by Daniel Nkado
Lately, the Uzekwe family has been plagued with a lot of misfortunes.
Barely two months after Papa died, their eldest daughter failed to make it out of the delivery room.
That same month, the first son lecturing at UNN got involved in a terrible crash while on his way to Stockholm.
Ejike had just received a Commonwealth grant for a Ph.D. research.
Mama didn’t cry this time when the news came.
Most evenings, you would see her sitting in front of the compound, staring blankly into the sky.
She rarely responded to greetings again.
When a slim man in a broad white shirt and black trousers came in through the small gate and said he’d come with bad news, Mama had no expression on her face.
When the man finally dropped the news about the recent passing on Mama’s younger brother, Mama nodded as if she’d known before.
The day Ejike was to be buried, while others screamed and rolled in the mud, Mama just sat there looking.
The casket was empty. The plane had crashed in the middle of nowhere and was completely burned down; not a single body was recovered.
When the mourners that trooped in came to touch her and say ndo, she only just kept nodding.
You would wonder if she was still able to see at all.
When Chikodili, her last child, asked her if she would not go to her village for her brother’s funeral, she only just shook her head.
Chikodili flared up. ‘What is wrong with you?’ she yelled at her mother. ‘Since after Ejike’s burial, you have refused to talk to anyone. You don’t even touch your food anymore!’
Mama said nothing.
Chikodili screamed some more and then wiped her eyes and running nose before storming off into the house.
Mama turned feebly to her and then turned to her front again. For once she blinked.
It was on a very rainy morning in August that the Uzekwe brothers visited.
They were murmuring among themselves, their faces unsmiling.
Chikodili greeted them but neither of them responded.
‘Go and call your mother!’ they ordered.
When Mama came out, they asked her the most bizarre question:
‘What did our brother do to you that you killed him and then went on to kill off all his children?’
Mama said nothing.
Chikodili stared open-mouthed at her uncles, unable to believe their accusation.
When they grabbed Mama and started to drag her along with them, fury surged through Chikodili.
But there was nothing she could do to stop the men.
They finally took Mama away and Chikodili dropped to the sand, rolling this way and that and screaming in despair.
At the Nwabibia shrine, many people have gathered.
They forced Mama to the middle and made her kneel.
‘Confess, witch, confess now!’ the old priest yelled.
But Mama said nothing.
‘Have you lost your hearing, woman? I said confess before Nwabibia now!’
The crowd waited.
The air appeared to chill.
Bird sounds from nearby trees disappeared.
But nothing came from Mama still.
The old priest turned to the people. ‘She is an unrepentant witch,’ he declared, ‘and so must be drowned!’
Mama was escorted to the lake by fewer people.
There were many who found it hard to believe that someone would not only murder her spouse but also the children she’d given birth to.
But there were still a tiny few that claimed they know how terrible the way of witches are.
Just what evil they are capable of.
At the Iyi Lake, a great body of leaden water that stretched far into the horizon, Mama did not struggle.
Her arms and legs were bound and two burly men were asked to throw her in.
They lifted her, one at the head and the other holding her legs, and then off they sent her into the silent water.
There was a plop in the middle of the lake and the ripples soon disappeared.
Chikodili was still on the ground when a car honked outside the gate.
She was no longer crying, only just staring into the air, her legs stretched out and crossed.
The small gate opened and a tall man walked through.
It was Ejike.
Daniel Nkado is a Nigerian writer and the founder of DNB Stories.