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He wandered through the pathway like a grasscutter as he made his way through the bushes.  His face was dismal.  It looked like that of a man who had just wrestled with a lion as he grunted his misery.  He wore the once beautiful and priceless hat he inherited from his father and now had become torn and tattered   – it happened to be the only gift he could inherit from his father before the gods took away his life. He was that proverbial prodigal son. Far from any fault of his, he spent little time with his father and regretted this deeply. Deep in thought, he picked up a muddy pebble from the sandy ground and threw it on the palm-kernel tree so that after some time, having had not much success, he gave up and walked on. He had ended up his life this way – as a nonentity and worthless fellow who went starving all the time.  But the luck god seemed to smile upon him; he caught sight of an apple tree in that instant.  “Such is the wonderful works of the gods,” he thought to himself, “they work wonders.” He chewed and bit with an ardor that he failed to notice a passing shadow. He seemed to notice the movement but decided to ignore it. “Could be just the wind,” he muttered.

 And this was only a fraction of his ill reward in this poor village – a place filled with fear and misery.  They lived their lives under some manner of fear; not only did they fear the gods, but they also feared the unknown. And what more? – They lived in misery and poverty but hoped that one day, their prayers got answered. The name of this village was Umali! They called it the land of milk and honey. According to the elders of the land, it was the land where creation started. It was the mystery land nobody knew about, a story they preferred to ignore. It was the paradisal valley which their forefathers tread.

 

But it seemed ironic. It was almost like a false claim.  Umali was more of a land of sour. The inhabitants lacked a great deal and had the deadliest people. Justice waited in the hands of the unknown, and it was a fact they feigned on. The problem was that, like a child unable to tell right from wrong, they had trespassed. They overused their privileges and had to suffer for them. But here comes both the thrilling horror and mystery; the secrets of the gods lay in the hands of the inhabitants themselves. The puzzle could only be solved by them, yes! By them, alone for the gods lived amongst them and not as a god but as a villager.

 

   But here was a commoner; this drifter walking past a corner of the street and pondering upon what might be his portion in this unfair world.

 

  Revenge had always been the anthem of the gods in the land, and his only wish was that the whole thing better stopped. He had once vowed that if anyone happened to know the secret behind the evil befalling the land of Umali, he would get such a person killed. That vow never meant much, at least not when he hardly even could provide a single meal for himself.

 

His name was Ebuka, no one knew his surname, and no one cared, for he was just another nonentity anyway. They called him a vagabond, for he engaged in many village crimes so much that the law got weary of him quickly and left him alone. 

Ebuka walked towards a place called a shrine. A shrine in some parts of Africa is a restricted zone where marijuana, palm wine, alcohol, and the likes could be found and consumed. This place was safe from the law for some reasons. But as the careless man passed by, he noticed not the caretaker of the shrine; a tall, strong built Igbo man in his fifties, bald-headed, with a face that was good-natured on the whole, but that showed signs of firm determination and no weakness. His name was Odumegwu, and he was a man worthy of being feared in Umali.

  Chief Odumegwu stood with his hands on his chin, watching the careless man pityingly, “Nwoke a na-ara ara (this mad man),” he said, shook his head, and turned back – He then turned suddenly back again. There was something about this man that caught his attention;

    “Hey, Ebuka” cried Odumegwu wavering his hands as he suddenly recognized the moving figure.

Ebuka stopped dead in his track and turned back with sudden recognition. “Wow, Odumegwu!!” he cried excitedly as the two men hugged, “I can tell from the look on your face that you have not changed a bit, but I promise you that age would begin to tell on you very soon,” said Ebuka and they both laughed.  “How about your child,” he asked, “I am sure a big man like you will have one or two kids running around the village square by now.”

 “Nna,” said Odumegwu sadly, “Spare me that. I have not a child yet. I pray the gods grant our request for a child. How about you, my friend, tell me what you have been up to?”

The man called Ebuka answered him with the same dialect as supposed as an Igbo man, “I have nothing going on in my life, my friend. Nothing! I am still that same drifter you knew a few years back.”

*

 

      Duality without identicalness is possible. It has always been and was especially the case with the Odumegwus. While Odumegwu was the hyper-active extrovert, and his wife was the complete opposite, there was another difference; Mr. Odumegwus’s wife named Chiamaka was not a nice woman by disposition or manner, unlike her husband that was good-natured but tough. She was always diligently minding her business and toiling with her rosary. Mrs. Chiamaka Odumegwu a.k.a “Lorlor” as she was popularly known, was a big woman of about forty, very observant, and seldom seen smiling. She glanced briefly at her husband as he came in but quickly turned back to her preoccupation. Under the guise of pretending to be busy all the time, she was a very observant woman. She observed every passerby in the street, every day as if the disaster of Umali lay upon them.

 

Mr. Odumegwu and his wife were caretakers of the shrine, and it had become a spot for merriment with varieties of intoxicating drinks, palm wine, drugs, and hemp, sold. It was bound to be popular- it was the quickest resort for men to sought relief when hit by the hard blows of life, when consumed by the whips of misery or when they quarreled with their wives – what great escape or exit could they have found. Some of the people who frequented this place, too, included young men – wayward, errant, or unruly young men who would come to smoke the marijuana popularly known as egbo.  

That same day, as usual, Mr. Odumegwu was having a good time with his friends when he caught sight of two men and a young woman talking beside a parked car in a corner. And he instantly recognized them.  They looked like royalty with good looks and expensive clothing. He knew that they awaited him; he had summoned them to come.  He hesitated a moment then took excuse from his friends to meet his visitors.

   

 “Good afternoon,” greeted the elder of the two men holding out his hands for a handshake which Odumegwu respectfully accepted with a bow, “we have come a long way, particularly for that matter which you told us about.”

      

 Odumegwu nodded politely and held out his hand as if to say, please give me a second “- he then turned back and rushed back to the shrine.

 

“Do you remember those people over there?” he asked his friends. They shook their heads in unison.

 

“That is the friend to the late millionaire, his daughter, and her husband.” He began to explain, but the men laughed so horribly that it embarrassed Odumegwu so that he wondered what was funny about what he said. He tried as much as he could not be bothered about it but decided to ask the reason for their laughter.

 

“If you ask us, na whom we go ask biko? (If you ask us, who do we ask?) One of the drunkards answered in a funny manner that made the rest of the men burst again into laughter.

      

 Deciding to ignore their jokes, he went to meet the strangers again. He was getting very impatient and could hardly wait for the man he had sent for to come to handle the business of the day.

      

 But before Odumegwu moved, the other man approached. He wore a designer jacket with a pair of boots – (designers too), and just like the young woman beside him, they smelled like petals of roses. Odumegwu was unable to hide the fact that he was impressed. They made him feel inferior.  The younger man advanced towards Mr. Odumegwu and asked permission to speak to him. The conversation was brief; almost at the first words, Odumegwu paid close attention and nodded continuously and then signaled for both of them to follow him.

     

 Mrs. Odumegwu noticed all this but would say nothing. It was not her business to interfere. The only thing she assumed she cared about was the affairs about the shrine and everything that had to do with it.

     

Odumegwu knew the visitors to be associated with Felix Madwu, the multi-millionaire. Felix Madwu was a close friend to the Late King Ochigbo of Umali land, and most people could not understand what made them as close. Felix had to marry Bola, the daughter of a wealthy Yoruba man after Juliana Madwu came to life out of wedlock. Shortly after, Bola Madwu died of cancer, leaving the responsibility of child care to Felix alone.

Felix Madwu was a loved person; he was a philanthropist and a businessman – It had always been that way in his lineage. They were business tycoons, and they did this not only locally but almost internationally. From cowries, antiques, agricultural produce to petroleum, the Madwus were the behemoths of business, and they beat all competitions. Of course, there were the haters and the snakes who would do anything to bring him downfall – the bad belles who would even consult the juju (black magic) to either cast a spell of bad luck upon him or even kill him. And they succeeded.  It was Felix Madwu’s lot in the evil land. 

  

 Most people were not happy with the fatherly love shown to Juliana. They hated Felix for what he was. These haters were witches and sorcerers. They succeeded in preying upon the businessman that they considered to be proud and pompous. But to reverse the story years back, when the girl Juliana was so little, the busy businessman traveled around the world. He hardly saw his daughter nor could look after his daughter all by himself that he entrusted Mr. Lucas – his closest friend to look after young Julie. His friend, Mr.Lucas, for friendship reasons, became his assistant without any formal application.  But Mr. Lucas partly was a busy man too, and most of the time, he was out of the country for London or some African countries.

 

  Felix could not know that entrusting his assistant to look after his daughter would be a futile business. Little did he know that his assistant would be hitting the road most of the time, just like he constantly was.  But Mr. Lucas too needed assistance over such responsibility and asked an educated London-based Yoruba trader who had been away from her home country in the past twenty-five years to look after the girl; her name was Mrs. Olivia Alakija. Mrs. Olivia, a tall solid-built woman of five feet and seven, was more of a Londoner than an African. She was forty-five. Having spent more than half of her lifetime in London had almost forgotten how to speak African. She could only remember little of her native language.  But despite her preoccupation, she was a good woman. She loved Juliana, and caring for her like her daughter was easy – and more because young Julie reminded her of her daughter that died in a car crash ten years earlier. She had been like a mother to the little girl that the bond between them naturally became strong. Ms. Olivia Alakija loved Juliana so much and could willingly give her life for her if need be. Ms. Olivia doted on the little girl and even went far as praising her before her friends. She taught Juliana things like cooking, talking to boys, and her view of ethical values, even if she had to visit the nightclub once in a while and drink a binge with her peers.

Juliana grew up so fast and came down to West Africa.  A lot had gone on in Umali and had eaten through her bottom pie. However hard both Mr. Lucas and Mrs. Alakija tried to comfort her, the pain she felt still lingered, particularly the painful fact that they never knew the exact cause of Mr. Felix Madwu’s death- caused her the most pain. All she could hear was the old cock and bull story that his spirit got entrapped. Under normal circumstances, she ought to find this funny and was unable to. It was hard to find it amusing. She never heard of a spiritual attack but had read a great deal about black magic from books, and she would laugh at what she considered to be the foolishness of the writer until her belly hurts. Now the news was personal. Her father died in a remote city in West Africa.  The young woman wanted to know the reason for the death so badly that she decided to travel back to the village of Umali after a long while. Both she and her husband made proper arrangements for this reason. The reason she was with Mr. Lucas and her husband who asked permission to talk to Odumegwu. But at the same time, there was more purpose to the meeting.

  Oduemgwu claimed that the Multimillionaire businessman died in a small room. A room fit to be called a hut, for it was empty and not so pleasing to the eye – a compartment not suitable for someone of his caliber.

 

Mr. Felix was too honorable for comparison to the typical asylum broken-free fellow who ran almost stark naked in the public square who deserved to be in such room, unlike the cool and respectable man whose dwelling was a mansion.

  

 Sometimes it happened to be that Odumegwu was severe in manners and very unpredictable. Sometimes he could be levelheaded, at other times, completely irrational. He was never that way to his visitors. He accepted them and was loyal to them.

 

Odumegwu watched the young woman climb up the staircase like some oldie who could fall off at any moment. The stairs were made of clay and had a funny look.

  

 “Why do we even have to be here?” Mr.Lucas asked, already feeling disgusted.

  

 “To see the flying witches act,” answered  Odumegwu with an attempt at humor, but soon found out none was interested in his jokes and continued rather seriously, “The witch doctor would evoke his spirit right here.”

  

 “And how would they do that?” asked Mr. Lucas in disbelieve.

 

“It is for the witch doctor to determine.”

 

“Witchdoctor?!!” the three chorused unbelievably.

   

As they came closer to the top of the stairs, Odumegwu took a key out of his pocket.

  

 Mr. Lucas looked at him suspiciously. “Why do you keep the door locked?” he asked.

   

“Because this room has such a spiritual significance,” Odumegwu answered simply and sadly.

   

Mr. Lucas stared at him coldly as if he was a clown from the mumbo-jumbo space ship, but it was of no use as Odumegwu looked away and cared less of what the others thought.

   

The two men talked for several minutes in a hushed tone that Juliana was unable to hear, however as they were about to open the door, she trembled.  Her face showed such deep anxiety and terror that her husband had to encourage her.

 

“Just stay calm, and have no fear. All will be over in a minute once the witch doctor performs his rite,” he said, “You should try as much as possible to stay calm and pray that nothing happens. We need to remain calm.”

 

But Julie was more confused. A lot went through her mind that seemed quite unexplainable but scared to ask she was. Firstly, why do they need a witch, or whatever they called him, to invoke the spirit of her father…… oh God, did she just thought about that?  Could it be the spirit or corpse of her father? It was exactly like a horror film she watched on Netflix a few weeks ago.

   

 Odumegwu knocked on the door in a funny way that almost created the impression that someone was inside. He then put the key in the lock and turned slowly. The door opened; he looked about the room as if scared that something may pounce upon him, then took a step in. Sure that it was somewhat safe, he looked back and signaled for them to come in.

 

“I am scared,” said the young lady trembling.

 

“Do not be my dear.” her husband encouraged (Scared nearly to death himself).

 

“You do not get it,” she insisted, “This place is creaky.”

 

He drew her trembling arm, kissed it, lifted her a little, and turned towards the room.

 

They got into the small room with terror written all over them.  The wall had an obscure muddy paint, the room itself had a funny smell still, but they saw no ghost or spirit. The creaky room was empty, making the sound from their footsteps echo audibly.  The room was indeed creaky so much that terror showed on their faces. They looked somewhat like scooby-doo and her peers in the land of the ghosts.

Good day,(ehihie oma),” greeted Chief Odumegwu, looking around the room as if talking to a group of an army. It made the rest stared at him like zombies. They were unsure of Odumegwu, and half presumed that he was playing on their intelligence.. perhaps this could all be a prank. They only became slightly convinced when they began to hear a hissing sound.

   

 Juliana stood like the statue of liberty. Her fist clenched by her side with a mixture of bewilderment and shock written on her face. She felt just as it would be if she had met with the devil. “Verily verily,” she thought, “This must be witchery” this time was real life, other than that which she had read in books…….. and she was yet to see more……….

     

  The witch doctor came in just in time with a live cock in his right hand and a timbrel on the left.  Juliana almost laughed at him for even an insane jerk dressed better. The witch doctor was in a red cloak that was bigger than him. Many cowries stuck on his oversized garment like an abomination. Attached to it was a stick with red threads all over it. It was called JuJu(to mean charm.)  Just then, the old proverbial saying ran through her mind; “You can only cure madness with madness.” only this time did she understood the true meaning as both the insane and the herbalists had a similar appearance.  She chuckled. 

 

The witch doctor took off his cloak, laid it gently on the floor, bit off the head of the cock, and laid the rest of the body on the spread cloak as it bled profusely and flapped its wings violently, then he began to recite incantations. As he did, the hissing sound became more audible so that it seemed like legions of snakes were hissing overhead.  In less than a minute, snakes began to flood in from all sides but neither hurt nor touched any one of them. The snakes crawled with such briskness that it scared the three visitors standing behind.  The witch doctor bent forward and began reciting the incantations repeatedly with great speed. As he evoked Felix’s spirit, the snakes formed a cloud of smoke that clouded the room, and the strangest thing happened. Here was Mr. Felix in his professional suit and tie, and it was no different as it would have been, only that it was an apparition and had hollow eyes.  This event brought tension in the room that the three almost ran out of the entrance.

 

“Tell me what happened to you and how you got here?” the witch doctor began to ask the apparition.

 

The apparition stared at everyone in the room with a remote slowness before he began to tell the story, and as he did, everyone paid attention.

 

What’s Mr Felix’s story?

What brought about mr. Felix’s death?

What is the secret mystery behind the existence of these gods? 

We shall find out as we unlock the secret scroll bit by bit.

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