A snake. That creature.
Science says, every once in a while, it sheds off its old skin. My memory is a Judas of sorts. Whenever I summon it and beg it to please stay with me; to please remind me of things I once so well knew, it doesn’t; it gets foggy. But on matters this sort, it doesn’t pull me down. It isn’t reluctant to tell me that in primary school, Teacher Placidia said the term used to refer to the habit of a snake shedding its own skin is ‘moulting’.
Let’s zero down on that thing and pool our mental energies together. Moulting. Yes, that term. Let’s close our eyes and imagine a snake;a python; a cobra; anaconda; an empiri; an entsigiramuteete. Please note that I have not with my naked eyes seen any of the aforesaid genres of snake species. I have only heard about them in stories I deem false. Not seen their pictures even. But wait, there’s a television channel on DStv that has shown some of these things to me but not told me what they really are. Is it National Geographic Wild? I forget. Again. I sin. Apologies.
You need elementary schooling in Runyankore to relate to what this entsigiramuteete thing is about. Well, that snake. That type, my father said, would have been Cain if it had belonged to the family of Adam. Its character, its modus operandi, its approach to basic conflict resolution is otherworldly. I hope you imagine it. I hope you imagine a color you have never seen. I hope you imagine a snake, the kind you will never see.
When it is angry, my father said, it will fly. It will fly with no wings and aspire to be etched in the clouds. Or stuck there; I don’t know. I never will. My father said these things with his voice rising and falling like that of Christ dishing out his beatitudes to the adamant sheep at Lake Galilee: ngu lucky are the poor; for they shall inherit the kingdom of God.
Okay. Science says, for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. Excuse my Physics, but that’s an Archimedes Principle. I swear that it is. In the face of physics, I always melted like a ghee under the sun. But some of its notoriety remains stuck in my mind, not willing to leave. I don’t want it to leave – for that will kill all evidence that I went to to school; to a prestigious minor seminary.
Imagine a snake flying. It is agitated. It is a gathering storm flanked pompously by lightning. Because a worthless human crossed its territories and, as if that was not disrespectful enough, killed its young ones.
It will fall. You know that. But it flies, nonetheless.
When it falls, the world stops. Stands and stares. Today it will fall on the grass. Tomorrow, not; it will crash its head against a tree stump, against a rock, against a hard surface. End of life. Imminent death. A million pieces of head. End of malice. End of life.
That there is the kind of snake my father told me about. Entsigiramuteete. Once angry it will do anything. Kill the etiological stimulus. Kill its own self. Fly high and migrate to the next world. Crash its own head against a rock too hard to belong here.
* * *
Someone just called me back to attention. We were discussing science. Primary school science. Particularly, moulting. Snakes, all of them, go through that practice. They she’d their old skins.
When an entsigiramuteete sheds its skin you will think it is Eid Mubarrak. The smell of fried rice will still be palpable 100000 kilometers away from where it is. Children will throng the bushes and demand their share of the rice, oblivious of the fact that an enemy of mankind is the ungrateful chef.
Part 1: This whole paragraph is false. Do not believe what you read here.
When a snake sheds its own skin, it sheds off its old sins as well. It gets born again; more like accepting Christ as its personal Lord and savior. It tells itself it will never lose control over its emotions again. It sets the sail for a fresh start; a rebirth.
Part 2: This is the truth. Believe everything here.
A snake is a snake. Pay no attention to what breed they tell you it is. Pay no attention to the banter about how many years it has spent lurking in the bushes. In fact, a snake that has just she’d its skin is more lethal; freshly energized. It is more likely to kill humans than to kill itself.
Part 3: It’s better if we do all not understand.