The Sacred Hut

The small but sacred hut at the outskirt of Umudemba village was said to house the eye of the gods, a man who was as old as the village itself. No one ever saw him but they all believed in his existence.

At the end of every year, the villagers would bring the best of their yieldings to the doorstep of the hut in appreciation for the fruitful year. Life as an outcast was never kind to Ekwena. Having been born as an albino, he posed a threat to the people of Lasgeda, who believed anything other than the usual dark skin color to be a curse, thus the reason for being outcasted and banished to the boundaries of the village. 

The first twenty years of his life didn’t seem hectic with his mother by his side. Thanks to the little piece of land his late father left, there was always little food to go by every day. However, when she fell sick and died, hardship at its peak sank its ugly fangs into Ekwena. Having to fend for himself seemed impossible with no land to farm on, not even his father’s land, as that was within the village.

On one of those bright mornings when the smell of fresh Okpa and Akara infiltrated the air, Ekwena’s raging stomach led his legs far away from the village in search of food. It didn’t occur to him that he was no longer in Lasgeda until he saw some girls dressed in attires different from the ones he was familiar with. However, what captured his gaze the most, was the baskets of yams they held under their arms. He mentally drooled at sight. 

When he realized the girls were fast approaching, he quickly docked behind one large iroko tree at the side. As they passed by, all he caught from their conversation was “food” and “hut.” Quietly, he trailed after them, keeping himself hidden within the tall grasses. Finally, they arrived in front of a hut. From where he had taken cover, Ekwena watched the girls as they dropped their baskets at the doorstep of the hut. 

They all knelt. “Nna Umudemba,” one of the girls started, “we have brought of the best of our produces to say thank you for a blessed year.” “Nna Umudemba, we thank you.” They all chorused, then kowtowed. Afterward, they stood up and left the same way they had come. Their absence was followed by the arrival of an elderly couple and three young men who also brought tangible food items.

When it was finally dark, Ekwena, who had been waiting impatiently, hopped out from behind the bush. If there was this much outside, what would be inside? Without delay, he dove into the hut. His enthusiasm halted when he came face to face with an older version of him. A scream bubbled in his throat as he went for the door. “If you leave now, where would you go?” The strange but familiar voice questioned. “Here is your home; here is where you belong.” Ekwena froze in place as he thought it over. From what he saw outside, there was more than enough food to eat, and this hut, though small, it was enough to shelter him; besides, what was there to lose? The old man watched in amusement as this younger version of him battled through his thoughts. His face morphed into different emotions.

 “Come. They will be overjoyed to see you.” He said as he made his way out of a small backdoor. 

Ekwena warily followed him. The door led to a narrow bush part. The further they went, the louder the soothing waves of laughter became. They finally arrived at their destination. At sight before him, Ekwena fell to his knees as the feeling of euphoria overwhelmed him. He had always thought he was one of his kind. He had always wondered how he would spend the rest of his life in solitude, knowing no one would ever associate with the “curse” as they had labeled him. Now he knew he had worried for nothing because before him were many of his kind, both old and young, men, women, and children with smiles on their faces as they each took turns to welcome and embrace him, whispering sweet nothings into his ears. 

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