A NEIGHBOURING TOWN
THE NEXT RAINY SEASON, 1883
Father Adam Bowley walked up the front porch of Commodore Green’s house. The older man was resting on a hammock, reading a book. He peered at Adam through his glasses and a slight frown creased his forehead.
“Good morning, sir,” Adam greeted.
“Father Adam, what a lovely morning to come pay me a visit,” Green smiled and got off the hammock. “I hope all is well?”
“Seemingly, all is.”
“Then you bring me good news, I suppose?”
Bowley said nothing. Green walked up to him.
“How does your parish?”
“Very well, thank you,” Adam replied.
“Good, good,” he handed him a wooden chair, “do sit.”
They both settled down.
“So what brings you all the way here?”
“Serious business,” Adam wore on a grave countenance.
“It’s always serious business in these parts, isn’t it?”
Green took out an old, dry stick from his pocket and put it in his mouth.
“Chewing stick. I discovered this among the locals,” he said with an accomplished smile.
“Everybody knows what a chewing stick is, Commodore.” Adam frowned impatiently. “The reason I came is because of Agu Village.”
Green’s face turned into a scowl.
“I am quite certain that it reached your ears, the news of the abduction of seventeen virgins eleven months ago?”
“Then it might also suffice you to know that just two days ago fourteen of those girls returned—pregnant.“
“Pregnant? Fourteen?” he asked in surprise, ”I am just hearing of this.”
“Yesterday, one of the girls bore a son and her mother killed her and the baby.”
Green took out the chewing stick from his mouth and his sagging cheeks drooped lower.
“Good Lord! What savagery!” he exclaimed. “What happened to the other girls?”
“Two were killed by the captors because they could not conceive.”
“And the third?”
“Still in the hands of her captors.”
Green put the chewing stick back into his mouth.
“Who are these beasts?”
“Igwe and his men.”
Green’s expression did not change but rather took on a more I-should-have-known feature.
“Igwee? That man who hung his wife’s head on a pole?” Adam nodded. “That man has eyes that put the fear of God in me. The way he looks at me–“
Adam cut him off impatiently, “this latest act of his is appalling, for all the girls are carrying his children.
“All of them?” the commodore didn’t look surprised at all.
“The girls reported that he married them all in a devilish ritual of blood and gore. His message to the villagers is simple: their daughters for his wife.”
“Where are those girls now?”
“The villagers have refused them entry into the village because they see them as abominable. They have been left in an old hut with no food or medical help, left to die. I have ordered the people of the parish to take them in. However, this is not the reason I am here. Igwe and his band of thieves and robbers must be brought to justice.”
Green frowned, a little furrowing of his bushy brows.
“And how do you propose I do that?”
“I beg your pardon?”
“That Agu village has been a thorn in our flesh. They killed eight of our soldiers but I was spared because Igwee’s father hid me. The next day, I returned to the village with reinforcements and subdued those beasts. I wanted to offer the old man my gratitude but they had him murdered and drove the family away from themselves. How do you expect me to side with these same people and turn against the son of the man who spared my life?”
“If we do not do something, this will result in massive bloodshed. Igwe has banded himself with the most notorious criminals in this whole province. An abominable lot they are! They have taken for themselves adulterous wives and prostitutes and their number grows every day. That man is a threat to us all!”
Chewing the stick in his mouth but saying nothing, Green took his time to ponder over the circumstances. He got up and walked to the wooden railing of the verandah and held it, staring into the trees ahead of him, listening to the pounding of pestles against wooden mortars as the village women prepared cooking oil from palm fruits.
“I will not endanger the lives of our good men in a barbarian scuffle. Let them kill themselves. We will protect other villages but let those fools burn in hell for all I care. We do not need such Philistines infiltrating the rest of the Province.”
Adam turned red instantly as he got off his chair.
“You will indeed stand by and do nothing?” he barked.
“I did not say I will not do nothing. I will just refuse to do something. Of course the parish and everything that is ours will be protected–“
Adam cut him off, “you will allow innocent people—women and children—to die?”
Green turned to him with a smirk, a sign of stubborn indifference.
“God bless us all, the world will, without doubt, be a better place without them.”
“May God have mercy on your soul!
Adam stormed off and Green’s droopy cheeks hoisted themselves up in a smile of mischief, “er…thank you for making it easy for me! I need not come for confession on Saturday!” He stared at his chewing stick, “dirty savages.”
IGWE’S HUT [EVIL FOREST] – NIGHT
Igwe looked at his teenage wife as she screamed in agony. He shoved a stick between her lips to bite on and gave way for the midwife he had kidnapped earlier to do her work. The woman tensely looked at him and fought to hide her disapproval, “this is no place for a man.”
“You should not speak to me without permission.” He kicked her and she stumbled over the girl’s bulging abdomen, “do your work!”
The woman raised her hands in prayer to the gods but he kicked her again.
“The only god here is me! Do your work or I will pull out that baby with these two hands.”
She turned from him and to the girl in labor. Agoha came to the door, peeped in and withdrew apologetically. Igwe turned his head his way.
“Fool, what is it?”
“Uncle, I have news from the village.”
Igwe walked out and stood under a full moon.
“The white priest has taken the girls to that place…” he scratched his head, “eh… eh…”
Igwe helped him out, “paliss?”
“Paliss!” Agoha smiled gratefully and shook his head at the difficulty of the white man’s speech. Igwe put his hands behind him and walked grandly to face a bright-burning torch. He spoke to himself but he spoke out loud, “this white man wants to be food for the gods,” he laughed. “He dances with fire, dancing to the drums of the spirits.”
“Uncle, what do we do?”
Igwe uttered no more words. He just stared up at the moon and laughed for a very long time. So long, in fact, that Agoha thought him mad. Finally, he drew in a long breath and looked at Agoha.
“You want to speak?”
“What do we do?” Agoha repeated rapidly. “We cannot go to that…that paliss. We have to find the white man and beg him to give you back your wives.”
“Igwe goes to no one to beg. That man, he will come to me.”
The cry of a baby interrupted them and Igwe rushed to his hut and poked his head in.
Forgetting her anger, the midwife smiles at him like she did to all her normal client, “you have a daughter.”
Igwe smiled back and pulled out of the hut. He tapped Agoha on his shoulders.
“Find some men and go and bring that white fool to me,” he said in joyous tones, “today, there shall be a sacrifice. The white god has brought my Christiana back to me and to say thank you, we shall sacrifice his follower back to him.”
His laughter rang through the whole camp as Agoha sprinted toward the village.
OPEN FIELD [EVIL FOREST]
Red dust powdered the air as half-naked women danced under the full moon. A group of men dropped a wooden crate of whiskey before Igwe’s feet and he stopped the music. He picked a bottle, opened it and poured a drop of whiskey to the ground before him.
“May the spirits curse the village of Agu on this day of the birth of my daughter!”
“Oh!” His men answered.
“May darkness take over the land!”
“MAY THIS DAY BE CURSED!”
Thumping their feet to the ground, they once again invoked settled dust. Adam Bowley gripped his crucifix, squeezed his thighs in masked fear and his eyes turned to his host beside him who was gulping without stopping, the bottle of whiskey in his hand.
A brutal wrestling match ensued between the best of Igwe’s men and chewing on a roasted antelope part, Igwe also feasted his eyes. He spared a glance at Bowley and nudged him good-naturedly.
“Eat and be happy, for today we sacrifice to thank your god.”
Adam tore a large piece of meat and studied it, wondering if he should eat. “My God does not drink blood,” he said calmly.
“But he drank the blood of his own son and you people celebrate it.”
“He did not drink the blood of his son. His son sacrificed himself–“
“To your god, his father?”
“No, to man. For all of us.”
“Your god likes blood,” Igwe said in finality.
“He will be angry if you kill me,” Adam treaded carefully.
Igwe stopped chewing and flashed a suspicious eye at him.
“Who told you I will sacrifice you?” he looked at Agoha, “did Agoha tell you?”
Adam raised his voice in English, “no, no, no, no, no.” He added in Igbo, “leave Agoha. He did not tell me anything.”
“Then, who told you?” he insisted.
“My God,” Adam answered with a glint in his green eyes.
Igwe began to laugh but stopped abruptly.
“Your god talks to you?” he threw disbelieving eyes at him.
“All the time.”
“How does he do it?”
“I can teach you.”
“I have to be alive to teach you,” Adam watched keenly the African, hoping he had gotten through.
Igwe flung the antelope thigh in his hand into the crowd and it hit someone on the nose.
“White man, you will be alive and teach me,” he sucked his fingers noisily, “when I learn all I can, I will sacrifice you to your god just to tell him, ‘thank you’.”
He slapped his wet fingers on Adam’s cheek.
“Good,” Adam said in English, smiling in relief.
“Good,” Igwe also repeated in English.
Adam laughed and commenced eating. He waved his hand into the air excitedly and Igwe looked at him strangely but the Queen’s soldiers hidden in the bush got the signal and were assured that there was no danger. They retreated and walked away from the most feared of barbarians this side of the world. That night, Adam Bowley left but he became the most despised parish priest in the history of parish priests in south-eastern Nigeria because he dined with the devil. He was even more despised because he continued to dine with the devil despite several warnings, but above all, he was remembered as the most despised fool that was hung on a tree and left to die by that same devil.
Months later, after Igwe sacrificed Adam Bowley to his deity, he burnt down Agu village and took his son and daughter and escaped at night, leaving his faithful followers behind to face the wrath of an enraged Commodore Green and bloodthirsty villagers. No one heard about Igwe again or his desire to create an evil empire for a long time. Like a mist he disappeared. He left no trace.