Fiction

The Foredoom of Moribu Kenda: A Short Story by Amran Gaye

 

In the 40th year of his life Moribu Kenda stopped dreaming about objects and started dreaming about people.

He dreamt he saw a man, who came to him in a cave and told him to read from a book. He was greatly troubled by this dream because – as he explained to his wife the next morning – though he did not remember the contents of the book yet he still knew it contained something very important, something against which he must take some urgent precaution. A week after his dream, Moribu Kenda’s brother was killed in a horrific motor accident. He had been running an errand for Moribu at the time, and it was Moribu himself who had urged him to take the fastest transport possible, for the matter was an urgent one consisting of laborers who had not been paid, and were threatening to strike and bring Moribu’s factory to a halt. Moribu was stunned – he could not shake off the feeling that this was what his dream had warned him about, that he should not have sent his brother on this particular day, or at this particular hour, or that he should not have asked him to hurry.

Then the following week Moribu dreamt that he built a house, a large expensive mansion which was the envy of the town. And then, whilst he was away on a trip the mansion burned down in the night, killing his wife and children, and destroying all his possessions. He awoke in a sweat and at the crack of dawn he went to see his Marabout, Pa Musa Susso. Pa Musa was already up, sitting in the yard on a prayer mat, surrounded by cowrie shells and jujus. He answered Moribu’s greetings and asked him to sit down.

“What brings you here today, my son?”, Pa Musa asked.

“I have been having strange dreams, and they have been coming true. I do not know what to do.”, Moribu replied.

Pa Musa asked him to elaborate, whereupon Moribu launched into such a jumbled narrative about books and men in mountains and burning houses and lost possessions, that Pa Musa could make neither head nor tail of it, and had to stop him and make him explain again from the beginning, but this time slowly. When he had finished, Pa Musa went into the back room and returned with a large bottle filled with a liquid the color of the sea when it is green.

“This is Saafara of my great ancestor, Sukolu Susso, the recipe of which he got in a dream from the Great Marabout Alhaji Ndjogene Mampa. You must drink it every day before you sleep, and you must take a little in your cupped hands and rub it on your body, here, like this.”.

“It will take away the dreams?”, Moribu asked, eagerly reaching for the bottle.

“No, my son. You must not be afraid of the dreams – they are a gift. You have become a seer – you see the future. Now you must use the knowledge you gain prudently”.

Moribu paid him, thanked him vehemently, and went home.

At home the first thing Moribu did was cancel all his travel plans for the next three months. when the dry season would be over and the rains would start in. He had wanted to visit his sister and her husband, who lived in the next town, and conduct some business whilst he was there, but he sent them a message saying he was indisposed, and could not come now. He also bought electric flashlights for every room of his house and declared that from thence on no candles would be lit, nor any naked flame exposed within the walls of the house. In this way he hoped to prevent against the happenings in his dream.

A few days after this, his sister and her husband came to Moribu’s house with their two children, and only a few possessions wrapped up  in a cloth bag. They looked tired and miserable – their house had been razed down to the ground when they had all gone out for a walk and a candle they had left lit in the living room had fallen against a curtain. The only material things they had left were the clothes they had taken out that morning to be washed and hung out to dry. Moribu was so relieved he asked them to stay with him permanently, and promised to build them a house soon.

Then Moribu dreamt that his wife had been betraying him with another man, and he had found them in bed together when he returned from work. He woke up a in a terrible anger, and shook his wife lying beside him roughly awake.

“So this is how you repay my kindness, bringing you into my house and spending all my money on you, this is how you repay my kindness, by adultery and whoredom, like a common slut?”, he yelled at the shocked woman. He would not let her explain: he was certain of the veracity of his dreams – had the Marabout not told him he was a seer? – and he threw her out of his house “like the slut she is”. He would not let her back, despite the neighbours’ entreaties, despite the fact that the Imam himself paid him a visit with a group of the oldest people in the town, and they all swore on their honor that Moribu Kenda’s wife was a woman beyond reproach and would never stoop to such low deeds. In any case, any doubts he had started to feel vanished when his wife’s best friend and constant companion was found to be with child, even though she had never been married.

Moribu did not dream again for a few months, and he was starting to get worried that his gift had disappeared, when the dreams came back. It was on a night when he had come home late, tired out from work. He had bolted down the supper his sister cooked, and went straight to bed (remembering, of course, to administer Pa Musa’s Saafara first). Sleep took him as soon as his head hit the soft pillow, and he started to snore.

He was in a cave again, a different one from his first dream. He stood on a raised platform of sorts, and there was a group of people below him, all shouting his name and proclaiming his greatness. “Moribu Kenda! Moribu Kenda!”, they roared, whilst he turned this way and that, graciously smiling and waving at them. Before him and behind him stood a cadre of men, his personal guard, highly trained soldiers wielding machine guns and rifles, scanning the crowd intensely for any sign of a threat to his safety. There was a hole in the magnificent roof of the cave, and through this hole there came streaming down a beautiful, intense light which shone directly down onto Moribu and Moribu alone, giving the impression that Heaven itself gave this enterprise its blessings and wanted him to stand out from normal men.

Moribu awoke feeling a great sensation of pleasure and satisfaction, as he had not felt for a long time. He was sure this dream – like the others – was a prophecy of his future. He only hoped it would be the immediate future – he could hardly wait.

The next day, Moribu was hard at work balancing the books in his factory when a man came rushing in, breathless.

“Moribu, Moribu, you must come”, the man demanded, in great agitation.

“What is it, man?”, Moribu asked, startled.

“There is, there is a coup d’etat. It’s on the radio. A, a splinter group of soldiers. They are, they are approaching our town. They intend to march on the city”, the man let this all out in one breathless rush, before running back out of Moribu’s office.

Moribu quickly closed and locked his door and followed out after the man. Outside, a crowd had gathered, and people were talking excitedly to each other.

“Ah these people and their coup d’etats. Noone can live in peace”, someone sighed.

“But perhaps these ones will be better than our current Government. As long as there is no bloodshed. They say it is led by a Sergeant Collie”, another replied.

Moribu went numb when he heard this – he knew Sergeant Collie, from his travels to the city. They had met once, when he had taken a case to the police office and found the Sergeant on duty. After that they often ate lunch together at the police canteen, when he was in the city on business. Suddenly Moribu’s dream made sense to him.  This was his great chance, this was his opportunity to become leader of the people, to hold high office and be universally respected and revered. Sergeant Collie was a hard-working, dedicated man. He would succeed in his coup, he would make Moribu the holder of some high office in the land. Moribu understood that he must initiate some action himself, of course – dreams only gave you an indication of what was to come, like a friendly tip from the river on the best spot to fish. You had to do the fishing yourself.

So it was that when the soldiers marched into town, pointing their guns menacingly before them so the townspeople called their children and ran back into their houses, Moribu alone was left on the street, Moribu alone stood and faced them. And, because everyone was looking out of their window (behind half-drawn curtains) at this strange sight, noone in the town had to explain to anyone else what happened next.

Everyone watched as Moribu stood before the leader of the coup d’etat, the Sergeant. He extended his hand in greeting, but the Sergeant did not shake it. They watched as he spoke some words, and smiled, but from what they could see of the Sergeant’s hard face it was stern and set, and still unsmiling. They watched as Moribu prostated himself before the Sergeant, but  the Sergeant walked past him, still unsmiling, shouting a few words of command to a soldier behind him.

It was this soldier who took out a gun and pointed it at the head of the still prostrate Moribu, who was pitifully sitting on his haunches like a dog, looking for the moment as if he had lost the power of speech and the power of movement both. Then the sound of a shot rang through the town, and without any ceremony Moribu Kenda keeled over, and the soldiers walked past as if nothing had happened, continuing their march into the city.

None of the townspeople ever found out what Moribu had said to the Sergeant, and the Sergeant was at no liberty to explain, for he himself and all his men were killed in an ambush by the country’s army, 40 kilometres from the city borders. A rumor did spread however, that he had been pleading with the rebel leader to lay down his arms and go back, for his mission was futile, and noone could overthrow our good President and his Government. When this rumour came to the ears of the President of the country, a great statue of Moribu was erected in the town, and the day he died was declared a national holiday, on which everyone would march together in solidarity and peace, to remember “this great man who stands for everything our country stands for”, as the President himself put it in a speech on national television. The town was also renamed “Moribu Kenda town”, and to this day people from there can be recognized by the fact that they are fiercely proud of their hero, and will speak continuously about him in conversation if given the chance.

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