“It’s not working”, Mrs. Eugene cried out, slamming her fist against the mud ground. Tears streamed down her cheeks, as her eyes, not for the last time, fell on Rodah’s already swollen body.
They, she and her Priest husband, had been trying, non-stop, for 7 days to revive her daughter. But it wasn’t working.
And besides, Rodah’s body had swollen up, and started to smell. Communicating with her spirit on ways to make the body okay, was a waste of time.
Ms. Helen couldn’t bear the sight, nor the stench. She left the shrine hut to the small quarters Mrs. Eugene prepared for her and John, since the 4th day, and hadn’t returned.
Rodah was long dead and gone. In as much as it hurt, she had accepted it. And she only wished Mrs. Eugene and others would accept it too.
“It is not easy to accept the death of a child”, John told her once, after she grumbled about the smell from the body permeating their own quarters.
“I know”, Ms. Helen agreed, “but when nothing can be done to bring her back, what else can one do?”
On the eight day, having communicated with Rodah’s spirit about her body no longer being convenient for habitation, Mrs. Eugene and her husband, along with Ms. Helen and John, moved to cremate the body.
They lost hope at reviving her. But then, at Rodah’s request, they started to look into the possibility of saving Aaron, and their son.
The Chief Priest prepared a smoke screen, with which they all watched Ese and what she was doing with both the senior and Junior Aarons.
From what they saw, Ese had transported father and son to another time in history. A more ancient time. She used the senior Aaron as a weapon to terrify villagers out of their land before taking over. Those caught in the run were turned into slaves. And each village conquered was added to the next, forming a large territory for which she was to rule as queen.
Against his will, Aaron was used to kill those who disobeyed or even questioned the new queen. But then, it was only during the full moon his animal side came out, turning into the beast Ese made him into. It was also during the full moon, Ese’s magic was at its peak. She would also turn into a beast, to join Aaron in fighting the villagers.
Every other time, when the full moon was out, Aaron was his normal self. And during those times, he mourned Rodah. Every day that passed, he was in agony. And when he tried to be with his son, to get some comfort and to give him comfort too, Ese wouldn’t let him.
She had long decided, she’d be the only one to hold little Aaron, to play with him and raise him up, as hers. Once a week though, she’d let his father see him, just for a few minutes. Then she’d take him away again.
For Ese, depriving Aaron of his son, was the only way she could keep him by her side. For if he had his son, she was sure, he’d try to escape. Or find every means to break the curse.
“Love is stupid”, she thought. And she knew only a foolish man like Aaron could get enough love from his foolish wife, although dead, to break her hold on him. She wouldn’t let it. Not even a chance.
Aaron, when he wasn’t a monster, was locked up in an underground cell room. And each day, his agony seemed to drive him mad.
“Is there anything we can do to bring them back?” Ms. Helen asked, as her heart sank, watching what the man she called son, had become. And to think her grandson was looked after by that witch of a woman.
“There is only one way to bring them back, including Rodah, in one place”, the Chief priest said, heaving a sigh, “if we can get them in one place, we can break the curse”.
“What way is that?” Mrs. Eugene turned watery eyes to him. Her son-law and her grandson where being maltreatment by her own daughter. She didn’t know which was better, to die along with Rodah, or watch the horrible things Ese was doing.
Thank the gods too. For her husband truly loved her, else he wouldn’t go out of his way to try to help her daughters.
The Priest looked up at his wife. He cleaned the tears from her eyes, “it is a complex way. But if things go well. It could work”.
And so they started to work. Ese’s spirit was away, in another body, but her mother still inhabited her real body. So it was hers to use. And Mrs. Eugene was going to use it to satisfaction.
“You know you have to chain me first”, she told her husband, “And not just with any chain. If Ese gets back into this body, it will be hard for you to overpower her”.
He got a chain, poured some concoctions on it and said incantations. Afterwards, he took his beloved wife, and with pain in his eyes, chained her against the banyan tree some distance away from the shrine.
“I will bring you back into this body”, he promised, before walking away.
The priest took some of her blood, set up a fire in front of her, and performed the ritual with it; a ritual that forced a screaming Ese out of the body she occupied where she was, back into her own body chained to the banyan tree.
Ese was indeed taken by surprise. She hadn’t seen it coming. She didn’t think it was possible for someone else to force her out of the body she chose to inhabit.
Fortunately, while Ese was brought back to her own body, Mrs. Eugene was transported back in history, into the body Ese once occupied.
Being in Ese’s body made it possible to tap into Ese’s thoughts and deeds. So she knew where to get the keys to free Aaron from his cell in the underground cave, as well as where to find little Aaron.
She went for her grandson first, picking him from the cradle Ese had kept him. Before going for his father. But it took her a long while to convince Aaron about her true identity. She eventually succeeded.
“But how did you get here?”, he asked.
“You forget who I am, and who my husband is?” She asked, taking off the chain that held him bound.
“What about my wife? Were you able to help her?” Aaron asked. Tears in his eyes.
“Not yet. But we will. You have to believe me”.
Aaron nodded and looked away. But then, they heard loud war chants some distance away. Looking out, Aaron saw it was an army of locals from the surrounding villages, probably coming back to free their loved ones, held captive, and reclaim their land.
It was not the first time they were marching to war. But with Ese’s magic and her level of wickedness, they were always defeated.
“Is there anyway we can assure them of their safety, to avoid any fight?”, Mrs. Eugene asked.
“No. We just have to find a way to leave. If they see you, they will assume you’re her. And they are very angry. With me too. I am nothing but a beast who has murdered lots of their loved ones, men, women and children.
Mrs. Eugene nodded in understanding, as she began to prepare for their return to Iri.
“When we leave here, what’s the plan?” Aaron asked.
“The plan is to right all the wrong my daughter has done. And to try to save her twin”.
“Twin?” Aaron looked confused, “Ese has a twin?”
“She had a twin. Rodah”.
Aaron caught his breath. A frown creased his brows. “I don’t understand”.
“I can’t explain now. My priority is to make sure you’re safe”. Holding both father and son close within a circle drawn on the floor, she whispered some incantations. In a whirlwind of colours, they returned to Iri, appearing in front of the shrine.
Ms. Helen was the first to spot them. She ran towards the trio with outstretched hand. The embrace that followed was an emotional reunion between mother, son and grandson.
John joined the family to welcome his master. Ms. Helen wasted no time telling Aaron how supportive the security man had been. And Aaron knew in his heart, he was indebted to John Eru.
The Chief Priest emerged from the shrine to welcome his wife from the short journey. He almost didn’t recognize her, as the woman before him was extremely beautiful. All the same, he knew he wanted her back as before. He preferred her in Ese’s body. All that hips couldn’t go to waste.
As he moved to hug her, Ese’s wicked laughter, from where she was tied, distracted them. She mocked them with her eyes, as she watched the reunion of the family.
“One thing is certain, mama”, she spat, “coming back into this body gave me complete insight into all you’ve been planning and doing”,
“Just as taking over your body gave me insight into all the terrible things you’ve been doing. What have you turned into?” Mrs. Eugene barked.
“You can’t scare me, mama. I have seen your happy moments and your most pained moments. And right now, you’re in pain. Severe pain over Rodah. And now I see clearly. But what I do not understand, is why you never told me, Rodah was my sister!” She yelled, “and why did you prefer her over me?
Mrs. Eugene, handed little Aaron over to his father, “take them inside”, she instructed Ms. Helen. The elderly woman obeyed. But Aaron was not moving.
“I’m not leaving”, he said, “I need to know what exactly is going on. How did my wife become sister to this evil?” He pointed accusing fingers at Ese.
“I will explain things to you, later”, Mrs. Eugene promised. Only then, did Aaron allow himself be led away into the shrine.
As they left, Mrs. Eugene and the Chief Priest turned to Ese. They moved to stand in front of her.
“Since you’re in the body I have used for years now, and you’re so deep in sorcery you can now tap into my thoughts, unlike the first time you took over my body. Then you should understand I never preferred one over the other. I never preferred Rodah over you. You kn….”
“You told me I had no sister!”, Ese cut her short, “you told me I was your only child”.
“And you were. After I was forced to give your sister away to Chief”.
“She had the best things in life. And I had nothing”.
“You had me, Ese. You had my love and support. Your sister never experienced a mother’s true love. She experienced the love of strangers. But I prayed, she’ll take you as the sister she never grew up with. And she did. She loved you. She was even going to take you to the city and spoil you silly. But you had to ruin everything”.
“I found Aaron first. Why did you ask her to take him, instead of fighting to keep him for me? She could have any other man she wanted”, Ese cried.
“Aaron would never have loved you. Destiny cannot be toyed with, my daughter”, tears started to well-up in Mrs. Eugene’s eyes. She was emotional, suddenly realizing that her daughter had thought she never cared for her, or wanted her to enjoy the good things of life.
“Destiny my foot! You toyed with mine, when you asked my friend to take away the man I was in love with”.
“As you now know, that friend was your sister”.
“A sister who you preferred over me. A sister you sent to the Akiris to have a good life, while you subjected me to extreme poverty”.
“I worked myself almost to death, everyday, just to care for you. You had my love. You had my understanding and you gave me the will to keep going. Your sister may have had a better life, materially. But you and I know, you had more love from a genuine heart.”
“The Akiris loved her! You loved her too. Even more!” Ese argued stubbornly.
“Well, you suit yourself. But I’m going to undo the curse you heartlessly placed on your brother in-law and free your nephew from your hold. You? You better start thinking of ways to revive your sister. Because I’m not going to lose her a second time”.
“I will do no such thing”, Ese spat, “she’s better off dead. She’ll rot away and I’ll take joy in watching the maggots eat her stinking flesh”.
“Why do you hate her so much?”, Mrs. Eugene’s voice was almost a whisper.
“Because she took away from me, everything I loved. She took your love, your care, your admiration, the Akiris’ wealth and love, and then she stole Aaron and gave birth to the son I was supposed to have for him. She’s a total thief and I will not help her. The best I can do is send her puppet of a husband to keep her company in the great beyond”.
“We’ll see about that”, a very angry Mrs. Eugene marched off, determined to find a solution once and for all.
Ese laughed wickedly, ignoring the Chief Priest, as her eyes trailed her mother to the shrine.
“What are you staring at?” She finally turned angry eyes on the Priest.
He said nothing. Only a smile curved his lips, before he turned and walked away.
Back in the shrine, Mrs. Eugene was bent over a mortar. Her grip around the pestle was tight, as she pounded on leaves mixed with certain concoctions. Her expression was serious.
“What is that for?” Her husband asked, as he came in.
“I want to try to help Rodah”, she replied.
“You know you cannot help her that way. Her body has been cremated”.
“At least I can find her another body”.
“Then you’ll be no different from your daughter, taking people’s bodies against their will”.
“Then what should I do?” She threw the pestle down, feeling very frustrated. But the Priest kept his cool. He moved to sit on an empty stool, before speaking.
“When I was just a boy, I came back from school one afternoon and watched my father resolve an issue between the dead and the living. He sent them to a completely different world, gave them equal powers, equal standing too, to battle things out. If the dead, who was wronged, wins the fight, both the dead and his or her loved one, dead or alive, will remain in the world they are transported to, blend in and live happily. Vengeance has taken place. If the living wins? They then have the right to cause more harm”.
“I don’t understand what you’re talking”, his wife admitted.
“We let them battle it out. You will never see your daughters again, if we do this. But you’ll know which one of them wins”.
“I’m still going to lose one child?”, her voice was shaky.
“Yes. Ese has chosen her path. There’s nothing we can do about it. This is the only way. To free your son in-law of the curse and give Rodah another chance at life”.
“If we are going to do this. I suggest we do it now”, Aaron spoke up, “you may not know what I am. But if the full moon comes. I will change into the creature Ese has made me into. And I cannot control the killings. Please. I don’t want to kill anyone else”.
The Priest looked at him, “You’re all going to the other world. You’ve all been wronged. But your wife must be the one to win this battle”.
“I need to go with them too”, Mrs. Eugene said, searching her husband’s eyes. She saw the pain. The fact that going with them to this new world, meant she might not return.
“Are you planning to leave me?” The Priest asked, “knowing that despite the fact you have daughters, you have a son too? Our son, who needs us dearly?”
Tears escaped Mrs. Eugene’s eyes. How could she have been so wrapped up in her daughters’ affairs, and forget her little boy. Her husband had sent him to stay with a relative, the day after Ms. Helen and John arrived with Rodah’s dead body.
“So what do we do?” Aaron asked. And the Priest stated the rules.
He would send the Aarons, Ms. Helen, and John, along with a duplicate of the Obaras’ mansion, to a future time. The reason for the mansion was so they’d have a home to stay.
Besides, Rodah would need familiar territory, so as to aid her in remembering her past.
“Why would she forget in the first place?” Mrs. Eugene was worried.
“Because we are not sending her back, as we will those who still breathe. She will have to be reborn. Brought up, to the age of 18 or above, then family crises will follow – a crises that will send her on the run. The race will lead her to the mansion. For only there, will she be able to get back memories. The memories will not be accurate, from the start. But as she continues to have flash backs, she will get the clear picture”,
“Since she will be reborn, how do we identify her?” Aaron was worried now.
“You will know her. Only misery from severe suffering will lead her to you. And then the flash backs will follow. You will know, when you see her”.
And so the ritual process started. Those alive, save for Mrs. Eugene and her new family, prepared to be taken to the new world. For they will be sent to a small locality, also called Iri, cut away from other villages and even the city. A place where Aaron, because of the curse upon him, wouldn’t be discovered and killed.
They were to live there, like normal people. And of course, wait for Rodah’s arrival.
The Priest made and enchanted chain, similar to the one Ese was chained with, and handed it to Aaron.
“Use this, just before every full moon, to chain yourself in a cave. It is the only way you will be prevented from harming anyone else. The chain cannot be broken, ordinarily”.
Aaron was grateful. For he couldn’t imagine himself killing another person.
“The first rule of this transition, is not to tell Rodah her identity”, the Priest said, “She had to discover for herself who she really is and act accordingly.
Also, they were all to bear different names. For as long as the new world was concerned, Aaron Obara lived in the past. He was dead. So was Ms. Helen and John Eru.
Besides, a change of name was supposed to make it difficult for Ese to locate them, before Rodah.
Their best bet at helping a reborn Rodah remember her past, was a diary, in which they all wrote about Rodah’s life, in first person narrative, up until her death, and the events that followed. Her name was crested on the diary, and to make her curious enough to read the book, they decided to title her story, “The Strange Man at Iri”.
A responsibility was given to Aaron, to update the diary, where necessary.
The next page, after the page where the story ends, Mrs. Eugene placed an enchanted necklace. One that, if worn around the neck would restore her memories, sharply, and then grant her mystical powers, to face Ese.
However, within the period of first contact with Aaron, she was to read the diary and remember, so as to disrupt Ese’s plan for her husband and son.
Failure to remember who she was, between the first full moon of her arrival, to the next, meant death for her loved ones, and Ese would be the evil winner.
5 days went by, slowly. The ritual was done. The Obaras, Ms. Helen and John, were transported to the new world – a modern world.
Ese was sent into the modern world too. But they ensured, she was a great distance away from the Obaras. They hoped, Rodah would make it to the house before her.
But Rodah’s spirit was sent into the womb of a pregnant woman. She was born, and her growing up days were smooth and full of love.
Unfortunately, after a severe family crises sent her on the run, she died in an accident, close to the forest that was to lead her to the mansion.
It was not a fair fight. For she never even got the chance to remember who she was, or come face to face with Ese.
And so the ritual for her rebirth was done. She was born, but died again, at an early age.
All the while, Ese, having all her memory and sorcery in tact, traced the house. She came for full revenge. And to gain access into the mansion, thanks to her change of appearance, she bore the name, Omo.
Before Omo’s arrival, Aaron, now Okis, was constantly on the look out for his wife. And when young ladies who got lost in the forest came to his mansion for help, he searched for Rodah in all of them. But she was not there.
And when Omo arrived, she could tell, Okis was desperately in search for his wife. And so she thought it wise to give herself another chance at love, with the handsome Okis.
She pretended to be who she wasn’t. She tried to mimic Rodah’s character. And she succeeded.
Okis was happy to have her in the house. He made her little Aaron, now little Ansa’s personal maid. A mistake he deeply regretted, when in an unguarded moment, he got to see through. Omo was Ese. Not Rodah.
But too late. She ceased little Ansa again. No one could see or touch him, except her. They could only hear his cry and laughter. Okis was only permitted to see Ansa, once in a week. For if she didn’t do it that way, she feared Okis might ask that she leave the mansion. But of course, not with ordinary talk. He had an artifact, given to him by the Priest, to kick Ese out of the mansion, if she ever came, before Rodah’s arrival.
Unfortunately, Omo became a regular in the house. No one could send her away. And also being the monster she turned Aaron into, she joined him, out in the forest, every full moon.
But while Aaron chained himself up in a dirty and muddy cave, to keep from going into the village to kill, Omo ran free in the forest, attacking and killing off any young lady or man, who got lost in it.
So when a lot of other ladies came to the mansion from the village, seeking help, and they all looked fake or just wanted to have a chance to seduce Okis, he turned them away. He and his household were fed up with Omo and other fake ladies who had come in the past.
He asked them to leave. But he hoped for Rodah’s return.
36 years had rolled by. And during these time, because they were still on the wait, their features were preserved. None of them looked like they had aged, not even for a day. But, they were beginning to wonder, if Rodah would ever come.
She came. Showed up after 36 years, in tatters, as Valerie Ete. The nights before she found the mansion, they had experienced the full moon. Okis knew then, Valerie was protected, hence Omo, didn’t see her to kill. He was sure, when Valerie talked about her camp being attacked by a wild human like animal, that the animal was Omo.
She was killing every young girl, hoping that Rodah was one of them. She obviously didn’t want to take chances.
To Be Continued…
©Karo Oforofuo. All rights reserved
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