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 šŸ¤”šŸ˜‚), 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;
ā€œOur 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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The Ruckus At Erin-Ijesha

At least the Indian guy had decorum. Raju or whatever my husband calls him.

The other one, Goody, or whatever her name is was just plain getting on my nerves!

They were both seated behind in my car. We were behind the Toyota Hiace bus #backpackersabuja had chartered to convey the rowdy bunch to some waterfall in Osun state, Nigeria.

Olumirin? Ile – Ijesa? Not sure what my husband called it.

He was handling my situation calmly. He had told me about this trip a month ago. I had intentionally waited until last night to insist that I would come. He had taken my ploy in stride. Only catch was that we were now driving behind the main team in my car. My husband insisted that we use my car!

Men are scum!

Lol… Kidding. But a girl has to be careful. All these trips our men make out of town… ‘Stay woke’ my lovelies.

It is not that I do not trust him (hehehehehe) I am just marking my territory.

The trip was arduous! These people were insane! My husband inclusive. It ended up being an eleven hour road trip!

My lovelies, I suffered!

We headed to the waterfall the next day. They were all hyped and amped. I gathered that the falls were about seven stories high and that there were seven waterfall views… Or something like that…

The waterfall itself was nice I suppose. If you are in to that sort of thing. It was raining quite badly when we got there.

Then these wildlings decided to climb up to the plateau of the hill and spend the night in tents at a village or hamlet up on the hill.

Father Lord, I mean no offense… But a lot of your children are ‘not well’. Yes Lord, I am referring especially to these Backpacker-people.

Why any rational individual would leave luxury and comfort and venture into the unknown to suffer is beyond me.

That was their problem though. There was no way I was climbing any thing today. Except my husband’s tumescence… Hehehehehe… If you know, you know.

And if I was not camping uphill, neither was my behemoth. (Yes he is my large animal).

So I whipped up a sly attitude and voila! My behemoth grumpily informed his fellow lunatics that I was feeling poorly and that we would have to return to camp.

They hated me. I could tell by their concerted effort at nonchalance. But I did not care, this was going to go my way.

Not quite!

My behemoth decided to hire a tour guide. The guide would take them up the hill and bring him back while the other hippies would remain at the summit overnight. I was deserted for about two hours; wet, cold and miserable.

Men are scum!

Lol… Kidding.

Long story short, we were eventually reunited about two hours later and taken to ‘the best’ hotel in the area. It was not a bad place. I was was impressed. It is hard to impress me.

My behemoth impressed me too. Between passive aggressiveness, thinly veiled anger at my antics and whatever he had been drinking… My lord and king here on earth unleashed such pleasure on me that I blacked out from coital bliss, pain and fatigue.

I awoke to loud banging on the door of our hotel room.

I think I wet myself instantly. Judging from the time and the audacity of the ruckus outside I knew that they were thieves.

Have you ever been mugged? Robbed at gunpoint? Abused in any way whilst being robbed? Has it ever happened to you in a third world country?

Imagine all that… And then place yourself in my predicament, a full – bodied woman naked in bed with her husband? I did not need a psychic to tell me that my fate was about to be changed negatively that night.

With tears in my eyes and urine trickling down my thighs I acknowledged that I had brought this problem upon myself. Me and my insecurities! It would be a miracle if I escaped rape and /or death.

My behemoth was calm. He is always calm actually. He was already dressed in a blood red pair of basketball shorts. He was firmly tucking my limbs into my wet cut-off jeans shorts and hoodie.

Just then the door, it’s lintel and fittings came crashing to the floor with a loud bang. And the thieves were inside the small hotel room.

One of them was pointing a pistol at us. I remember screaming from behind my husband when another thief shot his gun into the Plaster of Paris ceiling of the room. Another was brandishing a very shiny cutlass.

“Get on your knees!”

“Lie down flat!”

“You dey craze?!”

The intimidation and yelling came in a deluge. Even though my lord and king here on earth was shielding me with his body, I knew that we were in big trouble.

I felt faith drain from my heart when my husband sank heavily to his knees and started sobbing like a baby.

I felt my jaw drop down to my ample bust. Just then one of the robbers found the light switch and there he was… My behemoth… On his knees, crying.

Big Dan?!

On his knees crying?!

You do not understand… This dude is ‘six five’ two hundred and fifty pounds of pure muscle. He has bullet scars and knife wounds. We have been married for ten years and he does not talk about his past. He never has. His reputation around town is rock solid. Nobody talks about him openly and it is not because they love him. There is something dark and mysterious about my husband.

His subservience and bawling shocked all four thieves into eerie silence.

The room was not a large one. The big bed took up most of the space. It was a tight fit for all six of us. I should say seven though. My husband’s shoulder is easily as wide as two peoples’.

I was not only distressed but increasingly worried about my husband’s meltdown. The scoundrels emboldened by his submissiveness had now started pistol whipping and slapping his lovely head with open palms.

Emasculating him. Taunting him.

“This your woman go sweet to fuck o!”

My world stood still. My life started to flash before my eyes.

I felt fresh urine exit my bladder without recourse to my will.

All four men were openly ogling me at this point. Two were on either side of my useless husband whilst the other two were shoulder – to – shoulder in front of him.

Till this day, I can not recall the faces of these men. Terror had me looking without sight.

All their eyes were on me, undressing me… I remember how my skin crawled at the thought of what was going to happen to me. I remember starting to shiver uncontrollably. I remember hearing my teeth chatter on their own volition.

“Take off your clothes!”

“Remove all ya dress! Prostitute!!”

“Your ear don block? You no wan obey? I go slap you o!”

I joined my husband and began mindlessly wailing.

The hoodlums roared in maniacal laughter.

I was too terrified to notice anything.

The four thieves may have been high, drunk, high and drunk or just distracted…

My lord and king here on earth suddenly moved like a blur… I heard ‘whooshes’ that all ended with loud thuds.

I kept blinking trying to clear my eyes until one of the robbers fell upon me. I remember screaming and clawing at his face. His weight pushed me back to the wall behind but then he keeled off me oddly and fell to the floor.

I glanced around in confusion and saw another one of them drop lifelessly to his left on the bed. A crimson stain immediately began spreading wider and wider on the white sheets.

I looked up to see the third man clutch his heart. Blood was seeping through his fingers. He was staring blankly at me. He crumpled in a heap and did not move again.

My protector. My warrior. My lover and my husband.

My lord and king here on this earth was somehow behind the fourth man and with a blur of his hand, a geyser of blood erupted from the man’s suddenly slit throat. He went down seemingly trying to claw his sliced open throat back together. His throat was emitting a rattling and gurgly rasp as he bled out in a seizure on the floor.

My lord and king here on this earth was actually the last man standing… He was covered in blood and he had a bloody stilleto in his right hand. He never travels without that weapon. I know it.

He beautifully sculpted body was heaving heavily. His jaw was tense. He was glancing wildly about in a crouch. He looked so Neanderthal…so dangerous… Beautiful danger.

The whole room now reeked of raw eggs and something slightly metallic. My lord and king here on this earth later explained that it was the smell of blood.

No my lovelies. I did not, neither will I ever ask my wild animal how he knows the smell of blood… Are you out of your mind?! This wildling just killed four armed robbers in the blink of my eye!!

Please. Ask. Him. Yourself.

Thank you.

Then my behemoth painstakingly went through the pockets of all the dead and dying men and robbed them. He took all the money he found on them and in the getaway car outside.

He must have gathered a little over a million Naira.

No my lovelies. I did not, neither will I ever ask my wild animal why he fleeced dead and dying criminals of their hard-earned bounties… Are you out of your mind?! This wildling just killed four armed robbers in the blink of my eye!!

Please. Ask. Him. Yourself.

Thank you.

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 Jesseā€™s stem
From every foe deliver them
That trust thy mighty power to save,
And give them victory oā€™er the grave.

O come, thou Branch of Jesseā€™s Tree
Free them from Satanā€™s tyranny
That trust thy mighty power to save,
And give them Victory oā€™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.

Mayo KamĀ 

I am not originally a BackpackerĀ®.

I only signed up for this trip because I was tired. I was tired of life.

I was tired of being alive. I actually went on that trip hoping to die. Misadventure, murder, animal attack… Anything. Even via the auspices of the pack of prescription sleeping tablets I had stashed away just in case my mind got made up.

Mayo Kam.

River Kam.

Yes, I believe ‘Mayo’ means ‘river’. The waters were deep, clean and cold. We were soberly lectured by the park rangers that a tourist fell in and drowned about a year ago. I so wished it had been me!

Listen, Mayo Kam is an excellent place to camp. Especially during the dry season when the waters have shrunk and left more sand and land in its wake. There is no mobile service in the Gashaka Gumti Game Reserve. If you are Nature’s kid, you have a home there. It is truly amazing. It is beautiful, pure and largely unsullied.

We were eleven Backpackers in all. Two heavily armed park rangers and four local fishermen that met up with us by the camp site.

Leinad, Raj, Rebecca, Henry, Bashiru, Noorah, Joanne, James, ‘Long John’, Sarai…and me. Enez.

Lovely, lovely people. Diverse experiences, countries and character. Never a dull moment with the Backpackers. Yet I was dead inside.

I was not sure of the time, but I was positive that the day was Saturday. For two reasons:- Firstly, there was going to be a Super moon tonight, and a lunar eclipse of some sort. Secondly, today was supposed to be my wedding day.

Cards printed. Venue paid for. Ivory white sleeveless wedding gown bought. Everyone that knew me in any capacity was aware. And why not? I was twenty five years old, I was in love with the only man I gave my spirit, soul and body to. He knew that even Jesus took a back seat when he arrived. Yet… Yet… He PUBLICLY called off the wedding after mandatory blood tests revealed that we were both HIV positive. As in, why?! Who does that?!! HE knew that he had infected me, I was his submissive emotionally and physically!

My mum consequently suffered a stroke. My dad tried to kill me twice. I tried to ‘kill me’ twice… I was the brunt of every joke. An object of pity and ridicule. The subject of many conversations. All of these inside a week.

And so I fled with the Backpackers, to this remote and dangerous adventure, hoping I would die. By my own hand or otherwise.

Leinad was making it hard though. To kill myself I mean. Or to even suffer injury for that matter. He was clearly interested in me. Men! They are so predictable, they would fuck anything given half the chance.

The fishermen arrived at dusk and immediately set about fishing roughly five hundred meters away upstream. They brought their own gear and so ours was redundant. While the rest of the female Backpackers fussed over roasting yam tubers and frying tomatoes, onions and peppers to make a sauce for the imminent fish, I somehow anchored three hooks together and found a spot on a boulder and began to fish.

Faithful and loyal Leinad tarried beside me in abject misery until my dark mood forced him to seek lighter spirits. He joined the group by the large fire and soon forgot about me.

A short time later, I got a bite and expertly reeled it in. It was a foot long indigenous catfish specie. It paled in comparison to the humongous sizes the fishermen were catching and so I killed it just as my dad taught me years ago and decided to use it as bait. I had just tossed my line into the water when I got called to supper. I wedged the flexible but strong fishing rod in a two foot deep crevice, and left.

I woke up reluctantly sometime during the night. I badly needed to pee, but my sleeping bag was very cosy. Besides everyone, including the park rangers, was asleep. I guessed that it was about midnight. It was pitch black outside the influence of the camp fire light.

One look at the sky decided me. I got up and walked towards the river and did my business in a hole I dug in the sand. I was just rounding up when I heard something thrashing about weakly in the water. I intuitively knew that my line had caught something big. I was up the boulder in a flash and back down with my fishing rod.

I think that all three hooks played a part in my catch. I think that the crevice helped wear down the fish. I think that the super moon and it’s unusual brightness lured that fish from the deep.

It was the largest fish I had ever seen in my life! It was not a shark or anything predatory. I think the locals call it ‘water elephant’ or ‘Giwan Ruwa’ in Hausa.

It was beautiful. I was not afraid. Death by this fish if it could would be welcome anyways. And so I darted knee deep into the treacherously cold and fast flowing water and dug my left hand into its gills and began pulling it ashore.

I came to pee in the bikini bottom of a two-piece swim suit, with just a hoodie over me and the bikini bottom. The rocks under the water were slippery and sharp. The humongous fish clearly did not want to leave the water… I was almost drowning within seven minutes.

Whatever I lack as a woman; big boobs, bubble butt et al… came to my aid that night. I used all of the six feet of lithe physiognomy I possessed to lever my catch out of the water.

The fish was only a little shorter than me. My left hand was still locked under it’s gills. That hand was now numb. I locked my right hand into the gills on the opposite side of its head, sidestepped the last foot or so onto the sand and lunged, pulled and lifted in one explosive move.

I landed on my right side painfully with the fish’s head between my thighs. Both my hands still gripping it tightly. I was exhausted! My breath was raggedy and labored. I was wet and cold, I was shivering and shuddering – (from hypothermia, shock and adrenaline).

As I slowly caught my breath, the fish too started to calm. As I slowly warmed up from the heat my body was producing, so did the fish.

But I knew that something was wrong… and so I slowly eased off my painfully cramped fingers and looked down at the fish.

It now had long hair and was a naked girl. I could feel her cheeks on the insides of my thighs. I could feel her cleavage on both sides of my right thigh.

I was by now hyperventilating in shock. But I was spent, lactic acid had built up to the detriment of my muscles. I simply could not move.

And then she started convulsing; flopping about in a most unnatural way. I did not need to be told, she was dying.

I successfully struggled to sit up. I held both her shoulders and began to push her back into the water… But the sand and my tired body impeded my noble intentions.

I began to weep. Not just because of there and then, but because of before. I finally got to cry at the injustices, at the curse of being a woman in Africa, at being ‘the weaker sex’. I was simply so exhausted and tired on the inside and outside. All I could do was to keep stroking her hair and back babbling, ‘I’m sorry. I’m so sorry…’ over and over again.

I learned something that night; we are spirits and we live in physical bodies. At some point she stopped shivering and translated. I felt her leave. She was not her body, she was gone. Her body went limp, numb and cold. I saw her stand beside me wearing a look of slight confusion and wonder.

“Please, I didn’t mean to… I am so sorry!” Were my exact words to her.

She looked down at me for a while and then her beautiful face softened. She knelt beside me and then blew softly on my face, and then lightly kissed my lips.

“Enez…baby girl… Wake up!”

“Did you frigging catch this behemoth?!” Leinad’s handsome face inquired in disbelief.

It was about dawn, not quite bright yet. I made him help push the fish back in the water. We watched it bob in one spot eerily before it sank suddenly.

I shivered suddenly and hugged myself. To my utter amazement, I was bustier! I groped my new and improved breasts in confusion. I looked up at Leinad and the look of pure lust on his face terrified and thrilled me.

I am no longer ill. Have not been ill since that day, not a cold, rash or headache. I am at peace. I am rich and I am wealthy. I am happy.

P. S: “Please, I didn’t mean to… I am so sorry!”

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 NigeriaĀ® 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 NigeriaĀ® 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 NigeriaĀ® 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 BackpackersĀ® 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 BackpackersĀ® 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!