There is a mist that embraces the fields at the first light of dawn. And silence. The green grass is drenched in dew and the leaves of the trees come alive with lone birdsong. December is cold. The path to the village borehole is lonely and deserted. Sunday morning. In breath of cool breezes is the rising of the sun at dawn. Quietude.
Mamza held two buckets, one rubber, the other iron, as he made his way through the mists of decembers harmattan, shivering in the cold despite his thick blue sweater. The cold seemed to unrobe all clothes, biting. Perhaps it was due to the fact that the village was surrounded by distant mountains. Beneath the mountains was the harmattan mists, upon the mountains rested the clouds.
Somebody cleared his throat, coming down the footpath. Mamza looked on, walking towards them. One could not see clearly at only a short distance. Soon they came close enough. It was three muslim young men coming back from the mosque after the subh or dawn prayers.
“Salaam alaikum”, said the one that cleared his throat.
“Good morning”, replied Mamza.
He walked on. He needed to fetch water from the borehole or the well next to it in good time for the morning hausa church service, depending on which queue was shorter. The young men passed on, cracking a joke that the blood of unbelievers was lawful. Two laughed but one of them did not smile. Mamza pretended he did not hear them in the silence of the misty dawn and the cold winds. He was wondering about his dove. He needed to pay tithes to the church. The pastor needed to buy a new car. His parents wouldn’t give him anything. He had sold all his doves except the white one. But that wasn’t the real reason he wanted to sell it. What the witchdoctor had said was false. In the rain, the descent of the dove upon his head as he came out of the waters of the rain could never confer upon one the power of immortality.
There was a rattling sound and a rickety bicycle came down the footpath, with an old man astride it. Mamza greeted him, stepping aside to let him ride by on the footpath. The grey haired old man rode by passing him silently not uttering a word, a deep frown on his haggard face. He was one of the security guards that worked at the hospital.
‘He must have been on the night shift today’, thought Mamza.
The old man was also a member of the villages vigilante group. Dane guns, toughness and deadly charms that turn bullets into water. That is if you have been well ‘cooked’ with village medicine, as far as the literal translation of the local word goes.
He walked on. The sun was shining and the footpath was becoming brighter. He would never have walked down this lonely road in the middle of the night. Hyenas loved to prowl the bush nearby. Sometimes you could hear their sad howls, carried by the wind into the night. Yet many moved about at that time, fearlessly. As if there was no legend that there was more to them than what met the eye. Strange, not only boys trembled at that myth.
He walked on, without looking back, except to cast a wary eye behind. He shivered in the mists from the cold, and exhaled mist like cigarette smoke out of his mouth, thinking… When he came back from church he would go fishing. So he decided. He was now old and experienced enough to steel his conscience, as he put a worm on the steel hook and the fish devoured it alive.
He would take his two loaves of bread to the river, needing no miracle, knowing that the fish would multiply. Men should give thanks for such bountiful blessings. Quietly, Mamza moved on through the harmattan mist, in the village surrounded by the silent mountains.