Something had to be wrong for my body to feel this sore. Headache, cold and excruciating pain all at once. If I were to describe this feeling, it’ll be shapeless, like a mist, a thick black smoke smelling like rotten beans mixed with death. This had to be the smell of death.
They had tied us to separate trees to spend the night. The one who handled me stood out from the rest, I would say he escaped dwarfism by a few inches. I remember keeping my eyes fixed on him throughout the parade, observing every detail…his very unattractive tribal marks that flowed from one end of his face to the other without a break seemed to call out to me ”be brave, be a man”. “Baba” was what they called him. He certainly was that powerful native doctor everyone talked about, the one Mama bragged about to have cured her when she was sick to the point of death.
I begin to hear voices, whisperings actually … something about being quiet, not desecrating the holy forest. It’s time, a voice echoed. The sickening of my stomach heightened. Images begin to flash through my mind. Is this really the end?
This was no time for questions, preferably a thought gathering moment where solemn prayers are made. No violent shaking of the head or waist, maybe a nod here and there. As if to answer a question unuttered, an image of mama Salami flashes through my mind. She stands behind two hefty men shouting out orders. “Don’t let it run oh. Sulei, Oya kill the ram, make sure the blood drains out, tomorrow is the big day”. I watched from the window in our kitchen. I remember wishing for the ram an easy death , one other than “ knife slitting throat” method. Today, I’m that ram. I would be dead soon.
I had followed them obediently when they knocked at our door, no words were said, we knew what we had to do. Maybe it’s my fault, why did I go without putting up a struggle, why didn’t I consider running?. Maybe it was the reechoing of Papa’s last words that kept me still. Those same words I had lived by all my life. Not wanting to bring shame upon my family. This was my destiny, the reason I was born, to be buried with the king. “what an honour, be a man”. I was still a child and didn’t understand. What could be honourable about being stripped naked, paraded like a ram before the villagers, painted with chalk and being tied to a tre,. I remember seeing nothing but pity in the eyes of some onlookers. If their eyes had voices, i would have heard “eiya, what a waste”. I still don’t understand.
I would run as soon as I’m loosed, I would run. Zig zag definitely just in case they decide to throw stones. They certainly would not catch up with me. There was still hope but maybe not much time.
Baba reappeared closely followed by one man, Just one man. “Loose them”, he ordered. He started from my left, man one was loosed, man two, then my turn. A struggle ensued…
Catch him, catch him now! came his voice from a distance. Like a lion set on the loose, I ran,I would run, I would keep running until I know I’m going to live.
Banji… Banji… a soft, familiar voice whispered from nearby.
I woke up sweating and panting.
It was Mama, sitting by my bed side.
She said with a shaky voice obviously fighting back tears “Banji, Omo mi, Kabiyesi ti ku”
(meaning:Banji, my child, the King is dead)