Nigeria's leading fictional story blog - The gods, blood oozing, children, babies, twins, warriors of our land, kill, hut, machetes, the chief priest.
“It is a girl!!!” Ngalele shouted as she scooped up the newborn baby. “The gods have blessed you with a baby girl, Nwanyi Agwu,” the boisterous Ngalele remarked as she handed Nwanyi Agwu her baby girl. Ngalele was well versed in the art of midwifery. She had delivered nearly every baby born in Umuerima over the last half century. Nwanyi Agwu wore a sad look on her face as she took hold of her baby. “I think there is a second one,” she said. Fear and pain began to set camp on her face. “Why are the gods doing this to me? Twins? Not again please,” Nwanyi Agwu said through tears. Her voice was heavily inundated with deep, searing pain. “Did you say another baby is coming?” Ngalele asked. “I think so.” “Abomination!!! What have you done to the gods? You must have committed atrocities in your previous life, Nwanyi Agwu. This would be your third straight set of twins,” Ngalele said caustically. She ran outside and bellowed to the entire village. “The warriors of Umuerima run to my hut. My eyes cannot see what is about to happen and my hands cannot touch the evil that is about to rear its ugly head,” she shouted. Like a swarm of bees, young men arrived in her compound in their numbers carrying machetes with them.
“Ngalele, the wise one who delivers our children, what is troubling you?” The warriors of Umuerima asked. More men continued to throng to the compound. “Twins!!! Another set of twins by Nwanyi Agwu. She is about to deliver the second one. My hands cannot touch such an abomination. If I touch the second one, I will no longer be fit to deliver another child in our village until the ejima sacrifice is performed. You must take hold of both children and throw them into the evil forest, where they will rot before the gods.” Nwanyi Agwu could hear everything. She looked down on herself and saw a pool of blood oozing out of her. She felt her second baby wriggling its way out. She pushed with the last remaining strength in her. The second child came out crying loudly. “That must be the second one,” Shouted Ngalele. “We cannot enter the hut until the chief priest arrives. Anyone who touches those twins will bring the ejima course upon themselves,” said Ikenga, a respected warrior in the land. The warriors hovered in front of the hut, chanting as thought they were marching to war. “Where is Alika, the chief priest?” Ngalele asked in panic. She was eager to have the twins removed from her hut.
Nwanyi Agwu stretched and picked up Ngalele’s knife. Through searing pain she cut the umbilical cord. Her pains were excruciating, yet she managed to hug both of her baby girls. She made sure to press their heads into her chest, muffling their cries. She had unbolted the wooden latch on the makeshift backdoor to Ngalele’s hut. Carefully, she carried both of her children and walked into the back year and then into the bush behind the hut. At first, she walked slowly. Then later, she increased her pace, still pressing her babies’ heads into her chest. She cried halfway and consoled herself the other half as she meandered through the bushes, leaving a trail of her blood behind. Darkness was slowing descending upon the land, but she knew her away around the bush. Soon, she carefully came unto a road. She crossed the road and entered another bush, which was thicker than the first. She was willing to die while trying to save her children having lost four other children (2 sets of twins) earlier. The killing of twins had been a longstanding tradition in the land, dating back several years, but Nwanyi Agwu was no longer prepared to play by the rules of the land.
Alika, the chief priest of Umuerima arrived. He was clad in raffia material around his waist with no shirt on his body. A raffia bag dangled off his shoulders. “Another set of twins?” He asked with a frown on his face. “Yes,” Ngalele answered with a deep sense of concern. “The gods must be mad at Nwanyi Agwu,” Alika replied. He walked meticulously towards the hut, clutching his raffia bag in hand as he readied himself for the incantations that would usher in the warriors to take hold of Nwanyi Agwu’s twins. He pushed the door open and peeped in. “She is gone!!!” He shouted. “What?” “Where?” Shouted the warriors of Umuerima. They rushed into the hut, only to find the back door open. “You must find her. Those evil spirits she has delivered must be fetched and killed, else, our land will be soiled for a long time to come,” Alika ordered the warriors. They dashed into the hut and exited through the back door, following the faint trail of blood that Nwanyi Agwu had left behind. Darkness was quickly descending over the land, making it impossible for them to clearly see the path she had taken. They wielded machetes menacingly as they slashed through the brushes looking for any sign of Nwanyi Agwu.
Igidiogu returned late from the farm. He lowered his basket of yams to the ground. There was no sign of his wife. He sensed she may have delivered. He quickly dashed to Ngalele’s hut. On reaching there, she saw Alika and Ngalele in front of Ngalele’s hut. They looked seriously troubled. Without the utterance of a word, she knew that her wife, Nwanyi Agwu had delivered another set of twins. “Is it another one?” He asked. His voice was palpably encumbered with fear and worry. Ngalele nodded her head. “Where is she now?” Igidiogu asked. “She has run with the babies. The warriors of our land are chasing after her,” Alika answered. Igidiogu heaved a sigh of relief. At least, they are still alive, he thought. He was not sure how far she could go alone. She needs my help, he urged himself as he walked out of Ngalele’s compound. “I feel very sorry for him,” Ngalele said. “These would make it six children of his that will be killed because her wife keeps delivering twins; an abomination in the land.” She continued. “He was warned that women from Avuite tend to deliver a lot of twins, but he claimed he was so much in love that he would die if he did not marry her. Now, look at what he has brought upon himself,” Alika replied insensitively. “He could have married the girl from Agunta that his parents had recommended” he continued. “There were lots of beautiful girls at the time from Alinge, Akoma, Uzoeli and Amiri, but he chose to marry from Avuite,” Ngalele remarked.
As soon as Igidiogu left the compound, he dashed to his hut and picked up his machete. He ran as fast as he could. He knew that Nwanyi Agwu would be headed towards her village, Avuite. Twins were not killed in Avuite. That was the only place where she and the babies would be safe. His heart was beating ferociously as he ran. He took a narrow bush path that was not far from Ngalele’s compound. He looked through the brushes as he ran, squinting in the dark in a frantic attempt to get a better look around him. He stopped every few minutes and listened hard. He was convinced that Nwanyi Agwu would likely take this path. It was a shorter route to Avuite and she took it all the time to visit her parents.
She had been running for over half an hour with two tender babies in her hand. Sweat streaked across her forehead and dropped down her face. She was very tired. She sat under an Iroko tree to get some rest. One of her babies began to cry, so she quickly put her hand over her mouth. Soon, the second one began to cry. She placed another hand over her mouth too. Balls of tears began to drop down her face. She felt a sharp pain in in her stomach, but she quickly took her mind off her pain. Saving the lives of her children was far more important that her pains. Thankfully, her babies stopped crying, so she held them closer to herself. They both began to suckle furiously out of biting hunger. Then, she heard a voice in the distance. One of the Umuerima warriors was coming her way. She quickly scurried to her feet and began to walk hurriedly towards Avuite while her babies suckled. They were still both covered in blood, which was quickly drying on their skin leaving red scaly patches on them. Another sharp pain hit her stomach. She winced, stopped for a moment to gather her strength and continued going, afterwards.
Out of nowhere, a warrior of Umuerima appeared in front of her. “Where do you think you are running to Nwanyi Agwu?” He asked her arrogantly. Her heart almost stopped beating. Her children were still busy suckling away. Her hands shook while her heart pounded noisily. Her knees felt week and the same biting pain that had been bugging her appeared to tighten its grip on her stomach. “Please don’t take them away from me,” she begged the warrior. “They don’t kill twins in Avuite and their land prospers much better than Umuerima. Nothing would happen to the land if my children live. Please, don’t kill them. I have lost four of them already. Imagine yourself in my shoes. I see the tender faces of my late, defenseless babies in my dream every night. They cry and point at me for not defending them. Please put yourself in my shoes. Kill me instead. Please leave my babies alone,” she pleaded with the warrior. The warrior lowered his machete in pity. “I am sorry; I have to do my job. We have sworn before the shrine of Agbaraike to protect our land and that includes killing twins born on our land. It is our tradition. I can’t spare your children. Please don’t make it too hard for me. Just placed them on the ground,” the warrior said. There was softness to his voice. Nwanyi Agwu’s words had touched a chord with him.
“Your job is to protect the land and mine is to protect my children, and I am prepared to die for them,” Nwanyi Agwu declared. “Please don’t make this too difficult for me,” replied the warrior. “I am making it easy for you. Slay us all. I have nothing more to live for should my new babies be killed. Go ahead, kill us all,” she said clutching her babies tightly. Her babies continued to suckle, unaware of the impending danger. The warrior moved closer wielding his machete menacingly. Nwanyi Agwu did not move an inch. She stood her ground. “Go ahead and slaughter innocent children who did not bring themselves into this world. What crime have they committed by coming into the world in pairs?” “It is an abomination in our land,” said the warrior. “How come everyone in Avuite has not died? They have an abundance of twins walking their land. Are twins an abomination or is it what our forefathers told us? They did not know any better. Twins are as good as single children. You don’t have to do this, but if you chose to. You must kill me first.”
“You are from Avuite…I know your people have bought into the Whiteman’s preaching. We refuse to be soiled by such abominable religion and belief system. A woman is meant to give birth to a baby and not two or three or more. It is a sign from the gods that the woman is evil or has been evil in her past life…she should be stripped of the twins to cleanse the land.” One of the babies cried out loud. Nwanyi Agwu ignored her cry, focusing completely on the machete-wielding warrior. “If you have no soul, go ahead and kill us all. If your allegiance is solely to the shrine of Agbaraike slay an innocent child that is too tender to defend herself. From your deepest heart, would you gladly give up your own children to be slain if they were twins? Do you truly believe that Agbaraike is right in demanding the killing of twins? Have you not seen how prosperous Avuite is? They have numerous twins there, yet they have not had the type of famine that we have had in Umuerima in the last few years. My baby cries out for her mother’s milk and tender love; shall I place her on the ground to be slain by a warrior instead? Look at them, covered in red patches of dry blood. My knees creak and my stomach aches. Since delivering them, I have been running and walking through the bushes, in the dark and in light, guided by a full moon. Look at me, barely covered, meandering through the bushes. I have eaten nothing since I delivered them. I have lost four children in the past; I will not lose another. You do not share in my nightmares and agonies. You have no idea the gut-wrenching pains that stalk me each day and night since after losing those four children because of an outdated and barbaric tradition. If you have no humanity in you…if you feel nothing for these beautiful babies that simply cry and cuddle with love purer than a fresh spring, put your machete through their neck and mine too.”
Nwanyi Agwu held her babies tightly to her chest, staring the warrior straight in the eye. The warrior saw the passion and pain in her eyes and the tears that slowly journeyed down her face. He could not find the stomach to kill the children nor could he kill Nwanyi Agwu. He could not strike the children without striking Nwanyi Agwu first. “If anyone ever asks, I never saw you,” the warrior said. He slowly dropped to the ground and sat on a heap of sand, haunted by Nwanyi Agwu’s words. His grandmother had told him about her own sisters who were killed when she was young. He recalled the pain that her grandmother described each time she talked about her little sisters that were slain before their lives even began. “Go…run to Avuite,” the warrior said. “May God bless you,” Nwanyi Agwu replied ebulliently as she hurried down the sandy path. Igidiogu appeared ahead of her. He ran towards the warrior, ready to strike him. “Don’t fight him Odim n’obi (the one after my heart),” Nwanyi Agwu shouted. “He is not after us,” she explained. Igidiogu looked at the warrior. He knew him well. His name was Akunna. Akunna returned his look. No words were spoken between both men, but their eyes exchanged volumes of unspoken communication. Igidiogu slotted his machete away in his leather sheathe and took both babies from Nwanyi Agwu. She placed her hand on her shoulder for support and they walked briskly towards Avuite, never returning to Umuerima.
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