Adunni has got to be the most miserable Abiku out there. From the moment she’s born into the Lamorin family, it’s be an unending string of disasters. But After Adunni’s destruction spree from last week, Mother Earth decides to take things into her hand. She’s convened a meeting by the River of Tears. Everyone—Adunni’s earthly family, her playmates, and other spirit beings—have gathered to figure out what went wrong. The best part is that the arch-enemies—Adunni and Asake—meet again. Enjoy!
Ebora must have used àféèrí, for we appeared, within the twinkling of an eye, in a blindingly white space. The thunderous noise of a waterfall met my ears as I reoriented myself.
As the gentle giant let go of my hand, I looked around and noted that we must be on a cumulus, one of those spaces where the skies and the earth met.
The waterfall must be the famed one fed by the River of Tears, the river itself fed by the tears human beings have shed through the centuries.
I heard the water was sweeter and headier than wine.
I was distracted from my contemplations by the arrival of others.
Off to my right were Chimeka, Bala and Asake (who was wearing a self-satisfied smile).
Seated on the waterfall was Mother Earth. She had chosen to appear in her human form, that of a tall, thick set, middle-aged woman. Her skin was the rich brown of a fertile soil. Her face was round and set off by high cheekbones that gave her eyes an Asian slant. Her hair was worn in long dada locks that flowed past her shoulders thickly and joined with the movement of the waters.
On her right hand-side was her most trusted servant, Ojola, whose outsized human head perched atop his snake body at a funny angle. Time was there too, a shriveled up old woman, whose eyes shone with mischief. The corners of her mouth were lifted with amusement.
Gbonka, father, mother (clutching the baby as if her life depended on it) and the two grandmothers were huddled together in a group off to my left.
“Thank you all for responding to my summons,” Mother Earth said. Her voice was soft and had a smoky tinge to it. I bet that voice tastes like coffee laced with Irish Cream.
I sniggered at her choice of words. Like one of us could have said ‘nah, I don’t want to be in your silly meeting,’ like we hadn’t been compelled!
“Enough of that Adunni! Your thoughts are darkening this space. Kindly control yourself,” Ojola ordered. Contrary to Ojola’s scary build, his voice was actually small, almost childlike, every syllable ending with a squeak.
What was he going to do? Swallow me? Eish!
Mother Earth sighed and continued talking, “Kindly sit down. We are all friends here. We are still waiting for two more beings, and then this meeting can start.”
I felt the edge of a cushion on the back of my legs and was forced to sit down, even though I didn’t have to. Spirit beings never tired. Having us sit was meant to put the humans at ease.
“Excuse me please,” Ruth Lamorin said after a while, “may I be so bold as to ask where we are, who we are talking to and how we may address this … umm …” She looked around, “assembly.”
“Oh I’m so sorry, please can you all kindly introduce yourselves?” Mother Earth bared her teeth at Ruth in the parody of a smile. Ruth must have managed to offend her.
The gods are so easily offended, I surmised.
“I’m Asiko, also known as Time. I’m here as an independent observer,” Time said as she morphed into a middle aged woman, mimicking Ruth’s slight body.
“I am Ojola Iberu,” Ojola said rattling his tail to emphasize his fierceness.
“Asake. I am one of Adunni’s playmates,” Madam Judas said.
In quick succession Bala and Chimeka introduced themselves.
“I am Adunni. I am Abiku, the creator and possessor of the child in Labake’s arms. I am also bemused.”
“Please Adunni, don’t start now,” Ojola squeaked.
“I am Ruth Lamorin,” Ruth rose up to introduce herself but Mother Earth waved her back to her seat.
“It is alright, everybody here knows who you and your people are. There’s no need for introductions. Concerning where we are. This the point where the physical realm meets the spiritual, agbede meji orun oun aiye, and I am Ile, the Earth Mother,” Mother Earth tilted her head towards Ruth.
“She’s the very ground you walk on,” Ojola squeaked, “she’s the Mother All, provider of all you will ever need. From her you take your sustenance and to her you return. She is everything you’ll ever need.”
I rolled my eyes, really? What about Eleduwa the Supreme One? What about Orun the skies on which we are presently standing, the controller of all the elements?
“Adunni, you shall conduct yourself with the gravity a being of your age and powers is expected to. Kindly stop darkening up this space.” Ojola said.
Ojola and the Abikus have never gotten along. Our penchant for gathering beautiful things around us disqualified him from our circle of friends. He is truly ugly. I wondered what Eleduwa was thinking when he made such an eyesore.
What’s the point to ugliness? As far as I’m concerned all ugly beings should not be. I know the gods go on about how inner beauty and purpose should determine the worth of a person and not their outer look, but the gods might as well gather the uglies into a special space and nurture them by themselves. Give me beauty, something nigh to perfection or give me nothing.
Like lightning Ojola slithered down the waterfalls and wrapped himself around me.
“I am not Ugly. You are the ugly one with your dying and waking like a cock, with your meanness, your awful treatment of human beings and any other form of life you believe is beneath you. Your arrogance makes you ugly!” His forked tongue flashed in and out of his mouth like greased lightning.
“Your eyes are pretty though.” I gasped.
“Bitch!” he squeaked nearly bursting my eardrums.
“Ojola! Adunni! Kindly control yourselves!” Mother Earth rapped out.
I shivered in revulsion as he slid off my body and slithered slowly back to its master.
“Not only are you ugly, Ojola, you also smell!” I yelled after him. I know I am being childish but, well, aren’t all Abikus? Aren’t we supposed to be petulant? To be perpetually child like in our happiness and anger, well, I am all these things.
I was trying to regain my composure when Elegbara flew in.
“You are late, Elegbara,” Mother Earth said.
“You were expecting me to be early? And have all of you miss this dramatic entrance?” Elegbara replied with a smile and kicked the man at her feet in the butt.
She dragged the cowering Edward towards the rest of his family.
“There’s no need for this!” Ojola, our self-appointed class prefect squeaked at Elegbara. “In this space, there’s no master, no vanquished, we are all equals.”
“Well if you had seen the disrespect he and his ‘prayer warriors’ showed me when I was trying to bring him here, you won’t be talking like this.” Elegbara said. “And if we are all equals, tell me why your mistress is seated on a waterfall, hair dramatically flowing in water. Queen of all she beholds.” She added.
Mother Earth ignored the jibe and turned to Edward, who was still curled into a fetal position at the spot where Elegbara had dropped him.
“Please rise up Isola Lamorin. We are all friends here. You don’t have to be scared. You may join your family.” Mother Earth materialised beside Edward and helped him up. Head still bent, Edward found a cushion as far away as possible from other members of his family and sat with his back towards them.
“Now that everybody is here, we will start the proceedings, and I think Adunni should be allowed to talk first.” Mother Earth said.
The cushion underneath me morphed into a hard wooden chair with a straight back. “I’m sorry but I have nothing to say. I still have no idea why I’m presently entangled in this drama. Aren’t the gods privy to the details of my birth to the Lamorin family?” I shrugged.
“Adunni,” Mother Earth said, “I understand your feelings, but I’d still like you to tell the assembled your own side of the story so that we can all make sense of this terrible, terrible entanglement.”
I wonder why she needed to pretend that she doesn’t understand what all this is about!
“I came to the end of my life/death cycle some years back and took a sabbatical. When it was time for me to return to the physical realm I called up files on different families available in the zone I had been assigned. Most of them I found boring, but the Lamorin’s kept popping up, due to Asake’s interest in them I decided to take a closer look.”
I knew I was rambling but I forged on.
“Anyway, I discovered that they are a young, childless couple. The father is a pastor’s son, the mother a witch’s daughter, neither had living grandparents.
“I also discovered that the reason they could not make children was because Gbenga Lamorin, the husband, had something wonky with his genes. He can pass on a deadly disease to any child made by him, therefore Nature had ensured that he won’t be able to conceive.”
“I decided such a couple would not only welcome a child for a few years, but would also mourn such a child deeply after he or she died, which suited me just fine. Which Abiku can ask for more? Give them three years of joy and a lot of heartache, then die. One can feed off their sadness for a long time. I would have become a god in their home!
“To my dismay, Mother, I found out today, after expending so much power to heal one of Gbenga’s seeds and implanting myself in Labake’s womb, that my findings were false. Not only did they have Gbonka, an old enemy of mine, they’ve had children, three Abiku’s to be exact!” I pointed an accusing finger at Asake.
“And I’m sure Asake has everything to do with messing up the information I got on them!” I bared my teeth at her and growled. She lifted an eyebrow and whispered something into Bala’s ear. The three laughed uproariously.
“Children, please … don’t,” Mother Earth said dispassionately.
“Asake.” She said, as my wooden chair returned to its original shape and Asake’s turned into a high wooden chair.
“Adunni is such a self-righteous little prig. I’ve observed her over the years, how she aped human beings. She would spend time choosing families as though she were some kind of royalty. She had all these lofty rules, like never dying in one family more than once. Tell me Mother, how are the humans supposed to acknowledge the presence of the Abiku and fear them appropriately if we don’t trouble a family, at least, three or four times!
“I am well known for afflicting my human mother until she has passed menopause, ensuring she never has any children. That is the way things have been done even before we came into being.
“While other Abikus die between birth and three years of age, Adunni is known to have the ability to die at 8 or 9years. What is her power source our mother? How is she able to create life? No other Abiku has that ability, and we are supposed to be equals. How come she’s more powerful than the rest of us?
“To worsen matters, some other Abikus have started copying her style of doing things, since she apparently gets away with things an average Abiku wouldn’t even dare dream of. Well, I thought I should do something to bring the trend to an end, Great Mother of All, and that’s why I did what I did.” Asake finished on a triumphant note.
“And what did you do?” Mother Earth asked.
“It was pretty simple. I bargained with Aroba, the history of mankind, to tinker a little with the information Adunni got about the Lamorins. Of course I did this with the full permission of the true head of that family, Gbonka.” Asake said.
“May I say something?” Gbonka asked politely from the sidelines.
“Oh yes you may,” Mother Earth smiled at him fondly.
“Your Highness, Mother All, first off I’d like to thank you for giving me the opportunity to see you in the glory of your beauty while I’m yet alive. thought I would only see you when I exchange my physical body for a spiritual one.” Gbonka bowed to her.
Mother Earth’s smile widened.
“Ah Gbonka, I can see you’ve not lost your charm after all these years.” She batted her thick lashes flirtatiously at him. “I’m looking forward to having you with me soon.” Then she turned all business, “Kindly tell us what you know of this whole mess.”
“Asake came to me close to a year ago. She wanted to teach Adunni a lesson but needed my permission to tinker with our family history. When I expressed doubts about the efficacy of her plans seeing that tinkering with the past usually ended up affecting the future, she assured me there’ll be no mishap. She had struck a deal with Aroba. He’d simply remove a part of our history and replace it after the scheme is completed.”
“History is like a rubber band. I simply expanded their truth to fit in with my truth and as soon as Adunni was born, Aroba removed my truth from theirs.” Asake interrupted him.
“Thank you for the interruption Asake,” Ojola’s voice dripped ice.
“She then showed me my grandson and all the trouble he’d been going through concerning childlessness,” Gbonka continued, “she reminded me that Adunni was a powerful Abiku and that she could heal my grandson. She promised to show me where Adunni buried her token of transformation each time she was born. Once I had that token, I could then entrap her, make her totally human or bargain for my son’s healing with it.
“When I asked her what she was getting out of the whole deal, Asake said she wanted nothing more than to see her mate fall flat on her face. I turned her down, not because I was not tempted to earth another Abiku, something I am well known for. It was something more personal. At that point in my life I was estranged from my son and his own son. I also knew how fervent a Christian my son was. He’s the pastor of one of the biggest churches in the country! I doubted I would be able to reach out, no matter what my grandson was going through.”
“But that night, Ifa Olokun a s’oro d’ayo spoke to me. He told me that I should join Asake in her vendetta, for it is inside the black pot that the white pap emerges. There is good within evil. That’s how I accepted Asake’s offer. Although, typical of an Abiku and their penchant for not keeping promises, she’s yet to show me where Adunni buried her token. Your royal highness, it wasn’t up to 24hrs after I told Asake she could fiddle with my family history that my grandson turned up at my door.”
Fascinating stories, but where is this leading? When am I getting punished? I just want this over with.
Ruth Lamorin stepped forward.
“Mother All, all these is not Asake’s fault, and it’s not my dear granddaughter’s fault. The root of all our problems is my husband, Edward, yes him! He’s a sly one, the crooked stick messing up the firewood stand.”
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.