by Trevor Charles
The Kenyan coast is rife with tales of the occult. As with most tales, the line between truth and falsehood is sometimes blurred, even in the eyes of the narrators themselves.
For Tambika, there was no doubt. These were old wives’ tales, and tall ones for that matter. Always the skeptic, Tambika was occasionally amused by peoples’ dedication to this woven tapestry of black magic and evil spirits, not to mention the lengths some would go to embellish the stories.
Sometimes, she wondered where people got the time. To her, Majini, or evil spirits, as they are often called in these parts of the world, are not manifestations of spirits of the underworld, but simply stories concocted to make children behave.
Her workmates at the deluxe beach resort in Mombasa, all native to the area, found her nonchalance on the subject odd and naïve. It baffled them that despite having been born and raised in a village in Kwale, a hinterland off the coast of Mombasa, Tambika outrightly disavowed the existence of these spirits. Surely, she ought to know better!
Just as well.
While at work one Friday morning, Tambika, who had recently been promoted to the position of Housekeeping manager, intimated to Katana, one of her colleagues and a close confidant, of her intention to move houses. It made sense that she would want to live in a dwelling that reflected her new-found status.
Always cautious, Katana warned her to be careful in her selection. Aside from the usual fears of majini, many more social ills such as drug trafficking had lately taken root on the island.
Disbelieving of Tambika’s cavalier attitude he pointed out that people had come across cats that cried like people at night! Katana even narrated a recent account of a very healthy herd of goats, who roamed the town freely, unattended.
Every day at noon, he said, they’d be seen moving across the small town towards the beach, where they’d graze on some shrubs and bushes, then mysteriously disappear. At precisely four in the afternoon, they’d once again reappear and head back inland from whence they came.
Due to the mystical tales surrounding the goats, no one dared follow them to find out who their owners were or where they lived.
However, one day, a man observed these goats and reckoned he could make a quick coin from their sale upcountry. He bundled the dozen or so animals onto a pick-up truck and on his merry way he went.
As he sped along the highway, he heard a whisper. A voice… ‘mbuzi wazitakiani?’ it chanted. Someone wanted to know what he wanted to do with the goats. Chalking it up to his imagination and guilty conscience, he ignored the question. More voices soon joined in the chant, which grew more intense by the second.
Convinced he was losing his mind due to fatigue, the thief decided to pull over and rest. Just as he stopped the car in the middle of nowhere, there was a soft tap to his rear window. Glancing back, he was shocked to find no goats in sight!
Instead, piled onto his truck, seated, was collective of men, all dressed in black robes intently staring back at him. The chant was at a crescendo now. Without breaking their stare, the men rose up in unison…
At this point, Tambika had heard enough and sharply told Katana to quit his ridiculous narrative.
The house search
In any event, she said, his foreboding was unwarranted, for none of the numerous houses she had viewed so far held much promise anyway. She wanted as much space as a stadium, from the American football odds, but so far all houses were too tiny.
Always the gentleman, Katana offered to accompany Tambika on her next round of house hunting. You see, Katana was one of those guys who, ironically, no matter how good they were, never quite seem to get lucky with the ladies. Given his perennial bachelorhood, and Tambika’s beauty and youth, why not go along for the house hunt? Perhaps their destinies were more intertwined than they realized.
At every house they visited, Tambika rejected it alleging its lack of ‘good energy’ whatever that meant. His romantic aspirations aside, Katana began growing weary.
By some stroke of luck, he suddenly remembered seeing someone in his neighborhood move out weeks prior. Though he felt he should do some due diligence on the owner first, he reminded himself that Tambika did not subscribe to conspiracy theories. In fact, he thought that perhaps it was about time he too shrugged off his overly suspicious nature. Besides, the prospect of having Tambika even closer was most enticing. What is the worst that could happen anyway?
So it was that they checked out the said house. The stars were smiling down on Katana, for Tambika instantly loved it! She moved in and all seemed to be well with the world. Though their friendship thrived, she refused to get romantically entangled. In the meantime, Katana fell more and more in love
One evening, following a particularly grueling workday, they had dinner together at a restaurant and Katana headed home and straight to sleep. At night, however, he felt a presence in his room. Opening his eyes, he could only see what was illuminated by the moonlight streaming through his window. Seeing nothing, he tried to go back to sleep but the feeling persisted.
Then he saw it. Next to his bed was a luminous white apparition. Hovering. Weightless. The apparition pointed to Katana’s bed. Turning his head, he saw Tambika’s image. Fast asleep on the other side of his bed. Katana’s blood ran cold. Tambika was a jini? The apparition then whispered in a familiar chilling voice ‘mbuzi wazitakiani?’
At which point Katana woke with a start and in a cold sweat. The room was once again in darkness. Perhaps it was a bad dream. It was dark save for the moonlight and the fluttering curtains. Wait, had he not shut the windows the night before? Why were they open?
He valiantly tried to brush all these fears aside. On the next morning, he was strangely apprehensive of running into Tambika at work. He did not know what to make of her. He contemplated sending her a text message but soon decided against it.
In any event, his phone had gone off the previous evening due to lack of power. All these decisions were however taken out of his hands when he got to the resort; for he was informed that Tambika had died in an accident en route to work when the matatu she was traveling in inexplicably veered off the road.
Disbelieving, he spent his morning in a daze. Ultimately, one of his workmates suggested they should inform Tambika’s kin. Katana had to recharge his phone in order to call the family. When he eventually switched on the phone, a cryptic text from Tambika lay in wait…
‘Your twelve goats just crossed the road’