AGU VILLAGE IN THE SOUTH-EASTERN PART OF NIGERIA
RAINY SEASON, 1882
Igwe’s muscular leg kicked a sleeping goat off his path as he marched towards his hut. He had left a disappearing trail of blood from the freshly killed antelope he had just hunted from the evil forest. In the distance, he spied clouds above him gathering and he licked a finger and lifted it to the air to predict the direction of the wind. Nodding his head in satisfaction, he was sure the rain would not come in the direction of his father’s compound which was situated far from the dwellings of the other villagers. The silence in this part of the village was very pronounced and approaching home, a loud, agonizing cry welcomed him. Before he got the chance to unload his game, his cousin ran out to meet him.
“Uncle, your wife is about to give birth!” Agoha gasped in short, rapid breaths.
Igwe dropped the antelope and ordered his cousin,“run into the village and call the midwife!”
“I have gone and she refused to come!”
“Go and call any woman you see!”
Agoha opened his mouth to protest but Igwe cut him off, “GO!”
Agoha ran towards the village and Igwe entered his hut where his wife was lying on a mat, groaning in pain. Though lit by a burning wick, the room was dark. The smell of strong spices, body odour and fresh clay hung in the air but some other unfamiliar smell made Igwe stop in his tracks as he entered. The mat beneath his wife was stained in blood. He looked away for it was a curse for a man to behold such things. He thought of what to tell her but he had run out of words. The only thing he remembered was the name the Christian missionaries had given her, for she recently had chosen to adopt their ways even against his protests. His family line had been known to be faithful to the dark gods of their ancestors. These were gods that even the other villagers dare not name, gods that lived in the darkness and were responsible for evil. The gods were the souls of departed ones who while in the land of the living were cursed and were now damned. They were spirits of men whom the earth had rejected and vomited, men left to wander the evil forests of the dead forever. They had become gods in their own standing now, and they were the gods of Igwe and his family. Igwe’s wife had crossed the line and she deserved death but even as he looked at her, his heart stirred within him towards the love of his youth.
Her eyes fluttered, “mmm?”
Still lacking of words, he stood there looking at her. She was speaking and to the normal ear, what she was saying was hard to understand but he knew she was praying to her new god. He watched her and he remembered his father and how he had died. He also remembered how other men he had killed with his own hands had died. He knew that in no time, Christiana will also die because the spirit of the dead was in the hut with them and it callously pulled at Christiana’s life.
Igwe walked to the corner of the room and reached for a flint knife in an earthen ware amongst other sacred objects. The knife was not just a tool; it was an idol. ‘The god of mercy’ it was called. It gave easy death to the suffering soul. He had sent Agoha on a fool’s errand for he knew that no woman from the village would venture this way. On his knees he went before his wife and still looking into her eyes, he plunged the ‘god of mercy’ into her waning heart. He gave her a short while to die and drove the same dagger down to her abdomen, ripped it open and pulled out his son. At the first breath of air, Nwosu Igwe broke into a cry. Outside it began to rain. Igwe wrapped his son in Christiana’s cloth and in a quiet voice, he raised his head.
“Today is an accursed day. I curse this day, my son. Your mother shall receive her vengeance over the women of this village, over the god of the white man. She shall receive her vengeance.”
AGU VILLAGE- DAWN
It was the women who come out to sweep the village that were the first to see it. It stood like a tall iroko tree; Christiana’s head stood on a tall stick, in the centre of the village market. With screams and in frenzy, they ran back into the village. No one really knew why it was there but everyone knew that the best thing to do was to stay away from that accursed family. Parents locked their children indoors and the pathways and roads were empty long before dark but no one prepared them for what Igwe and his men had planned for them.
DRY SEASON, 1882
The whole of the village stood to watch as Adam Bowley took down Christiana’s skull. A feverish excitement coursed through them and finally they felt the curse had been lifted or to put it rightly, had fallen on the crazy white man. Igwe stood in the corner beside a pear tree watching the whole ceremony. Turning away, he made sure he left a warning eye at Adam. He walked through a lonely path towards his home which was now in the evil forest. He heard pounding footsteps behind him and he stopped and turned around. Adam came running to him.
“Go away, white man,” Igwe continued walking but Adam still pounded after him.
“I come in peace,” the white man managed through pidgin Igbo.
“This village knows no peace.”
“Please, stop,” Adam said, panting hard.
“Go back!” Igwe warned.
Adam reached forward and touched him. He turned round and nailed Adam to a tree with a fierce hand to his neck.
“What do you want?”
Still breathing laboriously, Adam couldn’t find his voice.
“What do you want?” Igwe repeated.
“I know what the village did to your wife, Christiana.”
For the third time: “what do you want?”
“To restore you back to your people. To bring peace–”
“Did you not hear me? This village knows no peace! Why do you think I have decided to live in the evil forest?”
He looked down at Adam’s hand and saw Christiana’s skull and backed away, his eyes never leaving his.
“Do you not fear our gods?”
“You this new white man priest, I do not like you.”
He snatched the skull from him and started walking away. Following him, Adam tried unsuccessfully to match his steps.
“I am travelling to another place. You and your men can follow me if you do not have peace here.”
“Leave me alone, white man.” Igwe spat at him. “I cannot be your friend. I am an enemy to your god.”
“Where I am going, there are Igbo people like you there.”
Raging Igwe swiveled round and hurled the spear in his hand at Adam but Adam docked and the spear plunged the red earth beneath him.
“Let your god be around to save you another time, for then I will surely kill you!”
He marched on, leaving Adam Bowley alone in the bush path.
AGU VILLAGE- DUSK
FOUR MARKET DAYS LATER
A band of twelve men hid in the bushes flanking the main path leading from the market square to the Agu village. They blended in with the brown bushes and made no sound as they stealthily awaited their prey. The elderly women of the village were the first to walk by. Not long after, the middle-aged, married women made their way but these were not the quarry they came for. The kidnappers waited patiently for the group of young girls who always stayed back to sweep the market square and share the latest in gossip. They announced their presence a quarter of a kilometre away, laughing in shrill, high-pitched tones. The men took their positions and without warning descended on their victims. Seventeen girls were abducted, and if they survived, they were never going enter their husbands’ homes as virgins.
to be continued…