It was a cool evening; the cloud was so moody that you wondered whether it had lost a loved one. Crickets were already announcing the arrival of the sunset with their chirping. It seemed as if it was going to rain and people were running helter-skelter in preparation for the impending rain.
This was the evening everything came tumbling down on you. You felt like a heavy metal had been dropped on your chest; nothing material was there as you involuntarily touched your chest, yet the pain was unimaginable. The news you received battered and shattered you; where would you go? Who did you know? Was there any person that really cared for you? You couldn’t think straight. “It was entirely my fault,” you thought.
The previous night, you had tried burning your siblings’ clothes for three good times but your father and your ‘step brother’ stopped you. Oh yes, you were very pissed off, in fact, your bile boiled to 100 degrees when you found out that your little brother, Chudi, drank garri with half of your #20 worth sugar. You were very angry because he had the gut to ransack your bag and touch your sugar. Who did he think he was? Did he know that you were the hottest babe in town? No, your greatest annoyance was even that you lived in one room with three of your siblings together with your mum and your father lived in the other one room. Upon all these embarrassment, Chudi had the gut to touch your sugar. You didn’t care that he was just a child; all you knew was your sugar. You couldn’t accept the offering everyone around was making to give you #20, you preferred your sugar. Since Chudi couldn’t provide your sugar, you decided to kill him in place of your sugar.
Having been restrained from killing him, you opted to burning all the clothes you gave to your siblings as their elder sister.
Your father had asked you to leave the house because you might burn the little house one day, since ‘the devil has placed match box into your hands.’ You cried because you didn’t have anywhere to go. Yes, you were an attractive young girl but sometimes you behaved as if something was controlling you, you could not help it those times and people really thought you were possessed, you even thought along with them because you never believed you actually did all those things.
Your father was not a man, but a woman; she couldn’t have a child and her husband married another woman with her approval. Later on, when their husband died, she started having desire to have her own children, and having passed the reproductive age, decided to marry your mother with the help of her brother in-law. When your mother came to her husband’s house, she gave birth to five of you and a woman traditionally became your father. Naturally, you thought your father was dead, and you also mistook your father for your grandmother. When you got to know the truth, you were angry with your mother for agreeing to marry a woman and with your father for coercing your mother into that kind of union and finally at yourself for being part of such a union.
You grew to hate your father. Your mummy said so many evil things about her; how she no longer looked after her the way she did when she newly married her. But when you were asked to leave the house, you realized how important this woman, who was your father, was in your life. You realized that her lack of taking responsibility was due to her old age, she couldn’t do the things she used to do anymore.
As your father asked you to vacate the house, you packed some of your belongings and left the house wandering like a sacked staff. You didn’t know where to go. After some thought, you decided to move from one house to another because you couldn’t stay in one home due to your character.
As you went to bed that night, regrets flooded your mind like bees flooding a pollen grain. You regretted always listening to that voice that always controlled you. Why has that voice chosen to always control only you and not Chidera your younger sister? Why did you always listen to it? And why has it always told you to do despicable things?
Like a flash of a shooting star, you began to remember how you had listened to that voice to fight your would-have-been mother in-law and how that singular fight had cost your relationship with Chigbo. You could have been in his house but that voice misled you. It was that same voice that made you come back from Abuja; your uncle had taken you with him, you grew so rapidly in your uncle’s house, schooled there too, but at a time, that intrusive voice started controlling you. You stopped going to school, stopped doing your share of house chores, at a point, your uncle had to bring you back to the village and out of annoyance, had collected all the things they bought for you but ‘you didn’t send them message,’ you laughed at him because for you, he was a bloody fool.
That voice kept controlling your actions and inactions. At a time, you stopped doing anything in your father’s house, you kept eating and bathing with the water that others fetched because that voice always told you to do so. At your teen, that should be in your SS1, you went to Enugu, but you couldn’t act like normal people, you could remember sleeping in a dead woman’s house for two nights in a row because they tried correcting you; that voice had instructed you and you obliged. “Oh God of mercy, why did I always obey that misleading voice? Am I really possessed?” You ruminated like a goat trying not to fall asleep but nobody answered you, not even that voice.
You had no friends because they wouldn’t condone your inordinately pissing off character. From Enugu, you returned to the village again and never went out until that night when you were asked to leave your home to God-knows-where. Before that night, you have always quarreled with your parents, especially your father, you always reminded her how barren and useless she was, you had always denied being her daughter.
That voice had always told you to beat your siblings, to fight with your younger sister whenever she came back and you always listened. Even as you were asked to pack out, that voice kept talking to you, and as you were lying down, the people you were staying with had asked you to leave the next morning too but funny enough, that voice kept quiet and would not tell you what to do or where to go. Yes, you were called Amaka. You had packed all your belongings, anyways, and the next day you had resumed your journey to the unknown.
As you embarked on your unpremeditated journey, your mother got bitter and heartbroken because she couldn’t stop you nor predict your whereabouts. Out of frustration, she had engaged in a mouth combat with your father; that particular combat became an upheaval in the whole issue because she had, amidst crying and heartbreak accused your father of having bewitched you through a dwarf, who was said to be a native doctor. That dwarf that your father brought had touched your mother’s stomach while she was heavy with you.
That particular accusation had been an upsurge in the journey to the unknown because your father had asked your mother and your immediate younger sister, Chidera to vacate the house for her because she would not stay in the same roof with her accusers and tormentors. The air had been very thick and unsettled since the day of that mouth combat. Your mother had refused to leave with your siblings. She had even threatened fire and brimstone should your father not bring you back. Mediators had come from far and near yet the issue could not be mediated. Your father looked for you in every nooks and corners of your village but couldn’t find you, maybe because you had zoomed off to your unknown destination. This was before your mother accused your father of bewitching you as a foetus. Your father had threatened to die because of that accusation but funny enough, some witnesses were saying that they saw when the said native doctor left your house in an ungodly hour some years back but your father had denied ever knowing anything about it. People had said that your mother could not accuse your father wrongly, “she is crying because Nneoma has leaked her secret and not because it is a lie,” they had said.
After all these, your father had fallen sick and your mother had packed her things and yes, you had left and to worsen the whole situation, that voice kept talking to you and you kept listening to it and couldn’t stop listening to it. Even as you kept journeying, people had continuously pursued you out of their houses because of the silly things that voice had always told you to do. As you went, you just kept going even though you didn’t know where you were going just like the prodigal son, but hoped that one day that voice would stop talking and you would stop listening to it and at least have some rest.
Odogwu, Jaachimma Esther is of the department of English and Literary Studies, University of Nigeria, Nsukka. Her philosophy of life is: do unto others as you would they do unto you.