The gods will die
Image is sourced from Pixabay
[Tradition has ruled the heart of the African man for more than a millennium now and you will find Society at the center of it. They tell you what to feel or what not to feel, whom to worship, the acceptable posture, what to say, and what is blasphemous. It’s funny how we let our lives be controlled by what seems convenient to the people around us, most of which we do for acceptance.]
“Supreme one of Umuchala I have come again to beseech you to strike another rebel in the land.”
“The Umuchala people await your pronouncement on the blasphemer.”
“Let him experience your wrath.”
“Let his family know grief.”
“Let his generation reap from the fruit of his treasonous act.”
Then it happened. It was so sudden. The air outside became fuzzy. A mighty gust of wind filled the room and strange shrieking from unseen birds followed. The whole Umuchala could hear the noise and they are terrified too. This was the first time in three decades the supreme had been summoned. To them, such sound is a bearer of bad news and comes only once in a blue moon. And by once in a blue moon, means when someone sinned gravely.
Tongue wagged furiously in ancient dialect for several minutes. Then for a while, silence reigned but as it was temporary, whirlwind started to gather outside which also subsided as soon as it started.
For a while, expectancy turned to despair like the feeling before a sudden plummet, then another bout of the whirlwind, one twice as big as the first. It happened again that it stopped. Then the long-awaited, a perfect peace?
It was believed that Nihura had finally came down from the clouds on a visit. They were more than convinced Nihura was in the whirlwind.
The air had cleared.
A grey-haired man probably in his mid-sixties, supposed to be the high priest to the seven gods of Umuchala village slowly emerged from the dark hut to address the expectant crowd. He was supported to his right by a walking staff skillfully carved from bamboo sticks by Nwachucku Obira- the best woodcarver that ever lived. On the tip of the staff, you could spot the head of 7 beasts merged into one body, each beast representing a god in the land. The head of the first beast is that of a lion, symbolizing the supreme one amongst the seven gods. What the other heads look like or symbolize are stories for another day.
It was said that Obiara- the child born on the day the moon wedded the sun (referring to what we now call lunar eclipse) rebelled against the gods of the land and now they must decide his fate. If it was any lesser crime, the lesser gods took care of it but not one that threatens their existence. Obiara’s blasphemy was met with hatred because welcoming his philosophy would mean they’ve been fooled all days of their miserable lives. Many of them don’t yet experience abundance but at least they never starved. It had been like that from one generation to another and they’d learned to live with it, be not so expectant and contented.
“Poor boy,” Nweijele Kurundi mouthed.
Kurundi – the village eunuch and father to six beautiful daughters, could only imagine how grave Obiara’s sentences will be. How could he forget what was done to him when he stole six tubers of yam from the shrine of the lesser gods a few years back. Those despicable moments were still so fresh on his mind, maybe it’s because he couldn’t help but relive the horrors every time he thinks about it. His family had been starving and he wouldn’t just sit back and watch. Though he had an alternative which was to sell his daughters off to rich merchants one after another just so those left behind don’t starve to death. But he wouldn’t do that to the mother of his children who had been deceased at the point of birth of their last born.
He had been caught in the act and was castrated according to the sentence passed down by the lesser gods, and whom best to be the bearer of such an awful fate than the high priest. Castration to most of the villagers is an act of mercy. Now, the same Kurundi feared for what might soon befall Obiara who blasphemed and threatened the existence of not just the lesser gods but the Supreme one.
He pressed forward amid the crowd to have a vivid look at Obiara that had been tied since the night before to the Mahogany tree just outside the shrine of the Supreme. Some even stayed the night till the sun found its way again to a corner in the cloudy sky.
As against tradition, Ofoedu Maduagu - the high priest had earlier summoned Nihura the supreme and not the lower gods first. This had brought murmurs and vicious rumors to the lips of the villagers. In nine unsteady steps away from the hut and towards the anxious crowd, he only stopped when he felt he was close enough to deliver the message from the gods. To the Umuchala people, Maduagu is the only voice of the gods, at least not until he’s succeeded by another upon his death. His disposition brought about a stifled atmosphere. That’s how much of reverence they had for their gods and high priest.
Then it began. The moment they had longed for. Maduagu once again opened his mouth and words were starting to find their way into the heart of men.
By the time Maduagu was done talking, people began another bout of murmuring.
“It just doesn’t make sense.”
“Or is it that the gods are beginning to lose it?”
“Or perhaps Maduagu no longer hears directly from the gods!”
“Such a lame sentence for a grave offense.”
It was as if the same thought came rushing through the minds of the villagers simultaneously, they quickly dismissed the thoughts as soon as it came.
“But who are we to question the gods?"
"No one can be as foolish as Obiara.”
“That’s why we are still here and he is over there,” pointing at the Mahogany tree, Tufi Ezeidelah – the oldest man in the village voiced out.
“Yes! The gods see what we mortals can’t.”
“They surely have a plan.”
“We will all still be here to see it happen.”
His last sentence met with a heartfelt chuckle from those around, they could feel it in their guts and even their eyes can bear testament that he won’t be around for long, not long enough to see it happen.
Ezeidelah coughed intermittently for some time and afterward went grave silent. His strength had once again left him but he felt fulfilled that he left nothing unsaid.
“Who are we to question the gods? If that’s their judgment then ours is to carry it out," the crowd echoed in unison.
The crowd rallied around the Mahogany tree and one of them thrust forward to untie Obiara.
Nihura has agreed to Obiara’s terms and now to be subjected to the ultimate test.
But who told Obiara that, “without reverence, the gods will die?”
He had been set free and the whole Umuchala were to desist from acknowledging the existence of Nihura and the lesser gods just for two weeks.
Obiara had drawn the battle line between gods and men, and it was said of Nihura that the two weeks will decide what fate awaits the Umuchala people.
Obiara positioned his head at a jaunty angle.
“Why release me?”
“Are you trying to make out your god as not the coward type?”
He still has that mischievous grin worn all over his face.
“Something to prove!”
“Something to prove!!” He said then laughed out loud.
Readjusting his shoulders, he walked toward home like a victor who had survived the heat of war without scratch or bruises.
At first, it seems very uneasy a thing to do, not pray to their gods for anything, but one week had passed and the routine somehow sustained, activities remained the same. No mysterious illness or anything. Maybe they don’t need the gods after all.
The second week started similar to the one that had just ended. Obiara seemed to be winning. People were beginning to cower and accept his philosophy. To some, he was the messiah that helped them see. They’d always given the best of their farm produce in the worship of what they never at any point needed. But of course, the week had not yet ended.
Two days to the ultimatum, Ezeidelah’s cough frequented unlike before, he felt his strength leave him slowly to never again return. In the dead of the night, the moon split in half and at that estrange moment, he breathed his last.
The news of Ezeidelah’s death traveled throughout Umuchala at the speed of lightning. The oldest man in Umuchala had finally let go…
Nobody knows where. Their believed place of rest used to be with the gods, but nobody knows anything at the moment. The tug of war between Obiara and Nihura had suddenly left them with a vast hole that desperately needs filling. And what's worse was the fact that it took the death of Ezeidelah for them to finally realize it
The high priest was not to be summoned until after the two weeks. They don’t know what to do. At last, they realized how so they’d relied on the gods for virtually everything.
One day left, but were they thinking of that at all?
No! Not when there’s trouble in paradise.
"Let’s wait this one day and we’ll know which way to go from there," a very unfamiliar voice asserted.
It seemed to be the best idea at the time as no one cares about who said what, but had it been they were their former selves they’d have found out that it came from the mouth of Udireli the drunkard which wasn't to be taken with any seriousness. And no one expects him to be up and running at that hour in the night. Udireli always got knocked out after a few rounds of palm wine.
The last day was a bit rough because the whole village hadn’t fully recovered from missing Ezeidelah who had been on a journey since the night before to a place they know not of. To them, until the ruckus is over, his destination remained unknown.
The villagers were expectant from day to night but without a clue as to what their expectations were. Nothing strange happened and the whole village went to sleep, with Obiara sleeping soundest overjoyed at his conquest. Now his name will be known throughout Umuchala and even beyond. He was the only one certain of his expectation of the new dawn (morning).
Morning came and shocked all. The whole Umuchala had not expected it, not even Obiara. At last, it happened, but why was it after the ultimatum?
They could see strange faces in the distance. Men of color. Men with guns.
Desperation is a funny thing, no one thought they’d hear Obiara say, “now we need the gods!”
Several gunshots and Umuchala became grounds for a massacre. Those alive threw their weight to the ground, begging the gods to return, but they seemed long gone because the killing continued.
What’s worse, Maduagu the high priest was nowhere to be found.