From the Other Side
By: Matthew K. Chikono

Now and then a child gets lost along the Christmas Pass road but in the end, it is always found, well and alive. If, however, an oldie from this old people's home I reside in decides to take a walk outside the premises' gates, not even a tiny piece of their clothing will ever be found. They will be declared lost, with the presumption that they are laying dead in a ditch somewhere. Now that I think about it, when I was still in high school teenagers disappeared regularly then. They were never heard of again, I liked to believe that they had crossed the border to Mozambique to find wealth and love; I could not bear to imagine the alternative.

"Sekuru Tawanda, do you know anything about Ambuya Maggie or where she might have gone?" She is with the police, Mbuya Maggie's daughter, and I don't know why she is questioning me. She is trying to keep it professional by not calling Maggie her mother. The grey and nave blue uniform of the Zimbabwe Republic Police suits her very well but that doesn't mean I like her better now. I like the man in grey suit standing behind her. He is her superior and she is afraid of him, I think. If I tell him the truth that Maggie moved into this spacious home because she was afraid that her daughter would kill her for the inheritance money, would he believe me?

Maggie is a rich granny, was a rich granny. When her husband died thirty years earlier, he left her boxes of money hidden in the garden. Maggie and I were close, so I wasn't allowed to wonder if she killed him for the money. Maggie once told me that her husband was a spy for the Rhodesian Intelligence during the bush war. She whispered excitedly how one night her husband came with bundles of money saying the Chimoi raid had been successful. Since both of their families had been farm workers for generations, the couple decided to buy some farms in Mutare.

So, she settled in Mutare, raised a family, got widowed at the age of 40 and never found love again. Her first child grew up and joined the police. Somehow, she discovered that the money was still there, because of Maggie's wise investments, so she decided to kill her mother by burning her house whilst she slept inside. Maggie escaped unhurt though. It was the only straw that made Maggie move to Runyararo Lodge, a spacious old people's home located in the woodland border area. This is where we met and almost loved until Matilda came back and knocked on my window.

"Please talk to me Sekuru Tawanda. I know you and my mother talked together a lot. If anyone knows what happened to her it's you. Please help so that I can find my mother." Her voice cracks and she almost choke with grief. Her superior pats her shoulder to calm her. She is not afraid of him, I was wrong; she is in love with him. He might be in it too, the murder inheritance conspiracy. If both knew I knew I wouldn't be safe for the rest of my short life.

I tell them about Matilda instead. I tell them how one day I came up to a young tattered girl in the woods. I was five or six then and I was searching to my twin sister. What I don't tell the two police in front of me is what she told me. I had never told anyone, as I had promised Matilda, and I wasn't about to break that promise eighty years later.

"Your sister is safe and happy on the other side," the little brown girl in rags continued," She doesn't want to come back."

So, I played with Matilda from that day forth. My family and the rest of the village searched each inch of the border town but found nothing. I on the other hand played in the woodland with Matilda everyday like it was usual. It wasn't, now that I think of it, we only played between those thousand trees. She didn't want to come to our house to play and wouldn't allow me to visit her home.

"You might have fooled everyone into believing that you are a useless beggar who sits in his wheelchair all day long, but I am not. I know you pretend to be a cripple, but you can walk, and you killed my mother, you monster. You kill women for pleasure Sekuru Tawanda. You have been doing it for years. The police even know about Mejuri too."

Mejuri? I know that name. I know who Mejuri is, was! She loved me and wanted to be my wife and I was fine with it. I was in my early twenties and still believing in true love. I want to say I was happy, but I have forgotten what happiness feels like. One day I was herding cattle and Matilda came to me. She told me how Mejuri's soul was troubled and how it would find peace on the other side. I objected, begged but nothing could be done so I did what any brave man would have done; run away with his lover. I am not a killer, and neither is Matilda. I am just a vessel that attracts troubled souls whilst Matilda is a messenger from the other side, I think.

A fortnight ago I invited Maggie to my room. I was still waiting for the guest when I heard a knock on the window. I peered and saw Matilda's face staring back at mine. I hadn't seen her in an exceptionally long time the shock of seeing her again made me to leap from my wheelchair. She whispered the message to my ear and walked away.

"Who were you talking at the window?" Maggie asked. I hadn't noticed that she had came in when I was busy conversing with Matilda.

I couldn't answer her, so I croaked and moved my hand wildly. In the end I mumbled something inaudible.

"I can't believe you are sneaking out lovers through the window in front of my face." That was the last thing Maggie said before storming out of my room.

I could have warned her that the woodland was calling her to the other side. She might not have believed me; how can you tell another that a bunch of trees requires a human soul after every few years to counteract the effect of their species diminishing number, and a female body to feed on to continue producing offspring? She might have thought me crazy; oldies go crazy at this fancy place every day.

No, I couldn't have warned her. The last time I warned someone that they had been called to the other side I ended up on a wheelchair, with a broken spine. Matilda found me herding cattle and whispered the message to me. I ran searching for Mejuri. I found her fetching water in the old well. I warned her and because she loved me, she believed me, so we ran together to Mozambique. Two days later the border patrol found me in the forest alone with a broken spine. I don't have any recollection of what happened. Worst I never saw Mejuri again, but I know she would have never left me alone dying in the forest.

Maggie's daughter stands up and unhooks her handcuffs from her waist and puts them neatly on my hands.

"Tawanda Masango you are under arrest for the murder of Maggie Humba." She says in a loud and clear voice that all the heads in the dining hall turn to my direction. I try to explain to her that I am not a killer, Mother Nature is. Mother Nature is a serial killer who will never be held accountable for the souls she passed to the other side and the flesh of our loved ones she fed her offspring with. I try to say all that, but my mouth is sealed, it has been sealed since the day I first met Matilda.

"You shouldn't have mutilated my mother's body like that," the daughter whispers to me," yes we found her body this morning near this home."

Then Mother Nature had no part in it, man is. If she wanted to feed nothing of Mejuri would have ever been found. I look at the man with suit. I want him to see in my eyes how innocent I am. I see him smirking looking at the daughter with a tiny smile of triumph on the corner of his mother. I should have seen it coming; it is always about the money, never about Mother Nature at all. I had been set up.

"Good job sergeant," the man says whilst glaring lustful at the woman who wants him too, "now roll the mute away."

The End.

THE END

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