They gathered around the market square, under the big bamboo tree. it is dark, the moon shines a bright pale grey, the heavenly spread is a deep blue, and the stars sparkled brightly , gracing the night with their little light. the crickets could be heard not too far from where they sat, the woman sat in the middle of them, as she has always done for years. The children, between six and fifteen, looked up to her as she sat on a higher stool, they on the mat spread on the bare earth as three to four of them share it, and about her they gathered, expectations on their faces, a ritual they have come to embrace , a certain joy they derive, even their parents let them go when it gets dark at night, no child liked to be left out when the old woman began to tell her tales, her tales by moonlight.
She clears her throat, the way to give an effect, she had a calabash, the one that had beads around it which she shakes, she had her grey hair, which showed that she was old and wise, but when she spoke, her voice was rich and strong …
“Today, today I would tell you the story of the two faced children ”
“Wise one, would it be like the story of the beautiful child born to the king, the one that his tribe men stole, and then later the gods brought her back and she claims her throne?”
She shakes her head
“ No child, this is something different, this is a story never been told, not even to your parents and the generation before”
”Then how come you know about it wise one?” they were told to call her that, or grandmother
“Because, my mother told me about it, many years ago, because my mother had been there when it all happened, when it all began” she looks at them
“Do you want me to tell you the story?”
They all nod their heads , grandma always told them beautiful stories, she was like their teacher, every child knew her in the village, every grown man and woman had been under her tutulege. She was the oldest woman alife, she was a hundred and fifty years old, every one who was her age mate had died, all under a hundred years old.
She bent when she walked, using the walking stick to support her self, she looked tired, she looked weak, she looked frail..but when she spoke, she had energy , her mind was still sharp..
She smiles at them “It all began, so many years ago…”
Eteche paced the length of his hut, his wife is wailing at the other hut close by, the mid wives were there with her, it had been almost 24 hours since her labour pains began.
He saw them running in and out , taking hot water from the fire and then pour it into a bowl, they would go back in , and then they would repeat. When one of them came out again, he approaches her
“How is she, how is my wife?”
“Eteche, relax, she is trying to push but the baby isn’t ready to come out , we are doing every thing possible so she does, but she is going weak by the moment “
Etetche scratches his head,
“What do I do , I can’t just sit here and do nothing, let me go in and be with my wife”
She stops him “No, the best you can do is to pray to the gods to help her”
He turns away,
“The gods don’t listen to me anymore. The gods have abandoned me . For ten years we have been childless, while he blesses other homes with riches and wealth, with plenty children running around, with grandchildren years later, while he put smiles on every other person’s face and home in this village, the gods have choosen not to listen to my crys..why do I ask them for help. I am all alone”
She places her hand on his shoulder
“ We are nothing without the gods, the gods are the only things sustaining us”
“Then why does the gods select whom to bless and whom to survive. I thought we were all the children of the gods. But no matter how many times I make sacrifices and cry and dance like a mad man when asked to , my wife still ends up loosing the child after childbirth. Its painful, to watch her get happy for being pregnant, watch her carry the joy of a soon-to-be mother , that glow you see in her cheeks and then you are happy, when you lie side by side with her and place your hands on her stomach to feel the baby kick, you don’t know that feeling , that feeling of joy that your baby, the baby you both made in love would soon come forth and we call him or her ours, you have no idea what it feels to have that baby die, just after seeing the smiles on his face, have his little finger hold yours and have her joy spread over the child. And barely a few hours later, to find that child dead. And no visible thing you can point to as to what caused the child’s death. Nothing you can explain, even the village’s herbalist couldn’t tell us how he died, even the gods were silent .
And for every pregnancy, she had lost them all, after childbirth, for ten years. And now another child, and I dread what would happen next. And this is the longest labour she had ever had. Sometimes I tell her we shouldn’t try anymore, maybe the gods didn’t want us to have children and they keep taking them away, but you see..my wife cries when she sees others with their children, she feels hurt, she becomes depressed and no matter how many times I refuse her, she begs me telling me that this one would be different, that this time our child would live. But every single time, we lose our child.
And I cant’t keep bearing the way she goes through it all and the nervous breakdown she has on a daily when they tell her her child died in the middle of the night. I tell her, we don’t need kids, but she wants kids and every time, we are here again..and all I pray is that she survives this one and if my child , our child were to come out alife and stay after a day, then I would know the gods have answered our prayer. ”
“the gods have not abandoned you .. they are always there. Delay isn’t denial, all will be well, let’s pray that the child survives and actually lives”
he hears her screams …his heart begins to beat fast… he grabs the woman
“please please go in there and help my wife, I don’t want her to die” he begs
“have faith, she would be alive ” and with that she rushes into the Hut.
it takes another couple of hours , that felt like eternity before he heard a child’s voice .. he wanted to run in there but he knew they won’t allow him in , not untill they were done.
he waits patiently , he hears the child crying , No, he is mistaken, he hears more than one child crying.
it can’t be. then the door opens up to usher one of the midwives back out with bowl of water that had turned red. he figured his wife lost a lot of blood, he hopes she was okay.
“Can I see my wife now?” he asks her who turns and faces him, a smile on her face” Yes Eteteche, you can go in now and see them” he doesn’t waste anytime , he goes in to find his wife, resting, he bends over her, touching her face
” Obim’ , weldone!!” he says to her , he sits down and gathers her into his arms. “my one and only, ” he says rocking her
“Etechi, the gods have blessed us with two, with two, I told you that they have not abandoned us my love, they didn’t .” she smiles into his face as he graces her faces with kisses,
“Yes two , two girls ” she laughs
“But how is it possible, how?”
“the gods does marvelous things in our sight, things we have never seen before. we have heard of this kind of stories but only of the generations and generators before us, when our forefathers had spoken about the children bearing thesame face with his brother or sister. They thought they were possessed, demons, an abomination and thus they had them killed , throwing them into the evil forest to die. and this goes on for years, but we were primitive , we didn’t know better untill the people with pale skin came ,and told us that these children were not different from the rest of us, they were not evil. , that we that sent them off to their deaths were the ones who were evil. but you see the damage had been done, every home that had same faced children, had either killed them in births or given them up to the forest , like a sacrifice so the gods cleans the lands of their abomination
When the pale skin people showed us their own pale skinned children with same faces, we realise that we have been our own killers. when we realised that thesame faced children could do us no harm,we longed for them, craved even. but As if the children knew they weren’t wanted initially , they stopped coming to us.
it’s been years, generation after generation and now….After losing your Children all these years, the gods blesses you with your own .. ” one of the midwives says
As they come before me with my children, I stare from one to the other, in amazement “I have never seen something like this ever ”
“because over time, people thought it was a myth, something our forefathers had made up. but today, your children are proof of that miracle we didn’t choose to see, they didn’t choose to see ”
I stretch my hands to take them..the midwives gather around me, I rock them in my hands “What do we call them obim’” I smile down into their faces,
“my miracles ” she says
“yea I know they are your miracle , they are also mine. but names , what do we call them?” my daughters, my daughters. I was happy. , tears of joy files my eyes . Maybe the gods really didn’t abandon us.
“I will name her..Nene, and the other because she came out first..Ada”
“Nnena and Adora” he says , smiling down at them.. “that is what we would call my two faced children ” he smiles.. he was happy, he called his friend to come celebrate, they drank palm wine and ate groundnut.
people trouped in from the village to come see the children,
“how..how ..were together in her womb and they survived ? ” They asked
“Wonders.!!!” they wail
“I never believed, even I was told as a child, soon it became whispers on people’s lips, but we never saw, neither did anyone I know.
“such beautiful girls, but how do you tell them apart ?”
Eteche laughs “I am their father , I can tell them apart” he carried the children , proudly showing them off to the people who came to see the miracle of the gods.
“then the one whom you carry on the left is who and the one on your right is who?”
Etetche looks at his children “Nnena is on my right and Adora is on my left” he smiles broadly, his wife comes out of their hut, carrying garden eggs to serve right at that moment, they ask her , she walks to her husband and stares down at her children, “Adora is on your right and Nnnena is on your left”
“No” He says
“Yes ” she replies
he shakes his head ” I am their father , I would know”
“I carried them, I gave birth to them, I know who is who.” they are laughing , the people who come to see them , shaking their head as the husband and wife argue.. they laugh with them.. Eventually they give up and continue to entertain guests.
it is night and everyone leaves., then his fear replaces the joy he had had all morning
“”Why are you worried my love” she says to him, tying wrapper over her chests, she had just gone to wash up while he watched them
“I am worried obim, what if? what if they go away from us like the others, it is in the morning we find them cold and without life in their eyes. and it is that morning we bury them while people come back not to celebrate with us but mourn with us. I am scared for our children, our two faced children ” He stays
“Don’t be, I am not. I know the gods have smiled down on us. I know they would not put us to shame again. I know that. .our children. .our girls would live more than a day and many days after now even years. do not worry, no not. they would stay with us. death won’t take them away from us” she says going to him
“Why are you so sure, how come you are too confident ”
“I don’t know. but I know..my tears won’t go in vain, neither will my prayers and sacrifices. ,one day I know I would hold my child in my arms every single day and I have prayed for that. and when I held them in my arms this morning, I just knew that my girls were not going anyway and I want to believe that. because ..If I lose another one again, I would die”
“No no my obim, don’t say such things. if you die what am I loving for.? I want to be as strong as you, have your faith too. but.. I don’t know Obim, I don’t know.”
she touches his face ” The gods would watch over them Etetche , they will”
while his wife fed them and rocked them to sleep, while his wife slowly drifted to sleep, he laid awake, watching them, watching his children, fighting sleep. he reaches out to touch them, place his finger close to their nose just to make sure they were breathing, he kept watched over them.
it is in the early hours of the morning when he falls asleep. when he wakes up, he doesn’t see them anymore, nor his wife., he runs out of the Hut, calling for her ,..
“my love I am here, why are you shouting.?” She bounced one on her lap and the other she backed…
sighing in relief he goes to her and hugs her, his eyes suddenly pooling, he carries one of them from her and holds her to him, touching the other she carries on her back. .
“indeed, indeed..the gods have finally answered our prayers ” he says
Nnnena and Adora grew , and just like other children they grew big and strong. they laughed and played , they cried and they got hungry,they threw tantrums and then they were rebellious. like other children they were thesame…
By eleven years old, they looked even more alike , talked alike, smiled alike. sometimes they answered each other’s names for fun, sometimes they acted like the other when they wanted to play pranks on their friends no one could tell them alike, sometimes their father misses it, sometimes even their mother does.
But as they began to exhibit different traits for activities especially when it came to do what they loved to do… It was easy, while Nnnena loved to be around her mother, helping to cook and clean, let her comb her hair and plait it.
Adora liked to follow her father to the farm, she liked to ride her father’s bicyle and help to carry firewood. she liked to do chores that were abit tasking, sometimes she told her father she wished she was a boy.
And when it is night, while Nnnena sat between her mother’s legs and allowed her sing to her , Adora , she would sir quietly by the fire, staring into it for long hours whlie her father places the flute.
one day, Nnnena asks her ” why do you keep staring into the fire ?”
“I don’t know, I always wonder off with my thoughts . but sister I must ask you something. there is a bush part that leads away from the farm, a path deep into the forest, have you ever wondered why no one goes into there at night or rather why they say everyone is bound from going there especially at night ? ”
Nnnena shakes her head “Well, They said it used to be an evil forest, where they threw away..threw away two faced children, like us a long long time ago?”
“Have you ever wondered if those children are still alife in there ? like if they suffered. Sometimes they used to whisper, the kids about it, they used to tell me stories their parents have told them about us..children like us who were either killed at birth or offered to the forest as sacrifices to the gods to cleans the lands, and sometimes, those children tease me to, ”
“but you know they tease me too. mother says we shouldn’t pay them any mind. papa says they just talk, ”
“Yes I know but I wonder”
“And besides, they said it was a long long time ago, no child could survive in the forests and even if they did, they would be old and grey and ugly and hideous and a thousand or two thousand years old or even more ”
Adora smiles, understanding her sister ” I know . it’s impossible right?”
“Very. and don’t let those children get to you. and please stop talking about evil forests. that practice has been long since abolished and no one goes or talks about the evil forest anymore. ”
” But they are still scared of it. if it has been abolished and the evil forests is nothing more than just a forest, how come no one goes in there , no one have gone in there to clear the place to farm”
“because my daughter, something that you have been accustomed to fearing never truly leaves you. that place have been sealed off for years, the bush parts not cleared. no one has gone in there for years and the only people who got closed to it were the Priests, they were the ones who carry the children and drop them on the ground close to the mouth of the forests , and does the incantation of sacrifices, kill the goat and pour the blood on the children and their parents to break their connection and they leave , without the children sometime during the night , the children is taken and never to be seen again.”
“But do they actually see the forests take the children? ”
“everyone leaves ”
“What if someone else who don’t have children came and stole them?
her father laughs ,
“they called them witches and wizards, demons, it is only a demon who can look like another person, laugh and sound like the next. they said the children were posssessed . no one wanted to keep them . no one did. they killed them at births or gave them to the forests. so it’s in that evil forests that the gods kill them and them cleans the lands.”
“Hmmm. ” Adora says nodding.
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Afterwards they go to bed and as morning comes , as she follows her father to the farm, she always looks across the part that leads deep, heading to the evil forests.
she was a curious child. she wanted to know what they were scared. she beloved that for years, people were scared of mere figs of leaves, bushes and trees, and left their children to die there which didn’t make any sense. maybe she had to be the one to show them that there was nothing to be sacred of. so she decides she would go, and she couldn’t possibly go in the day, at night was best when no one would see her and stop her.
“Nnnena, Nnnena ?” She nudges her sister ” Come, I want you to follow me somewhere”
“Where ?” the sleepy Nnnena yawns, “it is late, lets go tomorrow ”
she shakes her head
“No today. let us go come.” she pulls her sister as they silently leave their hut, carrying a lamb
“Where are we going to, mother and father would be angry with us. it is late at night, where are we going to ”
Adora doesn’t answer her untill they have leave the Hut and walked a small distance away “The evil forest” she says
Nnnena stops on her tracks “Evil Forest !! have you gone mad Adora. we are still at this. papa and mama have told us to stop talking about it and even warned you not to let your friends tease you to go there and now you wake me in the middle of the night to follow you. look, let us go back, I don’t want to get into trouble. ” she turns away, her sister pulls her back
“look I just want to prove to everyone that that evil forest isn’t evil. and that…we have all being scared for nothing. come Nne, I won’t waist time, we would go together and come back tother and then tommorow we tell them about to ”
“No I don’t want to”
“Then you would leave me to go alone, what if I fall and get injured would you be happy? ”
“That’s why you need to follow me back ”
Adoration shakes her head, “well you can go but I am going . don’t follow me if you don’t want ” she take she lamp from her sister and turns , walking away
Nnena watches her for a few seconds , sighing she runs after her sister. they walk for two hours , everything they neared the entrance it felt as though it kept going further and further away.
finally they were at the mouth of the forests , it is dark, darker than every other place..
“Adora I am getting scared, let’s go back”
“No we are already here, we might as well go in”
“No I won’t . I can”t”
“Fine i will. wait for me here. ” she begin to climb
“Adora, Adora please don’t go please, I am scared I can’t even stay here please let’s go back”
“No . wait for me. I would be quick ” and with that she numbs across the other fallen tree and then disappears into the forests. it is dark, Nnena hugs herself and keeps watching around her. it’s been more than an hour , her sister doesn’t come back..she panics,
“Adora, Adora ??” She calls out.
A eerie sound replies her. . , she begins to cry “Adora please please come back where are you??” She is scared to go in there, she is more scared to go back alone without her sister, Not able to wait any longer , she made to leave , ran all the way home and wake the village…her sister had been taken by the evil forests.
She hears a tweak sound, like someone steps on a stem and brakes it. , she turns to find Adora there, standing there and watching her. happiness and relief she throws her hands over her sister and hugs her, crying. “You scared me Adora, don’t ever do that again. lets go home please ” she pulls her by the hands and they walk all the way back.
Back in their hut, Nnnena turns to Adora, “So, what did you sis, why did you stay there for so long. I was so scared and worried and I thought some thing had happened to you.”
Adora doesn’t answer. infact she hasn’t said a word since she came out…
“Adora ? ” Adora turns to face her sister
“Sleep ,we have so much to talk about it tommorow ” was all that she said to her. while Nnnena and their parents slept, Adora is standing outside of their hut. she is doing nothing other than looking at her body, her hands and them feeling her face..
“it’s been so long, so long locked away in that forest that I have forgetten how it felt to be alife …” she said.. “I have been roaming, like the others , left for dead, never to be amongst the living. but who knew one day..I would return, not with my body but with that of another..and be here, amongst the people who have first caused us this agony. .but finally ..i am free” she says..
“Adora , why are you here, talking to yourself. . who are you talking to ?” Nnnena had woken up to pee and didn’t see her beside her, she comes and find her outside, talking to her self and looking at her body .
“Nothing, I am just basking in the natural air of the night, I never had enough of that in there” she says turning to look at her sister
“Okay, come inside.”
“hmmm” she follows her inside
At night, Adora walked by herself back to the evil forest.
As soon as she entered the forest, it comes alife. ..Two faced Children walked around … restless, without bodies.
their spirits hovered , troubled.
Adora goes deep into the forest, where her sister sat curled under a tree..
“I thought you forgot about me as soon as you found a vessel ”
“Never ” Adora said,
“so , have you brought me a vessel too, I can’t be here for longer. it has been years too long. .hovering, watching our bodies die and watching us rise over them and linger here. tell me sister , her you brought me her sister ?” Adora shakes her head
“Soon, you and I would be reunited . soon we wouldn’t be amongst the dead and forgotten , soon..you would be free just like me. patience Sister … you would soon posses Nnnena’s body as I have Adora’s. And then together we would punish the people who did this to us, if they are dead, we punish their children , the sins of the father would be visited unpon the children …patience Sister!!
Soon I would bring you your body.. then you can walk out with me through the forest no one would be able to tell the difference. I have been with them today and yet they didn’t notice that their daughter had been possessed with the spirit of a two faced child ” Adora smiles to her sister who smiles back..
Tomorrow. ..she has to make Nnnena come here so she can free her sister ..
Adora walks back to the Hut. .as she laid on the mat and stared at her sister…she envied her
“You have lived for a couple of years amongst the living while us never got to see another day …You were lucky to have the love of a father and mother and sister, so it is only fair that I and my sister take over from you both.
Sleep tonight. Tommorw your body becomes my sister’s and later on, then we begin .” Adora smiles , but within her eyes it was someone different smiling through her eyes..