The young buds playing in the village grove suddenly gasp in awe as Osele sped off from their midst. She could not say a word to anyone before leaving her mates for the farm.
It was too late, she thought. The shadows were longer than it supposed to be because of the deceitful evening sun but she had to go.
She forgot to bring from the farm the basin of coco-yam that her owner asked her to after the oil-carrying ceremony of the village newest bride, she was too carried away in songs and dance that she forgot what she was.
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To her, it was better to go that evening than being chased with a cutlass to the farm at mid-night by her owner. She walked, walked faster, hopped, jumped and ascended while running just to meet up.
Many pretty women going home from the farm passed her but they never said a word nor warn her of the peril ahead because they knew what she was.
Osele’ s mind was busy yet she thought of the pretty women, their shaped lovely breasts and how they dangled on their chests. They had beautiful drawings and decorations and lots of colourful beads around their waist. Osele knew what was beautiful that she never had.
Her daily growing breasts only stood on her chest, her body was full of negative marks instead of decorations and as for beads she will never have them. She often had a small wrapper round her waist no matter the season nor the festival.
She suddenly stopped, looked back and forth, left and right, up and down and found out that the bush path has been deserted.
Instantly, her mind ran to cannibals.
‘Will they feast on a tiny bone like me tonight?’ She silently asked.
She resumed her race again, this time closing the eyes of her fear but her mind kept urging her to open them no matter what. She refused, she rather ran in blindness.
Osele forgot that a blind man gets nowhere without an aid and certainly, she went crashing and screaming into a part of the bush. With eyes stubbornly closed, she continued screaming as if she was surrounded by a fury of ghosts till she gently opened them and saw nothing but
For countless number of times, she had encountered such in farms, streams and bushes but there was something different about this time. She seemed to have lost courage and purpose.
Something quickly crawled on the top of her bare breast, again she yelled slapping it out with rage.
‘Oh! It was a dried leave.’ She exhaled and continued her journey.
Soon the evening breeze lost control, the leaves and all that was surrounding her started making spooky noise. Osele stopped right away and looked around. The birds circling and whistling on the trees drew her attention to look up.
‘Are birds supposed to be circling this late in the evening? I think something must be wrong with this bush path today.’
Her swollen head quickly recalled stories of travelling spirits, it made her head grew bigger.
Fearfully, she dived into the bush at once crawling into a huge nearby ant hill that has a door-like opening. In there, she coiled up like a shy millipede making use of only her hidden eyes and ears. This time she heard footsteps and voices like someone making incantations with an unknown dialect.
No more assumptions. She heard everything. The ant hill became possessed. Someone was coming. Something was really coming. Something is around her and…….
‘What are you doing here?’ He gently lifted her up with both hands.
Startled but pretty Osele fell into the arms of the young herdsman.
‘Who are you? What are you doing here? Where are you going to? Can you take me with you?’ Fear was speaking.
The herdsman laughed, relieving her fear. He said, ‘Don’t be scared. My mother’ s spirit can’t stop whispering to me in caves and ant-hills. I am for the King. I served him since I was little and now he is dead. I am free to go. I come from Zani and I shall swim across the Oku Mini tomorrow and go back to my people.’
Osele gasps and withdrew from him
‘Are you a spirit?’ Another stupid question.
He guffawed again. ‘Do spirits laugh like I do?’
‘But that stream you want to swim tomorrow is dangerous.’
Osele stated as if they had known each other for long. The herdsman started making his way out towards the bush path.
‘A man can do anything for freedom. Don’t fight the animals and they won’t fight you. I am in a hurry. Another herdsman is waiting for me down there. Go home!’ He commanded and disappeared from Osele’s sight.
Osele was totally amazed. She was also from Zani but would never think of swimming home because Oku Mini was dangerously infected by many hungry reptiles. Everyone in the village knew that slaves from Zani will never make it to their own land.
Osele expressed her little happiness,
‘I have met someone. Oh! But how did we meet? The gods!’
With that she zoomed off to the farm fearlessly, fetched the heavy basin of cocoyam and returned to her owner. Nothing got her so anxious than pining her dreams to come through in such a short while. The hunger for home and freedom.
As usual, Osele’s owner sent her to the farm alone the next day and with great pleasure Osele ran to Oku Mini where she will swim with her new found brother to the other side.
Till mid-day, Osele waited. She paced about wondering what was keeping him.
‘But I heard the 24 cannon shots. The king should be buried by now.’ She pondered impatiently.
Soon, she lost patience and went in search of him around the grasslands but found nothing like him except a different herdsman.
‘Where is the other man? The herdsman like you. The one from Zani.’ Osele hurriedly asked amidst pants.
‘What if I tell you that I am not in the mood to answer you.’ The man retorted.
‘But please, say anything that looks like an answer to me. It is important that I go with him.’ Osele pleaded.
‘I don’t know which of us you seek but the one who serves the king was buried with the king today. What more can I say. Herdsmen and slaves and servants or whatever names they are called are all the same. We will hardly make it home’
Osele gasped and threw her hands to the air, covered her mouth. She was receiving madness from the news. The ugly tradition! She couldn’t move her foot but she found herself walking towards the stream.
Her feelings became undefined. The man from Zani was the hope she had sought for long. Anger mixed with terror intensified her shock.
What she didn’t have at that moment was fear. She felt fully clothed by courage as she stood in front of the narrow stream thinking. It seemed like life has been drained out of her completely. All she wanted to do was swim home, to whichever home it is and have rest.
She did. She silently swam to the greater beyond.