Victims – Episode 5
A Story By Rosemary Okafor
“The iyi-uwa that brought us all to life is buried deep inside this tree’’ one of the old men surrounding the huge Iroko tree said to her, pointing at the tree.
“This tree gave birth to us millions of years ago, she is the mother of all mothers” another spoke
“Look! The mother is pregnant again, and is about to deliver to life, our children!” a third Man spoke.
The cloud suddenly went dark around them, except for the beards and the white linens of the Men, darkness descended on them like the mighty hands of chukwuokike. Right before them, heaven opened her mouth, and one of her mighty princes descended on the Iroko tree, tearing the heavens with lightening and a loud cry that announces his presence. As quick as it came, the mother of all mothers gave out a deafening scream and opened her trunk.
“Come and see” one of the men held her hand and led her closer to the tree. She saw large numbers of young men, coming out of the tree, but as soon as they had their first breath of air, they picked axes and started shredding to pieces, the belly of the mother of all mothers.
“They are searching for the iyi-uwa that binds us all together; their mission is to cut it to pieces. They have been blinded by the strange wind around them, as soon as they find the Iyi-uwa, it is finished.”
The cry of agony from the Iroko tree filled her ears, for every stroke of the axe on the tree, she feels the sharp pain on her abdomen, as the tree bleeds so does she bleed. She let out a loud scream and the vision disappeared.
Ukwuoma woke up with an excruciating pain in her stomach, probably, the beans she eat earlier in the day has decided to come rioting in her stomach, but this time, it chooses to come with all the machineries of warfare, her body greased with her own sweat.
She looked at Ogugua her son, who turns from left to right while sleeping as if he was fighting with an unseen spirit.
The stab of sharp pain in her stomach hit her again, following a strong urge to visit the toilet. This would be the first time she would be visiting the toilet since she settled with her son in the camp, the first day she wanted to do the business, all the feces in her gut went on strike at the sight of the poor state of the public toilets constructed for them.
She quickly stood up and ran out of the tent, leaving behind thunderous murmuring from her buttocks. Without much care about how dirty the place would be, she relieved herself.
The night was cool and body soothing, with beautiful stars above, she walked inside the tent, met Ogugua still sleeping peacefully “how easy it is for him to adapt” she thought, not being in a hurry to abandon the pleasure of watching the stars and the romance from the cool hands of the night, she walked back outside.
There was a man seated on a dead wood few steps away from her, he has always sat on that spot, no one could say exactly when he came to the camp, people said he has never uttered any word since arrived, neither has anyone ever seen him eat anything, so frail and weak he was his look, his eyes, like that of a frog that was hit on a hard rock looked steadily at nothing, yet held so much stories.
Ukwuoma drew closer to him, for every step she took, she seemed to see this man clearer, she could easily count his ribs, his bones hung like branches of ‘osisi ukpaka’ his eyes looked steadily at hers, searching , beckoning, so she came closer and closer, until she sat beside him, he threw her no glace, neither did he blink.
Both sat there, in silence they sat, the wind soothed their pains, wrapped in the turbulences within them, the night became their Chi that listens even when no word was uttered.
Suddenly he uttered words, so faint was his voice yet so spell bounding, he was muttering to himself, but Ukwuoma listened to every word;
“Once there was this village where everybody was blind” he said “both big and small, old and young, male and female, people were colliding against things and each other, but no one was complaining, to the villagers, that was the way of life. Night and day, they happily wallowed in their blindness, their outstretched arms were their eyes, as they only felt their ways around, even though that was never enough, but they cared less. One day, a handsome young stranger came to that village, at first he was surprised at the great darkness enjoyed by this community, for so great was their blindness, then he became uncomfortable with the blindness, since he was blessed with the power of sight and light, he decided to help the community but they rejected his help, he tried talking to some of them so he could help them revive their sights, but he was seen as a strange fellow who did not understand the ways of the land, to the villagers, humans were supposed to be blind!
He fell in love with a maiden of that community who was the fairest of them all even though she was blind. But the lady could not come to him though she was also attracted to this stranger, because he was different, and was avoided by everyone in the village. Every day he went for this lady, the lady would feel his face and still found his bright eyes, she would push him away and turn her back on him. His heart hurt, his head sick, his love too heavy to ignore, his eyes became his woe, his once perfect heavenly gift of sight and light became a bad fire burning his every existence, a curse to him. Sitting with loneliness wrapped around him, he decided to do one thing in other to be accepted, give back to the gods what they gave him, first, he screamed to the gods to take back their gift, the earth shook, the lightening blasted, the thunders roared, his gift was taking away from him, then he plucked his eyes out, put them in a fancy jar, and took it to his fair lady as a gift.
The lady felt the gift, felt his face, felt the fresh blood streaming from the holes, she smiled, put her hands around him and welcomed him. He was accepted, and the whole village threw a party for him. A party of blind people, everyone hitting their heads on something or someone, yet they care less”
Ukwuoma waited to hear more of the story, what happened to the stranger and his love, what became of the community later, but the old man was done with his story, he would say no more, they both sat there with no more word.
Ukwuoma felt tear rolled down her eyes, she did not know how but she heard her heart calling out for the young stranger, she wept for the handsome stranger, she wept for the community, she wept for the old man, for herself, for her children hanging at the altar of Ra, he child sleeping and stocked in between two worlds.
Slowly she walked back to the tent, she did not look back but she knew the old man was still seated there, she felt his eyes burning her flesh.
As she was about to enter the tent, she heard a noise from a corner, she would have ignored but she wasn’t in a hurry to give up her soul to sleep. So she went to see, moving before her in the darkness was the young officer whose teeth was stained with tobacco, whose sweat smell of parboiled beans, and whose took her flesh as an exchange for a plate of food for Ogugua.
He was struggling to lay a little girl, who was wiggling like a worm in a fish hook under him, her appearance made him stop abruptly, giving the little girl the chance to wiggle out of him, gathering her torn cloths and hurried away before the office could stop her.
She looked hard at the little girls, recognition hit both of them, the girl lowered her gaze, muttered something and ran out.
The officer stood up from the floor, walked towards her, she was afraid of him, she wanted to walk away in a hurry but her leg couldn’t obey her.
He flashed his torch light on her face; she blinked severally as the harsh light blinded her;
“Sweet ‘kpomo’ as you don make my meat for this night go, make I do you na” he said thrusting his hard joystick in-between her laps.
She stood like a tree with many things going on in her mind, he grabbed her face, forced his tongue inside her mouth, without thinking she bit his tongue and he withdrew from her immediately, tasting his own blood.
“I don dey watch you since, pray say you no enter my trap, I go deal with you… and if I hear ‘pin’ about watin you see this night eh, na me go kill you, ashawo ” he said and walk away.
She could hear Anger and threat in his voice; she shivered a little with fear, knowing that as long as she was in that Barrack with no husband and no money, he has powers over her.
That night she dreamt of headless figures, wallowing in darkness, with their outstretched arms as their sights, the feel their ways through while moving, dead men walking.
• * * * * * * *
Call me a wonderer and I will answer
Call me a tale bearer and I will answer
Since I lost my muscles and my fair lady,
All I do is scavenge for my daily meal,
While I bear old women’s tales.
I meet two shadows in the dark,
On my quest for a morsel to fill my stomach,
They were dancing a special kind of dance,
That kind of dance I once saw my late mother danced with my father,
One shadow was bent behind the other’s swollen buttocks.
I drew closer to the shadows,
Their voices were familiar,
The voice of the soldier that nearly smashed me with his boot today,
He plucked what was remaining of my antenna,
And made my misery great,
Then the voice of Mama Ikwu,
The woman whose massive breasts dangle like two large paw-paw,
Her back abdomen reminds me of that of our lazy queen,
Whose abdomen requires a separate room.
With my burden balanced on my head, I made towards my tiny hole of loneliness,
Behold Mama Ikwu with a plate filled with creamy substance,
She was the envy of other women as she proudly fed her children with her gain,
“A generous soldier gave me these’’ she said to her Mate (husband)
“A soldier that danced on your back abdomen’’ I said
I turned towards the corner of that sorrowful woman,
She was not there, but her sorrow sat like an idol at the spot she normally sits,
How beautiful was this sorrow,
It drew me closer to itself, with its alluring eyes it beckons,
The burden on my head and the rumbling in my stomach brought me back,
I crewed back to my hole, where loneliness awaits me, to eat the bread of pains
And wait for my dying day.
To be continued