‘What is an untimely death?’ asked Thoko.
‘I think,’ I said, scratching my head, ‘that God has set a definite date when He’s coming to get you. So if you die sooner, or even later, your death must be untimely.’
‘I don’t think that’s possible,’ she retorted. ‘You’re suggesting that the departed person has managed to defy God’s will, and has managed to change the pre-ordained date of departure. That just ain’t possible, because God is all knowing and all powerful.’
‘Well,’ I said, ‘I would agree that such a thing is extremely improbable, but it’s not entirely impossible. Perhaps you have never heard of the strange untimely death of King Umpire in Malabwe.’
‘Umpire!’ laughed Thoko. ‘Was he a referee?’
‘Any good king has to be a good umpire,’ I explained. ‘Every country always has different opposing parties, such as the Ups and the Downs, the North and the South, the Capitalists and the Workers, the Thinkers and the Bonkers. A king has to be the Umpire, so he can mediate between the two sides, get them all to work together for everybody’s general benefit, in order to achieve One Malabwe One Nation.’
‘So did the people say King Umpire’s death was untimely because he died before he had finished his good work?’
‘Oh no, they definitely never said anything like that. You see the problem with him was that, although he worked for many years as a good Umpire, in the end he got corrupted.’
‘So what happened?’ wondered Thoko. ‘Did the Umpire turn into Backfire?’
‘It was more horrific than that,’ I said sadly. ‘Umpire turned into a Vampire!’
‘On no!’ squealed Thoko. ‘How did that happen?’
‘It happened because he had surrounded himself with bootlickers, sychophants and praise singers. So one day his personal sangoma said to him, O King, you are such a wise Umpire, you must rule Malabwe for ever! Now the king, who had an exceptionally high regard for his own abilities, replied Of course you are right, I only wish I could, but it is not possible.
‘The sangoma didn’t reply. But he knew different. He knew that the secret of everlasting life was to drink human blood.
‘That night a beautiful young woman slipped into the king’s bedroom, and she wasn’t wearing much, except a very nice smile.’
‘Oh dear,’ said Thoko, ‘she was a vampire.’
‘Exactly,’ I said. ‘And so the king also became a vampire, and developed a terrible thirst for human blood.’
‘But on the other hand,’ Thoko pointed out, ‘if he lived forever he could also rule forever, and the Malabwian people would always be happy with his wise rule!’
‘It wasn’t as simple as that,’ I explained. ‘In the daytime he remained the wise King Umpire, but during the night he became the terrible King Vampire. During the day he smiled and cut ribbons, laid foundations stones and inspected guards of honour. But at night he prowled the shadows of the back streets, waiting to pounce on innocent virgins, sinking his long incisor teeth into their jugular veins, and sucking the blood out of them.’
‘So now he wasn’t so popular?’
‘The people soon found out that there were two kings – the Wise Umpire and the Thirsty Vampire. The first was working for the people, but the second was sucking their blood. Things went seriously wrong when the king tried to suck the blood out of the American ambassador. All the donors fled, and the king was left with insufficient money to run the country.’
‘So hadn’t the king now passed his sell-by date?’ wondered Thoko. ‘What had happened to God’s pre-ordained date for his departure?’
‘Tut tut,’ I said. ‘Doesn’t your mother send you to church to understand these things? The king was now outside God’s control. He had joined the Devil so that he could live forever. But as the life of the king was getting longer and longer, the life of the people was getting shorter and shorter. His blood supply was running out.’
‘So did the people rise against his bloody government?’
‘When they went to protest in Uhuru Square, the Vampire King sent his police with their guns. There was such a bloodbath that the king and all his ministers, parasites, bloodsuckers and vampires had a very good feast.’
‘Couldn’t anybody stop him?’ asked Thoko
‘The country could only be saved by Princess Wobbly Juicy, because she was the only member of the royal household who had not become a vampire.’
‘How had she managed to protect herself?’
‘She was so fat that the king couldn’t find any of her veins. She managed to escape from the palace, and went on a long journey to plead with the famous Prophet Tuberculosis, popularly known as TB. Her mission was successful, for he immediately predicted a miracle within 60 days.’
‘You mean death within sixty days.’
‘Exactly. And sure enough, at mid-day on the fifty-ninth day, as the king was sleeping peacefully in his coffin, a flash of lightening struck the palace, breaking the roof beams into many large splinters. One of these splinters went straight through the heart of the king. And that, of course, is the only way to kill a vampire.’
‘So was that an untimely death?’ asked Thoko.
‘Of course it was! Most untimely! A vampire is supposed to live forever! But King Vampire died very young, at the age of only eighty-eight!’