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Ìyágànkú : Fiction By Ike Adegboye

Ìyágànkú : Fiction By Ike Adegboye

Ìyágànkú

Historical Fiction

Ibadan, 1823


Ishola Omonilu Arimajeshu is dead. Everyone mourns and as dew settles, wails pierce the peace of dawn. The town crier is silent. I see him from where I dig, he walks through the square like a cat with a sprained paw, his head hangs low between his hunched shoulders. Even the sun considers us undeserving, the birds refrain from song. The cock crows in the darkness. The sound is harsh—forced from its throat.

Ishola can not be dead, they all whisper. I whisper it too. It can not be. I dig. I retie my wrapper across my breasts. My palms are damp. My strength wanes. I dig. It can not be. No one but a god could kill him. Ishola can not be dead, but I know he is, because I killed him. 


Everyone knows I did it. I killed the great warrior. Some doubt. I doubt. But I remember the knife, the metal in his throat. I watched his eyes bulge and his mouth fill with blood. His fingers twitched and then stilled. His eyes stared surprised out of his head, unblinking. 


Once the hide on which we conceived our children stained red, I dragged it out of the hut with him on it.

I would bury his body to cover this wretched deed of mine, before I was found out. I dragged him out to the forest, under the watchful eye of the trees, their roots getting in my way, like the careless legs of sleeping children. At the nearest clearing, I stopped and began to dig. Blood pounded in my ears and my skin dampened with sweat in the cool night air.  

But the earth would not receive him. She spat him out. For every time I dug up the earth, she filled his grave with water.

He should sink, surely, but instead, his body floated, the water bubbling eerily under his weight, earth and stones collected beneath him and pushed his lifeless body out of the grave. 

Even now in the dark dawn, I dig. The hoe against the moist earth—thuph—I drag, I scrape, with my fingers, with my elbows, the earth replenishes. 

I dig.

I dig.

I dig.

His body lays on the side, frigid. Decaying. His lips are white. Even in death he strikes his terror. My palms are damp. I dig. My head is heavy. But my will compels me. I must bury this dead. Only a patient person can milk the lioness. Is that not what the elders say? 

This man who could not be killed by a mortal but by a god. I have killed him, now I must bury him. Only then will I triumph.

By the second day, the people of the city came to see me—the god-woman who killed Ishola. 

Even the Alaafin sent his men. The children threw stones, their mothers approving but terrified. Who is this woman, who could kill a man unborn? Old women have come and spit on me—their stale saliva streaks my skin. The old men are full of curses, no space for blessings in their weathered, withered minds. 


On the third day, the spirit man came to the forest. Tall. Thin. Grim. Out of his sunken sockets stared out watery, yellowed eyes. 

You are trapped. Your will has received its bondage. 

It was what the spirit man said.

Endlessly, you will dig. For this is the curse on anyone who kills Ishola Omonilu Arimajeshu the son of Amore, the hope of ilu Kujore, the one who slits throats with the stick of the broom. 

He is a son of the soil who can not return. You, yourself know the price he paid.

The medicine man smiles. A little smile. He is pleased. He was there that night at the fire. He was there.

You will dig until you are old and grey, until the flesh falls off your back. Even then, you will dig.  

I wept as I heard this. My arms willed of their own. Raised high and brought low.

He can only be buried in a place with no soil. No earth.

The waters. My thoughts raced with hope.

No, the medicine man responds to my thought without speaking. His voice echoes in my mind. The floods sit on a bed of soil.

My arms are weak but they keep digging. My skin is shiny with sweat.

I am tired. No one touches the body. They stare. No one offers to help, lest they be trapped in enchantment.

The only place to bury him, is in the clouds. 

So I receive this judgement. My heart is open. A light floods my being and I smile. The medicine man stops and stares. His smile is gone. I must bury this dead. With joy, I receive my verdict, yes. 

Songs will be written about me. They must. Lest, I will write my own song. About the woman who stooped and was conquered. Ìyágànkú.

A woman. No. A god. No. A mother who digs the grave of a man who sacrificed her children in a fire to the gods, for his strength. For his power. For his fame. 


The End 

Copyright ©2019 by IkeOluwapo Adegboye


Proverb Ref: Twitter @yoruba_proverbs

 

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