Her mind had lied
Or so, she thought. The spirits had lied. These guardian spirits.
She was going to die here, alone.
She squinted and squirmed, closing her eyes to reality, while expecting the worst from the women she had just seen float in the air.
She waited, and waited, for more than a while, and she was surprised to still be alive when she opened them.
She looked around, trying to figure out the shapes of these beings in the semi-darkness. She could not see them.
Adaku was shocked at the sudden stillness of the night, the calmness of the moment and the emptiness of the space behind her. Only a few moments back, a number of hooded women were about to tear her apart and now, she was alone.
Slowly, she began to recognise her environment. She was near the sheep market, where the Fulani traders made their abode. She could smell the faint odour of sheepskin, and animal waste. The sheep market was a long way from where she lived, even she had resented the journey to this part of the village anytime she had to make it, hence she had always come as far as this place in the company of other girls; an attempt at easing the hectic nature of the journey.
Tonight she had come this far, alone.
Maybe the spirits had actually guided her out tonight, maybe they had actually given her the strength to run this far. The spirits had saved her from the claws of the hooded women. She wanted to thank them.
‘Thank you’ she muttered, unsure of herself, then added ‘All of you, thank you’
She could not hear them, she did not feel them around her. Everything was still, even the dark corners of her mind.
She listened for the spirits, for the familiar voices that had called her earlier that night and she could not hear a thing.
The spirits had left her. They had abandoned her out here.
Adaku despised the guardian spirits now. How could they leave her out here, alone?
She had to find her way back home. She was thirsty. There was a small pump just very close to the sheep market. She decided to go over there to take a drink of water.
She turned the tap on, let out her cupped hands under the faucet, expecting a rush of water. A short gurgling sound emanated from the tap, like the sound of someone belching, and then nothing. There was no water.
She was frustrated at that. All of a sudden, she had become extremely tired, her joints beginning to ache and her throat parched. The earlier she began the journey back home, the better. She made up her mind and began the trek.
She found herself at the sheep market again. She was putting on old clothes; the clothes looked like those that belonged to her grandmother. She even smelt like her grandmother. The sheep market looked different. There were no stalls, no sheds and no barns. It was a stretch of empty land. For some reason, however, she knew this was the sheep market.
She was weary and famished. She was tired and her heartbeat was racing at twice the normal pace. She could clearly hear her heart palpitating.
She was thirsty.
She moved towards the all-too-familiar pump to drink water. At the pump, she saw small children playing, sitting together in a semi-circle and giggling. She could not see their faces though, yet she could hear their voices as they sang sonorously, songs that seemed to be from somewhere beyond this world. The children had skin like gold; pure and desirable. She felt the untoward desire to move forward and touch them, and feel the beauty of their skins. She wanted to cuddle these children and listen to their voices as they sang to her.
Their songs had relieved her weariness. She felt bliss when they sang.
A sudden happiness she had never known before had taken over her. She wanted to live like this forever. She wanted to stand by this pump and listen to these children.
She moved forward. She touched one of the children, a young boy with cropped brown hair. She wanted to ask him his name, and who his parents were. The children were not from this village, she knew that. She wanted to ask them how they got as far as the sheep market.
The boy continued singing, unaware of her lingering touch. She tapped him a little harder. All the children turned at once to look at her. They were not children; their faces were the faces of old women and men with sunken eyes in deadened eye sockets. She staggered back, afraid.
The singing had stopped, now she heard groaning and distant cries of torment. Before her eyes, the children changed to birds; beautiful songbirds with various feather colours. Then they flew away. A sudden gloom came over her.
Weariness had returned.
She ran the few meters to the tap, turned it on, waiting to drink. There was a gurgling sound, then a sharp gush of liquid.
It wasn’t water, it was blood. Human blood.
She woke up with a start, panting heavily.