Strange but Adunn is fighting for her death. Gbonka is Adunni’s nemesis. You met him in episode 2. Like any self-respecting Babalawo, he doesn’t like Abikus. He would stop at nothing to prevent Adunni from doing what she desires most—to die!
Adunni has to deal with the Gbonka situation or else, she’ll stay human forever. Yuck! But she must first figure out the logistics of getting old Gbonka from the house in Lagos to the legendary Erin-Ijesa Falls and she’s not ruling out time-traveling.
I was still trying to wrap my head around the fact that Gbonka was my great-grandfather when a flustered looking couple entered the sitting room.
The loud groan from my father echoed my sentiments.
“I thought you guys were supposed to be out of the country.” Father mumbled as he prostrated to the couple.
The man cleared his throat, looked at everyone but Gbonka and started rocking on his heels, while the woman approached mother who was genuflecting. She took me from mother’s arms and looked at me with tenderness.
“We drove directly here from the airport. I wouldn’t miss out on my granddaughter’s naming ceremony for anything in the world.” The woman said as she rocked me gently.
I moved closer to my mortal body, all the better to drink in my fill of love, to rack up power points from the attention being lavished on me.
As my strength increased I took a good look at my grandmother, Ruth Lamorin. Everything about her was small and dainty. She looked as if a gust of wind was all it would take to blow her away.
But I know the type. I call them ‘steel hands in velvety gloves’. Women like her use their fragile looks as a weapon. They’d fool you into thinking you could push them around, until you tried … then you’ll find underneath all that fragility a heart pumping molten steel.
Ruth Lamorin nee Coker.
Trained from childhood, in the best schools in England. She graduated as a lawyer, a degree she had no use for. She had been packed off to a finishing school in Switzerland as soon as she was of marriageable age. While growing up her clothes had been from Paris, shoes from Italy and manners from the English aristocracy.
A descendant of one of those Yoruba kings that spent the colonial years trying to wrest power from the English Lords and their henchmen, she was a true blue blood with rebellion bred into her bones.
She had married Edward (then known as Isola) because he was going to be her freedom from the shackles of privilege that had been a weight around her neck since childhood. He had married her for her lineage, her connections, for her wealth.
Both of them lost out.
All she wanted was a life free from the pressure of the one-upmanship her kind called living. He was to be her salvation.
She got her freedom, was disinherited, as she had fervently prayed for, but her joy was cut short when he woke up one morning and told her Jesus had appeared to him in a dream.
At first she had thought it was a joke, a product of the lines of cocaine they had snorted the night before.
She had been wrong.
She became a pastor’s wife, then a ‘Mummy GO’.
She had broken free of one man’s control only to be shackled to another man’s dreams.
He had stripped himself of his bohemian ideologies, his impoverished background and his ‘h’ factor. He became Edward Lamorin, Senior Pastor of The Believers Assembly, one of the biggest Pentecostal Churches in the city. A man determined to have it all, money, fame and most importantly, power, the three things he found lacking in the man that raised him.
The physical resemblance between my Father, Gbenga, and Edward was uncanny. Gbonka used to look like that too. Tall, fair skinned to the point of albinism, brown eyes, kinky blond hair. But look at him now, stooped shoulders, skin darkened and mottled with age. I could almost hear his bones creak with every move he made, and he’s barely 90years old.
I shot Gbonka a disgusted look and he grinned back at me. I hated that he could see me.
Asake had been wrong about my wanting to be human. She was right that I loved power. Why would I want to exchange beauty, eternal youth, the ability to come and go as I liked, for the briefness of human life, for their utter ugliness in old age?
I snorted with laughter as Edward Lamorin launched into a speech about how Gbenga had disappointed him, how he had dragged the Lamorin name in the mud.
The son of a ‘Man of God’ going native!
How does Gbenga expect him to look into the eyes of his congregants again when his own son is an idol worshiper? He went on and on about his love for Jesus, his absolute faith in the power of the one and only true god.
He raved and ranted about his ‘lambs.’ How could he, Edward, tell them that Jesus is the truth, the way and life?
He held up the twins, Taiwo and Kehinde, as beacons of the faith, the shining light keeping the name ‘Lamorin’ from total disgrace. They were holding down the New York branch of the church without any help from home.
“Look at you Gbenga! The fruit of my loins…”
I tuned out the rest of what he was spewing, eish! Human beings and drama!
I froze the scene.
Edward Lamorin’s half opened mouth, his self-righteous mask, the bored expression on Ruth’s face, Mother’s inward look, her mascara smeared face, Gbenga’s exasperation, Gbonka’s self-satisfied smile, a tableau worthy of being painted.
With new power filling me up to my fingertips, I drew a small ‘o’ between the physical and spiritual and called Time by its true name.
“Honestly you Abiku’s are the most inconsiderate lot. Tampering with nature shouldn’t be done so casually. You should have asked first!” Time complained as he materialized beside me. He was a young man in his mid-twenties.
“Well I’m asking now,” I snapped.
“How long do you need?” He asked.
“10 minutes,”I shrugged.
Time morphed into a little girl of about five years and laughed. The laughter bounced off walls and the air was filled with pictures of children playing football, gamboling in the rain, playing hide and seek.
“I’m sorry but that is too much, so many things can go wrong within those ‘few minutes’ you claim you need. You know how I bind everything, each leaf opening, every root growing, each beat of every creature’s heart and you’re asking for 10 minutes? You must be joking. Can’t help you there, love.”
She skipped around the room and peered into the faces of my family members. When she got to my grandmother she tickled the baby.
“You’ve made such a beautiful baby Adunni. You’ve always been a sucker for beauty,” She smiled at me and morphed into a middle aged man. The morphing thing annoys me no end.
“I did not summon you here so you can critique the works of my hands,” I could feel the air around me stirring, tiny blue lightning flashed from my fingertips and my left eye began to twitch.
Time stepped back, we both know the kind of havoc I can wreak if I allowed my tightly reigned in control to slip. The balance of things, both physical and spiritual would be tipped within the twinkling of an eye.
Even the gods step carefully around Abikus, not because we are more powerful than they are, but we are known for our wildness, our willingness to ruin everything just to drive home a point, our lack of self control.
I slowly unclenched my fists and willed my body to relax.
“I guess I should leave now.” Time morphed into a wrinkled old woman as she peered into Gbonka’s face.
“I will take that 10 minutes,” I muttered through stiff lips.
“And what will you give me? Your passion?” Time was a well muscled young man, his dark skin gleamed in the sunshine.
“I will give you this necklace.” I pulled the necklace from around my neck and allowed the light to play on the precious stones lodged within it. Time liked shiny things. “It was forged by Ogun in the heart of the volcano that formed the Idanre hills.”
“I heard you are more delicious than sun ripened agbalumo. That you give addictive pleasure. I want that.” Time pulled me into his embrace and feathered kisses along my neck. I shoved him off. He morphed into a woman at the peak of her beauty, all soft curves and hard edges, a knowing look in her eyes.
“And I heard a second in your arms can drain even the most powerful of us. I see the effect your loving has on human beings.” I indicated Gbonka and held the necklace higher as she morphed into a five year old boy.
He snatched the necklace out of my hands and wore it around his neck.
“You can have your 10minutes.” he said in a high piping voice, “oh, and good luck with all this. If it’s any comfort, the gods know about your predicament.” He said as he dematerialized in the thin air.
Ah, the gods,I fumed. Is there anything they are not privy to? But I salted that knowledge away as I yanked Gbonka out of his body.
I used àféèrí to transport us to Erin-Ijesa Falls, one of the most spectacular waterfalls on the face of the earth. I needed the air to clear my head, the beauty to ground me. Besides the hills will help emphasize Gbonka’s puniness beside my powers.
“And to what do I owe this honour, our mother?” Gbonka asked as soon as we landed. He looked around and smiled. “The place of temptation,” he mused.
“You’re right, Gbonka, I’ve come to tempt you with strength in your bones, beauty, a long life that can be fully enjoyed for as long as you want it, as long as you grant me this one wish.” I said.
“You wish to die.” He said.
“Yes.” I allowed him a glimpse of the darkness roiling within me.
“And you’re offering me what? Let’s see … Immortality, wealth and a drink from the fountain of youth? Can you give me the world?”Storm clouds gathered on his face. “Is that all you can offer? Can you make me a god? Up the ante Adunni. Why go down the route that has been treaded by too many?” His laughter rang out. It was echoed by the hills, mocking my fears, my powerlessness.
“Abiku s’oloogun d’eke,” He said, “how easily you Abiku’s can turn a High Priest of Ifa into a liar.”
“It will cost you nothing to allow me to die Gbonka. I will even die at the appointed time.” I pointed out to him.
“Which is?” He asked.
“3 years.” I said.
For the first time since I was called into being, I felt hesitant, insecure, unsure of my powers. Why can’t I kill Gbonka? Why can’t I kill them all? Why am I so limited in what I can or cannot do? Where do I proceed from here?
I thought briefly about calling on my playmates, Chimeka, Asake and Bala, but I remembered their treachery, and I suffered a deep sense of loss. Abikus are not creatures that walked alone.
“I cannot stay for more than five years Gbonka. We choose the time of our death even before we are born. Time already has it down, signed with the sacrificial blood of our future human bodies. If I exceed that time, I will suffer a fate worse than death!” I said.
“You liar!” Gbonka face was wreathed in smiles. “I know the way of the Abiku. I have dedicated my life to studying your kind. You are not afraid of any ‘fate worse than death.’ What you are afraid of is demotion, loss of power… I’m sorry, I cannot accept your offer.” He said quite firmly, “Now if you’ll excuse me…”
“Don’t turn your back on me Gbonka!” I screamed
“But you can’t do anything to me Adunni. You are not Iku Aalumutu. You are a mere servant to Death, not a powerful spirit to be reckoned with.”
“I might not be able to kill you, but I swear to make your remaining days on earth miserable.” I felt quite calm as I said those words because I know I will.
“With what powers will you do that Adunni?”
I felt afresh that cold, the one that comes from loss of power, a loss of control over the circumstances surrounding me. Even this mere human being is daring me, pushing me. When a big insult trips you and lands you face down in the mud, smaller ones will walk all over you!
“You knew about this Gbonka, didn’t you? Asake came to you with her plans and you went along with it.” I prowled round him, looking for an opening, hoping he would let his guards down so I could hit him where it hurts the most.
“Asake did come to me, but I turned her down. It wasn’t until Ifa Olokun a s’oro d’ayo, spoke to me that I decided to fall in with her plans. I do not trust her further than I can throw her, and I like you. Okay let me not exaggerate. I don’t like you, or any of your ilk… but I respect you.” He paused and gave me a searching look.
“Do you know why I respect you even more? I’m sure you remember the incidence in 1976, when I came to you with a dying child in my arms, a child that everybody assumed was Abiku because his condition had defied all medicine and you helped heal that child… but you’ve not even mentioned it, not even when you are this desperate.”
He looked at me with something akin to a genuine smile. “You could have called in that favour you know and I wouldn’t have begrudged you of it.”
“You do not owe me anything Gbonka. I did it for the child, not you. Let’s go back. I guess we are done here.” I said, impatient to get back to my body.
That’s the trouble with being an Abiku. Your greatest powers are your greatest weaknesses. I had been born, so I have to be in constant contact with my mortal body, else my spirit will wither.
“Give my children 10 years. I’ll restore your ancient memory at 8 and in return you’ll give them a child and we can call it even,” Gbonka said quietly.
I went weak with relief. At least there’s a chance that Gbonka won’t earth me. I had no idea the bargain Asake had made with him. I suspect she has shown him where I hide my token, the one I buried just before I was born. That’s the only thing that links my mortal body to my spirit being and once Gbonka has it in his possession there’s nothing more I can do, to all intents and purposes. I would have become his slave. He can earth me, and I will have to live out my natural life.
At least with this bargain I’m sure I won’t have to die without anybody deifying me, for it is only when human beings die young that they become idols to their loved ones. All sins are forgiven. Death makes the young perfect.
In order to test how far Gbonka was willing to give leeway I laid down an offer.
“I will give your children 7 years of joy. You will restore my memory at 7 and I will give your children two healthy babies, a boy and a girl.”
“It’s a deal.” Gbonka said grimly.
To be continued……
NEXT ON EPISODE 04