THE IGBO SORCERESS – Episode 2
Nze Emeka spared no thought for what Ngozika and her daughter said in his house. He had other schemes on his mind. Killing the mad cow was his passport to winning the councillorship election for his zone. It was he who rallied the people and paid the medicine men who prepared charms for the young men who had gone in search of the mad cow. The glory of bringing the cow down would go to him. It was his intention to remind the people of his role in the killing of the cow and to demand their unwavering support in the coming election. He didn’t have to worry; his name was already on every lip at the town hall. “The cow did not resist us, Nze,” said the young man who was taking him to the town hall as they matched ebulliently. Nze snapped out of his reverie and asked, “And why was that?” “We don’t know. We all had expected the cow to put up a fight. In fact, it was with great fear that we approached it.” Nze Emeka stopped walking, the look of thoughtfulness on his face as he asked, “What was the cow doing when you people found it?” “It was lying down on the ground breathing heavily. Its eyes seemed unnatural.” “It must have been the charms we gave you…the charms must have subdued the cow. There is no other way to explain what you just said.” “But, Nze, we found the cow lying down long before we begun to use our charms against it.”
“Nnaa, I have seen that cow on rampage, there is no way the cow could have let you capture it without a fight except it was spiritually subdued. I am minded to believe that either our charms or those of our neighbouring towns did the work. Don’t worry about the condition you found the mad cow, Nnaa. What matters is that it has been captured,” Nze Emeka said, brushing aside the concerns of the young man. The moment they were sighted by the villagers outside the town hall, they began to chant Nze Emeka’s name. He was elated, he could not have asked for more. The response he got from them was an indication that the people would give him their votes in the election. He raised his staff and odu efi (cow tail – a symbol of his chieftaincy authority) and began to gyrate to the sound of the drums. Even those who did not want to dance could not help moving their bodies to the sound of the native song which filled the air. The traditional music group knew how to make their drums talk in soul-stirring fashion. In a blink of an eye, the gathering to slaughter the mad cow morphed into a quasi-festivity. Nze Emeka and the other chiefs ordered for fresh palm wine and bushmeat – enough to go round. Young ladies who had only come out to see the dreaded cow slaughtered volunteered to jig to the sound of music to entertain their people. Amid the fanfare which took over the town hall, masculine chests pulsated as young men challenged each other in chest-dance, and feminine waists turned and twisted to the sound of music. Elders, both male and female brandished happily their tobacco-dyed teeth as they nodded their heads and clapped their hands in appreciation to the entertainment on display. To Nze Emeka, his plans were working just ne. In their midst was the mad cow tied to a tree with several folds of thick cords. It was so tied that it could only move its eyes. Children stood around it, hurling stones and sand at it. They made jest of the cow and told it just how their young men would spill its blood and bring to an end its reign of terror. At home, Ngozika, Kenneth and little Ifeoma wondered why there were the sound of music, singing and joy at the town hall. Kenneth had to ask, “Are you sure you saw right Ify?” “Brother, I know what I saw. I am not making it up. That cow has brought evil into our village.” “Kenneth, if I was not here when she had the vision, I would have doubted just like you. If you are planning on going back to the town hall, just be sure I am not ready to unlock my door,” Ngozika said. While she was talking the sound of music from the town hall stopped suddenly. All hearts in the living room began to beat very fast. “Has it begun?” Kenneth asked. At the town hall, Nze Emeka was making a speech, “When I become a counselor, you will know the kind of leader I will be by what I have helped our people achieve today…!” Voices roared and hand claps rang out. “I am ekwu eme (I keep my words!) Give me your votes in the coming election and you will see me do more! I need you to empower me with your votes so I can do more for our people…” While he spoke, Daniel’s mother hurried into the town hall, hardly keeping tears from her eyes. Anxiously she searched for her Lagos returnee son, Daniel.
“Mama Daniel what is it?” a young girl asked. “Have you seen my… my… my son. I am looking for my son?” “It’s okay mama. Daniel should be somewhere around here,” she said and led mama Daniel in search of her son. Under a tree in the bush nearby, they found Daniel and Uju. Daniel was narrating to her exaggerated tales about his life in Lagos. “My son! My son! Come let’s go home!” Mama Daniel shouted when she saw her son. Seeing tears in his mother’s eyes, Daniel sprang to his feet and ran to meet her. “Mama what is it?” he asked. “I see rivers of blood in this place. I can’t bear to lose you. Please follow me home.” “Okay mama, I will. Uju come let’s go home. I will finish the story at home.” “Uju please come with us,” mama Daniel pleaded. “You can go home mama, I will stay back and watch the cow killed. You know it gored my grandfather to death,” Uju said. Mama Daniel did not argue with her, she grabbed her son’s hand and began to run away from the town hall. Daniel wanted to resist and try to convince Uju to come with them, but his mother’s arm grip around his wrist told him, she was d–n serious about what she saw. Those who saw them eyeing from the town hall wondered what Daniel might have done for his mother to drag him away in that manner. “My son, you can do better than this, please run faster!” mama Daniel pleaded. They quickened their pace and put a considerable distance between them and the town hall. “Now let us move over to the matter for which we have all gathered here today…” Nze Emeka continued. Immediately the cow tried to stand but fell. The sound of laughter rang around the town hall, while some heaped curses on the cow. “This cow will be killed in the most gruesome manner possible. I want five of our strongest young men to gather around the cow with their axes. They will hack the cow till it draws its last breath!” The people roared rapturously in response to his words. Five young men with wide and muscular chests surrounded the cow with heavy axes. Nze Emeka raised his hand in the air and announced, “When I bring my hand down, let the attack begin!” Just as he said that, a strong, ominous wind began to blow, it hovered over the trees around; heads rose to observe it suspiciously. The trees were bending dangerously to its strength. Then the wind came down with force on the people gathered outside the town hall. From the red, dry soil of the ground, it raised thick dust which obliterated the vision of the people. Nze Emeka’s hand was mid-way in the air when screams of horror began to fill the air. In the panic which ensued, the villagers began to trample on each other. Those who could, bolted into the nearby bush, but even in the bush, there was no safety. All around the people trees began to fall, crushing human beings to death in large numbers. Nze Emeka looked around in shock. He could not believe his eyes. He brought his hand down but there was no one to hack the cow to death. The cow was loose, rampaging around and the five young men who stood around it were already dead. He turned and tried to make a run for dear life. The first step he took crushed the head of a child into the red soil. He raised his foot, dragging up blood with it. At that sight, his stomach churned. He raised his head, tears owing as he remembered the words of Ngozika and her daughter. The sound of “mmuuu!” left him darting his eyes around in search of the mad cow. Out of the dust, he made out its figure galloping toward him, he raised a cry and bolted in no certain direction.