By: CeeJay John Nweke(@ceejaynweke)
Chaka chaka chaka. Chaka chaka chaka.
She heard the strange yet familiar sound. How did she know that sound?Then she looked down and saw the scaly, leathery skin of an eastern diamondback rattle snake, covered in blood, wriggling out of her left thigh. She fainted.
“Nwajiogwu! Nwajiogwu!! Come and see what your husband is doing to me! He wants to kill me Oh!” her mother screamed.
Nwajiogwu dashed from the gate to the fully furnished living room of the duplex she shared with her husband on 5th Avenue in Festac. True enough, her mother was sprawled on the floor, her husband towering above her with a menacing scowl.
“Woman, I have told you to leave me alone!” her husband roared. “Your daughter is the reason there has been no child in this family – AFTER 10 YEARS!! The next time you come to me with your silly notions, I will beat the hell, heaven, and purgatory out of you!” he shouted at the crumpled old lady before him.
“Muyiwa, leave my mother alone Oh! Leave her – don‟t kill her for me Oh! Please Oh!” Nwadiegwu joined in the fray. Muyiwa turned and saw the heads of the neighbors’ children peeking at them from over the fence. He took one last look at his wife and mother in-law. As he turned to leave, he thought within himself, “how the heck did I get myself entangled in this mess?”
He had been a player in his hay days; a ‘Casanova’ of sort. To the females, he was a prime catch. He had the newest Honda Accord model in navy blue chrome, a job as the branch manager of the Zenith Bank branch on 21 Road – with an annual salary of five hundred thousand naira (bonuses not included), a chiseled face and body that looked like it was carved out of marble and painted dark chocolate, bright white eyes, sparkling teeth, the charm of an innocent school boy combined with the sexual prowess of a Brown Antechinus. Except that he didn’t die after mating – although several females wished he did.
He was used to the “Whambam- Thank-You-Ma’am” system, and quite surprisingly, no one could refuse him – even with their previous knowledge of his escapades. In that special moment, each of the ladies he defiled thought they were ‘the chosen one’, the one he would take home to Mama and ring her finger for the world to see. Oh, how wrong they were! One of them even tried to tie him down once by claiming she was pregnant. Naturally, he demanded a paternity test. Muyiwa advised her to go to Dr. Coker, a reputable doctor in Festac Town.
Unbeknownst to the poor girl, Dr. Coker was Muyiwa‟s close friend and roommate while they were at the University of Ibadan. The paternity test result came back negative, but not after some sizeable brown envelopes had changed hands and they had had a few laughs about it over some glasses of Cognac.
That was 11 years ago, before he met Nwajiogwu.
Nwajiogwu looked down at her mother: a swollen and bruised left eye added a little color to her rumpled face. She loved her mother, but Mama Okenna was getting on her last nerve. It was time to put a stop to this.
“Mama Okenna, what did you do now?” Nwajiogwu asked her mother.
“I didn’t do anything oh, nwam ”, Mama Okenna whimpered in response. “I didn’t do anything to Muyiwa, and he started beating me and slapping me, an old woman like me…..”
“Mama, are you telling me Muyiwa’s brain sparked and he started slapping you for no reason?”
“Yes! We were sitting here talking, and I made the simple suggestion that he should go see a specialist about his, you know, “ability” to father a child, since you went to the doctor and he said you were fine…”
“MAMA! MAMA OKENNA! Why do you want to spoil my marriage of 10 years Mama? Will you marry me if Muyiwa leaves me? I am no longer a young girl Oh – please O! Mama I love you but your mouth has brought this trouble on you, and I will not separate you and Muyiwa again Oh! Mama, are you in a hurry to join Papa in the grave, that you are going about and looking for trouble? Mama! Ge Nti Oh! Pay attention – don’t spoil my marriage Oh!” Nwajiogwu finished and stormed off to the guest room.
She was not going to sleep in the same room with Muyiwa; not tonight.
Ifeoma had been worried for her friend. She was a caring person, although she didn’t like to be taken advantage of. However, for this situation, she was determined to do something. She dialed Nwajiogwu’s number.
“Ify baby! Chikito!” Nwajiogwu’s cheerful voice resonated from the phone.
“Asampete Nwa! Nwa baby 1 of Festac Town! How now?” Ifeoma replied with excitement.
“My dear, I’m fine oh. We are managing.”
“Yeah yeah, I know you are managing. Which is why you’ll love me more after I tell you this. Remember that doctor I told you about? That special doctor that can help you fix your, erm, erm, “issues”? I know you didn’t want to meet him that day, l but I booked an appointment anyway – we are supposed to meet him this morning at 10:30.”
“Ify, I know you mean well, but I’m tired from work and I just want to rest, ok? Just let this one go…”
“Noo Oh! Nwa baby, I cannot let it go Oh – friends look after each other, right?”
“Right. I know that, but in this case….”
“Nwajiogwu, but me no buts on this issue oh! Now get your butt in the shower and get ready!
I’m coming to pick you at 9:30!”
“Okay, Ify, I’ve heard you.”
“I know you heard me – better do as I said! I’m coming now!” And as she said it, she opened the door of her refrigerator and slammed it.
“Ify, did you just slam the door of your refrigerator so I will think that you are already in the car?”
“Yes, I did! But I’m really coming! Oya, Go!” With that, Ifeoma clicked the “End” button on her Blackberry Curve.
True to her word, at 9:30am she was honking her horn at the gate. Nwajiogwu had prepared some akara balls the day before, so Muyiwa would have some food when he returned. Her mother was sleeping in the bigger guestroom, with the 40-inch LCD still switched on but muted. Nwajiogwu let her herself sigh a little. She loved her mother, but she couldn’t wait for her to go back home as soon as possible. After all, who wanted the stress of in-laws on the childless 10-year marriage of an intertribal couple? Focus, Focus, she thought. She left the compound quietly and got into Ifeoma’s car, and they zoomed off.
“Ifeoma, you took me to a witch-doctor! A herbalist! A native doctor! A charlatan! A con-artist! A complete and utter disgrace to the….”
“Okay! I’ve heard you!” Ifeoma interrupted. “Look, I didn’t know that he would be that kind of doctor! The friend that recommended him told me that he was the best, and that he was top notch…”
“Yes! Top Notch of all the herbalists from the village!” Nwajiogwu interposed. “At least he had a door, an office, and a bed, instead of inviting me into his hut to sit on an old stool made out of monkey skin like all normal herbalists do!” She continued, furiously.
“I’m sorry, Nwa baby. You know I was doing it in your best interest – I’m really sorry dear” Ifeoma pleaded with her friend.
“Ify, you’re sorry for what? After he requested for my mother-in-law’s name, I began suspecting something. Then he asked me to drink the so-called “cleansing elixir” so I could bear children, while saying my mother-in-law’s name. Ify, that thing smelt like goat droppings and tasted horrible! Why would you subject me to such torture if you’re my friend?” Nwajiogwu questioned.
“My dear, I’m so sorry – you know I was only trying to help you…”
“You were trying to help me? You were TRYING TO HELP ME!! If you really wanted to help me, you would have slept with Muyiwa and borne children for him! That’s what you always wanted, is it not? You never got over the fact that you liked him first but he chose me! And I still see the way you look at him! Don’t think I don’t know, Ify! Don’t assume that I’m ignorant! In fact, drop me here. I’m leaving.”
True enough, Nwajiogwu opened the door and tried to come down while Ifeoma was slowing down to a stop by the curb. Nwajiogwu almost toppled herself in the process. She got up, straightened her dress, and began walking in the direction to her home, all the while making attempts to hail cabs as they passed by. Ifeoma waited and watched Nwajiogwu for five minutes before realizing that she wouldn’t budge, and then she drove off.
Nwajiogwu, arrived home feeling hungry, angry, and fatigued from the day’s events. She had barely walked into her compound when she heard the screams from inside the house. She dashed into the living room and saw her husband standing while her mother lay on the ground under him, with a swollen, pinkish left eye.
The room was very dark. She reached for the light switch. Nothing. She tried the other side of the room, using her hands and feet as her guides. She found the light switch. Click.
On her bed, was her Mother-in-Law, Mama Muyiwa. She was fully decked in traditional royal attire. Nwajiogwu feigned happiness at seeing her mother-in-law, as she always did.
“Mama Muyiwa! When did you arrive?” She said, with a plastered-on smile. “It’s so good to see you!”
Then she noticed the head garb that Mama Muyiwa had on. It began to move and unwrap itself, all the while making a very strangely familiar sound: chaka chaka chaka. Chaka chaka chaka.
Nwajiogwu stood aghast when she realized that a rattlesnake had just slid down Mama Muyiwa’s head and body.
“Why do you want to kill me?” Mama Muyiwa’s voice boomed. “You told someone to give you all the children I didn’t have? You told someone to put all the children I was supposed to have into your tummy? Don’t you think I could have had more children if I wanted to? I gave them up for my power!”
As she spoke, the room became chilly. It seemed like the furniture began to move about. The light bulb flickered twice.
“I have already taken my son’s ability to produce children! Now, I will take all the children you were supposed to produce from you! Next time, you will know not to challenge me again!” She boomed.
Mama Muyiwa smiled, exposing her yellowish-brown teeth. Then, with a loud voice, she shouted: “COME TO ME, MY CHILDREN! ALL OF YOU, COME!!!”
For a moment, it seemed like nothing happened. Then, a wave of searing pain wracked Nwajiogwu’s body. She screamed.
She collapsed. When she looked at herself, she saw the unimaginable. Another rattle snake had opened her skin and was wiggling its way out of her left thigh. There was blood everywhere. She fainted in the dream.
She woke up screaming.
“Just a dream, just a dream”, she consoled herself. Three minutes later, after she had calmed down. “Just a dream! No blood anywhere. No blood! Phew! Thank God!” She whispered to herself.
She turned on her right side, and was ready to go to sleep.
The sound that emanated from under her bed was unmistakable.
“Chaka chaka chaka! Chaka Chaka Chaka!! CHAKA CHAKA CHAKA!!!”