The “Freedom of Creative Expression” stories continue with From the lips of ghosts by Mafa Maiketso.
The white-bearded ghost howled and screamed in blood curdling grunts which shook and rattled the stern-looking trees, robust rocks, wet stones, rusting gates and decaying buildings in the vast wasteland nearby. The ghost was going to die again. Again it was going to be paralysed into a limping spectacle. Its mind, its illusions, its thighs and its legs, would freeze then melt. It would go into silence, into voiceless bones buried once again to be forgotten, perhaps for eternity. It would be confined to a very lonely place, a colony of half-finished streets, and semi-inhabited houses.
That was where one would hear fierce whistles, the heaving and heavy throbbing of ghosts turning over in their graves in their attempts to return to life. They were fearful that they would perish beyond redemption and fail even to revel in hisses, shrieks, puffings and screeches.
The old by-streets swarmed with disheartened ghosts. The liberty to articulate words, the eloquence of non-verbal cues and the freestyling of arts and theatre, had all been shrugged off with indifference on that side of the grave. On the other side, the one beyond re-death, the silence was unbearable. The ghosts wanted to live again. But some were dying yet again unless they grabbed with every ounce of their strength and every drop of blood left in their veins the freedom that no one ever affords to anyone; the freedom of self deception, self image, self expression, personal identity, self existence, the freedom of uniqueness.
There was something remarkable about the manner of gesticulating the ghost was fond of. It was remarkable enough to attract anyone’s notice. His figure was foreshortened and shadowed.
It was a mystery that it had succeeded to return to life. It would be scandalous if it died yet again having come so far. It would do poetry. It would sing. It would do storytelling. I cannot describe the thrill that seized upon me. The ghost was going to live. His poem was tantalizingly close, but vanished as easily as it had come. The song was beginning to form, but no music played. The story was unfolding, but the audience was snoring. The ghost was enraged and it transformed into a giant octopus. It began to grab and choke everything in its path. With its massive tentacles it wreaked havoc. It could crush a small truck like a tin can with its strength.
Then it saw me doing the bum jive, mumbling “ba be bi bob bu” to the tune my fellow ghosts sang at my thirteenth funeral. It grew seven times more livid. I watched him intently. It bore a look of mourning. He had the attitude of tombstone figures, morbid. A vague vibration hit the earth and air just then, which quickly developed into violent pulsation and an incoming rush from behind that forced me to turn around and stare.
I sensed pity in the old ghost. I had been housed in my coffin for decades and I was beyond emaciation with my desiccated skin pulled tautly over my bones. With bones protruding, my complexion ash-gray, and my eyes pushed deep into their sockets, I looked like a gaunt skeleton recently disinterred from the grave. What lips I had were tattered and bloody. An adhesive tape covered my mouth, but I did not stop doing the bum jive and humming a hymn that the giant octopus knew nothing about.
Then the octopus smiled, beckoning the angry glow of the sun to soften its sadness. It opened its mouth, revealing tentacles serrated with teeth so sharp and hooks so deadly they could slit human skin like a razor. It drew circles in the air with its open mouth. The octopus meant harm to no one except to express itself.
Its voice, tucked within the corridors of bones going brown with age was whispering fragments of prayer, gems of wisdom, songs of freedom, hymns of liberation, verses of warning, and doom of the second death. The octopus attempted to recite a poem whose lines were still swirling in the smoke of its fantasy, but the voice of fear strained its rotting vocal chords whose purpose had been abandoned in the previous life.