I wasn’t thinking of Halloween or planning on posting anything at all creepy until I almost stood on this guy today. Still got the willies – not keen on leaving my feet on the floor, and got me thinking about another thing that had me tucking feet under bum for weeks.
South Africa doesn’t really celebrate Halloween much. I’ve heard that it is growing in popularity a bit, but apart from those wonderful guys who will take any excuse for a party, I’m not sure that it would be a very good idea to go around knocking on doors around here dressed up as ghouls and such. Small scary creatures knocking on doors at night in South Africa are highly unlikely to get any sweets – probably only the visions of the backs of people running away smartly and screaming hysterically. Chatting to author friend Charles Yallowitz on his blog the other day, where he was discussing the sizes of various monsters reminded me about a little tokoloshe incident of my own.
I’ve been doing a little interior design work on the especially unpleasant hell that is home to the Nefandus – the demonic beings in Shadow People. I have a very vivid imagination, so I know that they don’t like it there at all, and are quite keen to leave. Their appearance of course, and their very specific methods of—. Well no – never mind that now. I will only say that they’re very, very, very, tall. All cultures on this world of ours have legends of demonic entities. They’re mostly quite similar in looks, which really should give us pause for thought. Black skin. Red eyes. Long pointy fingernails. They loom over beds, oozing icy malevolence, instilling immobilising terror, and often buggering about with the duvet, while giving their victims a nasty scratch or two. They throw things at walls. Occasionally these things are their victims.
So the whole demon thing is pretty disagreeable in general. Unless you’re another way inclined I suppose, then they’d just be invited guests at your party. Well. You enjoy whatever rocks your boat, is all I can say about that. I’ll be washing my hair on that night. Here in Africa we have quite a few gods and demons. Mermaids that are not gorgeous, blonde, and large breasted, but rather menacing and vicious whirling dervishes, that suck you down into rivers and drown you. Then there’s Nyaminyami – the god of the river. He’s a biggy. When the hydro-electric dam was built in the Zambezi valley in the 1950’s, the BaTonga tribe were forced off the lands that had been rightfully theirs from time immemorial into new settlements on higher ground. Angrily they vowed that Nyaminyami would destroy it, and to be truthful, over the years there have been quite a few large, unexpected, not easily explained, disasters and deaths there. So never be too hasty to disbelieve in legends.
We also have the tokoloshe. They are not so tall. In fact they’re about the height of a two year old child. But don’t let their short stature fool you – these are very frightening and powerful ooh-nasties. The method of choice to stop the evil little sods from hopping onto you as you dream, is to place lots of bricks under the legs of your bed. If you believe in them, this would be a wise thing to do, considering a particular one of their forms of attack. Not a cool way to awaken, I reckon. There are no character saving Leprechaunish pots of gold here. They’re murderous, terrifying entities if the thousands of stories are to be believed. I certainly wouldn’t like to meet up with one at all. Although once I thought I had.
Many moons ago, I was staying at the lake resort of Kariba in Zimbabwe – legendary home of the Nyaminyami by the way. I was sleeping off an overdose of one-armed bandit gambling, and various other youthful excesses, when I was rudely awakened by something tugging on my ankle. On opening a heavy lid, I locked eyeballs with two nasty little shiny black points of light surrounded by a swirling mass of hair. Lots of hair. Emanating from this horrible sight were some pretty odd noises too. I yelled at the top of my lungs and then did the cowering against the wall thing for a while. Apart from soft noises of movement coming from the adjoining hotel rooms, caused by my own screams of terror no doubt, I heard sharp nails scrabbling on the floor. Then a big bang as whatever it was squeezed out of the window in the bathroom before heading for the hills.
Needless to say I hightailed it out of there straight away to another hotel – with first floor rooms. The bleary eyed hotel staff had differing opinions as they poured several very large shots of medicinal brandy. The most sensible theory was that it had been a thieving monkey. Still – I didn’t like to think that a wild monkey had been yanking on my leg. And why would a monkey be doing that sort of thing anyway? It certainly hadn’t sounded like any monkey I’d ever heard either. More like that awful head spinning little girl in the Exorcist. Do they have scrabbling nails? My ankle was fairly badly scratched. I really don’t know. Even though they’re so clever, I’ve never been partial to them. My mother had an incredibly mean pet monkey once called Darwin, who she never believed used to bite me when she wasn’t around, and coo lovingly, and try and stroke my cheek when she was. Until someone left a window open my eight year old self was fairly traumatised. Not me, in case that’s what you were thinking – I wouldn’t want to harm them. I just don’t want them in my personal space, let alone yanking any of my limbs.
The other opinion was that it had been a tokoloshe, sent by the witchdoctor that had created it from the dead, to steal from guests. When I said that nothing had been stolen, it was suggested that it must have been planning something else altogether to begin it’s spree with, and I’d clearly had a very lucky escape. Indeed! The hotel manager helped polish off the bottle of medicinal, and was quite adamant that it had been the tokoloshe that had been swiping wallets, jewellery, and cameras off dressing tables for weeks. He further deprived me of sleep that night by insisting that now that it knew I had seen it, it would traverse the globe to hunt me down and kill me. That weekend was cut short for me right then. I spent the next few nights elsewhere, with wide open eyes, and fantastic and caring friends taking turns to hide under my bed at night and grab my ankles. Then I gratefully flew off to spend a few peaceful months in mercifully wild monkey free England. I haven’t seen anything remotely like that since. Maybe he’s still there, following my trail through dusty castles, and quite a few pubs as I recall, stuck forever in that lovely Kingdom, just waiting for me to return. Anyone heard of night-prowling monkeys in London I wonder? I do hope that my continued existence proves that it was just a monkey after all – it probably was – but then again, you never know.
Happy Halloween everyone!