Arinta’s Guardian

It is not in my place to ask him questions. I do not ask because I should not.

He recently contracted my chambers as his attorney for LIFE. As long as he is not breaking any law, I will keep my peace.

But we all know that he returned from Arinta Waterfalls a different man. He is suddenly wealthy. He is obviously richer. The change is not in his attitude, he is still as pleasant as ever. He is even more benevolent. But he is ‘more’ than what he was.

“Jojo… Please finalize the visas and payments for our trip to Mount Kilimanjaro? I will be leaving the country tomorrow, back the next day I think. I need to get the logistics from you. My pilot is refueling as we speak.”

As is now the norm, he has decided to sponsor The Backpackers’ next trip to Tanzania.

He is the only person alive that would dare call me any other name but Ms. Joanne. But he is ‘loco’ like that. In an endearing way though.

“I think we should use my plane, it’s only a ten seater though” He concluded.

“Who is that in this body? Loose him and let him go!” I quoted and joined him in nostalgic laughter.

If you know, you know.

We knew.

August 29, 2018

FOR AYDIN…

Arinta waterfalls was beautiful!

We arrived the falls after torrential rainfall. The height of the falls was nothing spectacular, but the water hurt when it hit our bodies. The waters were freezing and tempestuous.

Amaka (who disappointed me), Muchee, Goodness, L.P. (I still think the man is a serial killer 🤔😂), Iyke, Bayo and Toto all stripped to their bathing suits and braved the treacherous route to the falls and pose for pictures and get wet.

After watching them for a while, I caught the bug and eagerly joined in.

“Big Dan, hold that pose” Iyke shouted at me above the roar and melee.

I was not even ‘posing’ to begin with! I am not comfortable with pictures of me being taken. It is my eccentricity. I own that.

I was right underneath the torrents when he called out. I was imitating Amaka (who disappointed me).

Like her, I tried to spread my long arms like the statue of Jesus in Brazil when I lost my footing and fell over backwards.

I somehow presumed that my back would hit the wall of the rocks. Foolish assumption because there was zero visibility beyond the raging curtain of plummeting water.

And so you can imagine my terror when I kept falling, hit the ground hard and began tumbling.

I sat up in a cave. Dry. Banged up, but unhurt.

I could hear the thunderous falls behind me. The sound was slightly high up, and so I confirmed that I had fallen downward into this place.

I wish I could describe the cavern to you in detail. Alas, I cannot.

The cave was well lit and the air was fresh.

The floor was covered with fine sand. The sort of sand found on a beach.

The floor was also covered with bones of animals. At least I think that they were only bones of animals.

The cave was eerily quiet.

I did not hear it. I could not see anything even though the cave was well lit. But I needed no prophet to tell me that I was in the lair of a predator of some sort. A carnivore.

I eventually heard it. It is a sound I will never forget. That ominous hiss.

I felt my skin break out in goosebumps. I felt the hairs all over my body actually rise vertically. I remember thinking that I was in the presence of evil.

Maybe not evil in retrospect, but ancient powers that I did not understand.

Maybe not ‘powers’, but pure majick (yes majick, not the recent variation called magic).

The atmosphere cackled like static electricity. Time seemed infinite at the time. I was in a limbo, a trance-like state. Yet I was present in the present.

I heard the distinct sound of something heavy being dragged. The sound irritated my spirit sorely. It was a disturbing moment, like a countdown to an inevitable execution.

As the sound neared my seated form, the cave seemed to glow brighter. The sound was coming from before me. The closer it got, the brighter things became.

It got so bright that I had to shield my eyes from the glare.

From between slightly splayed fingers I finally glimpsed the entity…

It was the fattest and biggest snake I had ever seen in my life. NatGeoWild had never featured a snake so humongous!

It’s flickering tongue was easily two feet long. It’s head was about a square meter thick. It’s eyes were mesmerizing orbs about the size of saucers. It was impossible to take in the full size of the snake seated less than ten meters away.

And finally on top of its head gleamed the most beautiful diamond I had ever seen. The size bore verisimilitude to a grown man’s fist.

But please understand that it was the most beautiful creature I had ever seen. Diamond et al. That snake glowed! I found it very attractive.

At this point I was on my knees. It maintained the rough distance of ten meters. It’s forked tongue kept darting in and out of its massive head.

I wondered at time how deep the cave must be. I wondered at whether the prehistoric reptile was male or female. I remember concluding that this thing was sexless. It just was. There was not going to be another like it.

I felt no fear. But I sensed that my life was being weighed…

And so I did the only thing I could;
Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from the evil one.

The snake hissed long and hard in reply. It’s long tongue seemed to flicker quicker. Flitting in and out of its jaws in blinding speed.

Then it stopped. It stopped movement of any kind. It seemed to me that it also stopped the very essence of time in that instant.

It beheld my kneeling form with the longest of stares.

Then I stood up and replicated the pose that brought me here… Arms fully extended outward to the side… like that statue of Jesus in Brazil.

Then it bowed to me.

Yes. It showed obeisance to me.

As it bowed to me, the diamond on top of its head fell off and rolled over to me. It stopped inches away from my feet.

I stared long and hard at the entity before me before I stooped and picked up the precious stone. It was larger than I originally thought. It was heavy and beautiful. The stone throbbed in my hand. It pulsated so hard that I had to hold it with both hands.

Then I started to shiver. I felt energy… No, power surge through me. I felt invincible! I felt invigorated. I felt ancient abilities take root in my spirit…

And then I consciously decided to ‘own’ the energy… And I did. I imbibed the force and became one with it. Then I slowly stabilized into my new consciousness.

With both hands I offered the diamond back to the entity in faith and honesty… Maybe it had dropped it by mistake?

But the snake seemed to yawn. Each of it’s bared fangs were about a foot long. It’s jaws gaped so wide that I could almost see a meter into its essence…

Then it closed its mouth and slithered backwards a meter or so. I stepped forward and offered it again… But the snake seemed to yawn. Each of it’s bared fangs were about a foot long. It’s jaws gaped so wide that I could almost see a meter into its essence…

Then it closed its mouth and slithered backwards another meter or so…

A third time I attempted to return the diamond and again the same reluctance from the principality.

My swim shorts are made with patch pockets, military combat style. I secured the gem in the right flank pouch and velcro – sealed it.

As I climbed back up, it was still slithering backwards into the dark recesses of the cave.

I emerged through the water and joined the backpackers who were unenlightened as to what just happened.

Time may have stood still. I may have fallen into a black hole of sorts. I may have been in the cave for fifteen minutes real time. I cannot say for sure.

I have no intention of selling this diamond. It would seem that it attracts good fortune to me. All I do (or not do) works out for my good.

Everything I touch is profitable. I have an acute Midas touch now. A sort of MimShach anointing blesses all I am. I cannot stop prospering.

Conservatively speaking, I am worth trillions of dollars. And I am expanding my asset base exponentially whether I try or not.

I made no deals with the devil. I have not sold my soul or anyone else’s. I am never ill or tired. I regenerate daily… Testosterone levels have spiked within me. I am sure that if ever I managed to get myself injured I would heal instantly.

I write this for posterity. I want this kept for Aydin when he turns twenty one.

‘Chairman’, my son… DO NOT VISIT ARINTA WATERFALLS!

EVER!

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Ælfgifu and the Charm of Sango

El – fgifu:- (El – ghi – foo)

“… Latini\nized form of Ælfgifu, an Old English name derived from ælf “elf” + giefu “gift”, or/and Æðelgifu, from æðel “noble” + giefu “gift”. This was the name of the first wife of the English king Æðelræd (Ethelred) II… ”

#Nameberry.com

“… The Ikogosi Warm Springs is a tourist attraction located at Ikogosi, a town in Ekiti State, southwestern Nigeria.[1] Flowing abreast the warm spring is another cold spring which meets the warm spring at a confluence, each maintaining its thermal properties.[2] These attributes make the spring a tourist attraction in Nigeria.[3] Research suggested that the warm spring has a temperature of about 70oC at the source and 37oC at the confluence.[4]The Ikogosi Warm Springs is a tourist attraction located at Ikogosi, a town in Ekiti State, southwestern Nigeria.[1] Flowing abreast the warm spring is another cold spring which meets the warm spring at a confluence, each maintaining its thermal properties.[2] These attributes make the spring a tourist attraction in Nigeria.[3] Research suggested that the warm spring has a temperature of about 70oC at the source and 37oC at the confluence.[4… “

Wikipedia.

We had no business going all the way to Osun state!

Well, there was that waterfall and the village on top of the hill, but that is a conundrum for another day. That state is where Becky is from… So yeah… I wanted to go see her roots.

I mean where she is from you evil-minded ogre! Nothing else. You are spoiled rotten. We will not last long as friends…

So we ended up in Ekiti State of Nigeria. We were headed to the exotic Ikogosi warm springs. We had a few other stops at waterfalls and shrines.

I have grown accustomed to paranormal issues in my life. I will be just fine.

And so you can imagine how underwhelmed I was when we arrived at the springs and checked in. There was nothing spectacular for me!

We were about seventeen on the team, three Germans, an Indian, an elf (yes you read that right), a bunch of amazing Nigerians and a lesbian. (uhmmm… I’m being mean I know. But she should have said, “yes” to me. I do not like rejection).

Consequently, I speak for myself. But one or two of my fellow #Backpackers agreed with me.

We hit the pool at about nine pm. The pool had just been drained and so we were reduced to splashing in about a foot of lukewarm water…

Tufiakwa!

(expletive, meaning ‘God forbid’). Don’t quote me though, that is what Muchee told me. She should know I think. After all she is an Ibo girl. Not sure which of the Ibo – speaking states she is from. I should dig into her core values.

I mean where she is from you evil-minded ogre! Nothing else. You are spoiled rotten. We will not last as friends…

A ‘tour guide’ had given us what was supposed to be her version of the origin of the Ikogosi warm springs. By the time she was done, I was bashing my head into random Iroko trees just to stay awake.

Darling Jesus, Maranatha!?

By the time our late dinner swung by, I was successfully plucking out my eyelashes. One strand at a time.

It was drizzling outside. It was pitch black too. It was about eleven pm when my team finally fell asleep.

I crept out of my shared room armed with my trusty machete, walking boots, night vision goggles and a small cup (yes you read that right).

I was home free (well not quite) when a voice stopped me dead in my tracks.

“Hey Sexy…”

It was El-fgifu. Suffice it to say that she is many things to different people. As of tonight, to me, she was misplaced.

I squinted at her beautiful features trying to read her mind.

“Hey baby” I finally replied. “Whatchu doing up?”

“Where are you sneaking off to Sexy?” I hear that she works with her voice in a radio station. I can only imagine the sanctions from the national broadcasting corporation. That woman’s voice is an aphrodisiac!

“If I tell you, I would have to marry you… Or kill you…” I quoted to her.

“Who are you in this body?! Loose him and let him go!!” She recited back at me.

‘If you know, you know.

We both burst out laughing.

We knew.

As I turned away, I heard her voice call out. I turned to see her standing and lifting a locket from around her neck with two hands. She held it up hands slightly apart. The shape of the leather strap to the locket was a perfect triangle.

She said that she wanted to lend me her locket but that I was too tall. She asked me to please take a knee. I am a tall fella, she is all of five feet flat. Her request made a modicum of sense.

She did not allow me touch her or the locket throughout the time . I am not stupid, I knew that that locket was actually a charm she carried around for protection and good luck. And so I gratefully complied. I used to be a prolific womanizer, I have learned to acknowledge a lover’s intuition. As long as she truly loves you.

I walked past the heated waters of the pool and got to the meeting point of the hot and cold streams of water that never mixed. It was pitch black and raining and so I was sure that I was largely unseen by human eyes.

In precise movements, I filled the small cup with equal amounts of the cold and hot waters and quaffed it in one swallow. I knelt in the waters and braced myself… Meditating…

A minute later I rose out of the shallow streams and started up the gangway that held a caution. “DO NOT GO BEYOND THIS POINT”. I broke into a measured jog and vaulted over the wall onto the rocky and uneven forest floor at the other side.

I pulled out my machete and hurried upwards towards the real source of the heated waters of Ikogosi. Sure enough, I saw what I wanted to see. I spent about a minute on my knees doing what I had to do. Maybe one day I will be able to tell you about these things that I saw and did. But right now, I cannot.

I was back over the wall as quickly as I could manage. I was covered in smelly sweat by this time. I had adrenaline coursing through my veins. I was giddy and felt a surge of invincibility.

I got to the pool and decided to take a swim. After all, the warm springs were said to have healing powers.

There were two ladies already enjoying the pool. From a distance, it looked like Becky and Amaka, fellow Backpackers. I dove nude into the pool and began swimming laps. I swam vigorously for about fifteen minutes and then I had to take a break.

I heard Becky call my name and so I waded through the pool to meet them where they were seated under the torrent of steaming water that was filling up the swimming pool.

Though my instincts already knew that they were neither Becky nor Amaka, my legs pulled me toward them on their own volition.

“What did you do?” The first woman asked me. Mild. Gentle. A flirt.

“Do you know what you have done?” The second older (and angrier) woman snapped at me.

I had no idea what to say. Primarily because they were both speaking to me in Yoruba language which I have never spoken, read or understood.

Secondarily because I realized in those seconds that I now somehow understood the said language.

Tertiarily (shut up editor!) because I was now fully aware of who these women were.

My silence seemed to infuriate the second woman because she stood up suddenly and made to touch me.

A small bolt of lightning or was it a livid cackle of static electricity scattered the air in a thunderous boom. They both flinched, screaming in terror.

I placated Oduduwa’s grandchilds’ wives as best as I could. I commended them for working together for the first time in centuries to fight a trespassing sage such as myself. I requested that they go about their fancies and allow me do the same.

By the time I got back to the guest chalets, it was as quiet as a graveyard in the dead of winter.

But El-fgifu was still sitting out drinking out of a cup. An alcoholic beverage I wager.

Why am I not sure about the contents of her cup? After all we were very close as individuals. After all we genuinely knew, liked and respected each other…

You see as I made to remove her locket from around my neck, I noticed that it was no longer on me.

No it did not fall off, it was inexplicably back around El-fgifu’s neck. The charm itself nestled comfortably between her deep cleavage.

It was all too much for me to handle in one night.

I walked past her thoroughly flabbergasted and weary to my bone marrow.

“Goodnight Sexy!” She called after me.

“Good morning Baby… It is two am. See you in a bit” I replied as I walked.

The Day She Died…

We had been quarreling for a while now.

Every little thing seemed to set us off. We were fighting ninety percent of the time these days.

Deola was starting to look like a good replacement..

Deola… Ah… ‘Dee’ as I loved to call her. Buxom. Nubian beauty. Bold and forthright. She had been hitting on me with a vengeance for months. She was promising me ‘heaven on earth’. She told me that she was game ‘whatever, wherever, whenever’, that all I had to do was ask.

Chaaaiiii!

Chika was nagging again. Her gratey voice snapped me out of my reverie.

Chikadibia… Sigh… So beautiful that it was not fair. As smart as starched military khakis too. Her mind is astronomical! It also helped that she was the only woman I knew via recent experiences that could handle me sexually.

That day we were arguing about a wedding she wanted to attend. I had told her that she could not go. She was livid. She was trying to make my life a living hell.

Throughout her tirade I was ‘sexting’ with Deola. Mild stuff.

But,

Deola was starting to look like a good replacement.

Long story short, Chika defied my instructions and went for the wedding. (I am that sort of boyfriend, get over yourself. Thankfully, I am not dating you).

I was seated in my opulent den when she returned. She sashayed toward me, smiling like nothing was wrong. She bent over and leaned in and kissed my cheek and then sat down beside me.

Something inside my head snapped. Audibly I am sure.

I let loose a vile litany of invectives. I was well into giving her a piece of my mind when the corner of her mouth started twitching.

Little tics at first. Then sight tremors and finally that side of her mouth began to twitch.

But I was on a roll.

I had just begun cursing her out, (yes it is that sort of relationship, get over yourself. Thankfully, I am not dating you) when I perceived that all was not well.

My sick, twisted, wicked and premeditated words dried up instantly.

The second I saw the corner of her mouth droop just a fraction of an inch. I bolted out of the room.

By the time I returned with my car keys, she was slumped on the floor face down.

I had her in the hospital about thirteen minutes later. The nurses had her on oxygen and hooked up to a few machines. They were starting to check her blood pressure. They were also trying to get blood from her arm to run some tests.

Chika suddenly stiffened, and then started to stretch unnaturally. Then she seemed to crumple… Then stiffen… Then crumple. It was clearly a bizarre death dance.

Pandemonium broke out. It was grotesque sight. Her previously beautiful face was scrunched up in a series of revolting rictuses.

I was standing by the door. I am a big and tall man, the nurses needed all the space they could get. I had just closed my eyes to pray for her when I heard her start to convulse.

The seizures were so violent that the hospital bed was bouncing off the white tiles of the floor.

I forced the deepest calm I could muster and from within began to pray for her. Inaudibly I think. I did not want her to die. Not because I would have to explain what happened, but because I loved Chika.

I am not sure how long I prayed, but it can’t have been for more than a few seconds… When someone, something prompted me to open my eyes.

I saw a vertical plume of light slowly rise from Chika and slowly start to ascend. I darted forward and held the light.

Yes, you read that right. Until I did it I did not know it to be possible. But it felt like the only move I had. And it worked because I was now somehow holding Chika by the wrist.

On the bed, she had flatlined and the nurses were still struggling to resuscitate her.

Here, about a meter away I was holding on to her spirit.

“Baby-m… (term of endearment, ‘my baby’) please don’t go… Please baby don’t leave me” I begged her celestial version.

“It is time Igwe. My time has come.” She objectively reported.

“Chika, I am sorry!” I remember crying out audibly.

The nurses were practicing CPR on her earth suit at this point. One of the nurses had her hands on her head and was weeping quite loudly.

“Igwe I forgive you… Don’t worry… I am tired… Bye – bye…” She told me in a sad voice. Her guileless eyes held proof of forgiveness. Her entire visage was devoid of malice or ill will.

Chaaaiiii!

Never! Not on my watch!! So I employed the only strategy that I could. I uttered words that I knew would touch Chika’s spirit. A suggestion that was sincere. It would be tendered from my spirit to hers.

“Chikadibia, I want you to be my wife. I want you to give birth to children for us… I will go and see your parents tomorrow.”

Time froze for an instant.

She looked into my eyes for a while. Then she turned around and returned into her earth suit.

Then all of her as I knew it slowly sat up on the bed.

The nurses fled in terror when she sat up slowly. Hospital sheet sliding off to reveal her impossibly beautiful face. They ran because she had just been pronounced, ‘dead’.

We have been married for thirteen years now.

We have three children.

Two girls and a boy.

Godling (1)

Everything happens in, and for a season

Every word for a reason.

Loyalty, I fear, is a an expensive tradeoff

Apportion trust deliberately thereof.

Protect yourself at all times

Against love, religion – all the sublimes!

To be forewarned is but divine courtesy

Lips ultimately leak evil you cannot see.

Even if you currently have no clue

Read again, and glean a truth or two.

Serti Takum

Veni veni, Emmanuel captivum solve Israel, qui gemit in exsilio, privatus Dei Filio.

Gaude! Gaude! Emmanuel, nascetur pro te Israel!”

I do not think that there are many of us left. I am afraid I may be the last one.

Lore, strange truths were whispered in my ears from birth. From lips I never saw. They told me of ancient mysteries, they spoke to me repeatedly long before I had understanding. I have grown with these ‘gifts’. I Am.

Joan was there.

Becky was there.

I. K. was there.

Nura too, I think. The remaining Backpackers were in the second Hilux pickup truck.

It began that morning when we set out to camp at Mayo Kam. We stopped after the petrol station. It’s name (the petrol stations’) escapes me now. Where those traders line up to sell their wares to travellers. As always, we stopped to ‘eat local’. We got some moi-moi (bean pudding) cooked in plastic bags. We also got the yams we intended to roast by the camp fire from there too.

I was seated in front with ‘It Is Raining‘, our eerily quiet driver. I cannot lie, his name really is, It Is Raining. The rest of the team were fussing about trying to buy a bunch of stuff we did not need. I. K. came to me smoking a cigarette and being as rambunctious as only he can manage.

She was standing slightly behind the rest of the traders. She was tall for a local. The table upon which her kuli -kuli (deep-fried, hard and crunchy groundnut paste) was placed was understandably higher than anyone else’s. She had a boy of about ten years old beside her. She was close to this child I perceived. Not a sibling, he was too plain. Or maybe I should say that she was too beautiful. As of right now, despite all that transpired, I still do not know the ties that bound them together.

She was wearing a black cotton embroidered gown. She was slim and lithe. She was exotically beautiful. Dark Nubian. She truly did not belong there.

She and the boy… And so I stared a tad too long.

Naturally, she bristled under my direct gaze and as is the manner of men and women and love and sex and marriage; she made me know that she was interested in me too.

Taraba state of Nigeria still embraces a laid back and traditional culture. Decorum, modesty and decency still obtain. So I discretely commissioned It Is Raining to arrange for a discreet rendezvous scheduled for the next day. Seven pm to be exact. It Is Raining returned to me bearing news that gladdened my heart and my pleasure showed. She watched my face and coyly began stealing admiring glances at me. While Backpackers are not in fairness indecent, they can be quite direct. They teased me relentlessly about the obvious chemistry Serti (yes, that was her name) and I just shared.

As I have revealed in a previous tale, Mayo Kam was a kind of ‘Garden of Eden’. Permit me not to relive that past at the expense of this future. Suffice it to say that we got back to the transit camp the next day, at about noon.

I. K. and I immediately set about imbibing copious amounts of beer. We were joined by one Backpacker after the other until the makeshift ‘bar’ became pleasantly rowdy. At some point, we all decided to barbecue some meat later that night.

That evening, in preparation for my date, I had a long shower and massaged a lot of coconut oil onto my entire skin. It was lightly perfumed with frankincense. I donned a flowing white robe and made sure to wear my ceremonial beads. I finished my ritual by burning a specific special Oudh from Asia.

My ‘hotel room’ (if you could call it that) was basic. A small bed, a one-seat sofa and a plastic chair. I had arranged both seats side by side at the foot of the bed. Behind the seats was a large window it’s panes were made of glass louvres. I shut them and pulled the curtains shut. I required privacy.

I then proceeded to sit in the dark. I meditated on Serti until a soft knock on my door announced her arrival.

I turned on the lights and opened the door. Unsurprisingly she was still as beautiful as the day before. Unsurprisingly, she came with the boy. I sat them on the seats and then sat down opposite them both.

I gazed into her eyes for a bit, and then his. I returned to her lovely face and smiled at her. She smiled shyly in response. I held out both my hands; one to Serti, the other to the boy. They took my hand in theirs and then at my request, held hands too.

“It is time Serti…” I gently informed her.

Her face clouded over as the pain, bitterness, memories all popped out of her soul, through her eyes and into my consciousness. The preceding twenty two words is the part of my calling I hate. I blinked back tears of empathy and gently whispered,

“It is time Serti.”

This time she nodded curtly. The boy answered ‘yes’ even though I was not talking to him.

And so I lifted up my voice…

“…O come, thou Rod of Jesse’s stem
From every foe deliver them
That trust thy mighty power to save,
And give them victory o’er the grave.

O come, thou Branch of Jesse’s Tree
Free them from Satan’s tyranny
That trust thy mighty power to save,
And give them Victory o’er the grave...Amen! “

And they both vanished into the bosom of the Lord.

Then I cried.

Mourning them.

Those two Spirits Lost.

I do not think that there are many of us left. I am afraid I may be the last one.

Lore…, strange truths were whispered in my ears from birth. From lips I never saw. They told me of ancient mysteries, they spoke to me repeatedly long before I had understanding. I have grown with these ‘gifts’.

I Am A Watcher.

I am mandated to maintain spiritual harmony and balance.

To evict and to summon.

To bind and to cast out.

I have been blessed with (The) requisite power and authority.

Chappal Wadi

About my Christmas…

It was supposed to be nice and easy. Time spent with family and friends. That is until she called me from the fire.

My muse I mean. Not the young, hot one though. It was old, old mother. I was stir-frying venison and vegetables on the 21st of December 2017 when the bright blue flames of the gas burner cackled and grew. She was within. Within hours I was mysteriously the wildcard selected to accompany the urban myths, adventurers extraordinaire and totally bonkers Backpackers Nigeria® to climb Chappal Wadi. The highest point in West Africa and Nigeria. And aka, The Mountain of Death.

We took off on the 23rd of December, 2017. I refuse to bore you with details of that journey. It was gruelling and fun though.

Fast-forward to the 26th of December, 2017. We were finally at Ngoruje, a transit camp run by the Nigerian Gashaka Gumti National Park. We arrived at about six pm after about seven hours traveling on bad roads. We set up our tents and soon had a fire going. We were surrounded by the reserved trees of the national park. It was chilly and windy. It was dark. The only light came from the campfire.

Yet I could sense that she was waiting for me. And so I walked towards the edge of the forest. It was dark and cold there, but quiet. I sat gingerly on the exposed roots of a tree and almost immediately I perceived her. She always smelled of cinnamon and wood smoke. Old old mother is very very old. She told me a lot of things about the Backpackers Nigeria® and bid me to put my life on the line for them. She is not one known to be garrulous or to linger. I left the edge of the forest with a heavy heart.

It is called the Mountain of Death for various reasons. The park rangers told me that it was because many tourists had died there.

The majority of the good people of Taraba state were largely unaware of the existence of the Mountain of Death. Did not know, did not care.

The motorcycle riders that risked their lives and ours for about four hours ferrying us on dangerously undulating rocky foot-wide trails up and down mountain sides from Ngoruje to Njawai told me that it was because many families had died there simultaneously – mysteriously many years ago. No evident reason.

The head of the hamlet at the base of the mountain, in Njawai told me a lot of things. He especially asked me to convince the Backpackers Nigeria® not to climb. When I asked why, he said that I had ‘the mark of pure light’, and that I knew why. The conversation was in Fulfulde (pronounced Fool-fool-day), the main tongue of the Fulanis. One of the motorcycle riders was ineffectively translating to and fro because I was speaking in the Hausa language.

At the end, the head of the hamlet reluctantly gave us his permission to go up the mountain… But not his blessings. We were ten Backpackers, two park rangers, two journalists and three local guides.

Just before I lost view of the hamlet, I raised my hand in salutation to the head of the hamlet, and he curiously waved ‘goodbye’ back at me.

The altitude sickness was gradual and severe. We were in poor shape within the hour. The climb was up a gradual slope. We sighted antelopes, birds and startled God-knows-what further into the bushes.

There were a couple of things that had been bothering me.

Firstly, we were definitely in Cameroon and not Nigeria-Mambilla as was advertised. Secondly, we had not secured migration passes from the Cameroon’s immigration authority, I was not sure, but I felt like we were being watched. Stalked even. Thirdly, and most importantly I was gradually getting covered in goosebumps… It’s my gift. An early warning signal of sorts.

I was one of the only three that was armed with a firearm. I was the only civilian armed. I had fallen behind because I had to relieve myself. I was on my way back when I heard muffled moans and hushed tones ahead. When I caught up, my team were all standing still like statues. All of them.

I could hear the sound of flapping. Like really large wings flapping. But I could see nothing. The pungent smell of sulphur confirmed the presence of what I could not see. The gusts of wind from the flapping was raising up dust, leaves and grass. Items of clothing worn by people standing stock-still billowing eerily.

I heard the flaps move slightly away to the first local tour guide. Before my eyes, and in a few seconds, the man gradually emaciated like he was being sucked dry. Like an adult dragging on caprisonne quickly. Kukah crumpled (obviously) lifeless to the ground. Bardeh, the second local tour guide suffered the same fate. Then I perceived it move towards Sarai.

“Stop!” I yelled.

I felt it stop, deliberate and veer towards me in a slow whoosh. I remember wishing that I had called out ‘stop in Jesus name’ instead of just ‘stop’.

However, about a meter away from me, I heard the sound of singeing and I smelled burning feathers… I think.

I swear I heard whimpering and another rush toward me and then singeing again, burning feathers… and then all went quiet.

It spoke in an ancient tongue. In guttural and curt syllables. I deduced that I was being asked questions. And so I introduced everyone by name and explained in English why we were here… And then all went quiet.

“Please. Leave. Now… ” it grated in its harsh guttural voice. And yes, in English.

Instantly the air cleared. The bodies on the floor vanished and the trance was broken. The Backpackers® emerged all seemingly clueless as to current direction, location, urgency and time.

“Let’s hurry back down!” I shouted.

“Hey Big D, what about Bardeh and the other one?! Raj enquired.

“They went back faster.” I quietly replied turning away so he could not see my face.

“It’s getting dark, I’m getting cold…” Rebecca petulantly whined.

“We need to pick up the pace! This place is dangerous, especially at night!!” I called out and began to lead the long way down.

All Backpackers® are alive and well. Clueless about what really happened on the Mountain of Death, but alive and well.

May Bardeh and Kukah rest in peace.

Happy New Year!