I imagined the aran*; hung over the open closet across the room wrapped around my ill and shriving body. The image conjured surged a powerful urge to get the velvet fabric at all cost. I contemplated over the two options available; it was either I gather enough strength to walk the painstaking steps to the closet or scream loudly, which would send Asiata running into my room to get it for me.
I decided on the latter but my voice was weak. It sounded as if the echo did not leave my room. Or it could be that Asiata heard me but was bent on her revenge because I freed her caged butterflies? She kept them in order to send messages home to her people in Ilorin. “Backwards bush girl” was what I called her before i opened the mesh-like cage and released her diurnal insects. Doesn’t she know moths are for sending messages not butterflies?
The former option it had to be. I pushed away the Ankara wrapper the aran* is to replace, for it did not do much to keep me warm, besides, it reeked of Robb. I made the five seconds walk to the closet in thirty five seconds. I pulled at the fabric but the corner of the velvet snagged on the tiny nicks on the closet door and its end was caught in between the cracks. I tugged at the cloth until my legs gave in due to fatigue and i sunk to the floor. Everything went dark.
I woke up to the sound of wood cracking in fire and the aran* wrapped around my body. But to my dismay, the surrounding was alien. In the middle of the room was a real camp fire and behind it was another girl sleeping on a straw mat at the extreme. There are two entrances into the room, one had a door and the other had a curtain. A depicted calendar with the image of Jesus was hung on the door and on the floor by the right, sat a small amu* covered with a metal tray with different color plastic cups arranged on it.
A tall light skinned man entered through the curtain entrance, he took water from the amu* with one of the plastic cups. He hiked up his glowing white sutana*; a result from its several rinses in robin blue powder water, revealing a black trouser underneath. I would have labeled him an albino but he is freckles and blemish free. He came up to me and placed his hands on my forehead. I shrunk away from his touch for I did not know who he was. He handed me the cup of water which I took but did not drink and he said in Ijebu* dialect that we will start in thirty minutes.
A plump lady came in after he left. She was also dressed in a sutana* and with her was a small bowl, a wad of paper and a folded white cloth. Without speaking, she took me to the river to bathe. In the paper was a ball of black soap, which she generously applied to my hair with a twine sponge. I was given the white cloth to wrap around my wet naked body. I shrived to no one in particular as we walked back, the night was dark and cold and I was scared. We entered a building; a place I assume is some sort of sanctuary. Stick inscent were burning at the four corners of the room and there were benches arranged for an audience. She left me there and came back with two other women and two men, the light skinned man included.
Surrounded by the five church members, I was asked to kneel down in the middle. At this point, i found my voice and asked them why I was there and where my parents were. All my questions fell on deaf ears. They sang praises to God and the prayer session began. The light skinned man who was the leader explained to the rest what their mission was. He stated that i have been ill for the past month and my family had brought me here to be cured. He also claimed they are to command my spirit friends to leave me alone to enjoy life. For an eight year old girl, it was terrifying to hear of ghosts and spirits in the middle of the night. I crouched where I was and screamed.
At the tintinnabulation of the church bell, whips made from the remnant of a sugar cane plant landed on my back. The five of them shouted gibberish as the cane descended on me. I cried and danced to the canes like my life depended on it. Before I passed out I heard one of the females say in ijebu* “her case is a strong one; she might not make it through the night if we don’t beat the little devils out of her”
I almost did not make it through the night. Times without number, buckets of water was poured on me while the canning continued. I was asked to repeatedly send these spirit friends I neither could see nor hear away. I was to denounce my imaginary spirit land and claim earth as my abode. Broken in spirit and weak in stamina, I made up my own images and bade them goodbye for I wanted to live. The canes stopped as dawn broke over the valley. The advent of an adult began with this day. For there is no night so long that will not end with a dawn. And no day dawns like another.
** Aran – A velvet fabric used as a duvet
** Amu – A dome shaped water vessel. It cools the water in it.
** Ijebu – The literary dialect taken from the Yoruba language.
** Sutana – A white garment worn by the church organization. (e.g., Celestials and Cherub and Seraphim)