Changu ran through Manda Hill mall, her torn blouse hanging loosely on her like shredded pieces of the Zambian national flag vandalised by a discontented political activist. She ran until she got on the main road and stopped by a bus stop to catch her breath. Commuters waiting for buses regarded her with suspicion. Her hair stood on edge as if she had been tortured by the Chinese with electric shocks. Some religious people at the bus stop made the sign of the cross and muttered silent prayers for her. The superstitious among them scurried away from her as if her insanity was a contagious disease. A small crowd began to gather around her as she started talking to herself oblivious to the people around her. She turned in different directions and spoke nonsense to the audience.
What are you looking at, a woman asked her husband who was attempting to move to the front of the crowd to get a better view of the woman. She grabbed his right hand and pulled him away. The man followed her reluctantly, looking back to catch a glimpse of the woman with the torn blouse.
The woman at the centre of the crowd stopped talking to herself and began to move her feet as if a thousand soldier ants were bitting at her heels. She staggered like a drunken sailor before kicking off the shoe on her right leg. It flew into the crowd like a bird which had lost its sense of direction. She tried kicking off the shoe on her left leg but it refused to come off. She raised her leg, yanked off the uncooperative shoe and threw it narrowly missing an oncoming car.
My feet…my feet….are burning. They are burning, she sang in a discordant tone filled with pain. She stamped her legs on the ground several times in an attempt to put out the imaginary fire which engulfed it.
A strange wind of silence blew over the crowd as it watched the half naked woman.
A short man made his way through to the front of the crowd. He stood watching the woman with a curious expression on his face. He brought out a string of beads from his pocket and ran it through his fingers. He muttered to himself, looked around the crowd and muttered again.
This is muti gone bad, he said as he caressed the beads with his fingers. Muti gone bad, he repeated.
He returned the beads to his pocket then started clapping for the woman, giving rhythm to the madness of her feet. A fat woman standing next to him dropped the basket of mangoes which she carried on her head. She took a moment to tie her wrapper properly then she joined him in clapping. Another woman joined her, then a man joined them, then the clapping spread through the gathering like wild fires burning through the Mazabuka sugar plantations in dry season. More commuters stopped and joined the gathering and the crowd grew.
Changu began jumping from one foot to another in wild frenzy like a hyena in mating season. She tore off the remaining pieces of her blouse that hung on her like a curse and threw it into the crowd. The crowd parted for the blouse to pass through and it fell on the ground. Changu began to move with mysterious dance steps only she could understand. Her strange dance steps threw the gathering into a clapping frenzy. Continue reading