/Desperately Looking for Answers – Ashlee Chiloane

Desperately Looking for Answers – Ashlee Chiloane

Ashlee Chiloane
Writer and Poet – Student at the University of Western Cape – SOUTH AFRICA

Something died in her, portion of her being died, with the dying of her father at a tender age. It was Sunday afternoon; the sun, like the moon of the day had mocked the island of uThango1 with a promise of warmth. The sun gave off light than heat. Boikemiselo had done preparing Sunday meal and ready to serve her emaciated and unwholesome father the meal in his room. Boikemiselo, with enthusiasm and with a sense of sanguine, entered his father’s room to serve him his meal. She conventionally and gently woke her father to have his meal before his head could hit the pillows for the day. Unfortunately, before Boikemiselo could fi nish preparing the meal, Bophirima had drawn his last breath.

Bophirima’s death torn Boikemiselo apart and grief could be deciphered from her face. Boikemiselo was left with more questions than answers and filled with lamentations. “Why? Why did He did not save my father from the death?” Boikemiselo wailed while expressing her grief.

Boikemiselo continued weeping while expressing her dream, “My father did not even have a chance to see my first largest bakery in town with ten workers, large pans, and delivery to all homes every morning.”

Bophirima’s death further bought back the grief to Boikemiselo of losing her mother at a tender age too. At the funeral, people, Boikemiselo’s kinship, conventionally and out of uncommunicated cultural rules and normativity, they all came, and comforted Boikemiselo. Post the funeral, the kingship extended their pledges to Boikemiselo, “In our culture of ubuntu, orphan is foreign phenomena my brother’s child. We shall take good care of you, Boikemiselo” in unanimous voice, they all said. Nonetheless, Bophirima’s death waxed Boikemiselo’s daughters2 of music. Boikemiselo couldn’t comprehend the kingship relentless pledges. Ultimately, her aunt, Nomusa, took Boikemiselo to live with her in her house.

Weeks after the death of her father, Boikemiselo began to lose weight and became frail. She had ceased to be kind to herself. Boikemiselo deprived herself the liberty to sustain herself, and with passion, she spent unhealthy amount of time devising ways to bring her father back to life again. Boikemiselo was determined to see her father alive again by any means.

She had an idea to sell her soul to the devil since her father started to lose weight and was persistently coughing. Not every doctor in the island could cure her father’s illness. During the period of Bophirima’s sickness Boikemiselo was everyday becoming anxious about the possibility that her father might never get the opportunity to witness her vision becoming a reality nor to see his grandchildren. Boikemiselo’s father was a man who valued labour, with love and care, he raised Boikemiselo when her mother died. Boikemiselo’s father did everything in his power to ensure their survival and her daughter’s wellbeing. Boikemiselo ever promised her father she is going to repay him for everything he had done for her when she matures. Boikemiselo’s vision was to build the biggest bakery in the village to generate wealth, and to build her father a nice comfortable home. However, death thwarted her dreams.

Boikemiselo’s bereavement over the death of her father continued to be visible for all to see. Her determination to bring her father back to life again was gaining momentum in every second, and that strengthened her position of an indubitable will to bring her father back to life again. Religious scriptures about resurrection and eternal life Boikemiselo and her congregates used to recite most of the time on Sunday church services couldn’t console her. They made no sense to her anymore. Life had deprived Boikemiselo all that was precious and valuable to her and thus she possessed an unequalled will to bring her father back to life again. She had lost her mother at very tender age and her father was all what she was left with.

There was a popular belief in Boikemiselo’s island that the devil lives at the bottom of the sea. One day Boikemiselo had a conversation with her aunt about the devil specificity in the sea. Terrifi ed and concerned, her aunt asked, “Boikemiselo, why my child do you want the devil? You know devil is evil and he will blind you and kill you for just seeing his territory”.

Boikemiselo replied, “I know, I heard he grants wishes for a soul. I will sell my soul to him to bring my father back to life”

Boikemiselo’s aunt retorted, “Look, I know you miss your father a lot, and his passing hurts you a lot. However, I urge you my child, kindly refrain from saying things like that.”

“No aunty, I’m serious. I won’t just stand by and do nothing when there is still an option to save my father. Perhaps, he is not deep in the afterlife, therefore, he might fetch him for me at the right price” Boikemiselo retorted to her aunt assertions.

“Blasphemy my child! How dare can you think and say such a thing. That is wickedness. Take it back. It is God that gives, and it is God that takes. What is wrong with you? Are you out of your mind child!” Her aunt rebuked Boikemiselo. Boikemiselo stood up, looked her aunt in the face and said nothing to her, and left the house and went to the forbidden side of the seashore at her village.

When she arrived at the seashore, it was windy, cold, the trees were making strange noises, and the waves were going up and down strongly. “Devil!” Boikemiselo shouted. “I know you are here and you’re listening. Listen here, I have an offer for you. You will like it. I am willing to trade with you my soul for my father”. Nevertheless, nothing happened. Boikemiselo, again, shouted, “I am serious, they say you live here, and I am not leaving until you come out.” Still nothing happened for the second time, but Boikemiselo was determined. She kept waiting. She waited until it was twilight and kept on shouting, “Come out; let’s bargain”. Nevertheless, nothing happened, and she eventually left.

The next day she went again at dawn to the sea and shouted, “Hey, it’s me again, I’ve come to bargain, come out”. Nothing happened. She got impatient when the day hit the afternoon and decided to go in and swim to the end of the sea. “Devil, they say the waters are the end of the world, but I don’t believe that. What keeps the water from falling off, there must be walls keeping it in on the other side. I believe those walls are gates to your kingdom, therefore, if I swim to them, and knock you will answer” Boikemiselo spoke to the sea while swimming to the horizon. The sea waves got mad and Boikemiselo started to drown. She cried for help while trying to retreat to the land. She felt her lungs filling up with water, and she got weaker and weaker. The sea coughed her out, she stood up, and she ran home as fast as she could without looking back.

Weeks passed by without single utterance to anyone about her father nor the devil. Things looked like they were back to normal. Her aunt invited Boikemiselo’s childhood friend, Pherekgong, and his family over for launch. Boikemiselo’s aunt resurged the marriage talk to Boikemiselo. She noted that it was perhaps about time Boikemiselo and Pherokgong resumed their union endeavours. Boikemiselo and Pherokgong union talks were halted when Bophirima’s medical condition deteriorated. The news did not make her happy, not because she did not like the guy. Pherekgong was decent although Boikemiselo wanted to have closure about her father’s passing before she can commit in any romantic relationship let alone to enter courtship. The next morning, she went back to the sea again. “Hey, it’s me again, I’ve come to bargain. I took the last incident as a harbinger that you don’t want to talk, but I’m a girl who doesn’t take a no for an answer. Respond damn it!” Nonetheless, no one answered. It was merely sea waves going back and forth. Boikemiselo stayed until midnight but she eventually left.

The next dawn again she went to the sea. It was misty and she could barely see her own feet. “Hey! Today I’m super serious than the other days. If you don’t come out, I will jump in for good this time or I will not leave until I starve to death”, Boikemiselo shouted at the sea.

“You there” said a voice from a distance but not in the sea but rather at the seashore on her far right.

“Yes!” Boikemiselo replied.

“What are you doing on the forbidden seashore shouting?” asked the distant voice.

“It’s none of your business”, Boikemiselo replied.

“I understand you just looked like someone curious to know what’s on the other side of the sea”, said the distant voice.

“We know it’s the end of the world”, Boikemiselo retorted to the distance voice.

“Ridiculous, it isn’t”, shouted the distant voice.

“How do you know that”, Boikemiselo curiously asked.

“I’ve been on the other side”, confi – dently claimed the voice.

“How! How, did you swim all the way?” Boikemiselo asked as she was approaching the distant voice.

“With my ship”, a silhouette of a man at a distance pointed to the sea as the mist was beginning to clear.

“What’s a shiiiiiiiippppp!” Boikemiselo exclaimed as she saw what looked like a mansion fl oating in water. “What is that thing? How are you keeping it fl oating? Who are you?” Boikemiselo asked the man.

“That is my ship; do you want to explore with me the other side of the sea? I will bring you back before dusk”, the mysterious man proposed. Boikemiselo looked at the man closely and began to ponder. The man did look like her people. The man was in his middle ages, dark skinned, starting to wrinkle, spoke Boikemiselo’s language, and had typical afro hairstyle starting to be grey. The man looked familiar, like someone she would come across to at the streets notwithstanding the only one thing peculiar was his outfit (the man was wearing a classic tuxedo; it was unusual in Boikemiselo’s eyes. She had never seen anyone in her island wearing such clothing). “Sure, I want to come” Boikemiselo said as she confi dently jumped into the ship with the man.

The ship took off; they embarked on their journey to the horizon. Boikemiselo was perplexed by the whole experience. As they journeyed to the horizon, Boikemiselo barely uttered a word during the journey. Boikemiselo looked at the man, and asked him, “Hey mister, what should I call you?”

“It doesn’t matter what you call me”, the man answered.

“Okay, who are you?” Boikemiselo retorted. However, the man just looked at her and said nothing. “Are you the devil?” Boikemiselo further asked him.

“Do I look like the devil?” the man answered Boikemiselo.

Boikemiselo kept asking questions, “Where are you from…”[the man interrupted] Boikemiselo “Oh! Look the land! Would you like to go and explore the land?”

“Yes, but how are we going to climb up there? The land is so high” Boikemiselo remarked.

“Come let’s use the helicopter”, replied the man while uncovering his helicopter.

“What does that thing do?” Boikemiselo asked the man.

The man replied, “It will land us up there. It’s an aircraft. I mean, it’s an air transport”

The helicopter landed on the isle. Boikemiselo was excited to see land beyond the sea. She could not believe it. The man observed and said to Boikemiselo, “It looks like it was an aircraft base”

“I see they are in different shapes and sizes, but where is everyone? Why is it abandoned?” Boikemiselo respectively remarked and asked.

“They are all dead!” the man answered.

Concerned Boikemiselo further asked, “What killed them?”

“War. War killed them all. This base was created specifi cally to create war aircrafts. Come let’s go back to the ship and look for more land”, the man said. They walked around the isle a little bit. They explored the land. Inquisitiveness got better of Boikemiselo thus she asked the man plenty of questions about the aircrafts, how were they manufactured, and how to use them. They returned to the helicopter and took off back to the ship.

With curiosity Boikemiselo asked, “How vast is the land out there?”

The man answered Boikemiselo’s question, “I can’t quantify with precision how vast is the land, however, I can assure the land is vast”

“Wow, I wish my father was with me or at least still at home. I would have loved to tell him about this adventure where I was exploring with a strange man to the unknown land” Boikemiselo expressed herself

“Oh! I see. That would have been a nice thing”, the man said to her.

“Yes, do you know where the devil lives? I would like to talk to him” Boikemiselo asked the man.

The man replied, “Isn’t the devil supposed to be a spirit in another realm?”

“No, I believe he is on land and that he can grant wishes for the right price” Boikemiselo remarked.

With bewilderment, the man asked Boikemiselo, “Why? Wishes from the devil! Can anything good come from him? Isn’t he supposed to be evil and corrupt to the core, incapable to give anything good?”

“No, that’s what they want us to believe. I believe no one is inherently good or bad, every being is capable of great good and evil”, Boikemiselo argued

With determination, the man responded to Boikemiselo’s argument, “For human beings, yes, but the devil is an evil spirit whose main purpose is to corrupt humans and rob them of anything precious. So, yes I believe Satan is an exception and does not have the capacity to do what is right nor what is good.”

Boikemiselo’s bitterness could be discernible from her voice, “Well then, God is not all good neither. Why did He let my poor father die?”

“See! Another land. Do you want to go and explore?” the man enthusiastically asked Boikemiselo.

“I would love to” Boikemiselo replied to him. The man lowered his anchor and said to Boikemiselo “let us use the hot air balloon now because the helicopter was loud”

They flew with the hot air balloon to the bay of an island. There was an old exquisite store nearby that mesmerised Boikemiselo. Upon entering, the store Boikemiselo picked up a glittering intricate golden scenic; she wrapped it around her and embraced it, “This is so delicate, I have never seen a cloth this cute, where is the teller?” she asked the man.

“No one is here” the man replied, “Come, let’s go. Take as much as you need”. Then they moved to the nearby city.

Out of concern, Boikemiselo remarked and asked respectively, “It seems this land is empty too. Where is everyone?”

“They are all dead”, the man replied to Boikemiselo.

“All of them? What killed them?” Boikemiselo astonishingly asked.

“War” replied the man “War killed them all!”

“Why were they fi ghting?” Boikemiselo further asked.

“In here, come, I bet it is still working” the man interjected Boikemiselo. They entered a beautiful building that had no display of destruction, only weeds were growing on it. Inside the building, they found a giant door that was connected to a computer and the man headed straight to the computer beside the door. The door began to emanate blue and white lights. The man called Boikemiselo and said, “Come! Let’s get in”.

Boikemiselo asked the man, “What is that?”

“They called it a teleporter, an instant transport. I just put on coordinates to an interesting place”, the man answered, and they walked in the teleporter.

They exited to the other side on a destructed door, which was in the brink of collapsing. The sky was overcast and red, the air scent was not desirable, and they were hemmed by broken walls, bomb, and nuke shells.

Boikemiselo asked, “What is this place?” and she further remarked, “I don’t like it”

“This was the heart of the war zone. Pretty messy, isn’t it? Follow me this way”, the man said to Boikemiselo. They climbed the broken walls and hiked a little hill. The man was leading the way. Boikemiselo asked the man, “So, concerning this war, when was it? Did it kill everyone except us on the other side of the sea?”

“The war was long time ago,” the man answered, “and yes everyone is dead except you on that Island”.

“How do you know?” Boikemiselo asked.

“I do” the man answered.

Boikemiselo further asked the man, “Were you here during the war? Are you the last of your kind?”

“Yes, I was watching when they were eliminating one another” the man answered Boikemiselo. “You seem exhausted, how about we take a rest at this house nearby. There might be something to drink and to refresh.” the man further suggested to Boikemiselo.

“Oh yes, I can use a drink right now” Boikemiselo enthusiastically replied.

They walked into a collapsed mansion nearby closer to the top of the hill and rested inside. The man requested Boikemiselo, “May you rest here while I go to look for something to drink?” Boikemiselo was left at the mansion while gazing upon the destruction that was brought by the devastating war to the mansion. She looked around at the aesthetic jaw dropping art on the walls and the intricate statues, and the furniture perplexed her. The man came back and said to her “I couldn’t find water, but I found orange juice. I’m certain you’ll enjoy it.”

“Would I?” Boikemiselo curiously asked and she took a sip and cringed, “It’s cold! Why so cold on a normal day?” she asked.

The man replied to Boikemiselo’s question, “Oh, it’s from the fridge. A fridge was useful device for cooling things anytime of the seasons. Pardon me for not informing you prior.” The man approached a nearby gramophone and played a record. “Wow! What kind of music is that?” Boikemiselo asked the man and she immediately remarked, “It’s beautiful. I have never heard something like it before?”

“It is ballroom music,” the man said.

Boikemiselo said, “Its rhythm is vague. How do you dance to it?”

“Come, take my hand. I’ll show you how to dance to it”, the man proposed. She took his hand and they danced underneath the candelabra. Step by step, the man showed her how to dance ballroom. The music then changed to a fast tempo, they began to improvise, and scrambled anything and laughed intensively. They spun around, tapping their feet out of rhythm, and having a good time.

They laughed and laughed and Boikemiselo breathing heavily said “Man I have never been this happy in a while. I should laugh and dance more. It feels amazing!”

“Yes it does!” the man said, “You look exhausted. Why don’t we rest?” the man further requested.

“But I have to get home before dusk. We should be going” Boikemiselo said.

“Don’t worry it will be only an hour. I’ll set an alarm”, the man said.

“Okay”, Boikemiselo said as she lied on the floor to take a young nap.

“Wake up”, the man said to Boikemiselo.

“I feel refreshed”, Boikemiselo said, and she asked, “How long was I asleep?”

“Just enough time to get rest. Come, let’s go”, the man said.

“Do we have to go down the hill again?” Boikemiselo asked complaining, “Isn’t there any other way?”

The man said, “There is another way. Come I found another working teleporter in this mansion” They entered the teleporter and exited near the bay where they left their hot air balloon. They got in the balloon and took off to the ship. When they got on the ship Boikemiselo asked the man, “Did you even sleep back there?”

“Does it matter if I slept or not?” the man replied.

Boikemiselo replied, “Yes, it does. What was even the meaning of all of that? Why did you take me to the devastated war zone and the collapsed mansion on the hill?”

The man looked at her and said nothing but continued starring the ship. Boikemiselo retorted, “All right, I’m no longer playing your games anymore. I need answers now! Who are you? Why do you know so much about the past human history? Why are keeping on saying all humans died except you? Are you not a human? What was the meaning of all this?”

The man looked at Boikemiselo and said, “It was all necessary”

Boikemiselo replied, “Necessary for what? Necessary for me to forget about seeking the devil? Did you take me up there so that I can see that desperation on a lost course, and an unsatisfied heart can cause humans to destroy themselves? Was I supposed to realise that fixation on what I can never attain, and selfish ambition would destroy me and those around?” However, the man looked at her and said nothing. Boikemiselo further asked the man, “Were the music and dancing showing that life is more than our losses, to see that there is life complex, yet, enjoyable after loss; were they to make me realise to eat, drink, praise and be glad?”

The man said to Boikemiselo, “Why aren’t you a sharp one?”

Boikemiselo said, “No way! How can I forget? I want my father back! He was supposed to see my dreams come true. I’m still convinced to exchange my soul for my father.”

“Cancer!” the man said to Boikemiselo.

“What?” Boikemiselo asked.

The man replied, “Cancer killed your father. Lung cancer to be specific. At least that’s what the humans before called it.”

Boikemiselo exclaimed, “What is that? I have never heard about such disease. What causes it?”

“Smoking. How often did your father smoke in a day?” the man asked Boikemiselo.

“Wow! A lot. Are you implying that his death was his own doing?” Boikemiselo asked the man.

“Yes, I am saying that. Even if it wasn’t his own doing. Isn’t dying part of life? The unpredictability of when and how you’ll die? Doesn’t it give you the thrill to live your life at its fullest when you can still breath?” rhetorically asked the man. He further said, “Observe form your predecessors, they had everything their hearts could ever wished for. Life was simple for them. They could cure every disease; they could travel fast as if they were able to be at multiple places at once. They had created artifi cial intelligence which answered almost every question they had; farming, diseases and even domestic work was no longer a concern to them. They had power to move mountains, part seas, pull land out of the ocean, conjured rain at will, stabilize earthquakes and prevent floods with advanced technological inventions. Nonetheless, they still fought and massacred each other with advanced weapons of mass destruction.”

The man went on to say, “Now there is your island, we have arrived on time right at dusk. Now I want you to go home and stop looking for the devil at the sea or else he will find you and ruthlessly murder you.” The man lowered his anchor, pulled out his plank stairs so that she could get off the ship, and said to her, “Send my regards to your aunt and uncle.” Boikemiselo descended from the ship quietly as she was pondering on what the man was saying. When she set her feet on the shore, she began to shout and said “Hey! Are you God?”

The man replied as he was pulling his anchor, “Do I look like God?”

Suddenly, a prickly wind rose and mist covered the sea. When Boikemiselo fixed her eyes to look at the ship sailing to the horizon, she couldn’t see it. The ship was no more to be seen. She headed home, went straight to her room without talking to anyone, and did not join her family for a supper that evening.

The next morning Boikemiselo’s aunt and uncle woke up to a delicious smell of apple pie. They were flabbergasted. They asked themselves who could have baked it? Their front door opened and Boikemiselo walked in on an apron and with an apple pie on her hands. “Oh! Good morning aunty and uncle. I was cooling the pie outside. I have made tea, now please sit down and let me tell you a story you will probably, certainly, and most definitely not going to believe” she said. Her aunt said “Oh, no!”

  1. uThango is a IsiZulu word referring to fortifi ed wall
  2. Daughters of music is referring ears