Idoma- Kogi state.
Ekondu’s lips quivered as he followed his friend. Alchieni pretended not to notice. The route to the river stretched into a snaky course of darkish brown mud paths and elephant grass which flanked each side of the road.
Taboo! Taboo! Taboo! Taboo!
Grandpa Ogbole’s words hovered above them. Or rather, it hovered above Ekondu. Alchieni had somehow convinced himself they’re being lied to; there were no taboos, just stupid, makebelieve stories about Water People who took the form of fishes every Wednesday.
They stood on the riverbank, watching the rippling water and the empty canoes that bobbed and swayed softly like they were babies being rocked by the Water People.
‘Are you afraid,’ Alchieni asked.
‘No,’ Ekondu lied.
The fish wouldn’t stop flapping.
The fishing rod trembled in Ekondu’s hands and Alchieni looked unsettled himself. This had been going on for ten minutes. Why couldn’t the stupid thing just die?
Alchieni took the paddle and clubbed the fish twice on the head. After a few spasmodic jerks, it lay still. He looked at Ekondu with triumph.
‘ Let’s go back,’ Ekondu said. ‘ We’ve caught one already.’
Alchieni shrugged and started paddling towards the riverbank. The wind slithering through the trees surrounding the river gave them voices; the sounds akin to stiffled sobbing that the boys couldn’t hear.
‘ Ekondu’s dying!’
His mother’s screams brought the whole village to their tiny hut. On the floor, her son was writhing, gripping his stomach in agony.
Voices spoke. Caring. Curious. Concerned voices. Village voices. ‘ What happened? What’s wrong? Did he…’
Talks stopped when Ekondu started gagging. and before the villagers, he threw up.
Screams rang from all sides and bounced off the walls of the hut.
On the floor, in a puddle of Ekondu’s vomit, the fish kept flapping.