The Sacrifice By Chisomo Msyamboza

Feb 13, 2024 | 2023 Competition, Short Story Competition, University Prize | 0 comments

This particular evening, I was behind our house which sat just in front of the village cemetery. It was secluded; carefully shrouded from full view by rows of tightly-spaced trees. Our nearest neighbours were a fair distance away so nobody ever saw or heard me screaming and crying from the beatings. A common household event. Lately, I had found myself losing all sympathy for living. The thoughts of there being another life were rarely subdued these days. A kind of peculiar misery, enough to make the aged a bit older and the sick a bit paler.

This day, he simply walked into the kitchen smelling of different kinds of booze and smacked me across the face. I had no idea why. His fatal disease of alcoholism drove him to suffer from an acute absence of all moral senses. After I had stopped seeing so many stars, I became especially daring that night and sat on top of an unmarked grave with a broken gravestone that looked like a broken mirror. I liked it that way. The reflection made me look the way I felt. I could hear muffled voices of people behind the small bushes here and there but my view was impeded by the dark. They were not very close.

I closed my eyes and started to sing. My life felt black and white but the music was the colour. I was especially fond of music, and I was indulged with all kinds of song as a child. I spent all my time with these songs and I was never happier than when I sang and danced to them.

As I sat there singing, I was taken more and more by the melodies as the music swelled: as my harsh reality became shadowy and vague, as my turmoil hit a temporary pause. Then …


I didn’t move. I didn’t dare make a sound. I kept my eyes shut tight.

Thud! Thud!

This time a lot louder. A lot closer. The back of my throat throbbed, ready to scream.

My head was pounding, my pulse was racing. Despite being especially daring that night, my limbs were rigid and cold with fear.

Then there was an uneasy cessation of things. It grew quiet. Too quiet.

With the sound of my song still echoing in my head, I started to tremble but still kept my eyes shut. A bulge on the grave started to appear right underneath me; I could feel a commotion in the shallow earth. Within a few seconds, a creature appeared. Very quickly, I opened my eyes. My heart stopped. The creature stood about 2 feet tall. I was looking down at it. It resembled a man in every aspect, impossible to mistake.

I had never seen these before, only heard in stories: dead people, or at least people who greatly resembled the dead. Physically revived by sorcerers to act as personal slaves, maintaining no degree of mental power or personal will. Their spirits sealed in decorated containers but nevertheless destined to wander the earth; always tied to their master.

With a rigid opening of one eye, it examined me with a very eager attention. To be fair only a few people had seen one up close; I was intrigued. The opposite of what I anticipated. Unnaturally, my wonder exceeded my terror. I approached it and touched it with my trembling hand. Upon my touching, it immediately arose with a sudden speed and fixed its hypnotic gaze on me. It possessed me. Instantly, the fury like that of a demon seized me. After a short futile struggle to overcome its strange and irresistible control, my soul was overpowered. With a strong gasp and shudder, I was no longer me. My body fell to the ground limply like a stiffened corpse.

The creature began walking towards me. I felt its feet trekking up my body as I was lying down, lifeless. It lodged over my chest, compressing my faintly-beating heart. To my astonishment, I barely felt its weight on me. It started to speak, the lips moving sluggishly, and with a barely audible whisper muttered:

“Yes; I feel your pain my child”. The sound was harsh and hideous, rolling off a blackened tongue.

My answer was immediate:

“I really don’t know how to carry on”. The words came out with a soft whimper and trembling lips.

“The world just wasn’t built for people like me.”

It accompanied me henceforth in the next minutes everywhere my thoughts went, leaving me at no moment alone. Whispering ideas of torment and murder.

“Free yourself! Free yourself my child!”, it whispered in my ear with words only I could hear.

I could have revealed this affair to the public but it carried with it a great deal of disbelief and that would have excited discussion to the state of my mental order. Or perhaps by a shred of my consciousness, I wanted it around. Either reason compelled me enough to let it eat away at my soul and feed my evil intrinsic thoughts. Underneath the pressure of its constant torment, any good in me died out. The boundaries between life and death became but a shadow. Evil

thoughts became my most intimate desires. It sought to control me. I permitted it to do so.

With an unnatural haste, I rushed back to my house and flew open the door. My husband jumped from his chair and greeted me with a sloppy hug. His drunken mood had improved but my own had deepened to something so complex that it reduced my inhibitions. With a quick abandonment of life and reason together, I hurried to the kitchen with an unequal but purposeful step and drew out a knife. Without a second delay, I put the sharp blade to my throat, with tears streaming from my eyes; I slit.

There was a sharp cry and the knife dropped down to the floor followed by my lifeless corpse. I stood tall and without remorse over my writhing body. Then suddenly after the fumes of malevolence had escaped me, a wave of reason returned. I had ended it. I was filled with despair and general confusion at the viewing of my own body. Strange sensations, in which extreme terror was predominant, ran through me that froze me in place.

My husband rushed in, with unapologetic eyes, took one look at my body. Then he slowly turned his head towards me with a devious smirk as if acknowledging my presence.

What was it? I paused to think, what was it that unnerved me so much about what I was seeing?

Then suddenly there was an icy presence in the room. A scratchy and terrifying voice whispered the word “Arise”. Within a moment, like a primitive response, my seemingly dead body sat upright. It remained motionless. Then my husband grabbed it by the wrist with an unnatural precaution and led it out of the kitchen. I retraced their retreating steps to a room I had never known to be part of the house. My eyes sought out instinctively the general arrangement of the room. It was large and even the most inexperienced observer would notice it was larger than the house. There was an air of pungent decay. It offered no admission of natural light. The room was bleak and cold. The darkness was piercing, almost sickening. A faint image of my husband could be made out at the corner of the room. He held a round clay pot with a red cloth spread all across its exterior, hanging in a fine tangled web network. There was no torch or candle, but a flood of intense light from the pot bathed his face that I could slightly perceive his features.

With a bitterness I can never forget, he grinned and whispered into the pot two words; “Grace Phiri”: my name.

The pot echoed back in a shriek so horrible that I had to close my startled ears with my hands in defence from the dreadful noise. A noise not lacking in familiarity to that of the creature that seized me at the cemetery. Before the horrible noise had even descended into silence, it was succeeded by multiple sounds of troubled voices as if from a deep cave accompanied with cries of dismay and sorrowful mourning. Shouts coming from the throats of the damned.

I was not alone in this endeavor.

I lack the words to explain the full extent and intensity of his spiritual identity for I was grieved. The man who I had given no reason of offence, whom I had been so profoundly attached to, had shown a clear dislike. Perhaps all his deeds were devoid of emotion but rather a chase for worldly wealth.

Whatever he had done, put my body in a trance. The eyes of my corpse were lifeless on a ghastly pale face that took no focus from the thin shrunken lips. A frightful appearance. Its stature had shrunk and crumbled to that of a tiny grotesque infant. The potency of his spell withered my corpse and tied it to him as a slave. Another zombie slave to his solitary collection.

While I was convinced that at the sight of such a scene I was going through a combination of multiple sensations, after a rushed pondering I was forced to fall back to a simple conclusion: my husband was a sorcerer.


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