Ignoring the rustling sounds of the dry leaves being blown around in the compound by the wind, she walks to the cleared spot on the ground and drops the basket. She wipes her hand on her cloth, moves to the hut, bends and goes inside.
Few minutes later, she comes out and goes to sit on the cleared spot close to the basket.
A man comes out of the hut, stretches and looks up at the sky. He exhales and he too goes over and sits on the other side of the clear spot.
The woman brings out the little calabashes of food and they begin to eat.
“Dim oma, what is wrong? You are not eating your favorite ‘ofe ora’ like you do. You don’t look happy and even when I came to call you from inside, you were in deep thoughts. Please talk to me. What is it? O gini?
He drops the fufu he is holding and lets out a disheartening sigh.
“Dim oma,” she calls.
“Ugom, I am worried,” he tells her.
“About what?” She asks.
“About what the Chief Priest said,” he replies.
Ugo readjusts herself, “that’s true. You didn’t relate the outcome of your visit to the shrine yesterday. What did he tell you?” Ugo asks curiously.
Her husband looks directly into her eyes, “Ugom, we are going to have twins,” he reveals.
Immediately, “Tufiakwa. May the gods forbid,” Ugo spits. “Dim oma, how can the Chief Priest say that?”
“Are you calling the gods liars?” He asks her.
“May I be damned if I ever blaspheme against the gods. Dim Oma, what I’m saying is that there is no way I’m going to carry twins in my womb and give birth to them. The Chief Priest may have made an unintentional mistake this time around. Think about it, my great grand mother did not have twins, my grandmother did not have twins even my own mother did not have twins. So how can I? It will not happen. It can’t happen. I can’t have twins,” she spits again. “I will give you a child and not twins.” She maintains.
He gazes at his wife.
“Dim Oma, stop worrying yourself. The gods will not allow such a bad thing to happen to us. Calm yourself down and eat, biko. Eat my husband,” she adds.
She brings the fufu to his mouth and he eats it.
Ugo comes out of the hut and as the night breeze blows on her, she wraps her arms around her body. She looks up at the dark sky with sadness.
“Gods of my forefathers, please do not forsake me. Do not let me be put to shame. Do not let my husband be put to shame. For three years we have yearned for at least a child of our own to bring us blessing, not a curse. Gods of our land, I pray that you revert this curse if it is true and bless me with just a child. Please gods of our land.” She lets out a heartbreaking sigh and gently sits on a stone in front of the hut.
“Ugom,” she hears him call and she turns around.
“What are you doing outside in this cold night?” He asks her.
She smiles, “I couldn’t sleep. The child was making me uncomfortable so I decided to come out for a bit,” she explains.
“But you should have at least woken me up. Remember it is our child, not yours alone. So whenever things like this happens, let me know. Please my love,” he tells her.
“Anugom,” she says still smiling.
“Let’s go inside, this cold is not good for you and the child,” he tells her as he helps her up and they enter inside.
Ugo’s screams fills the whole compound if not the whole clan as well.
“Gods of our land, please protect my wife and my child. Please keep them alive,” he prays as he clenches his fists and paces around the compound.
After about few more minutes of Ugo’s screams, he hears the cries of a baby. He could not contain his joy as he runs to the hut and back to where he had been standing.
He turns around and sees the midwife looking downcast.
Still smiling, “Adaku, how is my wife and child doing?”
Adaku shakes her head, looks down and then back to him, “Bad omen,” she divulges.
“No, no, no, no, no……….,” was all he kept screaming as he runs into the hut.
He was still grieving when the Chief Priest arrived with his assistant carrying an earthenware pot. He looks up and his sadness is visible.
Without looking at him, “Ozoemena, it has happened as I predicted. You know what you must do. First thing tomorrow else the goddess’s wrath will visit not just your family but the whole clan.” Then he turns to him, “tomorrow Ozoemena, tomorrow those weapon of destruction dies. For now, go in and bring them to me.” The Chief Priest orders.
Ozo stands up and sluggishly heads into the hut. Few minutes later, he comes out with the babies, making efforts to ignore Ugo’s cries. Without looking at his babies, he hands them over to the Chief Priest who puts the babies into the pot.
“You must come with two tubers of yams, two white cocks and two kolanuts for the cleansing of our land,” he turns around and leaves quickly while his assistant carries the pot and follows behind him.
Ozoemena watches them with teary eyes till there are no longer in sight.
Ugo walks out slowly and sits on the stone, staring into emptiness.
She is startled as a hand touches her shoulder.
She shuts her eyes knowing it’s her husband.
“Why?” Ugo asks.
He doesn’t respond.
She takes his hand and holds it.
“Why?” She asks again. “Why us? Three years of childlessness and then this. Obim, I waited, yearned, prayed and walked with pride for nine months, and all for what?” The sadness in her voice pierced through Ozo’s heart.
Ozo squats and with his hand, he turns her head to him.
“My love, you have to be strong. You have to be strong for me and you, for the child that we will have,” Ozo tells her.
“And what if we have twins again?” She asks him.
“We will keep trying. It is not the end of our world. As long as we have each other, we will be okay. We have lived three years without a child. At least people will know that you are not barren.”
“But they will say I have a cursed womb,” she cuts him short. He just stares at her.
Softly, “do you know how it feels to not hear the cry of a child in this compound for three years and when I finally do, it’s a bad omen?” And then a tear drops from her eye.
Ozo dries it with his finger.
“Tomorrow we will get rid of the bad omen and we will keep trying,” he tells her and stands up.
Ugo looks up at him.
“For now, lets go inside. You need to rest,” he stretches his hand to her.
“I am not pregnant and I’m not a nursing mother either. So there’s no need for all that care,” she comments sadly.
“You’re still my wife and you deserve all the care I can give,” he states, still with a stretched hand.
She looks away and reluctantly takes his hands. He helps her up and hugs her before taking her into the hut.
Carrying the pot on his head, Ozoemena, Ugo, the Chief Priest with his assistant carrying the bag of the items for the sacrifice walk through the lonely bush that leads to the “ajo ofia” (evil forest), silently. Getting to the entrance, Ugo stops.
The Chief Priest pauses but doesn’t look at her, Ozo urges her with his eyes, she ignores him. The Chief Priest continues while Ozo drags his wife by the hand into the Evil Forest.
“Drop it there,” the Chief Priest points to a spot close to a tree and Ozoemena gently brings the pot down from his head and places it on the spot.
The Chief Priest starts his incantations as he carefully takes out the sacrificial items from the bag, dropping them close to the pot, at the foot of the tree. As the incantations went on, Ugo holds on to her husband.
“We are done. You’re free to go. The land has been cleansed. We have all been cleansed,” the Chief Priest, smiling, announces to them after the incantations had come to an end.
“Thank you Great one,” Ozoemena and Ugo greets him in unison. And the Chief Priest nods in satisfaction.
Ozoemena takes his wife by the hand and leads her out. Ugo turns back to look at the pot, tears welling up in her eyes.
“Look at me woman,” Ozo says as he tries to shake her out of her grief. “The gods will help me give you a child and I will make you happy again. I will give you a reason to walk with pride again.” He tells her softly.
Ugo looks at her husband and at that moment she believed everything he said as she felt a rush of peace down her spines.
She stands on her tip toes and hugs him tightly.
“I love you,” Ozo whispers.