Igbere was excited. It was in the air all around the village. It was in the way the moon flirted with the skies by peeking from the clouds ever so often. It was in the way mothers whispered excitedly to their children tales of great Nkwo market days while they prepared meals for the next day. It was in the way the wind gently caressed the earth like they were long lost lovers now reunited. It was evident in the way the trees swayed almost seductively to the motions of the wind. It was night now but come dawn, it would be Nkwo market day.
In this calm exciting darkness, where the scent of sweet savory soups filled the air in a thick mist, the drunk village clowns were happily swaying. Staggering from side to side, they pulled along with them the spoils of a good night’s thievery. They’d blame the scent of good soup that filled the air but I’m guessing you, like me, would blame the huge kegs of palmwine they had all consumed, on credit no less. What were they dragging along? Yams. They had stolen yams from the various barns of hardworking men in their age group, yams that those men had planned to sell at the Nkwo market day the next day. And now? They were on their way to celebrate their ‘accomplishments’.
While the drunks roamed the street raffishly, a tall young man strolled majestically through the night. The soles of his feet struck the ground gently yet raising up more dust than the strongest and fiercest Igbere warrior. Yet leaving no footprints. Like an odum that spots a young calf and now closing in for the kill. Like a predator honing in on his prey. His legs were sculpted in a way that is quite difficult to describe. The calves of his legs were pure muscle but not too muscular as to suggest a visit to the Dibia as other warriors at that time usually did. Arteries and veins curled round his leg like serpents crawling up the forbidden tree of Igbere- pulsing, alive. His thighs set themselves upon his knee with grace and the piece of fabric which covered his loins was nothing other than the skin of a leopard. It hung loose yet firm, how remains a mystery, on his waist covering his manhood from the preying eyes of the young females of that time. As he walked, the muscles of his buttocks clenched in a rhythm that most women would love to dance to under the moonlight. In all this, his skin was jet black, night black, mixing him with the beautifully captivating darkness that was the night. The young man’s torso was a sculpture that even the great sculptors of Igbere and the other sixteen villages that surrounded Igbere would be proud of. No single ounce of body fat could be found on his torso from the slender ‘v’ that lead to his groins up to his neck. Muscles upon muscles lay stacked on this young man’s body. Each muscle rippling as he moved gracefully through the night. His hands told of strength, a strength one needed not to brag about cause it was there, visible, for all to see. His face is hard to describe as in the night and with his blackness the only part visible so distinctly was the band of white that implied a set of perfect teeth as he smiled in the dark. And of course his eyes. Bloodshot and crimson, his eyes glowed in the dark like that of a wild animal. His face seemed shifty, not taking any particular form but remaining breathtaking at every slight pause. He looked like he belonged in the night and to the night. He was of the night… Tonight was a beautiful night and so he just strolled treading the ground softly, parting the darkness gracefully. A merry band of Galagos or Ikiri as the villagers called them, trailed him from a safe distance, singing their ancient songs that sounded oddly like crying babies to the human ear. Leaving strange little backward footprints that led to the heart of the evil forest Ajo ofia.
On the other hand, the four drunks distorted the darkness with no regard for its quiet beauty like only true drunks and fools could. Achike, Abaga and Abalunam dragged the bags behind them while Agu trudged ahead clearing their way, which wasn’t really blocked though. However, as the strongest amongst them, Agu felt that to lead was to do less work so he walked ahead. As they walked on in their drunken stupor, Achike nudged Abaga and whispered,
“I’m scared o! This night is too dark. The wind does not feel right again. Can’t you feel it? We should return the yams”
“Return what?”, Abaga retorted. ” This was your idea and you know how Agu is, we must see it to the end. Besides, you know the punishment for stealing yams in this village. Nwa Njoku the chief priest will have our heads.”
Abalunam heard the two whispering and moved closer to them.
“Shut up before Agu hears you! You know he does not like when we act like the village women and show fear. Just keep quiet, we are men. I think we are almost there.”
Agu had heard them but didn’t turn back to interfere. Abalunam had handled it well. Agu did not take to anyone who showed fear easily. For one who bore the name Agu, Agu was as agile and as fierce as the greatest of leopards. However, Agu allowed the lure of palm wine to suppress his gifts and turn them into tools for lousy activities. Agu was tough to face in battle but was too lazy to come out for the monthly wrestling tournaments. So Agu’s battles were fought when he owed money or was accused, rightly most times, of stealing something. Agu stopped moving and so did the others. They had reached.
It was a small hut hidden in the middle of the densest forest in the land. It was feared second after the forbidden forest which no man was to enter unless the Dibia gave him reason. Achike had been the one to find the hut on one of his wanderings through the village doing nothing, as usual. The four had since then used it as the place for their gatherings. No one knew where it was for only the bravest dared enter this part of the forest. These men were not brave. However, stupidity confers upon men bravery that allows them to infinitely explore said stupidity. The hut was a small little hut that none of them had any inkling how it got there. They just believed, like most fools would, that they had been granted a means to accomplish all their vices. They entered the hut, Agu first. They sat in a circle with Agu slightly elevated on the only stool in the hut, dropped their cutlasses on the floor and put the yams in their midst. It was time to divide the spoils of their “labor”.
I think it’s only fair I give you the tale of the hut that stood in the dense forest alone. The small hut was so lonely in the way it stood all alone in the forest. The trees surrounding it seemed to grow away from it yet somehow sent leaves to shade it from the glaring eyes of either the sun or Anyanwu himself. Birds seemed to circle the hut never flying directly over it and so the hut just stood there, lifeless. The hut belonged to a certain dead man who was said to have had the protection of a minor god. No one remembered the name of the god but only one thing; he killed only at night. As such, the dense forest was off bounds at night and even during the day only the bravest dared to enter. If these four men had remembered the teachings of their fathers or the tales they had sat down to hear under the moon’s own eyes at their mothers’ breasts, they wouldn’t have been in that hut at the very worst not this particular night.
“kawwwww kawwwww kawwwwww” something heavy flapped and landed on the roof of the thatched hut.
“What in Amadioha’s name was that?” squealed Achike. He was not known as one who could mask his fear.
“Must be one of those birds that swarm around this place” grumbled Agu. “Someone should go and check it out.”
Before one of them could rise and leave, a huge black bald bird fell into the hut through the roof and flapped around each of them wildly, scratching around with its sharp strong claws and drawing blood from Agu’s raised arms with its metallic beak, before exiting through the open door and flying away into the night.
“Was that a vulture?? That was a vulture. The evil bird knows we’re here. The gods have found us! Udene abiakwutele anyi ooo” shreiked Abalunam “My mother used to tell me of Ogbunabali by the fire every time she cooked for papa and I was tempted to steal. Haven’t you heard of him?” he asked as he stared around at the dumbfounded faces of his counterparts.
Agu was the first to regain his composure and responded with a very throaty hearty laugh.
“Ah! Aba! Don’t tell me you believe in the gods? I thought you have started going to the white man’s shush?”
Achike too giggled not cause he wanted to but of the four he was the weakest and clung to Agu simply for the strength he envied. Abaga just listened quietly, his drunkenness lifted and his heart rate slowly returning to normal.
“I don’t believe nwokem, calm down. I am just informing us all. He was said to kill criminals and only at night. It’s just funny. I was scared now but look at! What is there to be scared of?” Abalunam replied Agu.
Agu responded, “Besides, aren’t we sons of Odogwu? What then is an Ogbunabali? Chai! Abalunam you almost had me there.”
At that they laughed loudly making light work of Ogbunabali. They didn’t have to say it but their minds had made mockery of Ogbuabali, claiming that a god who could only kill in the night and was not remembered was no god but a mere village vigilante. That he was a coward to hide in the dark while brave men fought during the day under the watchful eyes of Anyanwu. Tah! What a god. Agu shared the yams while they continued laughing and the rest waited to be done and back to their homes to prepare for the Nkwo market day.
While they sat in the hut laughing and celebrating, the young man had heard their laughter and was approaching the hut. The vulture perched on his shoulder was whispering excitedly in his ear in a language only the gods could understand. As he stroked the ground with his feet moving towards the hut, the darkness acknowledged his presence and molded to fit his sculpted body. He had heard laughter from his hut and from what the Vulture had just whispered to him, the drunks had returned. See, the hut was his and he had noticed the apparent disrespect they left everytime they came there. It was already bad enough that he was not remembered enough by the youth of Igbere as only the elder still feared him but now this youthful fools insulted him too. The anger that welled up inside of him on the report he had just received from the vulture could be compared to that of Ekwensu. The band of Ikiri following him and singing his praises could sense this shift in his mood, and their music increased in volume. There was going to be blood tonight. They wanted blood tonight.
The young man’s shifting face had finally settled and now it told a tale of great rage, of an age old anger that could not be quenched by ordinary discussions by the fire; blood would have to be spilled. His brows creased and the muscles on his face clenched to an extent that one would fear a locking of the muscles. For years, he had been the judge of the Odinani. He was the go-to guy for most of the other deities dirty work. Killing and maiming at night while Anyanwu slept or frolicked with his mortal women. When there was a taboo or any criminal act, he would be sent to slay at night. He had spent a lot of years judging the quarrels of his people to be forgotten by them now. To be insulted by them? To be termed weak? To be termed a coward? For embracing the beauty of the darkness and working in concert with its beauty and not against it? These fools would get their share. His rage swole to a level that even the trees and the birds could sense and drew even farther apart. The chorus of the bush babies had risen to fever pitch, and the village women still awake could hear them. They hurriedly shut their doors and woke up their husbands. Whispers of ‘Ogbunabani and Ikiri’ filled most huts in the village of Igbere. Had our fools been men of signs or even more concerned about something more important than their stolen tuber of yams, they would have sensed it too. However, they were not and their fates sealed.
It was Agu that noticed the figure at the door but it was Abalunam who figured out who it was. So, as Agu was busy trying to attempt -yes, trying to attempt- questioning the figure, Abalunam shouted his voice pregnant with terror, “OGBUNABALI!“, and snatched up his cutlass. The eyes of the young man at the hut’s only entrance immediately shifted to the fool who had uttered his name. He smiled at the young fool, the kind of smile that dislocates joints of your body with disturbing ease. Abalunam tried to force his shivering spine and disjointed body to move but there was darkness he hadn’t noticed holding him in place. He looked around his body and noticed that what looked like two hands crafted out of pure darkness had strapped him to his spot and he couldn’t move. He was holding his cutlass in his right hand, but he couldn’t swing as his arm hung limply by his side like a weak penis. The young man had granted him the pleasure of a first eye view of the deaths of his fellow fools. For at this point it wasn’t a matter of if, for in the eyes of the young man death was a certainty, it wasn’t a matter of when for all the moon could say was that this was the time. It was simply a matter of how; they were all going to die.
Agu had heard Abalunam’s declaration but could do nothing about it. It wasn’t fate that he’d die first, on second thought, I guess you could say so. He was their leader and as such for once he was to lead them to something good, or thereabouts, their deaths. He picked up his own hand crafted cutlass. And spoke clearly to the figure in the darkness.
“I don’t know who you are or what you want from us. But I must warn you. I am Agu the son of Odogwu. I wield a weapon personally handed to my forefathers by the Yoruba god Ogun. I will slice you open. Be warned stranger”
As he was still speaking, the young man so swiftly, the darkness his guide, reached into the mouth of Agu and pulled out his tongue. Blood gushed out of Agu’s mouth like a stream blessed by Idemmili and his face concocted in pure agony he fell to the ground defeated.
Achike stared as his protector fell without a fight and shivered quietly. His famous cutlass soaked in his blood, and strangely glowing in the dark like it was reflecting the moon. If Agu had fallen, what could he do? The leopard had fallen, who was he? Achike began to search frantically for the exit and realized, with a heavy heart and a swollen bladder, that there was none.
‘Wasn’t there an entrance they had used?’ , he thought to himself. From outside the darkness that surrounded the hut was so thick and dense that it looked like the hut didn’t even exist. There was an emptiness to the spot where it stood. The young man’s terrifying eyes and the strange cutlass were the only sources of light in this pitch black darkness and he walked, nay marched to the corner where Agu lay bleeding, and split his head open from the jaw, simply separating the mandible from the calvaria. Blood and Ubulu splattering all over the terrified occupants. There was a beauty about it, the mouth that had brought the young man insult was no more, but you wouldn’t realize it though, of course, neither did Achike and Abaga as they sat watching fearfully for who was going to die next.
The young man smiled a smile of contentment and sweet satisfaction. Yet, his eyes told the tale of a high and hunger. He still had Agu’s long slimy tongue in his hands and it had been long since he killed with his bare hands. He had minions for this normally but these fools had to die by his hands. He looked at the two other fools sitting on the ground paying no mind to the other one he had placed immobile at the corner of the room, he would die last. Images of various methods of death flashed through his mind but that wasn’t his problem really, he could kill a man in his sleep, with just a thought really. His problem? Who to kill first.
Achike and Abaga took what would be become their last gulp and stared at the man approaching them. The young man’s arms were dripping with the blood of Agu as he moved silently towards the two fools. Achike wanted to scream but just before he could, the scream was stolen from him by the darkness. As Ogbunabani had twisted his neck and voice box shut with Agu’s tongue. He watched as his and Abaga’s abdomens were pierced by the Agu blood stained arms. He couldn’t breathe. He felt it, the agony but he couldn’t scream. He was losing it but he couldn’t even gasp. He felt totally and completely helpless and the fact that he couldn’t scream or breathe made it feel like he was dying in a thousand ways. Achike watched as first Abaga’s entrails poured out like a dead rabbit’s own. He watched the intestines slide out, blood gushing out with his scream withheld from him. He saw what could only be the stomach burst with all the alcohol they had consumed just a few hours ago. Oddly enough, he could smell the alcohol. Fermented palmwine mixed with blood. He would puke at the sight and smell, but he had no stomach left. It was at that moment that he looked down and noticed that his own entrails were already on the floor, his blood gushing out on the ground like libation to a god. At this point, it was libation; to the young man staring in front of him. He saw Abaga heave what would be his last breath and thought how funny it was that Agu didn’t even get to say a word and how by watching him die he was stronger than Agu. Imagine that, stronger than Agu. With that, he sighed and passed on.
The young man felt the lives leave the two fools he had in his hand and he tossed them aside like dried unele leaves. He stared at the last fool, the greatest of them, with a glint in his eyes that told of great danger. He moved toward the man, darkness freeing the man from the bondage it had placed him under. The young man grabbed the fool by his neck and lifted him from the ground. As he lifted him higher, he noticed that the fool had urinated on himself, like a true coward he thought and grinned.
Abalunam’s life flashed right before his eyes as his urine trickled out of his then deflated manhood. It was very emasculating and at that point he was grateful that he was to die last. How could Agu or even Achike, the weakest one, have seen him like that? Emptying his bladder in a manner befitting of only a child still at his mother’s milk laden breasts. He looked into the empty bottomless eyes of the young man and shivered. It was time to die. He had embraced it. After what he had seen tonight, leaving this hut alive will surely turn him to an onye ara..a mad man. He was ready to die; better a dead man than a mad one.
The young man threw Abalunam to the ground with no fuss. As Abalunam struggled to adjust to face his conqueror, the young man stamped his feet on the fool’s knee shattering his patella and severing the ligaments that held the thigh to the leg and the leg to the thigh. Abalunam screamed a gut wrenching scream of pure agony that woke the living and stirred the dead. Darkness did not take his away, but no one could hear him, even if they could, who would dare enter the forest at this time of the night? The young man heard the screams of the fool and shivered with excitement. He didn’t normally kill like this, he’d normally use his vulture or Ikiri or other animals of the night but this idiot had known about him and not feared him; stupid. The young man bent down towards the man and snapped his arms’ bones. The bones didn’t stick out through the flesh but made Abalunam’s arms look a child’s catapult in a way not even I can describe. Abalunam screamed louder and started to whisper really fast but scarily low, “Please, please, end it… please”. The young man looked at the fool and laughed. It was a laughter that had no humor. No mirth. It was the laughter of a crazed god. It was worse than his silence.
He put on his hands that were stained with blood on one of Abalunam’s ears, the fool didn’t deserve to die with one, and ripped it -skin, muscle, cartilage, fat, vessels – all from his bones. Abalunam screamed and almost passed out, the young man though was having none of it however and tapped him awake. Then he did the same to the other ear, holding both ears in his hands he felt satisfied; ‘…what you have will be taken from you’. He looked in disgust at the fool and decided to end it, the sun would be up soon. He didn’t feel like having a spat with Anyanwu today. He looked down at the fool and drove his two thumbs into his eye sockets, not stopping till he reached the brain the idiot had decided to waste that very night. Was Abalunam’s death instantaneous? No. He felt every ounce of pain as the young man drove through his eyes searching for brain and when his body could take no more, he moved on. The last fool had left us.
The young man stood up and moved towards the entrance to survey his work. Darkness swirled around him, mopping him up and cleaning his body off the blood. It wasn’t long before his body had recovered its natural dark beauty glow. His face continued shifting; he was done. He looked at Agu’s tongue where it lay on the floor, Achike and Abaga’s entrails and smiled a sickly sweet smile. He turned his heads towards Abalunam’s eyeless sockets and felt complete. He had served justice. If Amadioha, Ani and even Idemmili could kill men who insult them, why couldn’t he? He was a god too.
For years he had arbitrated their useless quarrels, he deserved their respect, their worship, their adoration but he got none. And now, some fools had dared to call him a coward, to know about him but fear him not? Gods forbid, he thought, snickering after he thought that realizing he was a god.
He picked up Ogun’s cutlass and stepped out of the hut. It’ll make a very nice souvenir he thought and smiled to himself. His Vultures and Bush babies had gathered respectfully outside the hut, waiting for his permission to go in and feast on the blood and gore. He nodded slightly, and they swarmed in excitedly. The Night killer chuckled. His job here is done.
The youths of Igbere won’t forget him in a hurry now.
Ogbunabali wu aha ya… Night had come. And he became one with the darkness. And disappeared.
There. I see you’ve met the Night Killer. Hope you enjoyed it. For more tales of African Mythology, follow @mythologyAfrika. More dope gods await you. Also follow this blog as well to keep up if you’d like to. Don’t forget to drop a comment. Thanks!