The Woman With a Thousand Stars in Her Hair

- by Ayodele Olofintuade -

 

A lot of stories have been told about the bungalow at Ikotun; about the empty lot, overgrown with weeds. If you look well, you can still find traces of the foundation. But you’ll need to tread carefully, for the lot is waterlogged . . .


1.


She floated up from the depth of the lagoon. The water moved around her, in her, bearing her closer to the surface. Her eyes were shut, several thoughts flowing through her mind.

Her eyes flew open as she felt hard-packed sand beneath her. Reluctant to leave the beach just yet, she sat up and folded her legs, arms curved round them, chin resting on her knees.

She tried not to think on what had brought her here.

A mission, she had called it! Mission indeed!

The anger she’d managed to keep at bay rose to her throat in bile. Ara took huge gulps of the cold, biting air.

There was nothing poetic about her pain.

She shook her head like it could dislodge the memories of her lover, their last night together, all the ceremonies designed to keep them apart. Until that last minute, their last kiss, their last lovemaking urgent one minute, slow and languid the next.

“Your ancestors signed up for this,” Olokun had said firmly after listening to her protestations of newfound love, of building a life. “For centuries we have had to do this in order to diversify our gene pool. You’ve been called to serve, and you will!”

Ara took another deep gulp of air, slightly bruising her newly formed air passage. She paused, crossed her legs, closed her eyes, and willed her heartbeat to slow.

All her life she’d felt special, like she was designed for one thing. Now the opportunity was here, everything felt wrong. Bone chilling wrong. Eternal fame no longer looked attractive, and the average shone brightly with promises of talking, adventures, making love, making war, making up.

“Olokun, at any other time I wouldn’t have protested.” Ara had tried to infuse humility into her tone: “But the timing, it’s all wrong.”

She had searched Olokun’s face for softness, and found none.

“Your ancestors did not protest.”

“There are new ways, I’ve heard about places where men willingly go and donate their . . .”

Olokun gave a contemptuous wave of her hand. “Yea, yea, I know about sperm banks and all that.” Her face turned inscrutable, her words more formal: “You will do this with all the love in your heart, Ara. You will craft the child with the man who was chosen.”


2.


Famuyiwa stared dumbstruck at the stunning woman before him as she spoke of things that had nothing to do with anything. How she came to be seated in his office was something he’d not been able to understand. Having this half-wild thing flinging jabberwocky his way was the best ending to a brutal day.

The woman wore a white shift so soft it clung to her like a lover, showing off her rounded belly, the flare of her hips, her braless breasts . . . His mouth watered as his eyes fastened themselves on those breasts. The way they bounced underneath the shift as she spoke. He nearly swallowed his tongue when she leaned toward him, his eyes following her chest.

Get a grip man!

“. . . In exchange for the baby we are willing to . . .”

He finally dragged his gaze up to her eyes. They were the deep blue of the seas.

No way a woman with skin as black as a starless night would have blue eyes. Particularly with that nose sprawled lazily between her cheekbones before remembering to turn upwards at the tip.

“. . . A five-year contract will be signed by both parties, so there won’t be any . . .”

It was her hair that dazzled him when she had first entered the room, driving all thoughts of his lost job from his mind. That hair gleamed as if a thousand stars were woven into every strand. He’d never seen woolly hair that long before, this woman’s left wild and loose.

A wig?

“Did you say something?” The woman’s gaze pierced him. For a brief moment he felt naked.

Famuyiwa sat up stiffly, pushing errant thoughts from his mind.

“Madam,” he caught a slight tremble in his own voice, and cleared his throat. “Madam, I don’t know who you are or why you’re here. This is a corporate office, how you got in here— Anyway that’s not your fault.” He waved the thought away, her eyes fastened to the movement of his hand. He snatched it out of the air and tucked it primly between his thighs.

“As I was saying: I’m a very busy man, and I don’t have time for this nonsense!” His words came out harsher than he had intended.

The woman straightened up and narrowed those blue eyes at him. “I am sorry for disturbing your royal busy-ness. I assumed, wrongly it now appears, that you’d been dismissed, unfairly, for insider trading. I was offering you a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to manage my portfolio.” She rose to her full height—which wasn’t much. “Have a good day!”

Famuyiwa jumped out of his seat and rushed toward the door. He stood there, eyes pleading with her.

“I’m sorry.” He felt the weight of those words as they left his lips. “Even if you’re not here on business, I had no right to speak to you like that. I have no excuse for my poor behaviour.”

The woman scrutinized him, eyes betraying a trace of sadness. Then she smiled, and Famuyiwa felt as if a thousand watts of light had just been turned on him.

Her lips parted, showing slightly yellow teeth. “I lied. I don’t have a portfolio for you to manage.”

“It doesn’t matter.” Famuyiwa straightened away from the door.

She placed a finger on her lower lip. “But I do have a business proposal for you.”


3.


“It has to be love!” Olokun materialized before Ara as she was about to step into the water. After her meeting with Famuyiwa she’d wandered all over Lagos, losing herself in the crowd that surged through the byways of the city, her thoughts in turmoil.

Her tired feet had tried to take her home. 

Olokun’s colourless eyes bit into her. “The ‘business proposal’ approach does not fly. Business proposals don’t produce the kind of genes we need.”

“But, Olokun,” she squeaked, falling back, “it makes perfect sense, and he’s in a vulnerable place right now. He’ll spring at the idea! I have it all planned . . .”

Olokun closed the distance between them. “Just go back and stop making things difficult for yourself. There’s no way round this.”

Ara folded her arms across her chest. “I love someone else.”

Olokun’s eyes softened, and she reached out to lift Ara’s chin. “We are love, Ara. There is no one we cannot love, for that is our nature. You will love him if you allow yourself to.”

Ara turned her head in the direction of the sea as her lover leapt from the water. She was magnificent. The broad sweep of her shoulders, her slim waist that tapered into a powerful dorsal fin. Pitch black, with specks of gold. Ara feasted her eyes on Tamuno who remained suspended a little above the waves, her dreadlocks flowing around her like a silken scarf.

Longing tore at Ara’s throat as she sent out a call to Tamuno. In return she got a wall of silence. Ara turned wild, uncomprehending eyes toward Olokun.

“She came to say goodbye,” Olokun said softly. “She says to tell you she understands.” She draped an arm over Ara’s trembling shoulders. “She says to tell you she’ll wait for you, that you’re well worth waiting for.”

Ara’s eyes were fixed on Tamuno’s floating form.

Olokun’s voice turned hard, “Now go and love Famuyiwa.”

She lifted up Ara’s face and kissed her, deeply, a sensuous melding of lips that had Ara’s nipples hardening and molten warmth spreading through the bottom of her belly. Olokun broke off the kiss when Ara started whimpering with desire. “May you never return to the seas until you’ve accomplished your task.” She whispered against Ara’s lips: “You’ve been banished to brooks, and fountains, inland rivers, and floods.”


4.


Famuyiwa spooned the woman lying by his side.

“Ara,” he rolled the name on his tongue. The wonderment of her name was no deeper than the wonderment of her totality . . . and she was his! He trailed fingertips along her spine.

He loved this woman, he loved her with a fierceness that sometimes caught him by surprise. He wanted to lay the world at her feet, but she would take nothing from him. She only wanted him . . . and an Olympic-sized swimming pool. He chuckled softly and planted a kiss on her neck.

He remembered how shocked he had been the first time she’d asked him not to use any protection with her.

I want to create with you.

I want us to make love.

I want to birth love with you.

“Ara.” Her name was a prayer on his lips; she was god, he the supplicant.

He stroked her arm, her sides, the tautness of her oval stomach cocooning the child they had made together.

Not that she was perfect. Far from it, with her dark moods, the way she challenged his worldview, and a sarcastic tongue that sometimes left him feeling like a dithering idiot.

He bent over to take her lips with his, before the harsh buzz of the doorbell grated on his ears. He ignored the bell, and dived into the kiss.

Ara stopped him. “Your father is at the door.”

For a long time it had freaked him out, that ability of hers to guess correctly things that were about to happen.

Like in the early days of his despair, after losing his job, she’d informed him about an offer that would make him a business owner. The call had come in that evening, and as she’d predicted he’d made enough money to set up his own office and employ two people. If not for the times she guessed wrong, he would have been tempted to think she was a prophetess.

“These hit and miss predictions,” he laughed, and planted another kiss at the base of her neck.

The bell rang again.

She swatted him off. “Your father is getting anxious.”


5.


Ara’s stomach swayed uncomfortably as she rolled into a sitting position on the soaking-wet bed. She’d been losing water since she started incubating the child. She had to get to the swimming pool, but her route would take her past the sitting room, which was presently occupied by Famuyiwa’s father, Baba Santi.

She’d read through the man’s dossier at Olokun’s library and knew, well before Famuyiwa told her, that he was an Ifa Priest. A mid-level one, with the powers that accompanied his designation.

Baba Santi also had a tendency to drama and histrionics.

With the pregnancy her temper was unpredictable; Ara wasn’t sure she’d be able to maintain her cool if Baba Santi even looked at her funny.

There were rules that guided their interaction with human beings, and the first rule of engagement was: “Thou shalt not meddle with the human will!”

She had been tempted to break that rule the first time Famuyiwa came home angry, eventually to tell her how furious his father had been about the pregnancy.

Baba Santi was an abuser who would use anyone, including his son, to gain control. No doubt Famuyiwa loved her, but his father held a lot of power over him. What if . . .? She rubbed her chest as her heart lurched against her ribcage. She was playing with fire . . . but hadn’t her ancestors danced with fire and won?

Scarred, Ara, they came away scarred.

Some of them had become recluses, cold, shrivelled up, looking at the people around them through a veil of distrust. Some took refuge in breaking the rules, playing mind games with humans and other beings. They took delight in chaos; creating stories, picking their cast, and watching their hapless victims go through the motions. Very few of her ancestors had come out of their trials unscathed—the same ancestors she had wanted to be like, the ones with all those constellations named after them.

Taken with sudden thirst, she lurched out of bed and clambered into a one-piece swimsuit, pulled a yellow bathrobe over it, and stopped breathing so as to conserve oxygen. Then she stepped out of the room.

“Baami,”—Famuyiwa pulled Ara into an embrace and smiled into her eyes, before tugging her toward his father—“this is Ara,” The way he pronounced her name brought a smile to her face.

A smile that fell away as she knelt to him. He was an exact replica of Famuyiwa: the light yellow skin tone, the muscles bursting from a short-sleeved T-shirt, and square-jawed face. That brilliantly white smile . . . but Baba Santi’s didn’t reach his cold, hard eyes.

“So it’s you they’ve sent.” Baba Santi’s lips thinned to a ruler-straight line. “You people really think you’re above the laws of the universe, don’t you?”

“Father, please, don’t start. That’s why I didn’t want to tell you,” said Famuyiwa as Ara rose to her feet.

“Tell me what? That another member of our family has been turned into a baby-making machine? Some . . . thing . . . to be used and dumped just to contribute to a gene pool? Your people are so arrogant! They think they’re better than human beings. If they are, why do they need us?” 

Ara didn’t wait for the rest of his rant.

As soon as she reached the poolside, she slipped the bathrobe off her shoulders and slid into the cold, welcoming water. “Our fight is not for today,” she murmured as she used her dorsal fin to propel herself deeper into the pool. Sunlight turned the pool aquamarine, matching the colour of her fin.


6.


“What else can I tell you?” Baba Santi was still arguing as Famuyiwa took a sip of scotch. “How many more words do I need to pour into ears deafened by lust?”

Famuyiwa noted his father hadn’t touched the glass he’d poured him as he swallowed the rest of the spirits in his own.

“This girl is not human. She has evil in her heart toward you.” Baba Santi shook his head sadly, Famuyiwa suddenly felt like smoking, a habit he’d given up years ago.

“I will take my leave now,” Baba Santi said after the silence following his warning. Famuyiwa nodded and followed his father to the door. “No need to see me off, I can take care of myself.” He turned and held his son’s gaze. “The dog that would be lost never listens for the hunter’s warning whistle.”

“All right, Baami,” Famuyiwa sighed, “I’ll call you later.”

Famuyiwa shut the door and leaned his forehead against it. He could feel a migraine coming on. He swallowed two Panadols taken from the medicine cabinet with the scotch he’d poured for his father. Then sat heavily on the bed and stared into space.

Ara is not human; she’s Omo Olokun.

Ara is out to harm me. The only thing she wants is that child in her belly.

Ara will leave me a broken man. She will take my child with her.

Even as he whispered his father’s words, Famuyiwa couldn’t bring himself to believe them. How could he when the evidence of their love was all around him? In the way she always put him first, their lovemaking, the child they had created together. It was in the way she touched him: like he was the most important person in the world.

His father was wrong. His father had been too wrong too many times for him to be suddenly right.

Omo Olokun. Famuyiwa shook his head. Mammi Wata.

His father even dared suggest that Ara was not born of a man, that she’d been hatched from an egg alongside many others like her, deep within the seas.

Once again Famuyiwa was reminded of the reason he’d left the path of Ifa—of why he’d refused to go through his final initiation rites. There were so many inconsistencies, so many unanswered questions that he’d backed off to follow his passion for trading on the stock market.

Famuyiwa understood numbers. Computers were his own divination board, and he understood them; they posted no inconsistencies for him.

When he left home at twenty-four he swore he’d never look back. But he had, because he loved his father. And in spite of himself he still believed in the gods. He just didn’t trust their acolytes—the people who followed blindly, never questioning what they’d been taught. 

Famuyiwa stretched out on the bed he shared with the woman who cared for him as if he was Mansa Musa, and fell into a deep, satisfying sleep.


7.


Ara wasn’t prepared for this pain. She knew it would be painful, but . . . fucking hell! Not this painful!

She clenched her teeth against the shout that would tear itself from her chest. Famuyiwa must not know, he would not be allowed to see what was coming. She glanced over at his sleeping form, glad she’d managed not to wake him up. Ara slid out of bed and tiptoed to the sitting room, where she was hit by another wave of pain. She doubled over, gripping the back of a chair.

“It will take the whole day,” Sisi whispered beside her. “You need to relax.”

“What the fuck do you mean, relax?” she screamed in the tongue of the seas, too high for human hearing. “Why don’t you fucking try some relaxation yourself?”

“Olokun chose you because of your strength,” said Mimi from her other side.

She couldn’t see them physically, too absorbed by pain to bother switching to her inner eyes, but she turned her head in Mimi’s direction and gave her fiercest glare. “Please, sister, don’t come and be reasonable today!”

“Is there anything I can do to ease the pain?” Sisi rubbed the small of Ara’s back.

“There’s nothing you can do for me except tell Olokun to grant me the powers of full transformation! If I’m fully human, I’m sure the pain won’t be this much.” She screamed as a fresh wave of pain hit her.

Mimi guided her over to a couch and helped pull off her shift. “Lie down.”

Mimi and Sisi massaged her and whispered sea songs. They took her back home with their voices, and in that state between sleep and waking, tears welled up in Ara’s eyes. All the yearnings she had kept at bay came rushing free.

“Ara! Where are you?” called a panicked Famuyiwa. Sisi shook her head and created a wall around Ara, then stepped through it.

A few minutes later she heard the engine of Famuyiwa’s car fire up.

She knew better than to ask Sisi what she did, but she must have broken a rule, and there’d be a price to pay.

Olokun chose her birth attendants well: flighty Sisi who danced at the edge of danger, and practical Mimi who would do all the actual work.

Births are difficult, always. Birthing across species was more difficult still. In most cases fertilization wouldn’t even occur, but this was not “most cases.”

The problem was her anatomy: her body was prepared to lay an egg, which normally she would have laid before fertilization took place.

Instead, the egg had grown inside of her—had grown to a full-sized, human baby egg. Her body wasn’t prepared for this.

“So where’s the closest river?” Mimi asked. As if she doesn’t know already!

Ara bit through lips stretched thin with pain, “There’s no way I’m giving birth to my precious child in any of those polluted, mosquito infested . . .”

“We get it!” shouted Sisi. “You’ll have to lay her in your swimming pool.”

“What about the blood?” Ara groaned as her sisters lifted her gently off the couch.

“We’ll take care of it.”

The three women dived into the deepest part of the pool, transforming just before they hit the water. Ara was held firmly by her arms and pushed against a wall. She screamed, raving as Sisi and Mimi brought out their instruments and began the intricate surgery that would safely deliver her baby.


8.


The barrier between them had grown higher. It had started so insidiously Famuyiwa had nearly missed the signs. The guilty turning away of her head anytime he caught her staring at him, how their conversations had dwindled to the mundane, and their lovemaking gone from fiery, to mechanical, then nothing. It was as if she couldn’t bear him touching her.

She avoided staying alone with him, using Nje as a shield. She wouldn’t even acknowledge his father, not after that first day he had been so rude to her.

He’d first put it down to post-partum blues: he’d read up on it, and even hinted that maybe they should see a marriage counsellor. But she’d turned those sea-blue eyes on him and reminded him they were not married. He hadn’t added “Not yet.”

She took Nje everywhere with her, and wouldn’t allow anyone to touch the girl. Nje was nearly four years old, and she clung to her mother like a limpet. Ara still allowed their daughter to suckle at her breast—it was at once fascinating and disturbing.

He didn’t begrudge Ara her deep connection with their daughter, not after seeing a swimming pool full of blood when he’d returned from an errand he couldn’t clearly remember. An errand that had been so urgent it had kept him from the house the better part of that day. He’d returned home in the evening to meet a different Ara, and a baby suckling greedily at her breast.

For months at a time, he would forget about the pieces of broken shell he’d found at the bottom of the emptied pool the day after Njemirika had arrived into their world. He had packed those pieces together and given them to his father. They had not discussed how that enormous shell had appeared in a pool stained with blood. But his father had become a constant visitor in their home.

Famuyiwa loved his daughter, the beautiful wild-haired creature who had inherited his skin tone and lanky build, and her mother’s blue eyes and thick, woolly hair. But one thing tickled him in a way that only pettiness could: Nje wouldn’t go near water. Ara had tried everything, but their daughter wouldn’t even step near the edge of the pool.

Nje preferred to play football with him. She watched football as avidly as the attention span of a near four-year-old would allow, and could reel off the names of all the football clubs playing in the World League.

“I’m passing the ball to you now, Daddy!” Famuyiwa caught up with the ball and kicked it back to his daughter.

Ara was in the swimming pool as they played. Although she feigned indifference to their antics, Famuyiwa knew from experience that all her concentration was on them.

His phone rang, it was his father: “She’s taking Nje with her tonight.” Baba Santi’s panicked voice punched Famuyiwa in the guts.

“What is it, father?” He said through the globule of fear in his throat.

“Famuyiwa,” his father said with false calmness, “Tonight is the full moon marking the fifth year the monster came out of the seas. Tonight the curse that has been placed on her will be lifted and she will return home, Ifa never lies.”

Famuyiwa wanted so much to believe his father, but a lifetime of mistrust wasn’t easily undone. Not after he’d seen how Baba Santi used his powers to manipulate the people who came seeking his help. “Father . . .”

“That monster is taking your daughter to the sea tonight”—Baba Santi yelled down the phone—“and you will never see either one of them again!”

Famuyiwa’s tongue stuck to the roof of his mouth as it dried out. All the questions he’d been grappling with since Nje’s birth came tumbling out of the dark place he’d locked them. His father couldn’t have been right all along. Ara wasn’t really Mammy Wata? She couldn’t be!

“What do you want me to do?” Famuyiwa croaked into the phone, eyes on his daughter.

“Nothing, I’m on my way to your place.”


9.


Ara had prepared for this time, she had been preparing for over a year. She knew Baba Santi wouldn’t give up that easily. Not that he loved the child. She was a prize he would use as a magical tool, a bargaining chip with the powers that be. He would use Nje as he’d used Famuyiwa, in spite of his double-faced protestations.

She’d found out that Baba Santi was the one that registered his son as a possible donor as soon as the boy hit his teenage years. He knew the risks attached to exposing Famuyiwa to the gods, but he was more concerned about the rewards.

Her eyes strayed to Nje. Child of my womb.

When Olokun had been making her grand plans, she had made it sound so easy.

The first year had been hell, training herself to love a man when all she’d ever wanted was Tamuno of the flowing dreadlocks. Tamuno of the dramatic entrances. Tamuno might indeed be waiting for her but she no longer ached for Tamuno.

All she wanted was freedom for Nje, for her to grow up wild. Not a being bound by ancestral promises, her genes, powers, or any other thing. She would not have Nje monitored. Nje would not be caged.

Ara had spent the last three years bargaining secretly with the lesser known gods, those of inland brooks and lakes. She had traded off most of her powers, saving only a little for this day.

The gods had sworn oaths with her: That Nje would be free, they would protect her till she came of age, they would allow her enjoy her childhood. She would be allowed to grow into her own woman without interference from humans or gods.

The more she’d stripped herself of her powers, the more obsessed she’d become with her daughter, losing interest in every other thing.

Ara watched Baba Santi’s approach, keeping an eye on Nje who still kicked her football around. Famuyiwa was nowhere to be seen.

As soon as Baba Santi stepped into the square marking the periphery of the pool, Ara leapt out of the water and sent a bolt of lightning his way.

The bolt bounced off his shield and struck down a nearby tree. She gathered herself together and tried to jump into his mind. She wanted to gift him the vision of snakes eating him up from within, but the walls around his mind were thick and high. She was still searching for a way in when he pulled a pouch from his pocket and blew the content into the air. The powdery substance buzzed towards Nje.

Ara threw herself in Nje’s direction, but it was too late. The substance hit Nje directly between her eyes and spun her into the pool.

Ara dived in but couldn’t see her daughter, it was as if she’d dematerialized after hitting the water. She sent out a sound wave and whooped as she got one in return.

Nje was swimming towards her, woolly hair floating like a halo, her tail shimmering a cascade of blue. 

“You’re a child of the seas, Nje,” she said in the true tongue.

“I know, Mum,” Nje replied in the same tongue, and flashed her a brilliant smile. “I know everything.”

Ara reached out for her daughter, but before she could touch her, strong arms grabbed hers. She lashed out with her tail and sent out another call to her sisters in the neighbouring waters—they would collect Nje.

She wheeled on her attackers and was met with a blast that hit her with such force that she blacked out.


10.


Famuyiwa’s head was about to burst. He couldn’t bear to look at Ara lying supine on the sitting room floor. From her head to her waist, she was Ara: the woman he’d known and loved for nearly five years. From her waist down she was a different creature: one with a silvery fishtail. He couldn’t look at his father either. Instead he buried his head in his hands.

Someone rang the doorbell and Famuyiwa made to get it, but his father touched his shoulder. “That must be the boys. I’ll get the door.”

Famuyiwa looked at the tail and couldn’t tear his gaze away from the length of it. Everything his father had told him was true.

Baba Santi returned to the sitting room with four young men, all big and well-muscled. “Did they find her?” he whispered, his eyes never leaving Ara.

“No,” Baba Santi said. “But not to worry, they will soon find her. There are others who have gone to check neighbouring rivers. One of the boys has a detector I made for him with her shell.”

Ara’s eyes snapped open. She tried to lift herself off the floor but fell back with a moan.

“The bracelets on her wrists are made from brass,” Baba Santi chuckled, “I used the eggshell to process them because it contains her DNA. They are programmed to attack her body if she so much as moved.”

Famuyiwa looked at his father. “Take the bracelets off.”

“You’re still trying to protect her.” His father’s voice held nothing but contempt.

Famuyiwa glared at him. “She’s not done anything. You’re the one who hit your granddaughter with a talisman, not her.” He finally rose to face his father. “How am I even sure my daughter is still alive—that she’s not drowned!” His voice rose with panic. “I warned you she can’t swim. She wouldn’t even go near water, and you threw her in the pool!”

Baba Santi laid a hand on his son’s shoulder. “Calm down, Famuyiwa. Nje is still alive.” He pulled a flat, circular tin from his pocket and opened it, careful not to spill its content. “See, there she is!”

Famuyiwa looked inside the tin and saw his daughter swimming beside a bigger mermaid. Although the picture was quite small, it was sharp and clear. Nje was laughing with the woman, their fingers intertwined.

“Since you know where she is why haven’t you brought her back?” Famuyiwa asked his father.

“. . . He . . . can’t,” Ara said.


11.


Ara hated being weak, she hated her supine position. She was so lethargic she couldn’t even summon enough energy to be angry. She turned her face towards Famuyiwa. “Tell your father to take the bracelets off my wrists, I promise I won’t try anything. I can’t, I don’t have enough energy . . .” Her voice trailed off as another wave of weakness broke over her.

“You heard her.” Famuyiwa’s voice came to her as if he was quite distant.

“But she might call for help,” Baba Santi protested.

“I have had enough of your interference!” Famuyiwa barked. “Take the bloody bracelets off! I will deal with her myself.”

Ara blacked out.

She suddenly felt a shock of energy and jerked awake. She lifted up her wrists. The bracelets were gone, she could breathe again.

“So what were you saying, monster?” Baba Santi yelled at her.

She looked up at him and grinned. “And you’re not? You that bargained for power with your son’s life, you’re not a monster?” She turned to Famuyiwa. “You can stop this right now, if that’s what you want,” she said urgently. “I will be dead soon if I don’t return to the pool.”

Famuyiwa gave her a look full of pure hatred. “Father was right all along!” yelled Famuyiwa. “You’re a monster! I’ve lived four years with a lie!”

Tamuno materialised right in front of Famuyiwa.

Tamuno of the dramatic entrances.

I’ve been watching over you, I’m here to help. You no longer need to do this alone.

Ara could see that Famuyiwa was still yelling at her, his face stamped with disappointment and disgust, but his words couldn’t reach her.

“Yes,” she said. Tamuno smiled and dematerialized. Her present reality came back into focus. “See!” Baba Santi crowed. “I told you! I warned you!”

“I have a mind to strangle you with my bare hands!” Famuyiwa was still yelling.

Tears welled up in Ara’s eyes as she heard the sound of many waters. They were rising from brooks and lakes. Rivers and streams.

“Please Famuyiwa,” she shouted over him, “Leave now if you would ever want to see our daughter again. We can talk about this later.”

He stopped mid-tirade and gave her a look that broke her heart. “You think I will ever believe anything you say again?”

“I’ve never lied to you before,” Ara said over the sound of swelling waters becoming as one, taking an underground passage to join with the water in her swimming pool. “Just leave!”

Famuyiwa’s eyes hardened. “Father, tell the boys to put the bracelets back on her wrists—”

The thundering of a thousand waters drowned out his words as an enormous wave crashed over the house. Water filled up its nook and crannies, wrapped itself round every angle, lifted the house clean off its foundation and crushed it.   

Just as suddenly as the waters rose, they receded through the pool, taking every brick, every human being with them.

. . . Everyone knows there had been a bungalow at No 12, Ikotun, where that empty lot now stands. In it lived a young man and the most beautiful woman you’d ever seen. They had a child too, you know: beautiful, like her mother, smart as a whip.

A lot of stories have been told about that house. No one knows for certain what happened there, but whatever happened was certainly supernatural.

 

© 2017 by Ayodele Olofintuade

5700 Words


Ayodele Olofintuade lives in a universe populated by fantastic beings and beasts. She has published several books for children and young adults. She lives in Ibadan with her children and three cats.