Once upon a time, a hunter left his home to go and hunt bush rats in the night, for that is when they left their dens. As he was leaving, he instructed his youngest daughter Cheruiyot, who had a habit of sneaking away without telling anyone where she had gone, not to leave the house, especially at night.
“Beware the Chemosit,” the hunter said, “For it calls with its song and loves to eat children. Stay until I return and we shall have meat for supper. Leave and it shall be the very last thing you do.” The hunter warned Cheruiyot and taking his bow and arrow, left for the dark woods.
Now Cheruiyot was hungry, for it was the time of drought and they were down to one meal a day. So their mother went to the kitchen to prepare calabashes of millet porridge.
However, she warned Cheruiyot before she left, just as her father had.
“Beware the Chemosit,” she said, “For it calls with its song and loves to eat children. So stay until I return and we shall have porridge as we wait. Leave and it shall be the very last thing you do.” The mother said as she returned the door and left for the kitchen.
It was not long after both her parents had left that Cheruiyot heard music playing in the distance. It began with the beating of drums; very soothing and soft.
“Do you hear it Chemesunde? Do you hear the music?” Cheruiyot asked as her legs started to jerk around to the beat.
“There’s no music.” Chemesunde her sister said leaning against the wall to get comfortable.
“There is, I can hear it. Where is it coming from?” Cheruiyot asked angling herself up on a stool to look outside the window.
Then she saw it.
It was a sparkling effervescent red glow past the cover of trees. The embers gave out such a beautiful light that flicked orange, then red, then purple, then all three at once.
It was the most beautiful thing she had ever seen.
“Look, what’s that?” Cheruiyot asked her sister.
Chemesunde hurriedly snatched her away from the window.
“Wee ii… didn’t you hear what you were told? Sit down and wait!” Chemesunde said as Cheruyot’s body was now swaying to the sound of a stringed instrument.
“Why are you dancing?” Chemesunde asked her.
“I’m not dancing!” Cheruiyot shot back swaying from side to side.
“Yes you are!” Chemesunde said. “Stop that!”
“Chemesunde, are the neighbors having a party?” Cheruiyot asked returning to the window, her head swaying to the beat of the drums.
To her amazement, more lights had appeared where the first had been, flashing and shooting about like stars. There was also the sound of laughter beyond the trees.
In the midst of the laughter, Cheruiyot heard her mother and father laughing.
“I can’t believe it!” She spat. “They left us to go dance at the party. They lied to us!” Cheruiyot said as she raced to the door.
Chemesunde stopped her, trying hard to restrain her younger sister from bobbing her head to the beat of nonexistent drums.
“Wee ii… stop lying. They wouldn’t do that. I know you’re hungry but sit down and wait as you were told.” Chemesunde insisted.
Cheruiyot’s stomach growled defiantly. “But you can clearly hear them laughing.”
“Wee ii… stop lying! I can’t hear anything but the sound of crickets. Sit down!” Chemesunde said.
“You’re the one who’s lying, just like them. The music is so loud you can hear it from across the ridge and look, look at the lights.” Cheruiyot spat.
“Music…? Lights…?” Chemesunde asked, humoring her.
“Yes music and light, there are drums and stringed instruments… It’s so beautiful. Don’t pretend you can’t you hear it. I know you can you see them.” Cheruiyot said exasperated as she forced the door open and ran outside.
Chemesunde followed after her and grabbed her hand.
“Wee ii… stop being silly and come back inside!” Chemesunde ordered her.
Cheruiyot shook her head and pulled her hand free defiantly. “If you’re not going to go, then you can stay. Where there is a party, there must be food.”
Cheruiyot said as she ran in the direction of the music.
For a while, she could hear Chemesunde’s voice calling after her. Then the music got loud, too loud in fact.
The drums seemed to explode around her as Cheruyot’s body involuntarily danced to the hypnotic beat.
“Mama! Baba! Where are you? What is so funny? Where is the food?” She shouted but her voice was drowned out by the music as her body seemed to move of its own accord.
Then she saw it in the distance, a horror she had heard of but scarcely believed.
It was half man and half bird and stood tall as a tree on one leg. Its beaked mouth was open, glowing red like a lamp. The creature used a spear-like stick to beckon her to come closer and that is when she noticed the other children dancing around her.
They were all relatively her age, short, and looking as confused and frightened. The music seemed to have taken over their bodies, making them dance helplessly towards the creature.
Cheruiyot screamed, suddenly aware that her father and mother were nowhere to be found. However, the music that was coming from the creature’s open mouth drowned out all the children’s cries.
Why couldn’t no one hear them? Why couldn’t they resist the call of the Chemosit?
In the noise, the creature’s mouth widened and began to suck air inside as the children were pulled into its mouth by an invisible force one by one.
Then it turned to Cheruiyot and swallowed her as the drums stilled, the strings hushed and nothing but the sound of crickets was heard in the empty clearing.
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