In the grungy streets of Bantu City, 2044, there is no water running in water pipes, and the sun hides behind tall sky scrapers. A beautiful girl named Thandeka walks alone between dark alleys. Her grandfather is head of the Xis, a rich family who had come from the north of Bantu City where the land was still covered with green life and water streams.
Thandeka is walking back home to the Xi mansion from the waterfalls of the north. Her journey has been long and winding. She had been away for six months because she had to go through a special ceremony. Her grandfather promised that on the day of her return, he will tell the Xis to prepare a great feast.
Thandeka looks very beautiful as she turns around to see if there’s anyone following her. But all she sees is girls in uniforms of different colours returning home from school. These girls are too young to have heard of the north, where the river ran with water and where you could stand on a hill top and see the sun rise. As she walks on, Thandeka sings a sad song to herself in a very low voice.
“Aye! Ayeye! Aye!” she sings it.
“Aye! Ayeye! Aye!” sing along the girls, as she walks passed them
“Her face is like the sun,” says one of Xi grandsons as Thandeka walks passed a gang of young men.
Thandeka knows that Xi grandsons have been following her since she appeared from a mound of the city’s rubble. They have been walking a distance from her, trying to not get noticed, but Thandeka has super-powers of quick eyesight that she gained from the north. Thandeka can now tell you what moves in the west, and the east, and what dangers lurk at the south of Bantu City. The shadows of Xi grandsons do not faze her, except that the person that she really wants to see, Nxele, the youngest of all Xi grandsons, is not in sight. He is not part of the shadows.
“Where is Nxele,” Thandeka asks them, “Why is he not with you? Xi’s grandsons are never apart, so where is Nxele?”
“You ask us about Nxele,” one of the grandsons says. “You must mean Nonxele.”
“But there is no such girl named Nonxele in our family,” says Thandeka, “Who is this Nonxele that you are talking about?”
“We are talking Nonxele who was once known by the name Nxele. Now he is known as Nonxele. We call him that these days.”
“How can that be?” asks Thandeka. “I do not understand how the boy, Nxele, can have a girl’s name.”
“Don’t you know?” asks one of the young men. “Didn’t you see the tall Nxele carrying a water pot on his head?” The young man starts to laugh. “He was walking to the north and back. He was collecting water like you.”
“What?” says Thandeka. “Why would Nxele carry a water pot on his head?” She is shocked. “That’s my job!” Her cousins laugh at her.