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I was just passing through
by Agatha Mangwende
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I was just passing through (story-teller)

I should have left earlier but the events of the day had descended on me like lightning on a clear day. From a power failure that had resulted in my computer malfunctioning to an extended Christmas luncheon, it was hard to comprehend how I had finally managed to go back home, pick up my bags and hit the road for a well-deserved holiday in the Eastern highlands.

The drive from the capital took longer than usual. Traffic was heavy and the stormy weather reduced visibility to minimal. The climb up the mountain road leading to the popular Vumba lodges was scary. It was a very dark night; robbers were known to waylay visitors around these late hours. I had taken all precautions to lock my doors and windows. A firearm I kept for security reasons was within reach just below my seat.

Suddenly without warning the whole area lit up with soft, gentle music. It was like some schoolgirls singing a lullaby. I said to myself, “where is that music coming from, since I am still about eight kilometers from the hotel entrance. The music became louder and clearer, as if more people were joining in the singing. Light beams started to flow down from up the mountain area.

From the back of my mind I knew that I was lost, somehow I had taken the wrong turn that led to the farm adjacent the Vumba resort center. I could now see the thatched huts and it looked as if there was some kind of activity going on, even at that odd hour of the night.

One of the huts seemed to be particularly ablaze with light, though shadowy oil lamps only lighted the other bordering huts. Being a newspaper editor I decided to throw caution to the wind and investigate the anomaly. A voice in me told me that I was safe, but I took my small firearm and hid it in my jacket pocket anyway. Timidly I jumped out of my car and walked towards the center of attraction.

I didn’t know what I thought I was going to see but in any case I was least prepared for what greeted me. My former years in the jungle war had taught me not just to use a firearm but to never approach a target head-on. So I circled the bordering huts until I got close enough to the star-designed entrance where the commotion was coming from. The mournful singing was coming from inside the almost crowded hut.

Fresh stains of blood smeared the dirty floor. Someone or something was wailing faintly. I was alert, drew my pistol. My mind quickly recollected the ritual killings I had heard of in such surroundings. Stealthily I crept closer to the doorway. I could now hear the voice of an elderly woman trying to console a wailing young girl. Pictures of victims of rape, incest, child abuse flushed my already clouded emotions. I practically stormed into the room.

Then all at once everybody was screaming and running out of the hut. Before me lay a small, frail girl, barely twelve years of age. By her naked chest lay a tiny wee bundle of something that also wailed faintly. I became suddenly aware that I was standing my whole six feet, loaming over the girl child like a giant gorilla ready to pounce. No wonder the girl’s eyes were wide with terror.

I knew I had to retreat from the scene as quickly as possible. The women would soon be back with their male reinforcement, no doubt about that. I took my wallet, emptied all the cash I had on me, inclusive of the reserved travel foreign currency, unwrapped part of the tiny wailing bundle and stashed the money there. By the grace of God I made it out of the farm area, onto the right road to the Vumba lodges before another bizarre incident.

As I lay in my warm hotel bed I tried to understand what I had witnessed that night. Was that for real or not? In the seventeen years since I left boarding school I had never had time for religion. But that night, Christmas Eve, with no sleep coming, I reached out to a Gideons bible on the bedside. The pages opened to the story about the birth of Jesus. I had read this story before and heard it spoken of, dramatized from, but it had never held the wonder it had on me that night. With noone to question my emotions, I knelt down by my bedside and cried tears of understanding to the God I had never thought much of.

The next day a story was heard amongst the hotel staff about a young orphaned schoolgirl who had given birth to a baby boy. Word said that she had been raped and impregnated by an unknown assailant as she walked alone on the farm road one evening. A motorist had spotted her, pulled off the road and at gunpoint raped her once before leaving her bruised and battered. She never saw the face of her assailant except for the gun that was constantly pointed threateningly to her eyes. The grandmother did all she could to have the crime reported and investigated but no traces of the assailant were found.

The reality of what I had got myself involved in suddenly hit me like a cold shower on a winter morning. It sent shivers all over my body. Needless to say, I have never been back in those highlands again. I think much of that girl and her baby boy, who by now is most probably a toddler. But above all, I thank her for the gift she gave me that special night, the gift of a Savior, Jesus Christ. God wanted me to find her and in finding her, find my lost self.
Praise God!

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