I decide that I should tell Bambatha about the dreams. I’m not sure what it will achieve but I tell him anyway. About the field, about how all the crops glow, about the animal that comes for him in the shadows and how I can never stop it. He listens patiently until I’m finished.
When I am done, I start to think that it sort of makes sense that Chasa and the villagers think that I am the prophetess they fear. Bambatha is the village’s most successful farmer and even he is struggling to make enough money to help support his uncle and aunts. It would make sense that I would come for the best of the village men first.
Bambatha says, “I think we should go see the healer.”
This is not really what I expected him to say. “What would it help to see him?” I ask.
“If you are a prophetess, you have a right to know. And if you are not, we can tell the villagers that we have proof that you are not who they say you are.”
“What kind of proof?”
Bambatha shakes his head, “I don’t know Nomfundo. I just don’t want you to get hurt. I asked you to come to this place. It’s my responsibility to keep you safe.”
“If I really am a prophet and I really am seeing the future, you should worry about yourself first,” I say. I’m trying to make a joke but neither of us is really in the mood to laugh.
We are getting into my bakkie when we hear the screaming of women. It’s coming from the small farm next door.
“Is that coming from the neighbours?” I ask.
“I think so. There are children living there. We need to see what is going on – now,” he says.
“Jump in!” I tell Bambatha.
I drive as fast as I can on the uneven gravel. There isn’t a wall between the neighbouring properties and it is only a short drive to the three main rondavels. When we arrive in a cloud of dust, we find four women crying in a circle. Other people have run from other houses to see what has happened and a crowd is starting to form. Bambatha and I hurry to the women to find that a man is lying on the ground at their feet. His right leg has almost been removed by what could only have been an animal. He’s bleeding fast and I rush forward to try to help stop the bleeding. Chasa steps out from the crowd to stop me.
“Hayi! uSathane! Stay away from him,” Chasa shouts.
“Someone needs to stop the bleeding or this man will die. He’s almost lost his leg.”
Other people start to shout things at me. Some of them agree with Chasa, others want me to stop the bleeding but all of them seem to be blaming me for what is happening.
“Our crops are still dying!” one man says.
I see the healer walking up the path towards us but he doesn’t seem like he’s in a hurry.
“You have brought terrible things with you. Since you came, things have been worse!” another man shouts.
Someone in the crowd pushes me and then someone else pinches my arm. Bambatha steps forward to protect me but I can already hear some of their voices rising in anger.
“We need to drive her into the river like the last time she tried to tell us the future! We need to protect ourselves and our land,” Chasa says. The healer reaches the group and raises his hand. Everyone stops shouting.
“We do not know this woman or what she came here to do. But we cannot judge her without first giving her a chance to prove herself. We cannot harm an innocent woman. We have made mistakes in the past that have cost people their lives,” the healer says.
Some people in the crowd are nodding but I see Chasa’s eyes burn hot with rage. The healer turns to me. “You have one week,” he says.
I start to argue – I can’t just produce results, the experiment does not work that way – but he raises his hand to silence me.
“One week,” he says. “My decision is final and you will either have to show everyone in the village what is really killing our crops or she will be punished,” he says, looking at Bambatha.
Tell us what you think: Should Nomfundo abandon her research and go back to the city?