I had always wondered why any sane human or group of humans would name a market “cemetery”. I also had been supplied many answers, but did not believe any of them. No, not until this morning, when Emeka garri vanished before my very eyes.
I had been told stories that the market was built over a cemetery and that at first there were more walking dead than the living there; stories that many ghosts sold in this market to cater for their living families, and all that. Of course as a 21st century Nigerian I dismissed these tales as cock and bull.
Today, the 21st of march 2013 is a date I would never forget, at least not in a hurry. I got off the keke at the usual busy tricycle stopping point and walked into the market, careful not to step on the trays of vegetables and basins of fruits lined up by the rather small entrance to the foodstuff section of the market. I went to this market fortnightly, and had become quite familiar with some traders.
A little into the market and I stopped at Mama Bomboy’s open stall to buy sweet potatoes. “Ah! corper, you dey so?” she asked me. “Yes ma” I said trying not to speak too much ‘oyibo’ as the market women called it.
“You get luck well well, today the potatoes na big big, fine fine ones.”
I was used to the talk already; her potatoes were always big and fine. I picked up a potato from one of the heaps on the stall, frowned at it a little, replaced it and said.
“As I keep am, na four four hundred naira.”
“Okay, give me this one.” I said pointing at the heap I had earlier inspected.
She began to put it in a bag while I brought out money from my wallet.
“Corper I de do you fine market o, if na another person, na six six hundred.”
I was used to this too; Mama Bomboy was beginning to feel cheated because I had not haggled over the price. I thanked her and took my rather heavy bundle of potatoes away.
I still had a number of things to buy in the market, so I decided to drop the bag of potatoes at Emeka garri’s shop. His shop was just three shades away from the stall. Emeka garri was a young man who I guessed was in his thirties. From the teeming customers to whom he sold fine palm oil-yellow garri, it was also easy to guess how he came to be called ‘Emeka garri’.
Today, as usual he welcomed me warmly. While we were still exchanging pleasantries, a woman came to buy garri; then she squinted her eyes to focus on Emeka’s young face; suddenly, she turned round like a person about to go mad, put her had on her head and screamed. I was shocked at her behavior which was also beginning to turn other heads in our direction. She looked at Emeka again and shouted. “Victor! Victor! Uwa di egwu!”
It was then it happened and I am still surprised I did not faint. The place where Emeka garri had been standing about to take my bag of potatoes from me for safe keeping, became vacant, I mean like there had been no one there before! As though on cue, the bottom of the waterproof bag holding my potatoes, tore and big potatoes rolled all over the floor. I stood still, shocked, the sound of potatoes falling like thunder in the spell of silence that overcame all who saw.
Authors note: this is not to convey a belief in ghosts; I strongly believe that there is nothing like the walking dead only demons trying to scare the hell out of those who scare easily.