Aikume, didn’t bother to pick up her wrapper, rather, she nodded gently and motioned for him to come closer.
Kankan shook his head vehemently, “Oh no, Oh no, I’m not falling for that one! Next thing you know, I’ll be underwater, talking to fishes!”
Aikume laughed a laugh that went into one ear and massaged his insides, like cool palm wine on a hot day.
“Come closer, Kankan, do I look like I’ll bite?’
Kankan looked into the eyes of the woman talking to him, or at least he tried to. She was tall, with skin smooth and sleek with water, all of him, wanted to pull her close and demand why she had tormented his dreams, yet he stood motionless.
“Who are you? Why have you been in my dreams?”
“My name is Aikume, I’m the half that completes you, and I’m the one you’ve been searching for without even knowing your eyes were looking.”
“ Kankan, come.”
“I’m not moving, until you put on some clothes and get out of that stream!”
Aikume slowly picked up her wrapper, her heart beating wildly in her chest.
Kankan, was by far more handsome than she had imagined. He had no facial hair; his face was smooth and babyish but his jaw could have broken a coconut right open and his chest never seemed to end. There had to be a mistake somewhere, she couldn’t be the one he was destined to meet.
‘Why me? By morning, the entire village would want to see him, by noon; they would have found him a wife, one more beautiful than I.’
His appearance only brought more questions than answers. She already had enough unanswered questions, and didn’t need Kankan, complicating even more.
Only half a moon ago, Naana, had called her into her hut, and spoken some gibberish. Aikume had tolerated it because, Naana was old and when her mother had passed away; the old lady took her into her compound.
The old lady had leaned on her stick and said, “Aikume, on the night I sleep, you’ll wake up. You’ll be naked, through and through, and he will come to you. You will wake up; on the same night I fall asleep.”
For weeks, she had come to the only place that saw her nakedness; night after night, and finally giving up hope on this so-called destiny, when he appeared.
Aikume trembled as she tied her cloth, knowing too well that even though Kankan feigned disinterest, he was perusing her carefully.
“Kankan, I dont know why you are here, or why I appeared in your dreams. The only solution I can think of is that you come into the village with me and talk to Naana. She is the village seer, and frankly I need her to see a couple of things for me, right now.” She smoothed out the curls in her hair and retied it with the cloth.
Kankan chuckled and shook his head, “You must think that I’m a fool! How do I know this Naana exists and isn’t a lie?”
Aikume frowned in response, “Who did you say you were again and why are you here? How do I know you aren’t lying, how do I know you’re not a spy?!”
Irritation boiled in Kankan; “Rather than waste my time, with your nakedness, give me answers! Why have you been in my dreams?” he grabbed her fiercely and pulled her closer.
Aikume yelped in excited pain, her heart thumping in her chest, “I don’t know why I have been in your dreams, I really don’t!”
Kankan shoved her aawa, suddenly aware of what he had intended to do.
Aikume dusted the earth of her wrapper and got up, “Now you can either come with me to Naana, or you can stay here and dream of me again!”
“Wait!” Kankan, crouched into the shrubs and grabbed his belongings.
“Let’s go see Naana.”
“Fire!! Fire!!” villagers scrambled helter-skelter in an attempt to put out the flames.
Aikume, ran, almost, making it into the flame lit hut, until the men pulled her back.
“What happened here Where`s Naana? Where is my mother?”
“Aikume! Be still!” The chief called out solemnly from behind her.
“Naana, is gone.”
“Thats not possible!” Aikume wrestled the men that held her down.
The fire rose higher and higher as though, touching the rising sun.
“When I sleep, you will wake up….” the wind whispered in her ear.
“Naana…” Aikume grabbed a fistful of dirt and threw it over her head.
In the chaos, no one had noticed Kankan, standing behind her.
Teary eyed, Aikume looked in his direction, “I swear, I didn’t know about this. I swear Naana was here, in there…” her voice trailed off into sobs.
“She had the answers, she had to, and now she’s…” Aikume sobbed, pounding her fists into her chest.
Suddenly, everyone became aware of Kankan.
“Aikume, who is this? Who is this man?” the chief thundered.
“In the time of raiders and slave traders, who have you brought into our midst?”
“My name is Kankan, I’m from the Abiloti tribe and I come neither to raid nor to spy.”
“Aaah, then you’re both!”
“Chief, if that was my intention; you and your household would have been half way across to the white man’s land by now.”
Aikume wiped her eyes, and listened, suddenly distracted from Naana and the burning hut.
“Who was this man?”
The villagers murmured, creating a loud buzz.
“Who is he?”
“If you’re neither a spy, nor a raider, then what are you?”
“I’m an am-ba-se-do”
“Ambasedo?” The chief scratched his head
“I’ve never heard of that before! Seize him!”
Huge men moved to grab Kankan, but he was faster, quickly moving out of their reach.
“I said seize him you imbeciles!”
Again, he wiggled and wove his way through them, dodging them again.
“You can’t touch an ‘ambasedo’. If you’ll let me finish what I came here to say, then I’ll explain.”
The chief eyed him and then Aikume.
“Two of you, come with me. Whatever it is this young man has to say, I dont think it’s the concern of the entire village.”
Chief Okioke, sat solemnly facing the two of them.
“I lied, I have heard of an ambasedo before, even met one. However, I dont see why we need one here. Everyone that I know that had one ended up regretting it. You come with smiles, but in the end its bloodshed and pain.”
“Young man, why are you really here?”
Kankan smiled at the chief,” I have heard you wise chief, and it is true that a lot of the stories dont end well, but those men are not me. I’m different. The white man has sent me here to bring peace between your village and Ozozo. Your fears and concerns are right. So are your unspoken questions, if I am who I say I am, why have I come alone, like a spy? Why is it Aikume who is leading me here?
I know these questions are on your mind”
“Aikume is merely a coincidence and I am alone because I choose to be. However, if you send me back, or worse, imprison or kill me, the white man will come here himself, and you know about that side of the story, dont you?”
The chief sighed. “So what do you want me to do, step down and give you my seat? Be a dummy for you?”
“Not at all sir, I’m here to talk to you and your people, Ozozo and her people and help you both make peace.”
The chief frowned so tight his face resembled a dried up fruit; “I shall discuss this with my chiefs and the elders, return tomorrow and we will make a decision.”
“In the meantime, Aikume will take care of you. Since her mother just died, she has a compound to herself.”
Kankan bowed respectfully and exited.
Aikume stormed out of the chief’s hut in anger, muttering to herself
‘She has a compound to herself, take care of him’, ‘Poison him, that’s what I’ll do.’
“Wait for me! Aikume, please wait!” Kankan ran after her.
“You pretender! Acting like you knew nothing; meanwhile you came here to sit at the chief’s foot!”
“Liar! ” she clapped her hands in his facce.
“Why do you appear in my dreams, Aikume why” She mimicked him.
“What lie did I tell?”
Aikume hurried off again, running a little and then walking again, hoping that he’ll get lost.
By the time she got home a greater madness awaited her.
Naana’s burnt hut had been repaired; in fact, all the huts had been fixed up. The compound was dusted and there were stacks on stacks of yams, fish, peppers, game and palm wine.
Ozozo maidens lined up, dropping more gifts at her door steps.
As though in a competition, her village maidens were also doing favors for her.
“Stop; stop; you there, come over here!”
“What is all this for? Who sent you to do this?”
The panting young girl replied, staring at Kankan instead, “As soon as you left Chief Okioke’s hut, the Ozozo’s came. They came with their warriors and maidens, bearing gift for the one the white man sent, the ‘ambasedo’.”
Aikume made a face as one who just ate rotten kernel.
“Wait, so what is this for.”
The girl rolled her eyes. “It’s for you of course! The white man is in your house, that’s what they say. If his ambasedo, is in your house, well so is he.”
Aikume tilted her head and laughed.
The young girl giggled as Kankan smiled at her, “Welcome.” she giggled again and scurried of to tell her friends.
More and more villagers from from tribes poured into her compound, greeting and offering gifts to her and the ambasedo.
As night approached, Aikume began to shiver….
As the host of the ambasedo, she couldnt leave him in the compound alone, it was forbidden, but if she didnt go to the river, something uncontrollably eerie was going to happen.