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Tuesday, 6 March 2018

Inkanyamba (A Free Flash Fiction Story by Graham Downs)

It's been a while since I gave you a free story. Life's just been so hectic lately, and I've obviously been really busy with the launch of my new book, Memoirs of a Guardian Angel.

Anyway, it was high time I rectified that, so without futher ado, I present you...

Inkanyamba




 “We’re almost at Howick,” said Sam as he rubbed his neck and rolled his head. They’d been driving for four hours. “Should we stop?”
“Why not?” said Eva from the passenger seat. “I’m sure Gary’d love to see the falls.” She turned to their five-year-old in the back. “How about it, Gary? How’d you like to see Howick Falls?”
Gary rubbed his eyes and groaned. His parents had picked him out of bed at three this morning and bundled him, covers and all, into the back seat of the car. He’d been looking forward to the Amanzimtoti trip for weeks; now, he wasn’t particularly excited about anything.
“Don’t care,” he mumbled. “Want to sleep.”
Eva rolled her eyes. “Well, you can stay in the car if you like, or you can come have a look at the falls. Dad’s been driving for hours, and he needs to stretch his legs. We all do. We’re stopping.”
Twenty minutes later, the old jalopy station wagon pulled up at the curb. Sam and Eva exited the car, stretched their arms and yawned. Eva stared across the small paved area between the street and the Falls. Apart from a few people, it was empty at this hour.
“It’s beautiful, isn’t it?” She pointed to the hundred-metre high waterfall across the paving and past the low wooden railing.
“Yes, it is,” replied Sam. He nodded towards a small cafĂ© across the street. “I’m going to get some coffee. Want some?”
Eva nodded eagerly. After watching her husband walk off, she opened the back door of the car and lifted Gary out. “Come on, my boy. You’re not going to want to miss this.”
Gary let his mom carry him in her arms, grumbling all the way. When they got to the railing, his eyes shot wide open and he was silent. Then, after a few moments, a single “Wow!” escaped his lips. He wriggled out of his mother’s arms, and stood at the rail, staring.
“These falls are truly beautiful, young one.”
Eva turned to see an elderly gentleman standing next to them. Gary looked up at him, wide-eyed.
“Did you know,” he continued, “that the Zulu people call this place KwaNogqaza? It means ‘Place of the Tall One’ in English, and they also believe that at the bottom of these falls lives the Inkanyamba. Anyone but a sangoma who approaches the bottom of these falls is in for a nasty surprise.”
“That’s interesting sir,” said Eve politely, while keeping one eye on Gary in this stranger’s presence. “So what is this Inkanyamba supposed to look like?”
The stranger chuckled. “It’s supposed to be a serpent—“
“Mommy, what’s that?” Gary interrupted and pointed towards the pool at the bottom of the waterfall.
The two followed Gary’s finger with their eyes. On the shore at the bottom of the Falls, halfway out of the water, was a man. Squinting, Eva could see what looked like blood on his head. He wasn’t moving.
The tranquillity of the place, the sound of the water, the birds tweeting in the trees, was suddenly drowned out by screaming. People were running everywhere–Eva hadn’t realised there were so many.
Gary was crying. Eva turned to see Sam walking up to her, two paper coffee cups in his hands.
“Eva, what’s-“
She grabbed him by the arm with one hand, and grabbed Gary with the other. “We need to get out here, now!”
***
Later that afternoon, the three were sitting in their Happy Days flat in Amanzimtoti. A salty breeze was blowing through the open windows, and Eva stood staring out at the ocean.
Sam was reading a newspaper, while Gary sat on the floor playing with his toy cars.
“Look here, Eva,” said Sam. “There’s an article about that body we saw this morning at Howick. Apparently it was a suicide.”
Eva grunted. She just wanted to forget the whole horrible incident.
There was a knock at the door. Eva went to open it, and standing there was the old man from the falls.
Eva was suddenly afraid. “What are you doing here?”
“I have bad news for you,” he said, ignoring her question. “The Inkanyamba is angry with you.” He turned to look at Gary. “Your son’s life is in danger.”
Gary looked up at his mother and started to say something. Before he could get the words out, his eyes rolled back in his head, and he passed out on the floor.

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