‘’If you gaze for long in to an abyss, the abyss starts gazing at you’’ Mark Twain
When Joe Kipe died, he left behind a beautiful mansion. Three cats, four mongrels, an owl and a crazy parrot which hated the owl. Circumstances leading to his death were unclear and remain so to date. It was usually spoken in hushed tones, as if his silhouette might appear behind the shoulder of the speaker and grab any light available and subject him/her to untold torture. Up to date, no one dares shout the suspicions lest a tall skeleton walked besides and said hello as if this happens every day. My fingers hover over the keyboard as if unsure of what to do afraid some unseen force might snap them off.
I was ten years then, young and inquisitive like any other kid my age. Kipe was our neighbour who kept to himself. Every day morning you could see him strolling leisurely on his way to the shopping centre for a cup of hot coffee and catching the gossip of the past night in the process. This did not mean he was not able to have it in the comfort of his own home, but a rumour went around that nothing was cooked on his kitchen before noon. Whoever had come up with it I could not figure out but it was said in hushed tones lest he heard. A balcony was set on the west side of his mansion. This is where he sat in the evenings gazing at the setting sun drinking some weird stuff from a black coca cola like bottle. As far as everybody knew, coca cola did not make black bottles. East Africa breweries did but not in the shape Kipe used to hold. Another rumour still circulated about this. Kipe drunk blood like a vampire though he was human. This like all the others was unconfirmed. He could have been sipping water or amarula as far as I was concerned. His house was solar lighted, a major achievement in our part of country since electricity was decades away. It shined in dark nights and was noticeable from far. Though folks were wary of him, they were still proud to be neighbours of development. Still hearsay cropped up. The tall mango tree on the east side of his compound used to catch fire occasionally and never burned. It was comparable to Mosses’ burning bush. I never saw it and I have serious doubts if anybody did but in a sleepy village where nothing of significance happened, a meaningless rumour could grow viral.
The night he died was pin drop silent. Bright full moon was lighting our village and everybody was at peace with himself. A distant hoot of an owl was usually heard. Definitely the bird of Minerva was not the one belonging to Kipe. His was too near to sound distant. The raucous cry seemed to come in intervals of at most fifteen minutes if I am not mistaken. This was ominous sign according to my nearly senile grandmother. Many times I thought she had simply lost her marbles but she was damn serious about this. We huddled by the fire place and continued to listen to her tales which grew sweeter by day. Every time the hoot pierced the air, she would pause, look nervously around, mumble some incoherent words and spit on to fire place. She told us this was to appeasethe angry ancestors who were gearing up to snatch a soul from our small knit community. If she could do it in a satisfactory manner they would postpone it or avert it completely.
Kipe had an adopted son and had never married in his whole life which was rather uncanny especially in an African community like ours. Everybody his age already had grandchildren. The son was the same age as me and he attended a boarding school. I do not remember any instance I interacted with him before they took him in. Either Kipe did not let him out of the gate or he preferred to stay indoors. I only got glimpses of him when I stood by the fence and stared at kipe’s homestead. He was a mixed blood kid as far as I could tell. He had pitch black hair which grew in long strands unlike the kinky type popular with everybody and a chocolate complexion with a pointed nose. All in all, nobody thought there was something unusual with kipe’s son. It came as a big surprise when kipe’s body was found the next morning lying on his bed lifeless. His blood was spluttered all over the chest and nearly the whole of his face. A deep gash was evident on his chest on the heart’s exact spot. It was an extremely ghastly sight and I and any other small children just got a brief glimpse of it. It was the first time that I stepped on to Joe Kipe’s compound though he was the next door neighbour. As much as folks feared and loathed him, nobody could afford not to pity him when he had come to such a tragic demise. Ours was a small community where murders rarely happened and this was the first one since I took a gush of polluted air of this earth. What made it unique is that it was performed by his adopted son who was surprisingly ten years old. For him to accomplish such a feat left everybody in awe.
According to police report which I acquired recently, the kid sneaked up on him in the dead of the night. Using him a heavy sharpened object he gave him a hefty blow on the chest and he did not have a moment to let out a gasp before the soul escaped. These details were not available to a kid of my age at the time. They still do not know the reasons behind the kid’s brutality. Many conclusions based on rumours came up at the time of his death. Since he was associated with the dark side while he was alive, he had displeased the demons and they had decided to get done with him. Another one surfaced. The kid was a devil in human form. Since nobody knew the kids origin, it was easy to believe this one. Folks needed something to lay the blame on and talk about while gathered in the market centre. The unconfirmed conclusions increased the fear of kipe’s home which was left with no occupants after the police bundled the kid on their car. We never got to see him again. His funeral had multitudes of people who were there not because they loved Kipe but out of curiosity. And a curious funeral it was. Kipe apparently had no relatives other than his son. This served to rouse more suspicions and ignite more baseless rumours. I was perched on top of the mango tree which was claimed to light up sometimes. Here I got to experience a bird’s eye view of the proceedings on the ground. Perched there, I was apprehensive waiting for some action on the ground. Maybe the ground would open up and swallow a chunk of ‘mourners’ or Kipe would rise from the dead and chase everybody away.
……………………………………….To be continued