I racconti del Premio Energheia Africa Teller

The birth of a king_Waciina Dx

deserto_Africa Teller 2000.

It was a clear, sunny morning. The lively birdsong in the sprawling

gardens of the King’s countryside castle mingled in a flawless

symphony with the tinkling bells of the cattle on the other side of the

hill, and the bleating of the sheep as the shepherd led them to a

pasture by the sparkling stream at the bottom of the valley.

In the gray-walled castle the midwife urged the lady on the bed for a

final push. She grimaced and pushed hard. Plop! The midwife caught

the baby in her hands, and inspected it.

“It is a baby boy!” She said to the breathlessly waiting mother.

Cries of joy filled the morning air as the news passed throughout the

castle. The King’s band took up their instruments and struck up a

beautiful tune to welcome their prince to the world.

The trumpets blasted the news. The birdsong intensified. The sheep

stopped cropping the grass, heads lifted towards the music that made

even the cattle drop the cuds in their mouths. One big ram stood on its

hind legs and blasted a triumphant bleat into the azure sky. The

shepherd sat by his dog, put his flute to his mouth and out poured a

heart stopping tune. Even the gurgling stream seemed to join in the

jubilation as everyone acknowledged the birth of the prince.

All fell silent as the king walked into the room, and took his son from

his wife. He kissed him on the cherubic brow.

“Welcomed home, my prince.” He said solemnly, then smiled at his

wife. They were all jubilant. Their prince had been born.

It should have happened that way. It didn’t. It was even better.

This is how it happened…

The thatched hut stood in the dark night, solitary, looking lifeless,

bats flying in and out of their nest under the roof that had collapsed

partly. It was almost midnight.

The stars twinkled and glittered coldly in the black night sky.

Not a breath of wind disturbed the bushes around the hut, not a cricket

chirped in the grass that grew unchecked. It was a strangely silent


A seldom-used path led to the door that was slightly ajar, supported

by an ant-eaten three-legged stool that was the only piece of furniture

in the hut. Inside the door to the left lay five puppies. The bitch stood

by the bedside of her mistress. The bed was a gunny-bag filled with

dry grass and laid on another sack. On it lay a woman groaning, bony

elbows and knees sticking out of the ragged piece of blanket that once

bore the Raymond tag.

She was pregnant, and going into labour. And she hadn’t eaten for

three days. She was alone. Her husband was in prison, jailed for five

years for knocking out three teeth of a man whom he had caught

pinning his wife to the bed, as he came from a tiring day in the man’s

farm, digging out elusive moles for a paltry thirty-shilling wage.

A poor, unconnected man had raised his hand against a rich man.

Kabochi had been arrested, taken to court, charged with assault and

battery, and hauled off to prison.

His wife bad become pregnant after the rape. She had attempted to

get help from the man who had raped her, but no throwing of herself

at the man’s feet would soften his heart, Emma had proved too much

of a nuisance. She had been cruelly whipped, dragged and thrown

outside the gates of the man’s compound. She had lain there, beaten

and bleeding, refusing to go away.

They had set the dogs at her, two huge mastiffs that had bitten her

repeatedly on the arms and legs, and she had fled screaming.

Her guard and pet, a skinny mongrel bitch, had gone to her aid.

But she was no match for the big dogs, and they would have torn her

apart had the master not called them away.

Both Emma and her pet had hidden for weeks, nursing each other

back to health. Months later the bitch had gone on heat, and

succumbed to the advances of one of the neighbour’s dogs. She had

gone heavy with litter, and just three days ago had dropped five

emaciated puppies. Now her mistress wanted to drop her puppy.

The bitch rose from her haunches and went to her mistress, whining

and wagging her tail as she licked Emma’s face in ineffective


“AaaargWooooi !” She groaned almost losing consciousness as

another painful contraction ripped through her womb, gripping the

foreleg of her four-legged friend in an almost futile attempt to stay

conscious. The puppies started whimpering in fear, and a growl from

the bitch silenced them.

Emma moaned again.

It was as if her moan broke the spell. A cricket chirped. A toad

croaked throatily. The cricket fell silent. An owl high up in an

eucalyptus tree hooted twice, and the toad fell silent. The wind

whispered through the leaves of the trees, and the clouds slowly

obliterated the cold pinpoints of starlight in the sky.

The wind blew harder, bending the trees in the small hillside forest at

the edge of which the hut stood. It lifted some of the thatch from the

collapsed roof, enlarging the hole and pushing the door wider open.

Emma shivered, and the bitch snuggled closer to keep her warm. The

smell of blood filled the room, and instinct told the bitch all wasn’t

well with her mistress. She needed human help.

Emma cried out again in agony as she tried to push out of herself the

child that threatened to kill her with pain. Again the bitch licked her

face. “Go, Haiko. Go fetch help. Please.” Emma pushed the bitch

gently, her breath hissing through her teeth.

Haiko the bitch understood, licked Emma’s face once again and

whined, wagging her tail. She trotted a few feet away to the mound

of dog piss-stinking rags, nudging one straying puppy back. Then

she pushed at the stool until the door was completely shut, and

crawled out of a hole in the wall into the night that was blacker than

a witch’s cat.

The nearest homestead was one the bitch shunned, one that was

guarded by two huge mastiffs. She had both good and bad memories

of the homestead, and it was with trepidation that she crawled under

the barbed-wire fence that now divided Kabochi’s land. The land was

now paddocks that were home to a hundred-head herd of prime beef

cattle. Off the bitch trotted, across one paddock in the direction of the

big white house, heavy udder swinging from side to side.

Some of the bulls in the paddock stood still, chewing cuds. One of

them was in a bad mood. It waited until the bitch was a few feet

away, then shorted and gave chase. The bitch could have outrun the

bull, but another one in front lowered its horns and charged. The one

behind caught the bitch in its horns and with a swing of the massive

head tossed the helpless bitch high into the air.

With a squeaky-squeaky yelp the bitch landed between two bulls,

scampering to its feet and darting away, ducking the sharp horns that

could have ripped her open. Luckily she found her way out of the

paddock, to find the two baying mastiffs waiting outside the fence.

Instinctively she wheeled on her hind legs and fled the other way,

hotly pursued by two huge mastiffs. The only route of escape was

into the forest, and she managed to shake her pursuers off, diving

straight through a Kai-apple hedge and emerging on the other side

torn, aching, shaking and lost and with her mistress’s distress on her

mind. She pulled out the thorns she could reach with her teeth, and

loped off downhill, urgency her commanding instinct. She had to

find a human.

Emma’s water had broken two hours ago, and she was really willing

to give birth. But this was her first child and her malnourished body

just wasn’t ready for it. The baby had stuck on the way out, and

Emma knew that if she didn’t deliver fast they could both die.

She tried to get on her side but a spasm of pain paralysed her. She let

out a weak scream that was just a little louder than the whimpers of

the puppies and lay back clawing at the little creature that struck in

her birth canal, “ Oh my God!… Oh my husband! Where are you?”

God was in heaven. And Kabochi in prison. At Kabochi’s trial none

of their relatives had bothered to be present. He had pleaded guilty,

had been sentenced to five years in prison and three quarters of his

land given to the plaintiff as compensation for injuries. Not for a

moment had the bought judge paused to listen to Kabochi; that he had

hit a pervert he had caught raping his Emma. The judge liked

Onesmus’ story better, that the arrangement had been for Onesmus to

be sleeping with Emma on weekends, to aid Kabochi’s financial

obligations, which Kabochi couldn’t manage alone. Onesmus had

produced a forged agreement form, signed by both of them. Kabochi

had protested, but his signature and the one on the paper had been

similar; both were scrawled initials.

They hadn’t considered that no sane man could allow such a thing to

happen, no matter how hard poverty gnawed at him.

The minus-three-teeth Onesmus had walked free. Kabochi had gone off

to serve a long sentence, leaving his Emma at the mercy of fate, without

basic human wants and without a provider, with only the hut and the

land on which it stood, which was no larger than a volleyball pitch.

She had sold her goat to buy food, and when the proceeds were

finished she started labouring in neighbouring farms, later having to

cross rivers in search of work when her hostile neighbours denied her

work. Depression had set in, malnutrition, real starvation, and now

labour pains, with no one except a nursing bitch to help her.

Outside another hut the bitch howled, and to the old woman inside it

sounded like a nocturnal blood sucker. She wrapped her old blanket

around her folds of skin, seized a firebrand and went out to


The bitch sat on her haunches outside the door, and when the door

opened a chink she whined and got closer. Seeing it was only a bitch

the old woman went back into her hut, and resumed her rest on the

hard sisal mattress. The bitch howled louder, scratching at the door.

This time the woman came out with two boiled yams, her dear

tomorrow’s breakfast, and threw them before the bitch. Haiko ignored

them, seized the blanket with her teeth, tugged, then released, trotted

a few feet away and barked in the general direction of home.

“Ai-aaaiya. What now?” Croaked the old woman.

The bitch went back, and seized the old blanket, in her enthusiasm

tugging it off the old woman’s body. The old woman squawked in

protest and darted back into the hut, bolting the door shut and cursing

what she thought was a demon outside her hut. She was afraid of

going out to fetch her blanket, fearing the demon. She must have

spent a very cold night!

Outside the bitch howled into the howling wind, and decided the old

woman wasn’t coming out. She trotted away, anxious to find

somebody who would accompany her to the bedside of her mistress.

Kabochi was dead tired. He had had a tiring day working in a quarry

with his fellow convicts. Cell number nine, which he shared with two

others, had been his home for the past eight or so months, shared with

lice and bedbugs that kept him awake half the night.

His vengeance at Onesmus burned brighter every dawning day and

his days felt like months as he waited for the day he would get out of

prison and avenge himself. He knew that his Emma was close to

haying her baby, but what could he do? He was powerless!

He could remember the caring. The love. Deep in poverty they had

still had hopes for a brighter future. One day he had earnestly

comforted Emma. “I will be a big man once, my Emma. One day I

will reach the top and I will give you all you desire.”

“I will knit you something warm, Kabochi. It is cold at the top.” She

had answered gaily. And now he was in prison.

She had visited him only once. She had come dressed in her only

good dress. The white frock, now stained brown, fell an inch short of

her knees. A part of the hem had been chewed off by rats, and,

hitched up slightly in front by the pregnancy, it looked just a bit better

than a smartly-worn sack. Added to the dusty cracked feet in sandals

that didn’t match, sunken eyes accentuating protruding check bones,

and hair gone reddish-brown around the edges, it was a really

beautiful Emma who came visiting Kabochi!

They had broken down and wept as they beheld each other through

the bars. Their family had been broken up, their poor but loving union

torn up by the wantonness of the human animal. By a rapist. A rich,

bestial rapist.

Through her tears she’d told him that she was pregnant, and of the

humiliation at the hands of Onesmus. Kabochi had raved and cursed,

livid with fury. He had been dragged away by the guards, leaving

Emma with no one to comfort her, except the warder, whose only

comfort was a rude shove with the end of his truncheon, sending her

on her way weeping.

And now Kabochi dozed off, unaware that his Emma was dying

giving birth.

She pushed harder, praying for strength. It was almost over. But she

felt as if she would die having the baby. A spasm seized her as the

child budged an inch. She was weak, and feeling faint, having

laboured for more than three hours. She had bled a lot and in her

mind she swore she wouldn’t die with the baby inside her. She would

do the unthinkable.

Emma would operate on herself!

She kept her knife inside one pan by the fireplace. Her hands groped

wide, then knocked loudly on the pans. Where is the knife? Then her

hand touched it, and her fingers curled around the handle of the sharp

knife. She knew where to cut to make it easier for the baby to come

out, to save the baby if not herself. She pushed herself to a leaning

position against the wall so as to reach well her birth canal, then with

the knife held tightly in both hands, she closed her eyes and…

Lighting flashed, followed by awful crashes of thunder. The wind

whistled through the Kai-apple hedges, pushing the small bitch offbalance

as she picked her way through the coffee trees, heading for a

lighted house. Inside it she could hear excited human noises.

The party in the house was going like a house on fire. The young men

outnumbered the girls by half, and drunk, fought to impress their

chosen ones with the newest dance steps from America. The first born

of that particular household had been circumcised on Christmas day,

and they were having the customary party. They were also ushering in

the new millennium. It was New Year’s Eve, tomorrow would be 1st

of January, year 2000.

She ran around the house twice, whimpering each time she got to

each of the five doors. Then, at the sound of approaching footsteps,

she stopped outside one. The door opened and a young man came out,

holding a flashlight and smoking furiously. He stopped at the sight of

the black and white bitch, took some steps backwards and collided

with his friend.

“What is it?” asked the one called Jack, holding a heavy club to use

on any burglar. Even in the villages burglary was rampant.

“Ah! Just a bitch. I almost pissed on myself.”

“A bitch make you piss your jeans?” slurred Jack, slightly drunk. “Let

us piss on her instead!”

Haiko whimpered excitedly, turned towards the direction she had

come from and barked. “What’s she barking at?” asked Jack.

“Maybe a puppy caught in the hedge.” Answered Naftaly, the son of

Onesmus the rapist, trying to recall where he had seen the black and

white bitch.

“Come on, don’t be a sissy! I will piss on the bitch.” Jack undid his

fly and let a stream of yellow urine fly in an arc at Haiko’s head.

Some hit her head in a spatter, and she ducked away from the rest.

“Stop being cruel to animals. This one needs help of some sorts, can’t

you see?” Naftaly took leave of the rest from the doorway, then

turned to Jack.

“Wait! I know this one. It’s Emma’s pet. Maybe she is in trouble, last

time I saw her she looked like an inflated baboon. Let’s go.”

It could be true, thought Naftaly. This was the ninth month since

she… since his dad raped her!

“You must be nuts. I’m going nowhere near that haunted hut. And this

bitch looks ugly. I’ll kill it!” Jacks wung his heavy club at Haiko.

She wheeled sharply to avoid the swinging club, but too late!

Aimed at her head, the club missed and caught her foreleg with a

splintering kraak!

There was silence.

“Bowagigiigii…!” squealed Haiko in pain. As fast as she could she

limped away, the broken foreleg jogging painfully every step. Naftaly

turned to Jack, livid with anger.

“You bastard!”

“Shut up!” Jack swung the club at him.

“Dog!” Naftaly caught the club with his hands, his right foot crashing

into Jack’s abdomen. Jack fell on his buttocks, followed by another

kick under the chin that lifted him a few feet off the ground. Then

Naftaly was on him, raining unparried blows on Jack. They were

separated by their fellow revellers.

“I am going home.” Naftaly spat angrily, picked his flashlight and

walked off into the windy dark night.

…just as she started praying, the first raindrops spattered on the roof,

followed by loud thunder.

“Help me now, oh you God of everyone. Help me have this baby, and

I, will be yours forever, Father, both our lives are in your hands.

Please don’t let us die. Amen.”

It was God’s will being done. Through her, God would give the world

a ruthless ruler who entertained no vices, a ruler who would rule the

whole world and uproot all evil from the hearts of men. He would be

the long-awaited supreme ruler of the world, a man who would lead

the world to the conquest of the seas and the skies. It was time for the

birth of a king, a man who would stop mankind from turning God’s

dream into a nightmare.

The lighting flashes lit up the whole countryside. The lumps of hard

earth on the wall dug painfully into Emma’s bony back as she

strained to touch the baby in her. Her hand came out slick, and firmly

gripped the knife. I would widen the birth canal enough, she knew.

But would she survive?

The storm outside intensified, and through the now open door the

jagged strokes of lightning illuminated the naked woman. Emma

cringed at the ear-splitting crashes of thunder as God displayed his

fireworks. The rain fell harder, and the roof started leaking. It felt like

the end of the world to Emma. For her it was.

The sharp edge of the knife touched the lower end of her tightlystretched

birth canal. Tears, at what she had to do to herself, rolled

down her cheeks onto her succulently swollen breasts, She pushed the

knife deeper between herself and the big head of the baby, then, with

a horrible scream, she sliced through herself!

The cut widened her birth canal. The force of the drawn-out scream

pushed down on the womb, and the baby slid out with a sucking

sound. Emma, breath rasping, closed her eyes and felt the blood flow

out of her, together with the afterbirth. Her world was pure pain, she

was half-dead, but the baby was out and Emma thanked God.

But was it alive?

The flashes of lighting were almost continuous, thunder-bolts lashed

the hillside, and the hut, whose framework had been eaten away by

ants, shook and trembled. The powerful wind drove the rain into the

walls, and into the hut. It was as if the elements were ushering

Emma’s child into the world. Were they?

Emma lifted the child that was slick with fluids, and in the light of the

lightning flashes inspected it. Its eyes were open, and seemed to focus

unblinkingly, seeming to look straight into her brain. The head was

big and hairless, and forehead loomed high above the eyebrows. One

illuminating flash enabled her to look between its legs. It was a boy.

“Ooh my beautiful baby boy!” She crooned happily. Then he opened

his mouth to wail. His mouth was full of white teeth!

“Wuuuuuui!” Emma thrust the baby away from herself, hitting the

wall hard as she recoiled from the shocking sight. The baby cackled

in an attempt to cry.

Emma’s heart fluttered wildly, her lungs sucked in the air, and her

brain overheated as it registered the shocking truth. She had delivered

a monster! Her heart stopped, her lungs let out a long sigh, and she

collapsed on her side. In her weak state she died almost instantly.

The wall of the hut, wetted by the rain and shaken by thunder, took

one gust of wind and split apart with a sucking sound, the part over

the door collapsing. Luckily Emma’s side remained standing. Just

then Haiko limped over the crumbled wall, speeding to Emma’s side.

She whimpered, sniffing in Emma’s face. No breath. No life. Her

mistress was dead. Haiko licked Emma’s face one more time, then sat

down and howled in sorrow.

“Boow-Arroo- Arrooouulf!”

The rain outside stopped. The lightning and thunder disappeared, and

the wind calmed to a gentle breeze. It was all over, the baby had been

born. The tempest died off.

“Arroooouulf!” Howled Haiko again, head lifted at the skies

defiantly. She rose and went to the gently kicking baby between

Emma’s legs, She licked him clean, then crouched and covered him

from the wind.

The boy groped at the warm feeling, found one milk-laden teat and

happily started to suckle. The bitch whimpered, and probably

“smiled” at the sensation of suckling a human puppy.

Naftaly had decided, though it was night, to go and see whether

Emma was alright. From Emma’s gateway he saw the ruins of the

hut, and realised all was not well.

He vaulted over the gate, racing and sliding, skidding to a stop before

the mound of earth that had been part of the hut. He shone his

flashlight into the half that still stood.

Shapes lay inert, motionless, the puppies lying before the bitch,

wanting to suckle but held back by the bared teeth of the bitch that

seemed to say: “I have a new puppy!”

Beyond the dogs lay the unmoving Emma, naked and deflated. She

had delivered. Where was the baby?

Naftaly took a tentative step towards the silent forms. The bitch

growled warningly, rising on its three good legs and revealing the

suckling baby.

He hurried over to the mother and checked her pulse-no pulse. Her

eyes stared in a horror-stricken gaze into nothingness. She was dead!

“Oh God!” Naftaly approached the snarling bitch, crooning softly to

cool her down.

“Let us see what you’ve got under you.”

The baby started crying, tiny arms waving in the air, crying for its

“mother’s” teat. In the beam of the flashlight Naftaly saw the teeth,

and shrank back in horror. A baby born with teeth!!

“Mary of Jesus!”

He took the knife in his shaking hand and quickly cut the umbilical

cord, tied it with a string from the old blanket, and wrapped up the

baby boy.

“Forgive me, heavenly father, and strengthen me to take care of this

motherless boy. Oh God! What did Emma do wrong?”

A tear rolled down Naftaly’s face. The baby grinned at him and he

almost dropped him. “What does this mean?”

The conception of the baby… the poverty… the millenium birthday…

the tempestuous storm… a hairless, fully-toothed boy…

“God’s will be done.” He prayed as he solemnly walked homewards,

leading the crestfallen procession of a limping bitch and five puppies

that fell and rose and fell again. He looked at the boy in his arms, and

prayed again for him.

The angels above them watched, smiling. Then, their work for the

good of humankind done, they flew away to heaven.

It was half-past midnight, first of January, the year 2000. The future

king of the world had been born. All on Earth would be well again.