Cro-magnon Episode 5
Aggiornato il: feb 13
The end is here or is it?
A procession of sad villagers walks slowly together to the village cemetery situated on the outskirts of Tantinga. Mansu left Mba home with the two babies. Holding Nano in his arms, Mansu speaks to no one as he walks along slowly near his late wife's body held up by four able-bodied men of Tantinga. He thinks of the amazing years they have spent together and the lovely baby boy they had. The deep silence of the slow walk is broken by chief Mbali's voice that is heard up ahead, chanting to the gods to grant Nabou’s soul a safe passage to the land of souls.
Back home, Mba lights a fire and feeds it with some dry wood. Mansu left with Nano without having anything to eat. Mba places the soot-coated bottom of a medium-sized cooking pot on the fire to prepare breakfast. She steps out after hearing strange sounds outside her mud-made kitchen. In the distance, a swarming sound is heard. Mba looks up in the sky and sees millions of unidentified insects flying towards Tantinga. In the terrifying sight, Mba runs into her hut, shuts the door and stands beside the two babies. The babies begin crying and Mba comforts them whilst praying that the insects do not descend down on Tantinga.
Moments pass but the swarming noise above only intensifies. Now the wind begins to take hold, blows violently and stops after a while. Mba gets ever more on edge. She could now hear people screaming and crying for help in the distance. It was now clear that Tantinga was under attack. Feeling helpless and scared, Mba starts crying, wishing her husband was there with her. What have we done? Mba cries out with tears in her eyes.
In her state of fear and confusion, Mba picks up a scent of burning dry grass. Adrenaline kicks in and she rushes to the door and peeks outside through a small crack in the door. The blowing wind had pushed the flames near the thatched side of the kitchen. Now one side of the kitchen is burning violently. Mba descends into abrupt panic, her heart racing through her chest like a waterfall. Now she is faced with the ultimate dilemma. If she does not put out the fire soon, it will eventually get to her hut and she could not risk that. On the other hand, the compound outside has been invaded by thousands of mysterious black insects. Mba has to make a choice quickly. Her life and that of the babies depend on it.
Mba decides to put out the fire and take her chances with the insects. She gently places a silk cloth over the babies' cradle and dashes outside. Mba is immediately attacked by a swarm of black gnats. She rushes into the kitchen and tries to extinguish the fire but it was too late, the fire has engulfed most of the kitchen. She tries to rush back out but trips over a piece of wood and falls violently just at the exit hurting her hip and dislocating her knee. Unable to move, Mba screams out in pain as she is bitten all over her body. Some of the insects again access to her hut and she could hear the babies crying on the top of their voices. She begins to crawl towards her hut, insects going into her mouth, eyes and nose. Halfway through, Mba gave up her struggle as she draws her last breath on the dry ground, steps away
from her hut.
Mansu and the villagers walk back home from Nabou’s burial. As they walk towards Tantinga, chief Mbali, Masaneh and Mansu talk about the meeting that was initially postponed. Masaneh suggests that they have the meeting the following day demanding that it had to be done as soon as possible citing recent events that unfolded in Tantinga. Both Mbali and Mansu agree. The trio's attention is caught by a dead body seen on the sidewalk of the entrance of the village. One man from the crowd recognizes him as a trader from a nearby village. His body is covered in insect bites and few dead black gnats with broken wings. Sensing that something has gone wrong, Mansu puts a tight hold on Nano and races towards his house. Other villagers rush home as well including chief Mbali and Masaneh. There has been an onslaught and the whole village descends into chaos and bedlam as dead bodies are found in every household.
Mansu arrives home and finds his wife lying down on the ground. He puts Nano down and rushes into Mba's hut. He uncovers the babies' cradle and discovers the motionless bodies of his two babies. Mansu places his two palms on his forehead and starts crying on the top of his voice, “My life is over” the poor man said.
Mansu, Mansu, a voice calls out. Mansu opens his eyes at looks at Mba. Will we be going to the farm today? Mba asks her husband. Mansu jumps out of bed and dashes outside. It was a beautiful sunny day, Nano was playing with some sticks and stones, Nabou was sweeping the compound and the babies were cooing joyfully in their cradles. Realizing he has had the worst dream of his life, Mansu calls his two wives and happily gives them a kiss on the cheek each. Mba and Nabou look at each other in the seemingly funny situation and smile. Is everything okay? Nabou asks Mansu. Yes, my dear wife, things could not get any better because I am the luckiest man in the world Mansu replies with a smile.
Thanks to all readers of Cro-Magnon.
Special thanks to Angèlique Grondin and all members of U-report on the move.