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Africa art culture/tradition writing

Short Story: Umuosiala by John Okereke

We all swarmed in pairs to the village square, strolling, briskly and for myriad bent octogenarians crawlingly. From all nook and cranny, villagers poured into the main footpath leading straight to the copious square like water from river tributaries. To an onlooker on the farms on either side of the almost narrow path, this flux of people would look like a tattered parade of hunters, farmers, blacksmiths, wives, husbands, craftsmen, title-holders, girls, boys, elders and grandsons carrying wooden stools on their heads.

One could tell their interests from a mere look because an Orie is not to be taken faint-heartedly by the ardent people of Umuosiala. Each had his tool, even the drunkard his bottle. Many of them who were out on their various interests before the sun took supreme reign over the sky glittered with perspiration.

‘When I said the woman who picks termite-infested woods should be ready to host lizards, some of you thought I may have had too early a palm wine.’ Dike recalled as he walked to the square with Nwabugo. He had his matchet holster clinched underneath his left armpit.

‘There are things we mortals must learn to leave to the great deities of our fathers else we will be like that greedy man that ran faster than his Chi.’

O bu eziokwu,’ Nwabugo perturbedly replied while readjusting the knot of his wrapper.

Dike and Nwabugo have been friends from childhood. The two complement each other like roasted yam and red oil. Dike is a hunter while Nwabugo is a farmer. The fabric of their friendship was proved extremely durable in Umuosiala’s fight against invaders. Nwabugo’s leaping strides bear witness to that day when he saved Dike’s life by taking with his left leg an arrow met for his chest.

The ruckus from the village square grew louder as one near it. A horrid reminder that the soul of the village is unsettled and craves mollification from its children. Children it had breastfed with sons, forestry and fertile lands. When Dike and Nwabugo arrived at the square, there was barely any space left. The elders wore a long face, most had their heads bowed, arms crossed beneath their chests and shrugged shoulders from time to time.

Villagers formed various little circles to debate their speculations. A thick mixture of whispers and tension rented the air. Some women at intervals burst into abrupt wails. What abomination may have befallen the good people of Umuosiala?

Last night the ikoro had sounded, the Chief Priest of the deity had taken his own life. He won’t be buried like the others. The land must be cleansed.

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