There lived an old woman in a small ill-built hut deep in the forest. Akate has seen her once.
That day, she was in this forest with her brothers picking firewood when the tuneful chirping of a colorful bird caught her attention.
And when the little bird flew off, Akate followed it. Deeper and deeper into the thick forest they went, till Akate saw the old hut and stopped.
She stared at it, wondering who might have built it, if anyone lived or still lives in it.
Then the wobbly door opened and the old woman came trudging out, her bent self supported on a long stick. She wore only above her chest a wrapper piece that had gone threadbare from age. Her hair stood up in long grey spikes.
Akate watched her totter to the back of her hut. She followed her.
She wanted to go and greet her and probably see if she has anything she could help her out with. Akate liked to help old people.
She helped Ose, the frail old widow that lived three compounds away from them take her wares to the market. She fetched water for Lale too. Her husband has gone blind and there were no kids to help.
‘Noon greetings,’ Akate said to the old woman.
The old woman turned rather suddenly to her, obviously startled.
‘I greet you, old woman,’ Akate said again.
‘Walk away!’ the old woman said. Her voice was raspy.
She lowered her feeble self on the short stool before a large mortar and took the long wood pestle inclined to it.
‘Let me help you pound,’ Akate said.
‘Walk away now, child, for you do not know what it is that is in the mortar.’
She adjusted herself around the big mortar and began to pound.
Thudding sounds of pestle on mush peppered the air.
But Akate did not walk away. She was a curious girl. Always has been. She stood there watching the old woman pound.
Her presence made the old lady uncomfortable. ‘What is it that you want, young girl?’ she asked her, now sounding angered.
‘Can I see what you are pounding?’ Akate craned her neck to peer into the old woman’s mortar.
Now the old lady was furious. Her eyes turned red and with them she enchanted Akate.
Lost of all awareness, Akate stood there gaping stiffly into the air.
The old woman rose and pushed Akate into the mortar.
She sat back down and began pounding again.