Ikenga- Episode 1

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IKENGA
Ikenga- Episode 1

Theme: (The Demon I Saw)

By Praise Chidera Obiora 


I stopped and turned back in terror. I was frightened and was panting like a thirsty dog. I began to
look into the thick bushes with my eyes shining like that of a newly washed lantern. I walked
backwards hoping to catch a sight of what was chasing me behind, but yet I could see nothing.
The frightening sound seemed to have stopped. Nothing seemed to be moving through the bushes any longer. I turned back and ran as fast as my legs could carry me. I ran with all the strength I
had. I held tightly onto my Red juicy Igbuala mangoes.
I was not ready to loose anyone of my freshly plucked mangoes. At least not after the whole risk I
had taken to come all the way to Igbuala to plug this fruit.
They were four in total, the red mangoes. I had intended making them five but I couldn't when I
realised that my pockets where already filled up. I had tucked them into my pockets so that non fell
on the road side while I ran.
"Ikenga.... Ikenga.." A soft voice whispered in my ears as I kept running.
It almost felt like the person was running effortlessly right beside me. I felt the breath touch my
ears softly. I heard the voice clearly.
Like a soldier, I halted and turned round in fright. My eyes hovered around in search of the one
who had called my name. All I saw was the thick push. I saw the thick grasses.
"Who are you? What do you want from me? Show yourself. I command you in the name of the
gods of Agugu to show yourself." I shouted pretending to be bold.
The voice laughed like a tickled child. It was the laugh of a feminine voice. It echoed from the
distance. It sounded like I was in an empty room. I felt my legs shiver. I felt my bones suddenly
grow cold. I turned to run but suddenly collided with a huge tree.
The tree looked like one which had appeared behind me. I never noticed it. I didn't even see it
from a distance. It was a fruitless tree with seven branches which had green broad leaves and
plenty of sharp pointed thick thorns.
This tree seemed to have been planted right beside me. I hid behind the tree and kept looking at
the far distance in search of the voice. My eyes searched piercingly through the bush.
It was then I saw something. It ran through the bushes in a circular form. At first I thought it was a
snake. But when it began to stop in the bush, and run again, I decided this was something
strange. I stretched my hand trying to reach for a huge stone that lay beside me.
The strange animal which I could not see, headed in my direction. I jumped up, holding firmly unto
one of the branches of the fruitless tree.
I quivered in fear when I saw a white rabbit run pass me. I heaved a sigh. This rabbit was big. It
was the exact size the hunters sold for four piece of cowries at the Agugu market day. They would
tie it up with the blood of the animal gushing out of its neck. The freshly slain rabbits cost ten pieces of cowries. If a hunter was to bring the rabbits fresh and alive, it would cost even more.
The white rabbits where the most expensive. They were said to be the first creations of the gods.
A hunter who brought white rabbits to the market to sell was going to leave such a place a wealthy
man.
I jumped down from the tree and began to wonder why this rabbit was chasing me all along? If
only I had a spear, a net or a bow and arrow, I was going to strike this rabbit for causing me so
much fear. I will skin it alive, and watch it quiver in fear too. After that, I will roast it and make a
sweet pepper soup spiced with Utazi leaves for grandma to eat from.
I turned round to walk away when the strange voice sounded yet again.
"Ikengaaaa.... Ikeee...." The voice called out in whispers.
"Please who are you. Show your face. Show your face now. Stop hiding. Stop being a coward." I
shouted.
The bush path was a long path to the village it was not even a short cut that could get me back
home. This was a very long cut.
I had opted to take this path back home instead of the normal road the villagers usually took,
because I didn't want to be seem by anyone. I didn't want to be seen with the red Igbuala mangos
by any villager.
This was the exact road the seven widows of Agugu, who had killed their husbands were slain by
the gods. Their bodies were rumoured to have been found in this same bush path years ago.
I also heard those stories when I was just a child. Mama had told me the stories of the seven
widows and how they planned to kill their husbands, even before she told me the stories of the red
Igbuala mangoes.
That day, I sat down right beside grandma and watched as she struggled to finish her bitter cola
first. She loved bitter cola so much. She said bitter cola helped control her blood pressure. She
would chew it every morning and night like chewing gum. It served as her chewing stick when she
woke up in the early hours of the morning, and her companion in the afternoon.
Grandma says there is so much lesson to learn from chewing the bitter cola. She said the first
lesson was to realise that nothing last forever. Not even the bitterness from the cola would last
forever. The second lesson was to know that at the end of every bitter cola, comes the sweet taste
at the back of the tongue. She said their is always a sweet part of life behind every bitter taste.
I didn't understand what she meant. I had never chewed a bitter cola before. But from the name,
"bitter Cola" I could tell that it was bitter.
When she was done, she dusted her hands and spat the shaft of the bitter cola on the floor. She
lifted her falling wrapper up to cover the top of her fallen breast and coughed to clear her throat.
"Ike are you ready for my story now?" She asked.
"Yes mama. Tell me about the seven widows who killed their husbands."
"Once upon a time, there lived seven proud beautiful married women from the seven tribes of
Agugu. They were proud and very boastful. Because they were proud, they were also very
stubborn."
"It was a tradition to hold a wife picking festival for the single maidens in the town. This festival
was graced by the rich and handsome men who came from far and near, hoping to pick a wife
back home. Their bride price was paid in full, and their beautiful wife taken with them
immediately."
"This seven beautiful women, whose beauty was given in abundance by Agundaobi the God of
beauty and love, felt that their husbands where ugly, poor and not deserving of their beauty. They
women also wanted to participate in the wife picking festival, so that they could marry rich and
worthy men from other great kingdoms. And so, they thought on what to do as the festival drew
closer."
"Each of them made up their minds to kill their husbands, so as to be able to participate in the wife
picking festival. There after, they shall mourn their husbands for a short period, and finally be
qualified to join in the picking festival. They all planned different strategies of death which was
executed."
"Their plans were executed successfully and their husbands died a painful death. Months after
mourning, they joined in the wife picking festival and danced with all their hearts. Flaunting their
waste, and shaking their breast to draw the attention of men towards them."
"Agundaobi the god of beauty and love, who had watched in silence as these events took place
was annoyed with them. He struck them with madness and made the widows run into the bushes.
It was there that the gods struck them dead and buried them himself. But no one knew how or
where he had buried them."
There was still something missing in the story grandma had told me. I wanted to know how they
both killed their husbands. I wanted a vivid picture of how this women looked like. But grandma
ended the story just like that. I knew she was hiding something from me. It was something she didn't want me to know yet. Her story was rushed and didn't sound like other stories she had
always told me about. Grandma had only told me the exact bush they were buried.
This was the bush. This was the place. But no one knew the grave of this widows were buried.
I brought out a red Igbuala mango from my pocket to eat. I was hungry and now very thirsty. I
leaned on the fruitless tree with seven branches. I bit a mouth full of the red mango, and sucked
the sweet juice from it.
I chewed the mango in delight and closed my eyes so as to savour the sweet taste coming from
the Igbuala red mangoes. This was the sweetest mango I had ever eaten. No other mangos in
Agugu tasted like this one. No wonder Ijeoma could not get enough of the sweet fruit.
I was about taking the next bite, when I suddenly felt the rough tree I was leaning on, suddenly
grow soft. Its softness was very comforting but yet strange. I felt the tree move slowly and dance
on my back as I chewed the red Igbuala mangoes.
I lifted my head to find one of the thick thorns that laid beside me, now metamorphosed into a
baby snake. I shrieked and shifted.
I lifted my eyes up to find the seven branches of the tree turn into a snake with seven giant heads.
Each of the seven heads had two huge horns and very sharp teeth's. The many thorns on the
body of this giant snake with one body, now looked like warms folding up against each other.
I stood up to face it. When I had caught the full sight of this dreadful creature, I screamed in terror
but fell backwards almost immediately.
I threw the last red Igbuala mangoes into my mouth and chewed it hurriedly while I struggled to
crawl away from the snake.
The snake tree grew taller but could not uproot itself from the floor. Its seven head extended
towards me and rounded me up. I swallowed the red Igbuala mangoes in a hurry and shouted in
terror.
"Leave me alone. Leave me alone. I have done nothing to you. Leave me."
"Ikengaaaa... Ikengaaa" the strange voice spoke again in echoes.
My Heart beat increased as I watched the seven heads of the giant snake crawl towards me.
To be continued....

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