At night, when Mummy and Daddy are sleeping and making all those noises like pigs, I like to fly around the bedroom they have left me to sleep in. I’ve always wanted to tell them that I don’t need a bedroom. That I don’t sleep. But my friends have told me not to, and I agree. Because they are not supposed to know things like that. My friends are the ones that taught me how to use my wings. How to spread them out and flap them. How to let them move me higher and higher till I am almost in heaven.
I entered heaven, once. It was a half-happy, half-sad thing, moving from the dark wetness of inside Mummy, to being sucked out of it, then spat out like a bitter pill. Heaven was nice. Lots of other children like me. We played a lot. And sometimes, we played so much that it made us tired and sad and we all wanted to go back. Once in a while, somebody’s mummy asked for a baby again, and the somebody would go back.
I never thought it would happen to me.
I had not even spent a full month when they sucked me and spat me out. And the way they did it, I thought they would never again want somebody like me. One of my friends says that sometimes, it isn’t as if they actually want us back. That sometimes, they only like to ask for us, because asking is fun for them. She won’t tell me how she knows, though.
I stopped asking her when I came back. It doesn’t matter to me anymore. What matters now is that I am safe and sound and I have a large bedroom to fly about in.
I have also learnt to fly separate from my body. It is better, because nobody can catch me, and I can fly and fly for the entire night and will not have to stop flying until morning.
Tonight, I am outside, over the roof, and the view is nice. There are lights everywhere. I like lights- they remind me of heaven, and my friends. I feel like paying them a visit. Maybe I should.
“This child has a wandering spirit.”
The woman did not like the way the dibia was looking at her, as if she was the one who gave the baby the wandering spirit that he was claiming. Why didn’t he look at her husband? Why was it her fault?
“Woman! Have you had a child before?”
He said if she had had a child, not gotten pregnant. A three-week old pregnancy could not possibly count. It wasn’t a full child, after all.
“No. No, I haven’t.”
“Woman are you sure?”
It was her husband’s turn to look at her. She did not want to lower her head, did not want to look guilty. The accusation in his eyes burned her face.
“Sir, I’m sure. Even my husband here can testify.”
“Leave your husband out of it.”
“Leave your husband out of it!”
“If you have truly never had a child, then you shall leave the body with me, and return in seven days. We will hold a ceremony here, and you will take an oath and call back the spirit of your child.”
“During this period, you will touch no man, drink no alcohol, eat no red meat-”
“Are you sure she will come back?”
“She will only come back if this is her first time. If it is not-”
The dibia did not need to complete his statement, for the woman to know that she was in trouble.
Something is wrong. My body- it is missing and I don’t know where to find it. I have never lost my body before- nobody I know, has. What will I tell Mummy and Daddy when they ask me about my body?
I forget, they cannot even ask me.
This is trouble.
Uju’s husband had been ignoring her since they came back from the dibia four days ago. It would have been the height of her worries if she did not have to find a way to avoid swearing the dibia‘s oath. She knelt on the cold tiles, next to the bed where he lay, reading a newspaper. She could not risk meeting her death in two days.
“Darling please listen to me.”
“I- two years ago, I-”
His phone rang. Thirty minutes of talking and grunting later, he was on his way to an emergency meeting. If death was ready for you, it spared you no chances.
Only one of my friends has lost her body before. She said her parents carried it away, buried it under the ground, and sealed it so hard that she could not have brought it out. She says if it’s what happened to me, I will have to wait till they ask for me again.
Everybody else said it was probably what happened to me, but I know they only said it because they didn’t want me to go. They miss me, and I miss them too. I have promised them that even if I find my body, I will still come back to visit them all the time. I just have to make sure I don’t stay too long, so I don’t lose my body again.
Uju’s mouth was drier than the cracked road to the dibia’s hut. The thump-thump-thump of her heart was louder than the radio combined with her husband’s singing. She ran one moist palm over her wrapper. Then another. Lather, rinse, repeat.
At the back of the car, the nylon bags of things that the dibia had asked them to bring were rustling.
“Darling can you hear that?”
“The bags. They are making noise, as if wind is blowing them.”
“Maybe the dibia is blowing them to make sure everything is intact.” He laughed.
Uju did not know how somebody could be laughing, when his life was about to change forever. Actually, she knew- it was because he was not aware, that his life was about to change.
I like the way the car is so cool and the AC is blowing directly on me. It feels like the sky in the night. If I could always stay in the car, I might never have to fly so far away at night.
Apart from the AC, it is a boring ride. Maybe I should look into these bags that are all over the car seat. Maybe I will find something to keep me busy.
“Darling can you hear that?”
I really need to be more careful.
The dibia held the baby’s limp body up to the sky- to the gods who sent her, and Uju watched, counting the seconds to her death if the baby did not come back from her sojourn. Her hair itched under the sun’s wicked glare. She did not like all the names the dibia was calling on her baby. And the spittle he was releasing- that, was another story of its own.
Something pushed her to beg her ancestors not to disgrace her.
My friends would not believe me if I tell them that all this while, my body has been lying in the house of a strange man who has white lines all over his body, as if he is a chalkboard. And Mummy and Daddy- they are acting as if it is normal. I don’t like the way the man is spitting on my face anyway. And I have missed my body.
It had been a hundred seconds to Uju’s death when a wail broke out from the baby’s body and the dibia handed the infant to her, smiling, talking,
“So you are not a liar! Ehn? So you are not a liar and you were shaking like one!”
Uju did not know what to say. Inside her chest, masquerades were doing acrobatic leaps. This was something she would never understand.
“Don’t mind her; she’s always anxious about the baby.”
It was her husband- he too was smiling and talking. Was this a ploy to find out about her past?
“I’m too happy, dibia. I don’t know what to say. I’m just- I’m grateful.”
And it was true.
I have missed my body so much- the warmth, the shield. And what surprises me, is that I feel like sleeping. Maybe I do need the bedroom, after all.
Tomorrow, I will tell my friends all about this. Tomorrow, I will fly again.
Click HERE to vote.