Thursday, May 14

10

Ebubedike and the Desertlings of Uforo - 7

SEVEN



‘We must hide,’ Ngeli said.

They dropped below the sand heap in their front and hid, watching the creatures.

There were four of them— small, dark and stout creatures with bald head and bowed legs.

They were carrying a wood frame with one of their kind bound to it. They walked slowly, humming to a slow, sacred tune. Their clothing was only a small piece of loincloth sewn from animal leather. A tiny string holding a big, curved tooth hung from their necks.

‘Where are they going?’ Anene whispered.

‘Who knows,’ Ngeli answered. ‘But the one bound to the frame obviously is an offender.’

‘How can you be sure of that?’ Anene asked.

‘He is on a death penalty,’ Ebubedike said.

‘Death penalty? How did you know that?’

‘It is said that the desertlings hold their laws very strict,’ Ebubedike answered.

Their eyes trailed the creatures.

Now deep down the sand field, they stopped in front of a dry tree in the middle of the desert. One of them, visibly older because his protruding stomach was largest and his face more wrinkled, threw a rope to the tree branch.

He threw another and then they tied the free ends to the wood frame.

With the other ends of the rope, they pulled the frame up into air and left it hanging from the tree.

Their gagged and trussed-up fellow wriggled on the swinging frame.

With their job done, they came together, joined hands and said a short prayer with their heads bowed.

Then they turned and started walking back.

When they were far gone, Ebubedike and his friends ran to the tree and lowered the frame back to sand.

Dusk approached with speed now; their shadows has started to form on the sand.

With the frame down, they untied the creature and removed the twigs his mouth had been stuffed with.

‘Hello,’ Ebubedike said to it. He extended a hand to the creature to help it up.

‘Get away from me, you huge ball of fat!’ the creature shrieked, startling the travellers.

They saw now that it was male.

He sprang to his feet, slapping at his skin, trying to wipe off some of the white dust he’s been sprinkled with.

Like his mates, he was ugly to behold. He had a big, fat nose with wide ears and huge, jutting eyes.

‘A little gratitude would have been more appropriate,’ Ngeli said to the creature.

The creature swung suddenly to her. Ngeli took one step back as if in fear. ‘You want me to say thanks to you?’ the creature asked. ‘You starving of it? My thanks?’

The travellers only stared.

‘Answer me, tiny breast?!’

‘Do not be mad, little one,’ Anene said. ‘She only meant you ought to be thankful, I mean since we are the one that had come along to pull you down. It is still okay if you are indeed not.’

The creature splattered Anene’s face with brown saliva. ‘Here, there! That’s your thanks, sack of bones!’

Anene groaned in disgust, cleaning at his face.

Ngeli wrinkled her nose.

‘Why so upset, little man?’ Ebubedike asked. ‘We saved you.’

‘Saved me from what, I ask you?’ the creature shrieked back. It talked fast.

‘Your mates left you hanging on a tree, all bound up, we thought you might need some help.’

‘Who told you that, you big ball of nothing?’

‘What?’

‘Yes, yes, they did. And so? The old wobbly priest passed a sentence and they spread me in white powder and tied me up. But it hasn’t been the first time they had, or has it? It still wouldn’t have been the last. I break the rule, or rules some times, and they catch me and bring me here to the tree of sacrifice and leave me for the night hawks to devour me at night. Quite very boring, isn’t it?’

‘Not really,’ Ebubedike answered.

‘What are the night hawks?’ Ngeli asked.

‘Nothing. Just tiny ugly birds with graspy grasping claws. Eats anything with blood.’

‘So you do not fear them?’ Anene asked.

‘Well, well, at first, I must say –yes! But then I discovered a way.’ The creature’s voice added a gloating lilt. ‘A way that is all profit and profit and profit and nothing else!’ He revealed a set of brown jagged teeth in a mischievous grin.

‘What way?’ Ngeli asked.

‘Oh well. I must show you now my method, will I not?’

From the side of his leather waistcloth, the creature brought out something wrapped in green leaves. He unwrapped the leaves slowly to reveal a dark paste. ‘Come. Smell it!’ the creature said, showing the paste to Ngeli.

Ngeli was reluctant.

‘Come on now, bend and take a smell.’

Ngeli bent toward the creature’s hand and thrust her hand to her nose almost at the same time. ‘What is that?!’ she groaned, hand still firm to her nose. ‘It smells like death!’

The creature giggled. ‘It is the dung of the dung-eater beetle. Rub it on your skin and the night hawks dare not touch you.’

‘So that’s how you get saved?’ Ngeli asked.

‘Yes, yes, and get precious meat too.’

‘Meat?’ Anene this time. ‘How? Do you kill the hawks?’

‘Oh no no, those dark ugly birds too fast for anything to kill. Even so, their meat will be the vilest thing to taste. But what you can’t kill, you can steal from, right?’

Ebubedike nodded. ‘You rob the birds of their catch.’

‘Do you blame me? Meat has become the scarcest thing in Uforo. Seems everything is leaving the land as fast as it could. First it was the peppers, oh precious lovelies, warm on tongue and cold in belly, our delight gone. And they had in fact disappeared with their seeds too, all of it! And then the sand crickets followed, oh little precious food, easy to catch, easy to roast, very easy to swallow. But the night hawks, the ugly things, they somehow always manages to get meat. Once, they’ve dropped a rabbit before. Nice, whole and fresh. I ate at it all night!’

Another slice of darkness fixed to the sky. Ebubedike looked up. ‘Please, little man, you must help us locate the pool in a cave.’

‘Don’t call me that again!’ the creature shrieked.

‘Apologies,’ Ebubedike said. ‘You will tell me your name now then?’

‘Well, I suppose,’ the creature said. ‘Kobi.’

‘What?’

‘Call me Kobi, for I am the one born without a mother.’

‘You don’t have a mother?’ Anene asked.

‘Yes, yes, well, no, no, not exactly. And what cave are you talking about? A cave in a pool? How stupid!’

‘No, a pool in a cave,’ Anene said. ‘We must collect an ample quantity of the white sand from the pool.’

‘Three things now! Pool, cave, sand—which do you want?!’

Ebubedike stepped closer. ‘We journey all the way from Aban, wise one, in search of the pool that contains the clearest water any eye has ever seen.’

‘Oh, you must refer to the water in the underground caves.’

‘Yes, yes, just as the priestess mentioned it,’ Ebubedike said eagerly. ‘You must take us there, please.’

‘For what price?’

Ebubedike turned to his companions.

‘We have peppers!’ Ngeli announced.

‘Peppers?’ The creature blinked twice. ‘Wait, like red, yellow, green or brown peppers?’

Ngeli dipped into the basket and took out some dried ntolo peppers. The creature jerked them away from her before her hand was fully out.

‘Bless Uforo!’ the creature gasped, staring at the peppers in his tiny hands. Then he started to stuff his mouth with them.

Anene threw away his face.

They could perceive the hot pepper scent in the air as the creature chewed on them, ever so zealously, like one chewing on the sweetest thing in the world.

‘Now can you take us?’ Ebubedike said.

Kobi swallowed the last of his chew and opened his mouth wide, as if to take extra air. ‘Take you, you said? Take you where?’

‘To the cave, of course,’ Ngeli said.

‘Oh the cave. I see. For only a tiny bit handful of peppers, right? Dried, untasty peppers, no way!’

Ngeli stepped forward to the creature. ‘Pay attention, waddler, in this basket of mine from which I have given you the peppers are also as many lumps of salt.’

Kobi blinked twice. ‘Salt? Wait, did you say salt? Like white, lumpy, sharp-tasting, skin-peeling, stomach-poisoning salt?’

‘Let me show it to you—’

‘No no,’ the creature shrieked, backing away. ‘I’m sure you don’t need to show me your precious lovely lumps of salt as I have now agreed to take you to the cave.’

Ngeli removed her hand from the basket. ‘Then walk, creature. We come behind you.’

Ebubedike looked at Ngeli and gave her a small nod of gratitude. One could have guessed he smiled.

‘This way then,’ the creature said, leading the way left.

They had only taken a few steps when the sounds came.

Echoing bellows from the sky high above.

They looked up.

‘It’s them!’ Kobi screamed, suddenly panicky. ‘They are coming! They are coming this way! Run if you are wise. Run!’

‘I thought you said you do not fear the night hawks?’ Anene asked as they ran with the creature.

‘Not the hawks, fool. Those are the screel vultures. It’s their time. Oh, bad bad bad! They never seem to follow this route. Never, oh why? It must have been you big things that has attracted them!’

‘What are screel vultures?’ Ngeli asked, panting.

‘Big ugly birds with giant wings! They carry you to the sky and only your bone, clean of skin as if washed, will drop back to land!’

10 comments:

  1. Little breast. Got me laughing.
    beautiful update. Plenty trouble on the way. At the end will b victory.
    tanks Dan

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  2. Is like Ebubedike and co don enter wahala!let us see how the little Kobi will help them after taking their pepper and seeing that they have salt to give out!

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    Replies
    1. Omo the creature fear salt die! See as he quickly agree

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  3. Wow. ....hope they will make it this time. Please make episode 8 longer than this. ...plzzzzzz

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    1. Supported! If possible give us episode 8 n 9 together.

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  4. Nice one. Waiting for the next.

    Pamscrib.blogspot.com

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  5. Ha! Abeg nothing should happen to them o.
    Welldone Dan!

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  6. Kobi reminds me so much of Boju my friend from Ola's journey. Nice been here on this blog and Dan, you're doing a good job.

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    Replies
    1. Thanks, Sexy Sapphire. Nice to have you here!

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