by Amanda Thompson
The scorching African sun burns copper in a pale, relentless sky. The scaly creature basks in its warmth, impervious to its surroundings. In the long dry yellow grass, a young male lion yawns disinterestedly, then rolls over on to its side with a grunt. High above, the hungry fish eagle calls, eyes alert and razor talons at the ready for the hunt.
There is a raging drought at the moment, and the entire tribe looks towards the sangoma to be the rainmaker. He sighs while he examines the bones. Something is just not right. The bones foretell a tale of blood and death, so much death. What could it mean?
The sangoma sits alone in his hut, far apart from the others. The cloying sweet smell of Iboga permeates the place, and the stench of foul-smelling herbs creates a haze of black smoke around him.
The sangoma chants more loudly and shrilly. The heavy drum beat becomes more frenzied by the minute. Perspiration pours down the old mans’ wrinkled face in rivulets, and his eyes become even more glazed and unfocused.
Abruptly, the drumbeat ceases as the old man collapses into a deep trance. His head slumps forward on the bony shoulders, and the crackling of the fire is the only audible sound left in the smoke-filled hut.
The sangoma opens his eyes, and is not surprised to find himself soaring high above the mountain with the eagle. Below him, a deluge of water floods the valley, carrying many trees and debris with it in a mighty rush. Death lurks impatiently in the depths of the muddy waters, and the old man can hear the agonised screams of his people.
Desperately he tries to understand what it is that the spirits of the ancestors are trying to tell him, but to no avail. The waters run red with blood for no apparent reason.
The old man shudders. He is truly afraid for the first time in his long life. The ancestral spirits do not give heed to his call; they do not deign to answer him like they did so many times before.