Duke was ready in no time, dressed to kill in his navy blue suit and cream shirt and a white striped red bowtie. Mary had taken her time to iron the clothes properly. She even applied powder to his nose and brushed his eyebrows. All that touching put him on edge, but he endured it because he wanted to dress up for daddy. When they were don, Mary called for his breakfast and helped him eat just enough so that he would be able to save space for the food and iced cream that he would want to have. When all was ready; he stood in front of the mirror and checked himself out.
“I look really nice Mary”
He said. Turning around and acting like a sort of model. She laughed lightly and pulled his nose gently.
“Yes you do… yes you do”
She looked at him and remembered one child she had known. One child a long time ago. He had been like him too, he didn’t know quite as much a duke knew, nor did he have the special issues that duke had, he was just a boy. Just a boy.
It was late in the evening. The whole community had been warned by the priest of an impending danger. A spirit would possess a person and when the people saw this person, they would know. This was the third of such prophecies in four years and Mary knew what it meant. Someone was about to be made a victim. Someone was about to face the wrath of the gods. The stream had decided to flow red today and Mary wondered whose turn it was to feed it.
That evening, the streets were deserted. Everyone stayed in their houses; the trees that used to boast of a lot of children playing under them were all alone and looked strangely bare and naked. The playgrounds looked striped and the little village itself seemed to have had life snuffed out of it. Sometime around 7pm, the town got shocked by the cries of Dugo, Mary’s step mother. She was in the middle of the courtyard, screaming at the top of her voice and jumping into the air with surprising agility for a woman of her size, she would then slam herself on the floor. Her wrapper came off and her breasts flapped around in the wake of the perilous rampage of emotions that ravaged her body. She was doing all this about one foot away from the body of a small boy of about five. He lay on the ground, naked too. A small mound of child feces was a few inches from his body. His throat was slit from ear to ear and he seemed like he had been drained of all blood. He was her first son. She had had three girls successively before him and had had to go and pray specially to get him. She had carried three sacrifices and had spent a lot of naira on cockerels and male cats.
Now he was dead, the meat of the deity. The river had taken its choice.
Dugo wept like no tomorrow, she would not be consoled.
“Hei!” she continued to scream
“Why me!!! What did I ever do wrong?”
She wept nonstop.
Before long, people had gathered around her and they all had a word to say.
“Sorry nno, the river has claimed her price”
“Ewwuuuuu, stop crying, you will have more sons. At least we now know that it’s not your loins that are incapable of producing sons.”
“ it’s okay dugo, calm down , e don do… last twenty years it was my sister… ill never forget” another volunteered.
They had all tried to console her, but dugo would not be consoled. It was not in the habit of the river to take small children. Usually, it was adults that the river took and people always had one thing or the other to claim they knew about the victim that was bad, or evil. Now that the river was taking children, everyone knew that they should not allow their children out on the nights of the deity.
Mary was there, she watched as the people cried and sympathized with Dugo. She watched as the men took the boy’s body and went to bury him; she would not dare tell anyone what else she had seen. She would not dare. Her eyes had seen evil and she had feared for a very long time afterwards that she would die too.
To be continued soon