Wunnam felt a hand, shaking his left shoulder and heard a voice, calling his name. He woke up but still had his eyes shut. He felt the brightness of the sun on his face, and he knew immediately that it was daybreak. He slept when he shouldn’t have and he instantly cursed his J.H.S science teacher in his head and wished he and his entire generation will fall into a deep sleep and never wake up.

The sleep prevention trick had failed him completely. He still had his eyes shut because he didn’t want to face reality. He didn’t know if Bangda was dead or  alive, because he hadn’t experienced any nightmare. If  Bangda was dead, then Wunnam was not willing to ever open his eyes again, his family should also bury him alongside. He soon recognized the people standing beside him. His sister was the one shaking his shoulder and his mother was the one calling his name.

“ Do you think his dead?”, Pagnaa asked Mma Kande.

“ Why won’t he be dead? Who sleeps outside in the cold while they have a warm room?”, Mma Kande replied. Wunnam listened to their conversation without a flinch, but later, the place fell silent so he assumed they had moved away. He assumed they were tired of waking him up and he was elated. At least, he could now pretend to be asleep in peace. His peace was suddenly interrupted with a splash of water on his body. He jolted up from the stool and looked down at his body while the water dripped from his head.

“ You weren’t dead after all”, Mma Kande, who held a bucket said, while adjusting the brown lappa around her waist.

“ Mma, what did you do that for?” , Wunnam asked accusingly. Mma Kande hissed loudly and eyed him.

“ Go to your friend’s house, I think there is something happening there,” Mma Kande said and went into her hut”. Pagnaa stood watching him and turned her gaze away when he looked at her. He had a feeling something bad had happened.

“ What is it Pagnaa?  Did something bad happen to Bangda?” Wunnam asked, while searching her eyes for an answer.

“ It’s best you go and see for yourself. I can’t tell you anything”, she responded quietly and walked away.

Wunnam was anxious to know what had happened, but he was scared of what he might find. He began contemplating whether to change his clothes or not, then he saw a group of people pass by his house while chatting. He knew immediately that they were from Bangda’s house.

“ How could something like this happen to a nice man like Bangda?”, Wunnam caught one of them say. He quickly ran out of the house and the water continued to drip from his clothes.

He meandered his way through the crowd when he got to Bangda’s house. The gate was left ajar and people went in and out as they pleased.

Wunnam watched the bloated body lying on a mat, with flies hovering around it. He glanced over his shoulders and his eyes moved in askance, as though to be sure he was in the right house. He moved closer but immediately cupped his face in his hand when he caught a clear glimpse of the person. He looked nothing like Bangda and Wunnam wouldn’t have believed it was him hadn’t he seen Alidu sitting under his feet with a fan in his hand, driving away flies. Bangda’s mother sat on the ground, with her legs stretched apart and her arms on her head while she wailed.

“ The witches have finally succeeded. First they took my husband and now they want to take my son”, she cried.

Wunnam flinched when he saw the maggots emanating from Bangda’s body. Bangda’s eyes were still and his chest moved slowly. He was alive yet his body was decaying with a terrible stench. Wunnam felt a little relieved that he wasn’t dead but felt hopeless because Bangda’s current state was synonymous to a corpse. Wunnam wanted to ask Alidu if he had returned the shirt to Bangda, but knew it wasn’t the appropriate time.

He stared intensely at Bangda and his body couldn’t stop quivering. The water that dripped from his body made it even worse. Alidu and Bangda’s mother didn’t notice his presence. He wanted to say something to them but didn’t know what exactly to say. He swirled and headed home.

Mma Nasara sat in her usual posture as he stepped into the compound. He hadn’t seen her for days and wondered where she might have went . As he headed to his hut, he continued to stare at her till he bumped into his mother.

“ Ah ah, what is wrong with you? Are you blind?”, Mma Kande shouted. Wunnam ignored her statement and went further to ask a question he knew will irritate his mother. But he still went ahead to ask anyway.

“ Mma, why does Mma Nasara sit in that same  posture all the time?”. Mma Kande’s eyebrows furrowed as she glanced at Mma Nasara’s door and back at Wunnam.

“ Which Nasara are you talking about?”, Mma Kande asked, looking confused.

“ Your rival, my stepmother. She’s the one I’m talking about”, Wunnam admitted. Mma Kande slowly touched his forehead and asked if he was okay. When Wunnam admitted he was fine, Mma Kande threw her hands in the air and began wailing.

“They want to take my son o. My enemies want to finally take my son”. Wunnam stared at her in astonishment and his eyes met Pagnaa’s. He asked her why their mother was throwing tantrums over his question and she slowly moved closer to him and said, “Wunnam, Mma Nasara died a month before you came. You really need help, this is no joke”. Wunnam turned his gaze back to Mma Nasara’s door but she was nowhere to be seen. He had to agree with his sister, there was something wrong with him. Probably, he was going mad.

“ W-what happened to her? How-how did she die?” Wunnam stammered.

“ She went to gather firewood from the forest, but never returned. Mba Nindoo found her cutlass, basin and slippers. The forest was searched for two whole weeks, but they found no traces of her. It was finally concluded that she was attacked by a wild animal, since her body couldn’t be found”, Pagnaa narrated and Wunnam stared at her in bewilderment. From that moment, Wunnam decided he didn’t want to live anymore.

At dawn the next day, Wunnam took a rope and headed for the farmlands when everyone was still asleep. He traipsed over the tall bushes, looking for a suitable tree to hang himself. He spotted a cashew tree which was  isolated from the rest. He rolled a big stone underneath, tied the rope around a branch of the tree and placed his head in the loop. He tightened the knot but still had his feet on the stone. He thought of how his mother and sister would be devastated, after hearing the news of his death. But that wasn’t going to make him rescind his decision. He preferred being dead to seeing ghosts and people dying in his dreams. Worst of it all, his own best friend was on the verge of dying or maybe even dead already.  He closed his eyes, clenched his fist and made to shift his feet from the stone when he heard someone shout.

“ Watch out! watch out! There is a snake on that branch”, with no regards to whose voice it was or which branch exactly the snake was on, Wunnam hastily loosened the rope around his neck and jumped down from the stone. He searched the tree with his eyes, hoping to spot the snake. He heard someone burst into laughter behind him and when he turned, he was astonished to see Mba Nindoo.

“ Ah, so you fear death? I thought you were on the verge of committing suicide”, he said with an uncontrollable laughter which irritated Wunnam.

“ Mba Nindoo, this is not funny at all, why will you do that? You scared me”, Wunnam said in a nasal tone.

“ You are scared of  a snake, but not scared to take your own life? You sure are a clown”, Mba Nindoo said. Wunnam went to sit under the tree and crossed his arms over his knees with anger. If Mba Nindoo hadn’t interrupted him, he would have been sleeping peacefully by now, on the cold floor of his grandfather’s hut, in the land of the dead.

“ You children of this generation are so rotten. Any little problem you face, baaam! you’re thinking of committing suicide. If we, your fathers, had cultivated such weak hearts, we would have all killed ourselves even before you were born. If only you knew what we have been through. But yet, we stayed alive till now. I don’t know what is bothering you. But whatever it is, find a solution and stop being a coward. Better go home and stop that nonsense you were thinking of doing. I’m off to farm”, Mba Nindoo said, without giving Wunnam a chance to speak. Wunnam watched as he rode his bicycle and took the lane which led to his farm.

Wunnam decided to finally speak up. He was going to tell his father everything, maybe he would be able to help him. Mba Yiko was about leaving to the farm when Wunnam got back home, panting and perspiring profusely. He had ran from the farmlands to the house without a break, for fear that he might change his mind.

“ Mba, I need to talk to you urgently”, Wunnam said.

“ Ah, can’t you see I’m on my way to the farm. Can’t it wait?” Mba Yiko asked.

“ No Mba, it can’t. This is a matter of life and death”

“ Okay then, let’s go to my room”, Mba Yiko said reluctantly. He listened quietly as Wunnam narrated his ordeal and how he needed help. Wunnam finished speaking and realised his father was looking over his shoulder wistfully. Wunnam tapped him gently and he got startled.

“ Did you hear all that I said?” Wunnam asked.

“ Yes, Wunnam. I heard you. All this will come to an end. You will soon have your peace. Leave everything to me, I will handle it.”, Mba Yiko said and Wunnam’s heart leaped with elation. He was glad he took the bold step by speaking to his father. Now he would relax and see what happens next.

“ And if you’re still scared, you can sleep in my room today”, Mba Yiko said and Wunnam grabbed the offer without a second thought.

That night, the rain came with a heavy storm and Wunnam was scared it might carry away the thatch. He lay still on his side, afraid to close his eyes but finally drifted off to sleep.

Wunnam had a dream again. This time he saw himself running. Someone was chasing him, the image of the person was blurry but he could see the machete in the person’s hand. He glanced over his shoulder again and the image became clear. He saw his sister chasing him, he didn’t understand why Pagnaa was pursuing him. He increased his pace and when he glanced behind him again, the face he saw wasn’t Pagnaa’s but his mother’s. She looked wild and angry. She snarled as she chased him and the collar of her blouse was soaked with sweat.

Wunnam could feel her legs  at his heels, her foot grazed his and he stumbled and fell on his face. He instantly turned and to his utter surprise, he saw his father raising the machete at him instead. His mother was nowhere to be seen. His father was drawing the machete closer to his belly when Wunnam woke up abruptly.

Mba Yiko was  standing at his feet with the machete, raised in the air. Wunnam rubbed his eyes to make sure he wasn’t still dreaming.

“ You’re awake. I told you everything will come to an end soon”, Mba Yiko said and Wunnam finally believed he wasn’t dreaming.

To be continued…

Copyright© Nasreen Zankawah, 2020

Written by : Nasreen Zankawah

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