Biodun went to his father’s house on getting to Lagos. The house premises were quite dirty, not a single soul was in sight. It looked deserted and quiet. His father’s Volkswagen car was parked in front with the windscreen broken. He stared at it in surprise before he walked up the veranda and knocked on the door.
He knocked on the door several times but got no reply. Then he went round the house to the back. The kitchen door was locked as well. He peered through all the windows but all the curtains were drawn shut. He sighed, “Where has he gone to?” he thought to himself. He stood for several minutes, surveying the whole place then he turned and walked away. As he was about to turn a corner for the front of the house, a louver opened a little and he heard a hiss. He looked up and saw Gladys’ relieved face at the window she beckoned him back to the kitchen door.
As soon as reached the door, it was opened quickly and he was dragged in. he stood still to let his eyes adjust to the dark.
Gladys: “Come with me.” She whispered.
Biodun followed her into the room and there he met his father seated on the bed with two other men. They jumped in fear on seeing his uniform. He looked at them in surprise.
Biodun: “what is going on here?” he asked, a frown on his face.
Gladys: “these are people we saved from a mob attack just outside the switchboard some days ago. We are waiting for a little bit of quiet, before we send them on their way.” she explained to Biodun.
Biodun: “I don’t understand. Attack over what?” he asked.
Mr Okunola: “they are Ibos, son. They need to get to the east.” He replied quietly.
Biodun:”where is Chidinma?” he asked suddenly scared.
Gladys: “she is gone. She left with her parents soon after the second coup.” She replied.
Chidinma sneezed twice. “Who is calling my name?” she thought as she sorted through the palm kernel, she wanted to use for oil and for food. She looked up as her mother came out from behind the house with a basket of vegetables. She looked at the thinness of her mother’s face…”we are dying daily yet the radio say we are fine. I am tired…Tope, I hope you are alive and safe?” She thought as she watched her mother seat beside her.
Chidinma: “where is father?” she asked, staring at her mother sadly.
Mrs Nzeribe: “he has gone to join the army.” She replied angrily as she started to pluck the leaves of the vegetables in her basket.
Chidinma stared at her mother in surprise. “Father, joined the army…to do what? What can he do at his age?” she thought with fear in her heart.
As they sat there working, three men, roughly dressed in uniforms of Biafran soldiers walked into the compound and headed towards them. Men of low morals roamed the towns and villages, who had either refused to join the Biafran cause or had deserted the army due to cowardice, hunger or both.
First man: “the slut and her mother. People are starving while you are hoarding food. Why not send for your Yoruba husband to bring food for us? Traitor!” he said, spitting on the sand beside them.
Mrs Nzeribe: “please leave us alone.” She replied, looking at the men with distaste.
Second man: “shut up there. You think we have not heard of how you were giving your daughter to strangers when her brothers were searching for wives from home? You witch! Wicked woman! Prostituting your daughter because of money.” He said, mockingly.
Chidinma watched them quietly. She could see that they were quite drunk. Where they had gotten the alcohol in such difficult times, baffled her. Another man among them walked to the basket of vegetables and kicked it, spraying the leaves in the sand. She gasped in shock. Her mother said nothing, she simply got up and carefully bent to pick the leaves from the ground and put them back in the basket.
First man: “I can see that you want to entice us with your charms.” He muttered, admiring Mrs Nzeribe’s behind as she bent to pick the leaves.
He turned to his friends and winked then he grabbed Mrs Nzeribe around her waist. Chidinma and her mother screamed at once. One of them walked to Chidinma and hit her and she immediately passed out. When she recovered her senses again, after sometime had passed, her mother was no longer there with her neither were the men. She stood up and started looking for her mother, fear in her heart.
She called out for her mother, tears in her eyes. “God curse this war. Men and their insatiable lust for power. They have destroyed my world. God, please let nothing happen to her. See what we have become? at the end of the day,we are not even safe among our own people. evil indeed has found a face in this war.” she thought fearfully to herself. She suddenly heard gunshots close by and she jumped, her heart wrenched in shock. Some few minutes later, she saw her father walking out from the back of the house covered in blood, carrying her mother in his arms. He was crying silently. She ran to him and they carried her inside the hut and placed her on the mat.
Her mother’s body was filled with blood. Her father quietly removed her mother’s clothes and took a wet towel and started to clean her body. Her mother did not say a word. She just laid there silently, staring at her father. She watched the two of them and she wept silently.
Biodun was worried. “how do I find Chidinma and her parents now? How do I get my father and Gladys with these families to safety? God…where do I start from?” he thought as he walked back to the barracks. The East was not safe for other tribes neither was the west and the north safe for Ibos. It only remained the south, the riverine areas, the creeks. He nodded his head…” Papa John.” He thought. He quickly fished out the piece of paper containing the telephone number, Papa John had given to him. he had not once called, not even when he heard about Preye’s death.
He went to an operating telephone booth close to the barracks and dialed the number. After several rings, a man picked and Biodun told him to tell Papa John that he needed his help. The man told him to wait and call back the next day by 12pm. Biodun thanked him and hung up.
Tope held the man’s shirt in a strong grip.
Tope: “what do you mean my mother is dead? Did a mob attack her and my father? Where they robbed?” he asked, his eyes red with anger.
Alhaji Haruna: “well we woke up one night to hear her pleading, begging him to stop. We knew he was beating her again. We rushed to the door and knocked and knocked but he didn’t open the door. We had to force the door open and by the time we got to the room, she sprawled on the floor, blood coming out of her nose and a big bruise already forming at the back of her head. He kept saying “it was a mistake, she hit her head…it was a mistake, she hit her head…” we took her body to mortuary and after some days buried her at the cemetery. I am sorry.” He said quietly.
Tope screamed…he screamed, pain and anger filling his mind. He ran up the stairs and burst into the house, holding his gun. He entered the sitting room to meet his father seated on his favourite chair, pictures of his mother spread around him. he looked sick, his face ravaged, his beards grown ragged and gray. He raised sad eyes and looked at Tope, then he saw the gun and flinched
Mr Adepoju: “it was a mistake, she hit her head by mistake…” he said, tears filling his eyes.
Tope: “you killed her! you bastard!” he yelled, then he dove at his father in a flying tackle, scattering all the pictures to the ground.
He punched the old man and pummeled him but there was no fight left in him. He had gone weak and pathetic at the death of his mother. He was no longer the monster of his youth. After exhausting his anger on his father, he got up and fell on a chair and then he wept.
Chidinma helped her father get her mother dressed, then she got up to see if she could arrange food. She felt weak and also felt a pain in her stomach but her mother held on to her father tight and refused to let go. She had not spoken since her father brought her into the house. So she had to do the cooking.
She came outside and went about washing the leaves and lighting the firewood with a live coal that had been protected from going off. She soon got some stunted looking coco-yams and cut them into bits. Soon the pot was bubbling with vegetables and coco-yam. She sighed, she had used up their last palm oil for this meal.
She managed to get the food ready despite the blinding pain she was feeling in her stomach, then she served a plate for parents, as they always ate together and took it into the hut. She placed it in front of her father, who sat up and placed her mother in a seating position. As she turned to go, her father stopped her
Mr Nzeribe: “why is there blood on your skirt?” he asked, looking at her oddly.
Chidinma looked down and saw the blood then the pain hit her forcefully. She staggered and held the door post. She could see blood dripping down her legs.
Chidinma: “Father, I am bleeding.” She gasped, slowly as she slid to the floor and fainted.
Mr Nzeribe: “Eeewoo!!” he screamed into the early evening.
Peterson’s mother entered the church premises and quickly walked to the pastor’s office. The pastor was just stepping out when she got there.
Peterson’s mother: “Pastor good afternoon.”
Pastor: “Ha…Mrs Bamidele, how are you? what is the problem? you look troubled.” he said, concern on his face.
Peterson’s mother: “It is my son o, pastor. since he came home, he has been having nightmares every night. any time i ask him about it, all he says is ‘mama, you will not understand.’ please help me.” she said quickly.
Pastor: hmm…this is a very serious matter. Okay, you know what bring him to the church tomorrow. first thing, tomorrow morning.” he replied, rubbing his jaw in thought.
She thanked the pastor and rushed back home. On getting home, she informed Peterson that they will both be going to the church first thing the next day. Peterson agreed.
That night as Peterson slept, he found himself in the graveyard again. he looked around in fear, expecting the goddess to appear with another form of torment. Suddenly, a grave opened in the dream, and a corpse stepped out of it. It was the corpse of the Babalawo. it looked at him through empty eye holes
Babalawo: “If you go to that church tomorrow, be prepared to loose your mother.” it said.
Peterson: “Leave my mother out of this. My mother is innocent.” he replied, his voice shaking.
Babalawo:”you do not know that a debt can be collected from any member of the debtor’s family, if the debtor is not willing to pay?” what you will not do, your mother will do.” the corpse replied, then laughing it scattered into dust.
Peterson jumped awake, holding his bible close. he closed his eyes to pray then he heard the screaming. It was coming from his mother’s room.
Question: Will Biodun be able to save his family? What do you think happened to Chidinma? What’s that scream coming from Peterson mother’s room?
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