Zvamakaita Mukundi had never imagined that Natalie would ever vanish from his dreams, and the fact that he did not crave her return filled him with contrition.
Nothing would, however, erase the memories of her from his mind. To immortalise her, he named his firstborn child after her. It was the greatest honour he would ever bestow on her as Natalie had failed to manifest in his waking life.
Natalie had disappeared from Zvama’s dreams after he had got married to Rudaviro, who shared not even the smallest quality with Natalie, but not a contemptible choice for someone who needed a devoted wife.
Having appeared in his dreams when he was barely six, Natalie had grown up with him, becoming a woman as he became a man, but her existence remained confined to his nocturnal world of dreams, probably the only time she would get the chance to sneak out of her parents’ custody. On his first encounter with her, the word “Natalie” had formed on his lips, and Zvama could never imagine any other sound that would taste sweeter than that.
His sweetest memory of Natalie was when he had taken her aboard a rowboat, cruising with her across an expansive lake, but never reaching the boundary of the water. Each armed with an oar, they had rowed the boat towards what looked like a garden town, but Zvama woke up before they reached the glorious town.
Natalie looked like a girl aged three when she first appeared to Zvama, but as time passed, her size increased. Her arrival was always signalled by the sudden appearance of her disembodied paper moon smile. Then slowly, the grey clouds concealing her body would melt away, leaving her standing erect before him, like a baby angel.
Zvama, of course, had other dreams, but none of his other dreams repeated itself. He never told anyone about his nocturnal experiences with Natalie. Each time he was tempted to confide in someone, the words got trapped somewhere before he swallowed them back into the darkness of his secret. So Natalie went through boarding school with him, saw him through University and remained his most frequent night guest when he took up employment. Zvama had nearly shared his secret with a University classmate who had asked him, “Why is it that you have not even the slightest interest in the fairer sex?”
“We were created differently my friend,” Zvama had said, “I am however attached to someone unpossessable.”
He could not say more. Something seemed to tell him that he had said enough.
It was that question that awakened Zvama to the reality of his situation. He had totally shut women out of his waking life. At the age of twenty-one, he had never spoken a love word to a girl. Something was grievously wrong with him. He began to take a serious interest in other people’s attitudes towards him until he stumbled upon a piece of information that nauseated him. Some of his age mates called him homo! From the moment he had made this discovery, he had vowed to propose love to the first girl whom he thought would make a good wife.
From the day he took this stance, Natalie’s visits became more frequent and sweeter until he found himself burning in the conflagration of his adoration of her.
Although his father was a business tycoon, Zvama who majored in Accounting opted to work for a banking corporation, against his father’s will, who wanted Zvama to work for him.
“I will offer my services on a part-time basis father,” he said, “I do not see any wrong with that.”
“Nothing wrong my son,” Mr Mukundi said, but remember that you are my only son and chief shareholder in my business.”
“I understand, father.”
“Always remember that you have an inheritance awaiting you. Do I sound clear?”
Zvama finally met Rudaviro and had no problem winning her heart. Natalie disappeared from his dreams for a while. And when she bounced back, she was no longer the woman she had recently become; she was a baby angel once more. Her character, however, changed with every visit. Her paper moon smile slowly began to retreat from her face. She would parade an ominous look throughout the night, seemingly telling him that something terribly wrong was on his way.
One night as she stood face to face with him, two rivulets appeared on her face, scouring down her cheeks to converge at the bottom of her chin. As she turned away, a pool of still water formed in front of her, increasing in size until it became a sea whose fringes touched the horizons. “Natalie, “, Zvama called out, but she could not answer. He suddenly realised that Natalie had never spoken a word since he had first met her, nineteen years before.
Natalie dived into the sea and was suddenly sitting in a rowboat, rowing furiously towards the other end of the world. Zvamakaita woke up. Something seemed to tell him that Natalie would never visit his dreams again, but alas, she bounced back the next night, first, her paper moon smile, next, the melting away of the clouds hiding her body, then the whole of her, beckoning towards him.
There were no tears this time as her eyes turned into dazzling stones. Her upper canine teeth grew longer until they protruded out of her mouth like the fangs of a colossal serpent. She floated towards Zvama who screamed himself awake before her arrival would knock him unconscious.
His nightclothes, completely drenched with perspiration, stuck on his body. He struggled to a kneeling position and uttered a few words of prayer.
Natalie continued to appear to him, but not in her erstwhile angelic guise, but in her newly acquired baby monster form until his marriage to Rudaviro was solemnised. Zvama’s problems were not over yet. Soon after he had signed the nuptials, his father’s one thousand head of cattle died at his farm in a single thunderbolt. It cost Mr Mukundi a fortune to clear his farm of the mess.
As the family was still grappling with this loss, a road traffic accident claimed a convoy of his haulage trucks, transporting goods to his supermarkets. Nothing was recovered from the pileup, except scrap metal. Fortunately, no human life was lost.
Mr Mukundi and his family agonised over the losses for a long while. He had become the reincarnation of the biblical Job, though Job did not have a terrible secret to hide. Members of his church flooded his Murambi Garden house to conduct prayers, reassuring Mukundi that the good Lord was still with him.
Zvama would never know his father’s dreadful secret, how he had murdered a three-year-old girl, mutilated her body and mingled her blood and organs with charms and herbs, before burying the recipe at the doorstep of his first shop.
This is purely a work of fiction written by Nhamo Muchagumisa. He’s a poet and an acclaimed essayist.