I live with the devil.
There are three universal truths in our home. One, mum is always right. Two, mum is life. Three, choose life.
This is the story of my childhood. My mother has always been very religious. Sundays were always a day of showing off new dresses (my sister used to call them ‘ bib chuya’. Kids, right?), taking care of pesky unexpected guests, and enduring the family staircase. For some reason, all the guests thought it would be fun to line up my siblings and I in chronological order and make inane comments like, “Heh, mama nani, watoto wako wamenona! Kwani unawapea nini?”
” Nani, you mean YOU are the first born? But you’re so small! Ebu chunga, hao wengine wanakuja na speedi.” As if I didn’t already know that.
We endured it with a false smile and gnashing of teeth because, well, we chose life. As far as my mother was concerned, Sundays were a success. Soon my mother ascended spiritually and began to see things. Specifically, she began to see the devil.
The 90s devil was a red man, usually dressed in a fitting suit, with horns on his head and a pitchfork for a tail. Her devil… well, let’s just say there was no comparison. He was also kind of cute.
“There, look at it. Look at its eyes. That is the devil. ”
That was always my mother’s stand and we grew up hearing that mantra on an almost daily basis. She would come back home from work with more horror stories and ‘evidence’ that indeed the devil was around, and we would lap it up, as bored children are wont to do. As we got older, our minds were slowly filled with the latest fashions, the latest shows on TV, the new boy in class who was so cute and how to get the attention of said boy….
Suffice to say, that our paranoia was buried under truckloads of thoughts and feelings. Not so my mother, oh no. In our place came her friends who encouraged her to sit, take a cup of tea or two with some stale bread, and talk about her fear of the devil.
We couldn’t say anything on account of we were children, and also, we chose life.
Flash forward a few years, to a time when we just moved into an unfinished house. It had the basics- a roof, walls, windows and a toilet- so we decided to wing it. Make it a fixer upper. We didn’t know it then, but we would be getting some very unexpected visitors soon.
It had been a cold day and the temperature just kept dropping as the sunlight waned in the sky. For our comfort, we’d put our jiko to use and we were quite warm. I happened to look in the general vicinity and saw a shadow that wasn’t supposed to be moving. Upon closer inspection, one look at its obsidian eyes sent a chill down my spine. My scream alerted the others and sent it scurrying away. At that point, I don’t know who was more scared of the other. The next few minutes were spent in a frantic rush to find a safe spot for us children, while the parents were left to find the threat and eliminate it. I tell you, you haven’t lived until you’ve seen seven people motivated by fear fit into a space meant for two.
This and other harrowing incidents brought back my mother’s friends, all with high praises for the devil. They came with fairy tales and ‘evidence’ but it was still a hard sell to my mum. For us, too. I mean, how dare they try to change how we were raised, how we see the world? Did they want us to believe that our childhood was a lie?
Mum caved, and we couldn’t say anything because, well, we chose life.
The devil came to our house and suddenly, she was all my brother would talk about. Was he possessed? The rest of us were extremely cautious at first. Little by little, we were worn down by the soft fur and the big eyes.
Living with the devil isn’t so bad. She’s actually pretty cuddly and warm. Over time, one became three and we’re still okay.
As I find myself picking up poop and dishing out food, I wonder, when did I become a cat lady?