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Monday, September 10, 2018

The Women of the Underworld (story)

Written by: Muoka Chibuzor G


9 pm Radio news broadcast: “The world government should intervene! Citizens are on the run as massive killings are ongoing and million dollar properties razed to the ground. Worship centres, Markets, Schools are being shut down, and the robust economy is going down the drains, as oil pipes are being vandalized at an alarming rate by the ex-militants. These have been going on since last week after the result of the 2023 presidential election was announced. The United Nations warns the Nigerian government to negotiate with the armed Niger Delta Avengers and Biafran protesters. The Nigerian military instead declares a state of emergency and acquires foreign ammunitions in preparation for the dreaded combat operation “Hippopotamus dance” in the Niger Delta and South Eastern region. It was extremely obvious that these regions went berserk by the unexpected landslide victory of Muhammadu Buhari for a third term as president under the aegis of ADP (All Democrats Party); hence, they sought for separation from the Nigerian nation. They described his victory as undemocratic and in violation of the constitutional presidential tenure.” – Edet at Calabar, reporting live for Radio Nigeria. Radio Nigeria! Uplifting the people! Uniting the nation!

In annoyance, Dike turns off his old radio and laments, saying; “The constitution has been manipulated and ghosts have voted. I don’t understand what is going on in this country. One can listen to the radio from morning till night and hear nothing but clashes and chaos. It’s a pity, there is enough for every man’s need but not for every man’s greed.” Finally, he sighed while stooping low to lie close to his two friends Ikunta and Nnanna who were already lying on the sleeping mat. A few minutes later they were all fast asleep, and only the intermittent snoring of Ikunta could be heard.

During the night hour, at exactly 1 am, a loud shout pierced the air. "Help! Help!! Jesu!!!" Ikunta shouts as he awakes from a frightful nightmare, with his pyjamas fully soaked in sweat, his trembling hands spread wide-apart and the pupils of his eyes fully dilated like that of an owl. The loudness of Ikunta's voice at the quiet hours of the night woke Nnanna and Dike, his two friends, who were sleeping next to him and scared the rats in the room into running helter-skelter.

Nnanna sits up to caution Ikunta, "Guy, what is the problem? Stop shouting, the military can come here and arrest us as the nation is in a state of anarchy." But Dike only stared at the both of them with the inscription of annoyance boldly written all over his wrinkled face.

"I just hate it, when my little hours of sleep in this sleepless land of Lagos are being interrupted, after a hectic day at work, what is the problem?" Dike asks Ikunta. 

But, instead of responding to his friend’s curiosity, Ikunta kept mute and preferred to keep his friends in profuse suspense. He kept still and shivered fearfully, turning his head at all angles, and viewing the room in suspicion, as if some ghosts hovered in it. “What are you looking for? Are we more than three here?” Nnanna asks him, but Ikunta gave no reply.

Ikunta's noncompliance not only irritated Dike the more but propelled Dike to make derogatory remarks about him in vexation. Thus, he shunned Ikunta's quietness; "Ikunta are you deaf and dumb? You just woke us with your thunderous and unmelodious voice, and now you act dumb. If this is a joke, just stop it, we can't just be watching your lifeless drama at this time of the night, you are not a night movie, and we are not the town’s vigilantes."

Having expressed his annoyance verbally, Dike pulled closer the blanket he had already pushed afar when he initially woke up, and covered himself in full, while lying supine, and closing his eyes in alertness, keeping listening ears to hear of any possible response from Ikunta.

Just then Ikunta broke the silence. "In my dream, I saw.. I saw... I saw myself dancing with this very fair lady near a beach, we were in lo.. lov... love, and then suddenly I saw myself in the middle of the ocean, and I was sinking, I was drowning, I was screaming, but there was none to offer me assistance. In fact, I almost died."

"I never knew you were a stammerer. What about the fair lady?" Nnanna asked.

"I can't actually explain how she vanished from my dream, it was like black magic!" Ikunta replied.

Dike admonished Ikunta, having heard what Ikunta narrated to Nnanna while he pretended to be fast asleep. "Ikunta, you must be a handsome he-goat, in fact sometimes I wonder why your village people allowed you to come to Lagos city, after the havoc you unleashed by impregnating three girls and denying them during the Christmas and New year period. In fact, you deserve a national standing ovation, a Nobel Prize for human multiplication, and also an immediate acknowledgement in the World’s Guinness book of record. All hail the man of the people; let’s clap for him, nonsense!”

Immediately, Nnanna busted out in laughter after hearing what Dike said. "Ikunta is in love with mermaids this time around, may God save Ikunta the dreamer." He added.

“Guys am serious, I have never felt like this before, in fact, am convinced that this dream has hidden facts to be explained. I was even thinking I was drowning in reality, I could hardly feel myself breath.”  Ikunta stated, showing signs of helplessness.

At this moment, Dike decided to speak further; “The only hidden fact I see here is that you would soon impregnate another girl in this land of Lagos, but woe betide you this time around because you won’t go scot-free. Its either you drown in that ocean of stupidity, or you lose your manhood as the mermaids’ castrate you.”

“Can’t you read the handwriting on the wall? Do you need an announcement from a news broadcaster?”  Dike asks Ikunta, but Ikunta kept mute for he was afraid that if he did respond, Dike would say more and more against him. Therefore, to keep Dike’s aggressiveness at bay, Ikunta thought it wise not to reply him.

“Well Ikunta don’t worry, go back to sleep, tomorrow I would definitely take you to Baba Ojuju the famous fortune-teller who lives in Shagamu town which lies along the Ibu River and the Eruwuru Stream, between Lagos and Ibadan. You shall tell him your dreams and he shall give you the interpretation. So don’t worry, we got your back.” Nnanna consoled Ikunta while patting him on the back and pulling him closer to encourage him to sleep.

Around 6 am the next day, Nnanna and Ikunta hurriedly left for Shagamu, while Dike stayed back at home, refusing to go with them by complaining of the height of insecurity in the nation. A few minutes later they got to Baba Ojuju’s compound which was filled with frightening statues. “That is the statue of Sango the god of thunder,” Nnanna showed Ikunta who only opened his mouth and crossed his arms in awe and amazement of the warrior’s mean appearance, for he had never seen such sculptural expertise before in his entire life, not even in Umuofia his village.

Soon they were in the inner chambers of the fortune teller. But before they could utter a word, Baba Ojuju interrupted them with indecipherable chanting and incantations. “Pam! Kom!! Pom!!! Idaaaaaaa!!!” 

Then  he paused and looked steadily at his visitors, and then he said to them;

“Yes, you have come to the right place. When your legs first stepped into this sacred arena, I was informed of your problems. Our ancestors from the forest of Iden once told us about the two greatest moments in the life of a man. They are the day he was born, and the day he knows why he was born; but a man is great by deeds, not by birth. They also whispered to me that the stubborn fly follows the corpse to the grave not because the grave is paradise, but because the greediness of the fly to have a taste of every Tom, Dick, and Harry obscures its ability to see the true reality.”

Baba Ojuju asks while pointing at Ikunta with his index finger, “Young man, have you heard about the deadly women of the underworld?” 

“Nooo nooo, I have not,” Ikunta fearfully replied.

Immediately, Baba Ojuju swayed his head in sadness, expressing facial signs of disappointment. He looked Ikunta straight in the eyes and then said to him; “It is a pity that you have allowed your manhood to control and deprive you of your greatness. You shouldn’t have wasted all your energy on sex for they have destroyed kings.”

He picks up a water-filled calabash and stares into it for some minutes, and then he looked up and revealed more to Ikunta, “As I look into the future, all I see is a man of fortune and fortitude but then his arrival to the zenith of his life is impeded by dreadful feminine shadows, the women of the underworld.”

“A woman whom you wronged in the past has vengefully presented you to the gods of her people before her pathetic death, and the wraths of her gods are now after you. You better run for your dear life, run my son, run and do not look back, for your journey with the women of the underworld has just begun. When a bird flies without perching, the hunter shoots without stopping.”

“Heii heii I am finished!!! If I had known I wouldn’t have forced Akwaeke to abort the child.  Chai chaii..,” Ikunta shouts and jumps; Nnanna tries to hold him down, but Ikunta became extremely violent and unstoppable and acted like a madman with enormous years of Madness experience.

Nnanna kneels and pleads with the Baba Ojuju, “Wise one please my friend is going mad, is there nothing you can do?” But he said to him, “Do not kneel and do not weep, for whatever a man sows he shall surely reap.”



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