BRIDE PRICE, is the story of Abélé, a fourteen year old orphan girl to whom I became foster father when I moved to live in a forest village in Zaïre. Life settled down well and we fitted into the community with ease until an unwanted suitor came out of the forest demanding to marry her. He demanded I should set her bride price and I had no right to refuse. That’s when the problems began.
Under the intense scrutiny of the witch-doctor and observed by my friends and neighbours, who were prevented by their own customs and traditions from giving me any direct advice, I had to peer into this evil man’s soul to find a price he could but would not pay. When I finally named the price, his reaction was entirely unexpected and had far reaching and dramatic consequences.
Here’s an extract from our first encounter:
His presence completely dominated the room. I felt a faint tremor of apprehension and began, for the first time I could remember, to feel uncomfortable in my own home.
The afternoon light was dim inside the house but there was enough to let me see the man clearly and to examine his features and huge frame. By the way he had stooped to enter I judged that he must be well over six feet tall and he was massively built. I wondered if he came from one of the south eastern provinces of the country, where many of the men were this tall. Certainly he was unlike the local people who were wiry and slight. He spoke the local dialect well, but with an accent which showed the language was as foreign to him as it was to me.
A dull green shirt stretched tightly across his barrel chest, the buttons straining to contain him. Heavily muscled arms, like those of a heavyweight wrestler, filled the short sleeves. His creased grey trousers were sweat stained round the waistband and grubby down the fly. They contrasted harshly with fluorescent pink socks and white plastic sandals. In the humid air beads of perspiration coated his broad chocolate forehead. A thin scar ran from the corner of the right eye down the broad expanse of his nose to the corner of his mouth. His face and his overall appearance held a distinct aura of menace that was increased rather than dispelled by the brief smile as he finished eating.
He tossed the mango pip casually out of the open door and wiped his sticky fingers on the leg of his pants, adding to the grime. Turning to look at me again, his eyes gleamed mischievously in the dim light. Again the tremor of apprehension fluttered through me and I hoped that it had not shown. I did not know this man. He was not someone I would forget easily and I wondered who he was and why he had come.
For a long moment we stared at each other as though neither knew what to say. Finally my visitor broke the silence. This time he spoke in good but heavily accented French. I tried to place his accent but could not.
“I am Kuloni Nkese. Do you know me, Kamran?”
His name was all too familiar and he evidently knew something about me for he had used the name by which the villagers now called me. It was the common name for a tall thin tree that grew in this part of the forest which Olidange, one of the villagers, has applied to me since I was over a foot taller than him and he had to crane his neck back to talk to me. The others, who were not much taller, all laughed and the name stuck. Word travels fast in the forest, even among isolated communities, so I should not have been surprised that Kuloni Nkese knew this. Even so, his use of the name made the back of my neck tingle.
When people spoke his name it was with fear and with hate, invariably accompanied by a sign to ward off evil spirits. This man was the Party Agent from a village some twenty-five kilometres to the east of here, across the Banaii River. He was hated by all, feared by most and spoken well of by none. His reputation made him the archetype of all things evil in mankind.
BRIDE PRICE is available in print or electronically at Amazon.com…
And is also available in other e-formats at Smashwords.com.
For more information about the author and his other books, please look at Ian Mathie’s website: http://www.ianmathie.com . You will also find reviews of his work and two broadcast interviews there.
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