Fiction

The Incredible Cock: Fiction by A.A. Rufai

Image: Pixabay.com
The lone headless chicken came running towards the feasting flock. He made straight for their midst. Like acrobats in a circus, the flock animatedly formed two perfect rows to make a path for the zombie. Long after the leghorn ran past, the chickens stood rooted in their formations; the hens fluttering their eyes; the cocks with beaks agape.
The air choked, some of the chickens kept looking at one another with one side of the face, speechless.
“Is that not Zaki?” The one-legged chicken braved up.
* * *
Kaz, the cockerel, kept closely behind the black hen like an armed bodyguard. They were on the veranda leading to the entrance of the mud house.
A boy, a bit younger than the boyish little girl, came out in pursuit of her from the compound. The boy was crying and yelling curses after the girl. She was in a fit of mischievous laughter as she was fleeing the pebbles the boy was hurling at her. The girl still held the wooden comb as she took flight and almost squashed the broody black hen at the entrance.
The chickens cackled to safety. The cockerel was flapping his wings behind the black hen and like a dutiful bodyguard crowing out in protest.
The children turned the corner and ran off to the backyard.
“I hope you’re not hurt,” Kaz came around his mate.
“Well, I…I think I might have fractured one of my toes,” she cooed, raising her foot for Kaz to examine.
The chickens again heard rattling footsteps approaching. They tried to take cover when they saw the headless creature running towards them with blood dripping from his neck; his white feathers stained red, down to his shoulders. The thing came scuffing his claws on the ground and halted right in front of them before he made a U-turn.
The black hen’s eyes nearly popped out from her head. She stamped her foot back to the ground. The pains on her toes ceased. Her tiny comb, wattle, ear lobes and legs faded from their true colours. She felt the calcium drained from her marrows. She knew then and there, that she was certainly going to lay some eggs.
Her legs went slack as she lowered her vent and out came a heavy downpour of steaming diarrhea faeces that looked like hot yellow porridge.
Kaz on the other hand gaped at the headless chicken. He took one good look at the black hen by his side as if to ask: “Did you just see what I saw?”
Seeing her on duty at the thunder mug, he quickly looked away. Immediately, he leaped into the air and winged off after the headless cock.
The spellbound flock, having seen the headless chicken race past a second time, saw Kaz run past also. The chickens could not make any head or tail of this strange occurrence.
Five big roosters were the first among the lot to shake off the spell. They broke ranks and sped after Kaz and the headless monster.
* * *

The headless Zaki got to the spot where he was beheaded with Raaks still standing guard. Raaks saw him coming and stood at alert. Zaki pulled the brakes right in front of his killer. He again hopped into the heavens like he did shortly after his head had been severed. He landed with a heavy thud; quiet and properly dead.
Kaz had long arrived the scene and watched the unfolding drama in amazement. He had seen so many terrible things happen to chickens in their village. Like what happened after Talatu’s married sister arrived from the city, in her husband’s posh car, carrying a new born baby. The carefree Talatu was ordered to capture many chickens that day. She usually held them upside down by the legs on such raids and took them straight to the waiting Baban Talatu. Kaz remembered how the man held up a small transistor radio to his ear, listening to the BBC Hausa news, while he patiently sat on his wooden chair, in front of the veranda with a knife in its sheath just by his side.
Kaz and some other chickens around then had seen Baban Talatu carry the captured birds to the backyard. The next thing they had seen was that the man had come back with all those chickens all quiet with their heads tucked away into their folded wings.
Talatu’s visiting elder sister was reported then to have enjoyed the chicken soup. A repeat performance had to be enacted the next day. Kaz being one of the few fortunate chickens to have survived that ordeal wondered why none of the chickens Talatu’s sister brought in a cage at that time was slaughtered. True, Talatu’s elder sister had brought home a cage full of chickens during that last visit.
“Take this to the Prime Minister,” that was what her husband called Baban Talatu, his father-in-law. He had handed her the chickens as she was about leaving for the village. Her husband was a big politician in the city.
The man had severally sworn to his wife, “Wallahi, your father resembles Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa.” His wife knew that her husband was genuinely fond of her. He often teased her, calling her the daughter of the Prime Minister. Each time he teased her like that, she suspected he employed this trick to mollify her after some mischief. Like when he teased her once, after she got wind of his affair with one big woman minister in Abuja.
Haba!” he had fumed at the time. “Who told you?” But he donned a big smile when she said nothing and kept a straight face. “Come on,” he had said tapping her on the shoulder, “a Prime Minister’s daughter shouldn’t subscribe to telltales.”
The politician caught sight of the hollow of her dimples deepen. And that was how she dropped the matter.
So when she gave birth to a bouncing baby boy, several well-wishers trooped to the politician’s highly fortified residence. That was when one foreign contractor, a very good friend of the politician, made his appearance – with a cage full of chickens.
The politician felt piqued. He thought the man stupid: “Haba! Mr. George, how can you bring me live chickens, when even pip-squeaks are begging to be let through the gates with their hands full, bearing gifts of worth?”
“Thank you,” he had let out instead, with a seeming smile hovering around his cigar- darkened lips, while offering the man a firm handshake, but had desired to peel the skin off his red arrow-like nose.
The politician meant to discard the birds but remembered his father-in-law loved keeping chickens. So that was how he sent the chickens off with his wife to their village of Kayarda for the customary forty days bath for new nursing mothers, in which a woman was literally cooked in a pot of boiling water, accompanied with lashes of the stems and leaves from a neem tree.
But a good number of the chickens the politician sent died within a few days. They could not withstand the punishing sun in the village. Only two cocks survived from the lot – Raaks and the now one-legged chicken.
Kaz had lived through the harmattan and the rains and had seen so many chickens die in the village. A good number of them he knew had met a cruel death in the hands of Baban Talatu. Some of the chickens like the ones brought in the cage from the city simply died a natural death or so he thought.
He knew as a chicken that death could come in the guise of a bird-flu or the dreaded knife. It never crossed his wildest imagination that a chicken could visit a fellow chicken with death in a gruesome manner such as was evident before his eyes.
Watching Zaki lay dead, his feathers soaked in his own blood, with his chopped head by his side like a piece of rotting meat, was certainly the most horrific scene Kaz had ever seen. And he thought the killer, a fellow chicken, had the audacity to still stand at the scene of the crime, with a “smoking gun” – the blood clot on his claws.
“Hey, what are you boneheads all gathered here for?” Raaks broke the long silence. The entire flock had by then relocated to the scene. They huddled together at one side and watched Raaks surrounded by Kaz and five other roosters, with Zaki’s headless remains in their midst. “Make way. This place stinks.”
One of the big cocks flew at him instead. Raaks returned him at once with his kung fu kick. Another rooster jumped at him from behind. As if Raaks had another eye fixed at the back of his head; the way he skillfully poked the rooster with his talons right on the face without turning remained something of a wonder. But the suddenness with which Raaks felt his feet separated from the ground dazed him.
When the other onlookers saw Kaz whacked Raaks, a frenzy of cackling and crowing broke out. The five other roosters surrounding Raaks pounced on him.
They thwacked and thwacked at him; clawed and clawed at him, and pecked and pecked at him.
Some of the excited hens that had earlier noticed Gimbi in her shallow grave on their arrival at the scene at that moment ran to her cackling with delight. “Come and see, Gimbi, come and see!”
A sandstorm from the grave effectively stopped them in their tracks. “Go away, go away!”
The hens gaped at one another. One hen still cackled, “Come and see! Raaks is…”
“I say go away, go away!”
The hens could not make any sense of this bizarre behaviour. They thought it was unlike Gimbi. Some of them were convinced that she must have gone mad. They quietly retraced their steps and left her to her lunacy.
Gimbi ruminated over and over in her mind: “Where were you all when I needed help? And anyway, what is there now to see or even live for?”
The cut and thrust of the chickens that was going on back on earth, which she heard growing louder and louder, was the least of her worries.
In truth, the carol from the sidelines increased. Raaks was trying hard to break free but he couldn’t. It became apparent to the onlookers that Raaks was certainly overpowered. With all the weight on him he could still hear their jubilant cries. He felt even more hurt by their stupidity rather than the blows he was receiving from his attackers.
It impressed upon him: “So all the chickens in this village are out to see my downfall?” Raaks was especially baffled to learn that the hens were so happy to see him killed. These hens he considered he had so much helped; helped even if it was just to feed them with worms at his wingding.
“Whoopee!” chirped the one-legged chicken. He was limping from side to side as he watched Raaks being fed a bit of his own medicine.
Raaks boiled over and let out that unpleasant raucous sound like a rook: “Qoooooock!” He gathered every ounce of his incredible strength and flung open his enormous wings. The attackers were all sent flying off his back and crashing on theirs.
Standing on his feet, Raaks looked like a chicken in rags. His fine feathers were all rubbed the wrong way. He was gasping and felt his throat threatening to tear open from thirst yet he stuck out his scruffy neck and dared them all with blood-shot eyes. “Damn demons! I see you. . . I’m seeing you all!”
Four of the chickens were already up. In a wink they had formed a ring around Raaks and Kaz. The fifth one had broken one of his wings from the crash. He was presently attended to by some hens.
Kaz played a fast one on Raaks. He had leaped into the air and battered Raaks with kicks to the face. Hooting from the sidelines saluted the move broke out..
Raaks staggered. The claws had caught him on the face and burst his right pupil. There was no respite for him; Kaz followed up with some more swings at his face. This time Raaks felt the ground under him start spinning.
The roar went up an extra notch when the four other roosters closed in on their common enemy. Raaks was powerless and could not stop any of the blows because his eyes were closed, the right one bleeding.
They swept him off his feet and once again the team set about him with their beaks and claws.
Raaks was no longer bothered about “those crazy chickens” making a noise by the sidelines. Anxiety had the better part of him. He needed to get “these damned demons” off his back. Raaks knew he just had to act fast to stop the stampede on him. He was not particularly keen on visiting the afterlife just yet.
The mere thought already sent goose bumps spreading under his feathers.
So with a renewed determination he resorted once more to pulling his great muscles together. But lo!
His incredible strength failed him. Tried as he did, he couldn’t throw the chickens off his back this time.
Kaz had his right foot right on his throat. He pressed down, crowing murderously alongside the other roosters, their determination to send Raaks to hell ever more resolute.
“S-T-O-P!”
The screech from the skies was deafening; all hell broke loose. A hawk was descending from the kingdom of heaven.
The five roosters on Raaks took five different routes. Kaz bumped his head into a nearby stone as he tried to vanish. He fell and caught a glimpse of a strange white hawk diving down amidst scattered pieces of reeds or so it appeared. He bounced back on his feet and bolted.
A terrified cackling and crowing characterized the mass hysteria that led to the abandonment of the sidelines. But the mother hen showed a rare display of courage. She ballooned out her feathers, which made her look bigger than she really was. Her wings were spread out to form a formidable shield over her chicks.
She sent a stern warning to the big white hawk, while she had vigilant eyes fixed on her little loved ones, as she was hurrying them off to safety.
She went on cackling, fire spitting out from her beak. “You witch! You have come to abduct my chicks today again! Try it, you witch, I say try it!”
Only two chickens couldn’t escape – Raaks and the one- legged cock. They were both lying flat on the ground.
The one-legged chicken had made an attempt to flee but gave up. He reasoned it would amount to deceiving himself to try limping away with a hawk about to seize him to some rock and tear him up for lunch. The sheer thought of his bones being used afterwards to construct a nest up in some tree gave him the chills. So he resigned himself to fate, took a dive on the ground, closed his eyes and began saying his last prayers.
Raaks was still lying on the ground. He was completely unaware of what was happening. “You cocky brute!” the hawk stopped short of pecking his beak on Raaks’s head.
There was a sudden scuffling behind the tree by the corner. But the hawk did not hear or perhaps he didn’t just care.
A chicken popped out its head from behind the tree and tried to peep. Behold! It was Gimbi. She came back to the world of the living out of curiosity rather than fear. After all, she now considered herself a living corpse.
She felt no more fear of death and did not care even if that was what the visiting hawk represented. She heard the hawk actually speak “Chickinish”. She was further astounded when she caught sight of the hawk. The big white hawk was not a hawk at all. It was Rima. The white leghorn, her fiancé, returned back from exile. The initial hunch she had when the pandemonium broke out was finally proven. Even in death, she knew what Rima sounded like.
She felt a storm of anger rise inside her. It shot up and up until it shattered that line in her heart, that thin line, between love and hate. She resented Rima totally. And in her wrath, she wished Rima more than any chicken living on earth, a gruesome death. She meant to rush him, but something invisible held her back.
Rima, all along, had kept low atop a thatch roof of one of the nearby huts.
“I told you I’ll be back!” Rima yet towered over Raaks. He was sprawled on his back much the same way Rima had done after their last fight.
“Your Hawkishness,” began the one-legged chicken, his eyes shut. He was still lying on his abdomen, at the sidelines, where the cackling and crowing spectators had deserted. “I have since repented my old ways. I beg of you, spare my life. I pledge my absolute loyalty and promise to serve you faithfully. I will spy on the chickens for you. Just name it. I will…”
“Who is talking to you?” Rima interrupted him curtly.
The one-legged chicken carefully squinted an eye open. The haze from his vision slowly cleared off. He caught sight of Rima’s behind, his quills carried up; his neck twisted back 180 degrees while he cast a piercing look at him. He opened his eyes fully and sprang to his foot. “Hey buddy, this is a bad joke.”
Rima sent him a gruff crow, “Coocooroo…who is your buddy?”
The one-legged chicken flinched. He turned his beak the other way. He stood rooted on his one leg, mute as a statue.
Raaks, reduced to a one-eyed chicken, looked wan. His neck was slacked so that the right side of his face was on the ground. He opened his one remaining “seeing you all” eye. He saw no “demons” anymore. He then saw an angel instead, a white angel, right in front of him. Raaks thought he had died and had woken up in Valhalla. “Wa-wa…wa-ter.” His only eye fluttered weakly.
Rima threw his head back. He returned it down with an impressive speed, hitting deep into Raaks’s one eye with his beak. “Drink that!” Blood oozed down his face from his busted eye.
Yet sprawled on the ground, Raaks was so pale he could not even crow out his pains. Rima went on pecking Raaks on his head.
Kaz appeared from his hideout. So did the four other roosters. They saw a chicken dealing Raaks some knocks on the head. They did not care to know who the assailant was. They all rushed to join in the kill, crowing madly and desirous to finish what they had started.
The spectators too were all out from their hideouts. A lot of them, strange as it seemed, came back emboldened. Few hens and cocks were left hooting from the sidelines. The majority rushed to join in the kill. Even the mother hen and her chicks featured prominently in the feeding frenzy.
In the eyes of the chickens, a single feather yanked from Raaks’s plumage equated to a medal of gallantry. It seemed they all wanted to grab the glory of having their names written in gold, as one of the fearless heroes that had slain Raaks the giant, when the history books would be written.
“K-a-a-a-a-a-a-a-i-!”
The tomboy came screaming and scattering the birds off Raaks. Her brother, who was still in pursuit of her, pulled the brakes. He stopped yelling and posed to watch.
Shegu!” the girl cursed the assailants. Raaks was lying half dead on the ground. Yet some of the chickens were so determined to finish the job. The girl actually had to engage the chickens in a physical combat. They jumped and pecked at her. She kicked to the left. She kicked to the right. And she lashed out at them with the wooden comb in her right hand
The mother hen, alarmed the tomboy was going to trample over her chicks, flew at her, like a rooster, and dealt her a wicked peck on the foot.
Shegiya!” the girl cursed and gave the hen a good kick. After a prolonged fight she somewhat managed to keep the chickens in check.
She stole a quick look at Raaks as she stood guard. His breathing came faintly and the girl feared the worst for him. She looked the way of her brother, with her left, she pointed at him and shouted: “Wuka!
In the twinkling of an eye the boy threw down the pebbles in his hands. He hopped into the heavens like the dead Zaki had and whirled in the air. He landed facing the opposite direction and took off like a rat in danger of being eaten by a cat.
The girl watched over Raaks still. She held her wooden comb and pointed the sharp ends at the chickens as if she was holding them hostage at gun point.
The girl soon saw the boy returning with their father. The chickens also saw Baban Talatu hurrying after the boy, their eyes keenly focused on what he was holding in his right hand – the dreaded “wuka” in its maroon leather sheath.
Kaz, at that point, thought it high time he returned to the black hen. Like a thief, he took some quiet backwards steps. He successfully sneaked away from the gathered chickens. He got to a tree before he turned. He didn’t know Gimbi was stationed behind the tree watching him. She saw him increase his paces and watched him with indifference as she was watching everything else that was happening.
A’uzubillah!” Baban Talatu was shocked at the gory sight he met when he reached his daughter.
The man’s son-in-law, the politician, had not been mistaken to say that his father-in-law resembled Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa, even in his dressing. Baban Talatu could have passed for the late Prime Minister’s twin.
He stood tall and gracile, like a nomad in a sheikh’s regalia. He had on a white turban tightly wrapped around the multi-coloured hand woven cap on his head. He was equally gowned in white attire which fitted loosely on him and very much fluttered in the breeze like a parachute at the time he was hurrying to the scene.
Raaks, gone totally blind with hollow sockets and a bloody face, was barely conscious. He heard, albeit faintly, voices as against the cackling and crowing. He felt his wings folded up and held tightly together. Raaks felt himself back on the rough ground again. It got worst. He felt the weighty soles of sandals on him; one pressed against his stretched legs, the other stepped heavily on his folded wings.
The chickens all watched in utter silence. Baban Talatu pulled out the “wuka” from the sheath. They heard him uttering some words of last prayer on behalf of Raaks as he placed one of the sharp edges of the glittering knife against his neck, holding his head.
“Whoopee!” whistled the one-legged chicken. The other chickens gathered around all turned to stare at him in rebuke.
“Mum,” peeped one of the chicks, “Is he not Raaks’s very bad friend?”
The one-legged chicken looked at the chick and lowered his head, gazing at the ground. He whistled no more.
Subahanallah!” exclaimed the Prime Minister. He had completely cut off Raaks’s head from his body, something usual. He normally slit the neck of a chicken half way and allowed the gush of blood end before he tucked the head away in the chicken’s folded wings.
He hissed and tossed the bloody chicken head to the ground. He drew up to his full height and began leaving with his children. He would not eat anything that he did not properly slaughter.

—————–
Image: Pixabay.com

About the author

A. A. Rufai

Rufai writes from Nigeria.

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