Palmer Emmanuel is an emerging writer From Nigeria. He Started his Writing career at age 16 and since then, he had been working tirelessly to improve in the Craft. he has won several Flash Fiction contests and his writing style and diction has been well spoken of by Editors locally and international.
There was a land
As the night drew cold and silent, Nneka’s shrill voice could be heard around the compound, even in the entire village. She screamed aloud in pains. It was her first time; the first time she was reaching this path in her womanhood. It was when her voice went down that the voices of the women in the hut with her went up. They urged her to push. Obiora stood by the entrance of the hut, he didn't want to go in again, when he first ran into the hut while Nneka cried, one of the women had pushed him out. It was difficult to stand by and listened to Nneka as she cried like that, but it was more difficult to walk away, at least her crying assured him she was alive. He muttered silent prayers to the gods of the land. He knew Nneka never believed in the gods of their land. When she joined the missionaries to serve, what Nneka referred to as the true God, she stopped believing in the gods of their land. She didn’t partake in any festivals anymore. When Obiora was making sacrifices to his chi, Nneka didn’t join him. And when Nneka was praying to the true God Obiora left the hut. “My wife is going mad” Obiora once said to Ike his friend while they discussed over palm wine “she talks to herself and says she is praying to her God” they both laughed in mockery. “That is not even all o… she would talk in strange language, like… kokokoko masabatashagaba likabo papapa samataba… what is the meaning of that one?” Obiora laughed and spilled his palm wine. “Maybe she takes some shots from your palm wine before talking to her God” mocked Ike. “maybe… but don’t you think that is how they talk to their God, their God seems to be very Mysterious” Obiora added. Nevertheless, Obiora’s love for his wife did not diminish in anyway. Obiora allowed freedom of serving any God of your choice, even though everyone said he was not man enough to correct Nneka’s misbehaviors. Obiora thought the gods would be merciful enough to spare her, despite the fact that she didn’t believe in them again, at least he had been very faithful in his worship to them. So he prayed that the gods of his fathers would spare Nneka and her baby for his sake. He had married Nneka four years ago, as the chief warrior of the land, Nneka with all her beauty and elegances was the very best for him. When Nneka didn’t produce any child for four years, his shame began. They told him to sit down when he tried to speak during counsel meetings. “This meeting is for men, not for boys” said Okeke one of the chiefs. Obiora had angrily left the gathering that day. As he walked away, he heard a roaring of laughter behind him. His mother had brought several women for him during this peroid of Nneka’s childlessness, but Obiora had chased them away with a stick. “what is wrong with you my Son” Adora, Obiora’s mother had cried “don’t you want to have a child”. She stood in front of Obiora. “eh? Don’t you want a child” she grabbed Obiora’s wrapper “if you don’t want a child I want a grandchild”. Obiora maintained a long silent and listened as his mother said all kinds of things against him and Nneka. In fact she said Obiora’s plan was to allow her die without seeing her grandchildren. When Obiora was fed up, he forcefully removed her mother’s hand from his wrapper and went into his hut. It was at midnight Obiora heard the cry of a baby, he fell on his knees and muttered praises to the gods of the land. He could here the voices of the women inside the hut shouting for joy. However this joyful moment didn’t seem to last. Nneka soon began to scream again, the faint voices of the women urging her to push reached his ears. In a short while another baby cried. Obiora’s heart stopped. He had been on his kneels showering praises on the gods only in the midst of those praises to asked them a question. “why? The gods of our fathers” he shouted “why?” he was in great pain and grief. The women began to leave the hut, talking to one another in low tunes and spiting, and rolling their hands around their necks and clicking their fingers. “The gods forbid…abomination” one of the women spat as she left the compound. Such news as this didn’t waste time before it reaches the ears of everyone in the land. The whole land had been informed of Nneka’s misfortune. Later that afternoon while Obiora sat by his hut with a bottle of snuff and an hand fan held under his right armpit. He watched the messagers from the priest as they walked into his compound. “Good morning chief Obiora.” Maduka bowed and greeted. “The morning is Good.” Obiora's voice was deep and his words poured out from his mouth slowly. He took a snuff and turned to the messagers. “How might I be of help to you?” he asked as if he did not know why they had come. “We have come to take the babies” said Maduka. “They are with their mother inside the hut” The two messagers stared at each other and Maduka nodded that they should proceed. they proceeded to the hut and lowered themselves as the went through the threshold. Nneka was prepared, even for the worst. The babies were carefully wrapped and placed on the mud bed. She guard them, her waist tied with an head-tie. She was ready for a fight. The two messagers stared at her and looked at each other. Then Maduka said. “Madam we came for the babies, don’t waste our time with drama… hand them over” “Never!” shouted Nneka. Maduka moved an inch. Nneka drew out a knife from her wrapper” “you know this children must be cast away into the evil forest” Maduka said and took some steps backward “you know our customs. don’t you?” “that is your business, as for me, my custom is what my God tells me… I will never hand them over to you” Nneka was Adamant. “You must… this children are cursed” Maduka said and made to advanced. Nneka raised the knife for him to see, and he withdrew. “my children are not cursed… they are a gift from God and blessing unto my life” “Shut up this woman!” Maduka was getting irritated by Nneka mentioning a God that they didn’t know anything about. “I will not allow your god to take what my God as giving to me… all your god knows is to demand for blood, so so blood, abeg” she hissed. It was at this moment Obiora lowered himself into the hut. The messagers bowed in respect. “your wife has refuse to give them to us” Maduka said staring at Obiora to see how he would react. When Okika’s Third wife, gave birth to a twin two years ago, Maduka the chief messager of the chief priest had come to take the baby as he always does, but Nkiruka had refused. Okika had beaten her up for that. Now the messagers stood and watched the outcome of Nneka’s refuser. Obiora stared at Nneka and then stared at the messagers and told them to come another time. When they had left, Obiora sat on the mud bed and said. “Nneka sit down.” Nneka was still staring at the door post, as if the messagers were still there. she sat down. “Nneka. We have to cast those babies to the Evil forest…we cannot keep them. You know what our custom demands” “This children are gift from God.” Nneka said. “listen woman!” Obiora raised his voice.“I don’t know the God you are talking about, but the gods of this land forbid twins” “I can’t watch my children thrown into the forest to die… I can’t, God forbid bad thing…nor be me, I nor go try am” “What is your problem Nneka eh? What is it. Would you rather have children who will bring nothing but misfortune to this family and to this land” Obiora said softly. “This children are blessings, that is what I know” Nneka said and turned to carry one of the babies crying, she smiled as she played with the child. “see them, fine boys” “how is this a blessing” asked Obiora. “all my God knows how to do his to bless, he gave me two instead of one, for those years that I have lost…can’t you see Obiora” Nneka was excited. “don’t your God know that in this our land, twins are forbidden” Obiora asked watching Nneka playing with the baby. “what concerns my God and your gods, eh? Sister Philomena used to say it” Nneka did as though she was trying to remember something. “she used to say eh? The earth is the lord and the eh… and the oh o, and the everything belongs to our God… it sounds like that.” Nneka said, still very excited. She didn’t seems to understand the reason for her joy. The realities seems to have left her memory, at least for the time being. “ta! How can your God have everything, ta! It cannot work” Objected Obiora. “he has o… including this land” Nneka said. “Nneka I have heard enough… thank you… the realities still remains that the traditions and customs of the land is what I grew up to know and practice…Nneka have I not tried for you, I allowed you to serve this your God and your Jesus without troubling you, only just this one thing I am asking you eh!”
Obiora Paused and looked at the children. He nodded his head. He had wished he had a way around it, he had wished he could save their life. He had mourned and wept. he could never go against the customs of the land his father had been the head chief until his death and he had been raised up as a devoted man of the tradition and customs. “The chiefs had warned me against keeping the babies. Till the babies her disposed and the sacrifice to cleanse the land is done, I will no longer be the chief warrior. they had also threatened to banish us from this land, if the babies are not thrown into the forest in three days” Obiora allowed a paused for a moment and concluded “Please… I beg you… when they come again, give them the babies.. na beg I dey beg, Abeg” Nneka knew nothing she would say would convince Obiora to keep the babies. She kept quite and soon began to sob. When the News got to Pastor Benedict that Nneka, Sister Agnes as she was called by the Christians, had given birth and that she had giving birth to a twin, he took Sister Philomena to the woman who had first brought Nneka to the church to pay her a visit that evening. When they reached the threshold of Sister Agnes’s hut, they heard her sobbing bitterly. Pastor Benedict and Sister Philomena stared at each other and hurried into the hut. “what is it daughter? why are you crying this way”asked Pastor benedict. Nneka tried to speak but could not find her words. When she finally found them she said as she sobbed and wiped her face with the back of her hand. “Pastor, anytime from now they will come and take this babies to the evil forest” “God forbid!” shouted Sister Philomena. “It will not happen” said Pastor Benedict. “You will bring them to the church and nurse them there… will would give you a hut.” Nneka didn’t seems to feel any relief, she kept on sobbing. “what about my husband, Obiora?” she asked. Pastor Benedict was quiet for a while, then he spoke. “Obiora, your husband has to make his choice Nneka. you have made yours, your have decided to keep this babies. Isn’t it?” Nneka nodded. Maduka came to Obiora’s compound very early in the morning, this time he came with four extra men. They greeted Obiora who sat on the usual bench he always sat on with his snuff and his hand fan. He motioned for them to go ahead. The four men surrounded the hut while Maduka entered the hut. He came out in a very short moment and wore a disappointed look, he was looking around the compound and the others were wondering. “what is it?” Obiora asked, who had carefully studied Maduka’s expressions as he wondered about the compound. “I can’t find her” said Maduka. “who? Nneka?” Obiora sprang up from the bench. “she was in this morning” he ran into the hut. A thorough search was made throughout that day. Obiora had mobilized some of his warriors to go around the land searching for Nneka. By the end of the day she was no where to be found. In the evening the chief priest came in to Obiora’s compound, with the Chiefs of the land. Obiora’s compound bore an unusual quietness, the rustling sound of the leaves and the trees in the compound was loud and clear in the quiet state of the compound, the sound of the dried leafs on the ground made irritating noise as the wind swept across the compound. The unusual bench Obiora sat on rested against the mud wall, his snuff bottle and his hand fan lay on the ground. “Search the whole place” commanded the Chief Priest. The warriors divided themselves and began to search the compound. The elders were all present, they were eagerly waiting for the warriors to bring out Obiora wherever he was hiding, they had come to officially banish him from the land until he produced the twins and they are thrown into the forest and the land is cleansed. When the warriors returned to the Chief Priest and the Chiefs, they wore disappointment over their faces. “My elders, the eyes of the gods… you have to follow us” said Maduka who had been among the warriors. “What is it?” asked the elders worriedly, they followed the warriors to the back of Obiora’s Obi down into a bush path until they stopped In front of an Udala tree. Obiora was dangling around, with a rope fastened to his neck and his tongue out of his mouth.