The sound of the morning traffic woke me up. I stood, yawned and stretched, went to the mirror and froze. I couldn’t understand what faced me in the full length mirror. I rushed to the kitchen (which was closer to me than the bathroom), splashed some water on my face and came back to confirm what I saw earlier.
The image I saw was that of horror. I was ten years younger! Physically, at least. I tried to remember the events of the past years and they came rushing back. It was stupefying; I was trapped inside my seven year old body. What had happened?
Slowly, I went through events of the previous night. Nothing had happened, that was for sure. Well, not counting the fact that… Oh no! It couldn’t be. Please God, tell me this was my mind playing tricks on me. I dialed my best friend, Stan’s number. He picked up on the fifth ring.
“Hello,” he was still groggy from last night’s drinking spree.
“Hey Stan. It’s me Kelvin. Stan, I’m in some big shit.”
“Big shit means trouble, you dumb ass! How soon can you get here?”
“Ah… I’m not sure I can come to your place. I’ve got some things to tidy up.
“C’mon man, I really need your help,” I begged. This was really crazy. How can I sound like this when my body is seven?
“Uh… You’re gonna owe me for this, and it better be something really serious.”
“I’ll be there in thirty minutes,” he said and clicked off.
I was scared of getting out of my room. So, when my troublesome sister knocked, I was adamant in not opening the door.
“Go away!” I shouted, “I’m busy with something.”
“Kevin!” she shouted back, “What are you busy doing by this time of the morning?”
“None of your business.”
She left. I knew that they — my sister and brother — would eventually get to see me like this, but I wanted to see Stan first. We’ve got to find a way to get me back to my seventeen year old body. And fast. My brother, Iyke, knocked this time.
“Kay, I have some news for you,” he said. My elder brother rarely shouts. Unlike Jessy and I.
“Mom and Dad are coming back on Tuesday for your birthday party.”
Oh my God! I’d totally forgotten. My eighteenth birthday was in three day’s time! There’s got to be a way out of this quagmire. I decided to open the door for my siblings. They may have ideas on how to get be back into my real body. Who knows?
Immediately my sister saw me, she let out a terrible guffaw that made me regret opening the door for them. My brother was just too shocked to speak. Jessy hooted spasmodically, like an epileptic patient. After about three minutes of laughter, she finally composed herself to ask,
“What the hell happened to you, Kevin?”
The truth was that I didn’t even know what had happened to me. I’d just woken up and saw myself like that. But how do I explain that?
“I… I don’t know. I woke up like this,” I stuttered.
“What do you mean?” That was my brother asking.
“I’m as sur—” my sister’s burst of uncontrollable laughter cut me off.
As I was about to retort and say something hurtful to her, we heard the ring of the bell. Saved by the bell, literally.
When Stan saw me, his “Oh man!” told me that he had an idea of how I came to be like this.
“Stan, please do not laugh,” I pleaded, shooting an arrow of a glance at my sister whose laughter had reduced to fits of giggles.
Iyke asked Stan if he knew what happened to me, but Stan decided not to share any information with him. My brother was someone you hardly deceived. He would stare at you until you were uncomfortable and said the truth. That was what he did to Stan, and it paid off.
“All right,” Stan acquiesced, “I’ll tell you.”
“Go on,” my brother urged. By now, my sister’s interest has been piqued.
“Yesterday, we went for a couple of drinks. He and I and few of our friends went. It was uneventful until we were in the parking lot about to go. That was when we had a squabble with an old woman. She had mistakenly hit our car, and Kevin was driving. It was a mere scratch, but he took it very serious. He came down and cussed out the woman.
“I don’t really know what else he did, but all I can remember was the woman gripping his wrist and muttering some words. Then she left. That was it,” he finished.
Both of my siblings turned and faced me. Jessy asked, “You were driving? Even though your birthday was soon, you’re not yet up to eighteen.”
“More importantly, what did the woman say to you?” Iyke queried.
My mind went blank. I couldn’t remember what she’d said. Sure enough, when Stan was recounting my encounter, I felt my forehead burning up, but now, I couldn’t remember a thing. I closed my eyes and concentrated the more. Finally, I got it. She was barely audible yesterday that I thought I didn’t hear her. Thankfully, I did.
“She… she said that I had cussed in ten words, that I had to understand the importance words.
“ ‘Ten years for ten words,’ ” she had said.
“What was she? Some kind of voodoo person?” my sister asked.
“There is nothing like voodoo,” said my brother. He was an atheist.
“Well, how do you explain this then?” Jessy insisted.
“My friend is a doctor. There is an explanation for this. Maybe someone had injected him with an anti-aging drug.”
“Ah… The wonders of modern science,” her tone dripped with sarcasm.
“Hey guys, inasmuch as I would like to see you banter about whether or not this was a scientific or spiritual problem, I have to find a way to reverse it. Because whether scientific or spiritual, a problem is a problem.” I said, worry creeping into my voice.
“We’ll go see my doctor friend,” my brother advised.
“All right. No problem.”
“And if that doesn’t solve it?” That was Stan, he was still shaken by what he saw.
“If we don’t find a scientific solution, maybe, we’ll then turn to the master of all things voodoo to guide us,” Iyke jabbed that one at my sister.
We all dressed up, and went outside towards my brother’s Ford. As we were about to enter and leave, a woman held the sleeve of my shirt. I jumped away from her, I’d had enough scare from unknown women.
She just looked at me for a long time, and said,
“You’re trapped in this body. You can only be freed if you go to the place where the person that cursed you resides.”
I was too scared to speak, Stan found his courage to ask,
“Where exactly does she stay?”
Her reply further confounded us. She said, “The name of the place she stays has eight words. The last four words gives flight its way, and men look at the first four to herald a new day.” She then walked off.
We were all very confused. Why did the woman talk in riddles and rhymes? And which place could she be referring to? Inside my brother’s car, we were all quiet, each person trying to find a way to decode what the stranger meant.
Suddenly, Jessy shouted, “I’ve got it! I knew that I’d read that rhyme somewhere before. And it often refers to a recluse place for people who were termed eccentric. It was built for —”
“Where is it?” Stan and I said in unison. Iyke was still angry that we all decided that this was a spiritual matter.
“Eastwing?” I queried.
“Yeah, it offers abode for a lot of people you don’t want to think about.”
Great! What I needed was another riddle. Finally I said to her, “At least I’ve seen something good come out of your numerous books.”
She decided to ignore me and gave my brother directions to the place we needed to go to. The place, when we reached it, was just like any other place. It has people going about their businesses normally. But what seemed strange and out of place was the fact that everyone looked at me as if they’d seen me before.
We were then approached by a young man in a hooded jacket and faded jean slacks. He spoke in a throaty voice that sent shivers down my spine.
“You have come to correct the spell of anti-aging. Am I correct?”
I nodded, and he resumed talking, “Follow me.” And as my companions started to follow us, he commanded them, “Not you, only the accursed can follow me.”
My brother, still grumpy about this not being a scientific problem, was adamant in going with me, said, “We all go or no one goes.”
“Suit yourself,” the young man answered, “But if you want your brother back, he goes with me alone.”
In the end, my brother relented and I went into a massive building with the man. A part of me, the scared and lonely part, wanted them to be with me. But there was no way it could be possible.
The inside of the building was huge. It had high columns and impressive décor. It was a castle-like edifice of magnificent proportions. I had the sense that we were in some of those castles I saw in movies where witches and the like congregated. At the end of the long hallway, a woman sat in what could best be described as a throne. When we approached her, the young man bowed, and following his example, I also bowed.
The woman addressed me, “I see you have come to remedy your error. What do you have to say in your defense?”
I was never the one for long speeches and aptly put words. What I just said was, “I’m really sorry for what I did yesterday. Please forgive me.”
She looked at me for up to five minutes, and when I thought she was going to send me away, she said, “Your words, which were your doom have become your redemption. You will be restored.”
“How?” I questioned.
“Just as another dawn brought this,” she ran her eyes down my body, “Another will bring you your real body.”
“Thank you Madam.” I was expecting her to say some spell or something to make me believe her but she just continued looking at me.
“Is that all?”
“Indeed. Sometimes, it is easier to restore than to destroy.”
I pressed on, “But won’t you —”
“Sleep now child,” she said in a sing-song as she stretched her hand.
I fell unconscious.
Three days later, and I was blowing off the lights on the candle atop my birthday cake. I was officially eighteen. My parents had decided to gift me a car to ‘mark my coming into adulthood’. They had no idea of the terrible events of the past days. It would be a secret between my siblings and I. Very soon, I’ll go back to Nigeria to resume school for my final year in school. We’d come for summer vacation in the United States and for now, I was done with the place.
As for how I came back to normal, it was just as the woman promised. After I fell unconscious, I was carried outside into my brother’s car. They had taken me home and on the next day, I was back to normal.
The morning I woke up, I heard her voice in my head. She’d said, “Our words are the bonds that tie us to either our destinies or our doom. Let’s use them wisely.” Lesson learnt.