by Tunde Alaran
The Night was already going home by the time Senide broke the news to us that the king had committed suicide. We all went agape. But someone like me didn’t believe him because he was fond of giving lies. He had once given us news like that; which we eventually found out was a lie. Likewise, Bamtele didn’t believe him. But He said the king hung himself with a noose the chief priest used for the last year’s sacrifice.
‘’ I heard the chief priest chanted incantations in the king’s palace’’, he said.
I felt sympathetic to what he said even though I didn’t believe him. We were all sat under the almond tree that was closer to Segi’s father’s farm. Segi was one of those beautiful ladies that represented our village in the last edition of pageantry. She was tall, and always looks stunning. She has a moisturizing skin that kept glowing. Even her teeth were sparklingly white. Any time she passed through the presage of our house; all the boys always took a glimpse at her.
As Senide began to narrate the incident that led to the king’s death, we heard a dirge from a procession that was walking to the king’s palace. I was scuffed. Even Bamitele was sad. We both looked at ourselves, not until tears began to rain on our eyes. He was indeed sad.
‘’ What happened exactly? ‘’, an albino guy who sat with us asked the question. Immediately he asked, I went closer to Senide to look straight into his eyes and asked another question.
‘’What killed the king? ‘’ He looked at me copiously. He sat on the Birchwood that was under the tree; crossed his leg, and began to chew his mid finger while we went sober on the tragic news. He didn’t utter any word. It was just a lady who sat amid us that was wailing; she cried rhythmically like a toad.
‘’ The chief priest will disseminate the news at dawn’’, I said.
‘’ No essence, since the entire village has already known that the king is dead’’, Komeple said. He was one of the best students in our village school. He had a good sense of humour. I was not happy when he talked. I looked at him in an irascible way. Bamitele kept quite on the Birchwood. He didn’t say anything likewise Senide.
‘’ Senide, why are you not saying anything? ’’ I asked him. Where I sat, I was uncomfortable, and I jerked. Still, everybody was whimpering. I just decided to leave. As I was about going, I heard the stentorian voice of Senide
‘’ The king killed himself because he is not famous beyond the border’’
‘’ You mean, beyond the border?!’’ We all squelched at once.
‘’ Yes’’, he said.
‘’ I don’t think the king could do such a thing to himself because he doesn’t have fame ‘’, the albino guy replied. His reply was scathing to that lady. When she eavesdropped that, she cleansed her tears with her velvet dress.
‘’ You don’t have to say that the king killed himself because of just ordinary fame’’, she retorted. Bamitele looked at her scornfully. While I thought she was senile, that made me touch Bamitele. He looked at him. But his eyes were scarlet like as if he smoked marijuana from that man who lived along with the sacrilege home in the village. There was a particular day when one man who was known to be brainy took the marijuana, he began to give a prophecy that many things would happen. That day, there was a deluge, and all of a sudden, there was also a heavy thunder that even killed one toddler who went to the river to fetch water.
He said so many things. It was Bamitele’s look that made me reminisce that he said that our king will kick the bucket. That he will become a guardian with our ancestors. I never knew what he meant was that we were going to mourn our king. He was soliloquizing.
‘’ What is it? You touched me’’ Bamitele said to me. I wasn’t with him anymore. It was the man’s words that kept running through my mind. Some minutes later, we heard a dog bark.
‘’ Hope that is not a rabid dog’’ Senide said.
‘’ I don’t think so’’, Bamitele replied. Obviously, it was getting late. Those nocturnal animals were already having their night market. Where we sat, I saw a squirrel that ran to my sight.
‘’ I am scared’’, I said. Afterwards, I heard the lady’s laughter. She laughed as if she had won a sweepstake. I was embarrassed by her laughter. But, Bamitele didn’t pay attention to us. He was sorrowful. His countenance was not lively.
‘’ Why are you timid? ‘’ Senide asked me. I refused to reply to him. Where I stood, I saw neon from the eyeball of a chameleon. I was becoming cynic. I was unsatisfied with the serene.
‘’ Children of our age should not be outside by this time’’ I said.
‘’ Don’t you know the chief priest will begin the ritual rite every soon’’, Bamitele said. As soon as he spoke, we saw two hefty men coming towards our direction. They tied a red cloth on their heads. One of them was faster than the other. When I saw them, I was fidgeting. That maybe they would come to catch us for the ritual rite. I began to pray Psalm 23 solemnly.
‘’ I know them. They are bodyguards to the village warrior’’, Senide said.
Immediately I heard that from him, my mind was restful enough. I made a deep sigh and they all looked at me chivalrously.
‘’ Calm down— nothing can happen to us’’, Senide said. He brought out an amulet from his pocket and wore it on his left hand. He then started to chant some strange words. Nobody noticed him. I was the only one that saw him. And I was startled when I saw ants from an anthill began to match in the column of our direction.
I left the direction; to go closer to Senide. I whispered to his ear. He laughed. And the next thing he did was to bring out a gourd from his pocket again. He beckoned on Bamitele and others. So, he plugged some leaves from the almond tree and he gave us one each. After he had given us, what he did was to chant an incantation to the gourd, and he happily poured the dark ash inside the gourd for us to lick. We all licked it. My apparition changed after I had licked the dark ash.
‘’Who killed the king? We need to know.’’ I said with annoyance. While I was talking, Bamitele was crying. And the albino guy was licking an apricot. I looked at both of them disdainfully.
‘’ The king must have been killed by someone’’ the lady said
‘’ Do you think King really died?’’, Senide asked
‘’ King is a specter that lives forever’’, the albino replied
As we were talking, what we heard was a gong from the king’s palace. We began to act in dismemberment because we knew that gong was to place the king six feet underneath.
‘’The pismire will eat the king’s skull’’, the albino guy said with apricot in his mouth.
‘’ No! The foreign archaeologist will come and keep his skull in the white man museum’’, Senide said.
‘’ Was he a white man? ‘’ Bamitele retorted. He cleansed his taut face, but his nostril was filled with mucus.
‘’ King doesn’t die like this. This death is shameful. Why will a king commit suicide?’’ I said
‘’ He committed suicide because he thought he had no recognition as the king ’’ Senide replied to me.
‘’ Everybody shut up your mouth!’’ she yelled at us.
We kept mute. While she began to mimic what we had been saying. I was annoyed. I was angry. Like I should give her an uppercut or I should hit her with the mahogany at was closer to me.
‘’ You don’t have to act like you don’t have manners’’ I spoke to her with a hoarse voice
‘’ Stop it!’’ Senide said.
‘’ Why?’’ I asked.
‘’ Don’t you know we are mourning our king. And anybody that quarrels with an associate would be used as a scapegoat by the chamberlain’’ Bamitele replied.
The cloud was murmuring to us like there would be a cloudburst. Even the moon was in the clutter with the galaxy of stars— in this same night when the king was already buried.
‘’ Don’t be an apologist’’ I told Bamitele.
Later, we heard the voice of a ghoul, giving all sorts of dirge to our late king. The eerie voice made us become worried. Also, we became immobile. The albino guy was feeling nervous; while the lady was acting like as if she had nausea. I was nuanced with what was happening. Senide brought a whip that looked like a cat’s tail, and he began to wave it on the air.
‘’ What is this you are doing?’’ I asked with bad intentions. I began to become skeptical of everything. He leered at me and made a burst of astonishing laughter. That laugher made me feel annoyed.
‘’ Are you mad?’’, I said
‘’ Your mother must be mad too’’, he replied me
Both of us were about to begin to fight, when we saw a woodpecker— suddenly, it flew to the place where Bamitele was sitting down. And it began to act dauntingly to us.
‘’ What kind of bird is this? ‘’, I asked
‘’ It is the bird that tells the other bird that a wayfarer has gone home’’ Senide replied.
Actually, both of us were about to fight, when we saw the bird. Therefore, after we had seen the bird, we stopped. I looked at him and I gave a contemptuous look. He also looked at me and smiled cheerfully.
‘’ We need to go home’’; the albino guy who was still licking the apricot said.
‘’ This is our home’’ Senide said.
‘’ What do you mean? ‘’, Bamitele asked
‘’ It is because our king has gone like the dancing masquerade who refuses to listen to the drummer of the market’’, Senide retorted.
I gave a deep sigh. I was actually perplexed. I began to get scared of Senide.
‘’ You are diabolic, Senide’’ I said.
The night was still dark; the sound of the cloud was still in burlesque, and the dew was drizzling from the azure sky; little by little. Those nocturnal animals began to run amid us. We saw them. I sighted a plumed serpent from afar.
‘’ See! See!!’’ I shouted
‘’ What is that? ‘’, the lady asked me with low abeyance.
‘’ It was a serpent’’ I replied with a grave voice. She hissed. So, I sat beside Bamitele. Where I sat, I began to reminisce on the man that sold marijuana. I looked at Bamitele but he was like a dunce. I was angry to ask him a question. I was controlling myself; but, I never knew, when I spoke out
‘’ I am not mystic. I saw a serpent. And my mother has always said that when a serpent crawls at night. That means danger is ready to befall someone. ‘’ I said.
‘’ You and your myth’’ she jokingly said to me
We heard the procession again. This time, it was the constant repetition of different dirges. They were mentioning the name of our king. We also heard one of the guards chant his panegyric for the last time. It was sombre. Everything went silent at the same time. No dog barked. Not to even talk of nocturnal animals crying. Everything kept mute like we were at the cemetery.
‘’ Let’s pay our last homage to the king’’, Bamitele suggested
‘’ May his gentle soul rest in peace’’, I said
‘’ Amen’’ We all replied in an onerous way.
And a strange cat stared at us as soon as we said amen. I took a small wood log and I threw to the cat with feisty.
‘’ That’s the king in another home. Don’t you know when somebody dies, it turns to an animal? A domestic animal that will stay with us forever again’’ The albino guy said
‘’ Are you serious? ‘’ Senide asked him with too much curiosity
‘’ Yes.” Domestic animals are our dead souls. Don’t you know that they come to our home in different ways? You buy them or someone gives you’’, he retorted.
‘’ I think so. My mother once told me that cat always has the intention to live forever and that is why it does not give birth to kitten in people’s face ‘’, Senide said
‘’ Are you saying dead people turn to a cat?’’ I asked
‘’ No. All domestic animals are dead souls that want to live in a new home’’ Senide replied
‘’ The gods won’t blame them because we once promised to live forever’’ the lady added to the conversation
‘’ Enough of this! Let’s allow the king to go to his new home while we leave the cat to stay in its owner’s home forever. ‘’ Bamitele said.