The smell of wet grass and chirping of birds ushered him into the square.
A place he had known vaguely to be home.
Trees bent at the top, formed canopies to block the scorching heat of the sun.
He smiled as he watched children play in circles under trees and on wet sand.
He smiled at a gay little boy who buried his feet in sand, trying to build a house.
It reminded him of himself when he was a boy, how he would dive into sand without any care in the world, how he would climb from tree to tree, ignoring his mother’s warning of having to fall and break his arms.
He was swift, a free spirit and his friends used to call him sunsun-mutum, bird of a man.
But many things changed with the passing years he was no longer swift like a bird, for life had crumpled him and stiffened him into the man that now sat behind the wheels of a Mercedes Benz E-class, struggling with prostate cancer and about to bury his father.
Everyone was returning, not because of his father’s burial but because it seemed a wave of realization had hit the former inhabitants of the village. It wasn’t really a village in the sense of it. It had all the infrastructure that an urban settlement would have. But it was closely knitted, like the web of a spider, like the nest of a bird. Each one knew the other. Each one reached out to the other until the great separation.
A woman from Windows street, his street, had accused another of eating her child. There were fights, then heavy storms, then shoes working on their own, children turning to small bodies of water. Everything that happens in horror movies became reality.
Near-water village became a horror movie.
But it is true, that the bewitched is responsible for the craftiness of the witch. The inhabitants of Near-water were their own plight.
He parked in front of what used to be their apartment. NO.4 WALL STREET.
He had expected the walls would be cracked, that it would be covered in dust, that he would see dead rodents and insects or even a snake but it wasn’t so. The apartment looked almost exactly as they had left it years ago. The picture of the sitting room before stepmother shut the door and locked it, it never left his mind. Their father’s picture still hung on the hall, with his mouth open as though he wanted to say something. To rebuke him for forgetting home.
He was joined by the others later in the day; his step-mother and a few close relatives. And most of the evening was spent cleaning the house, making it habitable for the days they may be spending.
But everybody was returning to Near-water for more than just a few days. He was contemplating staying back too, he had cancer and a lot of money. And it’s exactly the kind of thing his father would have wanted, for him to be a custodian of what was left.
“There is an appointed time for everything under the heavens. A time to be born and a time to die.”
The priest, he wore a black garb and a muffler that hung neatly round his neck. He wasn’t reading from a book, he was used to interring the dead. To saying the prayers for them.
“We don’t know what is on the other side until we get there. When our day comes, may we not be found wanting. May we..”
His voice echoed in the field but was drowned by singing birds and squeaking bats
It was a peaceful internment, no tears or screams or drama or women rolling on mud floors. Everyone seemed to have their emotions in control, their tears and screams stifled underneath their throats. The coffin was carefully placed in an already dug grave and they paid their last respect. Each one, a handful of mud.
Then a strange thing happened, it began to rain. It wasn’t the time for the rains, it wasn’t even close to the season but it came. A giant stood in the field, his head buried upwards in the sky. There’s a legend that the giant is the doorway to the world beyond the physical world. But the legend the rain could not be explained. Incoherent voices advanced from a distance, owls hooting in earnest. Something strange was taking over near-water village, it’s been a long time coming.
by Farida Adamu
Feature Image by pexels
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