We are pleased to feature an exciting short story by Onome Akrah; author of the blog onomeakrah. Do you write? Send your short stories, book reviews, and poems to [email protected] for a chance to be featured on the blog!.
Spending Christmas holidays with mama was always something I and my siblings looked forward to. As kids, we were always excited to take the trip to mama’s house in Lagos. I remember how we would prepare weeks before Christmas for our journey. Mama would make sure everything was put in place to make our stay as comfortable as possible. She would prepare delicious meals of starch and banga soup with lots of fresh fish; we would eat till our stomachs could take no more-it was fun.
Apart from the food and freedom we enjoyed in mama’s house, we also had the pleasure of listening to her fantastic stories. Mama was a great story teller; her stories made us laugh, sad and sometimes scared. We would listen to her with rapt attention as she told us tales of her life or things she had experienced while growing up. Mama’s stories were always unique because they were real; it wasn’t the usual Cinderella stories or all the other normal fairy tales, these were stories that actually happened. There was one in particular that I would never forget; she called it “The River Savior” we sat around mama as she narrated the tale of the river savior. She began:
“One day long ago when I was still a little girl, I was playing outside with my friends, laughing and chatting away. My village was very small so everyone lived like a family. Suddenly we saw people running, I thought they were being chased by masquerades so I waved my friends good bye and ran too, I did not run because I was scared, I ran because it was exciting in those days to be chased by masquerades and running for some reason was a lot of fun.
“What is chasing you?” my pregnant mama asked as I entered the hut.
“Masquerades are chasing people so I ran too” I replied happily.
“Masquerades? By this time of the year? They are not supposed to be out till the end of the year. Wait here: let me find out what is going on from mama Efe.” Mama Efe was our next door neighbor. Mama hurried out while I went to the window to get a glimpse of the chaos. Suddenly everywhere was quiet and I remember being confused. Normally when the masquerades came out, people would run for a while and then return back to what they were doing before but not today, the village became quite. I was still stretching my neck to see if anyone would walk pass from the window when my papa burst into the hut.
“Where is your mama?” he asked, almost out of breath.
“She went out to mama Efe’s house to find out why the masquerades where chasing people by this time of the year” I replied.
“Which masquerade…? Comfort, get the garri bag from kitchen and start packing, we are leaving the village.” I was confused. “Why are we leaving, Papa?”
“I can’t answer any questions for now my child, just pack as much as you can while I get your mother.” He ran out of the house while I packed. I did not understand what was going on. Masquerade times were fun times, I said to myself, why would we be leaving because of masquerades?
Papa came in almost immediately with mama while I was still trying to figure out why we were leaving. “Mama Comfort, please get another sack and pack; we must be out of this place by this evening.”
“Where would we go?” my mother asked.
“I don’t know yet but I am sure we would figure it out on our way; besides everybody in this village is leaving so we are not alone.”
“Papa, why are we leaving?” I asked again.
My father sat down, carried me on his lap, and told me why everyone was leaving. He said the people from the other village were planning to take over our land that night and they would kill anyone they found when they came. Papa’s story did not make sense to me, so I asked him what we had done to the other village to make them want to come and take our own village. He told me he couldn’t explain further as we had to leave immediately but promised to tell me someday. We finished packing and headed out; I remember my mama crying and my papa trying to console her.
We came out of our hut and saw other villagers leaving. It was a very sad day; some people cried, while some cursed. I just confusedly followed my parents. Nobody looked back until we got to the River Niger.
"You know that is where our country got its name from?" she asked us.
“Yes mama” we replied, “we were taught in our social studies class.”
“That’s very good.” She continued:
“When we got to the River Niger, there were no boats. Everyone started to panic; how were we going to cross? What was the point of running away if our oppressors would still find us and kill us here? Our situation reminded me of Moses and the Red Sea in the bible. We stood there watching the river, with no hope of crossing. We were about giving up when suddenly something started to rise from the river; it looked like a bridge made of stones. We were scared, wondering what it was and where it came from. My papa took the first step and climbed on it. He reached out for me and Mama. Others watched us as we crossed, probably watching to see if we would make it and when we did, they started to cross too. Everyone crossed safely; I remember how excited we were. We were still jubilating when we saw our “bridge” rise again, this time showing its head. It wasn’t a bridge made of stones like we thought; it was an animal, a very big one. It brought out its head as if to show us what it was and then went back into the river, going completely out of sight. We stood there in awe, asking one another what it was.”
“Was it a hippopotamus?” I asked.
“Maybe it was a sea lion,” my cousin said.
“Well, I doubt if it was either a hippopotamus or a sea lion because it was gigantic. Nobody knows what it was; we never saw it again. Maybe it was a god - all I know is that it came exactly when we needed help crossing. We crossed and settled at the other side of the river which is known as Agbor today. People still worship at the river till today, maybe hoping that the river saviour will show its face again.”
“I think it was an angel,” my younger brother said.
“Well, maybe. It’s time for bed kids; I will tell you another one tomorrow.”
I remembered going to bed wondering what it was that helped them crossed; Mama’s story had a way of taking your imagination to a whole new level.