Papa led me down the dusty path, pulling my hand as he went. From the corner of my eyes, I could see with the help of the dim light proffered by the crickets in the bushes that we had just passed Mama Osarodion’s Akara stall which stood almost at the outskirt of the village.
“Papa, where are we going?” I called out, trying to mask my fear with a worried look. Besides the fact that I was now seeing strange images obviously conjured by the trees in the bushes, we had just entered the path leading to the village stream- a path Mama had warned was disastrous and terrifying in the night. It had been rumored that a certain masquerade visited the stream at such hours in the night to take its bath. Therefore, anyone who ventured there at night usually never lived to tell the tale.
“Papa!” I called again
“Will you be quiet?!” Papa scolded, stopping abruptly to stare down at my worried face. He was wearing that murderous look of his that always made my skin crawl. It was the look he always had right before he sends my buttocks to the woodshed to be whipped with koboko for one of my mischief or, for other closely related offenses.
“If I hear another word from you…”He threatened, but he didn’t get to finish his sentence as there was a sudden movement in the bush. I felt fear creep up my spine and almost jumped on Papa but he had looked away surveying the environ with frightened interest and with little concern for my safety.
“Igbabonelimi, is that you?” Papa asked and I could hear the trembling in his voice. He looked even as terrified as I was.
“Papa” I whispered, unable to contain my anxiety any longer. I could feel my eyes tingling with tears as I looked at him, hoping he would see the fears in my eyes and change his mind.
“Papa I want to go home” I whispered again now crying as silently as I could.
“Hsssh!” Papa hushed me, calling out to whoever he thought was on the path with us.
Suddenly, there was a large rush of leaves and then, we saw it-a big monstrous being with black hairs all over, standing before us on the path. It had on a wooden mask with big white eyes and a blood stained tongue that seemed to stretch from one corner of its mouth to the other. On its feet and chest were beads, and cowries of some sorts. I was about screaming when I felt Papa’s hands round my mouth.
“Igbabonelimi oh thank God you came” Papa answered holding my mouth more tighter as I struggled to break free and do the one thing my feet were urging me to do. From the corner of my eyes, I could see that the creature made no move to answer. It just stood there, watching us like a hawk.
“I’m sorry I didn’t come much sooner. Forgive me” Papa continued as he tried to keep me still. “I had to wait till her mother was fast asleep. Please don’t be angry with me” Papa continued, trembling as he made to throw me between his thighs to keep me caged.
Suddenly, it felt like the grounds were moving as I saw the creature move towards us. My eyes grew wider as I made to bite off the fingers that stood over my mouth and scream my lungs out till my feet were willing to obey but it was already there before us.
I lost my bearing, shaken by the close vision of its face that looked like death itself as it stared down at Papa and I like cockroaches that it could crush at ease.
“You can have her” Papa suddenly said releasing me to sway away from its look.
I stood mortified. What?
“Please make sure I get what I was promised” Papa said moving further away while I stood petrified and confused. As the creature stood over me, like it was going to bounce on me at any second, I turned around to take a look at Papa with the words “Please don’t leave me” hanging on my throat. I wanted to scream and kick and crawl to where he stood to help explain why he was leaving me with a beast but then, I noticed that Papa had stopped moving and had stood rooted on the spot.
“Ok..” Papa said “I will watch” as if obeying something the creature had said as he bent his head sadly and rose up his eyes.
And then I felt it- the excruciating pain as it spread from the top of my head to the root of my feet and then, everything was black.
To be continued Every Tuesday on THE Q EFFECT. See you there!