Death is the doorway to new life.
We live today. We shall live again.
In many forms we shall return.
The Egyptian Prayer of Resurrection
The sun was risen at the top of the mountains. At Oyo, Iyalaje was groaning, she was in pains and laborious breath. It was as though she won’t make it. The midwife with bloodied gloved hands kept encouraging her to push – sweat drips and with so much screaming from the new mother, Iyalaje delivers a bouncing baby girl.
As soon as the nurse assistant could rush out of the labour room, she shouted on top of her voice.
“Ati bimo o!” – We have delivered a baby.
There were other women seated, heavily pregnant at foamy seats. Though they couldn’t join in the immediate joy swirling around them they shouted their congrats, rubbing their palms together in prayer hoping for a safe delivery too. The man who had been pacing the floors jumped at the announcement. Followed by another woman, they both stood in front of the nurse.
“Where she is?”
He almost held the woman but she lifted her hands to signify she won’t like to be touched.
Adekunle Ajagbe – father of the child and husband to Iyalaje, -decided to call their daughter Aniwura meaning “we have gold”. It was the only name he gave her. Iyalaje was not pleased with the name because we all knew what happened to the Iyalode who went by the name – she was assassinated in her own bed, in spite of all her sterling achievements. Everyone called her Wura, except for a few grannies who preferred to call her full name.
Wura was an exceptionally bright child. She was neat, excelled at every academic performance and spoke intelligently.
Wura had a box in her left hand, her backpack balanced on her shoulders.
“Must you go to Lagos?” Iyalaje wiped her eyes with her white handkerchief.
“Mami, I’ll be fine. I’m a big girl now.”
Iyalaje turned to Ajagbe giving him her best mournful look.
“Are you going to let her go like this?”
“Woman, we already discussed this. She can take care of herself.”
“Mami, stop crying o! If not, you will make me cry too.” Wura wrapped her long arms around her mother’s voluptuous figure, she grinned – showing pearly white teeth – at her father who stood behind her mother.
“The gods go with you my daughter. May fame and fortune find you,” Ajagbe’s voice was steady betraying the wistful sadness he felt.
Iyalaje braved on a smile.
“Yes, the spirit of my ancestors will protect you. Don’t forget to call when you get to Lagos.”
“I won’t forget Mami,” Wura smiled at her mother and father.
“It’s not too late to get some foodstuff, who knows what kind of rubbish they eat in that Lagos. I know their garri cannot match the ones they make at Molete and the ones they sell at Challenge,” Iyalaje boasted.
That’s it Mami. Way to go! Wura was amused. Iyalaje would do almost anything to stop her including rallying against the food in Lagos.
Wura gained admission into the University of Lagos. It was her choice. She had lived all her life in Oyo, even going to Ibadan was a luxury her mother afforded her at every year’s end. As the only child of her parents after fifteen years of barrenness, it did not come as a surprise that Iyalaje was reluctant to let her daughter out of her sight.
Wura settled in school with ease. It came as no surprise since everyone she met was ready to help her. One would have thought she were some queen.
She studied business administration and she made good grades. In addition to Wura’s brains was her beauty – she was tall with a dark flawless skin and teeth made for laughing. She had her fair share of men running around her, trying to please her and get into her good books.
The afin -palace – was set in the old times, the Oba was seated in the throne. He shook his left leg and his eyes were red.
Otun, Osi, Iyalode and Balogun rushed into the Afin almost at the same time.
“Kabiyesi o!” They unanimously greeted.
“Welcome my chiefs,” he waved the horsetail in his right-hand.
They rose from the prostrate and sat in their positions. The eunuchs were at their duty posts to guide the afin.
“Kabiyesi, I hope there’s no problem?” Otun said, opening his palms on his knees.
“I called you here so that there will be no problem.”
“Ko buru,” – Not bad. Osi replied.
“Warn this woman,” Oba Latoosa stretched his horsetail at the Iyalode. “Warn her that, mere mortals do not trifle with the gods.”
Iyalode opens her mouth in surprise and shuts it when the other Chiefs turned to stare at her.
“Kabiyesi, Igba keji orisa,” Iyalode was on her knees.
Oh King, live forever! Second to the gods.
“I know nothing of what you speak.”
“Eh! Lenu e!” Oba Latoosa replied her.
Iyalode still on her knees, stretched her hands to the other chiefs, trying to tell them with her actions that they should beg the King; but they angled their bodies away from her.
“Your slaves sold to my Dahomey customers. They sold cheaper than what I usually sell.”
Iyalode face contorts into a sneer.
“It was a fair price Kabiyesi. Your slaves were selling at a very high price.”
“Otun, Osi, Balogun, can you see? She dares to answer me.”
Iyalode stands to her feet, looking at Oba Latoosa fully in the face.
“I thought you called us here for something important. When you have something better to say, don’t hesitate to send for me.”
She turns to the other chiefs. “Otun, Osi, Balogun, I greet you.”
Iyalode walked out of the palace and Wura wakes from her sleep sweating.
What is this? Why do I feel like I’m Iyalode? What kind of dream is this? I have nothing to do with Efunsetan. She didn’t have any surviving children. Gods of my fathers, I am here in a strange land please help me. I want nothing with all these old tradition and stories.
Wura head began to ache. She pressed her phone to check the time. It was 2AM.
If I call Mami now, she will start going on about rituals and rites. It’s probably nothing to worry about.
Wura tried to sleep but she kept turning and tossing till morning.
After a while, she left the bed, drew the curtain back to peer into the streets. It was dark, cold and empty.
It was one of the reasons she and her flatmate took this apartment. The pleasure of looking down at the world from a vantage point. She spared Sade a glance who was spread on the bed in the most awkward way. Wura shuddered wondering how she would have survived if they slept in the same bed, pity the man who marries Sade. One can only hope he keeps her busy every night, if not she’d strangle him in his sleep.
Sade was the most unbiased person she had ever met. Sade had no religion and she was a traditional worshipper. They worked out just fine. Perhaps she should share her weird dream with her. Sade might understand.
Wura wore her Dunlop slippers, shut the door with care and heads for the kitchen. She made a cup of coffee laced with half tin of milk and enough sugar.
She stirred gently so that the spoon won’t make a noise against the ceramic cup.
“What a flatmate you are? Sneaking around at 4 AM making coffee,” Sade said smiling.
Wura turned around with her cup and spoon.
“I’m glad you noticed.”
Wura walked past Sade to the living room, stirring her hot beverage as she went.
“I’m here to accompany you and the least you can do is make me a cup of coffee,” Sade followed her.
“I’m not your personal…”
“slave,” Sade completed rolling her eyes up. “I know. I have heard it a million times.”
Wura took a sip from her coffee and dropped it on the small stool beside her.
“I had a dream.”
“Good, you can tell me while you make coffee for me.”
Wura told Sade the dream and they both concluded that it was best she returned home to discuss this with her parents.
As soon as Wura told her parents, they dragged her to the shrine. They performed the rites and rituals the Ifa priest told them to do.
Wura continued to see herself as the Iyalode of Ibadan in her dreams. The rituals did nothing to stop them. Wura stopped fighting it or wondering why she was another woman. It was definitely a past life and that was the only reasonable theory she could come up with.
She had come to embrace it and stopped complaining. She lied to Sade that she no longer saw the Iyalode of Ibadan. She made sure nothing she did gave her away.
Iyalode sits on her chair at the backyard of her house, watching the slaves as they scurry about doing their duties when she took note of one slave in particular.
Aduke came running and knelt in front of her.
“Aya ma ko e!” – You are so bold! “How dare you get pregnant!”
“Iya, I’m not pregnant. Ara mi lo ya.” – I’m sick.
“Do you think I was born yesterday? I know a pregnant woman when I see one.”
By this time all the slaves huddle together awaiting the next verdict.
“Ojo!” she bellowed. “Call Abenilori.”
Ojo ran out of the compound in fright to call Abenilori.
Iyalode made all the slaves watch as the man chops off Aduke’s head.
Wura woke Sade with a blood curling screaming, her hands were shaking and her whole body covered in sweat.
Sade rushed to her bed but she couldn’t touch Wura, there was an invisible wall stopping her.
Sade rushed to the wall and flipped on the switch. Light flooded the room.
Iyalode eyes were fire and brimstones.
“This should serve as a deterrent to any of you who gets pregnant,” she waves her hands at the girl slaves who were all in tears but could not wail.
Wura heard a voice calling her. She opened her eyes to see Sade shocked. She sat up.
“Sade!” She tried to reach out to touch the other girl.
“What are you?” Sade eyes popped as though they will fall out of their sockets.
“What is it?”
“I should show you. Just wait.”
Sade returned with a mirror.
“What!” Wura was shocked at the lady staring back at her. She had grown fangs overnight.
“My best bet is that you’re a vampire,” Sade replied calmly.
“Vampire! Have you heard of a black-skinned vampire? What is this?”
Wura dropped her hands into her face and began to cry.
Sade walked close, there was no invisible wall stopping her this time. The foam beside Wura dipped, she raised her face. Sade cradled Wura’s head in her arms.
“We will find a way around this. Just promise you won’t kill me.”
Wura stiffened and whispered.
“I have not killed you, have I? Wa it, are we dead?”
“You must hide my secrets; you must tell no one. I am Efunsetan Aniwura. Promise! Promise me right now!”
“I promise Aniwura. I promise. We will figure this out. We will.”