Not many know this Livingstone. Not even in the village he died, though a few oldest natives can tell you the story of a white devil who met his death in the hands of a brave chief who founded the Chingelese Kingdom.
He is only mentioned once and very briefly in church documents long lost in London Missionary Society archives. His absence from church lore is probably intentional, but well, he too was a missionary in roughly the same region of Africa Dr David Livingstone was saving black souls and civilizing savages.
Our Livingstone was not nearly as educated nor as theologically refined as the famous one. He did come totting a Bible, but really he wasn’t sure how to convert into conviction the doubt of a civilized man, let alone a savage. He himself, had severe difficulties believing.
He didn’t know what was so wrong with whatever the Africans believed in before this blatant imposition was taken up with a hypocritical zeal not before seen since the bloodlust of the Crusades.
He had grown up unsure of what to do with himself. Largely because his father fastidiously manned the keel of his life. Livingstone had realized that by following his father’s wishes he could afford to be lazy of wisdom and still live a comfortable, even luxurious life. His father, though not a nobleman, understood that the future of England belonged to men of education and that noble birth was fast becoming cheap currency.
He enrolled his only child in school early and spent the rest of his life toiling to ensure his son became a man of means. When the elder Livingstone died, our protagonist was in university studying law, a demanding discipline which had begun to interfere with his midweek romps with the painted girls of lower London. He had friends studying theology who kept telling him how easy it was. He switched courses. His father was too dead to object this sudden departure from the destiny he’d charted for his son. His mother had died way before the father, so Livingstone was unencumbered with family demands and expectations.
He quickly joined the ranks of Presbyterian ministers and as quickly got bored ministering in rural England. He had just turned 30 when wonderful tales of adventures in the dark continent became all the rage with both veritable true accounts of missionaries dying horrible deaths in the hands of hostile negroes and mysterious malaises; and fantastic tales of Prestor John and his mythical Christian kingdom. The enthusiasm that accompanied the search for this kingdom was predicated on a quest to find untold riches a la the Lost City of the Aztecs and the possibility of finding a white king who had benevolently civilized and ruled over savage natives.
He immediately set his mind on Africa and spent many a days in a daydream fantasizing about travelling to this distant land of savages. Despite his singular aspiration, he was surprised when his application for missionary work was accepted for he wasn’t much of a talented evangelist. He’d never added to his congregation. In fact it had noticeably thinned out over the years, but no one had really questioned him about it so he assumed he was the only one who noticed.
The interviewing panel seemed to mistakenly think he was a brother to the famous Livingstone. A mistake he didn’t bother to correct for it had seemingly swayed their decision in his favour. His back was patted many at times and bishops would often heap him with praises over the exemplary courage of his ‘famous brother’ whose faraway adventures in the furtherance of the Gospel of Our Lord was held in awe by the church. If they had a pope, this is the first man the Protestants would probably have beatified.
Our hero was lauded highly for his decision to join his brother’s blessed work. He was given numerous speaking engagements and he caused quite an excitement everywhere he went. His church began to fill up on Sundays. A rather extravagant ball was held in his honour on his voyage eve.
The ship dropped anchor on a Sunday morning. The sun was about to emerge from the horizon curving over the sea and he could see shadows of palm trees, but no evidence of a port. It was really a rather virgin shore and as the sun came up he could see fishermen rowing by the ship in dug out canoes full of the night’s catch. They had a look on their face that told. The look told that they knew these pale faces were up to no good.
He walked into his cabin and picked up two small suitcases. He was hoping to win favour with the locals for supplies. He had enough food to last a week. He and a guide he had been assigned from England.
He’d completely forgotten about his guide or rather assistant. A large, African man named Moses. They hadn’t spoken much to each other for Moses, although a staunch convert back in England, had spent the entire voyage below decks getting drunk with the sailors.
Livingstone stepped out of his room with his suitcases in hand to go find Moses.
“All the supplies are already on the shore sir. I had them off loaded as soon as we dropped anchor,” Moses startled Livingstone by seemingly appearing out of no where. The reverend cursed under his breath and briskly nodded at Moses whose large eyes were bloodshot and his breath still reeked of whiskey.
Just then the captain of the ship appeared beside them. Moses excused himself and disappeared below decks, probably to get an early start on the day’s drinking.
“Thank you Reverend for being with us. This voyage I’m sure has been free of misfortune and danger because of your prayers. Go teach these savages the gospel of Jesus. As a subject of the Crown, I am indeed proud and esteemed by noble service. May the Lord be with you.” He too was visibly drunk. He raised his hand to tip his hat, but ended up knocking it off his head completely.
Livingstone nodded briskly and turned on his heel to avoid laughing in the officer’s face. He hadn’t prayed since his last sermon in England.
He sat in the row boat with his back on the receding ship and his face towards the approaching beach. His view of it was obstructed by Moses’ bulk which was topped by a widely smiling head as he moved his black, muscular forearms back and forth to propel the boat. He was surprised by how much luggage they had in the small boat. He’d thought he only had a few packages.
He breathed in the salty air and closed his eyes to allow his senses to absorb this new world. He could feel a steady rise in atmospheric temperature. The salty air of the sea being replaced by the fishy smell of coral and seaweed.
He was shaken out of his reverie by a sudden soft thud as the hull struck a soft bank of sand. He opened his eyes to see Moses lithely jump out of the boat into the shallows and start pulling the boat towards the white beach. Natives had started to stop amid their morning errands to stare at the odd pair. Livingstone looked back expecting to see other boats behind them, but there were none and the ship seemed to be preparing to leave. Moses read the shock on his face,”Don’t worry sir. This is our post. However, the ships don’t really stop here. There’s a big port farther north where they stop to offload their cargo and get supplies to continue their voyage. The ship is going to India.”
Livingstone didn’t give an obvious reaction to the explanation. He knew the ship was sailing to India. He didn’t know what to say to Moses in response to this obvious condescension. He hadn’t taken to the large African with unusually dark eyes.
“Oh, right, right. So where are we right now?”
“We’re on the coast of East Africa, but we’re supposed to travel inland. There are Presbyterian missions making their way up from Southern Africa. We’re supposed to try meet up with them a little ways inland before you start your mission. I hear the great Dr Livingstone, your brother, is with that group too sir,” Moses added more information Livingstone already had. With the same condescending tone and a wide grin on his face. The man had impossibly white teeth. A black devil with sparkly teeth. He imagined the monster had a deafening laughter.
He turned his mind from the African and back to England. He knew he was ill prepared for this work. Another in a long line of impulsive decisions he had taken since his father had died.
During the endless, dull classes they were made to sit through before they were dispatched, he hadn’t really been listening. His mind was preoccupied with his impending liberation from a promise of marriage he had made. To a plain girl from one of the most influential families in his congregation. One that had enough influence to ruin him.
Plain as she was he’d bedded her with a vociferous appetite over the few months preceding his missionary approval. She had began demanding marriage or she would withhold the intercourse. Moreso when she found out he was leaving shortly for Africa. He had never really intended to marry her. Her father however had been pushing for this alliance with a man of the cloth. Maybe he had even encouraged the fornication wanting to safely guarantee the marriage of his plain daughter. And there was no easier man to press a plain woman on. The Reverend would obviously not want a scandal and would easily bend to subtle blackmail.
“That was a close shave,” Livingstone thought as he took off his hat and wiped a silk pocket square across a sweaty forehead. It didn’t absorb much and only smeared him with sweat full of rough, salt crystals. He crunched his boots on the beach, coat in hand looking at the sun climbing higher I’m the sky.
His mind flitted on memories of Emma, that was her name, in the throes of passion with her ample breasts in his face. He felt a stirring in his trousers. Only her face was plain. He smiled and threw a glance at Moses who was busy trying to corral a few Africans to help carry their goods. To where? He did not know. Livingstone, being the white master of all sons of Ham should probably taken charge. Clearly he thought little of the dynamics of his relationship with Moses or what the natives might think. He thought giving Moses that much liberty over their mission might cement his loyalty to his new master.
He followed Moses to a rather large house compared to the others in the small village. It was built with yellow brick and mortar with wide windows on all sides. It had a rough concrete floor and rudimentary furniture.
“The Arabs built this. Before they decided trading prospects here were dim and the locals’ vehement refusal to convert to Mohammedanism was final and left.”
Livingstone smiled. Moses was a shrewd assistant. He obviously liked his spacious quarters.
“It’s only for a few days, sir. Then we move inland to meet up with the other mission team.”
Livingstone nodded. He didn’t like the humid heat of this coastal village anyway. He retrieved a wide brim hat from his belongings and wore it.
The villagers stared at him whenever he passed by and whispered suspiciously among themselves. He felt uneasy, but had heard the Africans thought white men were gods and therefore wouldn’t dare harm him. He started to form in his mind his first sermon. He had to reiterate the white man’s superior civilization and teach these savages what it means to be civilized.
Moses was amazingly at ease in their new sorroundings. As far as he knew Moses had been born in or brought to England as a child and was a thorough English gentleman. Trained and instructed in every way to be an English aristocrat’s butler. He couldn’t be sure though. He thought he heard Moses speaking to the locals in a language he, Rev Livingstone couldn’t understand. Maybe Moses had been taught African languages in preparation for this trip. Livingstone thought this an advantage as they wouldn’t have to find a translator, which could take weeks or even months. Finding someone who could speak enough of the babel of languages spoken in this part of the world.
By noon when the sun was hotter than anything Livingstone had ever experienced, Moses and the group of natives he had managed to convince to help were finished setting up their temporary quarters. Moses had purchased brightly coloured fabrics with ghastly flower patterns on them from the local merchants and used them as curtains in the open, arched windows facing the ocean to let in the cool breeze.
The reverend sat down on the cot in his ‘bedroom’ and untied his boots. He could feel hot sweat dripping between his toes as he pulled putrid, drenched socks off his feet. He lay back on the cot and closed his eyes to remember Emma and their afternoon trysts in the vestry.
He was startled by Moses’ voice informing him that lunch was ready. He must have fallen asleep. He took out his silver pocket watch and it read 10.30 a.m London time. He guessed it must have been around 1.30 in the afternoon. His stomach was empty. He quickly wolfed down the soup and bread on a small desk beside the cot and almost drank the entire pitcher of water Moses had thoughtfully brought in as he was eating.
He could hear Moses’ voice droning outside, intermittently interrupted by a piercing laughter he had come to associate with savagery. He closed his eyes again to try sleep. Recollections of Emma easily allowed him to drift off. He could even positively say he missed her, but then he realized what he really missed was a woman. Any woman. He wondered about the savage women. How do they smell?
He lifted himself on an elbow, “Moses. Can you come in here please?”
There was a brief silence as Moses excused himself from his new friends to answer his master. When he walked in he had a glazed over look in his eyes and Livingstone immediately knew he had been drinking.
“If you have any whiskey, may I have some? I’m having trouble with the heat.” It was a rhetorical question. Livingstone had seen Moses carry enough cases of whiskey to get the village drunk for a month into the adjoining room, which was to be Moses’ quarters. It turned out whiskey was the bulk of the surprisingly numerous parcels of luggage they brought from the ship.
Moses smiled amiably,” I didn’t know you drink sir, I would have served you a long time ago. I am forming some alliances to try and get porters and guards who will travel with us. Would you like to join I and my new friends or do you wish to drink by yourself? ”
“I see you are far gone while I’m still sober. Just bring me a bottle and I’ll join you after I finish writing a few letters. ”
The preacher was lying. He had no one to write to in England. Maybe the church fathers, but those did not require quick correspondence from missionaries in the thick of the jungle. He was just wary of getting drunk in front of the same Africans he would soon prohibit from taking alcohol. He wondered how he would approach the issue with Moses who had taken to drink like a thirsty fish once they had left England. He would have to sober up to work with the mission or at least be a little more discreet about it.
Moses walked in with the uncorked bottle, winked and placed a finger on his lips before leaving with a conspiratorial smile playing on his lips. This indication of a shared secret irked Livingstone. He wasn’t sure he wanted to share secrets or an intimate relationship with Moses. Livingstone raised an empty glass to him and as soon as Moses was out of the room, filled it with whiskey and downed all of it in one speedy gulp. He lay back to appreciate the smooth cooling as the alcohol settled in his stomach. He could swear he could feel it seeping through his intestines into his bloodstream, but being an occassional dabbler with science he knew better. He drank two thirds of the bottle and fell asleep sitting at a small makeshift desk Moses had fitted in the Reverend’s room.
He was woken by shrill singing and screaming. His eyes took sometime to adjust to the gentle dusk that was falling. He moved a curtain to peer outside. Moses’ party was dancing and chanting with intimidating warlike prances around a fire. He felt the whiskey all the way to his wee toe nail. He saw Moses briskly walking towards the house with a tray of roasted meat. He sat down.
“Aaah, you’re up sir. That whiskey is strong. Twelve year old. You haven’t drunk in a while I imagine. It’s almost impossible to find a clergyman who has a stomach for whiskey in England these days. Never mind that the Savior was a staunch advocate of a man’s right to drink. He even refers to himself being a drinker. Even God demanded wine as part of the offerings and sacrifices brought to him. Drink is good to calm the turbulent soul and roil up the timid. It’s the chief prerequisite for socialization in these societies we’ve come into. With drink you can buy a man’s soul here.” He laughed as he placed the platter on the small table and placed another whiskey bottle beside it.
Livingstone hadn’t figured Moses to be a philosopher. He wanted to ask Moses where in the Bible it said that Jesus drank, but stopped. He didn’t know the Bible well enough. He should probably have been embarrassed that the large African knew the religion better than he did. However, he really couldn’t see what such theological nuances had to do with the message of salvation and redemption. He shrugged his shoulders as he peeled a roasted rib with his teeth and walked back to the window to watch the native dance that seemed to have taken on a tantric rhythm. Moses joined his friends waving a bottle of whiskey in each hand. He was welcomed with wild whoops.
They rested for three days. And each went more or less the same way. When Livingstone woke up his breakfast would be on the table, but Moses would be nowhere to be found. He would take a stroll in the village before the sun rose too high and he had to beat a retreat lest he roast his skin. He envied the melanin rich savages. They could work and sit in the scorching sun all day. The villagers seemed to have lost interest in him. They would even not stare much when he passed by and no one seemed to be whispering about him. However, their lost enthusiasm in the pale stranger was taken up with extraordinary zeal by mosquitoes that followed him everywhere in a swarm even in the hot midday sun. He was going through tubes of insect repellent so fast he feared he would run out in a month.
By the time he got back to the quarters Moses would be back, smiling as ever with a bottle of whiskey to offer.
They had started talking more. Moses had told him racy stories of his escapades with white women. Stories he wouldn’t dare tell in England at risk of lynching. He even had a torrid affair with the wife of a famous lord. He probably had been sent to Africa to save the lady the embarrassment of a scandal for he showed neither Christian conviction nor the nauseating overzealousness particular with African converts.
Livingstone tried not to judge a man who responded to urges of his loins though. For some it was their only discernible talent. And Africans were rumoured to have humongous organs and inexhaustible energy.
Moses’ number of friends had grown tremendously and every afternoon, a raucous crowd would gather at their quarters to drink and dance (and he guessed fornicate for he had seen several women in the group who didn’t seem attached to any particular men) until wee hours. And he would meet them during his walk, hoes in hand headed to their farms the following morning with no visible signs of fatigue from a night of depraved drunkenness.
Livingstone hoped he wouldn’t have to start their evangelizing anywhere near these villages and that he would never come back here. For he had began joining the high octane parties and a native girl had caught his eye. He would sneak her into his room when he thought everyone was too drunk to notice. She always smelled of sweet scented soap and coconut oil although she had danced herself to a fine sweat. He on the other hand had what he could only euphemistically describe as a stinging oduor. How did these Africans smell so nice?
One of these nights he had just closed eyes, spent from his exertions with the native girl. Emma was all but extinguished from his memory. He could feel himself losing his calling to ministry for another type of calling. One that meant disappearing in these jungles and becoming a savage too. The rumours were true. No white woman could quite move like the shy dark girl could.
It was with these thoughts that his eyelids lazily drooped and he was almost lost to the aftermath of ecstasy when he heard a loud skirmish outside. He dismissed it as the quarrels of drunks when a rifle report rent the air.
He quickly got up pulling his trousers on. The girl pulled the covers over her head and let out a small scream. He could see the outline of her naked contours and the points of her still stiff nipples beneath the thin sheet and felt an urge to devour her again when another loud bang of a rifle sounded, followed by screams and yelps of obvious terror. He cursed and ran out to see a mêlée as the confused drunks tripped over each other running. Some fell into the fire while others ran head on into thorn bushes. The compound had cleared in an extremely eventful instant.
He called out Moses’ name but no one answered. He dashed back in the house to pick up a rifle. The girl was no longer in the cot. He quickly checked the other rooms. She wasn’t anywhere in the house. He cursed and cautiously walked about the compound. He hoped the meagre training in rifle handling he had received just before they had set sail was enough. He was pretty sure though that he couldn’t hit a target especially with his pulse racing and his heart threatening to break free of his ribcage as it was then.
He walked towards the fire to assess what the party had left behind. He couldn’t see anyone left within the compound. He breathed a sigh of relief and turned back towards the house.
He heard a soft whine in some bushes near the fire. He lifted his rifle and walked towards the bushes. A lone dog was standing there staring at him. Unyielding its position even as he struck an intimidating pose and started towards it. He remembered being taught that you should try to make yourself seem as big as possible if you encounter a dangerous animal in the jungles of Africa. He hoped it would work with the obviously domesticated bitch.
“Yaar!” he roared but the dog merely put its head on the ground and ignored him. He edged closer looking at what was holding the mongrel’s attention thinking it was a bone when he stumbled and clumsily fell on something bulky and soft. He quickly got up. It was dark in the bushes but he immediately knew what he had stumbled on. He ran back to the house and called Moses loud as he could without a response. Could it be it was Moses’ body he had tripped on? He realized he was shaking and sweating profusely. He walked into Moses’ room and saw there still were several cases of whiskey. He cursed the darned devil’s brew and quickly walked back to his quarters.
He spent the night pacing. Too fearful of retribution to fall asleep. Too angry at Moses for holding the rowdy parties. Too angry at himself for getting carried away and forgetting why he had come to Africa. Too angry at himself for being too afraid of the large African and letting him do as he wished insteading of reigning in his servant and directing their mission. He couldn’t believe it had only been four days since he’d landed on this God forsaken continent yet he had turned into a savage too.
A mournful wailing started from the distance that was echoed and like wailing sirens, the terrifying crying went on all night. Dawn took months to come, but finally he heard a cock crowing over the wailing as the sun rose over the ocean. He strode to where the dead body was. The daylight had given him enough courage to walk out. He had spent the night by the door with an ammunition box and another full of gunpowder beside him. He could tell by the rotund shape of the dead man that it wasn’t Moses.
He turned around to go back into the house when he saw Moses creeping from a bush behind the house, rifle in hand.
“Moses! Where the hell have you..what the fuck happened here?” he began with a shout that ended with a whisper as Moses gestured at him to be quiet. He walked furiously up to Moses who was darting his eyes in all directions.
“That man. I killed him. He tried to steal from me,” he hoarsely whispered, a murderous look in his eyes.
“What did he steal or rather try to steal?” Livingstone asked following Moses who was quickly retreating into the white man’s quarters, “And what the hell are you going in my room for?”
Before he was answered, the noise of an approaching mob caught his ear. He turned to see men who had all manner of crude weapons approaching. He even saw one or two bird rifles being waved by some of the crowd. He knew why they were coming. He straightened his back and combed his hair with his fingers before taking a couple of steps towards the approaching mob. He raised his rifle and pointed it at them. Wearing the most nonchalant look he could muster on his face.
The mob advanced until it was about forty five yards from him. Then they stopped as if one organism. A few agitators tried to urge the mob forward, but no one moved. Livingstone smiled to himself. They really did fear a white man.
A voice said something he couldn’t quite pick out.
“I didn’t hear what you said. Could you speak up, in English. Clearly you can see my translator is not here.” He pulled up his trousers with his free hand and spat in front of him.
A sinewy man with a hard face stepped forward. He was one of the two men who had duck rifles. He strained his face in an obvious effort to squeeze out the words.
“Moses. We want Moses. He kill a man. He kill my brother.”
Livingstone was surprised at the clarity of the man’s demand. He raised his chin and ran his fingers through his luxurious golden beard. He lost his balance but quickly covered it up by pretending he was taking a step forward. The mob shrank. He smiled wryly. He could get why the cowboy tales were popular. But this wasn’t a fantasy. His hue gave him a real power and presence. Maybe he should abandon the mission and position himself the king of these people. It wasn’t unheard of. A white man who had gone native.
Someone coughed startling the preacher from his reverie. He raised his rifle and placed it across his shoulder.
“Well, last I heard from Moses he was with you. And what gives you the right to trespass on Her Majesty’s protected territory?”
The men looked at one another. Livingstone could see the terror on their faces. His pre missionary training begun coming back to him. Even parts that he had slept through. He remembered clearly that a white man should never cede ground to an African. The savage must know his place in relation to the white man.
The mob, evidently dissatisfied with his response started murmuring loudly. The agitators even convinced enough members of the mob to start advancing towards the white man. There were isolated chants and whoops and the men in front of the mob started making their menacing war faces. Livingstone could see they were beginning to gain courage. The spirit of the dead man was telling them Moses was in the house. He did not step back. The two men with duck rifles pointed them at him and the crowd seemed to get bolder and they picked up their pace.
Livingstone at once realized he had to take a decisive step and he fired his rifle in the air. The deafening bang made his ears ring, but it had the desired effect. He expected the men with duck rifles to fire, he knew the little putty wouldn’t hurt him much. It seemed the armed men knew so too for the advance halted and a reluctant retreat started. He raised his rifle again, this time aiming at the heart of the increasingly restless mob, but the Africans although they showed fear in their faces stayed in one mass. He heard a yelled threat as he fired his rifle a second time to try scattering them, but the bloodthirsty mob wasn’t going to move as if daring him to shoot into the mob.
Even a man as dim as Livingstone could tell he was outnumbered and he started retreating backwards, slowly with his rifle shakingly aimed at the centre if the mob.
This retreat emboldened those whose sole role it seemed was to rile up the mob with taunts and deadly chants. The mob again came to life. Livingstone turned to see how far he was from the door. He saw the dark girl standing off the side of the house with an alarmed look in her face, wildly gesturing. He didn’t have time to decipher the frantic waves and unintelligible sounds. He turned to meet the wild face of Moses, large red eyes, bulging veins on his forehead as he viciously drove the wooden stock of a rifle into the reverend’s face.
The lights momentarily dimmed on the preacher but he could feel the heavy weight of a boot in his ribs and Moses saying something in a language he couldn’t understand. His tongue moved over a few teeth he could feel rolling around in his blood filled mouth.
He opened his eyes as he spat out a mouthful of blood and teeth. He could see Moses standing above him rifle raised, spit flying out of his mouth as he shouted something to the mob.
Livingstone turned his face towards the mob and they were all staring with wild eyes and pointing at him. Making the shrill screams and chants. He knew something Moses had said must have turned them against him. Clearly it was his blood they were thirsting after now.
He saw his rifle lying a few paces to his left. He started dragging himself towards it, when Moses without looking, kicked it away and brought a giant fist crashing into the white man’s already broken saw. Livingstone could feel his face puffing like a balloon.
He groaned as he was roughly picked up and thrown into the mob that set on him with kicks and their crude weapons. Livingstone resigned into his confusion. A moment ago he was in the dominant position. By the mystique of his race, but Moses had just shattered it. The cunning swine had just sacrificed him.
Everything was happening in slow motion. He could see through the blood trickling over his eyes the rage, the hatred in the black faces as the hands, clubs and sticks came in a torrent towards his lifeless form. He couldn’t feel any pain. His body lay limp being tossed about like a rag doll by the impact of the blows loaded with hatred and terror. The hatred of this strange being that had upset their entire existence. The terror of knowing they were going to murder a god. Brutally. Viciously. In cold blood.
He could tell they knew he was innocent of whatever Moses had told them. But they were more afraid of Moses than of this creature. The hatred they were taking out on him was really their hatred of Moses. He could see souls, frustrated they couldn’t touch the devil turned their furious rage on the thing they felt no kinship towards. He felt sorry for them. Maybe his sacrifice had a purpose. He wasn’t under any illusion about the objective of the missionary activities. Of religion. It was to pacify the poor savages for the chains that were about to be put on them. The exploitation and appropriation of the wealth of their land. How did such an ignorant, entitled Reverend know this? Everybody knew what was going on in India. Enslaving for God, the Crown and glory of the civilized race. I told you he wasn’t as foolish as he seemed.
They would one day fight off the yokes of the coming invaders. But it was men like Moses they should be most wary of. For these would enslave them more brutally than the British. Forever. Livingstone raised a bloody eyebrow the size of a banana. He quivered in laughter at his sudden clarity of thought. He must be getting a high fever he thought. It made people think they were engaging in profound labours of the mind. A doctor had told him about it once back in good old England.
He heard Moses say something above the frenzied crowd. Each trying to hit the white god and see him bleed. The beating let up. The monkey was wearing his widest smile yet. And Livingstone’s wide brim hat, a bottle of whiskey in his left hand.
The mob parted and Moses walked through the human corridor they formed to where Livingstone, looking more like a bloody pulp was lying.
“I have been appointed your judge. I am to decide your fate,” Moses solemnly began. “I know. I know it must be confusing going from revered master of the world to a bloody mess in an instant,” he winked at the Englishman who lay on the ground without moving, his eyes puffed shut. The huge African let out a chuckle and with flaming eyes let out a long blood curdling scream.
“What am I being judged for?” the Englishman opened his mouth to ask, but all that came out were unintelligible gurgles as blood filled his throat. He gave up on the futile effort. He sank his elbows into the grey silt that covered the area and tried to lift himself up.
Moses said something and a chuckle was heard here and there in the otherwise solemn crowd. He said something else and the isolated chuckles became laughter that swept through the mob. He caught sight of the girl who was looking at him from the fringes of the crowd. Tears were rolling down her cheeks and the moment their eyes met she averted hers.
He smiled at the memory of her. And the memory of Emily. And the bitterness of life. The cruel nature of a greedy man.
He felt like a mere onlooker in the events that happened next. The hoisting of his body above the heads of the mob. The march to a rise in the corner of the market. The ecstatic singing, chants and ululations. The frantic dancing. He caught sight of Moses wearing his clothes that were too tight on him and made him look ridiculous. He had also taken the white man’s boots. Livingstone was sure those too didn’t fit the giant. He also wore Livingstone’s fine silk-cotton, knee length frock coat. Although it barely went past the big brute’s mid-thighs and he couldn’t button it. It was too hot to wear the frock coat anyway, but the Reverend appreciated the symbolism behind appropriating a dead white man’s belongings in this part of the world. It meant conquering the conqueror and established unquestionable authority and credence as a foremost warrior. Livingstone checked himself. He had to desist from these useless thoughts. He was probably living through his final moments and he should spend them in repentance.
He said a half assed prayer. He hadn’t really thought seriously about the existence of God until this moment. But he was a preacher, you ask. That was just business. A clever man finds the easiest way to earn a living with minimum expense of his energies. He smiled at this conclusion on his cleverness.
A thought dared him to refuse to repent. To refuse the grace of redemption at the hour of death. Get thee behind me Satan!
He was thrown in a heap under a tree. He raised his eyes to see a noose tied around a branch. It struck him that this had been thought out before hand. Moses had framed him for the death of the fat man. Probably convinced them a white man isn’t invincible too. Moses had picked out a place near the beach. Probably wanting to replicate the pirate hangings in London harbour.
As he was hoisted into the noose his stomach knotted. So this is how it feels at the point of death? He wished to maintain a defiant disposition, but he could feel the fear creeping on his face. He opened his eyes to the grinning tar black face of his traitor.
“You know, sir. It was great knowing you, but the tide of history dictates you exit here. These people. These savages need something tangible to believe in. A God in heaven and a master on earth that looks like them. Your sacrifice is not in vain. You’ve just ushered them into civilization.” Before Livingstone could say anything in return, Moses called out and the rope was pulled. Livingstone felt the constriction tighten increasingly around his neck. He scanned the crowd again and she was standing a bit nearer now. Her hand over her mouth. A petrified look in her eyes.
He could feel feaces sliding out as the pressure on his neck reached a threshold. A warm stream ran down his leg and, “Snap!” He was sure he’d heard his neck break.
He expected to slip into darkness, but he didn’t. He was surprised. He knew he was dead though. He expected to be ushered into hell any time, but he was merely standing next to his lifeless body hanging on a tree. He looked at Moses who stood there with a satisfied look on his face. Moses turned around and began addressing the mob.Livingstone was surprised he could understand what was being said despite their speaking in a language other than English.
“Today we affirm the freedom of our town. The white man is not a friend. The white man has come to invade our land and make us slaves. We can not resist him unless we organize ourselves like him. We must have a leader, a king and an army if we are to survive the coming conquest. Consolidate the wealth of our community and get ready.”
Livingstone hadn’t taken Moses for a political orator. He knew what Moses was driving at. He had no interest to hear anymore of the killer. When the invading forces came, Moses would definitely be on the side of the British. Some men are born curses with an insatiable greed for power. To enslave others for their own wealth and prestige.
He glided above the crowd like a slow wind. Flying towards the beach. He turned to see the crowd quickly disperse after the speech. So quickly in fact, as if afraid of something. He sighed. It was done. Africa would destroy itself. These were no clueless savages. Not all of them were savages after all. Just the few calculating men whose era the British and other colonialists were unwittingly ushering this beautiful land into.