He got closer to the mirror; the reflection did the same. It was not lost on him that mirrors reflected the person and would normally do what he did. But there was something about this very mirror. This is a very reflection. Yes, it moved like him, but it unnerved him how it did it. Like it was alive and aware of him.  

“Don’t be alarmed.” 

“What the hell?” Mlindeni exclaimed, blinking incessantly. Did the mirror just speak? 

Slowly getting up from the floor again, he kept his distance from this monstrosity, seeing how when he fell, the reflection stayed intact like a photographic impression of him. 

“Stop that!” It continued. “That’s rude. I am not a monstrosity.” 

Two versions of him stood. Where Mlindeni spoke with a soft baritone, coated around his thick Zulu accent, this thing in front of him spoke in a grating tone. It’s like listening to someone drag iron on the gravel. 

“I am an echo of you. Your shadow.”

“My shadow?” Mlindeni’s eyes refused to leave this aberration of nature. He was no stranger to these things, being a boy raised by witches. However, this was still strange to him. 

“I have been trying to get your attention for the past three months, but you keep shutting me out. You will make your mind worse off than it already is.”


“A debt is due, Mlindeni.” the Echo replied, the pity on his face disarming Mlindeni as he got closer to the sink. “My mother granted your mother a gift that needs payment, and she is coming to collect.” 

“Your mother? I don’t understand.”

“All I know is what I can extract from your dormant memories, which isn’t a lot. Have you ever heard of Inkanyamba, the sea serpent? The story is that your mother made a deal with the serpent and agreed to her terms. You were the terms. Inkanyamba is coming for you.”

“For me? I don’t know anything about this. About your mother’s gifts. Who are these people, and why now? I suppose your mother is coming for me, too?” 

“Mlindeni, Inkanyamba is my mother. She is coming for us both.”

This was how the madness took root. Mlindeni stood where he was as the Echo entranced him in its attempts to extract bits and pieces of history from his scattered mind. “Your mind is like a whirlwind,” the Echo said, “It spins and spins, spinning the room.” The weather outside was disruptive, too, going against the sunny day that was forecast the day before. It was as if by channelling his mind, Mlindeni was impacting everything else. But the Echo knew better. 

They needed to return to the past to understand how they got to that point. They needed to summon the power that rested inside Mlindeni, which was a curse within itself. This is how the madness begins and takes root.


The Zana family has been headed by women for generations. No man has set foot on ePhakadeni in centuries since it was established. Mlindeni’s mother, Hineni, was the first person to break that record when she brought home Juke, the man who would father her child. She was also the person who brought the madness back into the blood.

“Hineni was smart, but love made her reckless” is how Hope always began this story. Juke had seen Hineni in town while she was shopping for her fabrics, and for weeks the two of them would meet secretly to irrigate and cultivate their budding love. Hope saw it all happen before it even did, and she told this to her mother, the matriarch, Gogo Nokuthula. 

“Love is how the madness takes root.” Hope would say, “We are omenist women. We carry a burden that is too big for us, and we carry it with pride because we know what will happen if we falter. My mother is the best of us. We are reminded of that every day.”

Mlindeni understood the burden that this gift carried, even more so as a young man in a world of powerful women, and he always felt less than when his aunt started telling this story.

“Everyone can see the future, what we call omens. But we also have our own special gifts on top of that. That is how this story was written. This is how we serve our family. We stay away from the outside world because of these gifts.”

Hope had the gift of foresight, which seemed useless considering that everyone could see the future, but it went beyond that. At the time, she would get her messages from dreams, and with the help of Gogo Nokuthula would decipher the meanings.

It was through one of these dreams that she found out her mother was an Old Soul, an ancestor reincarnated to act as guardian for a generation. Years before they found the village, the original Nokuthula and other omenists lived in the neighbouring villages as part of the communities. She had a twin sister named Nokukhanya, who could command the light. She was the most beautiful woman everyone had ever seen. She was radiant, a goddess embodied. That was her gift. Nokukhanya could light up everyone’s day. 

Gogo Nokuthula believed that her sister was still somewhere out there, her soul restless because of what she did. She was the reason the first omenists women left the communities and founded their own village. Why did they stay away from other people? Like Hineni, Nokukhanya succumbed to her emotions, and the madness claimed her. Like Hineni, she loved a man too much and lost her mind when she lost him. 

Nokukhanya and her husband had been married for five years when the sickness came into town. Despite the lengths the omenists went to create potions and elixirs to help the sick, hundreds of people died. Only a few were saved. Nokukhanya’s husband was one of the first to die. 

Omenist women were and continue to be volatile beings. They are most dangerous when they feel helpless and scared, so when the magic was not helping them, Nokukhanya started seeing and hearing things. She accused her fellow sisters of being jealous of her, blaming them for creating the sickness that got between her and her husband. It became worse when he died. The madness took hold of her and didn’t let go. 

Nokuthula was on her way with the healers to check on her brother-in-law when Nokukhanya came out of her house screaming, a blinding light emanating around her, getting brighter and brighter the louder she cried.

“Khanya, is everything okay?” was all she was able to utter before her sister dropped to her knees and screamed, her light exploding in scorching flames from within her. 

Tell us: What are the names of the twin matriarchs?