Adunni is reborn into the Lamorin household. But her naming ceremony ends in utter disaster when her cover is blown. She realizes that her human father knows she’s an Abiku and insists on naming her Aja—common dog.
This Week: Adunni tries to make sense of her misfortune. But there is an even more disheartening surprise in store for her.
I was rooted to the spot for some seconds, too stunned to move.
I felt the wildness of rage welling up within me, such a fury that, if unleashed, could destroy everything in sight. It took a lot of will-power to bring myself under control. I couldn’t believe that after all these years someone had finally gotten my number. I had always been so careful, what could have happened?
A voice whispered in my head.
I recognized that voice as hope.
Hope said ‘it will be alright. Everything will work out just fine in the end’. My heart dropped when it hit me that these feelings were not really mine. They were habits I’d picked up over the centuries, habits acquired in my brief sojourns as human.
But I am not human.
I am Adunni, Abiku, a force of nature, handmaiden of the gods.
“So what are you going to do now?” Chimeka broke into my thoughts. I had so immersed myself in being human I’d forgotten how easily my mates could read my thoughts. In truth, I’d completely forgotten they were there.
I looked at all of them, their faces carefully blank, but their thoughts assailed me and to my surprise all I got was their sheer enjoyment of my situation.
After all these years I should have known. I had gotten careless, believing my mates would always have my back. I’d forgotten that built into us was flightiness, an inability to commit to anything or anybody.
It is this quality that made us Abiku. Loyalty, pah! Our selfishness, hunger for power over puny human beings, total immersion in seeking out things that give us pleasure. That is our nature. Why would I believe that the mere fact that we were playmates would make them support me?
I got angry again, but this time it was in its pure form, a clean anger that hardened into resolve.
I will sort this out. I do not need them.
“Please leave, every single one of you, leave, now!” I barked at them as I sped after my father and the pastor.
Somebody was up to no good, and I have to get to the bottom of this.
One of the reasons I have been such a successful Abiku is my careful deliberations, my ability to tap into the infinite patience my immortality has granted me.
I’m not one of those senseless little beings that hover at T-junctions, religious gatherings and crowded market places, darting around, looking for pregnant women—willing to inhabit any pregnant woman foolish enough not to protect herself.
Those Abikus are no better than cuckoos. Once they see a potential, they jump inside her, kicking out the soul of the fetus without considering the fact that for each entrance they make, they lose most of their powers. By the time they are born, they become victims of their nature. They lose control over what happens to them, how things proceed or when they die. These Abikus are the ones that become enslaved to the whims of any herbalist, powerful or not. Most of them are easily earthed.
Failures as humans, failures as Abiku.
They usually turn out to be sickly, spindly babies, lacking in charm and intelligence. And when they eventually die, their parents never feel the loss. They simply breathe huge sighs of relief, not because they did not love the child but because most human parents would rather see the child die than suffer from an endless list of medicine-defying ailments.
And I ask you, what’s the point in that?
Our mission is tears—to tear up the eyes and the heart, to shred it into little bits of pain, to rack up power points with every ache. After all, we are part of the life-cycle of birth and death.
But me, I have always chosen my parents carefully. Sometimes I watch for years, studying a particular family lineage, weighing, discarding. I’m a human connoisseur, nothing less than the best will do for me.
I choose the beautiful, the wise, people who have emotional intelligence. Those who can feel and think. How I adore people who think! I get my powers from them. When they are happy, or sad, or worried, when they are in pain or purring with pleasure, they do it with panache.
I always ensure I’m present at my inception. Sometimes I even engineer inception. I’m so powerful I can implant myself in a lifeless sperm or lodge myself in wombs that shouldn’t be able to carry water, talk less of a baby. I am that resourceful, that powerful.
Tell me that simulating creation is NOT POWER.
I am Adunni, I am good at what I was created for. I’ve had centuries to hone my skills, to build up my powers. I am Mother Earth’s favourite.
… how in the world did I get into this situation?
The doors to the duplex my parents occupy were thrown wide open. People trooped in and out. I was in such a hurry that I bumped into a woman carrying a tray piled with plates of jollof rice and fried chicken. If I didn’t have more important things on my mind, I would have wondered who she was because she looked up at me and smiled faintly a second before I brushed past her.
My mother’s bedroom was filled with women trying to comfort her. She was still fiercely holding on to me and crying buckets of tears. I spotted the creatures in charge of collecting the tears our kind tore out of people’s hearts. They were flitting around my mother.
Their stubbly wings, rounded bodies and misshapen heads made them look like tiny, flying cashew fruits.
They were in a feeding frenzy. They slurped and sucked loudly. It was disgusting. No manners at all. Greedy little pests!
I marvelled at how blind, how deaf human beings are.
But then, it is better that way, because if they could see, really see…
I entered father’s room. He and the pastor were seated on chairs drawn so closely to one another that their legs were practically entangled.
“… These are traditions that are best left in the past, Mr Lamorin, you cannot burden your innocent child with that name. After-all she did not ask to be born,” the pastor said to my father, who wore an air of finality. Although seated next to the pastor, his posture was of that of a person who had left the room.
“This one has chosen to be born Pastor. You know our history, I told you that Abiku has been troubling my wife and I for years … isn’t that the reason we left our former church and joined yours?”
“Mr Lamorin, do not allow the devil to use you in this way, there is nothing like Abiku. Doctors have discovered that the children believed to die and return are actually children carrying Sickle Cell Anaemia trait…”
“Pastor, I am AA, my wife is AA, so why do we keep having children who persistently die before their first birthdays?” Father cut him off.
I gasped, that was news to me. I had definitely never been born by this pair before. I had chosen the Lamorins carefully. It had taken me over a year to gather intelligence on them. They were in their mid thirties, Christians, and they’d never had a child before, or so I had thought.
“This is our fourth child, and I’m determined to name her Aja so that she’d know exactly where we stand on this issue,” Father said firmly.
I sat on the floor between them.
“But Mr Lamorin, even if she’s an Abiku, what’s the use of naming her Aja? It doesn’t change anything. Don’t you believe in the powers of prayer to change things? Do you no longer believe in Jesus, Our Lord and Saviour? Why are you acting so strangely?” The pastor’s face was a mask of exasperation.
“Ah, but that’s just the first phase, my grandfather will soon be here to carry out the second phase of the ceremony,” Father said.
“I do not understand you Mr Lamorin.” The pastor said stiffly.
“Let me tell you a little about my background. I grew up in this city. My parents are Christians, and I was raised in a Pentecostal church. I know that my siblings, Taiwo and Kehinde, are adopted. What I did not know is that my father abandoned his own father in the village because he was a Babalawo. It wasn’t until this matter of Abiku persisted that my mother finally told me about him. Can you imagine Pastor Christopher? I did not meet my grandfather until I was thirty-three years old!” Father paused, gathered himself and continued in a level voice. “Long story short, my grandfather will soon be here to do the traditional earthing rites for the Abiku. Aja is not going anywhere!”
The pastor’s jaw dropped. He sat up straight, breaking the intimacy between himself and father.
“So why did you bother calling us in since you’d obviously made up your mind to do this?” The pastor’s tone was suffused with anger.
“Because my wife insisted.” Father, on the other hand, was calm to the point of seeming dismissive.
“I hope you know you’ve invited demons into your home! There is no way darkness and light can dwell in the same house, and we both know the position of the Bible and Christendom on this! The road to hell, as you well know, is paved with good intentions. If you will not heed the voice of the Lord commanding you not to go down this road to perdition, do not come back to me in tears when things go awry!” The pastor let his anger loose, and his voice roared across the room.
“Things will always go wrong. Things will always go right. Nothing is all evil. Nothing is all good. Eleduwa made it like that Pastor. I have chosen my path. And no sir! Worshiping the gods my ancestors worshipped from time immemorial doesn’t make me a demon lover, and even if it does, so be it. Let all hell come and dwell in my house. Let your European god turn his back on me. I really don’t give a damn.” Father was as calm as the morning after a stormy night. His phone rang. He checked the caller ID and ended the call.
Father rose to his full height, six feet and counting. His muscular body towered over the pastor who also stood up. Father was Goliath to the pastor, and if looks were catapults, father would be supine, a stone lodged in his forehead.
“Now if you’ll excuse me, my granddad is here.” Before father finished speaking, the pastor had stormed out of the room. Father shrugged and followed him.
I felt strangely empty. Thoughts ricocheted round my head, but I couldn’t grasp a single one.
My mind went back to the beginning, to the moment I decided to return to the human world. I remembered Asake’s solicitousness during the period I was shopping for parents.
I felt her presence and looked up at her wearily. “You set me up.”
She shrugged. “So? Don’t you deserve it? Always bragging about being a ‘human connoisseur’, arrogating yourself human powers, love, passion, compassion, sadness, happiness, hope …” her eyes flashed all the shades on the spectrum of red at me, “you are nothing but an Abiku like the rest of us. We are free spirits, Adunni, not human…spirits! You are not special!”
“But why do you hate me so?” I floated off the ground until I nearly touched the ceiling. As I looked down at my playmates, I realized that I no longer cared why Asake did what she’d done. All I needed was a solution.
“Hate?” Asake turned to the others and shook her head, “See what I told you? She’s using the word hate.” Asake sighed mournfully and looked at me with something akin to pity.
“I do not hate you. I do not love you. I am simply your playmate, your pleasure giver.” Asake turned into cream as she said this and poured herself all over me. I let out a gasp of pure pleasure, and my limbs trembled with desire as images of the two of us, entwined, filled my head.
She left me as soon as she felt me acquiesce. While trying to regain control of my treacherous body, I noted that her eyes were smoky with desire, a reflection of mine.
Asake took a deep breath and continued, “I am above human feelings. I am a force of nature, like the sun or rain. I simply perform the duties I was created for, but you, you think you’re special. Get this through your head Adunni, you are no different from the rest of us. You are Abiku. Get over it.” By the end of her speech her voice had grown stronger, louder, nastier.
It can’t be. We are spirits. We don’t have emotions. We don’t feel. There’s no way Asake is jealous of me.
Shouts coming from the hallway scattered my thoughts in a million directions, as I felt myself drawn forcefully into a roomful of people.
“You are not taking my daughter from me! You won’t do this to me Gbenga! She’s my child too and I say no!” Mother was screaming at Father. Gone was the soft, glowing woman who was smiling happily during the naming ceremony. In her place was a wild woman. Tear-streaked mascara ran down her face in confluence with the mucus streaming out of her nostrils. Spittle flew out of her mouth as she forcefully ejaculated each word.
“Labake, stop being so hysterical. I am not taking your child away from you. We are just going to perform some ceremonies that will ensure the child does not die. And you will do exactly what I want. This child is ours, and I am your husband. I married you. You did not marry me!” Father let out some of the anger bottled up inside him, “Now hand me that baby!”
“Gbenga please listen to the voice of reason,” a woman pleaded from the sidelines.
“Like I said earlier, this is strictly between my wife and me. I’d like everybody to please leave this room now.” Father said coolly, not once taking his eyes off Mother.
“I’ve always acceded to all your wishes Gbenga,” Mother said, “I have been a good wife to you, through the good and bad times. Even when you cheated on me with different women over the years, I always managed to forgive you, to continue with our relationship. But on this one, I’m afraid I won’t let you expose our child to influences we will eventually have no control over. Jesus is the way, the truth and life. I believe in no other,” Mother said. Although her eyes were still streaming with tears, her voice was low and strong. “I have endured all sorts of humiliation from your hands Gbenga. Your actions today show how much you disrespect me as a human being, but …”
“If I may interrupt,” A tremulous, high pitched voice came from the doorway.
My first instinct was to bolt. But I turned and came face to face with an arch enemy.
“Gbonka!” I whispered.
He looked at me and nodded in acknowledgement.
“Good morning, our mother,” he addressed me directly. He smiled like the cat that got the cream.
He was all bent and wrinkled now, but the same stubborn light still shone in his eyes. His signature smile, filled with good humor and empathy, played around his lips.
Gbonka was my great-grandfather, a renowned Babalawo. A man with whom I’d had numerous entanglements. I’ve lost count of the many times I’ve had to give up a body because of this old man.
Asake had really done her homework. She had me. She had me good.
NEXT ON Episode 3
Writer’s profile: Born in Ibadan in the early 70’s, Ayodele Olofintuade spent her holidays with her grandfather who lived a stone’s throw from Olumo Rock. He nurtured her young mind by making her read Yoruba classics like Ireke Onibudo, Irinkerindo ninu Igbo Elegbeje, Ogboju Ode ninu Igbo Irumole to him. She read Mass Communication at the Institute of Management and Technology, Enugu.
She is a writer, spoken words artiste, teacher and editor, who has been a graphic artist, sales girl, cybercafe attendant, dance instructor and information technology teacher. She has worked with children in one capacity or the other in the past 13 years. She presently runs a project called Laipo Reads, a community/mobile library that makes book available to children. Olofintuade was the first runner up in the NLNG Prize for Literature 2010.