Me, Tiger and the excitable village pigs
Cultural paradox: Cash & the sovereign fund

Who got custody of Dorigi’s soul?


An entry in The Crocodile Prize

THE APPOINTMENT WITH DEATH will happen for each human sooner or later, and for Dorigi his was scheduled for one stormy night. That fateful night approached from the east on the wings of the thunder storm forcing the last rays of sun to concede a fast retreat across the sea and over the horizon.

In his small hut beside the main family dwelling, Dorigi was drifting in and out of restless sleep. Beside him, his 250 watt battery powered lamp valiantly kept the fingers of the dark at bay.  For Dorigi, the day was over, he was doing his home run after 83 long years of living and after ten offspring from the vigor of his youth, 30 grand offspring and an increasing number of great grand offspring.

By the local standard, Dorigi had done well, he had been successful in multiplying his superior genes, but importantly, he had accomplished the mission of his life.   

But the home run was a solitary journey.  Just like in his mother’s womb 83 years ago, his world was once again dimly cocooned in his mosquito net in his little hut, his world already grey from the losing battle with cataracts in both eyes; his ears uninterested in the muffled conversations from the family hearth. His dehydrated skin was cool and dry like moulted snake skin hanging limp from his bony frame. His awareness of life was measured by the pain in his bones; pain even his mattress could not cushion.

The home run was also a waiting game, waiting for the darkness to close in, waiting for his heart to cease beating. The wait was also a time of reckoning. As a young man in his time, Dorigi was tall and solidly built and fearless like leaders of old who commanded attention through their physical presence at tribal councils.  Dorigi was touted to be one such leader and was mentored accordingly to carry on the secrets of his clan; secrets of hunting, secrets of sorcery - secrets zealously guarded by the headman of his clan. 

At that point in Dorigi’s life, a new influence was also infiltrating his tribal land. A carpenter from the tribe of Judah was recruiting men to become fishermen. The carpenter was giving men power over the spoken word and was sending them out as fishermen - not for fish but for human souls. 

Dorigi turned down the offer of the seat in the tribal council, and chose to follow the Jewish carpenter whose reward for collecting human souls was a promise – a promise of eternal life and a big house in an undetermined location.  It was a challenging life trawling for souls, but the alluring promise of life everlasting and a big house kept Dorigi going and that was how he spent the prime of his life. 

Fast forward in time and here he was, cocooned in his darkened hut, a frail bag of bones but a proud one. His bony chest lined with invisible medals collected from the many human souls he had caught. His hope was now on the promise of a big house and a new lease on life, where his bones and muscles would be made vibrant again.   Visions of dramatic exits on chariots of fire flashed before his eyes, dreams of vanishing into thin air, like in the stories of the faithful gone before him filled his imagination. The pain in his bones brought him back to reality, robbing him of the escape of his fantasy.

Words from his tribal mentors could not stop playing in his head. Under the cover of darkness, he had been told, the spirits of those gone ahead come to get the souls of those made unwary by old age or illness and to entice those undecided between the world of the living and the dead. Every soul must then stand before the tribal council to be judged for a place in the big village.

The beginning of the end for Dorigi started early that evening. That evening air was motionless yet charged with electricity from the approaching thunder storm. Anxious mothers gathered their family together and prepared for an early night.  After the evening meal while younger people crawled to bed, the older folks, who had lived through numerous births and deaths, stared into the dying embers of the fire and wondered if the approaching storm was a thousand warriors coming to take their reluctant souls to the tribal council.

The storm flashed lightning after lightning, painting flickering paths over the sea, paving the way for the accompanying rumbles of thunder. After a while, the storm reached land, lightning flashed and thunder boomed and the wind mercilessly shook fragile shacks at their wooden foundations.  Meanwhile, back in his hut, Dorigi ran a high fever, his body parched; his whole being craving water - delicious, cooling, thirst quenching water so abundantly flowing all around his little hut. He tossed and turned and squirmed as much as his stiff joints would allow. He rasped out indistinct words through cracked lips, pleading release from his burning carcass, pleading for merciful water to carry him to blessed rest. 

After a while he calmed into an erratic sleep, and as the vestiges of the storm accompanied the night in its last lap into dawn, the end happened for Dorigi - he exhaled his last breath from his dehydrated lips.

The rain had petered out, the wind had calmed down and the electricity of the storm discharged, when the rooster crowed its first watch. The death wail shortly after that from Dorigi’s hut confirmed that a passing over had taken place during the storm.

Older people who survived the night swore on the graves of their fathers that they heard the echo of conch shell in the early hours of the morning. Was it a conch shell summoning the prodigal son to appear before the tribal council? It could also have been a welcome trumpet into a new life. It remains a secret of the night as to who finally got custody of Dorigi’s soul.


TANYA ZERIGA-ALONE writes: I am a granddaughter of early PNG missionaries (from the 1960s)who moved from the Morobe Province to the Eastern Highlands Province. My upbringing was in the Eastern Highlands, but I am gradually getting to know my Morobe roots after my late grandfather retired and moved back home. But I like to think of myself as Papua New Guinean as I have visited and worked in most provinces.

I have a post-graduate degree in environmental science and work with an NGO as an environment conservation planner/researcher. I am married to a patriotic Papua New Guinean. In my free time I like taking photographs and sewing meri blouses. I like music and reading biographies and fiction with good storylines. I am interested in politics.


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Robin Lillicrapp

Well done, Tanya.

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