For a moment, Adaku was oblivious to her surroundings. She thrashed her hands around, grasping for something.
She felt wetted with some liquid.
She was able to grab a piece of cloth and quickly brought it to her eyes. She wiped off the liquid that was now dripping down her face. The liquid dribbled into her mouth, and settled on her tongue. It was water. Why would she be wet with water?
She sat up on the bed where she was, looked all around and saw teary-eyed women, hurriedly tied wrappers slung across their chests. Her mother was among them. The glassy look in her mother’s eyes as well as the constant sniffing told her she had been crying.
Adaku wiped the water from her face again and sat up straighter
‘Ada nwam, you are alive. Hey, Ada, why now, enh, why do you want to kill me before my time?’ her mother exclaimed, feeling her daughter’s skin like she was unsure it was her.
‘Mama what is it? What happened?’ Adaku found the scenario strange
The women standing above her exchanged a look that Adaku did not miss
‘Did something happen to me?’ she asked frantically ‘I want to know’ she looked from her mother to the women the fear in her voice turning to firm resolve. She was still soaked with water and didn’t find that funny.
‘Ada, just calm down and eat something’
Adaku was annoyed at her mother and the women now
What were they hiding from her? What had happened?
She tried to recall the events of the night before. The walk all the way from the sheep market after discovering there was no water at the pump was tiring, but she had needed to make it. An hour before the first cock crow, she had arrived home and quickly slipped inside, taken some water to quench her thirst, and immediately gone to sleep.
She remembered having a bad dream.
In the dream, she was at the sheep market again. There were children. What happened after that, she couldn’t remember.
Well, it was just another bad dream. But something about it told her it was more than that.
‘Ada, Ada, Ada!’ her mother had been calling her for a while now
‘Yes ma’ she answered, now out of her reverie
‘Eat something now’
‘No’ Adaku was determined to know what had happened ‘Mama what happened to me?’
Her mother made a guttural sound, then something of a faint sigh, a behaviour Adaku had come to know by now. Mama was struggling with herself, she didn’t want to tell her daughter whatever had happened, yet she wanted to.
‘You died…or fainted’ her mother’s voice was low, almost a whisper. She stole a glance at the women, in a way seeming to seek approval from them after saying it, as though she had committed a sacrilege by merely whispering the words.
Adaku was taken aback ‘I died? I stopped breathing?’
Her mother nodded.
‘And you were smiling, yet you were not breathing. Your heart wasn’t beating at all. We thought you were gone.’
‘Since daybreak, about three hours now’ one of the women standing retorted, trying to assure them she could hear the entire conversation, maybe to even reiterate her role in the life-saving process.
Adaku spotted Obika’s mother, her father’s second wife come in at that moment with a bowl of something. It was obvious she had been in the room earlier. Adaku liked Obiageli because of the concern she showed for incidents that happened around her. Her concern was genuine. Yet, Adaku despised her for her mouth that ran like a drainage pipe and her rotten character too.
This morning she was here, and somehow it was okay.
Adaku was stunned for a brief moment at the revelation from her mother. How could she have died? She never felt a thing. She had slept, dreamt a dream and woken up.
How could they have thought she was dead?
Adaku knew her mother’s fears. She knew what the middle-aged woman was thinking. This was not her first near-death experience. She had experienced something similar at different stages of her life. The first she heard of, happened when she was five. That day, she had taken her afternoon siesta immediately she returned from school.
She died in her sleep, so they told her.
She had also had a dream that afternoon. In the dream, she was in something of a paradise land. The place was very beautiful, brimming with supernatural beings of such exquisite beauty. She had seen a bridge, and on the other side of the bridge she saw her mother beckoning on her to come. Her mother had looked so happy and peaceful there that Adaku wanted to go. She was a bit hesitant though because of the bridge she had to cross.
Then she had seen children, singing children.
She had started to cross, when one of the angelic beings she saw in the paradise land shouted her name and told her to come back. Adaku told her that she needed to go and be with her mother.
Her mother had called out to her again. The children now sung her name. It was like showers of heavenly dew.
The call from the other side also intensified, and soon her name rang out from both sides. Something happened after that.
Something dark, fearful and deadly. Till this day, she could not remember what.
At twelve years, she had had a similar experience.
When she was twelve, she had sat outside one night, a full moon glowering overhead, while she listened to the stories of dark humour and horrific legends her grandmother told. She had sat with other kids of the village that night. One minute, she was listening to her grandmother’s firm voice as she narrated the story of some distant king that had ruled so many lands. Adaku found herself enchanted by this tale. Soon, she was transfixed, anticipating the end of the neatly woven story.
She didn’t know when she drifted off into another world.
She could swear by the gods that she did not fall asleep that night. She couldn’t have. The story had been too captivating. She had never slept off while her grandmother told any of her numerous tales. None of the children ever did, for her grandmother, though well spent in age was as energetic and enthusiastic as a youth.
There was a fire in her eyes that burned whenever she spoke.
A fire that electrified the listener.
Whenever this woman spoke, every soul under the sound of her voice listened like that voice was all that existed in the world, like it was the core of their existence.
Adaku could swear that she had not slept that night, but somehow, as she let her imaginations into this story of this king and his kinsmen run wild, she soon realised she was no longer in her village, no longer in her yard, no longer under the guava tree.