This was the story i wrote at  www.thenakedconvos.com for their Halloween series special last year. Most have read but if you haven’t, well here it is!

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I feel the bed suddenly depress with her weight and my heart beat spikes up. Slowly and surely, her cold, moist hands travel across my skin. It works its magic and I’m instantly paralysed, save my mouth, open in a silent appeal, darkness hiding my roving eyes. My flesh erupts in chill bumps as I feel her cold breath travelling across my face. I must not squirm. She might get angry. With that soft lilting voice I know very well, she whispers warnings into my ears. Be silent. Remember your dad? Do you want a repeat? Ofcourse I remember. How could I ever forget? In my blind panic, I had ignored all her warnings and called out to my dad the first time I felt that invasive coldness clamp down on me. He had rushed in, alarm written all over his face. Of course he wearily chalked my explanation down to a bad dream, berating me for almost waking my step-mum and her baby. “Go to sleep” he had muttered as he left me. I had closed my eyes, wanting to believe his explanation; that is until the same voice whispered into my ears promising me severe punishment for my insolence.

How could I forget the look of dejection on my step-mother’s face as she told me in a hushed tone, about my father’s death the week after? I cried myself empty that night and went to bed in a daze. I didn’t even notice her presence until the paralysis had set in. I listened in anguish as she told me how she killed my dad; how she used her cold hands to strangle him as he was driving; how she taunted him as he jerked, foaming from his lips. “It is your entire fault. Why did you call your daddy? Didn’t I warn you?” She bought my silence that day. How could I ever forget?

She leaves me and I stare unseeingly at the dark room, tears rolling off my eyes. Has it really been three months since then? It feels like three years. Another piece of my mind has been stolen; every attack chipping away at my sanity. How long before I finally descend into madness? Is that her intention? Would she leave me alone then? I shut my eyes, praying for a dreamless sleep and morning; the former, a wish never granted.

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“Kambili I’ve decided we need to get out of Lagos for a while. Not really an ideal environment with his burial still fresh in our minds.” my step mum quips as we watch TV in the living room.

My mouth opens to counter but I sigh as every impending argument dies on my lips. I took her husband away from her. She is dealing with grief, nursing a baby and rearing a teenage step-daughter.  She does need a change of scenery. Guilt bores a deep hole into my psyche.

“You people are on long vacation in school so it’s no problem. We’d be back from Ihembosi before you resume in SS2.”

“Yes ma” I whisper.

She waits a beat, then sighs.

“If you don’t want to go, its fine. You could stay at a friend’s place…”

I protest immediately.

It’s fine. I’d go. I even manage a small smile.

My smile dies as soon as she mentions visiting my real aunt. “Do I have to?”

“It would be unfair if we went back and you didn’t see your mother’s people since your aunt lives in the next town.”

I do not like visiting my aunt. All she did was gossip the last time I travelled with my dad. But, who am I to complain? All my fault.

“Ok.” I mutter.

Chink

The sound of Guilt, carving another notch.

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The road is slick with blood. Dead bodies lay strewn on asphalt. Moving cars help to dismember and mash up body parts. Why are they being so thoughtless? The driver stops the car and I wish he hadn’t. We need to move out of here. One of the bodies lying gets up and starts to move towards us. My eyes widen in horror. I tap my step-mum beside me. She’s sleeping. I try to wake the driver to no avail. Why won’t they wake up? Something’s coming! Suddenly there’s a tap at my window. I turn and scream in fright at the face looming, empty eye sockets boring into me.

“O gini!”

I open my eyes sharply. The car hasn’t stopped. No one is sleeping. There is no one at my window.

“Bad dream” I mutter, wiping my eyes. My step-mum looks at me worriedly.

“Ndo”

I nod and settle back into the seat. The face at the window in my dream doesn’t leave my mind; My mother. She died in an accident along this road three years ago.

Agbor.

I sigh.

Sadness.

Just when the journey to the village was getting exciting.

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“Nno nu o!” My step grandmother screams excitedly as she sees our car coming into the compound. For the first time since my dad died, I see my second mum give a genuine smile. I stand by the car, watching as Mama dotes on her child and grandchild. I feel slightly jealous as I watch the reunion.

“Nwa m kedu?” Mama finally says to me, motioning me to come closer. She hugs me perfunctorily and goes back to her grandbaby.

“Ngwa, the driver would take you to your Aunty Njide’s place. You should be there in an hour tops. Greet her for me. I’ve kept some bread, banana and groundnut in the car for her so make sure you give It to her. I’d come pick you up later”

I nod at her instructions. I understand. There’s no place for me here; at least not yet. The driver comes into the car and we drive off.

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“Nne wake up. Teta!”

I mutter sleepily at my aunt’s insistent voice. Can’t I just get one quiet night’s sleep?

“O nwere ndi obia choro I hu gi. You have visitors”

“Visitors aunty? This night?” I say struggling to sit up.

“Osiiso nne.”

“Ok” I say, yawning, rubbing sleep off my eyes as I follow her to the sitting room. I’m greeted by the sight of four women. They look familiar but I hardly know them.

They all stare at me in silence.

“Nno nu” I whisper, sitting down warily, sleep suddenly vanishing from my eyes.

My aunt breaks the ice.

“When last did your mother pay you a night visit?”

My eyes widen at the question. My mouth goes dry and I lick my lips to moisten them.

“You..you know?”

They all laugh quietly.

“Ofcourse we know!” One of the women whispered fiercely. “She’s our sister.”

My heart pounds. Sweat gathers at my armpits and my hands shake nervously.

Their sister?

My mum had only one sister, Njideka.

They all smile at me and suddenly, I feel tendrils of fear crawling down my spine, settling uncomfortably in the pit of my stomach.

I swallowed.

“What does she want from me? She’s dead. Why is she tormenting me? What does she do to me! Why did she kill my dad? Weren’t they married?”

“Tormenting kwa?” One of them intoned.

“Your dad was a fool! Because of him, she never became the priestess. She hated him!” another added.

“Your mother was killed by that woman you now call step mother! Through you, shall her revenge come!” Njideka’s voice whispered fiercely.

My head spins in confusion, trying to take all the information in.

“M..My step mum Sylvia?”

They nod their heads furiously.

Confusion clouds my mind.

“But..but..she’s nice..and…”

“Taa! Can’t you see she’s just fooling you! She’s evil and she must be destroyed!”

Beads of sweat roll down my face. What am I getting myself into?

Aunty offers me a cup and I accept hesitantly. I smell it and wrinkle my face in disgust. I give her back the cup. “Sorry aunty but I can’t drink. I don’t like the smell and I’m not sure what you people want from me”

Without a word, the women surround me, holding me forcefully as my aunt squeezes my mouth open and pours the drink down my throat. Spluttering in revulsion, I rise up to leave when my limbs suddenly go numb. My tongue feels swollen and every attempt to talk proves futile. Only my eyes show my growing depth of disbelief and fear.

Two of them quickly undress me while the others set up the living room with lighted candles and incenses in small clay pots. With practiced hands, my aunt ties palm fronds around my head, hands and feet. She dips her fingers into a clay pot and sprinkles its content on me. She clears her throat and the other women gather around me, each holding down a limb.

“Nne anyi! Adamma! Agbara mmiri! Oke nwanyi! Oji anya ahu uzo! Lekwa ya. Nwata a choro iwere onodu nne ya. Nara ya nne anyi!”

I feel cold permeating my naked skin. My aunt dips her hand into another pot and smears my eyes shut with a mushy substance. I can’t open them. My ears pick up the voices of the women intoning their prayers. I feel pressure on my wrist. A cut. “Ire gi” my aunt commands to other women.

I feel her hand squeeze at the opening wound routinely. I catch a whiff of incense cloying in the air. Its acrid stench burn my throat but I cannot cough out.

My aunt suddenly screams.

“Nneka! Nneka! Bia! Biaba! Bia! Uzo yere oye!”  Come. The door is open

These words chill me to the marrow. Why are they calling her? They shouldn’t! What door is open?

After several minutes of calling, my fears are realized. I hear her. I hear my aunt greet her sister.

“Nno nwanne. Ngwa banye” Welcome sister. Now, enter.

Banye? Enter where? The hairs on my neck are raised in alarm at the cold familiar feeling on my skin. I can’t even struggle effectively. Their hold upon my limbs are vice-like

No!

Why this!

Why me!

I feel the descending darkness quickly wrap me in its embrace and I lose consciousness.

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I’m afraid.

My step mum came to pick me up the next afternoon and I was reluctant to follow her.

I’m afraid for her.

My aunt told me earlier that I’m now one of them. Agbara nwanyi accepted me. Spilling her secret is death.

I’m afraid of myself.

Evening slowly matures into night and my feelings of fear and trepidation increase in folds. My stomach is in knots. My nerves have been woven together and stretched like strings. I’ve refused to carry my baby brother three times now. What would happen when I have him in my arms? I cannot risk that. Grandma has asked me if I’m alright several times and my answer remains the same.

Yes, yes I’m ok.

“Goodnight mama”

“Laru ofuma nwa m” Sleep well, child.

“Goodnight ma”

“Night my dear”

I slowly walk to my designated room and lay down.

I’m determined not to sleep.

My body begs to differ.

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“Kambili. Its time.” My heart leaps. Did I just speak? I find myself getting up. Wait! Wait! What am I doing? Why am I moving? I try to control my movement. It is futile. Fear and confusion swamps me. I try to scream but my vocal chords refuse to function. Like a puppet in the hands of its puppeteer, I move.

No! Wait! Where am I going? Why is my body betraying me?

I trudge into the kitchen unwillingly and straight to the knife cupboard. My fingers grasp the hilt of a knife.

Stop it!

I hear her laughing in my head and the realisation of my plight dawns on me as I walk past the living room into a bedroom where a woman and her baby lay asleep on the bed.

Mummy please stop! This is madness! Mummy!

My slim hands wrapped tightly around the hilt of the knife, I tip toed to the room. The door is open and I can see the woman and child inside by the light of the lamp. The baby is barely an arm length away from her. It is a small bed, and easy to reach from the far side. My feet makes quiet contact with the ground as I approach the favourable side of the bed.

It’s an innocent baby! My brother! Somto! Please! Not me please!

The baby moves suddenly as though in the throes of a bad dream, and I strike!

The knife plunges into the soft flesh above the child’s chest. I find new strength to push it further and I feel the knife graze horridly against the soft bones.

Jesus! Jesus! Oh my God!

I repeat the action as the baby gasps painfully and makes a terrible noise before keeping quiet. By the time my step mum is awake, her child looks like fleshy rags. Her eyes open wide in terror at the sight. Her hand instinctively reaches for her baby and draws back instantly at the feel of raw flesh and blood. She looks up at me, dazed. Her mind has still not understood that I did not only come for the baby.

Forgive me!

Forgive me!

“Kambili! Blood of Jesus!” she seems to collect herself as she opens her mouth to begin screaming for help. I quickly jump on her while she was halfway off the bed, so that her upper body is off it while I straddle her at the waist….

“Mama! Mama! Biakwa! Mama!” she manages to scream as I try to muffle her scream.

My eyes are confessing my innocence, pleading release from my inner bondage even as I’m struggling to pin her struggling frame down.

Please!

Make it stop!

“Chineke! Kambili! O gini!” Mama screams as she enters into the room in haste. My hand feels for the knife which I dropped during the wrestle. My step mother bucks wildly, trying to gorge out my eyes with her fingers.

I feel something connect with my head and as I spin towards my grandma, brandishing a metallic flask, my step mum pushes me off her and I land on the floor. I feel her hold on me release for a moment but before I can seize control of my body, my step mum comes off the bed and lands on me.

Please!Please!

“Ekwensu!” she screams in anguish as she lashes at my face with the ferocity of a wounded animal with her fists.

She doesn’t try to fight her, stretching my lips into a smile, laughing with my voice at her.

My grandma rushes out of the room, screaming for neighbours.

“Ekwensu! Satan! Satan!” She picks up a torch, replacing it with her fists.

She slams it with fury into my head and pain blooms, causing me to scream out in pain.

She’s left me!

“Aunty please! Its not me!” I cry out.

She doesn’t listen, pounding away.

I try to protect my head but I’m too weak.

Isn’t it better to die?

“Ekwensu! Ekwensu!”

My vision dims and with the image of her, mouth pulled in a shriek, hair scattered holding a bloodied torch, I release my hold on consciousness.

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Hope you enjoyed that!

I’ve got great plans for this story…GREAT ONES. All i can say for now is “Wait for the printed version!” 😀

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