Friday, November 28, 2014

Short Story - The Witches of Okpolo

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By Onyinye Orabuike

I once shared a room with a cousin that killed mosquitoes on the wall. I tried to tell her it wasn’t right, but she would have none of it.

The sight of the dirty blood stains all over the walls made me feel as though I was living in a hunter’s bedchamber, and there was no escape. Each time I raise this with her she would accuse of being a terribly deep sleeper which explained why I could even tolerate both the mosquito bites and their sorrowful dirge.

She said she couldn’t stand them, so most night she would wake up once or twice and squash the mosquitoes against the wall, ensuring a steady rise in the number of the embarrassing dirty stains on our wall. There was little I could do to stop her, so fought a depressing battle trying to act as thought there was nothing remotely upsetting about living a hunter’s bunk.

We were sharing a room in our big brothers’ apartment. The brother was not based in Lagos and only came around once or twice a year. So when he said he no longer wanted the apartment, I quickly paid for it and set about giving our room a face lift. I repainted the room and pleaded with my little cousin to desist from her favourite pastime of killing mosquitoes on the wall. I bought Baygon and mosquito coil, but complained about the smell. She was asthmatic and the smell triggers her symptoms.

I was so heartbroken when I saw the first scarlet stain on the new wall. And as you already can guess, the red stains continued to grow. I imagined the whinny vampires grinning to themselves and telling me to pack and move my sorry backside out of their zone.

It may not be related but it reminded me of a funny experience that I will never forget. I returned to Kano that evening from school, and I noticed I didn’t get a particularly warm welcome. The understanding was that it was only money problem that could bring a student back home before the end of the semester. I didn’t let this bother me. All I had wanted was to spend a day or two away from school stress, eat good food for a change, and return with my transportation money if nothing more.

The weather that night was particularly hot and stuffy, even for a city like Kano. There was no light so I decided to sleep out at the balcony because of the heat. But it turned out the mosques in that vicinity was on a mission that night. I couldn’t sleep, not even a wink. They bit me mercilessly and sang into my ears, until I began to feel as though there was a conspiracy somewhere to make me miserable. I was already grown but my frustration that night was so real that I shed genuine tears.

I began to rain down curses on the accursed blood suckers. I wished Amadioha would rain down fire and thunder from the sky and consume the vile witches of okpolo that wouldn’t let me enjoy the cool breeze outside. I knew Agbara the god of vengeance, and Sango will not spare them. I called on  Ifa  the god of iron to reach with his strong arms, shred them all to  pieces and spray their carcasses to the winds.

After tossing and turning for the better part of the evening, I was forced to go inside the house despite the heat. Inside, the temperature was so hot and unbearable I feared I would either pass out or go mad.

When I opened my eyes again it was morning. The witches of okpolo...?. I didn’t know where on earth I got that from. I must have dosed off sometime in the early hours of the morning but the sleep didn’t feel anything close to refreshing. I woke up feeling so beaten up and cooked like a boiled cocoyam leaf.

I didn’t stay the weekend in Kano as I had planned. I carried my bag and went back to Zaria the very next day.

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