I DIED! Pitifully sprawled. She warned me!
Resting breathless at the crossroad. It was a familiar spot I had passed much too often, when I still had my body. The road has not changed, only that I now float across it, from one part of the forest to another. Now obvious that I am free, able to soar higher than I ever imagined; a new kind of sprint no mortal can enjoy.
My shell lay supine on the ground, limbless and fast-shrinking out of sight. The ripe carcass for birds and worms; did I see a turtledove fly above the dirty streams, past the gable of my house? Did I see it hit the eaves with a resounding clap that almost thundered off the roof? How come it flaps its wings on the ground, struggling for breath and life, just by the left temple of my head? I had thought of a mischief at play, the second skin of mortals and I reasoned the birds had started to take up the nature of man. They ate man’s meal and walked his paths; they serenaded to sustain their loves, danced his styles and howled when in pain. So it was easy that I thought that the dying bird was at a game to deceive the world into eating my carcass. I was moved to raise an alarm, and avert the bird’s plan, ‘but what for?’ I had thought later. The carcass was not me; the spirit was me. No bird eats spirits! I needed to come to grips with my death; no more a mortal with the usual selfish and fearful outlook.
I turned around to make my final exit from the world of familial mortals, observant and patiently waiting vultures, that had congregated round the carcass, when my propping eye, if the spirits are allowed one, caught the glimpse of a foot stamping the hapless bird. It went flat with the earth. Coming up, I could behold only adulterated blood and feathers. It was the foot of an elderly woman, whose skirt revealed the black colour of darkness. And the blowse only the shade of the skirt. The contrast was brilliant between her apparel and her yellow face. Even the ear and the inner parts of her nostrils did not betray the fact her fairness. Her fingers and big toes protruding out of torn gloves and stockings only serve to confirm her off-black complexion. She looked alien, in posture and attitude. In our small residential space, where we enjoy a savage existence, no one is so cruel as to kill a bird, not even an ant. But she did! She must be a witch; or a spirit transformed into human form. She had a terrifying, blended with an exhausted, look on her face. Tears had cascaded and dried down her face. If I looked well, I think I saw a dried wax of teardrop looking out her jaw. A young man scurried toward the disappearing bird, drooped at the spot and intoned silently, “Na so we go dey dey?” He must be from the neighbouring village, where they respected nature more than we did. He spoke in a language they wouldn’t understand, meaning to ask, “For how long shall we keep being cruel?
The fair woman in the colour of darkness repeated the words, “Na so we go dey dey?” and burst into a round of fresh wailings. Without giving thought to it, she keeled over my corpse, grabbing my shoulder and shaking me vigorously, as if to rouse me from sleep. I was moved to return into my lifeless shell, but the Rubicon of life had been crossed. I have joined the waters that are human, the stars that confer, and the humans that eat in the heart of the Sun. No going back! I wept for the lady, but no tears came, no crinkles formed on my face, no heart to feel love and pity, no weep in essence. I shrugged with the power of the spirits, and pierced the skin of the lady, I came to a land I had passed so many times, the scent of the forest is familiar, the ocean is red and I have drunk of it; she was my wife. She abruptly got up, with a warrior-like mien, looking far ahead of her. Words came, as from the holy mouth of a Prophet berating the crooked world of Noah’s angelic giants and wayward mistresses. She spoke like the heaven’s release of thunder. Too sure of her words and thoughts, “I WARNED HIM!” As if she was proud to have predicted my fall and death if I did not hearken to her advice, “I warned him just yesterday, but he wouldn’t listen.” She stormed out of the heart of the crossroad, and everyone trailed behind her out of sight.
The carcass was left, and my spirit was neglected to fly by itself. My transformation had become to my wife a glory; a thing to pride herself in; her shrewd foresight and ability to guide man’s actions. She had suddenly become the talk of the town; the one unassuming sorcerer; the prophetess with the wand of authority. She would go round bragging about her divine knowledge. And establishing the indispensability of her advice became her occupation. She would tell how my refusal to yield her advice had led to my doom; the eventual loss of my breath. I DIED, and she was proud…
She had warned me not to be radical in my views, to be silent on issues bordering on strong political activities and affecting the lives of the people. She had sternly warned me in order to protect me. I looked beyond all that and saw my blood purging the people of long sufferings, of abject poverty, of squalid existence and of unredeemable presence. I heard my voice bringing down the scales of ignorance and paving, like the cutlass of Ogun, the path to the world of reality and greatness. I have seen the people’s feet stamping my ragged body into the dark undergrounds that they may stand high and behold the lights. I have waited for that time and it came, when the people went gaga, throwing the gage and gaping the mouths of the bourgeoisie at a revolt. The time to violently seize power from the oppressor, as of the hosts of heavens that suffereth violence. The time when the expropriators are expropriated by the once expropriated.
My wife, Moradeke, had warned me not to join the revolt; not to fight the authority; not to speak – not to do evil; not to be angry. She had advised me to be calm and indifferent; to give my life to an unknown power of the world; to surrender my entire will to the dictates of legends that lived in a different culture several hundreds of years ago. Viewing stolidly the world with much serenity and childish foolishness would make me see nothing of it, but myself alone, my heart without others – a selfish adventure that benefits all but none and oneself. She had advised me because she needed me around; she liked my jokes, my face, my touch, and would not trade me for the suffering of the masses. She saw the love we shared greater than the love I had for humanity. She advised but I died.
I died, not to her branded knowledge but to her unknown ignorance. I died not to war but to seeming cowardice. I died, not at the battlefront, claiming victory for the oppressed but in the cosy air of a church. I died in a church, where Moradeke had recommended. I died after the war; after the victory had been won; after the poor had assumed leadership. I died in church. I died to the water that was said to be divine; the water that was collected from the flowing stream; the water that settles with a candle in a ribbon-tied bottle. The Head of the Church had given me the water to drink as a follow-up to the purging of my sins, the salvation of my soul – the rendering of my entire life to Him that died for me. It was a follow-up indeed, for I DIED.
I gulped the water and died, and the Head of the church had jubilated that I died having given my life. He rejoiced I never died a sinner and Moradeke’s ignorance informed her that I died at the battlefield. She rejoiced in my death knowing that her fame was soaring.
I rejoiced I died, for dying to herald the victory of the oppressed is the high point of serving humanity and the creator of humanity.