Early in the morning in Ikuku village the elders of our clan gathered to decide about the cleansing rites that needed to be carried out urgently. In the room where I was, having not slept for two days, numb by the recent events, I heard grandma’s shout: “Tufiakwa, over my dead body. It won’t happen.” The elders tried to placate her but soon she began to weep asking the gods why they had allowed her eyes to see this evil. The circle of cleansing was about to begin again. Now there are three spirits that must rest in peace.
I looked up to the ceiling where dark cobwebs hanged. A fly was caught in the web and a big spider circled around to feast on its prey. Obinna and i where now as trapped as that fly. I turned to look at his tear stained face and then my eyes monitored the rising and falling of his chest as he slept. It was necessary to assure myself that he was still breathing. We were both lying down on the wooden bed with the flat dirty mattress. My eyes went back to the ceiling where the spider had now reached its prey. The voices of the elders mixed with grandma’s plea to the gods to have mercy on our entire clan were now even louder. I felt a choke in my throat and then fresh tears began to flow down my face. Their voices became distant as my mind traveled to that night I was stirred from my sleep by the raised whispering voice of mother. “I won’t do it Ebuka”, said mother. “I’m only trying to fulfill the cleansing rites”, replied Uncle Ebuka. “Please leave now”, mother said in a harsh tone. I heard Uncle Ebuka’s short clipped laughter as he said, “Chinwe, you know the elders have spoken” and I heard his footsteps leaving. Mother started to sob quietly. I laid down not saying anything and my mind went back to the time father was still alive.
Excerpt from my short story – The Cleansing Rites
Photo Credit: Reusable Art – Spider and Web