The weather was humid in the farm. The farm grains had been harvested for the season and the bigger animals had already pounced on the leftovers in the mounds. The clammy weather made movement so difficult for Ife and the rest of his clansmen who were prone to walking on their bellies.
They’re Tailor Ants and Tailor Ants are seen as a big nuisance by everyone else in the farm. They were peace loving people that only minded their business… but would fight back when threatened.
Ife and his family lived among the farm trees; and unlike their neighbors the Soldier Ants, there was no migration or change of environment whatsoever for them. They remained stuck to the big avocado pear tree, and depended on its bark and leaves for a living.
Ife was born and bred in the Avi, as the giant tree was fondly called by its dwellers. He’d grown into a full fledged Tailor ant, with three huge mouths to feed. His was the poorest of the families in the neighborhood and he was often taunted by the others as a weakling. He would always be the last to receive allocations… his son would always whine and yell in hunger for several minutes before it came to his turn at last. This and many more events made life unbearable for his family; nevertheless, they were contented living amongst their clansmen in the Avi.
The Avi dwellers lived happily and contented amongst themselves until one day, something strange happened—and that was when it all began. Ife had grazed down the tree that very day as he couldn’t stomach the usual intimidation from the stronger ants. The weather was quite arid and friendly, so he felt he could hunt the crickets perching the foot of the Avi.
He heard Okonta’s voice; the human master of the farm. He was muttering some inaudible words as he approached, probably in human language, and the look on his face was quite malignant. Cidi, his Ward, accompanied him. She was carrying a weird container, and they were both pointing at the foot of the tree, their gazes were sternly perusing the stumps.
Ife heard Okonta commanding Cidi to dig a whole into the Avi. “Come, here, cut it, make it deep,” Mr. Okonta commanded, and Cidi obeyed. “Will it die today?” Cidi asked her master while cutting… this sent a wave of goose bumps down Ife’s spine. He wondered what the humans had up their sleeves and what they’d wanted with the hole they were digging. His fears compounded when Okonta gave a reply to Cidi’s query, “yes, of course, but not soon enough. It will wither very soon and they will all die gradually…” with this statement, Ife concluded there was an imminent danger, but what it was was yet to be disclosed. His legs trepidated; his heart thumped about his chest, and his stomach tumbled in fear as he mulled over what to do.
Surely he must do something. He needed to do something. He must speak to the village Head — he was the only one that could listen to him.
He made a twist, his fingers firmly to the barks as he ran past multitudes of his clan’s men who were all moving about their daily activities, unaware of the looming threat to their existence. No one bothered about knowing why he was running; everyone was straight on with his business. Two guards stood at the doorway as he arrived to the chief’s house. One was biting on a bone — a big locust’s hinge leg all to himself, while the other one, a bit muscular, was sharpening his teeth with his claws. “Hey you, what do you want?” the one with the bone asked, amidst mouthfuls. “I have to see the Head, it’s very urgent…” “What for?” the other one grunted. “I have to see him now; I have an important issue to discuss with him.” “Then go ahead, we’re all ears…” the bone-guard commanded, laying his bone aside. “You heard him? We’re his ears, speak, we shall relate whatever you said to him later on.” The muscular one hushed, but Ife insisted. “No, I must see him at once. It is a grave matter. Let me see him please… or we’re all going to die…” The two guards chorused a reverberating laughter before he could finish his sentence.
“Do you want another loan?” one of them taunted. “Come back tomorrow, he has some important guests right now.” “Please let me see him now, our lives depend on it…” but they’d already pushed him out of the door way.
The Head heard Ife’s voice and inquired who it was; “I heard someone’s voice? Who was that?” he asked, and the guards replied; “no one your highness, just two boys fighting across the road.” “In my palace?” “No, your highness. They were caught fighting and were being punished for doing so, your highness. The guards swayed him, and so he eluded Ife’s warnings.
Ife was divested of this opportunity to save lives. He was so sure of what he’d witnessed and heard, but no one was giving him a listening ear. The worst of all was his wife’s reaction when he related the story to her. She only wrapped her arms round his neck and said; “Stop worrying your head about your people dear, one day it will be over.” And then she smiled and said, “But you don’t have to cook up a scandal to earn regard from them… do you?”
This was the last straw that broke the camel’s back. Ife was shot down by his wife’s comment… he felt very empty within himself, like a cow awaiting slaughter. But only one person believed him — his son Adim who’d always stand by his father.
Ife’s worst fear was the fate of his family; his son’s well being meant everything to him. He needed to do something to save his family. But where would they run to? No where was safe apart from the Avi which had been their asylum for ages.
A day passed and another followed, yet nothing happened. Ife’s scandal had already reached the palace from the mouth of the villagers, so the Head called a meeting with the villagers. The Tailor Ants gathered around the palace, and everyone but the elders wondered what the cause of the Head’s call might be. The Head had previously decided to banish Ife and his family from the Avi tree, and the meeting was to that effect. Soon the head began his address, everyone listened with rapped attention.
“Hmm, my people I greet you all. Our ancestors say, ‘when the he goat begins to grow protruded teeth, it’s either the owner sells it out to his neighbors or he kills it for rituals before it becomes carnivorous. Presently, we have a situation at hand — a very big threat to our entire existence…” The crowd roared, but he pressed on with his point. “That traitor is in our midst, he’s a nuisance and a tell-bearer. He had tried setting us apart with some news of doom, but today we shall stand against him and decide within ourselves today, what to do with him.” “Kill him! Kill him!” the people roared.
“Hmm, calm down my people,” the Head continued. “Matters like this call for careful reaction. I had spoken to my cabinet about this issue and we have resolved to banish him along with his family members, from our family tree. We cannot live with a traitor!” “Yes! Let him be banished.” Some villagers yelled, while some kept mute.
Ife and his family were brought into the middle of the crowd. “They shall be cast away without delay,” at the Head’s command, some guards emerged and took hold of Ife. The first person they threw down from the tree was his wife. He watched her helplessly as she descended from the big tree and soon her voice drowned into the air. His son was next, and then his daughter.
A few moments later, Ife found himself in the air, falling rapidly to the ground. He was heart broken; no one was ready to listen to him. Nothing bothered his mind anymore, not even the thought of tomorrow.
That was how Ife lost his home, his roots, and his name. He was cast away from his people for trying to save their lives. If they’d known they would have listened to him — for as soon as he landed, something strange began to happen.
Suddenly a great flame arose. It blazed so violently that Ife had to scamper for safety. Okonta and his ward were at the foot of the Avi, they had set fire to the almighty Avi. Soon the flames arose to the top of the Avi tree. Ife could hear the cries of his clan’s men as they roasted in the fire. Tears flooded his eyes; he’d lost everything: his family, his home, and his people all within a day.
He hid himself under a green leaf and watched the fire helplessly. Now, he is alone in the whole world, no one to talk to, and no one to share grains and leftovers with, in his homeless world.
Ife helplessly watched the Avi as it burned to ashes. The cries of his people from the tree top had seized and it dawned on him that it was all over — they’d all perished in the fire. He wondered what had become of his family; had they survived the fall? His bones were too weak to seek solution to all these questions.
Night came, and the weaver birds came to roost on the Avi, but it was no more—it had turned into a black log, stuffed with ashes and coal. Ife watched all the birds disperse one after the other, and in no distant time, he was alone again.