MARLENE DEE GRAY POTOURA
An entry in The Crocodile Prize
Steamships Short Story Award
MARITA’S children sat around her, as she recounted the dream she had last night. She had tears in her eyes as she imagined the long wooden casket. The man who appeared in her dream was her dead cousin, who was killed by the rebels, a year ago. A first one to be assassinated mercilessly.
Why did he give her two eggs? Why did he put the big egg into the casket? She was going to ask Nambu to reclaim it, but at that moment, Nambu locked the casket and she woke up. She realised now that she really wanted to dream the same dream and this time, she wanted to tell Nambu to open the casket again and get that egg out.
She had this conviction that all the eggs belonged to her. Nambu had no right to lock that one egg in that big wooden coffin. She was angry, sad and most of all confused.
‘Ma, stop crying now. It’s only a dream,’ Sahela consoled her.
Sahela knew that the dream had some kind of powerful effect on her mother.
‘Sahela, when that coffin appeared in front of me, my heart ached. Even in my sleep it felt so real. I felt the pain,’ Marita recalled the numbness and fear. There was some kind of gripping trepidation in the dream.
‘Ma, where did Nambu get the three eggs from?’ Sahela asked quietly.
‘He opened the lid of the coffin and put his hand in and got them from somewhere inside. The funny thing was that, when he opened it, he gave me time to look inside. And when I did I saw nothing.’
‘But when he did, he got the three eggs out, right?’ Sahela looked puzzled.
‘In fact, he didn’t look inside. He put his hand in and it came out with three eggs that he placed on his palm. It was all so sudden.’ Marita evoked her strange dream again.
‘When I saw the eggs on his palm, I wanted all of them. Because, I knew they were mine. But he put the big egg back into the coffin and slammed the lid. Yes, just to show me that he knew what I wanted was not going to be given to me. Nambu made it clear with his actions that he was the one in control and at that moment was in charge of allocating the eggs.’ Marita’s eyes glistened again.
‘Nambu knew I wanted the big egg, that’s why he quickly put it back in the coffin and slammed the lid.’
‘Ma, as I said, it is only a dream. Don’t let it worry you, please,’ Sahela pleaded with her mother again.
There was commotion outside. Marita and Sahela looked at each other with wide eyes. Then there was loud banging on their door.
Sahela’s aunty was standing outside. She was a known soothsayer in the village. She had a very forlorn look on her face. Sahela couldn’t tell whether she was confused, sad or angry. Aunty Taiiso stared at Marita and Sahela. That was her way of probing, to correct a thought or a problem.
‘I had a dream,’ she announced in a deep haunting voice.
Sahela caught her mother’s eyes. Teary brown eyes, over tired and full of fear.
‘Marita!’ Taiiso said in a raspy whisper.
‘In my dream, you were dead!’
Marita collapsed onto her daughter’s arms.
The village chief called the whole village to come to an urgent meeting. The villagers must know about Taiiso and Marita’s strange dreams.
They all assembled under the old oak tree with its wide branches.
‘Right…hhmmmm’ the soothsayer cleared her throat.
‘In my dream, I saw a lot of merchandise. They belonged to my brother Pauhu. He came from Rabulan and was having a big sale. He was also handing out goods, free of charge to all of us. We were wailing and mourning over his wife, Marita’s passing away.
While we were grieving his wife, he was laughing and handing gifts to everyone. He did not shed a tear.’ The soothsayer spoke in her usual ‘old speech tone’ which always made Sahela shudder.
‘Oh dear!’ every one murmured.
Sahela looked around and saw the looks on the faces of her relatives.
‘It’s only a dumb dream. My father would never do anything like that!’ Sahela shouted confidently.
‘I think it is the opposite. In dreams you always see the opposite of what is going to happen,’ old Kaida looked puzzled.
‘Maybe my brother had gotten himself another wife and Marita is going to die of grief,’ the soothsayer said without affection for her sister in law.
‘Marita had a very strange dream too. Is it a coincidence that Marita and Taiiso would have a dream of the same nature? About death? Or is it a revelation of the destiny of someone among us?’ as the chief spoke the crowd nodded in fearful agreement.
Marita stood up, cleared her throat and retold her dream to her people.
When she had finished retelling her dream, no one spoke, not even the soothsayer.
Then old wise Tunusu said,
‘It is not a good dream. Nambu is a dead man, who materializes into your
dream and gives you two eggs. Something bad is going to happen, not to you
Marita, but to your family.’
‘But I saw Marita dead in my dream,’ Taiiso clearly did not want any other person dead in her family, except Marita.
‘Mama, the three eggs definitely mean something. Eggs carry life. We are formed out of eggs. It is a dream with hidden meaning.’ Young Popui said in his usual soft tone of voice.
‘Popui is right. Egg is life. We all come from eggs. For an egg to go into a coffin means the end of a life,’ Old Tunusu quoted to the crowd.
‘But why would Nambu appear with the three eggs?’ old Kovou questioned. ‘The casket is the thing that scares me. A casket means someone is going to die. Marita, your dream foretells the future,’ she concluded fearfully.
‘Maybe, Marita’s chickens will stop laying eggs,’ old grandmother Rukamou suggested, puffing away her rolled tobacco.
When Sahela heard her relatives trying to come up with some sort of explanation for her mother’s dream, she thought of Nebuchadnezzar in the Bible. Her mother’s dream had some sort of deeper meaning.
‘We are living in difficult times. I sense a warning of some sort,’ aunty Aretha predicted.
‘Sagusi is pregnant. Egg means life,’ Kunu revealed his wife’s secret to his cousin, who was sitting next to him.
Each person who gathered under the old oak tree had some sort of explanation to Marita’s dream.
A few weeks later, the militants came and burn down the nearby villages.
Marita rolled in the mud and wailed.
The militants had arrested her two sons and husband, who had returned from Rabulan a few days ago. They had beaten them and taken them ‘for questioning’. Pauhu was suspected of being a government spy. Her two sons were taken too, to be questioned about their father’s business travels.
Marita wept and beat her chest.
When her cousin Nambu was arrested, that was what the militants told his wife, ‘for questioning only’. But Nambu never returned.
Marita knew, she would never see her beloveds again. She wept and tore at her heart. The ach she felt was unexplainable. The pain was so deep, it poured right out of her heart, through her veins and the wails that came out of her mouth, somehow released the pressure, she felt deep down, inside her.
Marita could not be comforted. The spasm like aches tore all her body apart.
After so many weeks, the parable in the dream unveiled itself, when one gloomy morning, her two boys returned home safely .
Pauhu was assassinated mercilessly, by the militants, right in front of his two sons. They took his life the same way they took Nambu’s life.
“Look after these eggs.”
Nambu then put the old looking egg back into the casket and slammed the lid, convincing Marita that the casket was now locked and there was no other way the egg would be retrieved.
Marita recalled her dream. Now the meaning of the dream was revealed.
Her husband was the old looking egg and her sons were the two eggs, saved out of the coffin.