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    a short story by vonn

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    TITLE: STRANGE SAGA
    WORD COUNT: {4293 words}

    CHAPTER ONE

    A
    rinze could not get a good night rest. The sound of mosquitoes buzzing without mercy in his ears was too much to endure. This really kept him awake a good part of the night coupled with the fact that he hadn't fetched enough water the previous day because he had to stay home alone with his younger sister who was very sick.
    The small water drum he managed to get filled with water when his sister was fast asleep on the old raffia mat just in front of the house was already dry with emptiness. He was so grateful that the supper got done the previous evening with the little quantity of water left. His friend had taught him the water scarcity trick on their way to the stream one day. He would have to soak the beans for a long time before the actual cooking. The only problem was that the method could only work on grains.

    After all had taken his meal for the evening, they peeled and ate oranges which served as water before retiring for the night. Arinze therefore knew he had to be up early to fetch water for the family. He was woken fully by whispers by his window and knew his friend Chike was around to call him for the stream. Hastily, he scrambled to his feet and dashed out to fetch the pad and water gallon lying at an end of the backyard, almost stumbling on a low wooden stool that obstructed him. Cursing under his breathe, he went through the exit door to meet his friend and both left for the stream.
    Along the way, they beckoned on other mates who were glad to be woken up earlier than usual. They all wanted to make a minimum of two trips before the stream became rowdy and polluted. Together, six teenagers, with the little aid of the moon set out to the stream which was a thirty-minute brisk walk.

    They met no one on their way, not even a stray dog or goat, yet they walked and chattered unperturbed till they got to the stream. The water was calm and warm after the very hot weather that was experienced the previous day.
    There was no time to be consumed in swimming and playing in the water yet as each wanted to achieve his aim of waking up that early. Quickly, they filled their water gallons and headed home.

    ************************************************************************

    After their first two trips, four other children joined them. When they got to the stream, they entered the water and moved to an area just by the huge rocks where they could get clean and fresh water with each of them talking or singing.

    "Today is unusually quiet. After the first two trips which I thought were too early for the birds and rodents, I still haven't heard any bird chirping or even the faintest sound of a squirrel. Something is wrong somewhere.".
    Ezinne, one of the girls voiced to no one in particular.
    "I thought I was the only one that noticed today's unusual nature. Other days, even with shouts and fights, you could hear the birds all over. I really wonder why today is different.” Chike concurred.
    "Well, let's still hurry and leave. Whenever the birds wake up and decide to let us know, they will."
    Arinze who was only concerned in filling up his first drum at home with water jokingly added which made the rest giggle.
    Soon they were out of the water, ready to go. The boys suggested allowing the three girls to be in the middle of them as they formed a queue. That way, they boasted they would be able to protect the girls from harm.
    In all, none was above the age of fifteen. Chike who was the biggest and being considered the strongest of them all volunteered to be the very last person. After walking the hilly and rocky path for about seven minutes, they still had not heard any sound except that of dried leaves being crumpled under their weight.
    They met or passed no one on their way,which felt creepy, yet darkness was fast disappearing. Usually, the path leading to the stream would be filled with people in groups hurrying to and from the stream with various kinds and sizes of water containers.
    Halfway up the rugged and bushy stream path, the wind all of a sudden changed its course and headed randomly towards them with a noticeably increased speed. That kind of wind was usually an enemy to the eyes as it carries with it sand and dust. The children started struggling to keep out the sand and dust and at the same time taking extra care not to allow their water containers go off-balance and break against the rocks.
    Like a person stung by an ant, Ezinne screamed.
    "Hey!!! Today is the sacred day! No wonder. Please let's hurry and leave this place before something bad happens." This revelation alone left them shaken and scared. How could they have forgotten they weren't supposed to be seen anywhere near the stream on such days.
    The sacred day was actually a day specially marked by the chief priest as the Idigo stream goddess's day of rest. Nobody was therefore supposed to visit the stream either to have a bath, wash, play, fetch or drink water as that would be seen as a sort of violation and disrespect to the goddess. Myth has it that few people who in the past disobeyed the rule and went to the stream never resurfaced. The one and only person who came out alive died immediately after he confessed his ordeal in the stream. Hundreds of years had passed but the village still kept to that tradition. Fathers passed down the stories to their children just as their fathers did to them and their grandfathers to their fathers. Mothers sang it as songs to their children and drew their ears often to remind them. Even the doubtful ones among them were not ready to be scapegoats.

    Those ten teenagers went to the stream because they were so much in need of water, forgetting how forbidden it was going to the stream on a day like that. The worst was that nobody knew when they left their homes. They had embarked on that very trip before anybody at home could see them to remind them of the danger.

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    CHAPTER TWO

    T
    hey walked with increased paces, so did the wind. Different sounds produced by popular birds, rodents and some unidentified creatures started ringing out like they were all suddenly freed from bondage.
    Chike who was behind was really sweating in fear. He wished he could find a way to get in front of them all, even if it meant flying.
    If someone taps me from behind, what will I do? He thought.
    "Please kindly wait for me oh!"A voice called a little distance from them.
    "I don't understand what is happening today and this heavy bucket of water is causing more difficulty for me."
    Chike was surprised to know that someone else came to the stream too. He turned a little but could not see clearly as a result of leaves which extended from their branches into the cleared walkway.

    "Walk faster Chike, can't you see that we're in trouble." Ezinne who amongst the rest heard the voice shouted back.
    "Stop shouting my name Ezinne before the spirits hear it. I'm behind Arinze."
    "Who is there then?" She shouted back at Chike.
    "Who is that?" Chike called out.
    "I diverted to the upper stream thinking the main one would be polluted."
    The statement answered their questions and they slowed down reluctantly to wait for the stranger.
    “Please can you------" Chike wanted to request when he felt the person was delaying but his voiced trailed on the last few words as he caught a glimpse of something. He stopped abruptly, shook his head and tried to refocus on the unclear image once more. What he saw got his legs pinned to the ground. Chills ran down his spine and bare chest.
    In a flash, he pushed down his water container, screaming at the same time to his friends to run for their lives.

    Without delay everyone ran, pushed, fell and got up again, all in a bid to escape from whatever it was.
    They ran for a long while, taking the only path leading to the stream. Instead of getting closer to the village, rather the path seemed endless.

    At a time they felt they have outrun the reason for running, so they slowed down a bit to catch their breathe. Chike’s mind was still nowhere at rest.

    “Chike what is it? What did you see? Why did you shout the way you did?” they all queried impatiently.
    Chike just stared on. He was too shocked to talk. At a time he only managed to mutter “A hanging pot.......nobody was carrying it.......” Everybody went silent. Perhaps the message was yet to sink in.
    The birds seemed also to be eavesdropping because they were silent at the moment. Two girls started crying.
    “Crying won’t help us in this situation. We have been running for a while and we’re supposed to be out of here by now, but see what is happening. It seems we’ve been running in circles. I don’t know how to explain the possibility of this because there is only a path leading to and from this stream except the diversion to the upper stream which is out of the question.” A boy among them reasoned.

    “It’s true. I know I have run past this particular rock twice now. The weather has even refused to change. It has been cloudy since we left the stream. This is the dry season, so the possibility of it raining this morning is very low.” Another boy whose name was Ugo agreed.
    “Wait, it’s as if I heard something.” Chike cut in and they listened.
    A flash of lightening passed and then crumpling of dried leaves was heard not far from where they stood. This saw them off into another round of helter skelter. Since it seemed to them that they were running endlessly, they decided to divert from the cleared path into the tall but sparse bushes. That way, they would have taken shorter routes into the village.

    So they formed two groups, each taking a different direction from the other. It was agreed that whichever group escaped first should call for help.

    The groups disappeared hoping to be out in no time. Getting to a cleared area, Arinze was too tired to run so he beckoned on others to take a little rest before they continued. Five of them sat on the stony foot of an old cashew tree, each breathing heavily. After resting a while, they continued on the walk. Their stomachs were rumbling out of hunger but they didn’t mind. All they cared for was getting out alive.
    They walked deeper till they got to a junction, then they realised they had lost their way again as each of the five paths looked similar. They were posed with another difficulty but in the end, they concluded to take the path directly opposite to that which they had trodden.
    Few minutes into the path, they started hearing faint voices and as they got closer, the voices became louder and distinct. They were so happy that finally they would be out of the scary place in no time.

    This reality activated their epinephrine and they jolted into a hopeful race. In no time, they got out of the bush and continued towards home, this time they walked since their fears were over.
    “Chei! I’ll never forget this day in my life” Ugo who was with them confessed.

    “I wonder if Chike and the rest have reached home. I hope nothing has happened to any of them.” Arinze said after a while in concern.
    “I think they should be home already. The route they took is shorter than ours, so they must be resting by now.” Ugo responded.

    Getting to the farms, not a soul was seen. Rather goats were tied each to farm pegs located in each family land.
    “Where has everybody gone to?
    Nobody is in the farm or did the goddess also forbid going to the farm today?
    Why did all families tie goats to their farms?
    What is actually going on?” they asked among themselves but got no helpful replies. This made them wonder the more where the noise they heard earlier came from.
    Still they continued for a while in silence till they got to the houses, yet the few houses they passed were quiet and looked deserted. By the time they got to their various homes, they were sure something was wrong somewhere. They found nobody at home. All had disappeared without a trace. Everything was beginning to get them puzzled. They decided to check the village square.
    “Maybe there is an important meeting going on and everyone had to attend.” They consoled themselves as they set out to the village square.

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    CHAPTER THREE

    A
    Kilometre to their destination, they ran into the first human since their arrival. The chief priest was steaming in fury as he pointed his staff at them.

    “Will you stop there, you evil and disobedient children! What have you done to our land? Is it not enough that the rains have refused to come for a long time, even before the dry season should have started? Now you have brought calamity upon us.” He thundered with yellow eyeballs almost bulging.

    The five teenagers looked at one another and wondered how they caused any calamity as was stressed by the chief priest.

    “Wh...at did we..? We di...did not do...” Ugo stammered in confusion.
    “Who are you, a little boy of yesterday, to challenge and question the gods?” Eziafa the chief priest straightened in anger as he moved swiftly towards Ugo, pointing his staff at him. With his heart thumping fast, Ugo fell to the ground in fear that the sharp edge of the staff would pierce him.

    The chief priest stood, glaring at the thirteen year old boy, contemplating on what next to do. The other four stood behind, clutching one another's hands in fear.

    "I must not harm a strand of your hair for you have been marked by the goddess. Go therefore to the village square where your punishment awaits you, for it is after then can the people return to this land in peace." With those words he made to go.
    Few steps ahead he stopped as if he remembered something.
    "Remember, there is no hiding place for evil ones." He finished and went off.

    They were so stunned that when any of them opened his mouth to say even a word, it would close with no sound coming out.
    Hot sweat and tears battled on their faces as they obliviously slumped to the ground, not minding the soldier ants that usually paraded the path.

    "Is this how I'm going to die when I'm still a child. I've not even thought of marriage. Hei! I'm in soup. Arinze kept soliloquizing.
    Amaechi at intervals could only scream "chei!! While Ezinne's seemingly endless anthem was "chi moo.
    It was getting to noon yet there was no sign of chike and his group members. Arinze and others waited for a long time to know if they would finally resurface so that all aould go to the village square together but there was no sign of them.

    Reluctantly they got up not minding to dust off sand and other particles clinging to their clothes but headed to the square. Their minds were not made up to take that direction, but the forces propelling them towards the village square,they could not oppose. No matter how much they wanted to scream and hold bak,they couldn't.
    They went on like little zombies till they got to the middle of the square where they fell and lost consciousness.

    [] They were once again brought to reality by noise around them. The sky was very thick with dark clouds. There were flashes of lightening and strikes of thunder every now and then.

    Before them was a heating fireplace. A bon fire was being set up not far from the fireplace to illuminate the entire place. With the aid of the light, they noticed they were in the middle of a large population of people they hadn't seen before.
    Something was cooking in the pot as dense steam was oozing out and ascending into the sky. Beside the cooking spot were four individuals tied so well that they could not move from the spot they sat on closer look, Arinze realised they were their friends.

    "But where is the fifth person? Where is Obiora?" They all whispered among them.
    They were interrupted with chants of joy from people surrounding them as female dancers appeared from nowhere. They were all uniformly and elegantly clothed.
    Their heads, wrists, waists and ankles were adorned with colourful beads which jingled as they swayed and twisted to the beat of the drum being played. The dancers moved in circle for a while till a woman stood and waved them to a halt.
    She was tall, young, plump and beautiful. Her long hair was neatly plaited and carefully packed. The crown she wore was made of ivory and the beads which graced her neck, wrists, waist and legs so fittingly were of very beautiful and colourful designs. She had authority written all over her as she walked. That was actually the stream goddess.

    "I was disturbed this morning by ten daring little humans who appeared to be so adventurous that they defied my command." As she said this, she lowered her gaze to meet the nine teenagers sitting on the floor. Then she shifted her gaze to the pot on fire and smiled.

    "He must be very tasty. I can't wait to find out". The children gasped in disgust. She slughtered Obiora like a sallah ram! And they are even planning to make a meal of his flesh. What cruel and barbaric thing to do!! So Obiora is dead.
    They mourned in their hearts as none was bold enough to speak up.

    "In your next life," she continued "you would learn to keep to instructions all the time." Silence fell all over for few seconds.

    "My queen," a man called with head bowed "what shall we do with them?" The goddess thought foe a while before responding.

    "Bring me the girls, that they may forever serve me." Two men moved to where they sat, untied the three girls and dragged them away amid people whispering happily.

    "And the rest, my queen, what would be of them?" The same man asked again. The goddess turned, walked back to her throne and sat again. A gourd of palmwine was poured for her which she gulped halfway before signalling for a refill from the standby maid.

    "Entertain me." She finally said to the man who had been waiting in loyalty for her. He made a bow and left. The crowd was noisy as excitement filled the air. The same man reappeared almost immediately.

    "May it please my queen to watch her son showcase his archery skill?"
    "I would be most delighted." The guards untied three of the boys and brought them forward as the goddess's son positioned himself in the middle of a small circle drawn in the sand.

    "This is your only chance to be free. Right now, your life is in your hands. Run!" The three boys scampered like rabbits being smoked out of their holes. In the twinkle of an eye, one fell as a result of an arrow that pierced his throat. Another followed immediately, and so did the third. Shouts of joy rented the air as the goddess's son was lifted shoulder high.

    "You have done well son."
    "My queen, the beast has not had a playmate for a long time. Today is surely its lucky day." The man hinted with a smirk on his face.
    "Indeed" was the response he got.
    "Send in the cage then." He ordered. In no time, a well constructed wooden cage was carried in.
    Through the woods used as bars, a voracious creature was in sight. The three boys almost died of fright as they saw this. Arinze shouted in terror when they dragged him out. He wriggled and kicked for freedom as he was being carried towards the cage.

    "Wait!," the guards carrying Arinze were brought to a halt by the goddess "choose another." She said. As soon as Arinze's feet touched the sand, he sped back to where he was,sweating like one tormented by demons. Chike was picked next. He neither screamed nor struggled. It would be useless doing that, he thought. The cage door was opened and before he could touch the floor, Chike was taken into another's possession.
    They were then two children clutching each other tightly in fear of the future. Next, a very large metallic basin of steaming hot oil was carefully carried in by six men. A little splatter of the content on the skin could cause harm. Slowly they placed it on the tripod stand over the fire, bowed to the goddess and walked away.

    "Who would you prefer to have a bath?" The man asked the people this time. They all looked at one another to know who would speak first. Finally, a voice came from someone in the crowd identifying Arinze, the palmoil producer's son. Many people nodded in agreement. Gradually, voices were heard here and there as each suggested Arinze.

    In no time, the air was filled with 'Arinze' 'Arinze'. Arinze was swept off his feet by a hefty man before he knew it.

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    #641687 Reply
    John Walter El MarshallJohn Walter El Marshall
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    set fire to the rain.

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    #641690 Reply
    HarmeenartHarmeenart
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    wow, bring it on

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    #641691 Reply
    AvatarValentine
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    CHAPTER FOUR

    "Arinze, Arinze wake up, its late already." Arinze jumped out of bed in alarm. He was sweating and panting furiously.

    "Chike....you are alive. How did it happen?" Arinze questioned in confusion.
    "Have you gone nuts? What kind of dream did you have that you're like this?" A surprised Chike asked.
    "Chike, I'm not going to that stream today even though there is no water in the house."
    "Who is talking about going to the stream today? Today is the sacred day and that was why we spent the whole afternoon fetching water yesterday." Chike explained further, wondering what was wrong with his friend.
    "Arinze, are you sure you are okay?" Arinze only nodded.
    "Chike I had this horrifying long dream. It seemed soo real. That was why I was confused when you woke me up. I can't tell you how happy I am that it was just a dream." Chike looked at Arinze all over and gave him a mocking laughter.

    "Wait, is that why you're sweating like a child being captured by masquerades?"
    "Is that what you'll say after telling you I almost had a heart attack?"

    "Dress up please. We all agreed that we would go to Afor to pluck mangoes early this morning. I left Ugo and Obiora to come and call you, only to find you hugging your bed and you're talking of heart attack."
    Arinze quickly picked his green shirt on the floor and both left the room. The sun was already up. That was when Arinze realised he really overslept. As they were leaving the compound, they met Ngozi, Arinze's younger sister, peeling cassavas and eyeing them at the same time.
    "Tell mama that I left with Chike for Afor. I'll be back before afternoon."
    "Pregnant fool. Because he managed to fetch water yesterday, that's why he decided to sleep till few minutes ago. Instead of helping me, he's rushing out to pluck mangoes wth his friends." Ngozi kept cursing and murmuring to herself.

    They got to Chike's house where the other boys were waiting for them. Seeing them again reminded Arinze of his dream and he felt happy within him that it was just a dream.

    "Arinze was tightly hugging his mattress and wouldn't let go. I had to use a thin rod to separate them." Chike teased when he was asked why he delayed.

    "If you were in my shoes, you wouldn't even be here. I was trying to tell him about the dream I had but he wouldn't listen." Arinze defended as they all left to their destination.

    "Infact gist us this your dream you've been emphasizing on since I got to your house. What is it about?" Chike finally commented.

    By the time they got to the mango trees just behind Afor, they were all gobsmacked after hearing the story. But to Arinze it was not just a story. He felt something stronger. He had been thinking about it since they left his house. He wondered if the stream goddess was trying to pass across a message through him.

    He had been told by his father that sometimes, seeing oneself or familiar people in a dream does not always mean the dream was pointing to them. Still thinking, he remembered the day his sister stubbornly wanted to go down to the stream to fetch water but was caught by people who saw her with a water pot on a sacred day.

    Maybe the dream is an insight into what could happen if someone made a costly mistake like we did. It could even be a revelation of what happened to those people whose stories we've heard about from our parents. He thought as he ran after a mango thrown in his direction.

    One thing was sure;whatever was the real meaning of his dream, Arinze was undoubtfully happy that everything started and ended in the spiritual realm.

    ***THE END***

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    VictoriouschildVictoriouschild
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    Nice story

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