(Continued from Thin Blood II)
The Shrine of Gakoma is situated in the woodlands of Mareketi, deep in Murogi Valley. Hellen has heard about this place, but she has never been here. Nobody comes here unless they are coming to see Mugwati, the witch doctor. According to rumors, Mugwati only occupies about an acre of land at the base of the river, where a stream flows between the two hills, but the whole of the woodland that covers the valley is attributed to him, and no one dares to step a foot in it. Villagers know not to allow their children to graze cows and goats in the woods, and they would never touch even a stick there in the name of collecting firewood.
It is rumored that Mugwati has his snakes and spiders all over the woodland, watching for trespassers and firewood thieves. According to folklore, there was a time when Mugwati fell out with the government. A new Christian District Commissioner (as they were then called) was posted to the area and he declared that he would root out all evil in the area. He mobilized a battalion of armed administration police officers, had all the leading pastors in the area pray for them, and then sent them to the woodlands to arrest Mugwati. It ended in a disaster.
Almost as soon as the APs set foot in the woods, they were attacked by a battalion of snakes, spiders, and black ants. They fled, but not without six officers dying. Miffed, the DC talked to a PS friend of his, who was close to the President, and Mugwati’s compound was declared a terrorist den. The President deployed a military helicopter to drop a bomb on Mugwati’s house. But the bomb allegedly turned into an eagle after being released, forced its way back into the helicopter, and clawed the pilot and the co-pilot causing the helicopter to crash into Mugwati’s woodland. No one dared to go and check whether the two survived, and the government left Mugwati alone. No one has ever witnessed any of these events, but the villagers believe that they are true.
Hellen is nervous even as she begins her descent into the valley, led by Julia, the woman who is to introduce her to the famed witch doctor. About 50 meters into the woods, Julia motions Hellen to stop.
“We have to tell him why we are here so that he instructs his snakes not to hurt us,” she whispers.
She stands straight and looks directly ahead.
“Good father,” she calls out. “Your children are here to seek your audience. Please ask your soldiers not to harm us.”
“Approach the shrine slowly, my children,” a voice booms from somewhere in the trees. No harm shall befall you.”
Julia starts moving forward again, slowly. Hellen is already spooked, but she follows. The path is narrow but it is cutting across the valley in a zigzag way, so the descent is not steep. It is 4:30 a.m., and both Julia and Hellen are carrying powerful torches, which they only switched on after getting into the woods. They did not want to attract attention, so they walked in darkness while on the main road.
It is cold, but the two women are wearing heavy clothes. Still, Hellen is shivering, but it has nothing to do with cold. She is beginning to have doubts about this whole thing, and she regrets talking to Julia about it.
Julia is not a very popular woman amongst married women, who accuse her of being a husband snatcher. She is rumored to snatch men from other women using charms, which is why Hellen spoke to her. Julia is a widow, and she is rumored to have killed her husband because he was spending his money on other women while she and her children struggled. Officially, Julia’s husband died of appendicitis, but word in the village is that Julia fed him crocodile teeth which were ground into fine powder, and which she had acquired from Mugwati.
Whatever the case, Julia is a woman everyone loves to hate, men as well as women, but she still attracts a lot of lustful attention from men. She is also quite wealthy, having inherited her husband’s substantial wealth, and she is very generous, especially in fundraisers. Thus, while villagers love to hate her, they find that they cannot avoid her. She is a prominent member of the local church, and she is very active, especially in fundraising activities.
Hellen visited her ostensibly to pick her mind on the “new business” that she wanted to start. She told Julia that she wanted to speak to her as a woman who had successfully taken the reins of her late husband’s business. She wanted to know what she, Hellen, did wrong with her failed business so that she wouldn’t repeat the same mistakes. They spoke briefly about business and then Hellen casually mentioned that she regretted swapping Donald for William. She stated that she wished there was a way she could have Donald back because they would make such a powerful couple.
Julia smiled, instantly knowing that that was the real reason why Hellen had visited in the first place.
“You came here to find out if I can take you to the witch doctor, isn’t it?” she asked bluntly, but with a broad smile on her face.
“No, of course not,” Hellen said quickly, embarrassed that her intentions had been read so easily.
“You don’t have to apologize, Hellen. If you want to meet Mugwati, just say so and I will take you. It is not a big deal.”
Slowly, Hellen admitted that that was the reason she had come. They talked about the witch doctor and his magical powers at length and Julia promised to set up an appointment. She spoke so comfortably about him that it made Hellen uneasy at first. But she soon caught on. The following day Julia called and told her that she had set up the meeting.
That is how they found themselves making this early morning trip. Hellen told her husband that she was going to a women’s conference and left yesterday afternoon. She spent the night at Julia’s house. They woke up at 3 a.m. and started walking. The village is usually asleep at that hour, so there was no risk of anyone seeing them.
Hellen steps on a twig and screams.
“Relax, Hellen, Mugwati has already permitted us to be in his forest. Nothing can happen to us.”
They walk the rest of the journey in silence until they finally get to the gate. Mugwati’s home is a surprisingly modern compound with a stone wall all around it and a modern, metal gate. Beyond the gate is a beautiful storied house. Hellen had expected to be led to a cave, or at least to a mud-walled, grass-thatched hut.
“Dear Father,” Julia says in a clear voice. “Your children have approached your shrine. Kindly allow us to proceed.”
“You may proceed.”
The gate to one side, without any apparent human intervention, thus allowing Julia and Hellen to enter. They approach the house, and the gate closes itself. By now, Hellen is in awe of Mugwati. She has seen enough to convince her that he is the real deal, even though she has not seen him with her eyes. They are approached at the entrance of the house by a young lady, who ushers them into a beautifully furnished waiting room.
“The Father of the Woodlands is in the shrine, consulting with the gods. Kindly be patient and wait here. I will serve you breakfast as you wait.”
The girl disappears and returns with a platter full of fruits, pancakes, fried eggs, and sausages. She places them on the table in front of Julia and Hellen then goes again and returns with a flask with two cups. She pours tea into the cups and leaves the flask on the table.
“Enjoy. Someone will notify you when the Father is ready to receive you.”
Julia starts eating, and Hellen follows suit. They eat in silence. When they are done, Julia pours more tea into their cups and they sip it in silence. Hellen has a lot of questions running through her mind, but she doesn’t dare ask them, because she knows someone must be listening.
Once they are done with their breakfast, a young man emerges. He is tall, good-looking, and smartly dressed in a navy blue suit, a white shirt, and a maroon tie.
“Good morning ladies,” he greets them politely. “Father is now ready to see you. Please follow me.”
He says “Father” in an affectionate way that suggests that Mugwati is his biological father.
Hellen is now comfortable with her surroundings, and she expects to be led to an executive office where the Father-of-the-Woodlands must be waiting. She expects to find a suited old man seated on an executive leather chair behind a massive mahogany desk. A modern, corporate witch doctor. Instead, the young man takes them down a flight of stairs, and with each landing, it gets darker and darker. By the time they get to what must be the basement, everything is pitch black, save for dim bulbs that are illuminating their path. The young man suddenly stops.
“Father, your daughters are here. I beg to take my leave.”
“You may leave my boy,” a voice says from somewhere ahead, where there is total darkness.
There is silence for a while, save for the disappearing footsteps of the young man. When all is quiet, the Father-of-the-Woodlands speaks again. The little light there was has gone off after the young man disappeared, so Julia and Hellen are standing in total darkness.
“So, my daughters, what can I do for you?”
“Father,” Julia begins confidently. “My friend here is unhappy with the man she married. She wants to go back to her first love, who happens to be the younger brother of the man she married.”
“Why is that?”
“The man she married no longer loves her.”
“And the so-called first love doesn’t love her either but he has more money. Am I right my daughter Hellen?”
Hellen is surprised by the mention of her name.
“Y..es….Fat…her,” she stammers. “But he used to love me. We would have gotten married.”
Her voice gets steadier as she speaks.
“Except that you got greedy and went for the brother who looked more successful, but he has turned out to be a failure. And now you want to correct the mistake you made as a youth, am I right?”
Hellen doesn’t see the point of lying. This man seems to be reading her mind.
“Okay, I am not here to judge. I am willing to help you if you are willing to pay the price.”
“And what is the price, Father?”
“It is very simple. First, you will become my spiritual wife. But first, you have to kill your husband William-with my help of course. He is the sacrifice you pay for my help. You will inherit everything he owns, but because you will be my wife, part of it will be mine. You can then have Donald as your physical husband. But you will have to come to the shrine once a week to give me my conjugal rights, even after you get Donald. Is that okay?”
Hellen is shaking now. She wants to run, but where to?
“Okay, take twenty steps forward my wife, so that I can check you out.”
Hellen does as instructed. She expects to feel the wrinkled hands of an old man fondling her. Instead, she feels something large and cold touching her legs and then start slithering up her torso. It is a large snake, probably a python.
“Calm down my wife,” the snake whispers in her ear. “Your husband takes many forms.”
(As usual, I intend to complete this story on Saturday. So come prepared to grab your copy for only Kshs. 100.)
Image by Kohji Asakawa from Pixabay: https://pixabay.com/photos/japan-aso-shrine-stairs-moss-1778543/
To purchase any of the books in our e-bookstore (including the latest one, The Photographer), you can follow either one of two main ways:
- MPESA Automated Digital Payment Method. Log in to the bookstore- register if you are new– (https://www.maroncha.com/book-store ). Select the book. Add to cart, check out then pay by inserting your number on the space provided then clicking ‘confirm’. You will be able to download instantly from the bookstore. A copy will also be automatically sent to your email.
- Pay Via Till Number. Log in to the bookstore- register if you are new– (https://www.maroncha.com/book-store ). Select the book. Add to cart, check out then pay via the Buy Goods Till Number provided. Once you get the message from MPESA, insert the MPESA code on the space provided then click ‘Validate Code’. You will be able to download instantly from the bookstore. A copy will also be automatically sent to your email.
If you are completely unable to use the above two methods, you can still purchase your copy manually. The only disadvantage of this method is that you will have to wait for a few hours before you get your copy. But eventually it will come.
- Pay Kshs. 100 to Buy Goods Till Number 297264 and send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org (or DM Sanctuary Side on Facebook) stating your MPESA name. Use the name of the book as the subject of your email. If you send a DM to Sanctuary Side on Facebook, kindly also include your email address. I will send your copy once I verify your payment.
- Pay Kshs. 100 to Buy Goods Till Number 297264 and send an SMS/WhatsApp message to 0105571156 stating your MPESA name and the name of the book you wish to purchase. I will send your copy once I verify your payment.
Remember you can always DM Sanctuary Side on Facebook, email me at email@example.com or send a WhatsApp message to 0105571156 if you have a query or feedback.
See you all on Saturday.