Fiction

Play for Me: A Short Story by Haku Jackson

mmuo

Image: Envato Market (cropped)

I refuse to let myself believe she is a witch or demon. Camped under the inky black sky riddled with stars, with cold winds that are soft and enveloping, I observe the fire Adanma has built as it burns with a gentle flame, almost as if it, too, is basking in the night’s cool breeze. I rest on an elbow, watching the flames dance, trying to discern some inspiration from it that would make for a good late poem. My tiny book lay on the grass and the page I turned in anticipation of the poem still pointedly remains blank. This isn’t because there are no incipient poems or ghost stories in the night sky or the tongues of flame. It is simply because I can’t help dividing my attention between these things and Adanma.

Adanma is on the other side of the fire; sitting cross-legged as she downs the last of our dinner of bush meat stew. She has a small black wrapper passed around her breasts and tied at her back, leaving her shoulders and belly bare while she wears an equally black skirt that stops just above her knees.

I watch her eat, covertly of course, under the cover of watching the flames. I am meant to be angry at her, terrified of her or at the very least, estranged after the jarring event of this evening. Words haven’t crossed our lips since. But what I saw her do did not in any way mar her beauty or my long-repressed feelings for her –  ever‐threatening to break the surface. The incident of this evening did not damage her in my mind as much as it did me. I have since forced myself to see Adanma as a hurt beauty, a dove with a broken wing. I felt she was someone who needed to be reminded of the good in the world. I chose to be a blind fool.

Something I couldn’t fathom happened to Adanma in these past seven years she had been missing. Or just maybe, Adanma has become something I couldn’t fathom.

 

#

 

The morning continues as the night was; cold and devoid of dialogue. The dew‐covered grasses soak the front and sides of my leather sandals as I walk. Adanma marches through the grass, uncaring of the dew, the grass, even the very earth itself. Things like that, it seemed, had become irrelevant to her a long time ago. I walk behind her, carrying the bundled-up pots, bowls, wrapper, and sleeping mat. Adanma, with a curt wave of her hand, had denied me from carrying hers and strapped them to her back also as we walked out of the forest. We should be out of it in about three hours. I regret not putting on my buba, as my singlet presents very little, if any warmth against the morning cold. My ankle‐length sokoto is of a quality but thin material, further heightening my chill.

I shouldn’t have let the cold concern me much, for it was gone in less than two hours, threatening to be replaced by the most oppressive heat. The moisture laden air begins to thin out as our African sun appears in all its grandeur and severity and a thin film of sweat soon covers my face and arms, lightly soaking through my singlet. Adanma has long since taken off her ram skin cloak and tied it round her waist. I walk behind, doing my best to ignore her and failing miserably. She glances back once and I choose that moment to suddenly find a far-off tree very alluring. She doesn’t look back again for most of the journey.

As expected, we leave the confines of the forest well into the morning. The land slopes downwards as we keep walking, and Adanma brings out her map to ascertain we have come out at the right point. By the map, the village is still almost a hundred kilometres from this forest. Adanma sets down her load and turns to me.

“Kunle, this is where we part ways,” she says.

I blink. “Why is that?”

“You can speak now, that’s good,” she says, her tone varnished with dryness. “I see my actions yesterday made you uncomfortable. I’m not that same girl anymore, Kunle. People change in seven years. You can make peace with that or leave.”

“You still haven’t told me what happened.” My voice is a little louder than I intend. “You just disappeared. For seven years! I thought you were killed in the riots! I mourned you, Ada! Now you return after all this time with a strange power that can only be described as diabolical. What happened to you?”

“Is that what you think I am?” she asks. “Do you think me diabolical? A witch? An evil spirit? Or do you think I’m possessed? Even after that strange power saved both our lives?” Her brown eyes meet mine and hold fast.

I walk forward, still keeping eye contact, and take her hands in mine. “Ada. Please, talk to me. You may have changed, but I’m still that same Kunle you knew. Your friend. Please just… talk.”

And we stand there like that for seconds that seem eternal, looking each other in the eyes. I look, hoping to see the Adanma I grew up knowing; the carefree little girl who would sneak out of her house and meet me in my parents’ backyard so that we could spin our okoso shells against the other’s; that girl that mixed sand, water and leaves in an empty tin can, ‘cooking soup’ with me. I sought for that little girl that would hoot loudly, put a finger to her eye and stick out her tongue whenever she played a successful prank on me. I looked for the girl whose caramel coloured skin and bushy auburn hair were the highlight of most of my childhood memories; that girl I loved in secret.

That was several years ago and that girl was long dead.

The person I see in those eyes isn’t the Adanma from my childhood. In fact, the person in there isn’t even Adanma at all. It is someone much darker… and primordial. If there is still a vestige of the girl I knew, she is drowning in the sea of black inside. The person looking at me doesn’t even think of those childhood memories anymore. I look at Adanma, not seeing her and it almost breaks me.

She gently pulls her hands from mine and picks up her bundle, strapping it to her back once more. Her eyes finally hold a hint of something. Something faintly nostalgic. “Kunle, you’re the only dear person I have left. Mama is dead. Ijeoma, killed. That is why I’m making this journey to Ebenkeudo. For those that I lost. This journey is for closure, Kunle. But if you can’t look past what happened yesterday then please, for the sake of what we had, just leave now. I can’t stand you looking at me like a monster.” And with that, she turns and begins marching downhill. I stand there, watching my childhood friend as she lithely makes the descent to the grasslands below.

People do change after seven years. But how drastically had she? What she did yesterday simply couldn’t be erased from my memory. Not ever. But she had acted so collected and calmly afterwards that I began to consider the ghastly possibility that she had probably done something of a similar nature before. And that is what makes my heart palpitate every time I look into her brown eyes.

No.

I can’t wait for my fears to become reality. Adanma had to be saved from herself. I didn’t recover someone so precious to me after so many years, only to lose her right in front of me and worse, by her own undoing. I can reach her. I can unfetter her from the pernicious darkness.

I have to.

I follow her downhill.

 

##

 

I look back as I walk down the slope and see Kunle where I left him. He is still standing there, head bowed and hands on the straps of his pack. It is with a bittersweet feeling of satisfaction and disappointment that I see he will not follow me and it is an equal measure of another bittersweet brew of gratitude and dismay when he looks forward and begins marching downhill in my direction.

He still maintains some distance behind although he walks within earshot. I honestly couldn’t blame him for not talking to me. I had half expected him to brand me a demon, curse me from head to foot and run as far from me as his long legs would carry him.

The hours drag on as we walk, still in that same taut silence. My knees throb and my calves protest the extended strain they are being subjected to and I can only wonder if Kunle fares any better with the greater load he carries. Some part of my conscience tugs at me for making him go through all this for my own desires and I duly shut that part out. Kunle had decided of his own volition to still accompany me and so he had to manage. My neck and arms sting from the fury of the afternoon sun and I have to constantly wipe sweat from my face and eyes. I can’t care about the heat just yet. There are more pressing matters than the need for shelter.

Ebenkeudo. It translates loosely to Place of Peace.

There used to be a time Ebenkeudo was the only home I knew: when it was my happy place. My mind ambles to the times I could remember the village as something worthy of that name. I recall the mornings I would sit in the backyard of our house with Mama and help her wash bitterleaf. I would rub the wet leaves between my palms, washing them until the water in the bucket became a deep green. Mama would say, “Ada, are your hands made of pap? Scrub that thing well so that it won’t be too bitter.” I would laugh and rub the bitterleaf clumps between my palms with mock vigour. No matter how I scrubbed the bitterleaf, the soup always came out delicious. I think of the times I would escort Mama to the market some late evenings, when the village would be bubbling with that nostalgic communal atmosphere: people chattering, walking, the pervading smell of grasses and moist earth; children playing by the roadside, the market women shouting at customers; chickens and goats looking for food.

Those days seemed an eternity ago.

Ebenkeudo was the place I first knew what it meant to be truly happy. That place where I knew what it meant to love and be loved. That was Ebenkeudo before the unrests. Before the death of the Igwe. Before the Osu massacres.

Before the Mmuo.

I still can’t help shivering at the thought of the Mmuo. The knowledge that I can now subvert them and make their will mine still did not compensate for the horrific years I spent trapped in the eldritch land of the spirits. Some memories were just too vile to relive.

High noon passes and the heat wanes slightly, just enough to know that it has reduced. After walking for several minutes still, I see a tree wide enough and as Kunle and I draw closer, I notice the fruits‒ some reddish orange, some yellow‒hanging from it. A mango tree. With a loud relieved sigh, Kunle sets down his burden and sits in the bower. Setting my things down also, I pluck the nearest mango before sitting on the grass and resting against the tree’s trunk. I peel off the mango skin with my teeth, savouring that sweet, juicy taste as my tongue brushes the underside. As the sugary taste of the fruit explodes in my mouth, I turn to Kunle. He is lying on the grass now, peeling the skin off one of the mangoes he plucked. He sucks in a breath as he bites into the fruit and exhales as he chews. The look on his face makes me want to eternally bless the mangoes and once again, I feel a sharp pang of remorse for putting him through this unnecessary hardship. He has always looked after me since we were children and he has no reason to be with me on this peregrination. He still tries his best to look after me now, even after all those years.

But where was he when I needed him the most?

Where was he when all the horrors of the spirit world were mine to live? When I forgot the meaning of time? He was never there the times I would cry till there were no tears left to fall. Or when I would scream until my voice was gone and my throat hoarse. He was not there when I saw the things that human eyes should not. Where was he when all these happened?

I fight down the welling irrational anger and take a breath. There was nothing Kunle could have known to do for me from the land of the living. Even now, he still has no inkling that I have not been a part of this world for the several years I had been missing.

Under the shade of the mango tree, looking out at the stretch of bushes and occasional trees, I suddenly feel so small and inconsequential. I now feel inexplicably grateful for the little comforts of the land of the living. I can eat a fruit now. I can feel the wind in my hair. I can smell the soft, pleasant tang of the hanging fruits above. I can sweat.

I quickly put a hand to my right eye to erase the tear before it can find its way down my cheeks. I clench my jaw and look in the direction of where Ebenkeudo is supposed to be. My former home. My former love.

Ijeoma.

I wipe my eye a second time as the thought of her name brings back vivid memories, clear as crystal and as piercing as a spear. All those times in the spirit realm, it wasn’t my will to go on that kept me. It wasn’t even the thought of my mother or Kunle. It was the memories I have of Ijeoma. It was the memories of her boyish smile, her stubborn spirit and her feathery lips that I fell back on at my lowest points in the realm.

Those memories were far easier to focus on than the ones where her face was matted in blood, her teeth in pieces on the red soil and machete wounds crisscrossing her mahogany skin as her house was set ablaze. Her recent memories were only of fire, blood and death.

Dark memories like those attracted much darker things in the spirit world.

So, instead, when I could scream no more, I held on to the memories of her bubbling voice. When I could feel neither wind nor heat, I focused on her heavy embraces and our light kisses. In the face of Ijeoma, somehow, even my mother became secondary.

If I did not feel the red soil of the village under my feet and see the fire‐blackened walls of Ijeoma’s house, I would never be free. My happiness began in the village and I must find that closure there as well.

There was no escaping it.

A grunt escapes Kunle, pulling me from my thoughts. He is sprawled on the grass now, belly sated from multiple mangoes. We didn’t even need to cook our own food. In that moment, with his eyes closed, he looks like the boy I used to run around with in my childhood; that boy that showed me the meaning of fun; the person that gave substance to my childhood. I can’t push him that much.

“We’ll rest here till the sun goes down,” I finally say.

He opens his eyes, looking intently at me for a few seconds. Newly imbibed instincts from my time in the realm of spirits make me retain eye contact. Then he gives a small nod and turns his body the other way.

I slowly return my gaze to Ebenkeudo’s direction. Three or four more days at most. I counted down those days like they would be my last.

 

#

 

Though I noticed the symptoms two nights before, I had nonchalantly refused to do anything, expecting it to limit itself to just a sore throat and a bitter tongue. But now as I wake to the dozing form of Adanma’s body against the tree, I can’t stop the shivers that course in waves through my body. The malaria has set in deeply and my fever is approaching its peak. Though the wind is minimal, I quiver like a dry leaf in the harmattan wind. With chattering teeth, I seek for my wrapper but as I pull it from beneath my bundle, I upset a pot and it tumbles down on the other items, the noise pulling Adanma from sleep instantly. If I were healthier, I may have been more concerned with the unnatural alertness in her eyes as she woke.

“Kunle,” no trace of sleep is evident in her voice. “You are shaking.”

“I think I have malaria,” I manage to stutter, pulling the wrapper close around me.

She still looks at me, her face an emotional blank before she curses softly and stands up. She removes something from her bundle, tucks it behind her and dons her cloak. She makes her way from under the tree, exposing herself to the deep blue of the evening sky.

“Where are you going?” I raise my head.

She favours her back through the cloak and I know what it is she has taken. If it were possible to add a shudder to my already shaking body, it had just happened. She glances back at me once, and then looks back in the direction we came from. “You need medicine. I’m going to find a dogonyaro tree. I noticed some as we were coming.”

“Is it far?”

“Let me worry about that,” she says and begins walking.

“Ada.”

She stops and looks at me again. No words pass between us but somehow, I feel she already knows what I am hoping she avoids doing. She turns and continues on her way.

I pull the wrapper tighter around me and take a deep breath. Another shudder runs through me, the malaria seeming to mock me. I close my eyes as the sickness marches through my body like it is the original owner and I, the illness. I force myself back to sleep.

I am roused about two minutes later and I open my eyes to see Adanma kneeling beside me. For the first time, I can make out visibly, the look of worry and concern etched in her features. “I found it. Come to the fire,” she spoke softly.

I frown and with effort, turn the other way to see a fire set up already, with a pot hanging over it. It is then I realise I must have been asleep for hours. The darkness of the sky suggests midnight or just past. I stand up slowly, Adanma helping me to walk to the pot and its boiling contents. I sit some distance away as she removes the pot and places it in front of me, furious steam rising endlessly from it.

“Put your face above the pot.” She gets her wrapper.

I sniffle and stare into the pot. The dogonyaro leaves are floating in the boiling water and the smell of the leaves pervades the steam. I lower my face further to the rushing steam. Adanma uses her wrapper and covers my head, the ends of it falling to the ground around the pot, sealing me in with the steam.

I stay like that for almost half an hour before Adanma takes the wrapper off and I raise my head. Sweat pours in huge drops from my face and the upper part of my buba is thoroughly drenched. But my breathing has steadied slightly and none need tell me that my shaking has significantly subsided.

“You still have to drink this,” she hands me a cup of the bark and leaves extracts.

I down it in one swift gulp, not letting myself feel the harsh taste of the warm brew. “Thank you.”

I notice the ghost of a smile as she replies, “Idiot.” She sets about clearing the place, moving the pots and feeding the fire. I spread my wrapper on the grass and lie down, staring into the thick branches of the mango tree.

Minutes later, she is sitting on her wrapper staring into the flames. She looks down to something in her hands and she remains like that for some moments before she speaks, face still down. “May I play for you?”

My heart begins madly beating as if it is a bellows fed with more coal. I can’t bring myself to speak or even utter a reply. I just keep looking at her. Then she raises her head. Her brown eyes are imploring and when she speaks her voice is just barely above a whisper. “Please,” she says. “I almost have nothing normal to hold on to anymore. I haven’t played in a long while.”

I did not miss the emphasis on ‘played’ because if we were to look at things technically, she had played the evening before.

But that look in her eyes, that silent begging, was almost like a prayer. She needed this to remind herself of who she was. Maybe it was the first step to that girl I used to know.

I nodded my consent.

She gives a small smile and brings the item in her hands to her lips.

Her flute.

The short ivory‐coloured instrument is simply riveting. Tiny circular embossments run in a spiral around the body of the flute, passing below each hole before coming to a stop at the instrument’s end. Symbols are engraved at select points on the flute’s body, connected to each other by twisting grooves. You don’t need a herbalist to tell you that the instrument is carved from bone.

But you may need one to know that it is human bone.

She sets it to her lips, closes her eyes and plays.

There is no adequate way to explain the sounds that come from that instrument. When she begins playing, it is as if the silence of the night subtly becomes the melodies of the flute: as if silence is slowly transformed into the musical sounds of the instrument. As she increases in volume, I feel like I am submerged in a lake of tunes and melodies. Adanma’s music speaks of unspeakable loss and horrendous grief. It also suffuses the air with a strange urgency and a sense of justice. The way her music manages to convey other powerful emotions is nothing short of unearthly. It is one of the most beautiful and mesmerizing things I’ve ever experienced.

She increases the tempo and that miasma of urgency increases, suddenly making me want to get up and right all the wrongs in the world. Adanma, eyes still closed, sways softly as she plays. As her melody approaches its climax, I force myself to sit up, not wanting to miss whatever it was the end seems to promise. The climax arrives, the tempo at a stunning high. I can’t help it. I sharply inhale as the peak is achieved. Then it is all over and Adanma raises her mouth from the flute and opens her eyes. For the first few seconds, I can honestly swear I forget what the act of speaking is. No poem I can ever write would perfectly capture up to half of what I’ve experienced on this night.

“That was… beautiful,” I manage to utter. And now even the word ‘beautiful’ feels gravely inadequate.

Adanma grins. An actual grin, and as I am still reeling from that vibrant display of joy from her, she bursts out laughing.

This is a night of beautiful melodies.

She keeps laughing. “You need to see the look on your face.”

I can’t hold myself and I also start laughing. And we laugh together, like we are kids back in the village, laughing over a successful prank played on our mates. And for that moment, in front of a fire under a mango tree, in the middle of the grasslands under a late-night sky, I have my childhood friend back.

 

##

 

Kunle and I stop less than a kilometre from the village. The old brick walls of Ebenkeudo appear to be more brown than orange in the light of the late afternoon sky. The walls exude an aura of silent pride, like a retired sentinel: worn down but still standing. The space between us and the village is covered in short, stiff grasses with evidence of grazing visible.

“We’re finally here.”

Kunle comes to stand beside me. It’s been two days since the night of his fever and he is almost in perfect health.

The memories of Ijeoma become a vivid re-enactment in my head and I kneel there in the grass, fighting the welling tears. She had been innocent.

She had been killed simply because she was an Osu.

Ebenkeudo had been relatively peaceful before the internal strife in the Igwe’s household, with his sons fighting for his throne. The Igwe had promptly ordered the execution of all four sons. Five market days later, the Igwe himself was assassinated by people rumoured to be of the Osu caste in retaliation for bringing death to his own sons. Chaos had swiftly descended afterwards as the village was left without a ruler. The mob had gone after all known members of the discriminated caste, bringing violent and painful death to them. I had just enough time to see the machete to my mother’s neck for attempting to help Ijeoma escape. Ijeoma’s death had been much more gruesome. I’d stood in the chaos, shocked silent, as a man struck her face with a monstrous club. The others had followed quickly with their own strikes, each trying to outdo the previous person.

A brutally abused corpse was all that was left in their wake.

They’d set her house ablaze and tossed both the bodies of Ijeoma and my mother inside.

And through all that, I’d simply stood still, staring. It wasn’t until the chaos had moved to another part of the village that I had become ambulant. The tears had run silently as I’d shuffled in a daze towards everything I had, now destroyed. I’d sat down there on the ground, watching the flames gradually subside. Nightfall had descended when I’d crawled into the blackened walls of a place that once held so many blissful memories. The familiar smell of mint and thyme was replaced by the potent odour of burnt wood and roasted flesh. I couldn’t bear to look at the bodies. I’d crawled to a corner of the house, far from the unrecognizable corpses of people that were once pillars in my life. It was near the point of a complete breakdown that I had felt it. Something calling out. Not to me, but to whomever could answer it.

I had unconsciously turned to the pile of ash and burnt wood where the intricate flute lay, somehow untainted or even scorched by the flames. It seemed to have had a certain gleam to the length of its ivory body. Ijeoma had been teaching me to play the flute, but that flute was not the one she carried around though I had definitely seen it with her after our first fight as lovers.

I’d crawled towards the instrument, enthralled by it. I’d heard of jazz and juju and some part of me had been furiously beating alarm gongs that I was under a spell. But I couldn’t help it. The flute called out. And I answered. I’d held it up and played.

And then I’d fallen into an abyss that had suddenly appeared beneath and around me.

I’d fallen into a place where I would spend up to seven tortuous years. A place only the ancestors, dead and unborn, should be.

“Ada, are you alright?”

Kunle’s soft voice rips me away from those dark recollections. He places a hand on my shoulder and I see the distress on his face and the worry in his eyes. “Kunle, please wait here for me.”

“What?” he asks. “Why?”

I get up. “This is my closure. I want some time alone. Please.”

He subtly narrows his eyes at me for a brief second but I catch it and I’m certain he suspects something is amiss.

“Fine,” he concedes, “But on one condition.” He stretches his hand forward and my heart skips a beat. “The flute.”

I look at him, not moving. I clench and unclench my fists and steady my breathing. His hand is still stretched out as he stares at me. “Ada.”

I slowly untie the flute from where it dangles from a small rope attached to my skirt. I hold it out towards him. He looks from me to the flute and then comes to collect it. The instant his fingers close around the instrument, his entire body shudders and he lets out a strangled gasp. He falls to the floor in a shuddering heap, a cold he cannot explain taking over his body.

“I’m sorry, Kunle.” I lift the flute to my lips.

 

#

 

A cold more powerful and horrifying than any I could have imagined immobilizes me completely. All I can feel is that infinitely piercing frost that coats my very soul. I can still see Adanma as I lie violently shivering on the floor. Her eyes have become as they were on that evening; the evening I had first become aware of the terrible power of that infernal instrument.

Her pupils and irises are gone, leaving only the whites of her eyes.

She plays the flute and it is impossible to miss the surreal power that thrums through the air as the enchanting melody takes over the atmosphere.

And then I hear them.

Unearthly moans slowly permeate the music, increasing in number and frequency until the Mmuo begin to cross over into this world.

There is a reason the dead have a realm of their own. The atmosphere is filled with a fundamental sense of wrongness as the dead of Ebenkeudo are given form. The Mmuo resemble people draped head to foot in colourful ankara fabrics but devoid of legs. They appear in all sizes: I see Mmuo as small as rabbits and I see others as imposing as bears. Their faces, if they have any, are hidden behind grotesque masks of different colours and designs, and the Mmuo moan and sigh as they rise from the ground, pull out of trees and flow out from jagged lines in the air as they rend the division between our worlds. They fly around Adanma, circling her and suffusing her melody with their ethereal sounds. I watch in absolute horror as their numbers climb, well into the hundreds, until there are countless of the spirits circling around and over her, even up to hundreds of feet in the air.

Hunters had ambushed us that fateful evening in the forest, attempting to rob us of the little we had. Adanma, to my utter befuddlement, had brought out the intricate but relatively useless instrument and played for the hunters.

A hovering masked figure had phased out of a nearby tree, the bark flowing off like a thick liquid from the giant form of the Mmuo. The hunters couldn’t see it. They’d never even known what struck them. The Mmuo, moaning like a strange animal, had wrapped itself around the closest hunter to it. The unfortunate man had immediately dropped lifeless to the dirt. The other two had attempted to shoot Adanma, fearing her to be diabolically sibylline. The Mmuo, with a speed unmatched by the fastest cheetah, had moved to shield its mistress. I couldn’t see where the bullets went. I only know the Mmuo’s fabric rippled with every corresponding gunshot. It had surged forward and touched the faces of both men and like their former companion, both had similarly dropped to the ground, devoid of life.

That had been just one.

But now, as I lie cold in the grass, the late afternoon sky vibrates with the cries of the Mmuo horde. Adanma opens her eyes and looks at me. It is difficult to place any emotion in those unnerving white eyes but I like to think that she feels remorse or she feels her decision is a form of justice for the wrongs of the village. I don’t know anymore.

She turns and walks toward Ebenkeudo, accompanied by Death.

Death in all its colours.

 

##

 

I make my way to her house as the villagers cry and scream. They can’t see the Mmuo; only Kunle can, for a reason I cannot yet grasp. Yet they do not fail to see the death my music brings; how their family members fall to the floor, never to breathe again. Some of them try to shoot me. I do not care: the Mmuo will always protect me.

As long as I play.

I arrive at Ijeoma’s house. Or rather, where it used to be. Tall weeds grow over the torn down remains of what used to be her home and goats graze amongst the wood and stone, unaffected by the chaos of the hysterical villagers. Out of spite, I direct one of the dead to the goat herd. It streaks by, quickly passing a hand through each goat.

They don’t graze anymore.

I realize I am crying and this time, I let the tears run. I let my anger and resentment run. I play for Ijeoma and Mama and I play Ijeoma’s favourite melody, The King’s Daughter, because it seems all too fitting. I cry for what I do to the village, even as I mix my pain with the tears and let it all leave me. I let the soil soak it up and take it away.

I use my music to take away the villagers’ pain.

I play until all the screaming stops.

 

#

 

It is almost two hours before I am able to stand up. It takes me another several minutes to arrive at the village.

The first thing that greets me is the stillness.

There is a silence so material that I feel like I’m trapped in a painting. Nothing moves, nothing sounds. Even the wind is gone as if it too can’t bear to upset the stillness. The only thing I hear is my own fatigued breathing. I move slowly through Ebenkeudo, my mind growing numb as I walk around scores of warm corpses. With the way the pathways are littered with bodies, you may just think that everyone is part of some predesigned setting and you are the odd fit.

I stop by an anthill. The many ants around it are motionless on the red soil and for everything I’ve seen, it is this scene that finally breaks me: death so profound and absolute that nothing is left. I kneel on the ground in front of that giant anthill and cry like a child, my sobs shattering the suffocating silence.

I weep for Adanma, my childhood friend; my childhood crush; the person that was never meant to be mine.

I weep for the girl that drowned in that sea of darkness within.

And I weep for what I have to do to quell the death and darkness.

 

———————-

Image: Envato Market (cropped)

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