Ujanga Maa (The Saviour)
He found her under the wormwood, shoulders heaving, face covered by her two hands, uttering gut wrenching sobs. Occasionally she would pound her chest and pull at her hair, punishing herself, suffering in self inflicted torment, wounded by the whip of uncontrollable grief, hounded by the horror of a past filled with the senseless waste of precious human lives.
He grieved with her.
Efie raised her head sharply, alarmed at the sudden sound. Seeing him, she hid her face again, turning her back to him. He moved to her, and touched her shoulder.
“My child. Do not do this to yourself. You-oof! “He exclaimed, cut short as she barreled into him.
Whether this was a sign of weakness, or stupidity, Efie did not care. All she knew was that she needed the touch of another human, so she threw herself into his arms and held on tight. He put his hands on her head, eagerly caressing, consoling. And in a heartbeat, her sobs stopped. Raising her head, she looked up at him with tear filled eyes, and in that instant, lost all fear and wariness of him.
“My brother.” She said, speaking shakily, “It has been so long. The Ikiji people cannot possibly be responsible for this. They should have forgotten by now, or forgiven…” her voice trailed away into nothingness, for even as she spoke, she knew the truth. She knew that men did not easily forgive the slaughter of one of their own, and were hard hearted enough to pour their wrath on the second, third and even fourth generation of the offender.
“I am sorry to cause you this much grief, my child, but we must know the truth, and then be set free. Be truly saved.” Ujanga Maa said solemnly.
“I am cursed. I am of a cursed breed. But my brother, he is but a child. He cannot even hunt yet. I will not see him killed. I do not know how, but he will not be killed. Tell me how to get him back. There must be a way,” Efie said.
He took her hand, and began to lead the way back to his cave. “There is always a way, but sometimes, the way we are asked to walk in, is not the way we would choose to, Efie.”
“What do you mean? You confuse me. “Efie complained.
“Soon, you will understand, and these words will guide you.”
M’idawe longed for his sister. He pined for her protective arms around him, and her soothing voice, singing to him the kraa mbide their mother taught her. But all he could sense, was evil, danger. He could not see, for he was blindfolded, and could not move, for he was tied up cruelly against what he could feel was the rough bark of a tree. The insects bit him, and he itched all over. His tears flowed freely, and he cried out in pain and fear,
He cried himself hoarse, and still, his beloved sister did not appear out of the woods to untie him and press him close against her bosom. He began to sing the kraa mbide, hoping that the tune of the old lullaby would help him feel warm.
“Mayi koo tiiya ooo (Do not be scared)
Kweyi ge yaa di ti oo (Let me hold you close)
M’idawe koo tiiya ooo (M’idawe do not be scared)
Sisi ge twi diyi opo ooo (Sister will fight for you)
Back in the cave, Efie hummed this tune quietly, anger causing her voice to shake.
She could sit still no longer. And so, as Ujanga Maa slept, she made her way out of the cave, the tune guiding her towards her brother.
For she had promised to protect him, not fearing for her own life.
She began to run.
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Toyin Uzoma is a vocalist, writer, motivational speaker, editor, content writer and TV presenter. A student of Imo State University, studying English Education and Chinese Language.