Last week, we left Adunni and Gbonka at Erin-Ijesa Falls. They’d struck a deal. Gbonka swore he won’t prevent Adunni from dying. Adunni, our embattled Abiku, was now in the clear.
But how will they find their way back home? Adunni has no more powers left. She’s spent every bit on àféèrí—folding time. If she fails to return to her mortal body, she could be forever lost in the cosmic void.
But that’s only half of it. There are evil creatures always on the look out for vulnerable spirits like herself to destory. Adunni and Gbonka find they must stick together or perish.
I had used àféèrí to transport Gbonka and me to Erin Ijesa. It’s a simple but powerful tool— the folding of time and space, the same way you might bring together the edges of a cloth to make it smaller. I tried using it again but there wasn’t enough energy to pull it off, so my attempt resulted in a blast.
The hills shook and precariously balanced rocks fell off cliffs. Although I was able to speak calmly to the physical realm, I had unfortunately made the spirit beings dwelling in Erin Ijesa aware of our presence.
I quickly unwound the white cloth I was wearing and threw it around Gbonka and myself, a protection that helped us dematerialize even further, shielding us from prying eyes.
Gbonka watched dispassionately as I went through the motions.
“So how are you getting back?” He said, making it clear that he could return to his own body at will.
“You are really enjoying this, old man.” I growled at him, all the while scrolling through my memory for another way of returning us to my house while expending as little power as possible.
“Oh yes, I am. But you’re resourceful, so I’m not all that bothered.” He said.
I was taken by surprise when he twirled into a rainbow and launched himself into the air, breaking through our protection.
I sighed in frustration as he gambolled through the skies.
I felt the approach of some Egberes, bloody banshees! They can smell disaster a million miles off.
Egberes are the parasites of the spirit world, they get their powers from feeding off higher beings like me and once they start their unearthly caterwauling, they would attract more of their type and before you knew it they would swarm and suck every drop of power out of you.
I quickly pulled Gbonka back into the tent and doubled the protection around us.
“Why in the world did you do that?” I yelled at him as soon as he settled back into his human form.
“Why shouldn’t I? I love being out of the wreck my body has become,” he reeled around the small tent my cloth had become, drunk on freedom, “I did it! I became a rainbow! And I didn’t even have to use my own powers.”
“You fed off me!” I felt a sense of satisfaction as I smacked him to the ground.
I growled at him.
“Are you planning to kill me now?” He giggled.
“You are a fool for not being afraid of me Gbonka!” I whispered, putting a lot of force into my words, he grabbed his head in pain.
The Egberes had started wailing. They tore at the protective cover around us. I would either have to face them or wait until they attacked us and destroyed my cloth in the process. I threw off the cloth and assumed my most fierce form, that of a jackal, bigger than any Jackal had the right to be, and launched an attack.
I felled three Egberes with my first leap and savaged them till they turned to dust.
I felt some Egberes tearing at me from behind. I bucked and threw them off. In the same motion, I landed on them and tore them apart. I heard a blast. Gbonka was holding his own with incantations.
“I call on the mothers of the earth to lend me their powers
The ones that eat up the brain through the arm
The ones that eat up the heart through the kidneys …”
As Gbonka chanted, he released rolls of fire from his fingers and burnt a batch of Egbere coming from behind us into cosmic ashes.
We backed each other in order to prevent the Egberes from swarming us from behind. They formed a tight circle around us. Even as we dispatched them in threes and fours, more of them emerged from the earth itself.
They salivated and ran their grotesque tongues round their blood red lips—a contrast to their chalk white coloring—in anticipation.
Neither one of us spoke a word to each other, but we worked in tandem, widening the circle of destruction. If Egberes weren’t spirit beings the ground would be littered with dead bodies.
After a while Gbonka cried out, “We need more back up. My fire is decreasing in intensity!”
Although I could feel my energy draining, I didn’t say a word but kept up the attack. My eyes were blood red and my ears roared. After a while, the hills emptied. I gratefully sank to my knees and was about to change form when a fresh wave of Egbere swarmed over the rocks.
I was about to give in and call for help from my playmates when my familiar, Asa, swooped in from the skies. I changed into a thought and dashed into Asa’s mind, without any prompting, Gbonka followed me in.
“Adunni’s mortal body is calling!” Ricocheted around the hawk’s mind as it took flight.
As Asa flew us home, I finally allowed weakness to overwhelm me. I just lay there, drained and empty of all thoughts except the desperate need to get back to my mortal body.
I turned my head and watched Gbonka as he basked in the thrill of being a passenger in Asa’s mind. He stretched out his arms as if he could feel the wind beneath his wings. I know how glorious that feeling is, so I stepped back and allowed him to control the thoughts of my familiar, to see through those sharp eyes, to fly like he would never fly again, to enjoy being the hunter and not the prey that he is.
I want him to see the smallness of the world he believes is so special, so big.
A world he foolishly believes can be saved from itself.
The city, the street, then, the house, came into sharp focus.
I took over the reins of Asa’s mind and smirked as Gbonka wept like a child whose lollipop had just been snatched from him.
That moment was most satisfying. Give them a taste of real power then take it away from them just as they are getting used to it.
Vindictive? Yes I Am.
We zoomed into the house and the hawk dropped us in bedlam.
People were shouting and running in and out of the sitting room. They had been unfrozen.
Will this day never end?
I groped for my mortal body and dived in.
“Bloody Time ran out on me,” I fumed as I merged with Jesutitofunmi, “I’m sure we were away for less than ten minutes. The fool!”
I absorbed every atom of love that had been lavished on Jesutitomi while I had been away. I eventually felt strength returning to me as my eyes cleared, and I was finally able to see through her eyes.
“I want everybody to leave this room!” Ruth Lamorin’s voice was barely above a whisper, but it ushered panic out of the sitting room.
“Grandpa will be alright,” She reassured a woman who hesitated on the threshold and shut the door in her face.
Father was bent over a supine Gbonka while my mother was screaming her head off.
“She has stopped breathing! She’s dead and it’s your fault Gbenga. Jesutitofunmi!” Mother shook my body over and over again.
I harnessed the energy of her fears and converted it into enough strength to let out an ear shattering wail.
“Will you quit the noise?” Ruth admonished my Mother whose crying increased with every wail out of my lungs. “There is nothing wrong with the baby. She was probably asleep. Now you’ve gone and woken her up.” She took me out of my mother’s arms and rocked me gently.
“I could have sworn that her heartbeats stopped just a minute ago.” A subdued mother said.
“It’s all the drama, Labake. In fact you need to lie down. You must be tired from all this.” Ruth beckoned at my mother, “let’s go to your room while these ones attend to grandpa.”
“Are you sure we don’t need to call a doctor?” Mother said looking at me anxiously. Gbonka was the least of her worries. I grabbed her pinkie and yawned widely.
“No Labake we don’t. A child whose lungs are that strong does not need the attentions of a doctor. Believe me. I’ve raised three children and know a little about them,” Ruth said as she walked briskly into Mother’s room.
She gently laid me in my bassinet and plugged my mouth with a sucker.
Although it was tempting to simply lie there and allow all that lovely warmth to flow through me, I slipped out of my body, all tiredness gone.
If my parents only knew the things I get up to. If anybody had told them they had been frozen and taken out of Time, that the baby cooing gently two rooms away had been engaged in a terrifying battle with unearthly beings a few minutes ago, they would have snorted in derision.
I flitted through the closed door into the sitting room.
“Why, in the world, are you kissing me?” Gbonka, sat up and wiped his mouth in mock disgust.
“I- I-I was giving you – umm, a mouth to mouth resuscitation.” My father stuttered.
“I was only teasing you Gbenga,” Gbonka laughed, “I’m an old man now and sometimes my spirit slips out of my body. I am alright.”
Edward joined Gbenga to lift Gbonka up. Gbonka looked into the eyes of his son for the first time in 40 years. His son the stranger, a man he had only seen on television in recent times. He shook off Edward’s arms.
“I can still walk, Isola,” he said as he sat down on the nearest couch.
An uncomfortable silence filled the room and so did a dark blue cloud, the type created when people were thinking about depressing things.
Gbonka was thinking about how he ought to be savoring his moment of triumph. But all he felt was sadness. He had won, but had lost too much in the process.
He remembered how Isola had interrupted the annual Ifa festival that was being held in his house. That was the last day he had seen him. Not only had Isola been ranting about Jesus and the fact that they were all worshipping false gods, he had informed him and his acolytes that they were all going to the burning fires of hell if they did not ‘repent’ and ‘be born again’ (the last bit had Gbonka puzzled for almost ten years). If not for the strong young men who had held him back, Isola would have smashed the carvings of gods, which had been in the grove for centuries, into smithereens.
Gbonka shriveled up inside each time he recollected the look of revulsion on Isola’s face when he had tried to calm him down.
Edward Lamorin, on his part, was struggling between the feeling of shame at the way he’d neglected his father and indignation at how his own son was treating him. It was Ruth’s fault!
“Father, let me make one thing clear, I will not have you butting into my business. I might be your son, but I’m also an adult. I have chosen my path and won’t have you pontificating at me in my own house.” My father broke the silence.
Just then a woman entered the room, swaying her wide hips seductively. It was my maternal grandmother, my alomo-drinking, codeine-swilling, kola-chewing, life-loving maternal grandmother.
The heart of every party she attended, she was an unrepentant witch who hounded my gentle grandfather to an early grave.
Her skin was all scrunched up. She was the red/green color of a woman who had abused her dark skin with bleaching potions for years.
“I wanted to find out if you gentlemen wanted anything to eat.” She twinkled at them.
A veteran flirt, she naturally assumed the role of a coquette whenever there was a man within a mile. She flashed them her gold plated teeth.
“No thanks,” they murmured in unison.
Iya Labake stared hard at the corner of the room where I was lurking. I knew she could see me, but not as clearly as Gbonka could.
“I see we have a visitor,” she smiled at Gbonka as she approached him.
Gbonka threw me a dark look at me.
“You should stop lurking about and settle in your body.” He addressed me.
“I knew it!” Edward Lamorin exclaimed, happy to have something to distract him from the dismal turn his thoughts had taken. “I sensed the presence of unclean spirits in this house as soon as I stepped in!”
“Shabalaba gboukzi! Robotobokobo!” Edward launched into prayers, his arms outstretched. Sweat popped out all over his face which was squeezed into a mask uglier than any demon I have seen.
I burst into laughter. Edward may think he’s all powerful, but I know otherwise.
“All ye unclean spirits that have taken residence in this abode, I bind you and cast you out in Jesus Name! For it is written that I shall step on snakes and scorpions and it shall not harm me! I drown this house in the blood of Jesus!” He went on and on. Father made to stand up at a point but Gbonka held him back.
“Amen!” Mama Labake echoed.
As she joined him in prayers, she shook her head from side to side, in a frenzy, her ginormous behind shook along with her. Gbonka’s eyes were glued to the shaking mass of flesh. They followed her from one end of the room to the other, like a ping-pong ball, as she took to pacing the room lengthwise.
“Fire!” Edward shouted.
Not one to be left behind on such occasions my grandmother screamed ‘fire!’ in response, knelt down, her behind nearly in Gbonka’s face, and intensified the shaking.
Edward’s prayers attracted the faithful still busy stuffing their face with food they couldn’t allow to go to waste. The room rapidly filled up with people speaking in tongues, casting out demons and shouting loud ‘amens’ to his prayers.
Gbonka relaxed in the comfortable armchair he was seated in and drooled incestuously at his in-law’s arse, while father had his head buried between his arms.
Thirty minutes later, they were still at it. Mama Labake winked at Gbonka as she rose languidly from her kneeling position. She kept up a flow of ‘fires’ and ‘amens’ as she exited the room, half expecting Gbonka to follow after her. He didn’t.
After a while, I got bored with the whole show and slipped back into my body. It was feeding time!
I latched onto Mother’s nipple and suckled as if I’d never eaten before. While my physical body was being fed with milk, my real self was feeding on unconditional love. Nectar and ambrosia, food fit only for the gods.
If only the ignorants yelling off their heads in the other room knew how much power they held in their hearts. If only they knew that love is the only prayer they could ever need.
Restlessness got hold of me once I was burped, so I slipped into the sitting room again. I can’t deny that I love the endless drama human beings can generate from the most mundane of things.
“Thanks so much, dad, for that prayer session, you may leave now.” Father said after the last ‘fire burn them’ and ‘amens’ died down.
“What?” My grandfather ejaculated.
“You heard me correctly father, you should be at peace now that you’ve chased every single blood sucking demon out of my house.” Father rose up.
My grandfather pointed a shaky finger at my great-grandfather.
“You caused this! It’s your fault!”
“Isola, when will you learn to own your mistakes?” Gbonka’s voice was full of sadness. He turned to my father, “Gbenga, apologize to your father. We need to end this cycle now.”
“I’m sorry dad. You may stay for as long as you like.” Gbenga prostrated at his father’s feet.
“It’s alright, but I shall be leaving all the same. I don’t think I’m needed here.” Edward suddenly looked old and tired. “Where’s your mother?” he asked, looking everywhere but at Gbenga and Gbonka.
“She’s probably in the room with Labake.” Father said.
“I’m here.” Ruth Lamorin said from the doorway, “and I’m not going with you. I will be staying for the earthing rites.”
“Not you too Ruth. I need you.” Edward said to his wife.
“No you don’t need me Isola. You need Jesus, and I need to be with my granddaughter.” Ruth said as she exited the room.
Edward Lamorin caved into himself and howled in pain.
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.