The platform invasion continues!
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What do you think!?
The platform invasion continues!
Now I have a station on Wattpad too so if you’re a part of that vibrant community, please drop by and show me love here!
What do you think!?
Jumoke’s Bible Study group met in the music room which was on the other end of the block that made up the senior class rooms.
There was already a large group of students inside by the time we got there; a mixture of seniors and juniors with all the girls wearing scarves or hankies covering their heads.
They’d already begun the singing part of the proceedings which was the part I was most familiar with since you could usually hear them from most parts of the campus when they started.
I even knew some of the songs myself so I grabbed a stool in the back and began to clap and sing along. Someone passed me a tambourine and I thought; this might actually be kind of fun.
We hadn’t been singing for long when three girls came in clutching severely worn looking bibles to themselves. They didn’t join in the singing they just went out to the middle and closed their eyes. Aside from Chidera, I noted Jumoke was one of them. This didn’t surprise me since it was well known she was one of the pioneers of this group. I wondered if I would be able to see her after about the Mr Effiong situation.
The lips of the three girls were moving rapidly and silently and they were swaying a little. I assumed what they were doing was praying though I noted no fluctuations in power in the room. Oh well. At least everyone seemed to be enjoying themselves.
Then Jumoke raised her hand very suddenly and the singing and clapping died down abruptly. It was quite dramatic. I stilled the tambourine in my hands anxious to see what would happen next.
Jumoke opened her eyes while the other two girls kept on with the silent muttering and swaying. She stared around at the students surrounding her. There was a kind of – I don’t know – crazy look in her eye. Nobody seemed worried though. In fact they all watched her with sober intensity. It reminded me of one of those movies where – well, where this kind of thing happens…
When she began to speak they almost seemed to be leaning towards her, hanging on her every word like she was re-enacting a ritual they all knew and loved.
“I told you before!” she spoke in a raised voice, “I told you that there is more to this world than meets the eye! Strangers walk amongst us! Unnatural beings!”
I glanced at Dolapo. He looked as rapt as everybody else in the room.
Is it any wonder that I cannot stand Abikus.
“Beings that seek to lead us astray and capture us!” Jumoke continued her tirade. Seriously, I had never seen this side of her before. “Beings that seek to torture and kill us! You think such things can not exist in the real world! But they do! Even in this school!”
I started trying to signal Dolapo who sat on the other side of the room by waving my hand furtively at him but the dizzy cow was avoiding my glance.
“But some of you are doubting Thomases,” now there was a smug expression on Jumoke’s face. She walked slowly around in the circular space in the middle of the gathering. “Some of you need to see it with your own eyes and touch it with your own hands!” She stopped in front of where Dolapo stood. “I will reveal the evil in your midst today so that you may cease doubting and increase thy faith!”
That was when I raised my hand and called, “Jumoke!”
Everyone turned to me with the same look of utter astonishment.
Now it was like being in that movie ‘Inception’ when the conscious mind suddenly realized you were there. Creeeepy…
But I refused to be creeped out and I waggled my raised hand about as if I was in class, “I have a question?”
The girls that had been praying in the centre were now shooting annoyed looks at me. Chidera who was next to clueless Dolapo glowered at me. “Maro! What are you doing!” she whisper-yelled at me, “You’re interrupting!”
Jumoke on the other hand after looking surprised started to look pleased. “You really have guts,” she smirked at me.
Suddenly I felt like I’d walked myself into something pretty bad. My skin had started to prickle like crazy. That meant power fluctuations.
Jumoke grabbed the front of Dolapo’s shirt and dragging him from his place, easily flung the surprised boy into the centre of the gathering. He landed in a heap at the feet of her prayer warriors who jumped at the unexpectedly hard impact of the younger boy hitting the floor. They stared at Dolapo who groaned then started to cry immediately. Then they glanced at each other uncertainly before turning back to their leader with the first hints of anxiety in their eyes.
Jumoke had not taken her sly gaze off me even during her show of unnatural strength which I wasn’t sure if anyone else had registered.
“You’re also dumber than I expected,” she continued while the crowd of Bible Studiers shifted uncomfortably where they stood, probably sensing the change in the script. “But I guess that just makes everything easier for me.”
If nothing else would have told me, that did it. I was suddenly almost 100% sure I was standing in front of my wannabe witch.
Questions upon questions crowded in my head. If she wasn’t a Dim then what the hell was she? And where the hell was she getting the power I could feel increasing in the room even as we stared each other down? One question however was topmost on my mind and I stood up.
“You took my thing. Why?” I demanded.
The crazy look was back in full force in Jumoke’s eyes. “First confess before everyone what you really are, filthy spirit!”
Filthy spirit??? Was she for real?
Angry now I stepped forward and poked her in the chest, “I’m not confessing anything to a half ass occultist playing with forces she’s completely clueless about! I’m not joking with you, Jumoke! Where is my thing and why did you take it?”
“Jumoke what’s going on?” Chidera asked in a small voice behind her.
Jumoke pointed at me and yelled, “This girl is an Abiku! An unclean spirit!”
I pointed back at her, “And you’re a witch! So?”
Murmuring broke out all around us.
“Don’t listen to her! It’s in her nature to lie!” Jumoke cried addressing her followers who unfortunately looked like they believed her. They were staring at me like if I’d sprouted another head. “She and Dolapo are possessed by the spirit of Abiku!” she now strode over to where the junior still crouched and pushed him roughly with her foot, “Confess!!” she snarled.
“It’s true! I’m abiku!” Dolapo cried out with tears streaming down his face, “save me!”
“Shut up, you dumbass!” I snapped at him but it was too late of course. Everyone was already gasping and pointing at us and generally acting like we hadn’t been going to the same school and classes together for the last several years.
“Hold them!” Jumoke ordered her minions. “We will cast out the unclean spirit from both of them today!”
The prayer warriors took Dolapo by either arm and hauled him to his feet. To my disbelief, two of the Bible Studiers gave me the same treatment. I struggled to shake them off but they were determined and held on. In a case like this I would usually have just escaped through my door and let my body crumple in their arms knowing they would rush it somewhere for help and eventually leave me alone. But without knowing where my thing was I still couldn’t risk that, thanks, apparently, to Jumoke Talabi.
We were both dragged before the head girl who looked us over with satisfaction before holding her hand out behind her. “My bag!” she ordered.
Chidera fetched her school bag from wherever it was and put it in her hand by the strap. Without taking glittering eyes off us Jumoke drew the bag to herself and plunged her hand into it. When her hand reappeared, it was clutching something.
It was a little clay cup thing decorated with beads and feathers. It kind of looked like something a child would make and from the dismayed look on Dolapo’s face I realized I was looking at the physical manifestation of his true name.
Off all the stupid-
Could he have made anything more easily destructi-
At that point I couldn’t anymore with the kid…
“Behold this Abiku’s connection to the spirit world!” Jumoke proclaimed holding it above her head. The loud murmuring began again. “Once it is destroyed! The evil spirit in him will die!”
I noticed that Dolapo didn’t look so sure he wanted to be saved anymore. He was trembling and pulling back in the hands of the girls that were holding him tight.
I sighed. This was going way too far.
“Jumoke, stop this!” I said trying to sound reasonable. “I get it, now. You have beef with me. Let the kid go, he has nothing to do with this!”
The only acknowledgement she gave of having heard my words was to look directly into my eyes, showing me, in one glance, a world of bitterness and vindictiveness I could never have imagined earning as she let the clay cup drop from her hands and shatter at her feet.
Dolapo whimpered and simply collapsed beside me.
Stunned I watched as the prayer warriors let him fall to the ground then resumed their silent mutterings, snapping their fingers over his prone form.
Not that it made a single difference.
With his name destroyed, the Abiku that was Dolapo, my poor, scatter-brained sibling, was already gone for good.
I turned back to Jumoke. “You are such a bitch,” I couldn’t resist telling her.
She smiled at me, “You’re next Maro.”
FYI: All the chapters for this story can be found HERE on Channel One with the most recent chapter at the top.
There was a time when I thought my life was boring.
There was never much to do for a fifteen year old in Lagos. I did the same things everyday, went to school, talked with my friends, came home, ate, did home work, watched TV and went to bed. On weekends there was more TV and chatting with my almost boyfriend A.J. (if he would just ask me out) online. There were just a few malls to go to and just a few cinemas too with several hours of traffic before each. All my friends and I ever did was watch TV and chat online.
I would often lie on my bed in my room, the blinding sunshine pouring in through my window, creating burglar proof shadows across my face and body, seeming to suggest I ought to be outside doing something, but what? I imagined the dullness of my life as a real pressure covering me like a heavy blanket and pushing me down into my mattress.
Sunshine meant nothing. Blue skies meant nothing. The music playing from my ipod speakers was all the same and every hour of every day was eternal. I was sure that one day the pressure would be enough to push me right through the mattress and I would disappear right into its soft darkness.
After my Dad died, I would often look back on that feeling with disbelief. Who was that girl with the easy, normal life? Friends to gossip with? A cook to make her favourite meals? Xbox and Wii games to play with her brother and an ongoing flirtation with a relatively popular guy? Was she really me?
Could that ever, really have been my life?
It’s usual for a death in the family to change one’s life radically. My Dad’s death was no exception, causing a seismic shift in my life that altered everything around me. In the week that followed the day he didn’t come home, all sorts of things I had never noticed became startlingly obvious. Financial troubles, the strain between my parents, the estrangement between our family and his.
No one ever spoke to me or my brother directly. We were shuttled around from family friend to family friend so we would not witness the tense battles going on in our living room between my Mom and her late husband’s family. But we always came home at night and since the day he didn’t come home, it seemed like my hearing had been tuned to the particular frequency that my Mom wept at. It didn’t matter how quietly she did it, I could hear her through walls.
Sometimes, Aunty Grace, her best friend would leave her own family to spend the night at our house. It was from their midnight conversations that I learned what I knew of our situation.
Apparently we were poor. We had been for some time. Also, Dad had been in trouble at work and that had something to do with why we were poor. Also his family blamed my Mom for his death. And my Mom believed that my Dad’s death was a suicide. These things I kept to myself, freezing them in a bubble that I stored inside to be examined much later when it didn’t feel like I was stuffed with cotton wool.
For a time, my brother and I continued to go to school because no one could think what else to do with us. It was a complete waste of time. Nothing any of my teachers said stayed in my head. Even when my friends talked to me, their voices always seemed to come from really far away.
My friends. I liked my class. We were not the smartest division of our form but everyone was friendly and the juniors rated us as some of the coolest seniors in school. I was friends with everyone but then I had particular friends like Simi Denloye and Meimunat Abdullahi who I’d been thick with since JSS 1. They were the ones that I did all my gossiping, confiding and dreaming with. Now they were the ones I couldn’t talk to.
I didn’t even know how to. I couldn’t find my own feelings to express and the things I was learning gagged in my throat before they could reach my mouth. It was easier not to talk at all.
But then how silly it made everything else seem. I could no longer view Mei’s illicit romance with Dayo that had to be hidden from her parents with the same grave and momentous sense of drama that I once had. I could see they felt uncomfortable bringing it up around me too which was hard because that had been our main thing around then.
I think they got a little frustrated with me after a while. They didn’t know what to say around me and I didn’t know how to help them. It was probably a relief for them too when Mom stopped making us go to school.
She stopped coming out of her room.
Akan (my brother) and I watched cable TV from morning to night. Sometimes I would get up to cook us all something (usually noodles or something that could be done in the microwave oven) or to go and take a shower if I felt too icky.
Sometimes I would just lie on my bed and face away from the window and the stupid persistent sunlight.
Our house was very quiet. Time had stopped. There was some comfort in that.
There was a wake and a funeral, both closed coffin. Then there was a small stiff reception after the funeral. Then it was done.
Everyone left except my father’s brother Uncle Marcus from the States. No one had seen him in over 10 years before he showed up for the funeral. My Mom took him into the kitchen and they had a long, hushed conversation. Akan brought out the Xbox and began to play while I watched.
When they finally stepped out of the kitchen he was still playing. Uncle Marcus smiled at me with sad eyes that were older than my Dad’s had been. He rubbed Akan’s head and then he left.
My Mom sat down in an arm chair and stared at the CG characters leaping about on the big flat screen TV then did something that shocked me profoundly. She retrieved a cigarette and a lighter, seemingly from nowhere, and with the easy grace of one long used to the practice, lit up and inhaled deeply.
As she exhaled a tense stream of smoke she had our attention.
“Regina, Akan,” she said smiling at us through the smoke, “how would you like to move away from here?”
Her question was rhetorical because the arrangements had already been made. We couldn’t stay at our house anymore. Even our things had to be sold.
Akan, who has always been a good younger brother if a bit on the stolid side finally showed some passion when threatened with the loss of his gaming consoles. He actually became a little hysterical and I had to convince our Mom to let him keep the Xbox along with several of his favourite games. He reluctantly let go of the rest and refused to talk to either of us after they were sold.
I went through a similar process. My computer, my precious Bose speakers, my dvd collection and a large portion of my clothes, shoes and bags all had to go. I was allowed to keep some favourite jeans and tops, a couple of formal outfits and my one traditional outfit; an Ankara dress. I also got to keep my mp3 player which along with my phone was an intrinsic part of me.
I didn’t fight. I had just been told that what was left of my nuclear family was going to be torn apart for the rest of the foreseeable future. Lugging all the trappings of my former life around was not high on my list of priorities.
That day, my Mom had told us that Akan was to go off with Uncle Marcus and stay with him and his family in the states while she and I would be retreating to the place my mother came from.
Because it was all happening so fast none of it seemed real. The house was gradually emptied. Akan and I were officially removed from school.
Simi and Mei and even AJ came to see me. Simi cried and that made me cry too. Would I never see them again? It was too hard to believe and I don’t think I really did. Even when we hugged and cried, a part of me sat just beside us watching it all like it was a movie of me. Mei gave me her second favourite charm bracelet to remember her and for good luck and Aj…
AJ took a long walk with me around our compound and we talked about everything except us. He even made me laugh. As we walked I kept catching him watching me and when I did he would blush and look away, his eyes shining with what he was afraid to say. Doesn’t he know I’m leaving? I thought inside, frustrated…
In school that day, every one in my class was using every spare opportunity to study for the math test which was tomorrow. Teachers kept on having to seize math textbooks from students during history, literature and even Art class.
I was the only one not filling my jotter with practice equations. My jotter was filled instead with the relationship maps of my whodunnit case. And none of them made any sense.
For instance – what did my thing missing have to do with the monster that visited Dolapo? And what did the monster have to do with poor Mr. Effiong robbing his own bank (before I left he asked me if my box was one of the one’s he’d taken something from – he seemed so pitiful that I just told him no…)?
And what did any of it have to do with Bo and Home?
By the end of class that day I was cranky because I still couldn’t figure it out and, on top of that, I was almost 100% certain that I was going to fail that stupid test.
So I was gratified when I got a text message from Ayo asking me if I wanted to stay behind after school and go over some of the material to be covered. We were to meet in the senior class room closest to the prefects’ lounge. I got there first because Ayo still had to finish basketball practice.
I didn’t mind waiting since I knew there would be no one at home anyway. I opened my Math text book intending to get a head start on the work and show Ayo I wasn’t entirely hopeless but after two minutes of staring at my text book pages in mounting horror I decided to people watch instead.
That’s how I was lucky enough to spot Dolapo traipsing past my class in the brisk wake of a some senior girls.
Usually, I would have ignored him but considering recent occurrences and my need for information, I jumped up and hailed him through the class room window.
He stopped, saw it was me and almost kept walking. I had to quickly reach through the window and snag him by his rumpled uniform collar, smiling with satisfaction when he squeaked unhappily.
“What are you doing in the senior class rooms, Dolly?” I asked him.
“They asked me to come!” Dolapo whined squirming under my grip.
I looked at the “they” in question. I recognized them because they were girls from my set. I also happened to know that they were from the crew that tended to hang around Jumoke, the head girl.
“Why would they ask you to come? What do they want from you?” I asked knowing fully well that kids like sickly, attention seeking Dolapo usually didn’t rate the notice of that snobby set.
“Why d’you want to know? It’s none of your business!” Dolapo complained loudly, twisting in earnest now.
I was about to shake some co-operation out of him when one of the girls he’d been following; a heavyset, bespectacled girl named Chidera, was suddenly beside us, hands on hips and expression offended. “Maro, what do you think you’re doing?” she asked eyes on my hand that was currently twisted into Dolapo’s collar.
I let go quickly. “Nothing,” I said poker faced through the window, “I was just teasing him.”
“That’s not what it looked like!” she said taking Dolapo firmly by the upper arm and eying me.
“I don’t – really care what you think it looked like, Chidera,” I said carefully keeping my voice even though I bristled inside at her uppity tone. Did she think she was my senior or something? “What do you want him for? Is he on punishment?” I asked getting back to the subject who was now her captive.
Chidera gave me an annoyed look like she didn’t want to say but was deciding to show me she was the bigger person. Whatever.
“If you must know, we’re taking him for our Bible study,” Chidera sniffed, “he needs prayers.”
“Is that right?” I asked suddenly fascinated. I glanced at Dolapo who was beaming between the two of us like he had no idea that he was the subject of this conversation.
Had they somehow discovered what he was? I wondered. Was there really someone that astute in their midst? Since when?
“Can I come?” I asked on a whim.
Chidera looked at me with open and, I must say, insulting suspicion.
One of the girls she had been moving with suddenly called out to her from ahead. She looked in their direction. Then she looked back at me and shrugged, “do what you want.”
Then she marched off after her friends dragging the hapless Dolapo behind her.
My curiosity still deepening, I tagged along.
FYI: All the chapters for this story can be found HERE on Channel One with the most recent chapter at the top.
I woke up to chaos.
Mom and Dad were rushing about the house, yelling at the help, yelling into their phones, yelling at each other. No one even noticed that I’d woken up late and I thought it would be a good idea to keep it that way.
I crept into the kitchen and stuffed my mouth with akara balls. I was almost through the backdoor when I heard my Dad’s voice (still yelling into his phone), “Tell Mr. Effiong if he says one more word to the police he can forget about having my chambers defend him!”
I dropped my bag and went to confront my parents.
They’re an interesting pair. One is a public prosecutor (Mom) and the other is a defense lawyer (Dad). I can’t imagine what they were thinking to marry each other but luckily their cases only cross once in a while. When that happens, however, one of them (usually Dad) has to go stay in a hotel for a while.
I found them both in the living room now, half dressed for work, papers scattered everywhere, each on the phone to their respective office.
They seemed hugely distracted so I was surprised when I came into the room and they both turned and shot me startled looks. Then they glanced at each other. It was very suspicious.
“What, ” I asked slowly, “is going on?”
My parents looked at each other again and my Mom shrugged in a gesture that seemed to say “you might as well tell her.”
My Dad sighed. “A call came from your Mom’s office early this morning. Your banker – Mr. Effiong – he’s been arrested.”
I goggled at my Dad shocked, “What? Why?”
“They’re saying that he robbed his own bank,” my Mom added sinking into a chair tiredly and trying to push her glasses into her hair only to realize that she was still wearing a hair net. She pulled it off with annoyance, “it makes no sense!”
“But – ” my mind staggered under the unexpectedness of this information, “but – why would they think that?”
“Evidence,” my Dad said quietly, “apparently there’s video surveillance footage that shows him doing the deed.”
Suddenly my heart and mind began to race. “Did they – did they say what he took?”
Now my parents were both looking at me with meaningful expressions.
“Some cash. Not enough for early detection. Also not enough to be worth the risk. But they’re saying he also broke into one or two safety deposit boxes.” My Dad came up to me and put his hands on my shoulders, “the surveillance doesn’t show it but – Maro, its possible…”
“…that mine was one of them,” I finished for him, grimly, “so are we going to see him or what?”
The Mr. Effiong that sat across a bare table from me about an hour and a half later was a far cry from the chatty Uncle of less than a week ago.
He was hunched in his chair and with his clothes all rumpled and his hair uncombed, he looked 10 years older than his forty something years. He kept on looking from my Dad and I to the handcuffs the police had insisted on keeping on his wrists and back again in a confused fashion like he wanted us to explain them to him.
“I watched that video, Tommy, It was really me! But -” he raised his bewildered glance to us, “it was like watching a film effect! I just kept thinking how can that be me if I can’t remember doing something like that? Won’t I at least have an inkling of the memory? Have I gone mad?”
My Dad was sitting with his head in his hand looking harassed. I didn’t blame him. He was here as a lawyer but Mr. Effiong was his friend too. “It’s ok, Nsikak. We’ll find out what happened.” Colours that were blurry with his confusion swam around him.
Mr Effiong’s colours though – fear, shock, tiredness, a deep confusion and disbelief, all these hues shuddered around him but not the slightest hint of anything that would have immediately told me he was guilty.
Any idea I had of him being my witch had been far fetched to begin with. Being with him squelched whatever was left of it.
He may have been the man in the video but he was innocent.
Which could only mean that he was framed.
Was this the work of my wannabe witch then?
“Uncle,” I asked frowning as I tried to clarify things in my head, “what took them so long to see the footage? Is that how your bank usually operates?”
Mr. Effiong shook his head sadly, “It’s so strange. I’m the one who always insisted that the security people were not going over the CCTV recordings everyday the way they should. I’m told that the reason they checked was because they were given an anonymous tip. Imagine the shock of finally reviewing the recordings and finding me on them!” He laughed humorlessly, “If I ever get out of this mess, all of them will be in trouble!”
Poor Mr. Effiong. Even at a time like this, he was attempting to crack his dry jokes.
I resolved in my heart to make sure that he did get out of this mess.
Not that I knew exactly how I was going to do that. Things kept on happening around me but I didn’t seem to be getting any closer to the truth.
I picked up my schoolbag ready to leave so the driver could drop me off.
“Ah – Maro,” Mr. Effiong raised his handcuffed arms towards me and I paused in the act of getting up. “That man’s daughter is in your school right? Commisioner Talabi? She said so on her form when she opened a junior account with us last week. Maybe you can ask her to alert her father about my case? He’s a good man – and he has connections! I’m sure he can help!”
“Nsikak!”my Dad’s tone was disapproving and sad. “Maro, I think you can go now.”
I got up slowly as my Dad leaned towards his distressed friend and spoke to him quietly. Commissioner Talabi. That must be Jumoke’s hot shot Dad.
Something nudged in my brain but I couldn’t pay it too much attention because I was too busy thinking: Me? Ask Jumoke for a favor?
FYI: All the chapters for this story can be found HERE on Channel One with the most recent chapter at the top.
After my meeting with Ayo I had to grudgingly accept that there were perhaps people within my sphere of acquaintances who might – for God knows what reasons – consider themselves my enemies.
Actually I was surprised at the two page list of names Ayo meticulously put down for me. It would seem I was the type to frequently enter into altercations with people, but where I tended to forget things when they were over, some people didn’t. How that’s my fault remains a mystery but that’s the conclusion my supposed best friend seems to have reached.
Now I had to figure out who on the lengthy list might have taken my thing and, according to Ayo, I also had to consider an attitude adjustment. Honestly? I’d sincerely have liked to adjust his attitude but whatever…
So – these were the kind of deep thoughts running through my mind that night as I lay in my bed unable to relax enough to sleep or do anything useful like study. Sadly, at my house there was a no internet after 9pm rule so I couldn’t even distract myself with that.
All I could do was worry. It didn’t help that I was used to always checking my thing with my mind before sleeping. It just felt so wrong that it wasn’t there. Like the hole left behind by a missing tooth that you can’t stop poking. In fact, I was so busy poking that I almost missed it.
The clickety-clackety sound outside my window.
I’m no stranger to things that go bump in the night or just stop by to say hi, so I quickly jumped out of bed to investigate.
It was a cloudy, moonless night and the security lights from our house only went so far, but it was enough for me make out the bony figure in the shadows. The lightening colored white of his eyes and of his very long grin gave him away.
He saw me in my window and stepped a little more out of the shadow, revealing a shiny, bald head. In one hand was an old, wooden cobbler’s toolbox with iron handles hinged to the top. He worked the handles together in his hand.
*clickety – clack*
I grabbed a wrapper, secured it around my nightie and flew downstairs detouring through the kitchen and then bursting out through the backdoor which led to the part of the house outside my window.
My hurry was because it had been two life times since I had last seen this character and that time too, my life had been at a weird, changeable place. I just knew that he was here because of my missing thing.
And who was he? He was usually just called the Cobbler. To be honest it’s really hard to say what he is exactly because he’s pretty old. Maybe even older than me. But what he does is appear before people who have a journey to make. Especially if that journey will take them across the in-betweens. The cobbler makes you shoes that will in his words “go very far.” I don’t know why he does it. Maybe it’s a hobby.
I call him Johnny Nevermind and he doesn’t come to me to make shoes. Well, not since the first time – but that’s a different story. The important thing is over the millennia we’ve kind of become friends and he visits me every couple of life times, usually for one reason – gist.
He waited for me just where the light stopped and the shadows began, a gauntly thin, ageless man whose face was always in shadow except for his lighted eyes and grinning teeth. Like the Cheshire Cat. Me and Alice were getting pretty similar, I thought. Except I actually come from behind the looking glass.
“Johnny Nevermind,” I hailed him.
“The little… Fey,” he greeted me back in his hesitant, accent-less tones. Fey. I used to dislike him calling me that though it was once one of our names. But after a while, living in a world that changes as much as this one does, you take whatever unchanging and familiar thing you can get.
I stretched my hand and opened it to show him what I’d picked up from the kitchen.
His grin grew wider if that was even possible. Some found it creepy that he never stopped grinning. Even when he was talking. But like I said about familiar things…
Minutes later we sat cross legged beside each other chewing the bitter fruit after exhausting the subject of who’s been up to what since we last saw ourselves. At last he laced his fingers together and cracked his knuckles so loudly it sounded like he’d snapped his bones.
“Word has it that you may need… a pair of shoes,” he said.
“I lost my thing,” I answered, “But do you think I need to travel? Why? And to where?”
“Everyone is saying you’ll be going… home. To get a new name,” he said serenely, teeth gleaming strangely.
Going home? Home?
Back to the first? To Bo?
“Why the hell would they be saying that? I never said anything like that!” I frowned, “That would mean dying and I’m not interested in dropping this life.”
“You don’t have to die. You can walk. I will make you good… shoes,” Johnny Nevermind said soothingly.
“Thanks Johnny, you know I love your work but – I’m not walking anywhere either,” I said firmly, “I happen to have it on pretty good authority that my thing is being hidden by someone here. I just have to find out who and get it back.”
Johnny Nevermind turned his bald head slowly towards me, ” Really?” he raised long, bony fingers and stroked his chin, “well, that’s intriguing.” His many layers of grey, however, billowed around him serenely like chiffon curtains in a slow motion breeze. Suspicious.
“Hey,” I gave him a narrow eyed look of my own, “What’ve you heard?”
His grin increased manically again. “Only that your siblings are happy because… Bo is happy. He’s in a playful mood. Maybe he thinks you’re coming… back.”
I snorted. “If he thinks I’m coming back then he’s – ” I stopped short of saying insane remembering I was talking about the King of Abiku kind – of course he was several cards short of a full suite. “I have no plans to go back.” I said instead.
“Ah -,” my friend sighed gustily as he said characteristically, “never mind, then. I thought I should… check.”
He reached out and clasped the handles of his toolbox almost lovingly before rising carefully to his feet. “What a lovely, dark night. So right for… traveling,” he said then turned to me, “call me if you change your mind.”
“Good night Johnny.” I said because I wasn’t going to change my mind.
Then Johnny Nevermind passed through the shadows and left, his form disappearing long before the sound of his clickety-clacking toolbox.
I was already in bed before Dolapo’s words suddenly came back to me.
“Maro, it smelled like home.”
Well, who else could it have been but my witch that confronted Dolapo?
He was convinced that he’d seen a monster but any wannabe witch can throw a vision and make people think they see things and God knows, Abiku were suggestible enough.
The thing was, till now I’d never thought there were any witches in our vicinity because true witches always feel compelled to come and pay homage to Ayo just like the one in Osogbo had done. Any true witch knew what he was because his antecedent had created all the paths they followed now and Nature itself spoke to them of him. Simply put, if this witch didn’t know something as basic as this, I was dealing with a wannabe.
But what kind of wannabe could have the power to hide an Abiku’s thing from it?
The questions were driving me out of my skull!
I had no choice but to pretend Ayo’s hissy fit was not happening and seek him out, so I followed his aura to the library where he was sensibly practicing for the Math test. He noticed when I came in but he didn’t even look up when I took the chair next to his.
“Ayo… did you take my thing?” I asked him deciding shock tactics might be the way to go with him in this situation.
Ayo looked up immediately and glowered at me. “That’s not funny, Maro.” he whispered angrily.
“Am I laughing? ” I asked, “It’s just – if you didn’t take it and it was a Witch that did then who else is there? The Mama that came to see you in Osogbo and got you all upset?”
“She wasn’t the one that got me upset!” Ayo snapped.
That surprised me. “She didn’t? Then who or what did?”
Ayo slammed his book shut looking mightily exasperated. The librarian sent us a sharp look.
“What?” I asked because it was a complete mystery to me why he was glaring at me.
“Why did you tell Osun I remembered her?”
Talk about left field. For at least 10 guilty seconds I could only stare at him, mouth most likely hanging open before I could even start to formulate excuses, my brain tripping over itself to catch up with my mouth, ” Oh my god, Ayo… I didn’t even.. I just said maybe… but did you guys really – ” then my words dried up as my brain finally caught up, “wait, but… did I… tell you…?”
The ramifications of his question hit me.
“You saw… how did you – ?”
“I just did,” Ayo looked uncomfortable, “I had to make sure you were okay out there. You know how your folks are… what would I have said to them if I lost you…”
Whatever he said after that was muttered too low for my hearing but his colors were crystalline and sped through entire spectrums. I had no idea what that meant. Staring at him again, I wondered just how much of his original self he had access to.
Ayo looked like he wished he hadn’t said anything. “Look, your culprit isn’t the old woman either,” he said changing the subject. “She hasn’t been to Lagos in years. There are no real witches in Lagos. Just me.” he looked at me directly then, his eyes blacker than ever, “And I didn’t do it.”
I already knew he didn’t. Stealing an Abiku’s thing was below him. Or at least it would be if he was practicing, which he wasn’t. Though I have to say, his aura had become a lot stronger since I’d made him open that portal. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if we had a whole bunch of new entities moving in over the next couple of weeks, drawn to him like bees in thrall to pheromones.
“I just… I feel like I’m at a dead end,” I confided quietly.
His expression finally began to soften.
“Listen, Maro, don’t let stress make you lose your perspective,” he said, “If you calm down, the way forward will become clear to you.”
“You sound like a Facebook quote,” I grumbled and he smiled at last. The effect of it made even usually immune me catch my breath. He really was unfairly hot. He could open portals but he couldn’t tone it down a touch? I mean…
“Ok, well, what about this…” I watched him close his eyes for a moment. The colors that washed over him now were various shades of blue and brown. Introspective shades. When he opened his eyes again his glance had become sharp and engaged, “what if the one who took it never meant to destroy it, ” he suggested, “It’s obvious that they still haven’t – so what if they’re not going to.”
“True,” I agreed pressing stressed fingers to my temples, “but if that’s the case then now I’m worried about what they do want to do with it – there’s a lot of ugly rituals out there with Abiku paraphernalia on their shopping lists…”
Ayo studied the cover of his math book frowning, “Maybe, this is it.”
“Hm?” I tilted my head. I was still on ugly rituals.
“It’s possible they’re just doing it to get to you. Maybe get a rise out of you or scare you or something.”
I frowned. Really?
But that didn’t any make sense. Who had the kind of beef that would make a thing like that worthwhile for them? Plus the kind of power to make it possible?
This was just getting more and more confusing!
“Maybe we should start thinking in terms of people that consider themselves your enemies,” Ayo said opening his notebook briskly, “we should make a list.”
“Enemies?” I stared at him, “I don’t have enemies.”
Ayo looked at me and his entire expression spelled out his doubt. “Maro, you don’t have enemies?”
And now I was starting to feel offended because what the hell was that supposed to mean?
Ayo was really grumpy after we got back which sucked for me because I had every intention of following up on my investigations which meant I really didn’t have time to worry about things like our upcoming Math Test which would have been okay if I had Ayo to help me out.
It wasn’t even really my fault he was mad. It had nothing to do with helping me get to the In-betweens.
At least… I didn’t think it did.
It was more likely what happened just before we left. A local herbalist, knowing he was in residence had come to pay homage. She’d been a hundred years old at least and she’d come with white chickens and some other white live stock and Ayo had looked all embarrassed and had to go inside and talk with her for a while before she would leave. Then he’d been pissy all the way home. Just what was his damage, anyway? So annoying!
I had no choice but to carry on by myself, hoping he would have calmed down enough by the time I needed to get down to some serious last minute jacking for the test.
Meanwhile there was the case of the Abiku.
There are a total 7 entities in my school including myself. We have a shape shifter, a water spirit (not one of the Osun’s) and a bunch of re-incarnates like Ayo but unimportant (they didn’t even know what they were so in a way they were just Dims) then me and the other Abiku.
His name was Dolapo. He was a junior student already known for being ditzy which was par for the course with a typical, flighty member of my tribe.
It was easy to find him once we got back to school. I just headed straight for the sick bay. I heard him begin to moan the minute the door to the boys’ ward opened to let me in. Gratified to find he was the only one in there I went up to his bed side and looked down at him with my arms folded.
He was a fragile looking thing with a delicate sort of prettiness. His eyes were closed and long lashes trembled at his cheeks. He moaned again.
“Nurse… I can feel myself getting worse,” he sighed luxuriously, “help me!”
I rolled my eyes then punched his arm hard making him jump and sit up with the grace and alacrity of an athlete in his prime. Solid, neon bands of anxiety and fear streaked around him.
“Stop being a cow,” I instructed him. With my siblings, a firm hand is always the best. You have to snap them out of their habitual dizziness and then keep them alert till you have what you want. “I know your pattern,” I told him, “you’re a long leaser and you like to die on your graduation day.”
Dolapo cringed back into his bed away from me, his eyes and mouth drawn wide in an almost cartoonish mask of shock, “Wha- ?” he gasped, “I don’t know what you’re – why are you – NURSE!!”
I crowded close to him and banged the side of my fist against the headboard of his bed, “Dolapo, if you try that again, so help me, you will not make it to graduation day and I’ll fix it so you can never come back,” my voice was hard and I made my colours heavy so that he knew I wasn’t bluffing. I knew how to do it and I was ready to use the knowledge if I had to.
Dolapo’s cry died in his throat. His expression changed and became sulky.
“Why are you meeting me in my body?” he complained in a hushed voice even though we were alone, “You’re not meant to do that! Are you planning on outing me or something? Because I’ll just out you back! I know where your thing is and – ” suddenly he paused and looked mildly confused, “no, wait – I knew were your thing was – ”
“Why don’t you know anymore, Dolly?” I asked him keeping my tone pleasant since he seemed all set to score an own goal.
“It should have taken it by now,” he said smugly then his eyes widened and he glanced at me as if he hoped I had missed that. My expression must have been pretty grim because he started to look genuinely ill. “It – it tricked me!” he whined.
“What did?” I gritted out trying for patience and missing.
“The – the – ” Now Dolapo looked fully confused. He covered his face with thin hands which I could see were shaking, “I don’t know! It was ugly and strong and it said if I told it where yours was then it would leave mine alone!”
I frowned. That didn’t sound right. “But how did it know where yours was?”
The skinny boy peeked at me over his hands and through his lashes. His glance had turned embarrassed. “Um – well, it didn’t, but how was I supposed to remember that?”
I felt my temples begin to throb. “So you made a deal with it and told it where mine was even though it didn’t really know where yours was.” Maybe if the deal was fraudulent it could be voided.
“I told it where mine was too by mistake. But luckily it only wanted yours.” Dolapo smiled then realized I wouldn’t think it was lucky and stopped smiling.
By this time I had begun to feel weary and like I had wasted my time. Clearly, the younger Abiku was not going to be of any help to me whatsoever. I sighed deeply and turned to leave. I was almost at the door when he spoke again.
“It’s all your fault Maro,” his voice was small but it stopped me. I turned to find him still hiding behind his hands.
“Why do you never play with us?” he asked and his voice had taken on the soft almost sing-song cadence of our kind, “If you played with us sometimes, it would be harder to betray you. But it was very easy. None of the siblings like you.”
He was right of course. I ignored them when they came at night, begging me to come through my door and join them. I felt the drugging pull of our song and dance but I fought it and when any of them tried to force the issue, I fought them too.
“That’s why I’m not angry with you,” I told the boy in the bed.
I turned to leave again. This time I reached the door before his voice came again fragile but distinct.
“Maro,” he said, “It smelled of home.”
It was twilight and the clearing was packed.
At first glance it looked to me like every known species of entity in the several worlds was present and jostling to be close to the high table at the centre of the clearing. I could see why. There was a giantess there presiding over a great, open book which lay across a desk that seemed to have grown out of an immense tree stump. I could only assume that she was the Osun.
On closer inspection of the entities I was being squished by, I decided that even if it wasn’t every known species in the several worlds, it was every known one in Africa. Particularly in West Africa. I recognized the wetly glistening, iridescent forms of the water types gossiping animatedly on my left and the hairy, shuffling, brightly patterned tube shapes of Egungun lowing gently at my right with melancholic gong sounds.
I did some shuffling of my own. I was not used to wearing my precious body anywhere but where it belonged and it wasn’t just the heat from standing in a crowd that was making sweat prickle under my armpits and dampen my shirt. I felt nervous and vulnerable. As a rule, I stay away from deities. Ayo was right about them being powerful and sometimes mean. Temperamental was the term I would have used. Most things that are as powerful as them tend to be that way since very few things are strong enough to put them in their place. An annoyed deity could snuff you out of existence without a second thought and that would be that. A deity in a gracious mood however…
I sought out the Osun because African deities tend to be less moody than most since they are mostly still celebrated and revered in many worlds. Since people depend on them a few of them have developed a weird Noblesse Oblige frame of mind and see those that come to them for help as responsibilities. The Osun in particular has a reputation for settling disputes between entities within what she considers her jurisdiction. Since, to my thinking, only an entity could have stolen my thing, and Lagos was only a few hours drive from Osogbo where her shrine was, I figured that me and my case were part of that jurisdiction. At least I hoped we were.
I was expecting it but my stomach still lurched with fear when the voice of the giantess suddenly said, “Maro.”
She raised her great head showing a face patterned with an intricate patchwork of spiraling scars. Her features were large and her eyes were long and completely black. No irises, all pupil. The colour reminded me of Ayo. “Are you here or not, I haven’t got all day,” I heard her voice plainly but it also echoed inside my head.
Everyone had started to look around before I gathered myself sufficiently to answer breathlessly “I’m here! I’m coming!”
I had to struggle to the front since none of the creatures in the clearing seemed inclined in any way to move out of my way. I stepped on the tail of something shapeless and scaly that seemed to be carrying its own darkness and It hissed at me showing me sharp, yellow teeth. I hissed back even though I probably looked stupid doing it in my human body. It looked startled and I hurried past it with a measure of satisfaction.
At last, I stood as firmly as I could in front of the woman considering I was being jostled from behind and looked up – and up some more. She was like the height of a medium sized tree and – on looking more closely – she, like her stump table, appeared to be growing out of the ground. When you followed her massive body downwards, instead of a hemline and feet poking out from either side of the desk, all I could make out were great, knotted roots that plunged into the clearing floor.
I always thought Osun and the river that was named for her were the same thing. Serves me right for expecting things to make sense in the In-betweens.
I looked up again to see that the woman had bent back to the massive book she was writing into. In the dying but never quite dead light her skin was as dark as wet soil and seemed impossibly shiny and supple where it was visible through her indigo dye tunic. A scarf of the same colour covered most of her head. Out of the exposed end of the scarf, her hair extended in what I initially thought was a threaded style. Now I was beginning to suspect that the elaborate framework was exactly what it looked like. A network of twigs.
The massive woman made an irritated sound, “Do you have a case or are you a tourist?”
I cleared my throat, “I’m here to file a complaint, Ma,” I told her.
The woman looked up and now it was her turn to stare. “What,” she asked narrowing her long eyes, “in blackest salt are you supposed to be?”
“Er – ” I began to sweat again, “I’m abiku.”
“A-bi-ku?” she drew out the word, snarling it from the back of her throat. I hoped fervently that none of my million siblings had offended her recently.
Everyone seemed to realize something was up. A stiff breeze had picked up making the brush around us whisper while all the entities in the clearing suddenly quietened. I felt the attention of a few hundred supernatural beings, visible and invisible pressing down on me.
“Why?” the Osun leaned over her wide desk towards me,“would an abiku come here wearing her human body?”
“Th-that’s what I’m here to complain about, Ma!” I heard myself stutter, “I can’t leave my body! I lost my – my thing!”
Now the giantess looked incredulous. “You lost your thing?” she repeated, the sound knocked against the inside of my skull. I nodded holding my head.
Suddenly she snorted, a short, powerful sound that I felt tremble through the ground underneath my feet. “You shouldn’t have been so careless,” she said dismissively, “an Abiku without its thing is a human being. All that is left is the forgetting. Next.”
“Wait! You don’t understand!” I gripped the table desperately as a stocky man with three fierce eyes and a belly the size of a cauldron began to painfully elbow me aside. “It was stolen! And I still have time to get it back!”
The noise level in the clearing had risen again. The giantess slammed the flat of her hand down on her table. It was a solid affair, riddled with carvings and smoothed silky by time. The sharp sound of her heavy palm on its surface brought an answering hush. All attention was on us again. “Stolen, ehn?” the woman said her glance suddenly speculative.
Then all of a sudden a great rustling roared through the trees like all the leaves surrounding the clearing and maybe even all the leaves in the world were chattering at the same time at the top of their voices. I found myself covering my ears because the noise was so terrible. Around me the entities shrieked and moaned, adding to the cacophony. The woman’s immense hand reached forward and caught my jaw. Her grip was rough and I was sure it would leave marks, in fact, I was sure that just a little more pressure would definitely put me in hospital. I felt my eyes water and I regretted the temerity that had made me come here with all my heart.
The woman drew me forward and peered into my eyes. Her irisless pupils seemed even huger than before (or was it just that we were closer?). I suddenly had the sick feeling that I was peering down two bottomless holes. I could even feel the pull of vertigo.
“Orisi risi,” her voice pushed into my already crowded head, “it takes all sorts.”
She let go and I fell back violently, jolting my bottom on the clearing floor.
“Go in. She wants to meet you,” the giantess hummed. The voice was only in my head now as there was too much noise from everything else to hear her physically. I gazed up confused. Go in where? And who wanted to meet me?
“Just look in front of you…honestly, you abikus…”
I did as she said and realized I hadn’t noticed that there was gap at the bottom of her table/trunk just large enough to crawl into. With one more cautious look upward and feeling rather like Alice and her rabbit hole I moved forward and pushed myself into it.
I squeezed my eyes shut and tensed expecting a sudden drop. When none came I opened my eyes and found myself in a dark, crawl space tunnel. Behind me was the gap through which I had entered and I could see the lower halves of the crowd of entities outside. I heard the hard slap of the Giantess’ palm on her table again and the hush that followed, “The next creature to make one peep of sound gets eaten,” the Giantess growled. I decided to get a move on.
The tunnel bent a couple of times but otherwise was pretty straightforward. After a few minutes crawling, it began to get a bit brighter and I realized I could hear water. A lot of it.
It didn’t take much longer to finally see the end of the tunnel and the source of the water. It looked like the subterranean passageway opened up into a waterfall.
I approached it then holding my breath I passed through the heavy curtain of water and found myself in a glade that was apparently the venue for –
– a – um – pool party?
There were lots of kids, my age or slightly older, some in white skimpy things, some in nothing at all, playing in and around the pool formed by the waterfall. Loud eoro-pop music was playing from somewhere and everyone seemed to just be – well, partying.
I stood there kind of gaping.
Someone standing outside the pool, a guy that was thankfully wearing what looked like a pair of white board shorts, noticed me and motioned me over. Hesitantly I made my way to him, wading trough the water that wasn’t very deep then climbing out of the pool. As soon as I set both feet on dry land, the water ran off my body like mercury and drained back into the pool leaving me completely dry.
More gaping on my part.
I turned back to the guy that had called me over. He was elegantly slim and his brown skin had that typical, water entity iridescent sheen in the dappled sunlight of the glade. His light brown eyes roved over me in a distinctly hungry way. A lazy smile broke out on his face showcasing teeth that seemed too white and too many, “don’t you look – yummy,” he drawled.
I backed away sure he didn’t mean it the way it would be interpreted in Dim world.
“Relax,” he said grinning more, “we’re well fed here. Besides, she wants to meet you. You’re supposed to follow me,”
One more over generous smile and he turned and set off as though he expected me to follow him. I didn’t feel it was entirely wise to but I was pretty sure trying to run away would be even stupider, plus I was beginning to have a hunch about who “She” was. So long story short, I wandered into the glade at what I hoped was a safe distance behind the water type. He took me someway in till we stopped at what was seriously the widest tree I have ever beheld in real life.
For real, it would have taken fifteen minutes to get around it even if you were walking briskly.
There was a wide ladder kind of moulded into it (or did it grow that way? It looked so organic) and we climbed up it. Up in the branches I found myself in what could only be described as the lounge of a pimped out tree house.
Branches seemed to have woven themselves into a dense couch padded with silky looking upholstery that took up a central position in the lounge. A tall, light skinned girl with braids past her butt sat in the couch sideways, her feet drawn up.
She was painting her toe nails white.
She looked up alertly when we climbed in. Her eyes were light brown too. “Hey!” she smiled when she saw me.
“Hey.” I answered back instinctively then flinched. If my guess was right, she and not the great tree woman I met earlier, was the true Osun. I shouldn’t treat her casually even if in her white t-shirt and white jeans she reminded me of nothing more than another teenager like me. “That is – I – I greet you well, Water Mother!” I hurriedly amended.
She didn’t say anything and I frowned. Was that correct? I wondered if I should try to sing one of her praise songs. I wasn’t even sure I knew any…
She signaled to my escort to leave with a motion of her head which he did with one more knowing smirk my way. Seriously, what was with him!
When we could no longer hear him, she motioned for me to come forward. I did. Then she patted the bit of the couch near her firmly.
Carefully without taking my eyes off her, I sat.
She went back to painting her nails white. “So they stole your thing, ehn?” she said, “that sucks.”
“Er….yeah,” I answered less than eloquently. I wasn’t sure how to deal with her. She was acting so…I don’t know, normal.
“I made a few calls already. It’s definitely not in your plane any more. And whoever has it knows how to hide it.”
Holy crap, did this mean she was on my side? Despite myself I relaxed, so relieved that she was helping me. “I know, right?” I said unable to hide my excitement, “I keep wondering how someone strong enough to do that could have come near my thing without me knowing!”
“It’s because they didn’t have to,” the Osun said looking up from her toe nails, “and that’s whats working in your favor right now.” I must have looked confused because she sighed and explained further, “Spirit transactions are kind of like credit card ones – they leave a trail. It’s not as clear but it’s there. Two transactions were made to take your thing from where you hid it.”
My eyes widened. Two transactions? Meaning someone made a deal with someone who made a deal with someone else to get it. “But who?” I asked more than a little baffled, “and why?”
Suddenly the Osun swung her feet down to the floor making me start. She stretched her legs in front of her admiring her handiwork. There was a smile on her face now that was too similar to that of the irritating entity that had brought me to her. “Hey, Maro,” she said, “how about a little transaction of our own?”
I froze. Uh-oh. I should’ve known. Deities were never so chummy with you unless they wanted something. Oh God, what would it be? My unborn children?
She glanced at me from the corner of her eyes and their was a really weird look on her face.
“Not a spirit transaction. Just a casual one. You want to know something, I want to know something too.”
The weird look was still on her face. I didn’t relax again because I couldn’t imagine what I could possibly tell her that she didn’t already know. “Okay…?” I said noncommittally.
She faced me and her brown eyes were solemn. She had a youthful face but it wasn’t strikingly beautiful or anything like that. In fact, she looked like any averagely pretty girl in my school. Only the big brown eyes and the sheen on her skin (like the colours that swirl around in bubbles) were remarkable and if not for them, she was not a person that would have stood out to me on a regular day. It really reinforced the feeling that I was sitting in the bedroom of some kid I maybe knew from school gossiping about TV shows. Except her room was made from tree and she was a goddess. It was truly weird.
“Okay,” she took a deep breath like she was drawing nerve, “first of all, how exactly did you cross over from your plane with your body?”
This wasn’t good. I had sworn over several things dear to me including my missing thing that I would tell no one that Ayo had done this for me. He would be soooooooo pissed if I breathed a word of it to anyone, dim or entity.
But… then what would have been the use of his doing it at all if I couldn’t even get the information I came here for? Since he’d broken all his rules to do it I had to at least make sure it was worth it, right?
Maybe I wouldn’t have to tell her everything. “A Witch,” I confessed reluctantly.
The Osun never took her eyes off me, “I know,” she said, “but – which one?”
I couldn’t tell her. I couldn’t open my mouth and rat out my friend. I looked helplessly back into the Deity’s eyes instead and felt myself begin to tremble. Would she get angry and kill me?
“Was it – Anikulapo?” she asked.
Shocked, I breathed in sharply and gave the game away.
The Osun closed her eyes and looked vindicated, “I knew it!” she said, “I would know his signature anywhere.”
I trembled even harder. Where we in trouble? Ayo was so right! This had been a bad idea! I wondered if I would get a chance to tell him I was sorry! “Loo – look,” I stuttered dread making me desperate, “he didn’t really want to do it – it was my fault completely! I forced him!”
The Osun opened her eyes and the look she turned on me was amused. “Didn’t I tell you transactions leave a trail?” she smiled, “I can see the one you made with him on you.”
Ah – so… she’d known all along.
I guess the reason she’d wanted to see me was to confirm it.
“Okay, another question,” she said . I sighed. I guess the main cat was already out of the bag. Ayo couldn’t kill me twice.
“Do you know, if it’s really him or – y’know – a reincarnation.” That funny not quite looking at me directly look was on her face again.
And suddenly in a burst of insight I realized what that look was. Fear must have really been messing with me or I would have recognized it sooner. It was a look I was pretty used to seeing where my friend was concerned.
The Osun was – blushing.
Even the Deities, Ayo?
I sighed again wondering what their history was. Too bad I couldn’t tell her what she probably wanted to hear. “He’s a reboot,” I said quietly.
“Oh,” she said over casually, “I thought so ‘cos it’s been years… like hundreds of years.”
I nodded then there was a small awkward silence.
“Um – ” I finally said wondering how to bring us back to my thing.
“The original buyer is hidden,” she said quickly as if she’d read my mind. “The first transaction was with a witch and the second was with an abiku like you. Both of them are in your plane,” she looked up and gave me a small, sad smile, “Sorry. That’s all I can tell you.”
An abiku and a witch, huh.
It wasn’t everything but it would do.
Witches were like religious people. There were tons of pretend ones (like Jumoke and her gang) in Dim world but only a few actual ones. Apart from Ayo, that was.As for Abikus – there was just one other one active in my locality and we were about to have a family reunion.
“Thank you, Water Mother,” I told the Osun, grateful for her help. Grateful to be alive too.
She smiled and raising her hand, she touched my forehead. She had rubber bracelets on her wrist including one of those wwjd ones that were all the rage in the 90s. “I’ll send you back, ” she said, “just close your eyes”
I closed my eyes. Nothing happened.
“Maro, ” she said.
I opened my eyes again.
“Did it seem like he remembered me?”
I felt really bad. The Osun was nothing like I’d expected. In fact, she seemed really cool. Like, I would’ve wanted to be friends with her if she wasn’t a scary goddess. I didn’t like disappointing her.
“I don’t know, ” I told her. But then – I remembered how Ayo had said her name without using “the”. Had it really been because he’s gotten used to talking like a Dim? Or was there something more? “Maybe,” I amended my opinion.
She smiled then the way your friend smiles when you tell her you think the boy she likes was looking at her at the party last night. “Close you eyes,” she said again more cheerfully. I did as she asked. Her voice was near my ear, “back to where you came from,” she said.
I opened my eyes and I was sitting under a cashew tree in the backyard of the Anikulapo’s Compound in Osogbo, the Osun’s voice echoing in my head.
I blinked up at the sharp sunlight then blinked again when a silhouette blocked my view.
The silhouette crouched in front of me showing itself to be Ayo wearing a necklace of cowries over his t-shirt and jeans and a very stressed expression. He reached forward and began to pat dust out of my hair.
“What the heck took you so long?” he complained, “I was worried.”
I opened my mouth to tell him everything that had happened and then the trauma of the entire adventure caught up with me.
Much to my surprise, I burst out crying.
I texted him on the way to school.
“CODE RED. I NEED TO SEE YOU!”
A few minutes later I got a reply.
“We don’t have a code system, Maro. And I hope this has something to do with the test review class you missed yesterday. See you in school.”
This is him being receptive.
He wasn’t in his class room which made sense because he was always busy before classes. I had to look for him at the Prefects’ Quarters.
The lounge section of the quarters was as busy as a market place at noon. Seniors and Juniors, co-prefects and even a few teachers – they were all there to see him for one thing or the other. This was also normal. He was the head boy. The single most popular one our school has ever known.
He would by hiding out (my own assessment) in the inner office, seeing the ones that were allowed in by Jumoke Talabi our head girl and his self appointed guardian.
Jumoke Talabi. A neat, smart girl – my complete opposite, really – who always looked at me with active dislike.
I didn’t like her either. My reason was because she headed my school’s charismatic bible study group. It’s not that I minded the religion per sey. I like spiritual people. They are one of a few kinds of humans that are close to being entities and they tend to be really wise and nonjudgmental even when they know what you are. Jumoke and her bunch however were a bunch of sanctimonious bullies who rubbed me the wrong way. Jumoke herself had always seemed to me to be under the misapprehension that she was the boss of everyone because her Dad was a political big shot.
Luckily, not one of them had what it took to be any kind of threat to me so I didn’t have to take their crap.
Her reason for not liking me, however, was mostly to do with him, I think. The person I needed help from.
And who was this he? Just my best friend, Ayotunde Anikulapo.
Jumoke opened the door, eyeballed me then let me in because she’d learned from experience it was better to do so.
They were a few senior prefects inside working on duty schedules. Ayo sat in their midst, handsome as an arch-angel, sober as a judge, pretending he didn’t realize that everyone in that room and in the lounge outside was there simply because they wanted to be near him.
This isn’t the only thing he tries to pretend – which leads me to another thing about spirit types.
There are fewer entities than most people think in the world but we tend to congregate. So if you were ever lucky enough to meet an actual entity (or unlucky depending on the type) chances are you will probably meet others whether your realize it or not. This is because in general, we are drawn despite ourselves to the same thing; places or creatures of power.
My friend Ayo is a total efiko. I’m not kidding. All he cares about is studying and grades. But as unlikely as it sounds, he’s also hands down our school’s most popular person and has been since his admission. Part of the reason he is popular is because he is stunningly, judgement impairing-ly hot. The other part, and this is the part that matters, is that he is a creature of power and this tends to be the way with them.
Ayo likes to pretend he is not the reincarnation of one of the most powerful witches that ever practiced the manipulation of physics on our side of the world. It’s inconceivably stupid but I don’t say anything because he’s my friend.
… and because he helps me out a lot with homework and tests which are not my strength.
He looked up at my entrance because as an entity I will always register on his radar whether he likes it or not. As usual he seemed oblivious of the commotion around him. He’s used to the fuss and attention and doesn’t ever seem to notice it which must be useful since he often studies through it. It took some determination on my part but I managed to steal him from his bedazzled mob and moments later was able to give him the low down in the senior students chemistry lab which was nearby.
He listened, strangely black eyes widening as I went on. It was so funny to me how no one ever commented on them, they couldn’t be less human.
I told him everything because he’s the only person apart from my parents that knows exactly what I am. He knows the implications of my thing being missing and unlike my parents, he can actually help me – but only if he stops being so lame about being an all powerful witch.
He was leaning against a desk looking as baffled as I felt by the time I was done. “So – what are you going to do?” he asked.
I’d been thinking about that all the way from school so I had a ready answer, “I think I should file a complaint.” I told him.
He looked at me like I was crazy.
“Not here, dummy,” I rolled my eyes. How could he be so smart with books yet so slow with everything else? “With the Osun. Entities lodge complaints with her all the time, right? My thing was stolen, maybe she can find out who did it and make them give it back.”
Ayo looked doubtful. “I don’t know, Maro… Osun is a deity.”
I noted how he didn’t add “the” as I had to the Osun’s title. Lower ranking entities like myself always used “the”. Contemporaries and ignorant Dims didn’t. Had his address been a slip up or a Dim affectation, I wondered.
“They can be pretty powerful – and mean,” he continued, “Are you sure your thing is really missing? It didn’t just roll somewhere? Or maybe you forgot to put it back the last time you went to the bank?”
I gave him a hard look. “I felt the moment it disappeared,” I told him, “it’s gone.”
“But it’s not destroyed,” he asked frowning.
“If it was I wouldn’t be able to have this conversation with you.” I could see him reluctantly realizing I was right. But then he frowned down at me again, “but how will you go? You can’t pass through your door with a body and if you leave it…”
“I can’t risk leaving it,” I finished the thought for him. “I need to get to the In-betweens in this body.”
The In-betweens. That’s what I call what many people call the Spirit World. I think my term is more accurate because there are many worlds and planes and to get to them you literally have to travel through the spaces between. Plus technically it can’t be a spirit world since it’s not just spirits in there. You meet plenty of corporeal types too. Most whom, trust me, you’d just as soon not meet.
“Um – how are you supposed do that?” Ayo asked blithely walking into my trap. He realized it too because he face palmed immediately. “No, Maro. No.” he insisted.
“No, what?” I asked. “No, Witches of your caliber don’t cross dimensions regularly with their bodies or no, you don’t remember how?”
“I don’t remember how, ” he backed away raising his hands to ward me off.
“Liar,” I said stalking him.
“I’m not ly- ok, I won’t do it. I don’t do that kind of thing, Maro, you know I don’t!”
I spluttered unable to believe what he was saying. Did he not understand the severity of my case? “Ayo, I could disappear! You’re supposed to be my friend! Are you really cool with that?”
Ayo groaned. He hated arguing with me because though he’s smarter than me, I’m far more ruthless than he is so he almost always loses and I can always see the color of how it surprises and annoys him.
“Stop being melodramatic, you’re not going to disappear” his voice was ripe with exasperation, “You’ll still be here, you’ll just forget you were an abiku!”
I gasped, genuinely offended, “You don’t see the problem with that?”
Ayo’s glance was mutinous and he shrugged.
I kind of wanted to smack him. I have a mildly violent streak because I have had to defend myself to be able to stay in this body till now. Who from? Siblings who won’t take no for an answer. The urge to take things by force is therefore not something new to me – but I knew well that Ayo, unconsciously protecting himself, could probably hurt me very badly. It acted as a huge deterrent.
I faced him seriously instead. “You’re right. I won’t disappear physically. But I won’t be me either.”
We were both silent then. I stared at Ayo and he couldn’t meet my gaze.
“Do you have any idea how many life times its been since I’ve -”
“Please.” I cut him off pushing my face towards his and making it hard for him to avoid my glance.
Funny, slippery dark colours shimmered over him and I realized he was trying to say no.
I produced my deal sweetener and trump card. “I will owe you,” I pronounced deliberately, “forever and ever.”
He finally raised his black eyes to me. As I had known, a deal that included the term “forever” could never be taken casually by an entity.
“Careful how you say things like that…” his voice was strangely soft and inflectionless.
“I mean it,” I told him. And I did.
Somewhere in time a sibling abiku had come across a semi famous passage that contained the phrase, “No price is too great for the privilege of owning yourself,” (Kipling? Nietzche? Wikipedia? The source was foggy and unimportant.) I found it in the soup of our knowledge and it changed me.
I would pay any price to continue to be me.
Ayo watched me from a place far inside him and saw that I really did mean it. At last he sighed and shook his head. “We have a test at the end of the week. If we’re doing this it has to be quick.”
I nodded eagerly while thinking; honestly, he was a mystery to me.
After all I’ve told him today he’s worried about a test?