Dance of Death
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A reed will dance in the water from the rhythm of a gyrating stream a stone’s throw from the settlement whose stories remain untold. The drums whose music forces the dance are two wrinkled arms with rough ugly hands holding down the head of a struggling child recently shocked into awaking. Nothing makes sense in his head as it fills up with darkness while the rest of his body yields to the water taking its place therein. He cannot see the lifeless form of his older sibling floating farther away from the scene. He knows those hands. They fed him earlier in the evening. They have smeared oil all over his naked body. They have carried him while he sleeps. They have pinched his cheeks and ears in rebuke. They have patted him on the back for getting the alphabetic order correct. Now, they are pushing him under a fiercely cold stream. He cannot understand. There is no understanding. What can he know with only three years to his existence in such a world as this? The will of his limbs to kick about diminishes and soon the struggle ends.
Nobody will come in spite of the obvious disturbance and the strangeness of the sounds at the stream on this night. It is no longer safe outside when there is no sun to light the deeds of neighbours and passers-by. The young men who smoke strange things and break into homes find their freedom in the night. Love affairs are concealed in the shrubs and tall grass, the crickets and dim circumstances distracting the ear from the moans and grunts wrought from an illicit reunion. Nobody will come because such venturing is unnecessary. There must be a reason for the footsteps made at an ungodly hour. Perhaps a solution for the drunken husband is sought in a younger, more agile mate. Or the ritual washing under the watchful eye of the full moon; the witchdoctor recommends such a cleansing to free one’s body of bad luck. It must be the rite. Perhaps all those hours spent in the suffocating heat of iron roofing and sermons on Hell fire were a façade. Indeed all humanity wears a mask. There is no telling what the thoughts running through one’s mine are. One cannot read sincerity in tonal variation or the severity of a frown or the brightness of a smile. There simply is no telling what another’s thoughts are.
As the music made by water, wind and human hands begins to die down, one final act must seal the undertaking. If life is a dizzying haze then surely death must bring some relief for all the troubles allotted a sickly young woman with three mouths to feed and ghosts whose whispers never cease. Three because her partner is unable to bring much the few time he graces their home with his wage. Usually the local millet brew, a smaller waist with fuller breasts, a dead relation or some needy friend with a less understanding wife – or larger flock of dependents – will find his philanthropy directed their way. The questions have long ceased; first, following the bloody response engaging both fist and boot, then followed by the dazing breath after a night in the crowded shelters full of pots and long thin straws. It was not that her prayers had not been made in faith and bitter desperation. Neither was it that one hopeless day had always birthed another in its likeness. It was rather simple, really. There seemed no way out of the darkening cycle of meaningless existence. Whatever had failed to get better only grew worse. And whatever skipped the poor trend never really got better either. If her circumstances improved, it was never for too long.
Like the rocks slowly filling up the pockets sewn to the gown she wore beneath the night’s gaze, everything had weighed her down to the point of no return. So in her final act of submission to the elements she yielded to the heaviness always pulling her down and never easing the grip about her heart. The ghosts of her hidden and varied senses of shame sat still for but a moment.
In a final wave the reed too soon will cease its dancing.