Bourbon Penn 12

The Worst Breed of Vultures

by Walter Dinjos

They say that wherever there is death, vultures gather.

As a boy, I found more fun in that saying than in stealing into thickets to pick palm nuts anytime papa went hunting. I mean, the brown, seemingly hairy snake I once happened upon in the bush wasn’t as friendly as the vultures that usually gathered whenever the cooks in our guest house killed some chickens. My friend Amaka and I even got to experiment by splattering chicken guts and soaked feathers on the street and beckoning vultures by smacking our lips together to produce damp clapping sounds.

It was fun.

Well, until papa died and in a most horrible manner. There was enough gore and open flesh to attract all the vultures in the world, but none came to feast on his corpse, fortunately. I didn’t realize I was looking out for the wrong breed.

I had heard of widows and orphans losing their inheritance to their brothers-in-law and uncles, but I never understood. These uncles … They are like human vultures. They don’t attend visitations or funerals to weep in sympathy – of course, they wept, surprisingly better than mama, when they entered papa’s obi and saw him lying there all bloodied and stiff. They only come to devour.

Six of them arrived at our house on an evening two months ago, five wearing red and black traditional Igbo attire and caps adorned with two feathers each, the ezemmuo dancing along behind them to the drumming of his iron staff. That was how mama and I knew something was wrong. They were too culturally dressed for a mere visitation.

They patted mama on the back while she cried, but at night they scoured locked rooms and stores. I knew vultures to be cowardly but definitely not nocturnal. These were something else – another breed I hadn’t heard of, perhaps. They were looking for something – papa’s cowries, which mama and I had buried under the whistling pine beside his obi. These were men who should be helping us plan papa’s funeral.

In the morning, my uncles gave up the search as they stumbled upon a suspiciously empty store. And they sat us down and questions began to roll out.

“Someone was in that store. Who was it?”

“Our brother must have left something behind — the cowries he got for the bush baby. Which one of you has them?”

“We are going to bury him, aren’t we? The money for that is going to come from somewhere.”

Ah, I trusted mama’s acting skills. So when she hit the ground and began to roll and cry, I didn’t console her. I just hit the ground too and joined her. But this, as you may have guessed, yielded an opposite result to our expectations.

What’s that saying about vultures? I believe it to be that they stalk weak and dying souls, waiting for that moment when the souls fall and remain fallen. Then they feast.

Lying there on the ground and still squirming and weeping, mama seemed like one of those hopeless souls now. But my uncles weren’t the patient breed, which made our plight all the more dire.

“Witch!” Uncle Eluma stamped to his feet and kicked mama, making her wail more. “Will you get up from there and quit shedding crocodile tears!”

You see, Uncle Eluma had all the traits that made a man an abomination. I was sixteen and a little over five feet, yet my shoulders hung a foot above his at least. When you now consider his ashy black skin, its remarkably pitted texture, his perpetual grimace which accentuated a bulk of a nose, and his crude temper, and yet haven’t even begun to close in on a fraction of the word “abomination,” then you have an insight into his being.

“You killed him!” At sixty-five, Uncle Nduka was the eldest, and a half of his black face was white from a fire burn. “You witch. How does a man die like that? Go outside and look at him and tell me how.”

“You gave him something, didn’t you?” The angular-faced Uncle Nnamdi was the third born and papa’s immediate junior. Like his sons, he was all puffed up in the chest and had a flair for reminding everyone of that by wearing tight clothes and nearly always folding his arms around his chest. “In his food? In his water. What was it?”

“I did not kill my husband o!” With every accusation, mama’s cry towered.

The ezemmuo, the youngest and the village’s chief priest, rose from the polished stool on which he sat. “We will have to put that to the test.”

Now the test. That is something you don’t want to know. So I will allow you a brief pause to gather yourself for it.

• • •

The following day, the three leaders of the Organization of Uja Village Women processed into papa’s obi carrying a big calabash of tortoise droppings, a bowl of water from the Iyi-agu Lake, and very short shears, and sat mama down on the red floor and made her hold papa’s gory hand while they scraped her brows and plaited hair away. It was the most uncaring act I had ever seen as I stood outside crying while my uncles made sure mama got at least a dozen cuts from the blades.

Without having her wash off the tortoise droppings from her head, the ezeummuo handed her the bowl of Iyi-agu water and a soft piece of white cloth and made her scrub papa’s corpse.

When she was done, the white cloth now crimson, he lifted the water up and chanted to the gods in Igbo. Then he extended the water, red with papa’s blood and floating skin particles, to her. “You claim you didn’t kill our brother. Now drink up. His spirit will judge you.”

Could anyone blame mama? She just staggered to her bare feet with such energy that wasn’t in unison with her plumpness and dashed for the door screaming, “They want to kill me o! They want to kill me!” But with six of my uncles inside the obi, she only managed to run three feet before they subdued her and, while on her knees, they forced her mouth open and emptied the bowl inside her.

She hit the ground and rolled all over the place and vomited for a good minute, not minding that her wrapper had all but left her nude.

You see, mama was a stubborn woman — stubborn for the right reasons. She could have easily avoided all this by accepting the numerous marriage proposals that visited her the previous night, but she hadn’t. Of course, I would have hated her if she had. But still, seeing what they had done to her, I began to imagine whether marriage to one of my uncles, no matter how unethically soon after papa’s death it would have been, wasn’t the practical thing to do.

At least they had promised her safety from the horrendous test. Of course, in return for owning her and papa’s fortune which was in fact what all the fuss was about.

Now that we were in the mess, I knew I had to help, but Uncle Nnamdi’s two puffed-chest sons were placed by the door to prevent me from doing “anything stupid” as my uncles put it. So I just stood there draining my eyes of tears.

The ezemmuo began to prance, to the song of the shrieking cowries tied to his staff, around papa’s corpse, chanting in that voice of his that made the bleating of a goat with a cough sound tuneful. “Now,” he said to mama. “Our brother fell ill and died in a fortnight and five days. If you killed him, may the same fate find you. But if you didn’t, well then you have nothing to worry about.”

• • •

Seeing as my uncles’ accusations were fixated on the fortnight and five days within which papa got sick and died, I knew I had to reflect on every single moment of that time span; perhaps some clues lay there. And it occurred to me that this all began after papa caught the bush baby.

The tiny monkey, with eyes as big and gleaming as the moon, was the most beautiful animal I had ever set my eyes upon. They say its blood is worth a thousand sacrifices and its skin when hung on one’s doorway is worth a thousand protection spells. Hence, a bush baby sold for the price of twenty cows.

The thing with these bush babies is that, although their baby-like cries surround the village at night and we all wake up finding our bananas and papayas plundered from their trees, they are hard to catch. But when papa returned from hunting that evening, nearly the whole village visited us to glimpse the wonder resting on his shoulder.

His brother, the ezemmuo, was the first to make a bid. “Two hundred cowries,” he said. That was the price of two cows. “I am your brother. What belongs to you belongs to me.”

Papa politely refused. This created quite a ruckus not only between him and the ezemmuo but also between him and his other brothers. Still, he headed for Umuoji, the neighboring village, where he sold the bush baby to their jujuist for the price of thirty cows.

Then he returned home the next morning and fell gravely ill.

• • •

Two days after papa was buried, right under the fruiting udara tree before his obi, mama crashed to the ground beside the coconut rice boiling in the sun and fainted. This came as a huge shock to me, as I had refused to entertain the thought of her actually killing papa. I suspected papa’s fate had found her because papa’s sickness began with him also collapsing.

Still, with the last vestiges of my mental and emotional strength, I fought the disquieting thought that wouldn’t stop swirling in my bosom. Mama didn’t kill papa. She loved him. Everyone loved him.

Much to my dismay, my uncles charged in as soon as I carried her into the obi and rested her on the raffia mat on which papa and his mates usually played draught and drank palm wine. If you remember the thing I said about vultures, then you must sympathize with my realization that my uncles must have been nearby waiting for mama to fall ill and the possibility that they might have poisoned her, and even papa, somehow.

“I said it,” Eluma barked while the others gathered at a corner of the hut like vultures plotting how to steal mama’s corpse once she died. “I knew it. She killed him. Witch! She is a witch!”

Mama’s eyes opened — the voices must have reached her subconscious — and the bald Uncle Nduka moved away from their little meeting and, pulling the furious Eluma away from her, squatted beside her.

“Nnedi,” he said, using a white handkerchief to dab at the sweat sluicing down her face. “Where are the papers to the guest house and bungalow … and the three thousand cowries our brother got for the bush baby?”

With silence that spelt defiance, Mama turned her head away from him.

His black lips twisted and I discerned his teeth grinding in his jaw. “We want to help you … because of your son. You can’t leave him here alone and go be with your husband. You can’t. Ezemmuo tells me he can chain Chike’s grave to stop his spirit from avenging his death. Just give us the cowries.”

As mama refused to say a word or spare him a look, he stood and blustered, “So be it. You want to die? Yes, die! Ebuka won’t be far behind, I imagine.” With such force that made me stagger away to the wall behind me, he spun around and flounced outside, waving a hand for his fellows to follow. “Let’s go. Let her die. Everything comes to us eventually.”

They all left, muttering.

• • •

The following week strengthened my dread that mama was going to die. The ominous signs that had marked papa a dead man were manifesting themselves on her body.

First, she grew so hot and sweaty that I feared some dark magic was boiling her alive. Then she began to vomit — in the beginning, it was only her food that came out, but then blood too began to pour out, especially when she coughed. Her skin was marred by whitish blisters and red spots that kept expanding as the days went by, and her eyes and nose began to bleed. It was as though she was rotting alive.

Soon, I could no longer take it. She wouldn’t eat or drink. So I ventured into the bush to fetch some herbs, since my uncles wouldn’t allow me to bring in an herbalist. They said that I must let the gods and papa’s spirit decide her fate.

When I returned an hour later carrying bunches of dogoyaro and other herbal leaves, plus the nchuanwu leaves I had stolen from mama Amaka’s farm, and found my belongings lying scattered in the doorway of the obi, I became so incandescent with rage that I let fall the leaves, grabbed a handful of sand and sprayed it on my uncles who were stepping out of my room discussing in low voices and laughing. Then I began to curse them in the name of papa and Amadioha.

“Chukwu kpo unu oku!” I barked, which means “God punish you people” in English, or to translate it word for word, “God set you people afire.” “You will all die like papa. You have killed him and now you are killing her. You will all die!”

I should have known Uncle Nnamdi’s sons were nearby. I only caught sight of them charging out of my room, past my infuriated uncles, and next thing I knew they crashed into me, pinning me to the ground. Then Udoka, the one whose upper incisors were missing probably from a fight gone bad, rushed to the whistling pine beside papa’s obi at his father’s command and snapped a switch.

I groaned. There is a reason they call that tree a whistling pine. Let us first forget that it whistles when the wind blows. These pines couldn’t be like the beautiful ones they say reside in white men’s land. The twigs grow thin and drooped, and there is wickedness in their slimness, as if their sole purpose of existing is for flogging.

Have you ever been whipped with the twig of a whistling pine? That sharp whistle it gives out as it tastes your skin is as excruciating to the mind as the whip itself is to the skin.

So maybe now you have a clue to the agony I endured as the boys forced down my trousers and gave me twenty-four lashes. Yet throughout the time, I couldn’t stop screaming, “Thieves! You are not going to take papa’s house!”

“Idiot!” Uncle Eluma kicked me. That Uncle Eluma; he loved kicking people. “See this baboon o. Do you even know when we built this house? Amadioha hadn’t even thought of putting you in your mother’s womb when we built it. You think your father did it alone? We were there. Let me see your leg in that house or even the guest house again.”

“Where am I supposed to stay? Where are we going to stay?” I cried.

“You and your witch mother can rot in the obi for all I care.”

After the Igwe’s fortress, papa’s obi was the next greatest ancient fortress in the village. You see, the thing that makes an obi great isn’t the size of the house or its magnificence. Formerly it was used as a parlor. Being a place of solitude now, an obi requires a certain fashion of starkness, isolation, and tranquility. And the cool dry wind the surrounding trees supplied was what also improved the rank of papa’s obi as the second best place to sit and think.

And my uncles knew this. I suspected it wouldn’t be long before they also expelled me from the great obi.

• • •

I woke up with a fever, headache, and pain in my muscles and bones which I suspected were the effects of my uncles’ sons’ brutality the previous day. And as mama who was still deteriorating wouldn’t drink the dogoyaro or the nchuanwu juice I prepared for her, I downed a cupful, then another cupful, and then a jugful, but my fever wouldn’t pass.

The next day, I found myself lying beside mama’s stiff body, feeling too confused and winded to do anything — well, except empty three jugfuls of the herbal juice into my stomach and cry like a baby waking up to the hunger for its mama’s breast milk at night. When papa died, I, of course, grieved, but I didn’t shed a single tear. Mama’s passing (I suspect she died more from hunger and dehydration than from her sickness), on the other hand, made me want to throw myself on the ground repeatedly until I could no longer rise again.

However, I lay there while my uncles came and went with smug smiles on their faces. And in a moment of crystal thinking I couldn’t believe the vultures were circling again, this time for me.

They returned two hours later and Nnamdi’s sons made a careless excavation beside papa’s grave and, as they threw her in and began to cover her up, I sprang into the pit crying, “You can’t do this! She deserves a proper burial! You can’t. Please. Please don’t do this. Let me say some last words. Please.”

“She is a witch!” Those words of Uncle Eluma’s were accompanied by a chesty cough that made him spit out mucus as thick as a spoonful of akamu. And the sweat pouring down his face and drenching the filthy white singlet peeking through his lacy attire suggested he was coming down with something deadly. “A murderer. I wonder why we even bother. She should be food for vultures. Continue,” he told the boys.”

I imagine you can understand why I had to quickly climb out of the grave seeing as they continued pouring sand over mama, and now over me too. They would love nothing more than me dying too; then they could have everything papa left behind. And I could not allow that.

But then something ultimately satisfying happened. As soon as the boys shoveled their last sand onto the grave, Uncle Nnamdi dropped to the ground and fainted.

• • •

I can’t say I am, or was, a bad person, but I most certainly had my fair share of glee when everywhere in the village people began to collapse. The gods must have heard me curse my uncles and had decided to avenge me. I say this because it was at that time that my illness left me.

My uncles, well, except the ezemmuo, were the first to submit to the sickness — something I imagined was the practical thing for the gods to do, considering how those vultures had afflicted me and mama.

Uncle Eluma fell two days after Uncle Nnamdi, and he did so right after getting himself miserably plastered in mama Amaka’s beer parlor. His family maintained that he was poisoned, until Uncle Oduko also dropped to the ground while arguing in a meeting under the iroko tree at the village square. Then Uncle Nnamdi’s sons returned from an embarrassing defeat in the Moonlight Wrestling Challenge feeling sore, only to remain in bed the next morning whining about fever and headaches. And Uncle Dogo, some said, fainted on top of his wife the night before. At first she had thought he was getting too old to do it, but by morning his body was on fire

The plague spread through the village like wildfire, sending both the old and young bedridden. The neighboring villages barred their borders to us and soon the sickness was just a fraction of the things we had to worry about, since the Eke market, the converging point of food items from various other villages, was in Nwike in the north and the Iyi-agu Lake, our main source of water, was situated in Umuoji.

In three days, I was already weak from hunger and had to steal into mama Amaka’s kitchen in search of food. I believe I was lucky that Amaka was the one that caught me. Her mother would have turned me over to my uncles and they would have been glad to learn I had taken to thievery, if only so they could give me another twenty-four lashes.

My stomach more enraged by the meager meal Amaka had afforded me than thankful for it, I returned home to find the ezemmuo sitting inside papa’s obi humming a very perturbing song. His presence slowed my pace to a slouch and inspired in me a medley of fear and rancor.

I didn’t understand it.

I mean I understood the gods punished the other villagers because they had looked upon my uncles’ maltreatment of me and mama with apathy. What I didn’t get was why the gods left the ezemmuo alive and well enough to venture into my house again obviously to afflict me further. He was, in fact, the one who had subjected mama to the horrendous test. He should have been the first to fall to the sickness.

He stepped outside and regarded mama’s grave as though he had seen the worst of abominations, a rusty iron chain and a padlock dangling in the hand that wasn’t wielding a staff. “How inhumane of her. Even in death her witchery persists.” He shook his dada head and indicated the four spikes on the ground. “Put those around her.”

With a frown and a languid air that reflected my disapproval, I did as he had bidden me and stood aside as he wound the chain through the eyes of the spikes to form a railing around mama and padlocked the ends. Then he chanted in Igbo for about thirty minutes and broke kola nuts and a bottle of Schnapps hot drink over the grave.

“Now,” he said. “You will ask your witch mother to stop this menace.”

I backed away, shaking my body and kicking my feet in every Igbo boy’s polite way of saying no, not only because if I was going to pray to mama it would be to spare everyone but my uncles and their families, but also because the act required my slitting my palm open and spilling a drop of my blood on the grave.

“Idiot! Will you come here and do as I said. Pray to her!”

I backed further away and soon found myself running as far away as my feet could manage, toward the gate.

I should have remembered my uncles had a knack for employing external muscles whenever it seemed I might do something stupid. This time it wasn’t Uncle Nnamdi’s boys. Those, I should say, were thankfully ill. But then their stoutness, to my dismay, would seem feminine compared to that of the two twenty-something-year-olds stationed at the gate.

Once again I found myself, with my trousers down, at the mercy of four pinioning hands, only that in this case, instead of a pine switch, the ezemmuo fetched a plate of ground pepper and a gas hose from the kitchen.

Have you ever been flogged with a gas hose? As I have discovered, it has two aspects, one ruthless and the other merciful, the former being that each lash etches a scar that spans a lifetime and incites soreness that lasts days if not weeks. As for the latter, a lash forces the nerves in your body to a seizure and, in that moment of numbness, spares you the pain the subsequent two or three lashes would have caused.

Honestly, I could barely endure being whipped with a gas hose much less what my uncle planned to do with the pepper. Therefore, I quickly yielded, crying, “Okay, I will pray, uncle, I will pray.”

But it was already too late. After making me absorb twelve lashes that left my body swollen up in many places, the ezemmuo rubbed the pepper on my wounds and eyes and then said, “Now you can pray.”

And pray I did.

• • •

It didn’t work. In fact, in just two weeks, three of my uncles had died, and now other villagers followed like escalating echoes.

The ezemmuo was furious about this, but as he slouched into papa’s obi in the company of the Igwe and the royal cavalcade, his rage was belied by his air of resignation.

The Igwe didn’t sit down. He seemed wary of me and anything that had to do with me as he denied any knowledge of, or even sanctioning, my uncles’ mistreatment of me and mama. And at his bidding, the ezemmuo laid out quite a satisfying apology to me.

This brought me to tears. I couldn’t utter a word. I just sat there on the mat in the middle of the obi lamenting in my heart over how late the apology, the truth that mama didn’t kill papa, the truth that mama died in vain, came.

“You can have everything back. The house. The guest house. We … I am earnestly sorry,” the ezemmuo continued. “But you really need to pray to your mother. My approach the other day was wrong and cruel. I … we will support and protect you throughout your life. But the prayer needs to come from her closest relation and from the depth of your heart. Pray to her please.”

“Yes.” The Igwe nodded along with the chiefs and elders with him. “People are dying, son. Pray to her.”

“N … now,” I found myself muttering and fingering the welt on my arm. “You come to me now. They are dead. I am alone. Now … you only come to me because people are dying.”

“You have to, son.”

“Yes. You are our only hope.”

“My daughter has caught it.”

I knew that manly female voice. I perked up. Mama Amaka jumped around outside, weeping.

“My daughter,” she cried on. “She is dying.”

Amaka was my friend. My best friend. Without another thought, I stood, rushed outside, and fell on mama’s grave and prayed and wept, until the villagers departed with bowed and shaking heads.

I lay there, in the Harmattan dry cold, naked in my chest and feet, until the day died and the night failed.

• • •

As you may have already gathered, my prayer, once again, didn’t work. People still fell and people still died, and Amaka’s illness had advanced to the rashes and vomiting.

As you would soon see, this went a long way to reveal that the ezemmuo’s apology had no weight. And, yes, he was still alive when the rest of my uncles had died. I believe the reason the gods spared him despite his atrocities was tied to his title as the village’s chief priest. To the village, he was the voice of the gods, and to the gods, he was the voice of the village. Without his guidance the village would be lost. But with the death toll rising, this called to mind the suspicion that the ezemmuo was a fraud.

For someone who had once sought my forgiveness, he marched the whole village, or what was left of it, into my compound. With murder in their eyes and manner, they dragged me out to the village square, under the great iroko tree, with the whetted edge of a machete against my neck.

My family was an abomination, they said. Mama besieged the village with her witchcraft but spared her son. I, the only remaining member of that house, must die too if the village must extricate itself from her curse.

Seeing my death right before me, I didn’t resist. It felt like a sure fate. I had always sensed it coming. I didn’t know if I would see mama and papa again, maybe in the afterlife, if there was such a place. But I accepted what was coming with utter resignation and a longing for the peace the ensuing oblivion would present.

I closed my eyes and tried to shut out the accusing and condemning remarks surrounding me, but then the low hum of a flute awoke in the air. It suffused and suffocated the crowd’s voices and, as the coldness of the machete left my nape and everyone’s attention followed the melody, I turned to find that it was a chief priest and a flautist, who bore the triangular tribal marks of Nwike Village on their faces, who had stopped my execution.

“You may kill the boy, but the plague will endure. Amadioha is angry and it is your ezemmuo and his brothers that brought his wrath on you all.” The priest’s utterances, through teeth the hue of cocoa and lips the size of garri plates, coaxed shocked eyes to fall on my uncle who stood beside me shaking his staff as if to conjure death deep from the pits of the spirit land.

The flautist didn’t speak. He merely danced around, the ujaw fabric knotted around his slanted shoulders swaying to the tune of his opi flute.

“The boy cried to the great god,” the priest continued, turning to the ezemmuo. “He cursed you and your brothers in the name of Amadioha. His curse was just, and your brothers are dead. But the gods don’t touch their own servants, their priests. Tell us, Ezemmuo Ndube, when last did you hear from your god? Does his gifts still stir inside you?”

The ezemmuo winced, his eyes wandering as if he was contemplating skirting the iroko tree behind him and disappearing into the thickets beyond. “You have no right to come here.”

The flautist pranced higher, leaping around the square like a young goat that had just learned to wield its limbs.

When the priest spoke again, his voice towered over the perturbing melody in the air. “We bow to different gods, but they are siblings. The calamity you invited on your people is encroaching on our borders. We bring a warning to the people of Uja. Ezemmuo Ndube must submit to the boy’s curse. If not, even your pigs will suffer Amadioha’s wrath.”

It should be disturbing how people react to crisis and the fear of death, but not in this case — in fact, I found the villagers’ reactions relieving. Looking at their faces, I could see the same murderous gazes I had got some moments ago now directed at the ezemmuo.

“Show us that Amadioha still speaks to you.” The priest somehow managed to place his words in the brief pauses his flautist offered. “Show us that his gifts still flow inside you.”

“Yes, show us,” a villager cried.

“Show us!” others mimicked.

“Show them, Ezemmuo Ndube. Call on the rain,” the priest added.

This left the ezemmuo sweating like a keg of palm wine left to freeze in the chill of night, but then a tentative smile visited his face. “But we are in the dry season.”

“If you still hold Amadioha’s gifts, I am sure a mere season can’t mar your efforts.”

The ezemmuo’s grip tightened around his staff and he gazed skyward, his mouth opening and closing as if wondering how to persuade the heavens to release its water. Then he let fall the staff and barreled into the thickets. The villagers careened after him and before long, just long enough for me to feel ignored, returned to the square with his bloody head dangling on a tangle of palm fronds attached to a bamboo pole.

That was when the siren came, blaring along the dirt road and straight to the square. Its sudden appearance quieted, and then dominated, the ground. The white buses with red crosses painted on their faces and sides, about ten of them, pulled to a stop before the flabbergasted villagers, treating us to a billow of dust, and men in white garments and masks alighted.

One of them addressed the villagers in the white men’s language and in a voice that sounded to emanate from his nose, and another interpreted his words for us. He said the village was suffering from a disease which they had tracked from the jujuist — the one to whom papa had sold the bush baby — in Umuoji Shrine.

“You see?” The priest cried. “Ezemmuo Ndube is dead and the gods have swiftly sent these masquerades, these white messengers, to cleanse the land.”

The villagers began to dance along with the flautist and his new song and, while they gathered around the masked men to avail themselves of whatever magic serum the vehicles had brought, I sat on a buttress root with my head down and my tears dotting the ground and let the wind touch my face in consolation.

A pair of feet encased in palm-frond sandals brought themselves to my view. My eyes lifted. The priest stood before me smiling his filthy smile.

“How would you love to apprentice with me?” he said. “Amadioha has anointed you his new ezemmuo.”

I didn’t respond. I just smiled as I glimpsed Amaka’s mother scurrying off with one of the masked men.

Walter Dinjos is Nigerian, and he enjoys singing and songwriting as much as he does writing. He is a 2nd Prize winner of the Writers of the Future Contest, and his work has been accepted at Beneath Ceaseless Skies, Myriad Lands Anthology, Space & Time, Strangelet Journal, Stupefying Stories, and more. He is currently exploring means (both scientific and magical) of attaining immortality.