You want to hear my story?

Hmph. I should have known. I should have known you didn’t leave your village and seek me out in this mountain cave just to bring me food and drink and keep me company. I should have known you would want something in return. That is a lesson I learned long ago: nothing is ever given for free. 

But still, you are a brave child. I know I am feared by the other children in your village. I hear the names your people call me when they see me in the distance, shrouded in the mists or walking between the trees. Mad woman, they say. Witch. 

But they are wrong. Yanju was the witch.

I am getting ahead of myself.

Are you sure you want to hear my story, child? It is not for such delicate ears as yours. My tale may return to you in the night, when the sun sleeps and the owl hoots in the far darkness. It may steal your sleep, my story, and if it does do not say I didn’t warn you. Woate? Yoo.

Still, I have eaten your food and drunk your palm-wine—with gratitude—and I owe you payment. It is better to pay what you owe. Remember that, and you may avoid the heartache and pain I have endured. 

So I will tell you my story, then I will send you back to your village, before your parents and elders grow sick with worry and start looking for you. 

I did not always wander our Kingdom like this, creeping from village to village, living in caves and the deep forest.  I was not always old and wrinkled as you see me now. These hands weren’t always twisted and bent like the roots of the mango tree. I was young once. I was beautiful.

I had children.

Their names were Baah and Asabea. Asabea was the older of the two. At fourteen, she was tall and graceful and shy. You remind me a lot of her, although I can see you are not the shy type. Baah, four years her junior, was wild and troublesome. I adored them both. They were the delight of my heart.

We lived in a village far north of here. Our village was by the Asantehene’s highroad, almost exactly on the border between the savannah of the North and the forestlands of the South. You could stand in the middle of our village and see nothing but grass and shrubs—with the occasional baobab or acacia—to one side, but when you turned around you would see the thick forest standing a few miles away.  

We were quite an important village then, but I don’t think you will have heard of it. It is not there anymore, at any rate. We made sure of that.

Ours was a mining village. Our men dug gold from the earth and transported most of it south to the Asantehene. In exchange, we enjoyed the protection and favor of the Stool. What gold was left to us we traded with passing travelers and merchants. Our chief, Nana Acheampong, owned a fortified palace. That is where we kept the stacked boxes of sikafuturo, the gold dust, before it was transported south. 

We were prosperous, blessed, and content with our lives. If it hadn’t been for the lion, we wouldn’t have had any real troubles.

Little was known about the lion other than that it lived in the nearby grasslands and was a cunning beast. A skilled hunter. Many a farmer had lost a sheep or cow in the night to the claws of the lion, but the beast did not primarily hunt our livestock. It lived and hunted in the savannah, occasionally venturing into the forest for a meal. Whenever it encroached on our village, though, a band of hunters would go off in search of it. They never found anything. The beast was too crafty for traps and too swift for pursuers.

Gyata bosom, we started calling it. The lion god. “Don’t stray too far from the village or gyata bosom will get you.” Of course, this was just something we used to scare the children into behaving. For all its craftiness, the lion god never attacked people.

Until it did.

No one knows what drove the lion to start hunting men, but I guess it doesn’t matter. Knowing will not bring the dead back to life. 

The head miner’s son was the first one the lion took. The boy was, in many ways, like my Baah, stubborn and full of his own mischievous ideas. One day, he crept out of the village and slipped into the grasslands on a dare from his friends, and did not return.

His parents were worried, and after generous administrations of the cane had been given to his friends, they confessed about their game and their dare. A search party was quickly organized and dispatched. 

The head miner’s son—or what remained of him—was discovered three days later. His face was identifiable, and that was a mercy, because there was precious little left below the ribs. The lion had feasted well before leaving what was left for the crows and the worms.

A great wailing arose in our village that night. Looking back, I see we did not cry enough. We would have, if we’d only known what was coming. 

For it is a truth, child, that once a beast tastes human flesh no other meat may satisfy it again. And, in our folly, we did not even give the lion the trouble of chasing down its next kill. We delivered it right to the creature.

Nana Acheampong, our Chief, was a big man, handsome and powerful and proud. Appearances mattered to him. He had ten wives, not because he needed them, but because it made him look good to have ten of the most beautiful women in the village around him whenever he wanted them to be. It was for this same reason that his palace was painted in a splash of colors, resembling a beautiful bird more than a fortress.

Our Chief declared that we would hunt the lion down and avenge the honor of our village. He chose five of his best hunters and sent them into the grasslands, and not one of them returned.

Stunned by the loss of his most-skilled men, Nana Acheampong spent the next few days holed up in his palace with his advisors. Rumor had it our Chief and his wisest men were devising a better plan that would succeed against the lion god. 

Two days into their deliberations, a young woman was attacked and killed at the edge of our village in the middle of the day. No lion, no matter how hungry, can eat seven people in a less than a week. Gyata bosom, it appeared, was now hunting for sport. 

We came close to total panic, then. No one knew what to do. Our farmers would not risk going into their farms. Mothers would not let their children out of their sight. Men carried arms wherever they went in the village. And still our Chief remained in his palace, trying to come up with a plan of attack. 

The only person who seemed unaffected by it all was Yanju.

How shall I describe that woman to you? She was tall, certainly, but there was so much more to her presence than that. When she walked by, you took notice. She had a lean, narrow face, and eyes that always seemed to be looking through you. Her hair was always wrapped in a thick shawl. I remember that. Unlike most women in our village, she walked with her head held high and her back straight, and most of the men avoided interacting with her. You would never have guessed she was little more than a slave. 

Nana Acheampong had brought her, kicking and screaming, upon returning from a long-ago trip to see the Asantehene. Word was she was a prisoner of war, abducted from her hometown somewhere from the far east of our lands. Word was our Chief had bought her because the sight of her pleased him. I could not blame the man. Yanju was beautiful.

But there was also something wild about her, something untamable. Even our Chief hadn’t tried to marry her. He did give her a son, though, a boy truly beautiful, with skin as dark as the rain-soaked earth and eyes like his mother’s. Wherever Yanju went, her son went too. You would often see her sitting with the boy on her lap, running a tender hand through his hair and crooning softly into his ear. That boy was the only person Yanju cared about. She had no friends in the village. I think we all feared her a little, even then. There was something in those eyes when she looked at you…

Ah, I’m digressing again. Forgive me, child; it’s been so long since I had anyone to listen to this old voice of mine. Where was I before…? Oh, yes, thank you.

Apart from Yanju, who still strode about the village like nothing was happening, we were all terrified. We lay sleepless on our mats at night, wondering if we would wake to hear another of our number had been taken. We grew desperate. 

One morning, I awoke from an uneasy sleep to the sound of agitated chatter and running feet outside my hut. My heart jumped in my chest. I ran outside, fearing the worst, calling the names of my children, but Baah and Asabea were standing quietly—and safely—in the compound. Beyond them, excited villagers streamed by in the direction of the chief’s palace.

My curiosity rising, I stepped to one of the passersby and asked what the all commotion was about. When she told me, I couldn’t believe my ears.

A motia? A forest dwarf? Here in our village? 

The dwarves of the forest were notoriously secretive beings. It was said they predated our earliest ancestor by centuries, but reported sightings of them were few and generally untrustworthy. The prevailing thought was that our settling here had driven them from these forests to seek out quieter, more isolated homes.

If a motia had come to the palace—in broad daylight!—then that truly was something to behold. For the first time in many days, I forgot entirely about the lion god. Instructing the children to stay inside the hut, I followed the river of people. 

We arrived at the Chief’s palace. The crowd was packed six men deep, but my husband was one of our Chief’s linguists, and out of respect for him some people stepped aside to let me through. I got close enough to the front of the crowd to see what was happening. 

Nana Acheampong and his elders—my husband among them—sat outside the palace walls under huge umbrellas that shaded them from the heat of the morning sun. The crowd streamed out from either side of them, encircling the grounds but leaving a space in their middle. Nana Acheampong was dressed in his regal best. His kente was bright and colorful, the rings on his fingers thick and golden. He looked powerful and commanding. 

The dwarf, on the other hand, looked anything but. He was short. I estimated that he would barely come up to my shoulder if I stood next to him, and you can see that I am not a tall woman. He stood in the middle of the grounds, alone, dressed only in a rough cloth that covered his waist, his neck and hands decorated with ornately carved wooden bracelets. His hair was braided and hung to the middle of his back. His feet, like the mmotia of legend, pointed backward, his toes digging into the sand behind him. He cast his eye once over the assembled crowd, then addressed our Chief. 

“Nana, I greet you.” The dwarf’s voice was rough and raspy, like two sticks were being rubbed together in his throat.

“Your greetings are accepted, master dwarf,” our Chief replied. “But I am afraid I do not know your name.”

The motia bowed deeply. “I am the Master of Song and Dance,” he said.

It was a ridiculous name, but no one laughed. Not even me. Still, I wondered in my heart why the dwarf would call himself by such a name. It would be doing him a kindness to say I did not think his voice was suited for any song, and how could one dance with feet that pointed backward? 

Across from me, I saw Yanju staring at the motia with a flat, unblinking gaze. 

“Master of Song and Dance,” Nana Acheampong said, “what purpose brings you to our village?”

The dwarf spread his arms out. “I have come to rid you of the lion that terrorizes your people.” 

The response was immediate: the crowd, which a second ago had been silent, now burst into excited whispers. Nana Acheampong’s eyes widened in shock, but he quickly regained his composure a moment later. The dwarf stood in the middle of the commotion, unmoving. He didn’t seem affected by the heat beating down from the sun. He wasn’t even sweating.

Our Chief raised a hand; the assembly stilled. “And why,” he said cautiously, “would you do that?”

The dwarf shrugged. “It appears to me you need someone to do exactly that, Nana. Or am I mistaken?”

The Chief blinked. I had never seen him so flustered when talking to someone. “No,” he said hesitantly. “You are not mistaken. The lion god has indeed been a source of strife for my people. What I meant was, why do you want to be that person?”

“Because I can,” the dwarf said.

“How?” Nana asked.

“My people have our ways of doing these things,” the dwarf replied, “but I assure you I can do this thing. If I fail, what have you lost? If I succeed, however…” He let the sentence hang uncompleted. 

“I was under the impression that the mmotia of the forest did not interfere in the affairs of men.” 

“We don’t,” the dwarf said. “I am…somewhat different.”

Nana Acheampong consulted with one of his elders before speaking again. “What do you seek in return for this deed?”

The dwarf smiled. “Gold.” 

Nana Acheampong’s face hardened. “How much gold?”

“Ten boxes worth,” the dwarf replied. 

You must understand how incredible that demand was, child. Ten boxes of gold dust was a fortune. Nana Acheampong leaned back in his chair, frowning. He loved money, our Chief, but the lion god had become a problem he could no longer ignore. 

“Very well,” he said. “When will you do this thing?”

“Today,” answered the dwarf. “As the sun kisses the horizon, in this very place which I stand, I shall rid your people of the lion god.”

Our Chief agreed. The dwarf turned on his heel and walked away toward the forest, leaving a trail of backward-pointing footprints behind him. No one followed him.

By mid-afternoon, the grounds were already packed. There was little space to move around, as everyone tried to jostle for a better viewing spot. It had been an extraordinarily hot day, the skies clear and blue, and the smell of sweat and dirt was almost overpowering, yet we stood, and waited.

Our Chief sat once again in state, surrounded by his guards and elders and linguists. He set his gaze resolutely in the direction the dwarf had walked off in. 

The day grew cooler and darker, but the dwarf did not appear. Our hopes deflated as the sun approached and then touched the horizon, bloated and red. Overhead, a couple of crows cawed as they flew to their nests for the night. The chickens settled into their coops and perches, clucking and jostling for space. The day wound down. The dwarf did not appear.

We started to disperse one by one, heads down, hearts heavy, wondering whom the lion god would take next, and then we heard the singing. 

How shall I describe a dwarf’s singing to you? It was not beautiful, at least not in the way the voice of a young maiden is. It was raw, unrefined. There were no words to it, at least not that I recognized. But oh, it was powerful! 

The dwarf’s song began as a low moan, keening like the wind through lonely mountains, then it picked up, rushing like an angry river, rising like a wave. Occasionally the dwarf’s raspy voice broke through, the sound of dry leaves being swept before the broom. Hearing the dwarf sing was like hearing nature itself come to life. 

The dispersing crowd froze. We pivoted, transfixed, in the direction of the song. The dwarf emerged from the dying light of the day, walking toward the village with his eyes closed and hands held gently by his side. He did not stop singing. I did not want him to stop singing.

The lion came. 

It followed the dwarf into our midst and we recoiled as one, for the lion god was huge. Its shoulder rose above the dwarf’s head. Its mane was thick and heavy, its head held low as it padded silently behind the singing dwarf. I saw scars on its face—one eye was milky and dead—and bloodstains around its mouth.

From the corner of my eye I saw our Chief watching the scene with fear etched on his face. His guards held their spears nervously. Some men in the crowd had their hands on their swords and cutlasses. I’m sure everyone there would have fled, had the motia’s song not held us enthralled.

The lion ignored us all. Its attention was fully on the dwarf who continued to sing, although his eyes were now open and he regarded the lion in turn.

The lion god pounced. We gasped, certain we were about to witness a gruesome death. But the dwarf didn’t move, and the lion’s leap landed short. It bounded again, and again it got nowhere near the dwarf. The lion god started turning in circles, pausing only to jump occasionally for seemingly no reason.

And then I understood: the lion was dancing.

The Master of Song and Dance, the dwarf had called himself, and it appeared he had not been lying. 

The crowd arrived at the same conclusion as I had not long after, and the mood of the place changed. We forgot that the lion god was a killer. We forgot everything but our delight at this unexpected turn of events. The dwarf sang, the lion danced, and we laughed.

I see by the look on your face that you find this difficult to believe. I know how it sounds. But my tale is true. I swear it by Asaase Yaa, mother Earth herself.

Seeing our appreciation, the dwarf smiled. His song rose in volume, and the lion danced more energetically, like an overjoyed kitten. We laughed louder. I saw Nana Acheampong clapping his hands in amusement. 

I don’t know who threw that first spear. I only remember watching in horror as it sailed over the tops of our heads, its aim straight and true, and buried itself in the lion’s shoulder. 

We all stopped laughing. Surely the beast would turn on us now. Surely we were all dead.

But the lion only continued to dance. 

Something happened, then. Something came over us. Maybe it was the dawning of the fact that no matter what we did, the beast would not hurt us. Maybe it was our desire for vengeance, blossoming like black flowers in our hearts. Then again, maybe we just wanted to hurt the beast. Maybe, deep inside, we are all animals.

We fell on the lion. Knives slashed and spears stabbed. We tore out the lion’s mane with our bare hands and poked out its eyes. We slit its belly and pulled out its intestines. I say “we”, because I was a part of them. 

And through it all, right until we tore out its beating heart, the lion still tried to dance.

I never saw the dwarf leave.

That night there was great celebration in our village. No one announced it; it arose naturally from the slaying of the lion god. The palm wine flowed and the fires roared. We did not cease celebrating till the sun rose, and even then it was only because we were too tired to continue. 

Two days later, the dwarf returned to the village. Nana Acheampong met him in private this time, in the receiving chamber of his palace. I was not there, but my husband was, and he related to me what happened:

The dwarf approached the throne and bowed low, announcing that he had come for his payment.

Nana Acheampong leaned back in his seat. On the wall behind him, the pelt of the gyata bosom hung, still bearing the marks of our brutal attack. The skin itself was not dry yet, and attracted the attention of many flies. Rather than remove the pelt to dry properly, the Chief had stationed a boy with a large fan to keep the insects away. He wanted the lion’s pelt to hang there. He wanted the dwarf to see it.

After regarding the dwarf for a short period, our Chief held out his hand. One of his servants scurried forward and dropped a small pouch into it, which the Nana then threw at the feet of his surprised guest.

“Your payment, dwarf.”

The dwarf picked up the pouch of gold dust. Even in his hands, it looked small. “Nana,” he said, frowning. “This is not what we agreed on.”

“It is what you are owed. Take it and be gone.”

“I do not understand.”

Nana Acheampong leaned forward. “Our agreement was that you would rid us of the lion god, was it not? You did no such thing. All you did was sing a pretty song and make the beast dance. An amusing sight, but hardly what we agreed on. It was my own people that killed the lion god, not you. So take your payment and be glad I’m giving you even this much.”

Anger crept into the dwarf’s voice. “Is this how the Chief of this village treats those who aid him in his time of need?” 

“I did not come seeking your help. You came to me.” 

“We had an agreement!”

“That you failed to uphold.”

“This is unfair!”

“Life is unfair, dwarf. Now be gone. I have lost my patience with you. If I ever see you again, I will have you in chains.”

By this point, almost everyone in the room was laughing at the funny little dwarf in his funny little loincloth shaking his funny little hands in impotent rage. They should have known better, but greed makes men blind. So they laughed, for what could the dwarf do? Fight all of them? Send leopards in the night to maul our Chief? If he did that he would never have his gold, and the first thing everyone learns about dwarves is that they never let go of a debt.

The second thing is how much they hate to be humiliated.

And the men laughed.

“You will pay for this,” the Master of Song and Dance swore. “I will make you sorry.” With that, he turned his back on the laughter and left our village. 

That night, I had a dream.

I saw my mother, who had died more than ten years previously. In my dream she sang to me, and it was the sweetest song I had ever heard. It drew me deeper and deeper into slumber, and in my dream my mother sang from outside the village, and I saw many tiny footprints leading toward the forest, into the darkness. 

When I woke up, my children were gone. 

The song we sang in the village that morning was one of grief. Our chorus was a symphony of mothers’ wails. The empty beds in our huts mocked us. We rolled in the dust of our un-swept compounds till our tears mixed with the dust and became mud on our cheeks. Our men watched us, impotent, unsure of what to do. There is nothing that renders a man so useless quite like being faced with a woman’s pain.

Day became evening. Night became sunrise. Our children were not returned.

The following day Nana Acheampong convened a meeting of the whole village. We the women stood on one side of the palace grounds. Our men stood across from us. I have never forgotten how in our darkest hour our men stood apart from us. I have never forgotten.

Nana Acheampong addressed the women. He told us he understood our pain, because his children had been taken too. He told us he knew who was responsible for this tragedy, and that the dwarf would pay for it. Then he told us to go home, that he and his best advisors would think on the matter and decide the best course of action to take.

“What is there to decide?” a voice suddenly shouted. It was Yanju. She looked, for the first time I had ever seen, weak and broken. I have already told you how important her son was to her; losing him had hit her in a way that nothing else could have. “Just pay the dwarf! Pay him and maybe he will return our children!”

Nana Acheampong looked offended at the thought. “We will do no such thing,” he said. “We owe that creature nothing, and we will not be held to ransom. Now be silent.”

“Then send your men to track the dwarf and return our sons!”

“As I have already said, I shall sit with my advisors and we will come up with the best course of action to take. Now be silent, woman, or I will have you whipped.”

Yanju glared at our Chief with intense hatred, but he would not meet her eyes. All the men gathered, too, suddenly grew fidgety.

I understood, then. Our Chief would not pay the dwarf because of his pride. At the same time, our men would not march after the dwarf for the same reason they had spent so long “formulating a plan” to hunt the lion god:

They were afraid. 

“But Nana,” I said, surprised to hear myself speak. “Those are our children. Your children.”

Nana Acheampong sat straight on his throne. “We can always make more children.”

That evening, while our men remained in council with our Chief, Yanju called a meeting of the women. I was in my hut, weeping, when word reached me. I went out and found Yanju standing in the middle of a crowd of grieving mothers. She stood on a stool before a fire, the light reflecting in her eyes. She had taken off her scarf, and her hair hung down. It was long and fine, hair such as I had never before seen. Her audience stood rapt, their faces raised to her, full of hope.

I joined them, and I listened, and Yanju spoke to us of our children.

When I began my tale I told you Yanju was the witch. I stand by that declaration, because no ordinary person could have gotten us to do what she did. No one could have touched our souls like that. Maybe Yanju planted the seeds of our actions in our hearts, and maybe she only reached in and brought out what she already found there, but either way, it doesn’t matter. We did what we did, and we did it because of her.

We did it for her.

And so that night, we rose up from our mats and slew our husbands as they lay sleeping. Our men, they screamed when our blades cut them. Some of them wept like girls. I feel sorry for the men who had two, three wives. How they must have bled. I hear Nana Acheampong was particularly unfortunate. 

My husband had always told me he’d never married another because I was enough for him. I was certainly enough for him that night.

When morning came we gathered in the middle of the village, dressed in armor we had taken from our dead men and carrying their weapons. Yanju strode out of the chief’s palace dressed in a chief’s warrior attire. In her left hand she held a bloody spear. She stood before us and looked at each of us in turn.

“Now, let us go and get our children,” she said.

We left our men to rot in their huts, for we wouldn’t return. After we recovered our children we’d move somewhere and build our own village, and Yanju would be our queen. No one said this to me, but we all knew it in our hearts.

So we marched into the forest, an army of women. Yanju led us, as bold and unwavering as our Chief had never been. 

I am not at all surprised the dwarf knew we were coming. Neither am I surprised at what he chose to do. The dwarf was no fool. He must have known we’d brought no gold, only iron.

So he attacked us first. 

I awoke one morning to find our camp under attack by an army of forest creatures, snakes and scorpions and wild pigs and yes, even lions. They fell upon us, and in those first moments of attack many of our number fell in the confusion. 

We panicked, for we were no warriors. We were women who had never raised arms in our lives. But Yanju saved us. Even now I remember her, standing tall in her armor, her hair streaming down her shoulders. Once I saw her, my resolve was strengthened. The cutlass in my hand, which I had been on the verge of throwing down before fleeing, suddenly felt lighter. 

Yanju raised her spear. “To me!” she cried. “Women, to me!”

We rallied to her, forming a tight knot around our queen with our weapons pointing outward. The larger animals launched themselves at our ranks, but met only shields and spear points. We slashed at their hides and washed ourselves in hot blood. All the while, the snakes and scorpions crawled at our feet, biting and stinging. They were the worst; many a time one of us would scream without warning and collapse, writhing. 

Yanju called a number of us by name and directed us to slash and pierce the threat from underfoot. I was one of them, fighting my battle on my hands and knees in the dirt. When my cutlass got too slimy with snake and scorpion blood, I discarded it and crushed them with a rock instead. I still have the scars from that day.

The battle was fierce, and we lost many. But we held. We did not fight like men. No, we fought like the women we were. 

And we won. Yanju led us, and we won.

Having failed in his bid to drive us into retreat, the dwarf tried to make peace. First he sent a dove, then an antelope, and finally a leopard. They came dancing like the lion god into our camp. In their mouths they carried peace offerings.

We chased the dove away. We ate the antelope. The leopard we skinned, for its hide, once dried, would make an excellent robe for a queen.

And we marched on.  

Looking back now, I see how foolish we were, how blind our desire for revenge made us. I am sure the dwarf would have returned our children if we’d accepted his peace, but we didn’t just want our children back. We wanted to punish him for taking them away in the first place. We also wanted revenge for the women who had fallen in battle. Even if the Master of Song and Dance returned our babies, we were going to hunt and kill him. It was simple as that. 

We left the dwarf no way out. We made him desperate.

It was our fault. All of it.

So it was that on the evening of the fifth day, we broke through a thick tangle of bushes into a wide clearing, and our children were there.

They stood in lined ranks, their clothes filthy but their faces clean, their faces glowing like the moon, and my heart jumped in my chest because my darlings, my children, my Baah and Asabea, were there among them, and for the first time in weeks I felt joy.

I was not the only one; the women in front of me cried out and threw down their weapons, calling their children’s names. Yanju lost all her queenly bearing and ran forward to embrace her son, who stood at the head of the children’s ranks.

There ensued a mad rush then as we jostled and pushed one another aside in our haste to reach them. Someone shoved me from behind and I tripped over a root, and by the time I got back to my feet most of the mothers were reunited with their children. I was the last one left behind, and so only I saw, with the perspective of distance, how the children weren’t hugging their mothers back, how they just stood there with their arms hanging by their sides and their eyes empty. 

Then, from the darkness of the trees behind the children, the dwarf sang.

Yanju was the first to dance. I remember that clearly. Her head arched back and her legs beat a mad rhythm on the ground as her son sank his teeth into her slender neck and painted his face with his mother’s blood.

I stared in horror as, one by one, our children grabbed their mothers and sank teeth and sharpened branches into them. The women screamed, but the sound was lost as the dwarf only sang higher. 

The remaining children – the ones whose mothers had died on the way here – surged forward and joined the fray. I remember the screams. Oh, the women screamed. 

And they danced. In death, each and every one of them danced.

I watched this in shock, and realized nearly too late that two of the children were walking toward me, hands outstretched, fingers twitching. 

Baah. Asabea. 

My darlings.

I ran.

I fled toward the safety of the thick forest, and as I went I heard I heard my children run after me, calling, “Mama!” 

They did not catch me, or I would not be speaking to you now. I must have run for hours, ran harder than I ever thought I could. Finally, I stopped running and collapsed. 

When I awoke it was morning and my surroundings were deathly quiet. Everything inside me wanted to keep running, but I hesitated. Even on that first morning after our massacre, I knew running had been a mistake. Where would I go? I had lost my husband, my village and everyone I had ever known. What did I have when everything I knew was gone?

So I retraced my steps, and eventually I came upon the same clearing. 

There was no one there, only blood and the buzzing flies. No bodies. No children. No one but me.

That was over forty years ago. I left that clearing, and I have been wandering ever since. 

And now my story is told. 

What’s that?

My children?


I don’t know what became of them. 

But I mean to find out. 

Do not return to this cave tomorrow, child. I will be gone. I cannot rest, not as long as they are out there. Somewhere. I ran from them once. Never again. 

I will search, and I will find them. No matter where they are, I will find them.

And, when I do, this time I will dance.

Kofi Nyameye, author of The Master of Song and Dance

Kofi Nyameye went to school to pursue a safe and sensible degree that would have set him up with an equally safe and sensible job, but then quit halfway to chase his dreams of being a writer instead. He lives and writes in Accra, Ghana. His work has appeared in Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine, The Manchester Review, and The Naked Convos