We Are Not Cursed #1

Hello folks,

I’ve not been able to write a nice tribute to the late Nigerian poet and novelist, Chinua Achebe. It’s a shame because his works have inspired me a lot. Every time I go through my bookshelf, I see some of his books (Things Fall Apart, Arrow of God, There Was a Country). They remind me of the power of words (literature). Well, I’ve decide to write a story in his honour. We Are Not Cursed is based on a fictitious account of one man’s family in pre-colonial Nigeria. The story installments will be every Tuesday, unless I indicate otherwise. Critiques or suggestions are very welcome.

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WE ARE NOT CURSED

(Part One)

Edited by: Darlene Jones

Only the eyes that moved swiftly would see the legs that desperately sprinted across the farms and pathways. Thereafter thoughts would arise if the runner was after something, or rather, was the prey.

For Dubem, who was the runner, the reason was clear.

His legs were burning and his heart thumping, a painful knot down one side, sweat stinging his eyes. He drew huge ragged breaths, his throat dry and raspy. A single minded imperative kept driving him forward, determinedly placing one foot in front of the other despite his utter exhaustion. He had to get to his master’s house. The story needed to be heard.

But those men were hunting him down—he couldn’t stop himself from feeling this way even after the long distance covered. He threw frequent frightened glances over his shoulders, praying they were not getting any closer. They would kill him if they caught him. He knew this as sure as he knew his own name.

Arriving in Ngwo brought Dubem some bit of relief. He trudged past a group of young girls returning from the stream with clay pots sitting on their heads, a crier whose gong delivered a rhythmic hollow sound in his head, and a man pickaxing a large trunk of wood. But none of them paid particular attention to him. Five female servants were on their knees pressing oil when he arrived at his master’s compound. When they saw him, they abandoned their work to give him support.

At the centre of the compound, he went down on his knees and cried out, “Nnaanyi! Nnaanyi! Calamity has befallen us!”

The women  placed their hands over their hearts in fear. Two of them ran towards the largest mud house in the compound to call Umeh—the master of them all. Shortly after, they reappeared with him, his wife and two daughters, and the other three male servants trailing behind them.

The sight of Dubem—covered in bruises and sweat—made Umeh double his pace, his walking stick barely touching the ground.

“Where are the others—where is my son!” he asked, impatiently.

Dead bodies in a pool of fresh blood flashed in Dubem’s mind.

“Speak!”

“They’re dead, Nnaanyi.”

The compound rang with loud shouts. Umeh’s wife and daughters were especially thrown into a state of agitation as they clutched their braids and wrappers. Numb with shock, Umeh unconsciously let his walking stick fall to the ground. Earlier, at first light, he’d sent his son and three of his male servants, including Dubem to welcome and accompany his visitors from the neighbouring village to his home. This was what the custom required; a practice even his chi didn’t consider wrong. For as long as he could remember, he had no enemies. He always endeavoured to settle disputes where they existed. Why would he be the target of such malicious attack, then?

He beat his chest slowly. “My only son?”

Dubem didn’t know if he should reply or simply nod in the affirmative. He could sense doubt in his master’s tone, but the grimace on the old man’s face told an entirely different story.

Umeh inched closer to him, bent slightly. “Where—is—my—son?”

Dubem, stunned by the question, stuttered. “Nnaanyi, we were attacked. A group of hefty men came out from the bush, attacked us and…”

“And?”

“In the process, your son was killed.”

Umeh’s face creased with pain. He sniffed and after a while said, “So you escaped?”

Dubem was unsure of what else to say. He was just a servant. The same answer may give his master the impression that he had no regard for his son.

“Bring him to the shrine!”

“Nnaanyi…Nnaanyi, I’m saying the truth!”

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Alusi (Shrine) pic credit: G.I. Jones

The other male servants seized him. The resistance he put up was minimal because of his fatigue. They dragged him past their master’s obi to the small shrine in the corner of the compound dedicated to Amadioha, the god of thunder and lightning.

Standing before the shrine, Umeh poured fresh palm wine on the ground, then called out the name of his chi five times and then added, “Ndi nwe m, eji m ofo na ogu bia n’iru unu.”*

To Dubem, he said, “Now, declare your innocence before the gods.”

All eyes fell on him.

He’d heard about the swift response of Amadioha. He had once seen the burnt body of a man who was struck by lightning because he lied in the god’s name. Ever since, he’d lived in constant fear of the consuming power of the god.

He looked up at the sky and said in a quivering tone, “If I’m the one responsible for the death of Nnanna and that of my fellow servants, may Amadioha strike me dead!”

That didn’t happen.

***

It dawned on Umeh that his servant’s words were true and that he was innocent. Heavy with pain and sorrow he slowly left the gathering and inside his obi, he wept. Now his new guest was trouble.

He knew it would be staying for some time.

***

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(*)“Ndi nwe m, eji m ofo na ogu bia n’iru unu” in this case, specifically means “My gods, I come to you with clean hands.”

Nnaanyi–a title conferred to a married man or master of slaves

Chi–a personal god.

Obi–a small place for relaxation.

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66 thoughts on “We Are Not Cursed #1

  1. Very absorbing story. I look forward to the next instalment. Deep sorrow makes a person do strange things… become less human, or surpass humanness into a greater humanness that brings us closer to god.

    God bless you – may you be famous one day for your word art.

    1. Amin! I pray you the world gets to read your works too, MJ. You’re a very talented poet.

      Yes, once the heart is plunged into deep sorrow anything can happen–either good or bad. In the past, my people brought cases before the shrine of their personal god for answers or proper judgement.

      Your unwavering support gives me strength and I want to thank you especially for it.

  2. I enjoyed this story Uzo, and this closing sentence sounded ominous –

    “He knew it would be staying for some time.”

    Intrigued and shall return for the continuation.

    1. *shivers* You’re absolutely right–it’s a ominous with a tale of painful betrayal and deceit. I’m happy you enjoyed that line. I did too.

  3. Disappearing for days at a time, with hardly a sound, Uzoma… Then you return in full flight, with the fleeing for ones life, loss, and many unanswered question for those whom weep. Such tragic circumstance, what resolve pray tell friend, will the characters have to pursue the challenges ahead. I fear there is still great danger ahead, and much darkness to come before the light, or at least until the next morning. Though our darkness will take seat for seven days until next week.

    Amazing writing there above for the start of a tale, Uzoma. The lively working in of the conversations, question, answers, rebuttals, refutes, thoughts, movement/moments, a seamless affair in captivation. I dropped by to read your previous post, but found myself pausing here. I’ll have read the proverb tomorrow. Though I’ll have to remember next Tuesday.

    Fantastic start!

    1. OMG! What a mind-blowing comment 🙂 You’re very observant, Sean. I lost my mojo a few weeks ago and a result couldn’t write any story (of this length). I’ve had this in mind for the past four days, so when the magic returned, I began writing LOL. If I can put down the writing all (danger, suspense, betrayal, and killings) I envision about the story it should a nice story.

      I know I also owe you a visit, so you will see around your corner pretty soon…

  4. Compelling and powerful and painful. I realize I have a knot in my stomach and tightened breathing–in response the suspense and sadness. You paint a vivid picture here with descriptive action and dialogue. Will eagerly await next week’s piece. Congratulations, Uzoma!

    1. Aww, what a generous comment, Sirena. I’m glad the suspense and element of sadness in the read came across nicely. I admit I do struggle with this at times.

      Many thanks to you, my dear friend, for commenting as I look forward to posting another one next week.

  5. Achebe must be a really good writer, because I believe that if he inspired you, than there must be something in his writings. I’ll read him in some time.
    And this story was truly splendid, leaving me quite breathless for more.
    Nice job, Uzoma.

    1. Oh I’ll be super happy if you do find time to read any of his books some day. You’ve always been very supportive of my work with your comments. Thanks a million, Khaula.

      1. Believe me. Uzoma, I don’t comment on people’s posts if I don’t like them. I really, really liked it…
        And consequently, I commented.
        🙂

    1. Thanks, Shawn. I’m no better storyteller than you are 🙂 I owe your blog a proper visit and want to thank you for your unwavering support.

  6. Oh, I like this very much. You are a master of building tension in a quiet, understated way. I’m looking forward to more.

    One question, though. You said – “. . . a practice even his chi didn’t consider wrong.” What does “chi” mean?

    1. Thank you so much, Mary. I’ve learnt some vital things about writing from other bloggers like you–I’m proud to tell you this because I read your blog. Next week, hopefully, I’ll continue from where I stopped.

      I apologize for not including “chi” in my note. Well, it means “personal god” or “deity.” In the past, my people used to erect shrines in their homes in honour of their gods. So, every morning they would perform libation and little sacrifices as the case may be, asking for good health, prosperity, protection, bounty harvest etc.

  7. Uzo, since I don’t want your head to get any bigger just wanted to point out a small typo “. . . praying they were not getting any close” shouldn’t that be “closer”? Really, a strong beginning to a story I’m looking forward to seeing how it resolves. And also need to know what chi is? Quite appropriate homage to the great Achebe whom I read many years ago too.

    1. Haha 🙂 a modest thought will do for me. You’re right and I’ve made the correction. Thank you so much for the help.

      “Chi” means “personal god” or “deity.” In the past, virtually all married men had small shrines in their compounds. These shrines are dedicated to their personal god. Although that in Igbo land, there were tutelary deities believed to be in charge of various sub regions.

      Achebe is an African icon–I’m so happy you got to read his book too.

  8. Hello Uzoma! This was a great read and you’re a very creative writer. I look forward to reading the remaining parts.

    1. Hi Courtney. It’s a pleasure to meet you. I’m so happy you enjoyed this bit and I pray the next won’t disappoint 🙂

      Thanks a heap for the encouraging remark.

  9. @skywalkerstoryteller. “chi” means personal “god” or “deity”.
    This is a strong start to an African story.
    Achebe will forever remain in our hearts.

  10. I think it’s time I started calling you Achebe’s grandson. Nice story! A good start. I look forward to the next installment.

    NB: Please stop by my blog. I posted a story there on Monday with a link to your blog. Actually, your 100-Word Story inspired it. Thanks! 🙂

    1. Ah-ah, KayKay. Well I will also call you one of his grandsons–you write quite well too. If I can get you do more posts like the one I just read, I would do it everyday LOL. 😉

    1. Aww, thank you so much Ronnie!!! Reading others blogs help me to hone this craft–your writing and style of presentation have also helped me.

  11. A beginning of a narrative that makes me want to return. Great job in creating a tale that promises to be more than just another recounting of an old story. I look forward to next week and a new installment. Thank you, my blogging brother! 🙂

    1. Aw, thanks a lot Cheyenne. Yeah, I heard about the killings too and I pray the families of these departed brothers and sisters of ours be comforted. I’m in the southern part of the country. In the north, the terrorist group, Boko-Haram, continues threaten and kill innocent people–mostly Christians.

      Thank you for finding time to comment 🙂

        1. Your kind thoughts and concern for me is a gift I will cherish. Yeah, I promise I’ll continue to post and visit other blogs once there is life to do so.

    1. OMG! Ezigbo enyi m, nda? Never knew you could speak Igbo too. I’m so glad you enjoyed this bit. Look forward to posting the next 🙂

          1. This isn’t the case usually with languages. I had to ask one of my friends who is an international student to help me with just one phrase. But I did it just for you, enyi m 🙂

  12. Uzoma, I want to thank you for stopping by Writing I am and liking “River Congo – Chapter 5.” I have read the first Chapter of “We are not cursed” and I am impressed. I will be following you to read more. Keep up the writing. – Aloha – pjs.

    1. Hello Paul. I read your chapter with much delight and will be returning soon to make some comments as I’m still on a borrowed computer. I love the African feel of your site. It’s super interesting.

    1. O dear, o dear, what a generous feedback, Val. I’m excited you considered “Things Fall Apart” brilliant–which, of course, it is. Your thoughts about my story gives me the strength to write on.

  13. My mother used the book “Things Fall Apart” in her World Literature class. I like the way you choose to describe people, you show you care to develop their characters. I know that their is guilt portrayed in the man who did not understand his servant. I will take more time to leave more messages…. take care!

    1. Wow! That’s good to know. The book is an iconic narration, a joy to read especially from a non-African perspective.

      Again, I’m so thankful to you for taking time to express how delighted you are with the way I write. I’m encouraged to do more 🙂

      Best wishes

  14. I meela, Uzoma, what a great story this is going to be. I’m glad you stopped by my blog otherwise I would have been deprived of such talent as I’ve read above. I can see you’ve been busy with other chapters so I’ll be back often to see how it unfolds. I particularly like your descriptions and it puts the reader right there in the action. Best wishes. Baz 🙂

  15. Reblogged this on Bastet and Sekhmet and commented:
    This is the first chapter of a series entitled: “We Are Not Cursed” written by a very talented young man from Nigeria…I think you’ll enjoy this as well as many of his other works. Meet Uzoma from “85 Degrees”.

  16. Reblogged this on Sean Bidd and commented:
    To date, there are 13 parts to We are Not Cursed, and the way, Uzoma writes the tale, one has to come back each time to put foot to the dirt of the earth to find each turn is leading you somewhere, but is it where you think it will, maybe, maybe not. So set out on your own discovery, see where it take you…

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