SCHOOL MEMORIES: When I cried "Hamba man!"

The night was peach black and silent, save for a few snores, farts and the relatively inaudible mumblings of dream talkers. Everyone else was asleep and I was still counting sheep, albeit with little luck because my bladder was demanding to be relieved of its load.

The night was peach black and silent, save for a few snores, farts and the relatively inaudible mumblings of dream talkers. Everyone else was asleep and I was still counting sheep, albeit with little luck because my bladder was demanding to be relieved of its load. On nights like this when electricity abandoned the school premises, no one dared to go out of the dormitory alone. On one such night when I did it, a blade of grass brushed up on my foot and I shrieked like a pig being taken to the slaughter house.

He always appeared on nights when darkness was so thick that it was almost tangible. He liked to stare at girls as they slept. We assumed he was a potential rapist. So we called him Hamba (rape) man. No one knew what he looked like. But students had claimed to see him so many times that I slept with deodorant spray under my pillow. It was unlikely that he would skip five cubicles and two beds just to get to me but I wasn’t taking any chances.

The bell was rung twice. It was 2am. I was fully awake, afraid to turn because of the delicate situation my bladder was in. I thought about waking Patience, the girl who slept on the bed below mine. But she had specifically told me she would not go out of her bed on nights as dark as this. As I said before, no one went out on nights when the stars, the moon, clouds and electricity conspired to leave us in total darkness. I thought about relieving myself in a bucket but each and everyone of them was full of water. I thought of cutting one of the jerry cans in half.

The bell was rung again at 3am. I grew desperate. I went to the door, opened it half way and stared into the dark. I had to go. I thought about Hamba man. Where was he? Could he see me? And that’s when an idea came to me; to scream and wake everyone up. And so I screamed hysterically. It worked. Everyone jumped out of bed and went outside. I walked confidently to the toilet and took my time; everyone was waiting to hear about my encounter with Hamba man.

By morning, the whole school was ablaze with different versions of the story, some of them better than mine. That night was just as dark as the previous night. And when I looked out of the window, I saw him; Hamba man was outside, looking into my cubicle. I screamed relentlessly and everyone woke up, only to discover that it was nothing more than a broom that was left resting upside down on the window pane. I went to bed that night, knowing that if I ever really saw Hamba man, I would lie still in my bed, praying for myself and sympathising with the boy who cried, “Wolf!”

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