Udu Nwanyioma

UGONNA, It happened the same day. Okeke's body was found naked but now covered with wide plantain leaves.

The side of his wrinkled face was disfigured with marks that ran from his forehead to his jaw, displaying a deep X mark; a deep cut divided his head from his neck, his legs were cut from the kneecap, and his body was inflicted by worms. His machete, stained with his blood, was laid by his side.  

Not far from his farm, the mighty Obidike-his cousin, a tall, dark man known for his championship in all of the wrestling contests held in the village-was dangling on a mango tree on his farm. The men of Awuchi sighed, their faces disgruntled. Heavy on their hearts was the question no one was yet to utter, "what sacrilege had the two committed?" They clasped their hands around their breasts and walked away swiftly as though they had to pay penance for their sins immediately before the gods slaughtered them like chickens. 

Ugonna was left kneeling before the corpses of his cousins. He couldn't stop the tears that poured from his eyes. He shuddered as he touched their feet. It was so cold and stiff. Could it be that he had drank with their spirits last night? Their wives and children had wailed continuously; they now sat on the floor staring at nothing. Odogwu Kpata came two days later. Women packed their wares and rushed home frantically; children were barred from playing and locked behind doors. He was to be seen and heard only by the men in the village.

He was short and light-skinned. His hair was grown like a wild forest, and his beard covered his oval face. His dark eyes swerved the streets. The atmosphere was thick. Awuchi wasn't safe, but it wasn't the gods. It was something else. In the middle of the village square, under the Oak tree, the men of Awuchi sat silently. The cool breeze would've relieved them after the days' work and lightened their hearts, but now they pondered on the previous incident, wondering who Amadioha would strike next. 

Under the moonlight, odogwu Kpata sat on the ground, his cowries displayed before him. His voice resounded loudly as he chanted to the gods. Suddenly, he turned his head towards Ugo, who had been sitting by his side, "Olamma! Your wife?" Ugo grimaced. That barren woman, what profit had she given him ?"Yes," he muttered. Clearing his throat, he continued, "she died two months ago."


Her legs were heavy, and her thighs were sore. She fell twice after an attempt to stand up. It felt like needles were pricking her body; it was so hard to walk. She covered her body with the remains of her wrapper and limped out of the farm. It was dark now, hidden from every eye. The road was deserted save for the loud croaking of frogs. Her eyes brimmed with tears as she remembered the violence she had suffered. The smell of palm wine, the kisses, the lust in their eyes. Her body was like a farm, and they had tilled it. Each ravaged her till she was left broken and battered. Ugonna, her husband, would definitely kill them. How could they? She cried silently. 

Her gait was as slow as a tortoise, and he stared at her, wondering what was wrong. When she came closer, she crouched to the ground, rested her head on his thigh, and wept. He was always silent, watching her and keeping to himself. He never touched her again that night. A woman who had spread her body for unknown men and accused his clan. Tufiakwa! Her round belly that showed through her wrapper attracted smiles and endless banter from women. Olamma's heart didn't jump in excitement when she found out; instead, she cried endlessly behind the hut, hitting her belly, hoping to see blood flow through her thighs, wishing she had died that night on the farm. 

It was like a spell fell on Ugonna. He suddenly kissed her one night and caressed her belly. She stared at him, her eyes wide. She was waiting for him to push her away and say it was a mistake, but instead, he said, "No matter what happens, I would love you and our child." Our child? He wrapped his arms around her and pulled her toward him. She thanked her chi for a man like Ugonna. Kind and caring, his heart was probably not of this Earth. She held him tightly as though her life depended on him. 

Eight months have gone by, one month deep in pain. She liked to count in weeks; it gave her hope that she would be on her feet again. The baby wanted all her attention; that was what Ugonna said after he helped her tidy the room. But nothing was changing. Her body was getting weaker. The nausea didn't stop; it increased. She had a bucket in which she emptied her waste. She wondered if the woman fell so ill like her during pregnancy. At night, she had trouble breathing. It would start as hiccups; then she would heave her chest continuously, trying to catch her breath, but no one was there to help her then. Ugonna no longer stayed in the room with her. Her back had reddish sores, and it ached continuously. Her legs were heavy and needed quick attention. Lying down on the mat was the only solution available. 

She was usually asleep at that hour, but her stomach hurt badly. It was a faint whisper, but she could make out the words. "How's she doing?" A voice that sounded like Obidike's asked. "It's taking too long for her to die. Why's she still breathing? I'm tired!" A pause. "Her chi is strong. Let's be patient nwannem." Okeke replied. It felt like a knife had pierced her heart. It was beating thunderously. When did he start killing her before her own eyes? Why was he killing her? Anger and pain surged through her. She felt betrayed and alone. Who really was Ugonna? 

All those nights, endlessly caressing her belly and thinking of names for a supposed son. She had even forgotten that the baby wasn't his. She wondered if he knew that his cousins were really guilty. If he knew, yet made her feel like a pile of dung. Oh, Ugonna! His hurt was more than the pain she felt around her body. It would have been better if he had hated her since that night. She held her wrapper, crying and cursing the wretched family she married into. When the moon was the only light in the sky and everywhere was masked in sheer darkness, olamma forced herself up. She steadied herself against the wall and forced her eyes open. A knife was tucked in her wrapper. She walked wobbly towards the shrine behind the hut and lay there. 


She was dead the next morning. Akwaeke, a frail child, slept soundly by her side. He had tried countless times to kill her when she was little, but she always knew, like a god, that something was amiss. He was weary of that child. "You've killed a woman, and you must pay the consequences of your actions. Don't upset the people of Awuchi and pay for your sin alone." Odogwu Kpata's voice snapped him from his trance. He knelt down, his hands clasped, "odogwu, is there no way out for me?" He looked at him intently and sighed. His job was done.

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