Categories
Africa culture/tradition

Diary of a Village boy: The Leopard Spirit 4

One of the men unsheathed his shiny machete while the others looked on. I stopped at my tracks, thinking wearily. Were they truly headhunters? Maybe they are hunting for slaves for in those times, slave trade was booming. If they were none of those, why would they be blocking my way with machetes? Strange stories flood my mind, how savages skin their victim and how cannibals from villages across the seven hills disembowel their victims. I shrugged and resolved not to die that day.

It seemed like a twist of fate, for darkening clouds gave a hint, it was going to rain. Suddenly strong winds came, trees raged and twisted. It looked like their roots would tear out and as they wrestled with the wind,  tree leaves flew like kites. The wind struck everything with dust and that was my chance!

The strange men shielded their eyes from the dust and in that confusion I ran for it. I dashed through the path heading towards the thickest part of Uno forest which led to my village. Thickets, thorns and even hunter snares lay siege, but a boy running for his life will not care. I was determined to escape from the evil trio. The man with the machete was fast too, he followed immediately, while the others tried to understand what was happening. I was running, panting and praying to Chukwu, He won’t let me die in the forest.

I knew my way in this forest, as I hunted in this part during my childhood. I jumped over pits, tree stumps, fallen logs and hunter’s snares. I climbed and swung through tree branches and approached the Uno forest caves, reputed to have protected the village children and women during the tribal wars. It was told that during the war, our enemies followed the running villagers to the caves and were slaughtered by evil spirits. It was also told that spirits of dead men inhabited the caves during the times of peace and no one dared take refuge around there. I had no time for thoughts, I just ran into the shelter of the rocky caves and hid. My pursuers came to the rock clearing and stood for a while. It was unusually dark, as the wind had taken the evening and the clouds hid the sunlight. The thickness of the tree leaves also made the clearing gloomy. I watched the strange men circle around, picking their steps one at a time, listening to every twig or branch that broke and to every insect or bird that buzzed. Then something happened.

I heard a growl, a deep roar from the cave. I saw the strange men tremble in great fear. The growl came again and the men fled from the rock howling like women and dropping their machetes as they ran. I left my hideout and ran for my life too. I sprinted like the antelope trying to escape from a hungry leopard. Tears had long dried up, my fears have grown to greater dread. I felt my heart pound in my chest, it seemed it will explode. I was at the mercy of something evil, be it spirit, beast or man…


To be continued…