ETHNIC GROUP: Bini People, found in Edo State.
The night presses on us, a black smothering blanket. We scamper across red sand with bare feet. Electricity is out. Only an early moon allows us see the coal-tar crossroads, a few yards ahead.
“Quickly,” I whisper in Bini, our native tongue. It’s the only language we know and unanimously speak since we began sleeping under the ATM together.
“I don’t want to,” Ifueko protests again. She’s a lean, tiny girl; the latest occupant of our ATM shelter. This is her first raid.
“You’ll go hungry,” Nagudia snaps. He’s the biggest of us, curt and brash. Coupled with my prudence, we’ve survived our way through Benin’s slums.
“But it’s not ours. It’s Eniwanren’s izobo.”
“There’s nothing like Eniwanren,” I tell her. “Elders of the Night were invented for sacrifices.”
We arrive and split quickly. I scout two corners of the intersection while Nagudia and Ifueko do the others. The first has nothing. I move to the second, hoping for a hefty sacrifice. Days ago, we found roasted yam and boiled eggs. Our bellies smiled.
Tonight is a disappointment. I hiss and head to Nagudia’s spot, meeting only him there.
“Where’s she?” I ask. He shrugs.
We head to her corner. There’s a giant Iroko, and she’s standing under it, clutching a large clay pot. Her eyes are fixed on something.
“You found–” Nagudia starts, then freezes.
Seven owls are lined up in the tree, staring right down at us, their brows furrowed and oval eyes white like a row of Christmas lights.
Oval. Human eyes.
I hear the pot crash as I tug my friends.
I don’t know how we arrive at our ATM, and as we lay on the cold tiles, our bellies rumble, yet we feel nothing but afterchills borne of a baptism of new wisdom.