallic syringe glittered menacingly. Women and children screamed and a few burly hands reached out to me.

"Leave him," he cooed and the hands were removed. I moved towards the young mother and smiled. Fearfully, she handed me her infant who was clearly having a bad case of diarrhoea. I gave the baby a jab and some oral medicine and like magic, he was soon lulled to sleep.

Everyone cheered! We danced all night long and through the morning. I was ecstatic though I could not shake the ominous stare of the defeated healer who hurriedly embarked on his pilgrimage. He never returned.

I settled back comfortably to the old village routine. People still got sick once in a while but there was no longer the necessity for us to bring fresh blood of slaughtered animals or drinking ash water. We became stronger both physically and spiritually. From that day onwards, I never left my village. They clearly needed me -- the healer.

   
Answer the following questions using complete sentences
  1. What do you think killed the delirious man in the first paragraph ?
  2. What does the word 'unadulterated' mean ?
  3. Why did the writer not tell anyone about how he felt towards the healer ?
  4. What was the healer's reason for failing to turn the man into a leopard man ?
  5. What do you think was the actual reason for his pilgrimage ?
  6. Quote a phrase that shows that it was not the first time that the healer had run away.
  7. Why did the villagers not stop the writer's parents from sending him to school ?
  8. What does 'I became a white doctor' mean ?
  9. Describe the healer's feelings as he cooed to his helpers to let go of the writer's hands.
  10. Why do you think the healer did not return from his pilgrimage this time around ?
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Answers
 

1.

It was probably the leopard's blood that was poured into hsi wound.
 

2.

It means 'pure'.
 

3.

The whole village respected the healer and was awed by him.
 

4.

He blamed the unnatural forces that overrode his magic.
 

5.

He wanted to escape from being blamed for the man's death.
  6. It is 'periodically he would disappear'.
  7. They felt that it was a harmless thing to do.
  8. He became a western doctor.
  9. He was very confident that the writer would fail to help the baby.
  10. He was probably too embarrassed to return as the villagers no longer needed him.
 
 
 
 
 

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Comprehension 1

 

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