FOOTPRINTS - Episode 16

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Bitalo stood by the window of their hotel room at Jinja Nile Resort, along the scenic shores of Lake Victoria. His attention had be...

Bitalo stood by the window of their hotel room at Jinja Nile Resort, along the scenic shores of Lake Victoria. His attention had been captured by a mother cattle egret teaching its young how to fly. The young ones looked hesitant at first, latching onto the nest with sheer resilience. Carefully, their mother coaxed them to take to the sky. One after another, both chicks finally took to the sky, gliding in the air under the watchful eyes of their mother. Bitalo smiled as he looked on. The young chicks were enjoying every moment of their hard-earned flight. Then, the door opened and Najja walked in. The two of them had left Kampala for a quiet time in Jinja after a tumultuous time. She had two glasses of pineapple juice in hand as she walked towards him with a smile on her face. She was clad in a long, white silky dress. Her long braids glistened against the sun that sneaked in through the window. “This is for you my love,” she announced handing him the bigger of the two cups. “Thank you my love,” Bitalo answered. They both took a sip of the fresh pineapple juice.

“This is very good,” Najja said. “Yes it is, but I know something else that is even sweeter,” answered Bitalo. He placed his cup down on the table, took Najja’s glass from her and rested it on the table. Then, he took her in his arms and planted his lips on hers. After a long passionate kiss, he slowly pulled away and said, “Nothing takes better than that my love.” Najja smiled and pulled him closer to herself and began to kiss him again. Soon, they were both in the couch behind her, holding tightly unto each other. “Some relationships happen by chance – two people meet each other and along the line, they fall in love with each other and have a blissful relationship or break up sometime later. Some are brought together by friends who think they would be a good match. Some grow up together and find each other irresistible,” Bitalo pointed out, staring into Najja’s bright and wide open eyes. “We did not find each other Najja. Fate had ordained our relationship long before we were born. You and I had been set aside for each other somehow. I recall seeing you that night at the party on campus, and all I wanted to do was talk to you. I could feel my heart beating and slamming like the engine of an airplane. I wanted to be around you, see you, and talk to you as often as I could. I knew you were special…specially created for me. When I drew closer to you, your perfume wafted into my nostrils, caressing my senses gently. I could have come after you for another year or two if you had said no. I knew you were mine and that I was meant to be yours.”

“I am glad you came over to speak to me that night, Bitalo. I am even more thrilled that when I said no at first, you hung in there and kept going until I said yes. You are my hero. You are now the eyes with which I see the world. You are the blood that runs in my veins and the air that fills my lungs. You have become my path in life; my journey – the one that I strive to please, love, encourage and support with everything that resides within me. Each morning when I wake up, I think of you on that bloody battlefield fighting like a true warrior, slaying those evil ones fearlessly. You are a true warrior my love. More importantly, you are the warrior of my heart. You have conquered my heart completely. There isn’t a single minute space in my heart that does not belong to you my love. You have me…and I will love you till my dying day,” Najja declared poetically.  “You are the heroine my dear Najja, not me. When you are weak, I am down. When you are hurt, I am nearly dead. When you don’t breath well, my breathe is cut off. When you are down, I am crippled. My life is inextricably intertwined with yours. What a miserable life mine would be if I had not met you. What a terrible path I would be on if you were not in my life. Thank you for fully and humbly loving me even though you know that you are the one upon which my life thrives. Most people would become arrogant and feel too important, but not you. I am so blessed that you are in my life. I love you with every life that runs in me,” Bitalo answered. They wrapped their arms around each other again as they entered another seemingly endless phase of kissing.

Bitalo rose to his feet like a lion. He wielded the sword of Damba menacingly, charging towards Kamoga ancient warriors with an air of invincibility. Okwayi could see fire in Bitalo’s eyes. He had been told of the fire in Damba’s eyes by his father. “Damba was a warrior like no other. Yes, we hated them, but we knew all the Dambas were great warriors. They had this fire in their eyes when they fought. It was like nothing else we had ever seen,” his father would tell him often. He watched as Bitalo crushed bones and slashed ancient flesh like a grinding machine. Shrieks rang out sending cold shivers through Bakuli. Even the birds of the forest, elephants, lions, giraffes, antelopes and buffaloes took to their heels, dashing in a mad frenzy for cover in the dead of the night. “He is not a mere human,” Okwayi mumbled to himself. In all directions, Kamoga warriors fell in their numbers. Okwayi took to his heels, fighting for cover like the animals of the wild. Byarugaba shouted, “There is a true son of the great king Damba!!! Waste the evil ones without hesitation my son and cleanse the land once for all time.”
Okwayi ran hastily through the forest, looking for his way back to the village. In the darkness, he could not see very well in densely vegetative sections of the forest. Unwittingly, he walked into a pack of running lions. In fear, they attacked him. One grabbed his leg and tore it open. Another went for one of his arms and bit fiercely through it. He shouted in a deep pain. Almost simultaneously, a loud shriek echoed through the forest and Bitalo continued to crush Kamoga warriors with incisive precision and sheer ruthlessness. The shriek sent the lions into panic and they left Okwayi and ran for their lives. He managed to get back on his feet, limping slowly as he walked. The pain was too severe for him. He stopped by a tree to get some rest. His charms, beads and other tools had dropped when the lions attacked him. He looked through his pockets for anything that might help ease the pain or even help him heal himself. As he fumbled through his pockets, he saw two shiny eyes staring straight at him. A male lion was about to pounce on him. He scrambled to his feet and hopped onto a branch and climbed into the tree. The lion roared as the smell of Okwayi’s blood filled the air around its nose.

“You have nearly achieved what the gods set out for you my child,” Byarugaba said to Bitalo as he looked on. The dead bodies of ancient Kamoga warriors littered the forest ground. Damba warriors chanted an ancient victory song. Their voices were like serenading birds basking in the sun. Bernadette had heard that song before. It had been passed down from generation to generation. It was a Damba song. It must be over now, she thought as she rose to her feet and opened her window blind. The strength of the moon suddenly burned stronger. “The Dambas have won. The Dambas have won,” she said repeatedly. “It looks like Bitalo and Najja are fine. I can’t wait to see them!!! I can’t wait to see them,” she said, with joy.

“What is happening there?” Najja asked Sanyu. “Bitalo has wiped nearly all the Kamoga warriors. The evil one, Okwayi is hiding in the forest and they are searching for him. They must kill him, otherwise, he will come back to haunt everyone,” Sanyu answered. “I am very proud of Bitalo.” “Me too,” Sanyu answered. “I never knew you were from the spirit world,” Najja finally asked her. “I am as normal and as human as you are. I see things and I feel things at times and they instruct me to do certain things. Most of all, the gods empower me to do what they send me to do. It is like everyone one of us. If we listen and look hard enough, we’ll discover what we are called to do – why we are here in the first place and if we try, we could touch a few lives,” Sanyu explained. “You have certainly touched mine, Sanyu.” “And you too. You are the special one. The gods guide and watch over you jealously. I guess one can say that you are from the spirit world too,” Sanyu said with a smile.” “Thanks, Sanyu.” “You are welcome.” The girls hugged.

“I can smell him,” Byarugaba said. “His evil blood reeks like that of a black rat. I can smell him,” he maintained as he, Bitalo and Damba warriors scoured the forest in search for Okwayi. “We are getting closer. I can smell his blood even stronger,” Byarugaba declared. Soon, they found him perched atop a tree with his blood dripping down like running tap water. Fear was written all over his face. The moon was blazing down on mother earth. “You have come to the end of the road, Okwayi,” Bitalo said to him. “You took many lives in an effort to preserve the Kamoga blood and take the land of Bakuli hostage,” he continued. “I have no interest in being king or the chief priest of this land. We live in a different time, Okwayi. I have other things to do with my life, but what I am interested in is freedom – freedom for the people of this land. Freedom from people like you who cage and kill people like a monster. Freedom from the shackles of fear and the question for domination with which you have controlled this land. Like dust, your remains will fly in the air, feasted upon by birds of the sky. Like you did to your wife Kenyangi, there will be no resting place for you. There will be no grace for you where people can come and pay you respect. You will be forgotten and so will your lineage. Now shoot him!” Bitalo ordered.

Byarugaba aimed the ancient Damba arrow sitting on a bow at Okwayi. The fear in his eyes was so strong that one could lean on it. He shook feverishly in fear. If I commit suicide, the ancient arrow will not work, he thought. “Even if you succeed, I have more of my children all over Bakuli and in the town around Bakuli. More of us will come to haunt you,” he declared. As he leapt off the tree branch, Byarugaba shot at him. The arrow caught him in mid-air. He turned into dust and his remains scattered all over the place. Slowly, Bitalo and Byarugaba returned to town while the ancient Damba warriors returned to their resting place. “They are coming back,” Sanyu announced to Najja.” She smiled broadly. Bagamba hugged her happily with relief.

Lucy, the electrical engineering student who had been friends with Bitalo from childhood was in a house on the edge of town. She was jolted out of sleep the moment Okwayi was killed. A sharp pain pierced through her chest. She got up, walked to the hidden small room between the kitchen and the store. There, she placed her secret mirror on the table and stared into it. She could see Okwayi turning into dust while Bitalo and Byarugaba began to walk home. “The old man is dead. Now, your time begins!!!” A voice echoed.     STORY CONTINUES

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FOOTPRINTS - Episode 16 An African Literary Blog
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