Darkness surrounded her like a complete blind woman except burning candles arranged three sixty degree in a way she stood in the middle, roaming her eyes carelessly. Faint whispering of the dead filled her ears, drums from the dark beat endlessly and deadly animals sang along to increase her perturbation. Oh, so creepy, creepy that a soliloquy left her mouth just like her eyes didn’t stay at a spot.
“Where am I?” She soliloquized.
Every sound stopped at the moment as if the presence of the supernatural was observed in the dark. The woman unwittingly observed hideous elders behind each candle-light. They had black fabrics covered their bodies, well covered that one barely sees their faces. Ah, even the dead could succumb to the horrific sight of the part of the world. Sooner did the woman see a girl lying dead beside her. It was so clear that she recognized the face to be her daughter, Judith.
“Judith!” Mrs Jacob, the mother, wanted to get hold of her by bending down, but one of the elders interrupted her saying, “Taaaah!! Flee, you woman for your daughter will be with us forever!!”
Mrs Jacob startled up. “Please, forgive her. She’s only but a child who doesn’t know anything.” she pleaded.
“She just met her biological parents. Please, don’t take her from us!” The woman lamented only to wake up from the nightmare. Truly she was dreaming.
The next day, Judith wore a black leggings trouser with canvas. Her shirt was tied at her abdomen in a way part of her stomach became visible. She stood by the main road, staring at a bungalow opposite her after coming down from a taxi.
“Home, sweet home. Thank you Murphy.” She began to walk towards the door through which the mother welcome her with a hug.
The living room was locally furnished but Judith didn’t care. She saw four more children sitting in the living room who greeted her too. The eldest of them was a boy of twelve years old. The last born who is a girl was six.
“Are these my siblings?” she asked the mother.
Before Judith knew what was happening, the last born had hugged her.
“Aaawww, my darling!” she carried her up while others kept giggling, exposing their thirty two, if actually it has reached. “What is your name, baby girl?” Judith asked her.
“U-go-chi” the girl stressed.
“Awww, beautiful!” she looked at others. “What are your names? In fact, forget about the names for now. You, the big one” she pointed at the eldest. “Bring my bag. I have a lot of package for all of you.”
“Hope you like the house.” Mrs Jacob, the mother, asked her.
“Oh yes! I can even see the main road from here.” She carried Ugochi to the window. “What about father?” she turned.
“Uhmm.. he has his own family. I didn’t end up with…”
“Is okay, whatever, I understand.” Judith interrupted her then to her siblings. “Hey, children, to the room now. I have a big package for you!” she led the way, a wrong way.
“That’s the way to the toilet!” Amaka, the eight years old girl told her with a chuckle.
“Oooh!” Judith made a U-turn. “Show me the way before I fall inside a toilet.” She added.
All laughed as they headed to the right way, closing the door behind them.
Mrs Jacob sat down with tears of joy, but began to smile at the voice of Ugochi which came from the room saying, “You can’t fall inside the toilet because you are big. Nobody will even flush you.”
Judith’s laughter echoed.
At night fall, joyfully, Judith walked into her mother’s room on a pyjamas. The mother rolled over from her bed staring at her daughter.
“Judith, any problem? You should be in your room, sleeping.”
The girl began to twist her fingers without knowing how to express her request.
The mother sat up surprisingly. “Express yourself my daughter. One who can’t express herself is one part dead.”
Judith swallowed hard, still with her fingers clutching one another. “Mother, I want to sleep beside you.”
The mother stared.
“No oh, not that I’m scared. Just that for all my life..”
“Come my dear” the mother interrupted her. “I know how you miss motherly love and socialization. Come and lie with me.” she tapped on the bed.
Judith obliged happily and jumped on the bed. One could see them lying down and facing each other.
“Tell me a story” Judith began amusingly. “Like how you met my father and my step father. May his soul rest in peace.” she added.
“Amen” the mother kept smiling. “I was so beautiful like you that men started running around me like flies.”
She giggled. “You’re still beautiful.”
“No, I don’t think..”
Judith jumped out from the bed to the bathroom which interrupted the mother. She could hear her vomiting in the bathroom, so she cautiously sat at the edge of the bed, waiting for her to come out. Within a twinkle of an eye, Judith walked out reluctantly like a tortoise, wiping her mouth with the back of her hand. Her eyes jammed with her mother’s, so real that both couldn’t utter a word.
“Here” Mrs Jacob tapped beside her on the bed as a signal not only for Judith to see down, but also an indication that they have a very long discussion to make.
Judith sat down. At that point, the mother wasn’t looking at her eyes but her breast arousing more suspicion and tranquillity.
“Mother?” Judith called dryly.
“You’re pregnant” the mother said.
“Me? How do you know? I’m not pregnant, mother.”
Mrs Jacob shook her head. “I’m a mother. I passed this stage. Tell me, who’s responsible?”
Judith looked at her stomach in disbelief. When she raised up her head to reply, tears rolled down from her eyes. “It’s Dave, mother.” she knelt down instantly. “I’m sorry for disappointing you.”
The mother pulled her up, sat her down again while she stood up, walking to and fro with a finger on her lips. She was beginning to reflect on her dream but Judith didn’t understand the reason for her muteness.
“Judith.” The mother faced her. “You spent the whole of your life in a forest, didn’t you?”
“Yes, we call it love garden.” She answered, while the mother thoughtfully looked away from her once more. “Mother, any problem?” she suspected.
The mother turned to her swiftly. “Did you in any way made love outside a roof?”
“I don’t understand”
“I mean sex in a bush or forest.”
Judith casted her mind back to her first sex with Dave which happened at night outside the building. In fact, she could remember how she jumped the window that night, so vivid like it happened the previous day. She looked up at her mother saying, “Yes, we were restricted from intimacy by teacher Nwachukwu, so it was a better location for us. Any problem, mother?” she asked again.
“A tiger stealthily followed its prey, hoping to make a meal of a wild boar. The boar, sensing its doom, quickly ran away and carefully hid in its burrow.” She sounded scary.
Judith stood up, facing her mother unabashedly.”Is that a proverb?” she asked.
“I had a dream, Judith, and it’s a revelation from our ancestors. What you committed is an abomination according to the tradition of Ogili from where you came. We don’t make love outside a roof. If though you must do that outside, you must also creat something like a roof above you.”
“Really? What are the consequences?”
Both kept quiet, staring at each other for a moment. Judith still couldn’t believe her ears. So she uttered, “Like I’m gonna die?”
“Yes, you and the baby won’t last a minute after birth coz she or he is an abomination.” Mrs Jacob walked towards her, placed two hands on her shoulder “How well do you know this Dave? Does he love you?” she queried.
Judith nodded. “He loves me so much the same way I do. We can’t really do without each other.” She replied.
“He must journey to the jungle of Agura to harvest a yam in the secrede hut of our ancestors. It shall be used for cleansing. I will tell your father to make a traditional preparation.” she left her shoulder, turned her back on her.
“Is that all?” Judith asked.
“Yes, but I doubt he will come back alive.” She looked at her. “Every component of the Jungle; water, trees, leaves, animals, even the land you match on is connected with deep knowledge and wisdom that you must decode at every circumstances otherwise die. Not even the most clever person has come back from there alive.”
Judith’s heart skipped. She began to bite her fingers with tears. “Mother, I don’t want to lose Dave. I love him so much. I can’t put him in such a risk.”
“Do you prefer to die?”
Judith thought for a while. “If he must die, I’ll die with him. I’ll follow him to the jungle.” She said.
“It is meant for the man to go, not the woman. You have to let him know, my dear.” The mother concluded and hugged her. “He must not be like the boar. He must face the tiger, though not to defeat him, but clever escape from him.” She added on her shoulder…..
Same night at the white house, the brightest star was the topic at hand. Murphy needed to know who he was, so desperate to know that he couldn’t wait till day break. He stepped away from everybody, thinking very fast while others watched silently.
“If the man-owl isn’t the brightest star that means we have two people to defeat coz these two are on different mission.” Murphy spoke up.
“I suggest we leave this brightest star for now. Let’s know how to end this suicidal death.” Dave spoke up too.
Obi nodded. “I support him.”
“But how?” Ada asked.
Another tranquillity creeped in among them. Only few guards could be seen at the door carrying their duties regardless of two of their men that went down that night. They all became speechless without knowing what to say. Suddenly, a male voice said from a staircase, “A clever man works with two ideas for he doesn’t believe in failure.”
All directed their eyes to the place to see teacher Nwachukwu in his glory!
“Teacher!” Obi first exclaimed before others.
“Teacher?” Judith started walking closer to him with tears in her eyes. “I miss you so much teacher.” She climbed the first step as others watched the drama to know, if actually she would get hold of him.
“I miss you all.” Teacher replied with a smile and began to step back from Judith. His eyes glued on hers as he was making the back movement. “I wish you could beat me on a mortal combat game again. I really miss you too Judith.” he gradually disappeared.
“Teacher!!!” Judith broke down on the staircase, crying her eyes out thereby rising others emotions. Dave rushed to pull her up, while Obi consoled Ada at a corner. Vivian couldn’t help it too.
However, Murphy had located the map of the city which hung on the wall. With tears, he placed it on the table and began to study the Jungle of Agura which was marked 4 4 3. He looked up at others at different angles.
“Teacher just told us the answer we needed!” he said. His voice did not only dwindle their crying voices but also brought their attentions.
“How did you you decode his statement?” Obi asked him.
“Simple! A clever man works with two ideas.. The man-owl is the clever man. Since he wants me to enter into the jungle of Agura to die, don’t you think he must have another plan to take me there if I discover his first plan which I have done. So the only way he thought he could take me there again…”
“Is by capturing Daniella to the same Jungle.” Dave smartly figured out.
“Bingo!” Murphy stepped out. “Though not because he wants to get me, but because Ella has an answer to the problem of this suicidal death.”
“What makes you think he can not killed her since she knows the answer?”
“The same reason he can not kill me because Ella and I, I guess, are from the same place. Our parents were close. I decoded this from teacher’s statement.”
All looked at one another. They all gradually clustered the map on the table as Murphy was illustrating and explaining the Jungle.
“Every component of this Jungle…”
“..the water, trees, leaves, animals, even the land you match on is connected with deep knowledge and wisdom that you must decode at every circumstances otherwise die. Not even the most clever person has come back from there alive.” Judith interrupted Murphy. All eyes went to her surprisingly.
“How do you know this?” Murphy asked her.
Judith glanced at Dave and swallowed hard. “I’m pregnant for you, Dave.” She said.
“What?!” the boy exclaimed.
Murphy straightened up, rubbing his head woozily, while others did nothing but stared.
“Dave, I’m sorry I made it known to you this way.” Judith said, staring at him.
Murphy turned swiftly before he goes insane like he thought. “Judith!” he promptly called her attention. “What does your pregnancy has to do with the words you interrupted from my mouth!?”
Judith told them all that her mother told her. Vivian exhaled likewise her husband.
“That is to say, Dave and I are going to the jungle.” Murphy concluded.
Dave turned to Judith and hugged her tightly. The young girl broke down in tears again on his shoulder knowing that she subjected her to life or death mission.
The next morning, teacher Murphy address the country saying, “Hear the words of my mouth; Death is inevitable! But to die is to begin another life, hence life supersedes death. But it must come naturally at the stipulated time by God. Any death other than that must be stop! Be watchful! Be your brother’s keeper for in twenty-four hours I shall stop this suicidal death by journeying to the jungle of Agura. If i don’t return, know that I’ve become what i was before i was born.” he allowed journalist to ask questions.
His voice was heard by any being in the country. People lived in terror and tension coz they knew the mysterious jungle to be cleverly deadly.
Nevertheless, Dave and Murphy matched into the jungle through several miles. Stepping into the it, they stopped before a stagnant water. and looked at each other.
“Every component has deep knowledge and wisdom.” Dave reminded Murphy.
The boy smiled. “Judith is lucky to have you.” he said.
“Vivian is luckier”
Murphy shook her head. “I don’t think so.” he looked up on the sky as Dave wondered what he was talking about. “I wish my life ends here.” he added still staring at the sky.
Dave became confused….
TO BE CONTINUED