UNTIL THE LION BEGINS TO WRITE, THE STORIES WOULD GLORIFY THE HUNTER

There is no happy ending here, well at least for me. He gets to go home and present me to his village as a trophy, a predator who would have devoured them. He gets to present me as proof of his manhood and ability, might even get him a wife from the look of things. But what about me? Am I not brave? Am I not a man? I was trying to provide for my pregnant Nyembezi after all. I did not mean to come this close to the enemy’s borders but you see, these humans have cut down and killed everything, the trees that could camouflage us so well, the animals that we eat and even the grass and shrubs that the animals we ate ate. I always made it a rule not to go past the river, you can see the huts from the river bank. I remember when I was little, my mother warned me and my sisters to not go near the river no matter how thirsty we were. She said we should go over to the other side of the mountain where the river began, the humans did not come that high up into the mountain she had said. The trauma of watching her own mother killed by a spear by the “devious humans” as my father called them had stayed with her since. That year, the drought had been so bad and my grandmother desperate to feed her starving cubs had thought of catching one calf when the herdsmen brought the cattle to the river to drink. Alas! She had been spotted and my mother vividly remembers watching the spear pierce her mother’s abdomen. Motherless and on the brink of starvation, she had made her way across the rough terrain to the other side of the mountain and had found an impala carcass close to the river source. The “source of life” she had christened the river source. “Humans do not come this far up,” mother had said, so imagine my surprise when I saw them cutting down the cedar tree Nyembezi’s father would climb and tell us stories from. I should have known then that that was the beginning of the end. “They have cut everything down there and are coming up here,” Old MacDonald had explained at the emergency meeting amid a collective gasp. They are even going after the Elephants, they finally killed Mean Mavuto yesterday and a deafening silence fell on the group. Mean Mavuto had been one of the oldest Elephants in the Reserve, he had lost his tusks to poachers years ago, he had survived the horrible attack but it had scarred him for life and brought out his nefarious side. Everyone knew to stay out of his way. “If they can kill Mavuto, what hope is there for the rest of us?” an old timer had asked from the back. “It will pass,” Nyembezi’s father responded in his usual relaxed manner. “I remember the drought of 2001, we did not think we would make it but then the rains came.” “Sekani, you do not understand, we had vegetation then, but now the land is bare, even the river completely dries up in the dry season,” Old MacDonald had explained. “Do you remember how bad last year’s flooding was? We saw the roofs of the humans’ huts being swept away by the river.” “Of course I remember,” he had responded in a casual tone. “My father does not think about tomorrow,” Nyembezi would always say. Sekani did not live to see the next month, his usual habit of taking naps high up in the trees had brought him face to face with the loggers. By the time he realized he needed to escape, a hand saw was in his back. It was grief that united Nyembezi and I, a love borne out of tragedy. We had to band together to survive. Then, a bright spot emerged out of the darkness, Nyembezi informed me that I was to be a father, some good news amidst the destruction of our lives, imagine my happiness! I was determined to go catch a Waterbuck for us to celebrate, a feast was in order. But being high up in the mountains where we had retreated to since the humans invaded our backyard meant I had to go far to find one. I had gone to all the usual spots but could not find any Waterbucks or Impala for that matter. They were all either dead or had become refugees across the Luangwa. Defeated, I was about to return home when I ran into Thomas, an old friend who had gone to establish his pride in the Nyika plateau. He mentioned that he had spotted some Waterbucks close to the river. The closer I got to the human settlements, the more unsettled I became but I would remember how Nyembezi’s eyes lit up whenever I surprised with something nice and the fear would dissipate. I do not remember much, but there was a low whistle before I felt a sharp pain in my back and I knew then that my date with fate had arrived. As I gasped for air and breathed my last, all I could see was Nyembezi at the entrance to our cave looking over the horizon for me. The humans had taken another part of her. I hope now you understand why I do not like those two legged creatures and I hope that more of our kind share their stories. It is the only way you will know that, until the Lion begins to write, the stories would glorify the hunter.

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