AGONY - Episode 1

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Nigeria's leading fictional story blog - Mama, Ugomma was pregnant, consulted his oracle, priest, money for the sacrifice, Sacrificing her own daughter on the altar, like a pack of rejected refugees, Sullenly, we left the hospital, with all the anger I could muster, the icy grip of anger.


I sat in front of the house crying within and asking myself how our lives managed to become that much miserable. I remembered what life was for us when papa was still alive, how people would to troop to our house to ask for one help or the other. Mama, done with her cooking invited us to come and eat. Ugomma was pregnant and neither she nor anyone of us had any idea who was responsible. As I looked at her, I cried even more bitterly. Mama decided to come out from the house, to know exactly why we kept her waiting because she knew Ugomma never joked with her food. She came straight to me and touched me, but it looked as if she was touching a log of wood. My mind had strayed to a place very far away. This made her to raise alarm and I was brought back. Mama began to ask me what was actually wrong. I told her what was going on in my head and she consoled me and said "Echi ga di mma (tomorrow will be better)." As each day passed, it was from one problem to the other.

Mama kept on searching for solutions because she believed papa's death wasn’t ordinary. Mama and her friend Agbomma consulted the priest called Ugwueke. The priest welcomed them with open arms. He consulted his oracle to know what the problem with mama was. During his consultation his beads fell down, signifying danger. The priest told mama that Ugomma was carrying an evil child who will destroy people’s lives. Mama was furious when she came back. Her attitude toward Ugomma changed. Mama was a loving woman but after her visit to Ugwueke, her countenance changed. I tried to understand her, but I couldn't. What was I to do? Watch mama destroy herself or watch mama hate the only sister I have? Even though mama believed in Ugwueke's prophecies, I wasn't just going to accept it like that. I was feeling different and confused about the whole situation. When mama told me she had gotten the money for the sacrifice I was dumbfounded and I wondered where she got that amount. Consequently, I frowned at mama who immediately noticed my unhappiness. She had thought the native approach to solve our problem would make me happy, having seen me the other day crying about our situation.

I was wondering if mama understood what she was about to do. Sacrificing her own daughter on the altar of Ugwueke all in the name of looking for solutions. It was on an Eke market day. Mama was preparing to go to Ugwueke when I sneaked into her room and took the items for sacrifice and threw them away. She was furious at me for doing such a thing. Ugomma hearing our voices came to inquire what the problem was as it was still too early to argue. Neither I nor mama could give her the answer to her question. I left in anger and Ugomma followed me. Agbomma visited mama later to inquire how the sacrifice went only to be told it didn't go through. Agbomma told mama that it was the evil spirit disturbing our family that made me threw away the items. The birth of Ogechi brought repentance to mama's heart. She wondered how she could have killed her grandchild. Mama was making promises to Ogechi. However, Ugomma who was taking her bath was heard laughing happily like a person who had won gold. Ugomma was happy because mama had changed towards her and started being nicer to her. The news of the birth of Ogechi circulated within the land of Asaga.

Agbomma who happened to be a doubting Thomas also came to celebrate with us. She never thought a child who was tagged evil by Ugwueke would bring so much happiness to us. Mama who hadn’t been in any church after papa died was seen on Sunday, dancing like never before, expressing her heartfelt happiness to God. I was very happy to see mama that way; little did I know the worst was about to happen. The Umuada summoned Mama because she went to church. On the day of the meeting Mama was nowhere to be seen. Agbomma was sent for Mama. When she got to the house, Mama told her that she would not go anywhere. Agbomma returned and told the Umuada what happened. They were incensed with Mama's refusal to honor their invitation. They resolved that Mama would be terribly maltreated such that she would never go back to church. They reasoned that since she was a new convert, she would easily fall apart and leave her new found faith. Despite all that was done to Mama, she stood strong and refused to bend in spite of how Umuada treated her. She held on and never gave up her faith. One fateful day, a pleasant cool evening, Mama was in the kitchen with Ugomma preparing dinner. I was lolling on a bench, saddled with looking after little Ogechi sleeping on a mat in a corner.

Suddenly a piercing cry tore through the calming sweetness of the evening. Startled, I jumped up from my reverie and scurried towards Ogechi. She was out of control, wailing at the top of her voice. Mama came racing out of the house, fear written all over face and staring around furtively. She grabbed Ogechi, examining her all over, while trying everything to soothe her. Ogechi kept on crying despite all Mama's efforts. I and Ugonma, who were also crying, stood by, helplessly looking on, not knowing what to do. A passerby came to our aid as all our frantic efforts failed to assuage Ogechi's painful cries. The woman examined Ogechi all over, touched her forehead, and suggested that we take her to the hospital. Without hesitation, Mama scooped Ogechi up, strapped her firmly on her back with a wrapper and took off briskly to the hospital. I and Ugonma raced along, trailing behind her brisk steps with our half-running and half-walking steps. Ogechi got admitted at the hospital after a long wait, her cries having subsided to continuous whimpering and sobbing.

The nurses refused to commence treatment after Mama informed them, with bewilderment on her face, that she did not possess the required amount they had charged as the bill. Mama left me at the hospital, and frantically went to all her friends for help. All of them deserted her including Agbomma. A distraught and very disheveled Mama came back to the hospital. Dejectedly, and with tears rolling down her cheeks, she pleaded that the nurses commence treatment while she sourced around for the money. The nurses were adamant and flatly refused to heed her pleas. They ordered us to go home with Ogechi since we did not have the money for treatment. Mama, crying profusely, scooped up Ogechi and immediately her face registered alarm. She felt Ogechi's forehead and exclaimed that it was burning up. Crying uncontrollably, she pleaded with the nurses again to help. They refused to pay her any attention. Sullenly, we left the hospital and trudged home like a pack of rejected refugees. Ogechi died that evening. We had lost our little jewel. Ugomma cried nonstop and refused to eat. Mama consoled herself with a verse from the Bible, "God gives and takes".

Sympathizers trudged in and out. Wracked by weeping, I could barely see through the haze of tears that veiled my sight. Days sped by. We slowly readjusted and went about our normal duties. Slowly, smiles started creeping back to our faces. Laughter stole back into our mouths gradually. Eventually we continued our lives, having pushed the sad event to one faint corner of our memories. It started looking once again like nothing happened. Little did we know that Ugomma was planning something. She had kept something under her sleeve since the unfortunate event. It was a busy Orie market day. People had either gone to their farms or the market. Mama, I and Ugomma were on our way to the farm. We walked slowly, I and Ugonma mischievously trying to escape our short shadows on the ground with alternating brisk and slow steps. The sun was hot, almost overhead, but not scorching. When we got to the farm, it was a merciless glare. We could hear the shrubs crackle, and the pods of wild legumes burst.

We got busy with work, but the sun did not relent with its work of breaking sweat out of our backs. After about an hour and half, Ugomma excused herself to quickly go down to the stream and get a refill of our water. Not long after she left, we heard people shouting and we rushed quickly to the scene only for us to see Ugomma, her body lying motionless on the ground. Mama rushed to her and grabbed her. Her body was already lifeless. Ugomma had gone to confront Ugwueke and was struck down in their scuffle. We were bereaved yet again! We had lost another soul!

"Nwa oma, i ga a diri mu ndu. Onye ga enyegi ndu Chukwu ga enye gi ya nwa oma." This became Mama's song after Ugomma's tragic death. Some of the villagers who had wanted to inquire from Mama the circumstances of Ugomma's death, always refrained at the last moment. They immediately recall that Mama had been ostracized. This was a very tiring and humiliating cycle. The furtive looks, the nervous gestures, whenever were cast at us were not lost on us. The icy stares from the members of the Umuada. Their unremitting spitting in apparent ridicule, whenever they passed by, was beginning to drive me nuts. "Nne oma," Mama called. I turned in bedraggled annoyance, glanced at her, hissed and went back to sleep. "Nne oma! Dinner is ready," Mama called again, with a slight edge of tiredness in her voice. "I'm not hungry," I stonily replied. Mama and I had become strangers after the death of Ugomma. I had blamed her for the tragedy.

The anger was a deep well, boring deeper into my heart. I wallowed in acute anger at Mama. "Her stubbornness was the cause of the tragic happenings," my young mind thought. "If she had not been stubborn, both Ogechi and Ugomma would still have been alive," I reasoned. "My child you are all I have now. Please eat something," Mama pleaded, her voice cutting into the bellicose thoughts ravaging my mind. Somehow I managed to turn, albeit with deliberate and frustrating reluctance. I looked

at her with all the anger I could muster, pouring all the wordless accusations into that stare. Mama held my gaze with sadness in her eyes, pleading silently with me, her motherly look swamping my accusing gaze. Something just gave a little in me and I decided to heed her request to eat. Somehow, her gaze, in that small moment, had thawed out the icy grip of anger, anguish and sorrow in my heart. Her frustration, sadness, anguish, sorrow and pain were too deep for me not to notice, yet somehow she managed to swat them aside and gaze into my heart with so much love. "I will eat Mama," I mumbled. I caved in and ate.

Slowly days turned into weeks and weeks into months. The ice had been broken. Things started moving on fine. Mama and I became best of friends, I stopped being rebellious and paid more attention to her. The rings of sorrow that had etched deep into her eyes slowly gave way. Her faith became stronger, her laughter became brighter and happier, and her cheeks started filling out. I also had my share of transformation. Gradually my smiles regained their glow, and my eyes recovered their gleam. Life became more beautiful as it was just me and Mama. "Excuse me. Excuse me, young lady," a voice called out behind me. It was a beautiful sunny morning. The grass and shrubs were swaying slightly to a gentle breeze that had sprang up to greet the morning. I was walking towards the market, to run an errand for Mama. Half-turning, vigilant and ready to quickly dispense with whatever matter it was, I asked, "How may I help you?" The vision before me dissipated all my vigilance.

STORY CONTINUES…

                         CLICK HERE TO READ EPISODE 2

Written by:
Amarachi Emmanuel


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Moofyme.com: An African Literary Blog: AGONY - Episode 1
AGONY - Episode 1
Nigeria's leading fictional story blog - Mama, Ugomma was pregnant, consulted his oracle, priest, money for the sacrifice, Sacrificing her own daughter on the altar, like a pack of rejected refugees, Sullenly, we left the hospital, with all the anger I could muster, the icy grip of anger.
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Moofyme.com: An African Literary Blog
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