A Novel Written by Kolade Segun-Okeowo (KSO)
As the noise got nearer, now he seemed to recognize his first wife! She screamed and threw herself down at his feet. Agaga could not believe he was seeing his wife.
“This palm wine is too strong… The termite is only striving; it can never eat a rock No..Not me”
He looked closely again and saw clearly now; his wives, two of them and his eldest daughter. They came to break the news. His eldest son and two other children!
Agaga slumped and simply passed away!
The toll rose !!!
Oba Folagbade had grown lean within seven days. He had not seen the sun for three days now. The news of the renewed outbreak of the epidemic was too hard for him to take. He wept over the nights and called on the gods of his ancestors for the first time. He had initially refused to call on any god or goddess because he believed they dont exist. His training and life as a Court Clerk of thirty seven years during and after the colonial era had taught him never to believe in superstitions.
As far as Folagbade was concerned, the epidemic was a result of the non-challant attitude of the villagers to personal and environmental hygiene. The first three weeks after the outbreak of the epidemic were spent clearing the bushes around houses. He led the villagers to clear the pathway of the only village stream and wrote to the local council to extend pipe borne water to his village. The council had responded immediately. Within two months water was already flowing in Onigba-Iwofa.
Yet the epidemic persisted!
In the last three days, about nine bodies have been brought to his palace by bereaved villagers. His heart missed a beat that morning as he stepped into the palace room and sat on his throne chair; several thoughts raced through his mind.
What if the villagers reject me as their head?
He saw two of the village Chiefs enter the palace room charging at him. It was Alapinni and Agbaakin, two of his most bitter enemies.
The whole village is waiting outside for you charged Alapinni, his eyes bulging.
The villagers have rejected you as their head; your reign has brought ill-luck to this village. In your seven years as King, we have not known peace except deaths and deaths! Agbaakin spoke his voice booming like the sound of an hi-fi record speaker.
We have the authority of the people to depose you from the throne of your fathers said Alapinni moving another step closer to Folagbade, his eyes, a mass of a scary object. Suddenly, Agbaakin snatched the crown from his head and pronounced the sacred words:
The gods reject you
The people reject you
The earth rejects you!
Folagbade woke from his daydreaming. He looked around the palace, he was alone, he breathed a sigh of relief.
‘But what if the villagers had started such plans’
He became alarmed again. He strolled round the palace room in deep thoughts, confused and disturbed.
‘But why must all these happen in my reign?’ he asked himself, with tears already swelled up in his eyes.
‘Why must it be me?…. the reign of my father was peaceful. It was peace all through Adeogun my grandfathers reign.. and so why? Why? Have the gods abandoned me to the desires of my enemies. Obatala, Sango, Elegbara, Ologunoso. You witches and wizards of the land, will you not keep me from .’
A loud scream from outside the palace broke his thoughts. He stopped and quickly rushed to the window to see the source of the scream. Two men bore the body of a young girl on their shoulders as they rushed towards the palace. A woman ran after them wailing as two other women followed, holding her.
Folagbade knew the meaning; he turned back into the palace, two drops of tears trickled down his eyes. He quickly wiped his eyes and composed himself. He would be breaking a taboo if people meet his tears. The crowd rushed into the palace hall, the men dropped the girl on the ground. Folagbade quickly approached from the palace room, he already knew what was going on.
According to traditions, he ought not to sight a dead body, but these are different times. He had broken that tradition severally in the last few months since the epidemic started. At first, he was reluctant to break the tradition, but when the number of corpses rose above fifty, the compassion in him broke the traditions.
Silently, he approached the corpse of the young girl and touched her body; he felt the coldness and announced, Shes dead.
As if waiting for that pronouncement, the mother burst into another session of wailing, screaming and throwing herself on the ground.
“Lead the woman inside and ask the Olori to take care of her Folagbade said, fighting back tears.
The two men who bore the corpse of the girl took the mother in as she screamed away with them. Folagbade looked at the men who brought in the corpse; his teary-eyes conveyed the message. They picked the corpse and went away with it. They knew what to do. The village had created a mass burial site for all those hit by the epidemic.
Your Highness, we can no longer understand this The father of the child started, sobbing and trying hard to keep mucus from running down his nostrils. This is my third child that will die under this same mysterious circumstance.
Folagbade knew he had to console the man; that was truly the third time he would bring the corpse of his child to the palace.
“Odesola, be a man. We cannot blame anyone for these calamities. Only God knows why. But how did this happen again? Folagbade felt the need to know the circumstances surrounding this particular case. Who knows, it might lead to a better understanding of the epidemic.
Your Highness, it happened the same way as that of Ibironke my first daughter and Lakunle my little son Odesola started, unable to fight back the tears now. My wife finished serving them food and went out only to come back moments later to meet this one shouting, ‘Orogojigo!’ ‘Orogojigo!’”
“Orogojigo! Folagbade could not hide his fear! The dreaded Orogojigo had struck again! No one could explain the meaning of the word and its relation with the epidemic, the only thing the villagers note is that the victims scream “Orogojigo! Orogojigo! as they die.
“Orogojigo? Folagbade repeated, completely confused. The ones before her shouted this same name before they died Odesola explained more. The two men who took Odesolas wife in returned, their eyes stained with tears Your Highness, we have taken her inside, your wives are already taking good care of her the first man said.
“Orogojigo? Folagbade had not recovered from the shock of the revelation. But what could be the meaning of this strange name? Folagbade asked nobody in particular.
The second man stood up and spoke; The whole village is equally confused about this strange name. We have all been thrown into mourning. When Iyalode the wife of Agbaakin died, she shouted this name. It was the same with Abebi the daughter of Molaja! In short, all those who died have shouted Orogojigo as they die.
We cannot fold our arms and watch these continue Odesola protested, Something must be done to reveal the secrets of these strange deaths
The tears had given way to anger now. Folagbade, trying to cool Odesolas frayed nerves said “Odesola, you are right
He rose from his throne to meet Odesola and placed a hand on his shoulder; This name appears to be evil, we shall find out and make necessary sacrificial appeasements. Im now convinced we need to consult our forefathers…You He pointed to the second man. As soon as you leave this place, get to high priest; Ajamolaya-Bi-Erus house; take my words to him, tell him I wish to set my eyes on him
The man stood and dashed towards the door, Folagbade stopped him. Waittell him that Folagbade wishes to speak with the gods The man dashed out.
You, assist Odesola; he needs a lot of comfort and encouragement now.
The remaining men led Odesola out of the palace. Silence reigned everywhere. Folagbade remained in the palace, being alone, he cried!
The meeting of the Special Marine Agents of Darkness (SMAD) operating under the waters of Katangua Sea holds fortnightly. The meeting affords the honorable Queen of the Coast, Satans special envoy in charge of all marine agents to receive a firsthand report of the activities of the human agents under her jurisdiction. The meeting takes place right under the water and commences at twelve midnight.
So much discipline is maintained concerning attendance and punctuality. Any of the human agents who fail to turn up at exactly twelve midnight is subjected to a painful session of rape and torture by the male agents who work as body guards for the Queen of the Coast. The outcome of such sessions are always unpalatable, the erring female agent always ends up with scratches and wounds all over her body even when she returns to normal life above the sea.
That night, the Queen had been extremely happy. The report she received at the last fortnight progress meeting was still a source of joy to her. The marine region of Katangua has always been a source of pride to her each time she makes her monthly report to the Prince of Darkness, Lucifer!
At exactly a minute to midnight, all the agents have taken positions in their regalia of flowing gown slit in the front and tapered with gold lining. A golden cape dotted with silver and gems adorn the back of the gowns. They wore a crown of emerald and diamond carefully placed on each of the agents head as if God created them with the crowns; a beautiful sight to behold.
The Queen takes time to choose her agents; not just anyone could be accepted to serve in the kingdom. A prospective agent must not just be beautiful but smashingly beautiful. If not, they are re-modeled to suit the beauty of the kingdom. Men must not be able to resist the beauty of her daughters.
The long arm of the clock behind the Queens throne ticks toward twelve midnight. The eerie silence caused the sound of the clock made of a human skull and bones to be louder than usual. The clock have been specially made to work in such a way that it starts working when it is five minutes to midnight and stops when it is five minutes after three in the morning when the meeting is rounded off.
This allows for the daughters of the Queen to gather and disperse at the beginning and end of the meeting. None of the agents is expected to be found in the palace when the skull clock is not working except on special summon by the Queen.
Gradually, the hand of the clock moved closer to twelvefive seconds to goFour, three, twoOne Its twelve midnight!
A loud chorus of Long live your majesty Yeye Orogojigo” came from all the daughters numbering about sixty. The chorus is repeated thrice, and then things began to happen. The ground shook violently causing an angry storm on the surface of river Katangua; two fishing trawlers capsized immediately as the fishermen struggled to swim across to safety, one of the fishermen cursed his luck while the others screamed calling on their gods to rescue them, completely ignorant of the events under the river.
The seabed shook, causing the fishes within the vicinity to swim away. A baby shark in confusion swam across the palace. As if held by a strange force, the shark stopped suddenly unable to swim forward or backwards. She struggled violently trying to break free from the hold, then she stopped, went limp and dropped silently on the seabed! She was too young to understand that fishes dont mess around the palace of the Queen when she meets her daughters.
A huge smoke billowed from the throne chair of the Queen and there she was, seated in all her majestic splendor. Her regalia was completely made with gold linings and diamond pearls scattered carelessly around the cape of her regalia. Her long hair had grown to touch the heels flowing after her as she walked. The hair was weaved into several locks and lined with golden ornaments. Shining objects that appeared like confetti were sprayed on her by two female attendants who appeared with her. All the Daughters of the River bowed in worship, rising up only when she spoke.
You have all done well my children She started; stretching the golden scepter in her left hand towards them. She adjusted herself on the throne drawing her lower part which was completely fish on to the throne. She was half human half fish!
I am impressed each time you sound my praises like this She continued, May the Lord Lucifer bless you All the daughters bowed in worship to receive her blessings.
Im happy you are all here. She said, after a quick glance around; surveying the whole lot of them and making sure the skull clock was working perfectly. If anyone of the agents was absent, the clock will blow its alarm as soon as the Queen arrives displaying the name of the culprit; this not being the case, she continued.
I must know what progress you have made concerning your assignments that I may give reports to the Lord Lucifer when next he calls the meeting of the Grand Council of Darkness. ah!
She stopped quickly as she remembers something, her eyes roving around the agents lovingly. Her eyeballs rolled around in their socket like a lifebuoy tossed to and fro in the midst of angry waves.
The Lord Lucifer was well impressed about your performance during our last briefing with him. He told me personally that he is coming to visit us here in River Katangua very soon.
A wild jubilation of screams, hooting and whistling greeted the Queens announcement. Not only that continued the Queen after ensuring absolute silence. The Lord Lucifer has promoted one of you to the highest level of spiritual wickedness in the high places.
A pin-drop silence reigned everywhere in the palace as all the daughters strained their ears eager to know who the lucky one is. The implication is that the person will now attend meetings with the Lord Lucifer and eat at his table
The silence increased. The Queen looked around, her eyes searching for the lucky one. She saw her. Princess Hagatha
Another round of wild jubilation welcomed the Queens pronouncement as the Queen pointed her scepter towards Hagatha who strode proudly towards the Queen and took a bow right at the feet of the throne.
Princess Hagatha! The Queen addressed her, The Most Honorable Lord Lucifer sends his greetings and message of congratulations. You have now been promoted to the highest level of spiritual wickedness in the Marine Kingdom
She placed the scepter on her head. From now onwards, every iota of mercy in you becomes dead, permanently dead.
The daughters broke into another session of wild jubilations.
You cannot pity any man again! Never! The Queen continued as she leaned forward to remove the crown on Hagathas head replacing it with another one, much more beautiful than the first.
The jubilation now reached its crescendo with loud clapping and hooting. Hagatha rose gradually, beaming smiles as the jubilation decreased gradually into absolute silence, then she spoke.
Your Highness, Lord Queen of the Coast of the Katangua Region, Yeye Orogojigo. She started after paying another round of obeisance to the Queen. Her voice sounded like the clashing of cymbals.
I thank you most sincerely on behalf of the Most High, Lord Lucifer for this honour bestowed upon me by the Grand Council of Spiritual Wickedness in High places. I want to assure you, I shall not disappoint you and the Lord Lucifer. I will intensify my efforts to improve my records. During the last one year, I was able to kill only three thousand, six hundred and twenty five souls and causing only six thousand, nine hundred and sixty seven believers to backslide in campuses all over the country
She paused and looked around as if to see if what she said so far had gone down well with her mates. Assured that she was speaking well, she proceeded.
That record is too poor; very poor! With the new powers invested on me as a Daughter of the Lord Lucifer operating on the highest level of Spiritual Wickedness in the Marine Kingdom, I shall double my effort and make sure that I cause fifteen thousand Christians to backslide and go to hell with us and snuff life out of ten thousand souls in the new year
As she rounded off her speech, all the other agents hailed her, clapping and encouraging her to do more. A few of them embraced her as she returned to her place.
I hope the rest of you are challenged by the records of Princess Hagatha said the Queen. I expect you all to have the same determination to excel in our mission. Our target remains the same; depopulate the kingdom of God to populate hell! She let out a wild laughter, chorused immediately by all her agents.
As I was saying earlier She resumed her speech. I wish to know what progress youve made in your various assignments particularly in the Onigba-Iwofa village. Let me repeat again that the Lord Lucifer has marked out the village for the supply of souls needed for the next meeting of the Grand Council of Spiritual Wickedness in High Places Let the leader of the Onigba-Iwofa mission give a comprehensive report.
To be continued in Episode 3.