DO NOT OPEN – Episode 15
© Brian Ngoma
Saturday morning, Nikiwe was set for Mbereshi mission Hospital. Before going to bed the previous night, she tried calling Clarence but the network in the area was terrible. She continued trying till she fell asleep. When she woke up this morning, she tried again but couldn’t get through.
“We’re here,” the constable pointed at Mbereshi mission hospital.
Nikiwe looked up and quickly texted Clarence to call her as soon as he saw her text. She put the phone away and got off the car. They walked to the reception of the hospital and found a friendly nurse. They were expected. The constable had already been here the previous day for a headsup.
“She cannot wait to meet you,” the nurse said. “Follow me.”
Nikiwe looked at the constable who motioned her to follow her. They walked behind her as she led them to a psychiatric wing. It was silent unlike the other sections of the hospital. The nurse finally reached a door which was slightly open. She stood giving way to Nikiwe. The constable wanted to follow but the nurse said, “She doesn’t like men.”
“It’s Okay,” Nikiwe told the constable. “You can wait for me from outside.”
The constables shoulders sagged. He wanted to see Mala Kingston and confirm the rumours about the eyes. Nikiwe entered the tiny narrow room which was painted all white. It had all sorts of graffiti on the walls coupled with paper drawings. At the far end facing the wall was an old white woman. “Hello,” said Nikiwe.
“I have been expecting you,” the old woman said.
Nikiwe was confused.
“Yes. They told me yesterday that someone from Lusaka will be visiting me today. I even bathed and cleaned my room,” she stood up.
Nikiwe’s eyes were all over the tiny room especially the graffiti. “Oh yes. My superiors made arrangements with the constable here to inform the hospital about my visit.”
The old white woman finally turned and to Nikiwe’s horror, she didn’t have eyes. Nikiwe felt like throwing up because the scars on the face seemed like self conflicted and were done carelessly. The white woman slowly found her way to the bed and sat down. “Sit down my dear,” she said. “Don’t mind the bed bugs, I’m used to them now.”
Nikiwe sat down. She wondered how a blind woman drew everything on the wall. “I am Detective Nikiwe.”
“I was told yes,” the white woman smiled her face revealing all the wrinkles. “I am the infamous Mala Kingston.”
“The drawings?” Nikiwe was trying to make conversation.
“You must be wondering how I drew them,” before Nikiwe could reply, she went on. “There’s a boy who visits me. He draws them for me. I see those in my dreams and others have seen them in reality when I had my eyes.”
“I don’t know if you know why I am here but I am working a case and all the leads have led me here.”
“I knew this day would come,” Mala Kingston smiled. “Have you seen the small pink box on the table?”
Nikiwe looked at the table and saw it. “Yes.”
“Kindly grab it for me.”
Nikiwe got up and took the small box and handed it over to her.
“Thank you.” She opened it and from it removed some old black and white photos and handed them over to Nikiwe.
The photos consisted of a white family during the colonial times. They all seemed to be happy. Looking at the photos, Nikiwe could see a young Mala Kingston with her father and mother.
“That’s my father and mother,” Mala said. “Do you know the London Missionary Society?”
Nikiwe learnt about that in History at school a long time ago. “Yes. A group of missionaries.”
“My father was the leader of the LMS. Him and my mother came to Zambia in 1915. They loved the country. It’s culture. The people. The vast natural resources. And most importantly they loved helping out whenever they could. At the time, the country was in it’s most vulnerable and primitive state. Regardless, they loved it and settled just fine. In 1937, they had me. I was born right here,” she smiled.
Nikiwe didn’t know where Mala Kingston was going with all this but she didn’t want to hurry her.
“When I was born, the country was under the colonial masters. It was difficult for the locals to differentiate between the colonial masters and the missionaries. They saw us as one. By the time I was 22 in 1959, whites were not liked at all but still, me and my family loved the country because it had become home. In the same year, the most beautiful thing happened to me,” she smiled as if reliving the memories.
Nikiwe was now interested. “What happened in 1959?”
“Love, my dear. Love happened. I fell in love with the most handsome man, Chenga. He was so kind. So loving. So caring and above all, he loved me too,” her face turned plain.
“What’s wrong?” Nikiwe asked concerned.
“Our love was forbidden. He was black but a fine young black man. Still, we kept it a secret and dated for 6 years till 1965.”
“6 years?” Nikiwe asked.
“Yes my dear. We were together for 6 years. During this time, both of my parents passed away. He took care of me. He made sure I never felt alone. He really was a light in my time of darkness.”
“What happened to him?”
“Things started changing in 1964 when the country was liberated from colonial rule. He never changed but things around us changed. Rumors everywhere circulated about him dating a white woman. For the local people, it was like a Taboo dating people who treated you like slaves. To them, we were all the same. We started making plans of leaving Mbereshi. I was so excited to leave and I had great news for him. I was pregnant with his child. On the day we were supposed to run away, he never showed up.”
“I was devastated. I searched for him everywhere but never found him. I became depressed and lost the child.”
“I am sorry.”
“That was nothing compared to the news I got after 2 months of him going missing.”
“They found his body at Lumangwe falls.”
“What happened to him?”
“They said he drowned but I never believed that. I started my own investigations but it led me nowhere. I became more frustrated. I wanted revenge on whoever took my love away from me.”
“What really happened to him?”
“Chenga loved politics. It so happened that he was in an opposition party and was killed by the people from the ruling party at the time. Angry, I started seeking out even the most wicked things till I met her.”
“The most wicked wizard or witch as you would call her. In my despair, I wanted them to pay for his death. The wizard manipulated me and made me do all sorts of things,” Mala said in disgust. “But one thing she made me do which I’m still paying for upto now is trying to bring back Chenga from the dead.”
“I was stupid and naive. I should have known better not to even try to think of that.”
“She took me to his grave. She told me to write a note and seal it in an envelope and write a warning on it saying DO NOT OPEN. I did that. Whilst at the grave, she started doing her thing. We spent the whole night at the grave. By morning, I was fade up and came to my senses. I wanted to leave but she told me whatever she was doing was not yet done. I left anyways,” she sighed. “By 6 in the morning, there was a crowd of people at my house claiming that I was at the graveyard doing satanic things. They called me all sort of names one which stood out was the Evil Lioness. With the help of the missionaries, I was hidden. I stayed in hiding for over 6 months and by the time I came out, rumour had it that the witch had taken care of me. She was the hero of the village because to them, she had gotten rid of the satanic white woman who could have manipulated the whole village.”
“Why didn’t you go back to London where your parents came from?”
“I wanted to leave when the killings started.”
Nikiwe quickly figured what killings she was talking about. “The same 1965?”
“Yes, 6 years from the time we had started dating. A woman killed her husband and son. What got my attention was the envelope that was seen at the scene. I started doing some research and found out from the woman who murdered her family that the envelope had a warning on it saying DO NOT OPEN. Scared and knowing what I had done, I went back to the wizard but she was dead.”
“Apparently, after I left the graveyard, something went wrong and she got ill. She resented me. You should have seen how she made people believe that I was the Satanist. Before she died, she bound her soul with Chengas and went on a rampage to start the killing all because I couldn’t honour my end of the bargain. And mocking me and my love Chenga. She was doing it after 6 years, using the envelope she made me write.”
“Because you left the graveyard before she was done with her ritual?”
“So, she’s the one who kills and Chenga he’s the one who objects to her killings?”
“Yes. They are bound together.”
“Why women killing though?”
“I don’t really know. Perhaps, because they are weaker vessels and they care too much.”
“Did you try to stop it?”
“I tried looking for ways to stop this. I confided in a lot of traditional witchdoctors, but no one was powerful than her. I tried churches but nothing. Whatever ritual she did, it was wickedly powerful. In my desperation, one confidant suggested I remove my eyes. That it’d stop but nothing. I really wanted to stop it.”
“How do we stop it?”
“See that drawing at the far end of the wall?”
Nikiwe stood up and walked to the wall. On the drawing was fire, the envelope and a person engulfed in fire. “I see it.”
“That’s the only thing have never done. Destroy the envelope and I think It’ll stop. The envelope is the key.”
“But both the envelope and the person are on fire here.”
“Yes. Sacrifices have to be made my dear.”
“But no one has ever gotten the envelope.”
“Do you have a family?”
Nikiwe’s heart stopped beating. “What do you mean?”
“Two boys and a husband?”
“How do you know that?”
Mala was quite for a while. “I am sorry but your family is the next victim.”
Jumping to her feet,Nikiwe grabbed her phone and dialed Clarence’s line. The phone didn’t even ring. She was sweating profusely. All this time that she’s been here, this woman knew what was happening and didn’t bother to tell her. Damn her. “Why didn’t you tell me!”
“In her venture to torment me, she makes me see visions of her next victims. She knows I am weak and cannot do anything, so she continues to mock me. I cannot even kill myself because everytime I try, something bad happens to whoever is taking care of me.”
“But my family,” Nikiwe was shaking.
“I just saw the boys and a man just now. I promise I didn’t know. You can save them. I think you’re the only one who can stop her for good because you’re the only whose gotten this far, to me. Free my Chenga please!”
Ignoring Mala, Nikiwe dialed Clarence’s number again. Still, nothing. She paced back and forth in the room. Her legs and arms were becoming numb. She could feel herself getting sick. The room was getting smaller and smaller the more she dialed Clarence’s number. It’s a 13 hour journey back to Lusaka. If what Mala said was true, she would not find her two boys alive. She needed a contingency plan. Nikiwe think, she thought out loud.
“The police station!” She exclaimed and quickly went through her contact list.
To be continued