Biodun and the smuggler had slept in a hut in an abandoned farm the night he crossed to the eastern side of Nigeria. The next morning, they began their long trek to the village where Mr. Nzeribe had told his father, he would find them. Along the way, Biodun observed the price of war; children with distended stomach and stick-like limbs, young girls shriveled with hunger, mothers mourning sons who had died in combat. It was a sad sight. “Where are the war mongers? Those buyers and sellers of human souls; those who trade in human misery, where are they?” He thought as he watched the pathetic scene. Along the way, they had to leave the road several times, to avoid Biafran soldiers. They stopped for a short break by noon, and then they joined a lorry carrying the Red Cross banner. It was headed in their general direction, so they were quite grateful.
Tope watched Driver leave the river without being noticed. “So, he truly wants to go and get Chidinma? I do not think so. Biodun is up to something else. What if he is selling information to the Biafrans? He can be sympathetic with them, after all, his father’s wife is Ibo and he married Chidinma. That man is up to no good. Well Tope is waiting for him.” he thought to himself. He rushed down to where his platoon was encamped; there he located a boy who runs errands for them. He took the boy to the place where he had found Driver watching. He told him to watch out for Driver and to come with a daily report on his movement. He put some coins in the boy’s palm and promised to give him more if he does the job well. The boy jumped up happily.
Boy: “Oga, I go do am well.” He said, smiling, the coins held tightly in his small fists.
Tope nodded and waved the boy away.“I will be there when you return, Biodun and then we will see.” He thought to himself, smiling cruelly.
The gun clicked twice as Mr Nzeribe’s finger pressed on the trigger but no bullets came out. Chidinma opened her eyes slowly and peered at her father who stared at her with feverish eyes. “Oh…no…what have they done to him?”
Chidinma: “Father…Mother! Mother!!” she shouted as she rushed to her father side.
Mrs Nzeribe rushed into the room and quickly joined Chidinma at her husband’s side. His body was hot to touch. He kept struggling with them.
Mr Nzeribe: “Please…my family…I must get to my family. Let me go…Let me go!!” he yelled, struggling.
The two women held him down, confused as to what was going on. Then he started shaking violently. Mrs Nzeribe calmed him with soothing words until he closed his eyes and was soon fast asleep. She stood up and placed her hand on her head. “Eewoo! Where do I start from? God…this is too big for me to carry o… Who will come to my aid o?” she thought to herself.
Chidinma looked at her mother and she quickly got up and rushed out as fast as her limp could let her. She got to the house of the midwife and explained to her. The old woman rushed back with her to the house. She looked at Mr Nzeribe then she shook her head.
Midwife: “I have seen many soldiers like this. It is shock. I think, your husband experienced a shock. Just watch him and take care of him. He might get better, he might not. It is hard to say.” She said.
Mrs Nzeribe stared at her husband numbly. “We have come home to die.” She thought to herself.
Chidinma stared in shock at the sleeping form of her father. He had been her rock all her life and now this was how he was going to die. All her dreams, his dreams shattered to pieces? At that moment, she did not care if Biafra won the war or not? She did not care if she was Nigerian or Biafran, she just wanted her father to be better.
The midwife stood up and left the house. At the door, she stopped and stared at the huge man that stood there. He looked the man up and down, and then she turned back in,
Midwife: “you seem to have a visitor. From faraway, it would seem.” she said quietly.
Chidinma turned first. She saw the huge frame first then she gasped. She looked at him as she walked towards him slowly. She got to where he stood and she touched his hands, his bearded face and she laughed
Chidinma: “Ugly face.” She said simply.
Biodun: “Little one.” He replied simply.
Mrs Nzeribe finally turned from her morbid contemplations and looked at the stranger at her door. She gasped in surprise.
Mrs Nzeribe: “Biodun! You came to find us! Ha…God is not asleep. Ha you have sent a savior in our time of need.” She cried as she hugged Biodun.
The midwife watched them then she coughed discreetly.
Midwife: “I suggest that you do what you want to do and leave here fast. From your name, you are not from these parts. If you are caught, they won’t care if you have good intentions for coming here.” She said quietly then she walked away.
Chidinma: “my father is sick. We need to get him to a hospital. He has a serious injury in his leg and he doesn’t know who we are or where he is. Can you help?”She asked, looking at him imploringly.
Biodun: “I took my father and Aunt Gladys to the Ijaw village I lived in when I escaped the smugglers. You will be safe there. When we get there, we will find a doctor to treat him. I think its shell shock. “ he replied, looking at her. “something is not right here…” he thought looking at Chidinma closely.
Biodun: “the baby…where is the baby?” he suddenly asked.
Chidinma: “I lost it.” She murmured.
Biodun: “I am sorry. I know what it meant to you.” he said sadly.
Chidinma looked at him strangely then she shook her head and walked to the corner where they stacked their belongings. Her mother was already arranging things.
Biodun: “we are not taking anything along. Just change to more comfortable clothes. These load will be an hindrance.” He said.
The women paused and stood, confused. They could not believe it. Leave their clothes, shoes, bags…Chidinma nodded grimly then she rushed to get water. She washed herself and dressed. Her mother washed her father and dressed him with the help of Biodun then she had her bath and got dressed.
Towards nightfall, Biodun’s smuggler friend drove up in a truck filled with wood from felled trees and they joined them. Once more, the Nzeribes were on the run but this time they had nothing but hope.
Mr Adetola called Heather some days later to find out how Seyi and the baby were.
Heather: “I am sorry dear but I have bad news. Seyi is very ill. I do not know what to do. The baby cries a lot and she doesn’t even have the strength to hold him.”
Mr Adetola: “what exactly is wrong with her?” he asked, his heart beating rapidly.
Heather: “they gave it a scientific name that I didn’t care to remember but basically it’s a complication as a result of the pregnancy.” She replied.
Mr Adetola stood with the telephone in his ears. “God…please she is my only child. She is not perfect but she is all I have. Please heal her, please.” He prayed in his mind.
Mr Adetola: “Please do anything within your power to get her the best treatment, please.”
Heather promised to do her best and they said their goodbyes and hung up the phone. Mr Adetola walked home, downcast, his mind filled with worrisome possibilities.
The truck stopped at Onitsha. The smuggler took them to a building where they were to stay until he had secured a canoe and made contact with Driver on the other side then he left. Towards evening, he returned and they headed for the river bank. Night had fallen by the time they got to where they were to cross. Biodun who had been carried Mr Nzeribe on his back placed him on the canoe and Chidinma joined him.
The smuggler slowly paddled, watching her left and right in fear until he saw a flashing torch light. He then steered the canoe towards that direction. Driver grabbed the canoe and drew it in. He carried Mr Nzeribe to a safe distance then he came back and lifted Chidinma to the place. The smuggler paddled back to Biodun and Mrs Nzeribe.
Tope was drinking and smoking in a bar close to where the army had their checkpoint. The boy walked up to him and whispered in his ears. His eyes widened and he immediately got up. He picked his gun and motioned for the boy to lead the way. They soon got to a marshy part of the river and the boy pointed to where he had seen a canoe and a flashing torch light. Tope nodded and he left the boy, his boot sinking into the mud with a sucking sound.
He got close to where the light was flashing then he bent double and moved slowly, trying not to make a sound. He soon saw the back of the person holding the torch. He drew close and hit the man with the butt of his gun. The man collapsed immediately. He picked up the torch and kept on flashing.
Babalawo: “Please do not touch the big pot. Haaa… my life is finished.” He pleaded from the floor where he laid prostrate.
The goddess lifted up the big calabash and smashed it down on the floor.
Babalawo: “haaa! i am finished o! Mogbe Mogbe Modaran! I am in big soup.”
The goddess stretched forth her hand and the air around her shimmered like a mirage. She stretched her hand into the mirage and pulled it out holding an old hunter’s gun. She cocked the gun and faced the babalawo. The babalawo looked at the gun in surprise then he tapped his feet twice as she pulled the trigger. At that instant, the babalawo disappeared from the shrine.
Babalawo: “What have i done? Why are you treating me as if i’m a stranger to you? What have i done? This is a bad omen o. Haaa! Who have i offended?”He asked himself as he bent double and watched out for the goddess.
He straightened. “A hunter does not go to the bush with a empty gun, he goes with his gun, his gunpowder and his bag. If you think that this old man will be the sacrifice to feed your jealous anger, Orisha, I will show you that I have dug deep and I have been to the black deep and i have been rewarded with the secrets of the sea.” he thought to himself. He stood tall and straightened his shoulders. He was about to call on a goddess, whose powers he could not determine. She could be kind or vengeful, as her spirit lead her.
Babalawo: “goddess of sea; the unfathomable one, the one that girdles the earth, come to my aid!” he started an incantation.
He brought out a small knife and held it over a bowl of water. As soon as he finished his incantation, he cut into his palm and let the blood drop into the water. Immediately the roar of the sea filled the room. The goddess who had reached the room stopped. The sound of the sea receded and the Babalawo came out bouncing, his eyes were blood red. On seeing him, the goddess raised the gun and pointed it at the babalawo.
Babalawo: “Impossible! You cannot kill me. You must go after Peterson’s Mother instead. Lower that gun… Go back to where you came from, go and attack Peterson or his mother, not me! You have nothing to do with me.” He said, sounding bolder than he had sounded earlier on.
The goddess resisted; struggling to raise the gun up.
Babalawo: “Go! Go and attack Peterson’s Mom, not me. I command you.” he said.
Orisha lowered her gun, turned back, stepped forward and disappeared. The babalawo suddenly sagged against the wall.
Question: What will happen between Tope and Biodun? Will Seyi survive the illness? Will Orisha succeed in her mission?
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