Monday, September 4, 2017

DARK TALES OF KATUNGA by Omoruyi Uwuigiaren.

As the night took her place in the scheme of things, bats paraded the outside world. They grabbed their meals from the restaurant for the evening. The mammals ate with a streak of meanness as if there was no tomorrow. The frightening movement of rats on a lazy evening to escape the ugly blows of their adversaries was a torture to the creatures tormented by the unjust manipulations of nightfall. At daybreak, mischief withdrew from the street and rested on the bosom of sudden death.
           In the perilous night, I could hardly see beyond my little nose. No thanks to our mutual friends, the stars and the moon that were a shadow of themselves. Their dismal presence on the bare chest of the sky wrote frustration on the face of the old earth. Weaker than a drudge under the spell of sleep, they took cover like a militia in the wood. The gloomy monuments stood on the belly of the wandering cloud. It was dark.
          However, I was yet to succumb to the onslaught of sleep. The dutiful friend taller than my pair of legs was yet to hit my world when a large mysterious bird gifted with human head perched on the roof. The beast looked grave and rugged. The form was silent and his large almond eyes glowed crimson both frightening and beautiful at the same time. I did not need a prophet to tell me his belch could kill a dove.
          I was startled when I heard the strange sound up there, but a weak glance was all I could offer the direction the predator landed. Soon after, I threw the distraction behind and buried my face on my mattress that has turned yellow with age, because the noise walked into silence as I drew breath. I concluded a bad weather was at work. May be the terrible hands of a hellish storm dropped something from the street on my roof.
          My world stumbled into a deafening silence as I waited patiently for the warm hands of sleep to swallow me. If I begin that journey, my world would be at rest until the morning breeze set me on my feet again.
          However, the beastly predator on the roof smiled a little as if it would cost him nothing to close the eyes of men upon the light of this world. No doubt, he was out to make life difficult for his prey, and possibly feed the meal with devastating blows. Then he buried his hand into his side and brought out a club with enchanted spikes of six inches long or more. He rode few steps forward and let go a yawn that took some time to mix with the air. While he gazed at the lazy sky with a lively interest, an owl emerged from the evening’s shadow and perched calmly on the other side of the roof. He threw a weak glance at the predator at the other end and beautified his face with a smile that was good as gold. Though the night was dead, yet it was difficult to know that such a monstrous figure had hit the roof. Owl rubbed his hands together and called out. “Maggof, I hope you remember our plans?”
          “Of course, I do,” Maggof nodded with a withering smile. He continued,  “Although, I do not intend to waste this chance. When I am through with him, his world will be a bloody mess!”
          Owl rode few steps nearer and threw out his question. “Do you intend to Kill him tonight?” 
          “I will if I have my way. But that was not our plan.” Maggof shrugged, “I don’t see any wrong in killing if it will make a foul toad pay for disobedience.”
          Owl yawned as if he had dozed off a minute and said, “We shall stick to our initial plans, Maggof. We have no time. Others will soon join the party.” Then he walked to the far left and peered down. “Who will go first?” He asked and returned to Maggof who clenched his fist and rested the club on his broad and intimidating shoulder. 
          “I will,” Maggof declared.
          “Remember, this drama must not end tonight. Only Arad and Kalendah can decide the boy’s fate. You have my word.”
           Maggof nodded almost a million times as his grip tightened on the club. As Owl whose head was bad as a poorly decorated coffin watched, Maggof pounced into the air and disappeared.
       I was eager to put the day behind me, but sleep could not take its toll. May be the dearest friend traveled to a far country and missed his way home. Immediately I faced the wall in anticipation that I would soon rest easy on the bosom of sleep, something strange rode into my abode. It strolled in under the nose of the darkness that stood as a giant troll in my world. It hit my house and it quaked as if doomsday had finally struck.
          My heart sank as I sat up and glanced over the darkness to see what was lurking. My brown piggy eyes could only behold a quiet blackness, which wrapped itself around the home circumstance made me her proud owner.
          As soon as the air was still, I drowned my fears and concluded the rats in my ugly heaven caused the disturbance. May be the little devils stumbled on themselves while devouring what the night brought on their rickety tables. I left a yawn in the air and lay down quietly.
          Not long after, I heard disturbing footsteps approaching me. Initially, I thought it was a rat that plucked up the spirit to venture under my bed to find fortune on such a cold night. Thereafter, a second thought flew into my head that a man burst in wielding an extraordinary axe and came for my neck! I stomped out of sleep to get myself out of the confusion. My eyes shot back and forth to make sure I was safe and no devil was lurking.
          The atmosphere was tense as if treachery hung in the air.  Since there was no proof of a devil’s presence, I threw the antecedent behind and concluded the rats in my abode were taking advantage of my good nature to rob me of a comfortable sleep. They must go! A cat will get me out of this bloody mess.
          While I was pondering how I could get a cat, the footsteps stumbled out of silence and began to descend on the face of the old earth as wreckage leaves a kingdom in rubles. As the steps persisted, it dawned on me something more than a rat had hit my confused world. To be safe from a devilish zap, I hurriedly sat up and adjusted my eyes towards the direction the footsteps were coming. I was yet to come to terms with the reality of a bizarre night when a large bird from the present darkness pounced on me and knocked me over. 
          I whined like a miserable dog under the devil as he fed me with filthy blows. As I fought with my life in my mouth, he frustrated me with a dose of his treachery and I yelled as if I had crushed my hand against the anvil. I had no choice than to fight back. I returned a couple of blows so I could taste freedom, but it seemed I was battling with the wind. As the frustration mounted, I groaned under him. It appeared I sat on a needle and was dying of the pain.
          As he inflicted more pains, I sank a blow into his wrinkled face. My knuckle complained as if it had landed on a concrete. My hands were the only weapon available, so I had no choice but to use them. Not long after, I conquered the monster. I landed a devastating blow on his neck. The mysterious creature tumbled down. He fell into the warm hands of the darkness and disappeared. I had no strength left in me.
          Panting like a couple of terrified lizards, I looked in every direction. However, was unable to see beyond my little nose, because the present darkness hindered me. When it dawned on me I must light up my world, I searched for the oil lamp I inherited from my late father. All effort to get the lantern hit a brick wall, for the local piece was wallowing in the heart of the present darkness. As I approached the intimidating darkness, I ran into a beehive of activities. The darkness harbored mischievous faces. One that tribal marks sat on his wicked face buried a slap into my confused face. I almost lost my footing as his dose of treachery left me scrabbling for safety. Initially, I thought he was a beanpole—a tall thin fellow I could easily decide by the mere wave of the hand.
          However, when I regained my footing and he rode few steps nearer, I saw a frightening figure whose lips were hidden under a heavy line of a mustache. He rends the air with wicked laughter and said his name was Voten. The devil slightly tanned, endowed with wavy ginger hair and a heavy roman nose made him looked like a motivated human destroyer and a four-fisted wrecking bull.
          As soon as he clenched his fist, my legs quaked under me and my heart sank. Since Voten was too close for comfort, I took some cautious backward and established a distance that would be difficult for his blows to reach me if he eventually unleashes his evil. As Voten flexed his muscles, his right shoulder twitched constantly as if jerking up to swat a fly off his ear. It was measured to drown my courage and feed me with confusion and fear. He had his way, for my heart of hearts died within me. As the devil fixed a wicked look on me, Owl, the horrible bird with human hands emerged from my roof. As soon as he touched the Earth, he threw a withering smile at me. But I frowned and turned away as if I have what it takes to stomach his onslaught. I did not consider the Owl a threat to my life; for I was optimistic, I would decision him as I did to the other creature that succumbed to my devastating blows. However, I was dazed. The large bird I thought had walked into silence did not die. The foul toad stood behind one of the fiends in my embattled world.
          Before I could blink, Voten roared and room quaked underneath us. Everyone, including his godless people staggered here and there. Those who could not hold their own almost fell like a pack of cards. As I put my pair of legs in order, the big man broke into a swift speed. Approaching me to crush me against the wall that has turned yellow with age. Before he could get to where I was, I took a decision that would give my neck the opportunity to carry me another day – a timely decision that I poorly executed – I threw myself off his path and landed awkwardly on my bed. The fall almost robbed me of my waist that was yet to experience the challenging matrimonial trial of manhood. Zambuk, one of the devils in the intimidating darkness whose head is as small as Boston baked beans, rich in beauty, pounced on me and sank a blow into my side. I gave up my pride and elicited an agonized cry! He almost cracked my ribs as he returned to his place near Maggof who nodded as if what I have gotten so far was just a dose of their cruelty. So they fixed their eyes on me. May be they wanted to know what would become of me after the attack of the diminutive creature that has left me in agony.
          In a situation like this, my life is all I have to fight for. Trouble is part of life. Death has a beautiful seat in the world of men. It is necessary to die in order to rub shoulders with the people in the other world. But as for me, I had just started my journey. My death is still some poles away. It is not lurking in my corridors. Painfully, at such a tender stage, I have found myself in the vicious world of bloodthirsty agents! I rather fight and die for what I stand for. I should be free to chart my course. Free to celebrate my life, free to choose my way. They want to take advantage of my little beginning.
However, I managed to pull myself on my feet and ran my eyes where Voten had run against. Surprisingly, there was no crack. No sign that a man of his stature went through the walls. The big man must have disappeared like a vapor immediately he got to the wall. I became perplexed and found it difficult to come out of my confusion. Where is he? I could not figure out where he ran into. I fought hard with my thought as if I have been plagued with a dim memory. So I turned to the other devils that were watching as if they were hired to celebrate my fall! It was at this juncture when it dawned on me that it would require more than flesh and blood to subdue the melee.
          Before I could recover from the shock, one of them shouted, “Fool, you have seen nothing yet!” 
“Do not call me a fool!” I protested with a quivering voice. “What have I done to deserve all these?”
          Zambuk cleared his throat and said, “Edwin, sometimes we are not better than what people say we are. Though it is good to be cheerful, but not to a fault. It is when your smile starts hurting people that one is counted a fool or one odd creature from hell. If you give a fool a much longer rope, he will eventually hang himself. You are a fool. Do you know who killed your father? You never bothered to find out what killed him.”
          “I don’t need to make any investigation. I know you killed him. That is why you also want me dead. But I must tell you, you cannot eat your cake and have it. You cannot have your way in my life, scoundrels!” I expressed myself as if I have an antidote to quench their fiery darts. Then the bird I fought earlier, chuckled, rode few steps forward and said, “I am Maggof. You sound like one who has not learned his lessons. I am sure you are bewitched. Painfully, I don’t grant people like you the luxury of drying. I punished them until they see arrogance as one deadly weapon they must not give a breathing space. You are arrogant. And I don’t like that. My cohorts know I talk about it with a little pinch of salt. You have not learned your lessons.”
          “I have no lessons to learn from blood sucking entities whose bones will be cracked by fallen master in hell!” I replied angrily.
One of the fiends in the extreme cleared his throat and said, “Edwin…Poor orator, the kingdom is not in words but in power. Anyway, sometimes people tend to put up an act of sheer bravado to hide their lack of confidence. May be that is what you’re trying to do.” After he said that, he breathed out a fire to scare me. I fearfully threw myself backward. They burst into laughter, almost falling on themselves. As I stood like a celebrated fool whose duty is to merry the heart of a dwarf king, Owl threw his hand into the air. The signal buried the uproar. He took some cautious steps forward and said, “Edwin, I will be forced to call you a beggar – they are people who are not good choosers. That is why we are here to guide you into the path we want you to follow. You don’t have to make any choice. It is useless to do that now because you can not bear the consequences of biting the fingers that feed you.” He took a deep breath and continued, “You either return to the shrine where your ancestor began or enjoy the afflicted meals we shall serve you henceforth! I swear, I would have given your neck to the bald vultures if I have my way. But you are still alive because Arad and Kalendah, whom you are starving at the moment are in need of you.” Thereafter, he threw his hands into the air, a large screen opened before us. Right in it was a four-headed monster feasting on corpses that littered an open field. One head was like that of a man who does not trust anything that moves without eating grass. The other neck carried the head of a lion while the rest were that of a python that had the natural instinct to grant his prey the epistle of death. I trembled at the sight of the large tropical snakes that were winding their long bodies around their preys and conveniently swallowing them. When he realized that my face carried enough information about a fellow that was already besieged by fear, he said, “These people were once arrogant like you. You can see where that ended them. They were buried in the stomach of Kalendah! So what do you have to say, boy? The ball is now in your court!” Owl concluded, rubbing his hands gleefully as the screen faded into the difficult night.
          “I have nothing to do with you and Kalendah. You can kill me if you want. But I promise I will pay you back in your own coin if you don’t destroy me as you did to my father!” What I said was greeted with howls of derision. And that made me lost my cool. Only the dead will be silent when there is need to throw a belch into the air. With my eyes flooded with tears, I got hold of my rickety table and threw it at Owl whom I have decided to make my first casualty! But he brushed it aside with a mere wave of his hand. Then I clenched my little fist and went in search of a weapon to use on them. As I tried to find out if I could find something under my bed, Owl signaled. Maggof and other pounced on me. Faros who threatened me earlier with fire buried a blow into my tender check. I held my face and staggered backward. With my jaws on fire, I thought I lost my teeth in the process.  Before he gave me another, others compounded my woes with their weapons they laid on me. It was like night rain. The black night promised them good chances. They were like the beautiful death that puts on a spotted robe when he goes for his victim. I was dying. No courage and charisma of an African leopard. They were hell bent to destroy me. Yet I did not want to let go. So I fought back in the midst of the smoke. I directed my blows to all angles, aimlessly. My intention was to scare them away with those shots before they would eventually kill me. However, that did not change the situation.
          As I was fighting hard to put them away, Voten emerged from the walls behind and sank a blow into my neck. I screamed up to high heaven and staggered forward. As if that was not enough, he came forward and left an elbow on my back. The attack left me in a penitent mood. My knees kissed the Earth as if I have lost my place and was waiting for the count down to the day that the wicked would meet his Waterloo! That elbow put me where I do not belong – a weak and intimidating darkness where a pain is the head of the black knights!
          When they noticed I was not moving, they thought I had died on my knees. They rested their weapons and made some steps backward. For some time, my adversaries fixed their eyes on me. It was obvious that their weapons were begging for more blood. If I had known that my state was doing me a lot of good, I would have remained that way. Because immediately I tried to put myself on my feet, they rushed at me like a flood. Tears were freely gliding down my hollow cheeks. Although I threw weak blows, they were no answers to my dilemma. I was a stubborn child that was angrily kicking the air after he was carried shoulder high by a brawling brute of a man!
          Once again, Voten sank a power shot into my side, I screamed and crashed on the wall. There was no need living. His blows tormented me. I had fallen from a tree and vulnerable to a thousand blows. While it seemed that I have finally met my end, and the black night was in their favour, they rent the air with laughter and opened an ugly chapter of mockery in my ravaged world.
          “Boy, help yourself. Where is the strength of the orator?” Faros mocked me.
          “His strength is wild awake. I am sure the fool is gathering momentum and would soon knock us down!” Maggof said.
          “I think I can help you, a paper tiger. No need fight for yourself. Just call the ghost of your father to come and rescue you, foul toad!” Zambuk shouted and laughed, banging hard on my dilapidated walls. Other roared into laughter and remained as if I was lifeless on the floor. Voten, the big man in their midst, took a deep breath and clenched his fist. That action left a cracking sound in the air. I am sure he was considering hitting me once again. Doing that is meaningless now because I was already dying. Slipping in and out of consciousness. However, in the midst of my misfortunes, Owl cleared his throat and said, “There is a need for you to know how your father died.” Then he waved his club at me. Right away, I drifted into the world.

*   *  *
There was pandemonium everywhere, the villagers were running helter-skelter. The fire was burning and there was no one to silence the rampaging devil. Really, the village was a mess. People were falling on themselves while they flee for dear lives. This was a stampede that left hundreds of souls dead. Behind the running legs was Kalendah the four-headed beast that I saw on the screen. I recognized the beast that was busy snatching heads from running necks!
Kalendah had no problem in getting the runaway people. Every head he snatched, he buried into his stomach. Those he could not swallow, he crushed to the Earth. Some he threw against the trees, rocks, and limbs that littered the place. I was in a corner while this was going on. I had no choice than to join the running legs that were heading to the rain forest. After we had covered a considerable distance, I heard a loud cry. It was that of a woman who fell while trying to enter a boat that was bound for the other side of the village. I recognized her. She was my mother, who was helped into the boat by my father. I was so excited when I saw them; so I decided to get to them. That was the only way I knew my joy would be restored. As the cry of the people continued to grow, my parents began to roll away. As for me, I threw all the speed left in me on my legs so that I could catch up with them. But before I could get to the bank, Kalendah emerged from the other end of the riverbank. The creature that could stretch himself to any limit quickly went to work. He dislodged everyone in the river including my parents who were hurrying away. The beast swallowed as much as he could. Good enough my parents survived his first onslaught that left the river covered in blood. Kalendah did not leave it there. Though, my parents managed to get out of the mess. They swam to land and began to race away like few others who had also escaped the hell. Kalendah noticed the runaway people and threw himself at them. As for me, I came out of where I was hiding and got into one of the boats that I found a headless body. I tossed it into the river and rolled fast to see what the devil would do to my parents and the other people. While this was going on, my face was already covered in tears. I knew that the fiend would be happy to make a meal out of my parents or anyone he grabbed. However, I was able to get to the other side on time to meet a tragedy. I was far behind Kalendah who stretched his heads that carried the large tropical snakes in a bid to crush my parents that were running the race of their lives.
       Suddenly, my mother stumbled on a log of a tree that crossed the winding paths. Before my father who was already ahead of her could return to help, Kalendah had already granted her the epistle of death! He quietly cracked my mother bones and threw her remains over some palm trees. While that move marked the end of my mother, I heard a loud cry from the other end of the forest. The other stretched head of Kalendah had also gotten my father. He pulled him to the scene where he killed my mother- the old man struggled and could not prevail. First, he crushed him against a tree and winded his long body around him before he swallowed the man who gave birth to me. As he swallowed my father, I rent the air with a loud cry, collapsed on a stone and wept profusely.
       As I was mourning my deaths, I heard a roar behind me. Out of fear, I threw my eyes in that direction. Kalendah was approaching me. I screamed aloud and ran towards the cliff on the other side of the ravaged village. He followed angrily after me. A spirited freak whose legs were almost touching the back of his heads was not giving up. As I broke out of the forest, heading to where I think I would be safe, I looked back at intervals. I concluded that it was better I fall from the cliff than allow the beast to crush me to death with a frenzied attack. Before he could take advantage of my poor soul, I jumped from the cliff undermining that such risk might eventually lead to my death. Kalendah halted at the top, looked down at his prey that was finally out of his reach…

*     *      *
       I stormed out of my unconsciousness. Sneezed and opened my large innocent eyes. Only to find out that my adversaries were still standing before me. I was struck by an idea. It would have saved me from the horrible night if I really had my way. I thought of running out of my room through the door. But when I shot my eyes at the door to see if that would be possible, I noticed that Voten, the big man whose blows almost robbed me of my life was cooling off there. Another choice of escape was my window. But when I looked at that direction, I was heavily disappointed. Faros was hanging on the wooden frame. Assuming he was not there, two or more moves would have put me out of their reach. I would be celebrating my freedom under the open night.
        Since there was no hope of escaping, I resolved to give them another fight. I clenched my fist and managed to pull myself on my feet. My body was already complaining as I staggered for sometime before my legs finally got enough strength to carry me. As I was waiting for the bad packs to attack me as usual, two lean fools stepped forward. This was the first time I was seeing them. They looked tough in their weapons. One was carrying a whip while the other held a sledgehammer. With their look, I know they were out for my neck. And I did not bother about that because I saw no reason living when they have almost destroyed me. As I was thinking of what to do with my clenched fist, a wild cat emerged from the walls behind me and bared his fangs. Before I could turn to the creature, it pounced on me and sank his ugly set of teeth into my neck. I yelled.
        I struggled hard to get the creature off my neck. To and fro we swayed, trying hard to slash each other. But the battle took a bad turn. The coming of the wild cat made me more vulnerable to attacks. When others realized that I was almost overpowering the idiot, they rushed at me like a heavy down pour and began to grind me with the weapons they brought into the battle. Voten had nothing other than his power shots that he has used so judiciously on me tonight. Once again, he pushed others away and threw a blow into my stomach. I cry out, rested one hand in that region while the hand continued with the cat on my neck. But all that did not stop me from falling. I crashed on the ground. As fate would have it, my hand stumbled on an empty bottle near my wooden bed. I grabbed it and dashed it at the big man who was my biggest adversary of the night. But he brushed it aside with a blow that shattered the bottle on the wall.
          Finally, my struggle paid off. I was able to get the cat off my neck. So I quickly threw him against the wall. I expected death to grant him a place in his world, but that did not happen, instead, the wild cat returned with a swift speed and wrestled me to the bed. Others followed. I was beaten to a pulp and swimming in the pool of my own blood. When it dawned on me that they would never let me go if I continue to struggle with them, I feigned death! After resting several blows on I and I did not make any move, one after the other they left me on the bed. They were silent for some time before Owl said, “I had no intention to add his death to the tragedy in his family. Arad wanted him alive. It is regrettable if he dies this way.”
      “He’s not dead!”  Zambuk shouted from behind.
      “Are you sure?” Maggof asked.
     “I don’t expect you to ask me that question if really you know why I am in your midst!” Zambuk replied harshly.
Maggof said, “Zambuk, I know you can do something in your sleep. I am sorry for asking such question. Remember, in the midst of anxiety, a king can forget his crown.”   
         “Thank you. Just as I said, he is not dead. Keep your eyes on him; you will see what is going to happen now.”   Zambuk declared quietly.
Perhaps the darkness must have prevented them from knowing that I opened my eyes a bit to see what was going on. Thereafter, he deep his hand into his side and brought out a knife. He pounced on one of my legs and stabbed me three times. I moaned silently and fought gallantly to bury my pains so that they would think I was really dead. But I could not help it. My blood ran down as Zambuk returned to his place. The pains prevailed over my antics as my slight body movement betrayed me. Thereafter Zambuk shrugged. To him, he was finally justified as other nodded in acceptance of the fact that I wasn’t dead after all. I am sure they also realized that I was only pretending to be dead. As my blood continued to pour, messing up my bed, Owl came forward and said, “This is the beginning of the drama. You either tread the path we have offered you or face the darkest side of life. For sure we shall return very soon. And I don’t know what will happen to you then. But I advise, do not add your death to this tragedy!” He made few steps backward and disappeared.
Voten transformed into a whirlwind and left through my door. The wild cat mewed and pounced into the air. The darkness received him. Others went through my wall. Naturally, man is a seeker of a happy life. But I have a miserable life to contend with. My adversaries are ready to go the extra mile to put me where I don’t belong. For sure, I know I will need more than my little blows to sustain my life when another black night reveals itself.
         When they were gone, I quietly opened my eyes and heaved a sigh of relief. That was the only way I could express my freedom. I looked here and there; it was glaring I just had a romance with bad life. After the series of blows that left me debilitated, I was not in full possession of all his faculties. My legs were bleeding; my table and other valuable items I inherited were gone. The ugly night came, saw and conquered. Now, the best I can do is to rest my case in the cold hands of fate. As the night gently rolled on, my body began to complain until I was finally overwhelmed by the night.

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