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Sacrifice || by Olusoji Obebe

 

ONLY THE CANDLELIGHT ILLUMINATED the room.  A small, bug-infested bed lay at one of its corners. The room looked tired of its ages of a dull existence. And those fattened rats. They stampeded into the dark corners, causing utensils to clatter.

     Yewa gawked at the candle as it melted into wax. She lay spread out on the bed, as though devoid of life. In a little while, maybe a day, maybe two, or… maybe now, her body would begin to decompose. Worms would find a generous host in her, gnaw at her flesh, her muscles, chew and absorb and excrete and start again, wiggle and revel in the rotten mass they would make—that was what he told her, that old seer. "You have been cursed," he had told her, "and there's no way out. You are going to die."

     And she now believed: it was going to happen soon… except her cure, a burgundy leaf, could be retrieved from the Eru forest in the heart of the world of genies. Deji, her man, had staggered and sank into the cracked walls of this room that day when the seer announced that evil solution. No one dared journey into that world. No one dared to court death. But this world was bent on leaving her no escape route, for now she had to faithfully wait for Deji to return from that journey. If only he would come back alive.

     The reek of death absorbed the freshness of the air. The whole room wore a fetor as of a newly exhumed cadaver. She couldn't shout in pain, couldn't scream for help; she could only moan—stifled moans, for she had no strength to say a word. And no one was here.


***


THE LONG TWIGS CLAMPED his legs like a trap. He macheted them and moved on, desperation washing over him like a trapped serpent. His eyes were weak and heavy but they now bulged out at the sight of a hut. It was an old, abandoned hut.

     He eased a few steps forward, squinting on. Who could be living in this terrible forest?

     "When you get to a point, you will see a hut. Do not go in. It is sacred. And it shows that you are near the world of genies," the old seer had said.

     Deji sighed, then brought out his water jar to drink from. It was empty. He sighed again. It had been two days in this forest, all alone. And the time to get out of the forest would be longer. What would happen to Yewa? He sat down, his back leaning against a tree trunk. 

     The shaky voice of the old seer came resounding.

     "The name of the burgundy leaf is Aiku. A genie planted it. This genie was another creature of Eledumare in the spiritual world. The ugliest of His creatures. Because other spirits scorned him for his grotesque nature, he left angrily and isolated himself in the forest. The forest we call Eru.

     "There, he built a hut with his family. They lived without scorn nor contempt. These genies eat once a year. It is usually a great feast of the burgundy leaf, Aiku. The Aiku which served as a cure to people's ailments is their food.

     "Five hundred years after, sudden death started visiting the people's villages. And these people went in search of what to overcome death. The first man to explore the Eru forest like you are about to do was Agidi, a very brave hunter… He did not return but he sent a whiff. 

     "You must be a man you are. Don't be afraid of the appearance of the genies. They are weak once you take their food, Aiku."

     Like an alerted lion, he sprang to his feet and chopped the way forward. His spirit would lead him to where the leaf was. Because he accepted to go on this adventure with all of his heart. 

     Crude cheers pummeled his left ear, causing him to flinch. Smokes of burnt bushes filled the air. It dawned on him that the glees over the Aiku feast had begun. He had to pluck the leaf before they would eat it. 

     "But how am I going to stop them?" He whimpered, brushing a branch aside. He saw the genies, lilliputian and swarthy, robed in palm fronds, prancing and jeering and cheering. And then... he saw the leaf. Bigger than he had imagined.  A thought struck his mind. The voice of his spirit.

     "Stir an uproar. Let them flee with fear."

     He wrenched his gun from his side and shot in the air. It was enough to send them running into hiding. He scurried to the spot and plucked the leaf without thinking. It was now or never. Turning back, the genies had swarmed him, eyes glaring flickers of flame. He staggered and tripped behind, over a large stone, and they closed in on him.


***


DEJI RETURNED HOME LOOKING HAGGARD like one who survived the attack of a tiger. He removed the leaf from his bag, dipped it in a bowl of fresh water as instructed by the old seer, and sprinkled it over his lover. Yewa's eyes snapped open, and her skin began to regenerate, the worms fading away like an accelerated evening. 

     But he smiled a faint smile. As if he knew something no one else knew.

     Yewa blinked away her fading pains. "Deji," she called, trying to sit up.

     "Yewa. Relax. You are fine now. Let me go get you food."

     But Deji never returned. A day passed. And a month, and five years, and ten, and decades. He never really returned from the forest. 

     His spirit did. 




MEET THE AUTHOR:

OLUSOJI OBEBE is an emerging Nigerian poet, essayist and fiction writer.
     One of his essays was longlisted in the African Human Right Essay Competition and got published in 'Malady and Remedy'_an essay anthology. 
     He is also a co-author of the Peace and Love Inkers Around The World Poetry Anthology.
     He was a finalist in the Voice of Peace Intercontinental Poetry and Short Story Contest.

     When not writing, he reads, draws and listens to music.

     His social media handles are:
     Facebook: @Olusoji Obebe.
     Instagram: @olusojiobebe

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