Now fifteen years had elapsed, the time had come for Chika to pay back to the great god of destruction for all his faithfulness with his life. This was causing him sleepless nights.
He woke up very late the next morning and felt very weak. So much thinking was sapping all his energy, yet the same thought of how he could possibly escape came to his mind. The anxiety was growing because the appointed day was drawing nearer. He had only three days to go and see the chief priest. He quickly dismissed the ugly thought from his mind and allowed himself to reminisce on the events that had taken place in the last fifteen years. It had been very eventful. Everybody had respected and feared him, he had really oppressed them and whenever he had pointed at any of their belongings that he desired, they had given it to him without hesitation. He had never cared how they felt about him. It wasn’t his concern if they had despised him or not. His selfish interest had been all that mattered. He had walked through the streets of Duruji with his head held up high, he had really been great, and it had really been lovely. But wasn’t that what he had wanted? Hadn’t the great god of his fathers been very faithful to him? Why was he still finding it very impossible to fulfill his own part of the deal? What more does he want in life?
No! There was still a lot to live for. Life itself was good and at the age forty-three, he was still very young to die. Moreover, wouldn’t dying at this time of his life be a sign that he had finally lost out? Chika, the son of Obi, was not a loser, he was a winner.
He was yet to see the better side of the four lovely children his wife had given him; two sons and two daughters. What would become of them if he was no more? His enemies would not hesitate to pounce on them and devour them. How would they be able to cope if all these wealth suddenly disappeared? Wasn’t it because of them that he had gone into this deal with Alaogbaga? Then what would be the point of it all if he died and everything he had struggled for became his enemies’?
Now that his time was up, he didn’t want to die just like his father, given all the good reasons in his mind to stay alive. He would make another deal with the great god, although he was still very worried, but that was the only chance he had. There was no other option.
Finally, the market day arrived, the day Chika was supposed to go and give his life to the god of destruction. The fact that he had obeyed the god and submitted himself without being coerced would make the great god give him an opportunity to choose how he was going to die.
He got himself ready, told his wife where he was going and left for the shrine. As he walked towards the shrine, he thought to himself; this may be the last time I’m seeing my wife and children. The great god might strike me instantly if I told him what was on my mind.
He tried his best to remain optimistic about the outcome of his proposal, he tried to calm himself and not even imagine that this could be his last day on earth.
He arrived at the shrine, and surprisingly, the chief priest was standing in front of his shrine with his two messengers at either sides of him. Perhaps he had, through some spiritual means, known that he was coming and waited to meet him at the door of the shrine, Chika thought, or had been standing there all morning waiting for him.
“I got your message, great one, and I have answered your call just as you have sent it.” Chika said with his heart beating so loudly that he feared the priest and his messengers might hear. His head was bowed down to the ground, he didn’t want to see the chief priest’s expression, and right now his sense of hearing was enough for him.
But the priest’s face was expressionless. “Your time is up Chika, son of Obi. You must give back to the god of your fathers all he has given to you by humbly submitting your life to him. You are to let me take some of your blood before deciding how you will like to die. Thereafter, you will go home and wait till death takes you to your forefathers.”
This was insane; Chika felt like he was going to faint with fright, the sound of the priest’s voice was like being spoken to by the great god himself. He felt death standing by his side, smiling at him and telling him not to worry; it won’t be hard on him. But he courageously said what he had to say.
“Great one, I pray that you thank the god of my fathers for his faithfulness unto me and my family. I have come to give my life to him as we have agreed and to choose how I will die. But great one, I choose not to die at all, not yet.”
“What!” the priest was surprised, this was unexpected, “Be mindful of what you say, lest you incur the wrath of Alaogbaga.”
At this moment, Chika seemed to muster more courage. After all, he thought, he would die all the same. “I would humbly like to go into another covenant with the great god of my father.”
“You can’t go into another covenant when you have not fulfilled your own part of the present covenant.” The chief priest said, Chika would come to his senses.
“But there can’t be another covenant if I am dead?” he pushed on, “Great one, speak to the god of my father, this is the only chance I have. Moreover, the worst the god can do is to take my life all the same. I’ve really got nothing to lose but my life anyway. But let him listen to what I have to say, please.” He had now brought his head up while he pleaded. “If the great god spares my life, I will go into another covenant with him, this …”
“Speak up, you are delaying the great god.” The chief priest was getting impatient.
“Perhaps we should talk alone.” Chika said.
The chief priest took him into the shrine.
Chika spoke up. “Great one, the great Alaogbaga could be born as a human through one of my offsprings. I believe that, as a human, he would have the free-will to act as he wants. He would have a one-on-one interaction with its worshippers, just like a king. He would reign over the earth physically and wouldn’t require being offered sacrifices before doing what it desired.” He saw a big look of surprise on the priest’s face. But he continued. He knew his bargain was beginning to make sense to the priest, if not to Alaogbaga itself, “I am willing to go into another covenant with the great god if he would agree to become one of my descendants in the tenth generation after me. He would be born, life and living.
Think of it, great one, it will communicate with humans directly, it could drink blood with its own mouth and kill with physical arms.”
The priest stood there for a long time, confused, he didn’t know what to say.
“Please, great one,” Chika pleaded, “Just do this for me, I am here, if the god of my father refuses my offer, then let him take my life by striking me this very moment.”
After what seemed like eternity, the chief priest said, “It is okay, son of Obi; you will have to wait, give me time to have communion with the great god, I will be back.” The priest left him and entered his inner chamber.
Chika waited anxiously. The priest was gone for a long time and his mind kept conjuring up endless negative possibilities. He thought about how the god was going to take his life if it refused his bargain. Would it kill him as it had done MaduMazi? Would his torn bits become food for birds of both land and air? The numerous tragedic images that came to his mind were too gruesome to dwell upon. He fervently prayed that the priest was able to convince the vicious god.
He began to wonder what was actually keeping the old man. He was filled with fear of what might be the outcome of his proposal. What if the god agreed? What would become of the world? Only loyalists like him would survive his reign. He wished it was possible that he could be alive to witness the great coming of the god. He would surely be one of his cabinets; together they would rule the world for eternity.
The old man finally came out; he sat down very close to Chika before saying. “The great god has accepted your offer,” he couldn’t believe it, “he readily accepted this strange offer of yours.”
Chika almost jumped with joy, “Thank you, great one, you don’t know how grateful I am, I will do whatever the great god wants me to do, and all I ask is that my life and my family be put under his care.”
“But somebody must die; somebody who’s blood and yours are one.” He stopped and came closer to Chika. “Listen carefully to me, you must kill your brother and bring his blood here for sacrifice, the quantity does not matter. It shall be used for a covenant sacrifice only if this is done before the next two market days.” He left Chika and walked into his inner chamber, before the confused younger man could ask him any question.
Chima had just returned from one of his few plots of land where he went to do some weedings. The dehydrated and weak Chima called his wife to get him some water as he sat down heavily on the wooden chair that always stayed under a big cashew tree in front of his house.
Over the years, Chima had tried to avoid any possible social meeting with his brother; he didn’t need to work very hard to avoid such contact since Chika found it incumbent to see him as a stranger as well as an adversary. They occasionally saw each other during inevitable family discussions mostly elicited by Chima.
He was happily married to his wife, Ngozi, and he made sure that she never got too close to his brother’s wife. He was blessed with two children in his marriage. And they were sometimes found playing with Chika’s younger children, but that did not in any way improve the relationship between the two fathers. His brother’s wicked lifestyle was something Chima despised so much. They had almost nothing in common.
Chima was left with almost nothing from their father’s belongings because his greedy brother took everything for himself. The only few plots of land that he had were those that were given to him personally by their father before he died and it was not enough for him and his growing family to live by. Chika had ensured that they did not share their father’s property and Chima was getting more frustrated.
He was planning on how he was going to meet his brother to beg him to give him two or three pieces of land from the ones his father owned before he died, even though his past attempts at convincing his father had yielded nothing fruitful. He hoped that he would still be able to persuade him to oblige if he continued going to him.
He really didn’t understand what was wrong with his brother. He couldn’t believe that the same blood ran in their veins. How could somebody be so wicked and heartless? He didn’t understand what Chika intended to do with the whole plots of land he kept on acquiring; he was becoming more and more obsessed with the act. The more he acquired, the less satisfied he seemed.
“I will have to go and see my brother tomorrow and talk to him again about giving me a plot of land.” He told his wife as she brought him a cup of water.
“Do you think it is a good idea? Don’t you think that he would begin to consider you a nuisance? Maybe you should just let him be, it is no use disturbing yourself. We will continue to manage like we have been doing all these while.” Ngozi advised her husband.
“I will give it another try, then after this I will let go and think of what next to do. Perhaps I will then have to beg one of my friends, but you know I hate doing that, hence the reason behind my persistent visit to my brother’s house.”
“I must let you know that I don’t like the idea at all. Your brother has refused to grant you your request the first time, why do want to go back there again?”
I just don’t want to give up like that. It is not like the land is not supposed to be mine; I have a feeling that I might be able to make him see reasons with me.” He changed the discussion, “I am very hungry, please get me something to eat.”
She noticed that he didn’t want to be persuaded, so she let go.
Chika was eating his lunch in front of his big house. Eight days had passed since he last visited the great shrine of Alaogbaga, yet he hadn’t figured out a way to kill his brother. But that didn’t stop him from being a very happy man at the moment. In fact, he felt he was the happiest man in Duruji village and he tried to express it in any way he could. Nobody understood why he had suddenly become a happy man. His wife, children and friends would not understand that he had almost kissed death. He had faced death and escaped; he felt so proud of himself and couldn’t stop congratulating himself. Now, he believed firmly that he was truly a winner and never a loser.
His wife couldn’t help noticing that her husband who had in the recent past constantly refused to eat his food and had suffered many sleepless nights was now all of a sudden in his happiest mood. She knew that it had to do with the great god, but she couldn’t even guess what it was all about. His joy knew no bounds. Well, whatever it was, she thought, it was very nice seeing her husband in such a great mood.
The only problem Chika was having now was how he was going to kill his brother. The fact that he was going to kill his own brother had never bothered him, but how was he going to do it? It was a problem because he would really have loved to make it a secret, not that anybody could do anything to him if they found out, but he didn’t want his wife and children to see him as a murderer, that would not be good. But if his brother stood to become the barrier before his own freedom of life and wealth then he must kill him.
Time was running short yet he couldn’t come up with any good plan. He was getting desperate, very desperate and being cautious was becoming less important. He must do what he had to do to win, for he was a winner and never a loser.
Surprisingly, he looked up and the subject behind his problem was just coming towards him. Chima, as if sent by his great god, was walking straight into his compound. He was amazed, Chima seldom came to his house, and he now believed that his god was working in his favour after all. He immediately lost his appetite; he washed his hands and called on his wife to take the dishes away. This might be a good opportunity for him to actualize his goal.
“Chima, you came to my house today. What a surprise, you have really been avoiding me.” He said, thinking very hard on how he was going to make the right move.
“Good day, brother. How is the family?” he asked as he greeted, avoiding and overlooking Chima’s sarcastic statement.
Chika called on his son to get a seat for him. “We are alright, trying to patch up with life and its entire problems.” The chair was brought and Chika allowed his brother to sit before he continued, “I don’t know what I will offer you, the whole house is dried up, emm…. Let me check, Nkechi….”
“No, no, I am okay; I really don’t feel like taking anything.”
“Are you sure you don’t want to take anything? I can ask my wife to prepare something for you.” Chika reluctantly asked him.
“No, it’s alright. I’m okay. Like I asked you the last time, I really need extra plots of land. The few plots I have are very insufficient for me and my family. Please brother, I will really like you to give me some consideration, just give me two or three plots, you can have the rest, I’m not asking for much.”
“Chima, I thought we have discussed this before. I don’t know why you are bothering yourself. Just forget it. All the while that I was fighting for papa’s property, you thought I was being unreasonably greedy. Now tell me, if I had heeded to your stupid advice. Would there have been any land for you to ask me to give you? I don’t know what you really want. You should have joined me to fight for them, but you chose to be the good son.” He seemed to be getting angry, “I thought you had other reasonable things to discuss, you are just wasting your time, I am not giving you any land, never.” There was a strong note of firmness in his voice.
“Brother, I never meant it the way you think. I wasn’t against you fighting for papa’s assets; I only thought that we could have been more diplomatic in handling issues.” Chima explained.
“I really don’t want to talk about this, if you have nothing to say, I think it’s best you leave my house now.” Chika was obviously angry.
“Brother, please, I really need that plot of land, and I need your help.”
“No!” He wasn’t interested any longer.
Chima didn’t know what else to do or say, he wished that his brother would just consider his request. Now what was he going to do this farming season? He was really confused.
He finally decided to leave his brother’s house; maybe he would try borrowing one or two plots of land from his friends since his brother was being very difficult.
Just as he was leaving, an idea came into Chika’s mind, a brilliant idea. He called his brother back. “Chima, I have decided to change my mind, you must know that this is not an easy decision for me, I hate doing anything with weaklings. You will come with me this evening so that we will go into the bush; I have some plots of land that I might be able to release for you. Maybe before the end of the season we can talk about sharing papa’s land.
Chima couldn’t believe his ears; he was amazed at the sudden change in his brother. It was like a miracle. He couldn’t curtail his joy, he almost hugged Chika. “Oh, I thank you very much, brother, you don’t know how grateful I am. I don’t know how to show you my appreciation.” Delight showed all over his face.
“It is okay, come over this evening so that I can show you the land, come early so that we may return early. I would have described it for you but I doubt if you would be able to locate it. Moreover, I have nothing doing and I will like to go towards that direction this evening. So I can show you three different plots, you can select your choice.”
“I will be early, brother. Thank you, thank you.” He left Chika’s house happier than he had expected.
On reaching home, Chima quickly told his wife the outcome of his meeting with his brother. “We are going to have enough this season.” he joyfully concluded.
“That’s good news, but I still feel you should be very careful with Chika.” Ngozi was very glad to see the delight on her husband’s face. She had always loved her husband, his easy-going nature and his way of taking care of problems had been the real cause of her attraction towards him. He was a hardworking man who did his best to make sure he kept her satisfied even with the little he owned. “I am really surprised that Chika considered you this time around, I wonder what made him change his mind. All the same, we should thank the gods; at least we won’t go hungry this season.”
“I am so happy. I will have to go back there this evening, let me go and get myself ready.” As he entered into the house, Ngozi watched him with delight, she was also very pleased.
Chika used the little time he had before evening to make a comprehensive plan on how he was going to carry out his deed. He rushed to the plot of land and kept a small ceramic container and another larger container with water. The water would be used to clean himself up. Nothing would prevent him from killing his lazy brother, no matter how loud he screamed or how hard he fought back. He sharpened his small cutlass and got it ready for his mission, then waited impatiently for Chima.
Chima came early as he promised, and without delay, they both set out for the plot of land. He had no reason to suspect that the cutlass his brother held in his hands was to be used to slay him. He couldn’t wait to see the land that would soon be his.
Chika, on the other hand, was very excited at what he was about to do. The fact that he was going to kill his brother thrilled him and he justified what he was going to do by believing that Chima was a stupid and lazy man who wanted to eat his cake and have it. He thought he would just relax, allow him to fight for their father’s assets and now come over to ask for his own share, he must be very stupid. This world was all about survival of the fittest, people like Chima were not fit to face the world’s struggle, so he was doing him good by eliminating him.
Chika was possessed by the great god of destruction.
They finally reached their destination, Chima’s final destination. It was a very big plot of land; Chika couldn’t imagine giving it to anybody, not even to his brother.
“Here it is, just take a good look at it. Then we will go to another plot, unless you like this one.”
Chima was filled with so much excitement; the plot of land was unexpectedly so big. “I love it so much; I don’t know how to show my gratitude, this is really unexpected.” He continued to stare at the large plot, making a mental representation of it, with his back at his brother.
Chika saw this moment as the right time to strike, so while his brother was carried away, he lifted his well sharpened cutlass and with so much strength, he slashed open his brother’s back. Before Chima could realize what had hit him, Chika struck him three times on the back, the last one very close to his neck. Then he realized what was happening; his brother was cutting him with his cutlass! He didn’t have the time to fight back, for as he turned around to get a grip of himself, Chika used the knife to cut open his stomach after slashing his neck with the first stroke at the front.
Blood oozed from all over his body, as he fell down to the ground. Chika did not stop cutting him, he wanted to make sure that Chima died completely and he seemed to derive pleasure from the sight of his brother’s blood.
Chima did not get the opportunity to even shout out for help, the last thing that came to his mind before he died was the beautiful face of his lovely wife, then darkness.
Chika went straight to pick up his ceramic container and fetched enough blood from his brother’s body as it flowed out of him. Then he used the water that he had kept to wash his hand and quickly left the bloody scene.
Chika hurriedly went straight to the shrine were the chief priest seemed to be waiting for him as usual. He was filled with so much excitement; he couldn’t believe that it was going to be this easy, now he couldn’t wait to get over with the ritual.
Life will go on after all, he thought to himself. He was going to continue enjoying his wealth with his family; this realization filled him with so much joy. He had completed the task the great god had given him and he had proved that he was a man, the true son of his father. He didn’t even bother himself to think about the probable consequence of his action. Surely somebody must come across Chima’s body and already his wife knew that her husband had gone into the bush to see their new plot of land, but that wasn’t his concern for now, he must hurry and get over with this ritual. He was untouchable.
“Have you gotten the blood?” the priest asked, seeing the excitement that was written all over Chika’s face.
“Yes, great one, I have the blood from my brother, it is here with me.” He handed the container of Chima’s blood to the chief priest.
The priest’s face remained expressionless, “You are truly the son of your father and you have given the great god of your fathers something he cannot reject. You have moved a step above your father and that shows that you are worthy to be called his son. I must tell you that the great god is happy and pleased with your suggestion. I have never seen him so happy. Give me the blood.” He stretched out his two wrinkled hands and collected it. “You shall also cut yourself and let me have a small amount of your blood.”
Chika quickly used the cutlass in his hands and slashed his thumb. “Let some of it drop here.” The chief priest said, putting the container that had Chima’s blood under Chika’s bleeding thumb. He entered into his inner chamber with the blood. Several minutes later he came out with a black bead in his hand and a dampened face. Chika was too excited to notice that the Chief Priest looked really unhappy; something was seriously bothering him.
“I am through with the rituals,” he said in an unfamiliar shaky voice. “Take this sacred bead; it is the symbol of this covenant. Put it on your first son’s neck as soon as you get home. Instruct him to wear all the time and he must give it to his first son, this way it will be transferred from generation to generation. I must warn you, nobody should ever try to destroy this bead. It has the power of self protection and will surely destroy anyone who wants to destroy it. It also has the power to ensure that the instruction you give to your son be obeyed by whoever receives it until the great god is born. He will be the first child of your ninth generation whose child will be the tenth.
“Today, a covenant has been made between you and the great Alaogbaga, this covenant must surely come to pass whether your offspring become worshippers or not. The seeds have been sown; your offspring will nurture it until its manifestation in the tenth generation of your linage. Don’t worry about the durability of the bead; it has the power to take care of itself. The great god has spared your life, you will live. But it shall go to rest until its birth. He will cease to exist until this covenant is fulfilled, until he is born as flesh like you and me. Right now you have no choice but to make sure that your son gets the bead, if you don’t, you shall die and the bead will still get to your son anyway. Once he has the bead, the bead, and not your offspring, shall ensure that this covenant is fulfilled.” He stopped to take in some breaths after the long speech, then he concluded; “I shall leave you now, go home to your family.” He entered into his chamber before Chika could say a word.
Ngozi instinctively knew that something had gone wrong somewhere. She couldn’t understand why she was suddenly feeling very restless and panic taking over her whole sense of reasoning. The only person she could think of was her husband. It was getting very late and Chima was not yet back. This was strange. What was he doing in the bush so late with that horrible brother of his? She kept on asking herself.
There was a growing apprehension within her. She felt a strange premonition that her husband would not come back home to her again. The negative thought persisted despite all efforts to dismiss it. She was almost very certain that a bad news awaited her tonight.
Darkness was almost setting in when Ngozi detected excitement in the air somewhere in the distance. Duruji was a very quiet village; therefore any little noise would go a very long distance. A teenage boy hurriedly came to her and informed her that some little kids found her husband in a pool of blood somewhere in the bush while they were fetching firewood. Horrified by the gruesome sight, they had run straight to tell the king about their discovery. “Some men have been sent to bring his body from the bush where it lay.” The boy concluded.
Ngozi dropped the object she was holding with great trepidation. She began to scream, “Oh my God!! I am finished!! Chika has finally done his worst, I am finished!!” her husband was dead, her world has been torn apart, she thought. She was so shocked and confused. She continued to wail, falling heavily on the floor, allowing herself to roll and attracting the attention of others who were oblivious of what had happened. They tried to stop her from harming herself before they all left for the king’s palace.
Everybody wondered what or who might have done this to such an innocent young man. Chima was loved and admired by all in Duruji. He had been courageous enough to resent from joining his brother and father in their wicked act of oppression and covetousness.
His mutilated body lay at the king’s palace, leaving rushes of goose flesh on everybody’s skin. Ngozi could no longer contain her emotions; the sight of her husband did not make it easy for her. In no time the king instructed that the body be instantly covered.
“Does anybody have any idea of who might have done this to this man?” The king asked.
In tears Ngozi answered, “My husband left the house strong and healthy this evening after Chika promised to give him some plots of papa’s land to farm on for this rainy season. How was I to know that Chika was planning to kill my poor husband? Can somebody tell me what Chika wants from my husband that made him feel that murdering him was the best option?” Her two hands were wide open apart, signifying her helplessness as tears flowed down her eyes.
The young men were grieved, the old men were dumbfounded, and the women’s hearts were broken. Everybody cried along with her.
One of the young men who helped in bringing back his corpse said, “He was found on one of Chika’s plots of land.”
The villagers continued to mourn loudly, as they showed signs of disgust and shock. It took a while for the king to silence them so that his voice could be heard. “I think Chika has taken this too far. And we won’t bear this any longer.” He tried to make them feel his pain. “Just take a look at this young woman; she had suddenly been made a widow by her own brother in-law. This is repulsive and we will not take it any longer, we must get to the bottom of it. Of course we have no doubt in our mind that Chika is responsible for this. We all know he is capable of such gruesome act.
“What matters now is that an abomination has been committed and we must act now, we can’t let him get away with it. All ye young men, I want you to go and seek him out and bring him here; we will make him pay for his sins. Then we will wait for his god to come and kill us all!”
Everybody shouted in agreement, they were all filled with anger and hatred for the wicked man. The young men began to sing war songs as they marched towards Chika’s house.
For the first time in the last fifteen years, Chika felt fear. There was a sudden feeling of vulnerability that surrounded him, the feeling of the god’s protection that he felt had suddenly eluded him and he began to ask himself what was happening. He had not really understood what the chief priest meant when he said that the great god had gone to rest until his birth as a human. Had he sold out his security for his life? Had he unintentionally sent the great god to rest and was now all alone? What if he decided not to give the bead to his son? He could go and throw it away; maybe in the village stream nearby. Wouldn’t it be better if the great god struck him dead, rather than being left alone at the mercy of his enemies?
But on a second thought, he felt that he would still get the protection he deserved if he obeyed the great god’s instruction. Hadn’t he been taught to obey it in every situation and all would be well with him? He tried to shrug the fear within him off; maybe the feeling of guilt about his brother’s demise was getting at him.
He hurried home to do as he had been instructed by the chief priest. Even as he entered his house the feeling of vulnerability did not go away. He called on his first son, took out the bead and put it on the boy’s neck.
“Look, my son, I want you to always wear this around your neck, don’t lose it, it shall be on you day and night. Make sure that you also give it to your first son and instruct him just as I have instructed you.”
The boy did not understand, “But, what does it mean, papa?”
“It is a symbol of where you belong and it will give all my offsprings a sense of belonging. It is our history, the symbol of a covenant; it also signifies that all your ancestors were great.” Chika listlessly replied and sent the boy away.
His wife was watching him and she noticed that her husband was not relaxed, there was panic written all over his face. “You are making me scared, my husband; I don’t feel comfortable with that look on your face.” She was not yet aware of the cause of the excitement somewhere near the king’s palace. “Did your brother offend you when you were showing…?” She was cut off by the sound of a crowd coming towards their home. They all rushed outside to see what was going on. They were faced with an angry mob. The faces of the youths looked so mean and unforgiving. Worst of all they were coming directly into their compound. “What is happening?” she asked her husband.
Chika did not reply. There was no need for that because she would not understand; besides there was no time for that. He was now really terrified but he boldly stepped forward in an attempt to control the crowd, hoping that his god would intervene. “What brings you all to my house like this?”
One of the youths spoke up. “Your presence is needed at the king’s palace right now.”
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