My people, as with most customs, attach a certain esoterism to death. We do not believe that one can die from a “natural cause,” without another’s hand in it; usually from an envious kinsman, or an enraged neighbor with whom one has had an altercation. For example, If you died from a severe ‘iba,’ we would say someone brought it upon you. It is for this reason that one who has died, is subjected to ima-azu: question the dead. This would see the whole village gather around the corpse, as they watch medicine men perform and speak incantation, as old as time, to it; they say it is to inquire from the dead whose hands had spilled their blood. In the days of the old, who ever had been pointed out, by the dead, as their killer, was killed immediately by a wrathful mob. These days, aside from being ostracised by the community, such a culprit would be forced to eat the raw heart of a goat leavened with juju; it is believed that they would die instantly if they ever killed again- which they almost certainly, always did. And although this rite is required before the deceased is laid to rest, most families- often Christians- kick against it, and are solidly backed by the church; hereby causing an ideology clash with angry youths. Once, I had accompanied my uncle to the funeral rites of a relative, who had been mute in life. A slight confusion had stirred the whole place, when after considerable minutes of the ritual passed and the juju man had heard nothing from the corpse(spirit); it had said nothing of what it died of nor who had been responsible for its death. And as if irritated like the rest of us present, an elder had angrily ordered the olotus to put the dead to the ground. “Why do we waste our time on Ewere, someone that did not utter a single word when he was alive.”
Today, the sun appears to have been brought closer to the earth and it is I who has become the subject of amusement for the crowd assembled in my father’s compound, for I have lost my life and it is my spirit that the wizened, aged juju man tries to summon. Interestingly, death feels nothing like I have ever imagined; I have lost every feeling of sensation, but not my thoughts; I have lost the use of my eyes, but not my vision; and although my ears have curdled with prululence from its deadness, I have not lost the ability to hear the living. I wonder how much time I have left before my body flakes and is made a meal for maggots, or whatever it is that feeds on the decayed. Yes, I shudder from the thought of it as I am soon awakened to a strange kind of sadness for my grief-stricken father -who is understandably absent as no parent is to bury their child- whom I suspect is stoic in his state of grief, wherever he might be, and would almost certainly not live past the new year.
“Who has done this wickedness?” cries Isioma. Recently, days before my death, I had done to her a great evil: I had jilted her for her younger step sister, Blessing, with whom she had caught me with, humping on their father’s bamboo bed. Isiomawas full figured, and I wonder why she had not been enough for me for even in death, I felt a strange kind of hardness at the thought of filling her again. Today, she wails at my funeral and although sincere, is extremely loud; much to the dislike of the old juju man, who has now signaledher to cut it or leave the compound.
“…is whoever responsible for your death, male or female”? shrieks the old man, who in turn gets a response from the soft rustling of leaves from the ube tree. It is the first over a slew of questions to be thrown at my “spirit” and just like many gathered here, I am anxious for the outcome. I suspect my kinsmen think that it is Nne Nkoyen that has brought my life to a halt. After all, didn’t they say she had confessed to eating my uncle’s three sons?!Concurrently, for the first time today, I see Emeke, my best friend; his bloodshot eyes obvious on a stunned face, leaning slightly towards his aunty.
Lucky bastard! Who would have thought he, or anyone, would come out of the accident with just a little more than a scratch on the forehead. I wonder if he had told the elders our car collided with a moored lorry because I had been texting carelessly while driving; or perhaps he did, but they think I must have been entranced by an evil doer into doing so…
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