Papa said I had to be strong to attend the next Tales by Moonlight night. He also promised I could play and hunt with other children if I got well fast. So I took my medication and exercise seriously. The moonlight night tales come once in a fortnight, sometimes it may be delayed especially during the rainy and farming season. It was every child’s wish to listen to those ancient tales sitting outside, under a tree and the feel of fresh air on their bare skin. The old women who told the tales were called mama and sometimes brought fresh coconut juice and pieces of dried bush meat for everyone. The moonlight nights were secret rendezvous for young lovers. In fact, this was the major reason many teens looked forward to the event. Before the tales are told, some older children organise quizzes, talkshows, debates and games like wrestling, hides and seek and nchokotoro, which was girls favourite game. The boys will gather, not to play but to cheer their crush. I can’t remember exactly what moral I learned in the past tales but I was determined not to miss the next.
But who knew what may happen to me next? All the dibia, Papa brought had failed to cage the spirit and each time I came under an attack I was left at the mercy of other people. So I couldn’t control it. Each day, I grew afraid of myself and wished I could live my life as a normal boy. Who says you are not normal? I felt a voice question. There were strange voices in my head. Mild, sometimes harsh but never sinister. I could connect to it somehow, but not for long. This was a mystery unknown even to Papa and he was not happy seeing his son suffer for nothing. Maybe I could find out what I could achieve with this power. Just maybe, only that a Leopard is not faint hearted like myself. I shrugged at the thought of comparing myself to Leopards. In character and thought, I was just the opposite of it.
My friends came that afternoon to check on me. I smiled at their goofy locally made fishing suits. Odo had made one for himself from a fishing net. He wore it to my room and was narrating how the villagers admired and watched him as he walked through the clan. I knew he was bragging, I saw nothing special in his new fishing net suit. The boys brought some Udala and mango. Ah! I knew my friends were not privileged like myself to attend school but I would never trade them for anything!
“Have you heard that the strange crocodile has resurfaced and is even digging again?” Obi asked, cutting my greeting off.
“That’s old news. The animal has turned our clean stream water into mud, we can’t even use the stream anymore.” Odo replied.
“Really?” I asked. “I thought it was captured when I was away?”
“No nah. The hunters caught a beaver. A beaver is not a crocodile.” Chimdi answered. She was the only girl friend in our midst. She seldom spoke and will always be the first to laugh when the boys come to mischief.
“Can you cook or bath with mud?” Odo ignored her.
“Well, the Igwe has summoned a hunting party at his palace. I knew because my father is a volunteer for the hunt.” Ekeledi added. He was handsome. But he was a stammerer and pronounced each word after striking his foot on the floor. He got angry easily and will hit anyone with any available object…
To be continued…