Her eyes couldn’t hold the tears any longer. The tears that trickled down her face had pooled on the naked body of the man who lay on the ground, with hands and legs bound in chains.
Her gaze flashed around the crowd and then returned to the knife in her hands.
“Castrate him already!” an angry voice rang from the crowd. It was morning, and the gentle rays of the sun that shown from the bright sky fell on her ebony skin and an eerie feeling engulfed her.
“He made you swear the oath. He knew what he did and hid it from you. For your guiltiness, madness took over you for four market days,” said the great Dibia, as he moved forward in his flowing white garment. His staff jangled each time he strikes it on the ground, reminding Chika what she must do as prescribed by the custom. “He does not deserve your mercy. Cut his balls already!”
Her gaze met that of Obinna’s. A pool of tears had gathered in his eyes. His breath was labored and had paced up at the same rhythm her anger was running. She pulled up her falling girdle to her waist and began to bend over.
When her hands grabbed his balls, he whimpered and his lips let out some ear piercing groan. Just then, some memories burst into her head.
It happened that fateful night. That night her scream was stifled with a hard palm placed over her mouth that it couldn’t get to her husband’s hut. She had gone outside to ease herself and a footstep had paced up quickly to her. Before she could turn, her assailant had swept her feet off the ground and she found herself on her bed. The beads of her jigida he had pulled from her waist began to roll on the clay floor. She was naked. He began to pounce on her, with his face hidden behind the masquerade mask. She had scratched and kicked but it couldn’t stop him. He pushed and forced himself more and more into her until she bled and became weak.
Night after night she would weep bitterly on the shoulders of her consoling husband. His hands would wind around her tummy so tight until she felt soothed. Those nights she would play with her husband. She would poke his nose and he would poke back. Their laughter would rise above the chirping noses of the night birds. Soon their laughter turned into some bouts of pleasurable moans.
Some market days later, her husband fell from a palm tree which led to his death because a spike had pierced into his spine. She was heartbroken. Her husband couldn’t wait to hear the good news. That he was going to become a father. It was what he has been praying to the gods.
Years later, under one sweltering afternoon, she was at the back of her hut. Obinna had come around. He sat and watched her thrash out the palm fruit from its head. She could see in his face that he had come with a piece of very disturbing news.
“Obi!” she called and then paused from what she was doing. “What’s bothering you?” she asked and made an ‘excuse us’ eye signal to Nnamabia her son who was helping out, and he understood because he stood immediately and left the two adults.
The news he had brought was simple and complicated. She found it simple because he spelled them out clearly but it didn’t make sense to her. Her husband’s closest friend had come to her house only to tell her: “Your husband was impotent. I loved you and still, love you. It was a pity you couldn’t see it through my eyes. I decided to make a baby through you. And now I have come for my boy, Nnamabia.”
She regretted why she didn’t knock him down with the head of the palm fruit that afternoon. He must be mad. How can she have a baby with a man who has never seen her woman part before let alone ride on her?
She was ready to go and swear to the deity. At that time, disputes were settled with oath taking at the shrine. It was potent. Her mother had told her with tears in her eyes that she might have played with Obinna under some forces beyond her control. Her mother tried to discourage her in vain.
“Woman!” the great Dibia’s voice pulled her out of those memories. “The time is up, do it already.”
Now she knew why she was found guilty. And how Nnamabia was Obinna’s son. She knew then that Obinna was the man on masquerade mask who came that night to rape her. But the gods in their goodness had chosen to vindicate her and brought back her sanity.
“I can’t,” she said and shook her head. She let the knife slip off her fingers. “Let the gods that vindicated me finish the work they have started.”
She rose to her feet and made to leave when thunder rumbled from the sky and struck the ground. It was heavy enough that it left a crack. To everyone’s amazement, Obinna leaped to his feet, his hands and legs free of the chains, but he appeared deranged. He began to jump and hop like a monkey and started making his way into the bush that led to the evil forest.