Kiss of Death
‘Grandpa,’ pleaded Thoko, ‘Tell us a story before we go to bed.’
‘You’re far too old for fairy stories,’ I replied.
‘Then tell us a horror story,’ said Khoza.
‘Once upon a time,’ I began, ‘in the
, the Great Leader died suddenly and there was nobody to replace him.’ Land of Zed
‘Why not?’ demanded Thoko.
‘Because in those days,’ I explained, ‘a leader always threw all his competitors in jail, or had them murdered, and instead surrounded himself with complete dunderheads who were too stupid to topple him.’
‘So how did they find a new leader?’ asked Thoko.
‘The elders went to the Leaders Graveyard,’ I said, ‘and started digging, to see if there was any life left in any of their dead leaders.’
‘Uhhgghhh,’ said Thoko with a shudder. ‘How disgusting!’
‘And did they find one?’ asked Khoza.
‘Yes,’ I said. ‘They found a grave marked King Nyamasoya, Born 937, Died 1008, May His Soul Never Rest in Peace. So they thought that sounded hopeful, and dug him up. Sure enough, when they opened the lid of the old stone coffin, out jumped old King Nyamasoya, shouting What took you so long? I’ve been waiting here for nearly a thousand years!
‘But why aren’t you dead? they asked. ‘Ah Ha! He laughed, The foolish fellows forgot to drive a stake through my heart!’
‘So he was a vampire!’ Khoza gasped.
‘Of course,’ I said. ‘But in those days the people hadn’t heard about vampires. And anyway, they were in a hurry to find a new king so they didn’t ask too many questions.’
‘Very foolish,’ said Thoko.
‘So what sort of king did he make?’ Khoza wondered.
‘He started off alright,’ I said. ‘Seemed to be a very jolly fellow. Ate a lot, drank a lot, laughed a lot. Better than the previous fellow who had a nasty temper.
‘Don’t call me Nyamasoya, I never liked the name, declared the new king. Just call me RB! But when he said that, the people began to shake with fear, because there had been previous leaders who had been called RB. There had been Rig the Ballot, and Rob the Bank, and Run from Bullets. Don’t worry, laughed the new king, RB stands for Royal Blood. After all those years of democracy, you now have a king!’
‘He had come to suck their blood,’ said Thoko.
‘Things began to go wrong,’ I admitted, ‘after he appointed his first minister. When the new minister came out from the palace he was looking very pale and thin.’
‘He’d been given the Kiss of Death!’ declared Thoko. ‘The king pretended to kiss him, but instead sucked all the blood out of his jugular vein!’
‘In those days,’ I said, ‘before taxes were invented, kings grew fat and rich by sucking blood from the people. Soon all the king’s ministers were bloodsuckers. Just as the king sucked blood from his ministers, so the ministers sucked blood out of the people. And so the people grew thinner and thinner as the king and his ministers grew fatter and fatter. Soon there was a national surplus of blood, and the king began to export blood to Ching Chang, where all the people were small and thin because of a shortage of blood.’
soon became rich?’ suggested Khoza. Land of Zed
‘Don’t be silly,’ snorted Thoko. ‘The government became richer as the people became poorer. They had to keep working harder and harder to grow the food to replace the blood that was constantly being sucked out of them.’
‘But I thought a king was supposed to be the servant of the people,’ said Khoza, ‘not just a gigantic blood sucker.’
‘The king did his best to explain how he was really working for everybody’s benefit. Every day the Zed National Blood Corporation was busy telling the people about the new hospital where they could donate their blood, and the new mobile hospitals that would seek them out wherever they went. And new roads to enable the blood to be exported to Ching Chang. Free agricultural inputs to produce more food for increased blood production. More schools for pupils to learn the process of turning mere peasant blood into fine Royal Blood. And billboards everywhere repeating the national slogan Your blood, working for you!’
‘Didn’t the people protest? Rebel? Riot?’ asked Thoko hopefully.
‘The Kiss of Death didn’t just affect ordinary people,’ I explained. ‘The police would round up protesters to suck the blood out of them, to replace the blood that was being sucked out of them. Similarly the courts had to offer up victims to have their blood sucked, or the king would suck the blood out of the judges instead.’
‘No elections?’ asked Thoko.
‘Of course not,’ I laughed. ‘The king sucked all the blood out of the Electoral Commission, and their desiccated corpses were put on display in the
.’ National Museum
‘No constitution?’ asked Khoza.
‘It had so much blood sucked out of it,’ I replied, ‘that it was reduced to only five words: The King’s Word is Law!’
‘So the Kiss of Death destroyed even the state itself,’ said Khoza glumly.
‘Completely,’ I said.
‘What I can’t understand,’ said Thoko, ‘is why Nyamasoya hadn’t had that stake driven into his heart in the first place, to prevent him ever coming back.’
‘That was the problem,’ I said. ‘He didn’t have a heart.’
Just then Sara put her head round the door. ‘Time for bed! Give Grandpa a goodnight kiss!’
‘Aarrghhh!’ they both screamed, and ran helter-skelter out of the room.
‘You’ve been telling them another of your horror stories!’ said Sara. ‘What a horrible frightening Grandpa!’
‘It’s a frightening world,’ I replied.
[Story based partly on suggestions from my Facebook friends, especially Francis Mwelwa Bwalya]