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THE hinterland community was small but the homes and other buildings were neatly built with material collected from the surrounding jungle. There was a large community benab built at a central point. All the other homes were located along tracks through the foliage.
It was the hot season.

This lasted most of the year except for short, heavy rainy periods. School was closed for the July-August vacation so the children were running and frolicking all over. Even the village pets seemed in high spirits. The macaw screeched with deafening regularity. The turtle plodded from step to step.

The anaconda hung from a tree waiting on its expected meal. As for the two black scorpions whose tail tips were removed, they climbed and crawled all over the children who were having much fun at their expense.
Bernadette had just arrived at the Forest Bend by aircraft. She followed the youths to the small village. They were carrying her luggage to her new home. She was the teacher and would be working there for the new term. Sweating and puffing from the walk, she entered the village and headed for the house of the Chief. After introductions she sipped some Piwari then headed for her hut. It was her first posting away from the city and she knew it would be a challenge.

Arriving at her small hut she began putting her stuff away. It was noisy outside, something she did not expect. Children were running, laughing and shouting. Animals were whistling, screeching and croaking. The trees swayed in the strong, hot breeze.
She had been briefed by the village chief about some unusual occurrences. He had indicated that a Masakura man had been encountered near the village. One member of the community had been taken by this evil spirit. Domestic animal bodies disappeared and one child was killed.

It had been difficult for her to keep a straight face. All that she heard had only amused her – she did not believe or subscribe to such ridiculous superstitions. She was not going to start now.
The boys were having a rollicking time. They chased each other, hunted the turtles and captured many invisible enemies. The game became more intense when one of the boys made two stills out of branches. This was used by the person chasing the others. It added a fresh dimension to their play.

Bernadette finished her unpacking and decided to go for a walk in the sandy community. The sand made it even hotter and she longed for a bath. Walking along the track she headed for the school hut. She entered and inspected her new working environment. It was a small space with a small blackboard leaning against the wall. She was expected to teach all grades. She had zero equipment. It was going to be quite an interesting term come September.

Reuben was the creator of the stilts and was chasing after the others when his mother called him. He turned and headed home stilts and all. His mother had cooked a delicious meal of Tuma Pot. She put some in a bowl and gave him this to take to the new teacher.
He headed for the teacher’s hut, striding high on his stilts. When he arrived at the door he got off and knocked. No response. He called, same results. She was out. Pushing the door open he put the food on the tiny table. Then he went back outside. Shutting the door he moved away then climbed on the stilts. It was back to fun and games.

Teacher Bernadette headed for home after taking a good look at the school. She was not feeling particularly optimistic. This was going to be one heck of an achievement if she could pull it off. An elderly woman stopped her and warned her about walking alone. Kanima could be anywhere, anybody.
“Jus careful, yo hear.”
“Kanima, my foot. Utter nonsense”

She strode away from the startled woman. As she neared her new hut she noticed strange tracks in the sand. Something with weird looking tracks had approached her home and possibly entered. She stood silently drinking in this new bit of information. It was the nature of the tracks that began to worry her. The weird tracks had come from the nearby forest. It had moved towards her hut. When it got near to the door the tracks changed to human foot prints. These had entered her hut. The footprints had emerged, walked a short distance then changed back to the unusual tracks and re-entered the forest.

By now her stunned brain was back in action. Believe it or not, she had just been tracked by Kanima. All the things the old woman had just told her flooded her conscious mind. The Kanima was a spirit capable of changing from human form to that of an animal and vice versa. She did not know what animal the tracks represented, all she knew was that this called for decisive action, and that was what she did.

When the village welcoming party arrived to meet the new teacher they were surprised to find her bags missing and her tracks heading away from their small, quiet village far, far, away.

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