The Shaman’s Eye

The chest wound was deep and Ben Gordon knew he had to stop the bleeding and stop it soon, or he’d lose yet another patient. After all he had been through in the past week with all the wounded and displaced refugees pouring in from the region north, the delayed shipment of medical supplies, and their water source going foul, losing another patient now would be more than he could bear.

The boy, barely sixteen, lay beneath a hanging fluorescent light. Beads of perspiration covered his dark black skin. The wound, caused by a single slash of a machete, split his chest diagonally from above his left breast down nearly to his waist.

“You are not going to die,” Gordon said. You are too young to die.

The boy’s eyes flashed up at Gordon then he turned his head away and fixed a gaze on the southeast corner of the tent. Squatted there was the old medicine man. He sat on a woven, reed mat with colorful ceremonial beads draped down from his neck, and he held a long spear upright in his hand.

Shaman, 1930
BY Arman Manookian
PHOTO: Wikimedia Commons

“I have seen him before,” Gordon said.

Kairubu, Gordon’s young Tanzanian aide, looked over at the old medicine man. “Yes,” he replied.

“He’s been here several times this week,” Gordon said.

“Yes.”

“Why does he come?”

“He come for the dead.”

Gordon looked up at Kairubu. “What?”

“He come for the dead.”

“Is he an undertaker or something?”

“No, he is Malaika.

Malaika?”

“Yes.”

“A witchdoctor?”

“He takes the dead to the High Place.”

The boy began to shake. His skin looked pale and clammy.

“He’s going into shock,” Gordon said.

Kairubu pulled the makeshift I.V. stand along side the stainless-steel operating table and opened the flow-bag wide. He then went to the end of the table and lifted the boy’s legs to his shoulders. Gordon, meanwhile, grabbed a handful of gauze and held it to the wound, but blood immediately oozed up through it.

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