If you ever have been thirsty where you cannot drink.
AfroSays, because of you
THE MYSTERY RELIC
Baba Shukudi spat out onto the expressway, regretting that he could not leave the car to smooth the blob over with the stubborn rubber sole of one of his dead black shoes, preferably the one that he wore on his right foot. Unfortunately, while the scaly footwear was busy urging the National Museum’s Toyota Hiace bus on to glorious acceleration, the other was tapping the floor of the vehicle in tune with Duncan Mighty’s I Don’t Give A Shot. Baba Shukudi had just purchased the disc but for the past hour and a half, he’d been playing the same song.
If your ikebe dey shoot catapult
The song amused Baba Shukudi immensely because he happened to like ikebes. Mama Shukudi’s behind was almost as wide as the posterior of the fourteen-seater bus that her husband was currently behind the wheel of. Baba Shukudi deftly maneuvered the vehicle yet again, around another massive hole in the road. He didn’t even need to think about it, not only because he was an exceptionally good driver but also because he had been navigating this route for the past month as the museum in Lagos was looking to add a new artifact to its collection. This wasn’t any national treasure; it was just another unpopular talisman that would adorn the back shelves in the interior where other equally unpopular items were exhibited.
Baba Shukudi took one hand off the steering wheel and wiped an erring line of spittle off the left side of his mouth. He hated spitting when he was driving because the ejection never went with the wind in a clean sweep. Some of it – usually a large flat mess – would always cling to his face, holding on for dear life. Sometimes, the ejection would also cling to his side of the vehicle, and he would see the nasty yellow thing screaming for help as it fought against the wind, begging to be let back home where it was warm and safe. Although this vexed Baba Shukudi sorely, it wasn’t the main reason why he hated the sight of thick sputum sailing through the air. Actually, Baba Shukudi was very superstitious and it was popular belief where he came from that one should never spit in public without rubbing the evidence into the mud under one’s feet. It was said that if the bottom of someone else’s feet were to meet an exposed ejection, the owner of the blob would immediately suffer a sore throat. Baba Shukudi, being sure that there were no potholes in the road for the next half kilometer, immediately looked through the side mirror, hoping to find that his ejection was not in the path of any vehicle’s hot tires. The idea of what would happen to his throat should this be the case always terrified him.
“Baba Shukudi, face front naa!”
The driver said a quick prayer and returned to concentrating on the long, winding road ahead of him. He didn’t want madam replacing him with any of the newer junior drivers because the allowances derivable from taking madam cross-country had kept him drinking a better brand of beer than his friends over the years.
Ada Sosan stared at the two and a half lane road along with the driver for a time, hoping to confirm that he’d returned full attention to getting them back to Lagos safely. The digital clock on the dashboard told her that it was only fifteen minutes past two and they might be on the road for approximately another hour. When she saw that Baba Shukudi’s shoulders were once again moving to his funny music, her thoughts wandered back to the talisman they had just retrieved. She would not be happy to tell oga at the office that she’d been unable to get any esoteric information about the large brass cymbal. The new king of Ojojo – who was a young man that had just left the United States to succeed his father in the highly profitable business of doing nothing, really – had had nothing to offer her. The only thing he’d said was that his father’s friend who had passed on years before his father and who also had happened to be the caretaker of the relic, if it was one, had kept the cymbal with his father. His father had told him nothing about it and what he had learnt, he had learnt from the palace hands who were ignorant of the real employ of the relic but had strongly advised their king to dispose of it because its original prefect had been very cunning with the diabolical, and the Harvard graduate, unlike his father had no experience on the subject of local magics.
Ada who had a lot experience with indigenous artifacts had seen nothing like this before. It was as large as an old DSTV satellite dish and covered with runes and drawings that she couldn’t decipher. She had consulted with the local witch doctors but they had all turned her away on seeing the cymbal. All, except one who had admitted his ineptitude and confessed also, that none of the others would be able to unravel the mysteries because it was a guarded magical symbolism that had died with its last caretaker. After a month, he had advised her to fling the thing far into the sea in Lagos but of course, Ada would do no such thing. She was only frustrated that she would have to admit to her boss that she’d reached a dead end. Perhaps the most annoying thought was that she knew that her boss was going to send her back here again.
The cymbal was dull coloured and beaten like a war shield. Some of the drawings on it were caricatures of men and women and children, demons, sacrifices, dances, fishing and farming. These however were only decorations, her professional experience told her that much. The demons however were not any deities familiar with the location of retrieval and the sacrifices had no significance to the spiritual customs of the place. More importantly, concerning the runes themselves, she had no clue. It had been covered with a black cloth when it had been presented to her but she had forgotten to take the sheath along. Ada sighed. What if the black cloth was significant in some way? She remembered that they wouldn’t let her take the covering off in the palace. She would definitely have to return.
While Ada submerged herself into the wanderings of her subconscious, Baba Shukudi’s throat began to itch once again. He let it rip and the thick mass flew out his window and landed on the lane beside him where a smaller car was racing to overtake him. He saw one of the Passat’s tires run over the ejection and he immediately began to despair. As soon as he turned his attention back to the road, he discovered that it was too late to avoid a pothole that was a few meters ahead of him. The wicked jolt brought Ada back from her reverie. The cymbal complained loudly as well and when Ada would try to calm it down, her fingers and the inside of her palm would be severely burned.
She would scream and turn to the driver for succor but discover that he has put his two hands in his mouth and he is scratching furiously at the insides of his throat. There would be blood and a thick yellow goo crawling down his hands and spraying the windshield. Through a cleaner part of the glass, Ada would see the bus headed off the road, towards a very steep slide down to a rocky death. She would close her eyes and shut the thought of death out, wishing desperately for a calm blackness, one her subconscious brings to her in remembrance of her days in the comfort and protection of her mother’s womb. The bus would roll down the incline and burst into flames.
The Passat that was making to overtake the bus would become a black and yellow Ferrari, the young man driving it would pass out in shock when he realizes that his thoughts at that very moment are brought to life. In his unconscious state, the dead weight of his booted foot would still sleep on the accelerator causing the plain sedan turned sports vehicle to very speedily run under a truck that is crawling ahead. Wiz Khalifa would be put to silence as soon as the collision occurs.
Ada would find herself in a calming, black place because her thoughts have prevailed as well. Slowly, her senses would remind her of why the place seems so familiar. She would climb over the body of her husband who is sleeping away the stress of his night shift at the hospital and feel around on the wall for a light switch. The low fluorescence would still shock her eyes but she would be more upset by the burns on her hands. Her wristwatch would tell her seventeen minutes have gone by since it was two o’clock and a peek outside the thick curtains would confirm that it was still day. She would have to believe it because she is dressed for work as well.
Although, her mind has a clear recollection of the events of the day, she would be in a logical dilemma about the past two minutes. She would go to bed in tears, terrified, and not at all sleepy. She would close her eyes, hoping to open them soon and find it all a dream.