Cresent moon casts shadows. The weeds next to the dirt road cast stretched images of themselves on the dust. Long road, the Milky Way bends down bright till the mountains. Down the road drums are beating. The trees between us and the moon roll by like giant black paper cutouts. We step around the deepest shadows, Jake tells me that puff adders like the warmth of the road at night. We're going to the traditional healer. Dancing cures sickness. Our shadows paint long black forms in front of us as we turn away from the low moon. The rhythms are close and intimidating. Wood sticks clack fast between deep beats from hand drums. Human voices sing together, slow, like group moans.
Off the road. Near a large tree, several people huddle around a fire, nearby is the throbbing hut. The doorway is low and open, light flickers out from inside. Two men greet us and we follow inside.
There's a lantern hanging from a low rafter. Thirty or forty people form a pressing circle and in the center a woman jumps with the beats. Its dusty low light, and salty smell. Two men with large hand drums pound the core of the beat. Women all over the room have wood sticks and blocks, they tap beats that float in between and around the drums. There's a break after some minutes and the dancers change. They exchange a belt full of chimes, the second dancer moves harder.
Some of the dancers must certainly have HIV. I watch, I'm struck, today I must have greeted several people who will die.
The beats come back up, and I'm hypnotized. I've never seen this scene before. In no oil painting or anywhere else. Only Conrad's paragraphs have come close.