In the far south-west corner in Uganda lies Lake Bunyonyi, surrounded by the striking scenery of the steep hills and glimmering deep blue waters. Packed with gripping views from every angle, there are a few patches of forest surrounded by small villages, each with a local healer. Most villages are isolated from others but being in one is fun, with children playing, singing, and dancing. Some are looking after crops as it their only source of food on the high hills surrounding the lake.
There are all types of birds flying around but the most common are the lethal crows, flying above Akampene Island also known as Punishment Island. Punishment Island is where no one dares to go, as the spirits of dead women haunt it. The island is tiny. Out of the only two trees on this island, one tree is already dead, no more, no less.
It is very quiet, except for a scary wind which brushes around you: you not only hear screams of pain, you also smell death.
The lake was very deep and dark. There was something circling the tiny island waiting for a new prey to come. It was the monster, Akumbe, with red eyes and luminescent orange skin. It had four hands on a snake-like body, with two legs and it could walk and swim. With long, sharp canine teeth, this creature would kill anything that came its way, including innocent girls who were banished to this island.
They were sent there only when they would get pregnant before marriage. This was thought to be a lesson for the other girls to deter them from getting pregnant before marriage. This was a tradition started thousands of years ago, when a man called John Makumbe, and his wife, Marie Makumbe, had a daughter called Eve. They lived on Kyahugye Island. She was a humble little girl with dreams to become like her father, the leader of the tribe. She thought she was strong and beautiful. She got everything she wanted, like beads for making crafts. She loved making crafts. She also wanted to learn how to swim, but no-one in her tribe knew how to, so her dad promised when she would turn eleven he would find someone to teach her.
Time passed by and Eve eagerly awaited for her eleventh birthday. Nine months earlier when she had turned ten her problems began. She fell ill and started getting pot belly, making her stomach bulge. Her parents thought she was just getting fat. A day before her eleventh birthday, John had an inkling that she might be pregnant. He took her straight to Bushara Island where the best traditional healer lived. She was pregnant, not knowing of the disease called pot-belly. John was so angry that he locked her up in the hut and gave her nothing on her birthday, May 19th.
She pleaded with her dad to release her from the hut and also tried to remind him of his promise.
“Keep quiet, Eve. You have betrayed us. Now forget about swimming. You’re never coming out of that hut,” shouted John.
With that, Eve kept quiet, not saying a word. It was May 20th, the day after Eve’s birthday John came up with a plan, believing that his daughter was dishonoring his family and tribe. He thought that if he sent her to Akampene Island, Punishment Island the real name of the island, then it would teach other girls to avoid getting pregnant before marriage.
Eve was still in the small hut. At night, her mum had sneaked in and given her some makotke and beans, her favorite. The next morning, she heard whispers outside the door; her mum and dad talking.
“I have made up my mind; I am sending her to Akampene Island, Where she will die of hunger, or drown. It will also teach the other girls in the tribe a lesson. I declare this a new rule,” John was telling Marie.
“No. you can’t do that John she’s your daughter, our only child and you want to kill her. We will die without her,” Marie answered shocked by what she was hearing from this loving man whom she married with love.
It was a dark gloomy night on May 21th when John opened the door to Eve’s locked hut. When she came out, she saw the whole tribe was there in tears and her mum was sobbing. She didn’t understand why. John put Eve on the canoe and took her to Akampene Island and left his only child there.
“Eve, I am leaving you here to die because you disobeyed us,” exclaimed John. With that, he left.
Eve fainted in disbelief. John didn’t care and started canoeing back. After two strokes; he froze, realizing what he had done. Tying to turn back, he had a heart attack, fell off the boat, and drowned. All of a sudden, there was a bright luminescent orange light all over the gloomy sky and then a big roar of fury. John had been cursed for sending his daughter to Akampene Island. With that he had been turned into a monster. Akumbe.
After the roar Eve woke up not knowing that her dad had become a monster. She was so scared because she had never slept or done anything in the dark; she always had a candle. She sobbed until she almost choked, telling herself that she was not pregnant. She did not know what was wrong with herself but knew she was not pregnant. She had the pot-belly disease, but no one knew about that in her tribe.
She tried to go to sleep. She was almost asleep when she suddenly heard a stick crack. She froze, noticing that the settled water was full of choppy waves. There was something watching her, she was sure of it. She could see the red eyes behind the long grass. At last, she went to sleep. In the morning, with more energy, she tried finding something to eat.
“You won’t find anything. Don’t even try,” said a mysterious crow from above the tree.
“How? How do you talk? Who are you?” Eve stuttered.
“My name is Pearl Kigongo and I died six years ago. Whoever dies with torture in the area of Lake Bunyonyi will become a crow and live on this island. I’m not alone. These are my friends,” gesturing to the rest of the crows, the crows answered. “We can help you live long, but in the end you will join us. You will not be able to live long as the monster, Akumbe, has risen, and is planning to kill you,” the crows continued.
Marie waited until morning for John to return until morning but he didn’t return. Being so worried she sent a search party.
“I want you men to track my husband’s canoe and find him. And, as you pass Akampene Island, just check on Eve, from a far distance,” Marie demanded of the searches.
At Akampene, Eve was still talking to the crows, wanting to know more about their lives. Pearl had become like Eve’s best friend, confiding everything in each other.
“I was tortured by my elder step-brother and not loved by my parents,” said pearl, telling her sad story to Eve. “My real dad died when I was only five years old. Me and mum lived alone for about ten months until she met Comfort, my step-dad. Suddenly, my whole world changed when mum and Comfort got married. I was seven, and my step-brother, Oscar, was nineteen. He treated me as a slave and caned me. Mum and dad never cared. He locked me up in a hut for about three days, and only my dad’s sister would sneak in and get me food to eat. It went on for five years and I did not say a word until I was eleven, Oscar told me to get something and I refused so he strangled me to death. And when I died my sprit entered a crow’s body. Oscar never told mum and dad that he had murdered me. He said I ran away. I still fly over my old house to check on mum and dad, but whenever I see Oscar visit them, I poop on him. When we know someone is going to die, we are allowed to talk to them, just like you,” said Pearl, thinking back with nostalgia.
Eve understood how it felt to be abandoned at the age of eleven. Her crow friends told her they were going to get some fruits from the big islands.
The search party had left and was on their way to find John and check on Eve. They were close to Akampene when they saw Eve blabbering in thin air. She was actually talking to the crows, her new family for the rest of her life. The sailors were very close to the island, all laughing.
“John’s daughter has lost her mind: she will die soon, for sure,” they were saying to each other.
There was something circling the canoes. The water was choppy. They could see an outline of a bright orange creature getting closer. All of a sudden, the creature, Akumbe, bashed the canoes and they capsized. He ate each and every man and in just thirty seconds they were no. Marie got worried for whole eight hours because the search party hadn’t returned. She knew something was wrong. Not wanting to risk anyone else’s lives, she just gave up and wept. Her life was over.
The sun was setting as Eve’s crow friends returned with a few fruits. She ate a banana and was full, so she tried to sleep. Pearl and the rest of the crows were already asleep. Eve knew this was the last night of her life; she saw the red eyes again and knew it was Akumbe.
“I’m here Eve. It’s time for you to die, Eve. Are you ready?” Akumbe hissed.
He slithered towards her with his mouth open bite off Eve’s left leg. She tried to defend herself but couldn’t, it took two minutes for her own dad, Akumbe to eat her alive.
At that very moment, a new crow landed on the tree. Akumbe sobbed and howled, regretting what he had done- killing people, the people of his own tribe. He howled after each of the many he had killed. To this day, he circles Akampene waiting to punish the new arrivals.
In the dark of night, especially when the wind dies down you can hear Akumbe’s howls of regret.
The tiny Punishment Island!