Fiction: Too Much To Bear

January 12, 2016 Fiction , POETRY / FICTION

By

Ovuoba David

 

 

‘Now, I have gotten enough of your saliva, leave!’ Otumma said and stood commanding them, his size making Mr. Veldt wonder the loudness of the voice he was able to produce. Veldt opened his mouth to ask what does he say? But boldness eluded him, a mysterious force holding his lips. When Otumma’s hand went down from its command position, Mr. Veldt felt something leave his lips and he could talk, ‘this may be your last chance, it’s good you repent of your evil ways.’

He did not look at Eji to interpret, perhaps he forgot he was preaching to a native African. It was not his first time meeting a deadly native in this mission in Africa. He had confronted a similar beast in Kenya and the hinter Ghana respectively, but the stories surrounding their living differ. They said this one sucks blood like mosquitoes or better, vampires, but he could not remember recording such things about those of Kenya and Ghana in his mission diary.

Otumma nodded and proceeded to his hut. Ugada quibbled something from where he stood quivering. He knew the Otumma of today was not the one who hunted crabs with him in their childhood. Mr. Veldt looked back and saw Ugada panicking at a place, ready to pick race. He looked also at Eji, and Otumma’s hole-like entrance was the best option left.

Otumma’s heartbeats increased at a fast pace. The blood in the four calabashes, which hung on his cracked wall, filled the floor. He took the longest and most poisonous of his matchetes, which queued behind the cracked wall in their other of age, height and past exploits – human head records. He held it very tight as the veins in his body jumped from their hiding places displaying nothing but fury. He felt a force pushing him to spare no one. He knew the cause of his broken calabashes. His calabashes must have fallen because of the presence of those wizards.

 ‘We‘ve got to run, there is danger,’ said Eji when he turned and saw a man walking fast with a long matchete.

‘What?’ asked Mr. Veldt looking back too.

‘Ugada,’ Eji called on Ugada who was far in front. Ugada turned. ‘oso run!’ he shouted already running, himself. Mr. Veldt joined the race reasonably sure a black man was capable of anything with a long matchete. Otumma pulled himself together and sped off after them with the aura of a man who knew the jungle well. Ugada masterfully disappeared into the tick bush in his front.

Eji jumped the big log of wood which served as an Akwaa Bridge of the narrow stream along the narrow path, and there he was, driving himself through the bush with his fallen Bible dancing to the echoes of danger on spear grasses, which fell into the stream. Otumma got closer with his pounding footsteps deranging every attempt made by Mr. Veldt to increase his speed. Mr. Veldt jumped from the middle of the wooden bridge and, on his landing on the dry ground his Bible slipped off his hand. He stopped to get his bible, but the carbon dioxide from his mouth and nostrils was too hot to be endured, his breathe no more showing up as normal. Hope it’s not his asthma back again at this perilous moment? It was. He fell on the bible and wished whosoever chased him gave him just a short time to rest to use the portable oxygen mask in his bag, but Eji carried the bag. He wished he was Mr. Wool or even with him in this journey. Wool was a sports man. If he had come with them, he would have disarmed this beast.

Otumma approached with his matchete up in the air and his bulging eyes staring fire. He raised his matchete when he stumbled. The long sharpened metal struck the soft flesh of Veldt’s yellow skin tearing it apart from the back side. Veldt opened his mouth to scream but was too weak. His hand reached for his bible, holding it tight as his eyes rotated fast hiding the iris. Otumma cleaned his blood stained matchete on Veldt’s buttocks. There was no need to give him a second cut for he trusted the poison to spare him not. Eji watched this from the back of an Iroko tree transfixed and helpless. He must report to Mr. Wool who was at home typing the Agbaja mission report with his small typewriter, at once. Otumma hated that Ugada escaped. He wanted to teach him some lessons too.

Minutes later, Eji led the way with the matchete he borrowed from Ede. Mr. Wool followed with a first aid box while Ede guarded the back with his long matchete. As they got closer it was apparent their weapons were of no use at this point since the most important thing was to render help to the dying Veldt. Mr. Wool was as fast as he could. He knew his brother had lost so much blood. Wool was gently placed on Ede’s shoulder as they moved. His eyes opened and closed, again and again, but he held on and held his bible firm.

Like a savannah wild fire, the news spread across Nduebo village reaching the rest of the villages in Agbaja clan. Everywhere was quiet. People ran from their work places back to their homes. Rumours slapped the air with tones that caused a very big wind. Some people said the white man would push their warriors from across the river to avenge their son. In some villages in Agbaja clan, the injured white man was dead already while in some other villages, he was half dead. Shortly after they arrived, the village announcer hit his gong in an emergency manner and for some minutes, buttocks pressed against buttocks as a crowd of, some naïve, some defiant villagers waited for Ede to address them in the large village playground. which had a very big and enormous mahogany with up to fifty-seater sprouted roots. These roots were carved by the gods themselves for the purpose of sitting, the people believed. The incident made the leadership structure of the village weak with most elders dodging questions from the inquisitive and loquacious womenfolk. Everything now hinged on Ede who tried hard to be properly guided, not letting his heavy emotion do the talking.

Ede waved his hands in greeting. His words were obvious and concise. ‘Mishter Wuru said there is no problem, everything will be alright; tomorrow is still our normal church service for the new God and he wants everybody there, but it will be in the afternoon after lunch.’

No one said anything and Ede was not even ready to entertain any questions either. Many arms were folded, mostly amongst the women. The men left in groups and classes. And the numerous narrow paths, which led to the playground took some time to swallow them all, to spit them in their different homes where they would continue their prayers that their gods settle amicably with the white man’s God to avert the great tribulation they smelt on the way. The elders stayed back to whisper deeper with Ede, they wanted to know how the butchered white man actually fared; whether there were chances of his survival so they may know how to handle things. Ede, though sounded worried, giving them little hope.

Mr. Wool was not surprised at the huge turn out. The village playground was filled to its brim. One of the armed men with him dragged his bicycle and parked it somewhere behind an Iroko tree in the northern side of the large playground. He had really emaciated from a plump man he used to be to a skeletal evangelist with a thick Bible. The reason was not as single as one may easily conclude. It was not only as a result of a murder of a fellow. The number of mosquitoes that graced his soft skin each time he went on evangelism were only comparable to the sand on the gravel beach which he intended visiting once again, if he secured leave to rejoin his people in Scotland – his father land, where he would tell the most horrific story of all his experiences in this ancient Africa, the Agbaja experience.

His eyes were swollen and his mouth dry and cracked. He has not tasted anything since Mr. Veldt breathed last in his arm. It was indeed an ugly scene, and the District Head had made matters worse. Now, Wool has to believe that which he had refused listening to when Veldt was still alive. He had refused to believe that there was a great discrepancy between the imperialists and the missionaries in this journey of civilization and pacification of the ancient Africa.

Clement Wassink, the District Head, had confirmed all these speculations before his own very eyes and ears as the only thing Clement could say when he met him, Clement, smoking a wrapped native weed at the entrance of the district medical Centre – which was not quite proper for a person of his status. If he must smoke, it mustn’t or sternly, shouldn’t be the native hemp, while not a sealed cigarette or something better; even Indian hemp would have been more prestigious if need be.

Clement tried to prove that he had seen more horrible things in this jungle. The reason he showcased the temperament of making things look light when it was damn serious, from the way he spoke, his message was clear. ‘It’s…it’s not too bad, just part of it, it’s a pity. I‘ve arranged my boys; they are going to catch the crazy beast, we have dealt with his kind before,’ Wool had only nodded his head emotionally and left without saying a word to the big hearted District Head who pissed him off. Clement wanted to know how Wool actually felt losing a fellow and a brother, as missionary evangelists called one another in this jungle in the ancient Africa. All these made Wool developed a strong bile in his stomach. His anger was against everybody ranging from Britain, his country to the natives. His furious thoughts instinctively presented themselves luring him to the conclusion that the whole incident could be tantamount to the dogma of pre-destiny – a doctrine which was propounded by the founder of this Church of Scotland mission that he found himself hunting souls for, maybe for God after all, taking all these and the murder of a fellow by a beast among these heathens.

The thoughts of many things continued to flow. He did see sense in the way Clement approached serious issues, but he had not learnt such things, though could be traced spiritually. Biblically, the Lord demanded praises in every condition, no exception. It was all part of the changes one had to undergo if one must do this work and get it done well. He had been a street boy with tattoos all over his skin and women, alcohol and many more accompaniments of a boozy living; his priorities before he made the hard decision of giving his life to Christ. It was not that he lacked the courage to move on with the kind of life and the night clubbing he was a champion in, it was only a move to fulfill a strange desire, the desire to be a blessing to his generation, a demanding feeling which seized him the day he gave one old Evangelist a fair hearing in a drinking bar.

Wool nearly committed blasphemy before the Holy Spirit intervened with as many encouraging portions of the scripture as related to his situation. And these words from an unseen speaker – the Holy Spirit, his acclaimed helper, were able to put his head in order – making him believe, in total submission to the will of God, that, Veldt has gone to rest in the bosom of the lord so and so be it.

As they stepped into the compound, the beast was there, seated right in front of his hut on a wooden stool in his world of nudity. They were astonished when they saw he was naked. Had he finally gone mad? The only thing beside him was his companion, the matchete. He looked more fearful and dreadful than ever, every part of his body was covered with hairs like that of a chimpanzee. One of the two new white men clicked his camera. The light flashed and the image of “this black cannibal” as was his thought as he clicked the camera, was captured and stored. Some voluntary tears dropped from his eyes as he imagined how sorrowful it would be when the family of Mr. Veldt would see this photo.

Otumma stood as they approached. His matchete was ready to slaughter. The three armed men on khaki drew back a bit, their hands on the triggers, ready to pull. Otumma did not know that the weapon before him was the white man’s magical weapon, he had heard stories about the white man’s gun and what it can do but did not care to imagine how this weapon worked.

In a swoop, Otumma rushed one of the armed men. The man dodged his long matchete and pulled the trigger and the boom sound defeated Otumma and his long matchete. The bullet hit him on his knee and he fell beside the coconut tree in front of his hut, holding the coconut and releasing a horrible cry that was accompanied with oozing through his mouth. The two other armed men filled with rage and hatred made for their triggers too, but were stopped by Mr. Wool’s ‘No!’ as he shouted. The premonition in his voice was obvious.

‘The villagers are watching. It will be a bad impression to kill their man before their very eyes; all the while we have been preaching mercy. I know this whole thing is just too much to bear – sparing this cannibal after he killed Veldt, but this is the work of He who sent us. The law will take its course later.” The officers held their breathe and lowered their arms in a this is what we get civilizing these monkeys manner.

 

 

 

 

 

Ovuoba David

Ovuoba David is a young creative writer from Abakaliki, Nigeria. His short story “Boff” was published in the “Voices From My Clan” anthology. His short story was longlisted for the Awele Creative Prize for short stories, 2014. He also published “our treasure pot” in “silent voices” a Nigeria/Zimbabwe poetry collection. He has just completed the manuscript of his first novel “And the Whiteman Cried.”

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