Just like one who had received a sudden pound of energy, I stood up immidatly and jumped one of the heads of the snake. I ran as fast as my feet could carry me. The snakes which appeared hungry, chased me behind as I ran.
I jumped through thorns and passed through the thick bushes. I threw all that was in my hands at the snake except for my sweet red Igbuala apples.
When I had gotten to a safe distance, I stopped and turned back to see the tree which had turned into the seven snake heads. The snake heads had mysteriously disappeared. The horns where no longer there. What I saw was the same tree I had seen earlier. It was a tree with seven branches and broad leaves.
I sat down on the grass and kept panting with my tongue out like that of a dog. I was out of breath and exhausted. This must be where the gods dwell I thought to myself. There must be something strange about this path grandma knew which she never told me. No wonder villagers rarely followed this bush path.
No wonder parents advised their children who intended going to the stream to fetch water, not to take the short cut, or any available road, but to follow the normal road which led back home. They were also advised not to stop to look at the red Igbuala mango tree, so they do not get tempted to eat it.
Young maidens where the ones usually attracted to the red Igbuala Mangos. They would drop their water pots on their way back from the stream, just to have a glimpse of the red mangos, which flaunted its smooth red colours.
Most of the girls who had stared at the Igbuala tree for so long, had claimed to hear voices telling them to climb and pluck it. Grandma had told me that it was a trap. She said it was the curse set by Agundaobi, which spoke to the maidens to get them to eat the fruits. Most of the girls who heard the strange voice, quickly picked their water pots and ran away, while some stood still admiring the beautiful fruits.
It was said that the strange voice selected only the beautiful ones to talk to. This was because Ijeoma was a very beautiful maiden when Agundaobi met and fell in love with her. The curse only spoke to the beautiful ones. It told them how beautiful they could become if they ate the fruit from the tree. Some of the maidens testified to have seen pictures of their magnificent beauty being shown to them, supposing they tasted the fruit from the tree.
After so many years of avoiding the temptations from the red Igbuala mango tree, today I had finally fallen prey to its charm and the sweet voice that spoke in my head.
I didn’t go to the stream to fetch water. Neither did I have any reason to have left my house that morning. All I needed was to take a morning walk. It was that walk that brought me face to face with the Igbuala mango tree.
My eyes beheld the beauty from the red fruits. I was enchanted and stood for a while, wondering why the gods will plant such magnificent fruits and yet keep it away from the reach of mankind. So many question crossed my thoughts at that moments.
Why was the gods so wicked? Why didn’t Agundaobi plant a fence that was going to cover the fruits from the eyes of the villagers?
Why didn’t he make the tree invisible so that no one could see the tree or even eat from it? Agundaobi had so much power. He could do it if he wanted to, but why didn’t he?
Why must he plant the tree at the only path leading to the only village stream that was the only source of water to the villagers? Why didn’t Agundaobi plant the trees in the evil forest? Why did he have to set the tree here?
This was like cooking a very delicious plate of hot Abacha, or a serving a bowl of ‘ji akwukwo nri’ to a hungry child, yet leaving him with a warning not to ever touch it. How would the child bear the Aroma? How was he going to overcome the temptation?
I was still in a plethora of thoughts and staring at the red Igbuala mangoes, when a sweet feminine voice spoke to me In my ears.
“Eat from me, and I shall show you so much sweetness.”
At first I thought it was one of the maidens who had decided to play a trick on me. I turned left and right in search of the voice but could see no one.
I saw the tree shake, and the voice echoed in my ears again”
‘Eat from me young boy and I shall show you sweetness.’
I felt a sudden spark of energy in me. I do not know what made me climb such great heights like a monkey.
No one had ever climbed such heights to pluck mangoes. Not even the greatest palm wine tappers in Agugu. I only realised the great height I had climbed down from, when I took to my heels with the red mangoes in my pockets.
After I had regained my strength and breath, I thought about heading back for the roads. I thought about leaving the bushy paths. But when I remembered the huge snakes with seven heads, I decided to keep going and face what ever that came my way.
I stood up, dusted my cloths and began to make my way through the bushes.
“Ikengaaa… Ikengaaa…” A sweet soft voice called out.
I stopped to listen again. This time I was sure it was a human who spoke. This voice did not sound like the echoes I had earlier on heard while running. It was too real to be true- a real human voice. I wondered what a female would be doing in such Isolated forest.
I searched with my eyes and my neck turned in all directions.
“Who are you? Who calls my name? Show your face.”
“Ikenga it is me. Do not be scared.”
“Who? Tell me. Please come out of the bush you are hiding.”
“Promise me you will not run Ikenga. Promise me.”
“I will not. Have seen greater fears already. I have seen a giant snake with seven heads. What more now do you want to how me? Show your face. Come out!” I thundered boldly.