The smell of sooth and agedness filled my nostrils the moment I walked further into the room. I could hear my footsteps echo slightly as the flickering flames from the hurricane lamp cast a hideous outline of my shadow on the old dirty wall. I sat on the bed which seemed to sag immediately and the bed floor groaned due to my weight. I just hope this will be able to carry me throughout the night I thought aloud. Roaming my eyes round the room, I lay back on the bed and my head hit something which startled me instantly. Swiftly I turned to flash the faint light of my phone screen. It was a stack of pictures wrapped in an old leather bag…..so I took it and unwrapped the pics.
They were old family pictures inwhich some looked faded. But they told a lot about the family Kemi came from. In some of the pictures I could spot out little Kemi in her 7th year of age and her teenage. But still in those pictures was the constant reappearance of frail light skin boy and another girl (who looked older than Kemi) with a striking resemblance to her. I could guess the girl in the picture was Kemi’s dead sister, Bimbo. But I couldn’t tell who the boy was and Kemi had never mentioned anything concerning a brother to me. Flipping through the pack of old pictures, I stumbled across the picture of Iya Bimbo in her youthful age, looking so beautiful. She was a typical look alike of her 2nd daughter Kemi. Age had just got the better side of her presently. Then my eyes fell on the picture of a short bald headed man, whom I deduced was a native doctor. He had the full regalia of an African traditional priest, with a long red robe which was adorned with cowries. Feeling my eyes getting heavy with sleep, I let the stack of pictures fall of my grasp as I crashed to the bed and drifted into slumberland.
???Few Hours Later???
A light tap to my thighs got me startling awake as I smacked my lips in the aftermath of my post nocturnal snores. I jerked awake to find Kemi seated on the bed facing me with a lovely smile on her lips.
“Goodmorning baby” she greeted.
“Hey….Goodmorning” I responded.
Then her eyes hovered to the scattered pictures beside me. She picked them up gently, looking at them with her brows creased. Then she focused on the picture of the light skin teenage boy. I noticed the expression on her face turn gloomy and I sat up swiftly.
“What is it Kemi?” I asked.
She passed the photograph to me and said : “That’s Gbenga, my younger brother….but dead anyway”
I was shocked.”Dead??….How??
“Ggenga was an Abiku” she stated.”What you Igbos call Ogbange……died on his 13th birthday”
“So sorry for the loss baby”
She giggled softly but out of self pity, “That’s alright dearie” she said. Then I asked her who the medicine man I had seen in the photograph was, and she replied: “That’s baba Agba in his younger self. He’s actually my uncle from my father’s side”
“Really??….But you never told me” I said. I was surprised she came from a family of herbalists. And she laughed mysteriously.
“There are certain things you are yet to know about me” she said in half whisper while I looked at her with wide eyes. Then she leaned forward to kiss me softly on the lips.
“Come have breakfast in the sitting room” she purred into my ears, “Iya mi is waiting” before getting off the bed, and cat-walking out of the room.
By noon we set off to see baba Agba on foot. Never had I trekked such a distance under the scorching western sun. We walked passed through bush tracks, passing other villages and coming into a wide wilderness. What surprised me was Kemi’s agility as we made the journey ahead; and throughout that trek her demeanour changed. At a point I couldn’t continue again as my feet hurt and I crouched to catch my breath, panting.
“Hurry up naa, this omo ibo sef!” she yelped.”We don’t have all day”.
I was too worn out to reply her, so I cast her a defiant look and got back on my feet as we continued our journey. Finally we arrived before a forest which looked sparsely vegetated with great tall trees, and the forest floor was covered with dead brown leaves. Then Kemi turned to face me.
“This is the place” she stated formally.
I looked around the vicinity, trying to peer into the trees in front, but couldn’t make out any headway because of the cascading shadows of the trees which veiled the horizon. I had to admit it all looked creepy. But I was used to such environment. At least our fraternity meetings were held in forests and i had come to terms with it. Leading the way, Kemi beckoned on me to follow her and I strutted behind her as we entered the woods, feeling the dry leaves crunch under our feet.
Within minutes we got to a very big alcove right upon the glades of the forest, and there were red clothes tied around the alcove, marking a portion of it as sacred. Lining up in two rows were wooden torches, stuck to the ground as their flames seemed to create a mirage as we approached. Within the feather splattered alcove was a stout old medicine man (dressed in black and red) whom I guessed to be in his late 60s. He turned towards our direction the moment he heard the rustlings of leaves and his eyes met mine in a flash. Suddenly he cried out:
“O nran pelu mesan aye!”
I stood transfixed staring in confusion because my mind couldn’t comprehend the language. As if to come to my aid Kemi muttered to me quietly:
“He said you’re the cat with nine lives”
“Cat with nine lives??” I turned to Kemi in bewilderment.
“Yes!…….he must have envisioned something about you”.
Then the man swooped out of the alcove shrine picking his staff which had a baby’s skull on it, and danced for a while before turning abruptly to face us. That was when Kemi knelt down in obeissiance and greeted him. And i, out of experiences from movies I had seen, I prostrated before the old babalawo. He then beckoned on us to sit down on two stools which had legs of miniature effigies. From then onwards, all the old man said was interpreted by Kemi as I sat watching the old man chant his incantations while my mind wandered on so many obscurities.
To Be Continued…