Curiosity got the better of me as I stood about three poles distance from the obscure house that stood in solitude from every other building in the town, the mystery about the house needed to be unraveled, but by whom?
many that have dared into the heart of the house did not come back to tell the story, those that managed to get inside and come out alive cannot talk about it because they lost their vocal cords, they can only point their fingers at the building and shake their heads sadly.
Two years ago, some kids had wandered into the house while hunting for rodents in the surrounding bush, a Rabbit ran into the house and one of the lads in his quest not to let go of the kill, chased the Rabbit into the house, and he was immediately followed by a second child, the third child stopped in the heat of the chase as he remembered his elder brother that entered the house a year before was yet to come out of it. He shouted at his friends to come out of the house but was too late.
He heard sharp and piercing screams coming out from inside the house, he did not wait to see the cause of their pain as he fled the scene stumbling in the bushes, running into ant hills and tree stomps. He charged out of the bush screaming, he was visibly scared and shaken, when he was held down by some adults, he was only able to tell them what he heard from inside the house when his friends ran into it before he was choked.
As he was trying to narrate his experience his tongue kept coming out from his mouth until he could speak no more. He was abandoned there as everyone fled fearing that whatever had befallen on the boy could affect them also. The boy died on the spot where he was abandoned with eyes wide opened and his mouth covered with the biggest tongue size anyone could imagine the little boy possessed.
The mysterious disappearance of the two and the eventual death of the third boy led the village hunters to venture on an expedition to uncover the mystery of the house, they went at night with the hunters touch light, Dane guns and various Charms prepared by the Village Chief priest, “Baba nla”.
Five great hunters fortified with charms and dangerous War armament went into the house and till today they are yet to return. Their families are left desolate and heartbroken even as some still think their father would return someday, but the villagers know better than being hopeful.
The gruesome stories about the Alabi’s house is unending and every family had to warn their children from straying close to the house, whenever we went to stream to swim or fetch water, we watch the lone house from afar and take to our heels before anything happens to us. we had this eerie feeling that some imaginary force could pull a child from the track road to the house and the next thing will be the piercing scream from the child.
Alabi used to be a very notorious thief that ravaged the whole town and neighboring village, he led a gang that set up road blocks along the high way that tore through our town and rob unsuspecting travelers of their valuables. They where murders and kidnappers, there was no police station in the village except for local vigilante team made up of our local hunters, but they were in awe of the dreaded Alabi gang.
It was later agreed between the gang and the hunters that the gang would not torment the Villagers and the villagers should also let them be.
Alabi, the leader of the gang had come to our village as a cocoa merchant buying, dried cocoa seeds from house to house with his measuring scale. At the end of every week he took bags of cocoa seeds to the big city for sale, he was rich, and he was well-respected by all. He also lends out money to people on interest, he married two women from our village, he married two friends who bore him six children within four years, we were told he was actually courting one of the girls, and was planning to marry her, having met with the girl’s family for marriage proposal, but somehow, the girl’s friend who followed her about as the two girls seemed inseparable like Siamese twin, became pregnant, we were expecting to hear of her marriage to the owner of the pregnancy but we did not,
Alabi married his fiancée traditionally by paying her bride prize; she also became pregnant for him.
The wife’s friend eventually put to bed and she gave birth to a split image of Alabi! There was confusion in the small town as the news spread like a wild-fire that Aduke has had a baby boy for the husband of her best friend Larape. That was how Alabi married Aduke also and they lived together in his newly built house on top of the hill, the fame of Alabi spread round the village, and surrounding environs as the young rich cocoa Merchant that has his house close to heaven and married two close friends.
Within four years, Alabi had six sons from his two wives; he had about five Bicycles with which he and his assistants go about buying cocoa seeds from farmers..
I happen to be one of the villag’s little urchins, I lost my grandma four years ago at the age of nine, I had returned from school to see her still sleeping in her mat just the way I had left her before going to school in the morning.
I went into the hut we used as kitchen and saw the mess was still as it was since last night, no food waiting for me, I did not eat before school and I did not eat at school so I was starving, I changed my clothes into my worn out Buba and sokoto and left the house to look for food, I did not bother to wake grandma, she might have eaten some food before going to bed. I did not know my real mother, and I did not care to know her because grandma uses everyday of her remaining life to curse her, especially when I have been up to my mischief, grandma would swear and curse my mother wherever she was, so I definitely knew that it could not be well with her where ever she was, for no living human being can succeed in any endeavor having his or her mother wake up every day and send curses to her instead of prayers and blessings.
I heard my mother had returned from the big city some thirteen years ago with me as a baby and a week later she had abandoned me with her Mother and disappeared.
Her mother, my grandma was blind in one eye and arthritis has seized her left leg so she stoops and walks about with a stick, she does not farm, she does not trade, so she had to survive on charity and my mother came to add me to the old woman’s burden.
People say my grandma gave birth to only my mother when she was serving a big man’s family in the big city years ago. She was never married and had led a rough and careless life in the city before she lost an eye while fighting with a fellow woman over a man, the bad eye had left her unattractive to men and consequently she had to return home to the village when she became broke in the city, she returned with her ten years old daughter, my Mother, and before long, she became the mistress of all the widowers and randy men that want to satisfy their lust, her daughter joined in the trade eventually and when she came of age she had to leave for the big city to do what she knew best, she never came home to see her mother, until after eight years when she came and dropped me in the village.
On this faithful day, four years ago, after I changed into my Buba and Sokoto, I went into the nearby bush to check the snares I had set the previous day. Seven of my twelve snares caught bush rats, I collected them and went to mama Mulikat’s Buka to sell five of them, she paid me in cash and I bought some cups of Garri out of the money, I bought vegetable and palm oil and headed home to prepare some food and soup.
The food and soup were set, the aroma from the rat meat in the soup was supposed to wake grandma from her sleep as usual but it did not. Even when I finished eating and cleaning the kitchen grandma did not wake up.
It was time for me to hit town and play with my friend and I told sleeping mama that I would be back.
I went straight to the market square with my nylon bag and as I had expected, I met Ajanaku and Sola already there with their bags too, these boys do not go to school like me so they beat me to market square today. The market is set every three days, people from surrounding villages and ours bring their wares to sell at our village market, the next day they all move to another village’s market, I greeted my fellow scavengers and I left them as I saw their bags were already bulging with goodies.
Goodies? Yes! We pick up anything edible that the traders throw away, ranging from fruits to food stuff. Rotten tomatoes, withered vegetables, infected mangoes or pawpaw. We move towards the butchers stand and pick bones from beneath their tables. It used to be competition between us and the local dogs at the butcher’s end, once a butcher is cutting up a bony piece of meat, the dogs and us stand in readiness to dive for the bone once it is thrown away, I had been bitten once by Pharaoh the most notorious and strongest dog in the village. Pharaoh is easily the father of eighty percent of the dogs in the village.
We always pray for the Butcher, to mistakenly throw away the actual meat instead of the bone. Sometimes our payers are answered.
At the close of market on the fateful day I went back home at 7:00 pm with a full nylon bag, mama had not moved from the sleeping position, I emptied my nylon and boiled my collection of bones and meat fat, I turned this into my vegetable soup and the pot was full. I was happy, I was happy because when mama wakes up and sees what I have prepared in the kitchen, she will be happy too and say nice words to me at least for a while before I commit another offence that would make her curse and swear at my elusive mother
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I washed up the fruits I gathered and I cut off the bad portion from the pawpaw as I ate it up for dinner, the rotten tomatoes and withered vegetable will be taken care of by mama before I return from school the next day, at least we will have food to eat until the next market day
I went to sleep with a full stomach. It rained that night and I dreamed of bathing and playing in the rain, I dreamed that I was urinating in the rain as I was bathing, when I woke up in the morning my mat and cover cloth was soaked with urine. At thirteen I still wet my bed once in a while. I packed up the mat and cover cloth and spread them on the line behind the house as I dressed up and dashed for school, mama had not changed for her sleeping position, she did not even snore as usual and I wondered why.
I returned from school later in the day to see a crowd gathered in front of my house, I was not allowed in to see mama immediately, they said she had died and maggots were already in her mouth and eyes, the women were cursing and scolding me for not realizing that my grandma had been dead for over two days and I have been sleeping under the same roof with her corpse. Every one present had an unkind word to say to me. I later went into the house to see mama as she laid in state. The youths had dug a grave by the side of the house and she was unceremoniously buried at mid night, I did not cry, I was simply indifferent. It was when I went into the Kitchen after everyone had left that I realized that my pot of soup was empty and washed clean. The fruits and vegetables were all gone! That was when I ran outside and started screaming and shouting. Some people came to hold me and sympathize with me but I ran from them, they did not know why I was screaming. This was some years back
To Be Continued…