ADSactly Short Stories - They Are Asleep, Not Dead
"Bang! Bang! Bang!" Asika shot at the porcupine. "Bang! Bang! Bang!" came another sound in quick succession, but he did not pull the trigger. He looked round to find no one else there in the forest so when the sound came the third time, he realized he was in a dream and the pounding was coming from the door of his hut. He rushed to the door to find out who was trying to bring down his door. There were three heavily built men one of whom he recognized as the chief security officer from the King's palace. Behind them, on the left side of the compound were his wife and daughter, standing in front of their hut. They both seemed confused about the men that appeared on their premises at 5:00 am in the morning.
"Okeke, what is this? Is there anything I can do for you gentlemen?" he asked in quick succession.
Okeke, the head security seemed more embarrassed than Asika as he spoke with averted eyes, "The King has asked for you to be brought to the palace this morning to answer to an accusation, my old friend," he said.
"Do you mind telling me what this is about?" he asked with a slight trepidation in his voice.
"I am so sorry, I can't. Please, get ready, let's move," Okeke replied.
The King, Igwe, and the council members were not seated when Asika was brought in by the palace security. He was placed in a room where he waited for two hours before the King and his men were ready for him. While waiting, Asika considered all the things that could have made them summon him. He could not remember having any dispute with any person except Andy who encroached on his farmland but that case had been resolved by the Council of Elders.
When he was finally brought to the council chamber, he was accused of incest and adultery. He would have laughed in their faces except that adultery was punishable by making the guilty party walk the whole village naked while being stoned and beaten. The last person convicted of the crime died before the next day after the ordeal.
"We have several testimonies from honourable members of this community that you have been committing the wicked act of incest and adultery with the Oluoma, the daughter of Ahamefula, your late cousin. This is sacrilege and you must answer for it," Andy said, wagging his forefinger at the accused.
"What do you have to say for yourself, Asika?" the King asked.
The palace was so silent, it was possible to hear a pin drop. When the king and his council members had lost hope of getting a response from the accused, he replied, "Oluoma is like a daughter to me so I provide for her. I have done nothing wrong."
"I had high hopes that you would give a confession and receive the mercy of this council but since you insist on your innocence, it is your word against the people who had testified again you."
"Igwe, he has been seen by several members of this community sneaking around with her. He is guilty," Andy shouted and stood from his seat.
"Sit, Andy! We have to put this to a vote. By a show of hands, how many people think that Asika is guilty of incest and adultery, and should suffer the full punishment?"
All twelve but three members of the council voted against Asika and, he was remanded to the custody of the King's guard until the next market day when he would be paraded through the town. The council dismissed and dispersed.
Before he went to bed the night before, Asika could not have imagined his day going the way it has turned out. He sat on the bare floor of the empty king's guard room, his mind in turmoil. At first, he could not imagine why the elders in the king's palace could be so convinced that his act of kindness in helping to raise his cousin's daughter was anything but an act of kindness, but as the day wore on he realised it could only have been Andie's machinations. He wished that things were the way they used to be in the old days when the deities were active. He remembered his grandfather, Papa Torti who cured all kinds of ailments ranging from leprosy to hunch backs. He remembered his stories about a time when there were deities in charge of fertility, protection, justice and other aspects of life.
"Are the deities all dead now?" little Asika had asked.
"Oh, no, they are asleep. The gods never die. They go to sleep when they are no longer being fed with sacrifices. For instance, there was a time when Abiara was responsible for ensuring fidelity in the land. Any man who committed adultery would be struck with leprosy."
Sitting in the damp guard room, he recalled his holidays at Papa Torti's and how he taught him the requirements for curing different ailments. Asika was not particularly interested in learning Papa Torti's art but most of the sacrifices required chicken or goat. He always found it curious that the gods only needed the blood of the animal such that the medicine man and his help could eat it. This was the part of the process in which little Asika was interested.
Abiara required a sacrifice of white cock, six tubers of yam, an agama lizard, cola nuts and other items in order to keep ensuring justice in the community, according to Papa Torti. Asika considered suggesting offering that sacrifice to Abiara but he suspected that his prosecutors had no interest in justice. As he continued thinking about it, he heard voices within the king's premises. One of the voices was Oluoma's voice. The guards would not allow her to visit the accused man. After a short squabble, she was admitted to the guard room where Asika sat on the floor.
"Oh Papa, I am so sorry for getting you into trouble. Even Mama would not talk to me. What can I do?"
"Don't you ever think that! You have done nothing wrong. But there is something I want you to do for me" he replied.
He listed a number of items she should gather from their barn and other that she needed to buy and he gave her further instructions on what to do with them. It was two days before the market day and Asika felt like it had been forever since he had eaten a decent meal.
On the morning of the market day, Asika was still in the guard room. He was not fed the night before so he was very hungry. He waited past the time that he was supposed to be taken around the town but no one came. He was pacing the room when his wife, daughter and Oluoma rushed in unrestrained.
"What are you doing here, Nne?" he asked his wife. "And why did you bring Ada?"
"I am sorry. I could not take it any longer. I should have come earlier but I was so worried about what people would say. But now I could not stay away anymore as almost every man in the kingdom is coming down with leprosy," she lamented.
"How about the guards?"
"We saw two as we walked through the gates but they did not make any attempts to stop us. Quick, I have the keys. We have to get you out of here," Oluoma said.
Asika walked free from his prosecutors while a majority of them suffered leprosy in shame and could not leave their homes. He finally understood what his grandfather meant when he said, "The gods are asleep, not dead." No one ever talked about the case. No word was ever said about the cause of the sudden outbreak of a dreaded disease in the community because even the king was inflicted. But those who knew were certain that the justice of Abiara had been activated.
Authored by: @churchboy
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