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
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
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
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.