By Baba Galleh Jallow
Alkatan sat on his sheepskin and stroke his beard, and calmly watched the man half running, half walking towards his hut. When he arrived, the man greeted Alkatan and said without pause “Alkatan, the Alkalo said you should go.”
“Aha,” Alkatan said, calmly, looking up at the man. “The Alkalo said I should go.”
“Yes,” the man replied. “He said you should go right now.”
“That is the truth,” Alkatan said. “But did the Alkalo say where I should go?”
“To his compound,” the man replied. “He said you should go to his compound and he said I should not leave you behind.”
“Aha,” Alkatan said, getting up. “You seem to be in a great hurry. Hope it is peace?”
“It is not peace deh Alkatan,” the man replied. “Last night someone killed thirty of the Alkalo’s best cows. No one ever saw the like of it. But what the Alkalo is saying we do not understand and that’s what worries us.”
“Aha,” Alkatan said. “Hope the Alkalo is not saying I killed his cows?”
“What the Alkalo is saying no one knows its head or tail,” the man responded. “That’s what worries us.”
“That is a big worry,” Alkatan said. “But let’s just go and see why the Alkalo is calling me.”
“When we go you will hear him,” the man said, as he and Alkatan walked towards the Alkalo’s compound in the center of Tonya Kunda.
When Alkatan and the man arrived at the Alkalo’s compound, Kiyanka was seated as usual in his royal chair, surrounded by his councilors. It looked like he was still in his night clothes, and he looked very worried, like everyone else around him. The councilors sat on their mats quiet, some holding their heads in their hands, some holding their chins, and some just sitting there, looking at the Alkalo or staring at the ground. When Kiyanka saw Alkatan, he stood up and said “Aha, Alkatan, you have come. Come, come and sit.” Alkatan thanked him and was about to sit on the mat when Kiyanka said, “sit on the chair, sit on the chair; it was brought for you.”
Alkatan walked over to the chair and sat down, and said: “I am told that you called for me Alkali. I hope it is peace.”
“It is not peace Alkatan,” Kiyanka said, raising his voice. “Thirty of my best cows died last night, and I don’t even know the head or tail of how it happened. Its strangeness no one can imagine. That is why I called you to come help me understand because I know you are a man of wisdom.”
“Ah,” said Alkatan, “what you just said is a strange thing indeed Alkali. “I am told someone killed the cows. Did you find that person Alkali?”
“Let me tell you what happened Alkatan and you yourself will know that it is hard to tell the head or tail of this thing,” Kiyanka replied in a subdued tone, his face creased with lines of worry. “Yesterday afternoon Nyaka came here with an old man. The old man said he was you; but I knew he was not you because I know you Alkatan. That old man was not you because now you, Alkatan are sitting before my very eyes. I had never seen the old man who came with Nyaka and I could not understand how everyone was saying it was you and it was not you. But if my messenger came with any other person other than you Alkatan, I would say this is not Alkatan because I know you very well.
“So this old man came yesterday and he said Nyaka should not pay his taxes and that I must return Nyaka’s goat. But he did not stop there. He said in fact no one should pay taxes in this village and that I must return everyone’s goats. And that if I did not return everyone’s goats, today, all the people of Tonya Kunda and the dogs and vultures will have more meat from my cows than they could eat in one day. I thought he was a mad man and I asked him to leave my compound and my village since he was not from Tonya Kunda. That’s how Nyaka and the old man left.
“Eh, last night when I went to bed I had a strange dream Alkatan. In fact, I don’t know whether it was a dream or not. In my dream I was sleeping when this same old man came and woke me up and said, Alkalo, get up. It is time. When I got up, I had another voice say, Kiyanka, hurry up! The people are waiting for you. I looked and I saw my father, my grandfather and many other people standing near my herd of cattle, the one right here, behind my compound. When I went to them my father pointed at an old man seated on a chair not far from the herd, surrounded by many people and he said, “That elder is your great, great grandfather Afang Tonya. He is the founder of this village. But you can’t greet him now until we finish our work. Then my father said to me come on, let’s start the work. It’s possible we finish it today.
“When that happened, I followed my father and the other people with him followed us, and we went into the herd. After that my father just looked around for the best cows and whenever he saw one he would point and say to me, this one should go. And the cow would lie down and I would proclaim God’s name over it and cut its neck with my knife. That’s how we went around the herd, and my father pointed at the best cows and for every cow, he would say, this one should go and I would take my knife and cut its neck. And then after some time my father said to me, Kiyanka, do you know how many cows you have killed? I said yes, thirty. He said, there are thirty days in a month and thirty clans in Tonya Kunda. So that is enough for today. Now go and call the people and tell them to take these cows and feed their families. As soon as he said that, I woke up.
“Eh, when I woke up and found myself in my bed I thanked God that it was all a dream. I was still lying in bed when I heard Kantarla here calling my name from outside. Kantarla is my chief herdsman. I came out of the house and found Kantarla standing right here, trembling and I said to him, Eh, Kantarla what happened? Why is your body trembling? Kantarla said to me Alkalo, a strange thing has happened. I went to the herd this morning and saw thirty cows lying dead. Someone cut their necks. But I didn’t do it. God knows I didn’t do it. I remembered my dream and could not believe my ears. That’s how I went with him to the herd. And I saw with my own eyes that the dead cows were the same cows that I killed in my dream. Is that not a strange thing Alkatan? I want you to help me understand how this happened Alkatan!”