One evening as the weaver birds sang to send the sun to sleep, Mueni’s susu (grandmother) called her and her sisters to the kitchen.
“The firewood is almost done and the men are about to return the cows. Quick, go and fetch some firewood from the big rock before night falls. But remember; do not touch anything in or around the rock. Pick only the wood from the trees that grow at the mouth of the cave.”
The three girls nodded, took some rope to bind the firewood and raced towards the big rock.
Mumbe, one of the three, knew the way well, so she steered them in the right direction. She was the oldest and showed them the wood that had dried up well enough to burn for longer.
Mwende was a little younger and used the panga, sharpened by her father to cut down the dried tree branches. She knew her way around a rope and fastened the firewood nicely into three bundles when she was done.
Mueni, the youngest, was more fascinated by the big rock. She stood staring at it, wondering how a rock could grow to be so big.
“What do rocks eat to get so big Mumbe?” Mueni asked surveying the big rock.
“Rocks do not eat silly. Now help me put this firewood on my back, the sun is about to go to sleep.”
Mueni obeyed and helped lift the firewood up onto Mumbe’s back. Then she returned her attention to the big rock.
“Is it magic that makes them grow so big? Is it the work of a witch Mwende?” Mueni asked getting close enough to touch the rock.
Mwende quickly slapped Mueni’s hand away.
“Wee ii… Do not touch it! Do not even go near it! Remember what susu told us. Now hurry and help me get this firewood on my back.” Mwende ordered her.
Dejectedly, Mueni obeyed and helped lift the firewood onto Mwende’s back.
As she did, a small smooth beautiful pebble fell from Mwende’s bundle of firewood and rested in between Mueni’s legs.
Then surprisingly, the pebble began to sing.
“Take me, Mueni take me. To the warmth of fire take me. Do not leave me in the cold my dear. Pick me up and take me home.”
Mueni looked up at her sisters, perplexed.
“Did you hear that? The rock; it sang.” Mueni said as Mumbe and Mwende laughed.
“Wee ii… stop your silly stories. Hurry up and pick your firewood.” Mumbe ordered and she and Mwende started to walk away.
Hurriedly Mueni picked up the small bunch of firewood as well as the singing pebble and raced after her sisters. Though as they walked on, the pebble started to get heavier and heavier in Mueni’s hand.
There, clasped between her tiny fingers, the pebble began to sing again.
“Carry me, carry me, in your pocket carry me, let me rest there warm and happy my dear, put me in your pocket.”
Again Mueni looked to her sisters to see if they had heard the pebble sing.
“There it goes again. The rock, it sang, it asked me to put it in my pocket and it’s so heavy.” Mueni said as Mumbe and Mwende laughed.
“Wee ii… your stories are funny, but we shall be late. Hurry, the sun is about to go to sleep.” Mwende said as the two older girls hastened their speed.
Mueni followed, dropping the pebble into her pocket.
Small as the pebble was, it seemed to get heavier and heavier with each step Mueni took, so much so that it made her knees buckle as she walked.
There, nestled in the warmth of Mueni’s pocket, the pebble began to sing again.
“Carry me, carry me, on your back carry me, let me lie like a baby warm and happy I’ll be. Come on my dear, carry me on your back.”
This time Mueni did not tell her sisters, for their steps had grown quick and their patience thin. They did not believe her anyway.
Immediately she put the pebble on her back, the weight of it was so much that it made Mueni have to sit down for a while.
“My back, my back, Mumbe my back… the weight is too much, come and carry me.” Mueni cried out trying to massage her back for the pebble’s growing weight pressed hard on her skin.
“Wee ii… stop complaining and hurry up. Can’t you see that the night is coming?” Mumbe shouted not looking back.
“But my back, my back, Mwende my back… the weight is too much, come and carry me.” Mueni persisted.
“Wee ii… yours was the smallest bunch,” said Mwende, “Hurry up before the hyenas come for you.”
Frightened at the mention of hyenas, Mueni struggled to get up, but she could not move. It felt like a mountain rested on her shoulders now, pressing her down into the ground.
The tiny little pebble laughed, then it started to sing again.
“Silly girl, don’t you cry. It’s you who took me from my resting place. You put me in your pocket, yes, but I will not leave my motherland. The other girl tried but failed. She became the big rock instead. Now you shall join her here as well, right here with me and her, oh yes.”
Then the pebble began to grow, enveloping her.
Mueni tried to scream out for her sisters to stop and help, but her mouth was quickly covered in rock. Mumbe and Mwende were too distracted to see, for they were running now, running to avoid the darkness.
“Hurry up Mueni!” Mumbe shouted back.
“There is the village, I can see susu.” Mwende added.
If they had just stopped for a moment, turned to give Mueni a fraction of attention, they would have seen it. Mueni, the youngest of the three was slowly transforming into a rock and growing steadily bigger by the second.
The pebble had succeeded. It had swallowed its second victim.
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