Papa said I had to be hail and hearty to attend the following 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 seriously. The moonlight night tales came once a fortnight; sometimes, they may be delayed, especially during the rainy 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 bare skin. The older women who told stories were called mama and sometimes brought fresh coconut juice and dried bush meat or fish for everyone. The moonlight nights were secret rendezvous for young lovers too. This was the primary reason many teens looked forward to the event. I would not say that for myself.
Before the tales are told, some older children organise quizzes, talk shows, debates, and games like wrestling, hides and seek, and nchokotoro, which was the girls’ favourite game. The boys will gather, not to play but to cheer their crush. I can’t remember precisely what moral I learned from 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 its influence, I was left at the mercy of people. I couldn’t control it. With each passing day, I grew afraid of myself. I wished I could live my life as a normal boy. There were strange voices in my head trying to question my abilities. 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. Maybe I could find out what I could do with this power. Just maybe. Only that a Leopard was not faint-hearted as I am. I would faint at the sight of a minor flesh wound. I shrugged at the thought of comparing myself to a wild animal. In character and thinking, I was just the opposite.
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 narrated how the villagers admired it as he walked through the clan. I knew he was bragging, because I saw nothing special in this over-hyped weird suit. The boys brought some udala and mango fruits. Though my friends were not privileged to attend school, I would never trade them for anything! That was a given.
“Did you hear that the strange crocodile has resurfaced and is even digging again?” Obi asked, cutting my happy moment off with his awful news.
“That’s old news. The animal has turned our clean stream water into the mud; we can’t even swim in the stream anymore.” Odo replied.
“Really?” I asked. “I thought it was captured when I was away?”
“No. The hunters caught a beaver. A beaver is not a crocodile.” Chimdi answered. She was the only girl 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 this as my father is a volunteer for the hunt.” Ekeledi added. He was handsome but a staunch stammerer. He usually pronounced each word twice after striking his foot on the floor. He got angry quickly and will hit anyone with any available object when offended.
To be continued…