That night, the weather was foggy and frosty. There had been a heavy downpour late that evening. The silence of the moonless night was breached by the chirping of the crickets and the croaking of the toads. In this village lived Old Nmaa. Old Nmaa had lived a near eight decades. Her womb had housed many and her tender hands had fed the seven fruits of her womb and many more. Old Nmaa lost her husband Atiga about four decades ago. After the demise of Atiga, she single-handedly raised all their children through hard work on the farm.
For some time now, Old Nmaa had been acting strangely and this has made her own children despise her company. They would warn their grand-children not to get closer to Old Nmaa. When it all started, they thought lively Old Nmaa was up to one of her usual jokes. When the symptoms persisted, the family and the entire village came to realize that this was no witticism.
A few years ago, Old Nmaa began not to remember the names of her own children. When her daughter Kapuri had returned from the husband’s house and greeted her, she had asked her who she was. This line of questioning was strange. That a woman could hardly ever remember the name of her own daughter. This condition deteriorated with each passing day. All the villagers were shocked. At one point she could not remember her own name, her village and even her late husband.
One day, at the dead of night, Old Nmaa was heard screaming. More than twice a dozen members of the nuclear family congregated at her circular grass hut. She crawled out. With pains in her heart and with a wheezing sound, she muttered out, “I killed them. Yes!! I had to. I killed Atiga and Awingura”. Old Nmaa was looking frail. Her eyes sunken deep in their sockets and her mouth flecked with saliva.
When Atiga died, the villages suspected Old Nmaa but there had been an envious and a rare demonstration of love between the two which had made it difficult arriving at this present conclusion. Now, they began to think of the way Atiga had died. The two had returned from the farm one evening and as soon as he had finished eating Tuo-Zaafi and kenaf leaves prepared by Old Nmaa, Atiga started spewing blood while holding tight to his chest. Then nobody could conceive or even suggest anything about Old Nmaa poisoning or killing him through spiritual means. Now they are tempted to believe the confession. The death of Awingura was strange and suspicious. Old Nmaa had asked him to pluck her a ripe pawpaw. As he climbed the gawky tree, he fell down and broke his neck. He died instantaneously. Now the confession makes a lot of sense. Though Old Nmaa had wept bitterly at both deaths and was reduced to only a collection of bones, the people who now gathered were convinced that all the mourning was a charade.
They looked at Old Nmaa contemptuously and damned her and the heinous crime she has committed to hell. They concluded that Old Nmaa was merely confessing her sins. Few who had gathered could still not believe their eyes. The woman had worked hard to sustain and bring up her children after the demise of her husband Atiga. What a strange sickness and what an equally strange and shocking revelation. As she lay in the wet mud of the entrance of her hut, none dared wash her up or better still take her into her hut. Her two sons and grandsons ignored her as she lay in the dirt gasping for breath. Too embarrassed and saddened by the confession, they left her to her fate. She crawled on her belly back into her hut.
Later, there was an unusual darkening of the night. It appeared the blackness of hell itself had overwhelmed the village. Soon, it began to rain. It rained like never before. After the rain had subsided, a feeble sound was heard calling for help. No one doubted the voice. Sad and confused as they were, they concluded that the witch was at it again; atoning for her sins. Soon and fainter the moaning died and with it, was a new day. The clouds had departed the skies and the sun begun smiling its golden rays of light into the inhabitants of the village. It was then that they observed the damage done by the downpour. One of the mud structures that had succumbed to the rains was Old Nmaa’s. The family rushed to the scene. Half buried in the mud was Old Nmaa. Her soul had departed her poor body. Her tongue sticking out of her mouth and her fingers were sore and her nails broken from her own efforts to extricate herself from the weighty mud.
There were mixed feelings. In a village where the people believed so much in witchcraft, this was enough punishment for the wizardry of Old Nmaa. What puzzles humans does not puzzle God. The primitive knowledge of these people is yet to be upgraded to include knowledge about this strange disease that makes the mind and the mouth confess to crimes that one could not even conceive of, let alone commit.
And so, a passing heroine is treated and buried as a witch.
University of Ghana.
MA Theatre Arts (Media Arts Option)