‘THE RICHEST MEN IN DOMA VILLAGE FOUND DEAD UNDER AN UDALA TREE’
It was written in Capital Letters in today’s newspaper, the highlighted story revealed a hidden truth no one knew except me.
Damian died today, and for the first time, serenity reigned in our vicinity, our stream which was once corroded with clogged blood without flow became flooded with purified water flowing East to West.
Surrounded by estates and residential buildings is the Ediga province, located in the Doma village far from the city; recently, it has recorded many unprecedented deaths and calamities, from young adults and children, the deaths were spreading to the entire Doma village. The calamity was unending and rumor had it that Damian, a tattered-looking madman showed up at doorsteps with an awful gift — A pigeon feather. And anyone who took the feather from him died within five days.
It seemed like a fairy tale, it didn’t look realistic to most people, and the feather wasn’t harmful, so how then could it kill? People did not want to relate the feather to death, it was childish and unbelievable.
Meanwhile, the youths of the province had met with Damian and they had all touched the feather, yet they didn’t die after five days. The youths and the older men became convinced that the feather story was a false one – while the women held vehemently to their opinion of the feather as evil. They oriented their children to run away from the roaming madman at any sight.
Damian’s gift of feather symbolized two things: (One: A good fortune — Two: A Shameful death.)
Tattered Damian showed up at homes to give whoever opened the door — a feather without a word. It was a strange act and the Ediga Province women had met over a hundred times to cast Damian away from their homes, the more they tried, the harder it became – he kept knocking at their doors.
Today, he knocked on My door, if I had known I would not have opened the door, but I didn’t know he was the one, I had asked who was at the door, but he said it was my uncle and honestly his voice sounded like my uncle’s. I opened the door and he handed me a feather. At the reception of this, My heart skipped, and an air rush of water filled my stomach. I stood transfixed – I might die soon, or at a better balance, something good was coming to Me. A chord struck me again like lightning electrocuting my heart. Just as Damian didn’t say a word, I too was calm. I shut the door and bypassed the sitting room (where I was watching My favorite game show ‘tony-ball’ AVC channel before the unfortunate knock at the door). As I walked to My room, I was sobbing and grimacing until I fell asleep on the bed.
Deep asleep, I met a stranger, the stranger introduced himself as My great-grandfather,
‘I’m Chedigu, the great mystic man of earthly times.’ He echoed loudly to Me. ‘Neongalon my daughter, you will have to follow me. It’s a must.’
‘But old father, how do I follow you when everywhere is dark?’ I replied trembling and fidgeting.
‘Follow my footstep, the crackling dried leaves which I step on will lead you.’
Something within My conviction made Me follow him, though I was afraid. We walked across rivers, mountains, and valleys… and as we walked through unknown paths, I noticed many white eyes in the midst of darkness staring at us. Two short-headed dwarfs blocked the pathway with crossed long spears in their hands – they requested passage from one realm to another. My old father would always plead for access. He always told them he would atone for them on his way back. They believed him, they seemed to trust him so much that they gave him the key to each realm.
We arrived at our destination, and an old-looking witch with one eye, seven legs, and seven hands welcomed us.
‘Ayio yi yoro’
The language seemed strange but with instinct, I understood clearly every single word. The witch welcomed us and my great-grandfather replied with ‘thank you, great woman.’
‘Ca ban gana te bi?’ (What brings you here?)
‘Yoro, mi chi baganga, dingwa buwe’ (Great woman, this is my daughter and she needs your help.)
‘Tete ri ro, buwe gwambi neni’ (We do not help mortals.)
‘Momanbi, diki momanbi’ (Do it for me, please do it for me.)
‘Naqi! Naqi! Jeba la ba buwe gandigidi’ (Never! Never! I can only help her on one condition.)
‘Hu i?’ (Which is?)
‘Ha bisve bebahu ji kukwe di nata lata’ (You have to give me one of your eyes forever.)
‘Da! Pal aga vugi abinomi hu. Di nata bidafa jioji humoni payo, diki yoro gwandgi ozobi’ (Oh! That’s a big thing to ask for. It is the eyes I use to see and protect my generation living on earth, please great woman, ask for something else.)
‘Qaza fafo celi, bine ago nata!’ ( You are not serious, both of you should leave my shrine.)
‘Bi, bi, di gi bi tata, hafi greti li’ (Okay, okay, I’ll give you anything you want, but help her.)
The old witch began making incantations and Chedigu’s left eye disappeared. The witch with two eyes, smiled and made a last word before retreating to an unseen smoke. The exact words were ‘gago di lo, dire ta to ginhi hui bi tanwayo.’ (Take the feather, burn it, and bury its ashes far from your home.)
I woke up in my room, with the words echoing my subconscious mind. I took the feather, burnt it and buried its ashes far from my home.
The next day, Damian, Mr. Gezu, and two strangers were reported dead under an Udala tree. The Doma Village rang a bell announcing it to the entire village and province. There was humming sadness and uneven silence.
Mr. Gezu was the wealthiest man in Doma village, he had sixteen cars, and each – he changed after three months, running or not running he replaced with a new one. He had the highest mansion in Doma village. He was generous enough that the entire village depended on him for wealth. He had taken the reverence of their king and no one regarded their king anymore – Mr. Gezu took all the glory.
Every evening, three cars toured the village, Mr. Gezu and two men who were always white, moved in the entourage and with a loud belligerent siren. Everyone roared praises – he drove past them, spraying money all over the village as children, youths and elders ran after their cars picking mints mixed with dust. This was their routine every day.
Mr. Gezu was the leader of a notable occult group. He was evil and operated only in the eyes of darkness. They had their special meetings about sacrifice to their spirit under the Udala tree. Damian gave him reports of families with the female as the first offspring. Gezu wanted such meat, it was what the occult demanded, a sacrifice of first female blood and last male blood.
He slid out the feather of his pigeon and gave it to Damian to do the needful. Damian wasn’t truly a madman, he appeared worthless to infiltrate into the little details of the land. Damian was always inside one of the stranger’s tinted cars while they paraded the village. But no one knew.
That holy day, under the Udala tree, I struck, and for the first time, newspapers carried the news about our village and I was proud of it.
Leonard Ifeanyi Ugwu, Jr. is a Lecturer/Researcher at the Institute of African Studies, University of Nigeria, Nsukka. He is a poet and short story writer. He is a PGD student of English and literary studies of the University of Nigeria, Nsukka. He studied Political Science to Masters Level and currently he is a Doctoral researcher in same field. Leonard Jr. won the best poet of the year 2012 and 2013 respectively from the Caritas University Literary and Arts Association (CAULAA) where he obtained his first degree in Political Science. Leonard Ifeanyi Ugwu, Jr. is an author of two poetry collections: ‘Echoes of Bullets,’ 2022 (published by Emotion Press Ibadan, Nigeria), and a popular poetic reflection titled ‘Echoes of the Invisible,’ 2017 (published by Author House, USA). He compiled the Anthology of Peace for the World Union of Poets (WUP) published by Atunis poetry 2016. His poems have been published in websites, newspapers, magazines and notable anthologies. He is the ‘Big Squire’ of the World Union of Poets, a laureate at World Nations Writers Union (WNWU) and former coordinator of the Creative Writers Association of Nigeria (CWAN) Enugu state chapter.
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