ADUNNI is an 8-episode series about an Abiku—a spirit-being in Yoruba mythology that is born into the human world, dies, and is then reborn in an endless cycle of death and rebirth. In the first episode, Adunni has just been reborn into the Lamorin family. Her fellow spirit-beings are keeping her company during her naming ceremony—the last rites of passage to the human world. Just when she thinks the ceremony is going swimmingly, a catastrophic glitch occurs. -….
“A f’ope f’olorun
L’okan ati l’ohun wa
Eni s’ohun y’anu…”
I closed my eyes as they sang the Yoruba hymn. I allowed the words to sink into the core of my being. I felt nothing … as expected.
“Now thank we all our God
With our hearts
With our songs
The one who works miracles…”
READ ALSO: THE BLUNTS
A giggle distracted me; I opened my eyes and glared at Asake.
Asake the flighty one, the one that embodied all they thought us to be— intelligent, arrogant, happy-go-lucky, cruel…
“Shh, you’re distracting me,” I whispered, this only elicited more laughter as the others joined in. I frowned at them.
“Why are you whispering? It’s not like they can hear us, and I don’t get this your sudden Christian fervour.”Asake giggled, it sounded hollow.
“All these demon-chasing, tongue-talking Pentecostals, arrogating themselves powers they can’t comprehend, powers beyond even their wildest imaginations.” Bala sneered.
“They think they are gods,” Chimeka joined the conversation.
“You’re distracting me with your incessant chatter. And about your statement Chimeka, they think so because they read it in the bible,” I said, unable to resist taking the bait.
“Ah, now I get it, and I suppose you’ve read that book too, Ms Bookworm.” A smile played around Asake’s lips.
Those lips, full, sensuous, lips made for kissing. Asake was as dark as the night, but even in the darkest of nights her skin gleamed. Her nose was straight and long, it flared out into a pair of dainty nostrils. Her round eyes shone with an unearthly light.
Tall—like our kind were wont to be—she gave off the impression of being even taller than she really was. The illusion of a great height emphasized by her thick, kinky hair which she wore in cornrows, their tips bunched together to make a high bun. Asake is the stuff wet dreams are made of. The filmy pink gown she’s wearing emphasized her lush body.
Asake is gorgeous and she knows it.
She’s proudly a non-reader. She claims that, having existed even before the earth and the human beings that lived in it were created, there was nothing any human being could write that would interest her. She’d rather mess with their minds, their emotions. That’s what we’re made for.
“The Bible is a fascinating book, and it’s fun to read.” I finally responded, rather defensively, I admit.
“And it is also full of ‘thou shalt nots’!” Asake retorted.
“There are other things in the bible aside from commandments, darling, you’re allowing your ignorance to show.” The barb slipped out of my mouth before I could stop it. I heard a sharp intake of breath as I turned away from her.
“Listen up people just leave me alone. It’s my naming ceremony after all and if you don’t like it here, you can always return to where you came, after all nobody invited you!” I snapped.
Asake draped her arms around me, her breath hot on the nape of my neck. I resisted the temptation to shove her off.
“I don’t get you Adunni, honestly, your fascination with these human beings,” she spat the words—being human was a curse on her lips— “is becoming really annoying, I’ve lost count of the number of times you’ve returned here, if I didn’t know better, I’d think you’d rather be here than with us.” She removed her arms from around me, and I sighed in relief.
I switched my attention back to the tableau before me and watched as my mother handed me to the Pastor.
The pastor lifted me up and started praying. I will fulfil destiny, my arrival will come with peace and more blessings for my parents. The Lord will be my shield, my guide. My parents will not bury me with their hands.
While the guests shouted fervent ‘amens’ to the prayers, my mates were laughing their heads off at the last prayer. I did not crack a smile.
“Look at them, obsessed with immortality, puny, ignorant little things,” Chimeka said disdainfully as he shot into the air and hovered over the guests.
I heard the yearning behind those words, the desire for mortality.
We all want to be mortal. Each time I died, I wished it were the last time. I yearned, as most of us did, for the blessed bliss of nothingness.
Immortality is overrated; you’re here, one millennium after the other. Yes, there are new inventions, but, human nature doesn’t change. What has been, is, and will continue to be.
But then the lure of mortality is strong. The knowledge that I don’t have to return to my spirit state, or do anything, or know anything, I will simply be dead.
“No you won’t,” Asake said, easily reading my thoughts. “And your thirst for power is stronger than any temptation mortality might offer.”
I ignored her.
“What are her names?” The pastor said to my father who was standing off to his right side. Father handed a strip of paper to him.
The pastor solemnly handed me to my father and placed a pair of glasses on his nose. He picked up the microphone and smiled at the guests.
“As you all know, this is the most important part of the ceremony, well that’s aside from blessing the child, rejoicing with the brand new parents and eating jollof rice.” The crowd laughed at the joke.
One of the reasons I love being human, aside from one million other reasons, is the pleasure of eating. In my original form I don’t need food. I don’t feel cold, pleasure, or pain… I yanked my mind back from the direction it was headed and focussed fiercely on the pastor, blocking everything out except the words that dropped off his lips like fragile eggs.
“Since most of us here are veteran naming ceremony attendees, I know I shouldn’t say this, but for the benefit of the strangers amongst us …” He cleared his throat and assumed a formal tone, “I will now read out the names of this brand new baby and you will all repeat each one after me. This will ensure that the ‘head’ of the child will recognize and own those names. The universe will recognize that she’s been named and give her the respect due to her. She will grow into the fullness of her names in Jesus’ name.”
“Amen,” the crowd chorused.
He lifted up the paper and began to read out my names.
Hearing my names for the first time thrills me, it’s like opening a long awaited gift, names earth me. I have a place where I keep them. Anything that is named is loved. I’d been there yesterday night when Father had typed out the names on his computer and printed it out on little slips of paper. I had restrained myself from peeping at the names, I like surprises. But now my body throbbed with impatience.
“Jesutitofunmi,” The pastor called out, enunciating each syllable correctly so that no one in the crowd would be in doubt of the correct pronunciation.
“Je-su-ti-to-fun-mi,” the crowd repeated after him.
Jesutitofunmi, I whispered. The name sank inside of me and I felt the warmth of the name spread through me. I have been claimed, I am loved. I have a name. My head swelled and I smiled for the first time since Asake and my other mates arrived to ‘support me’.
I particularly like the new names Pentecostals are giving their children, it thrilled me that I got one.
“For those of you who do not come from Yorubaland, this name means, Jesus is enough for me.”
The guests burst into a round of applause and exclamations of ‘Jesus is enough for me too! He’s more than enough!’
“Oluwafikunayomi,” The pastor said into the microphone. My second name, the warmth spread further, the ends of my fingers and toes tingled. Power, more power… I exulted in my names as they flowed from the lips of the guests into my body.
“This means God has added to my joy.”
I already love my new parents. What joyful names they are giving me, what powerful, love names.
“Aja…” he paused, scanned the paper he was holding and laughed in embarrassment.
The smile froze on my lips.
I felt like I’d just been drenched in a bucket of ice-water.
“No,” I whispered as the cold began to sap the power of my previous names, “This can’t be! I won’t allow it!”
I thought I heard titters but was too absorbed in the unfolding scene to concern myself with whatever devilry Asake, Chimeka and Bala were up to.
“The devil is a liar!” The pastor ejaculated, he turned to my father, a frown on his face, “there’s a typo in here, the person who typed this for you must have skipped the rest of the name, is it Ajasayo or Ajasire?”He pointed at the offending word.
I relaxed a little. An error, that’s what it is, what it has to be!
“No it’s not sir, it is Aja, dog.” My father said clearly, the crowd gasped and then whispers, like dried leaves falling off trees during Harmattan, rose into the air. I could see those words, they rose above the crowd in speech bubbles.
“Jesus take control!”
“This is insane!”
“The devil has taken over!”
“It is indeed the end times!”
I felt rage rise up from within me, it can’t be! I was cold all over. Not the human kind of cold that usually comes from outside the person. This cold is the type that comes with a loss of power.
I can’t panic now or all will be lost.
“This is preposterous! You can’t name an innocent child Aja!” The pastor sputtered and wiped his face with a handkerchief that had miraculously appeared in his hand.
“That’s what I’m naming my child, her name is Aja!”
My mother dissolved into tears, snatched me out of my father’s arms and ran into the house, she was closely followed by half of the women in the crowd.
“Settle down, please calm down, this is just a little misunderstanding that will be cleared soon. Please excuse us.” The pastor said into the microphone and drew my father towards the house.
“We need to talk.”
Next week on Episode 2