It was after midnight when he walked into the night to go home. He had gone out for his usual night out with his friends. At 51, nothing gave him joy more than such outing. It made him feel like a living being.
That night, the full moon lit up the atmosphere and he could see everything in his surrounding as if it was the day.
He was relatively pleased with the moon for advancing his courage and as he walked as though he owned the night, he whistled his favorite tune along.
As he approached the path dreaded by women, children and feeble men, he increased his whistling.
The path had thick forest on either side and the branches from both sides found and reached out for each other and entwined to form a canopy for the path.
He was a very bold man. All men should be as bold but it baffled him when men behaved like women.
He walked into the canopy
An owl was hooting at a corner and he had mixed feeling and hoped that nothing bad had happened to any member of his family. He had always known the cry of an owl to denote bad omen.
After several nights out and late keeping, his wife had warned him about evil spirits which roamed the night.
Early hours of the morning were terrible hours. Once it’s 11 pm every one in Agbiligba went into their homes like fowls to their roosts to come out when the roosters had crowed for the third time.
“The spirits own the night. We owned the day. If you use the night as though its day, one day the spirits will teach you a lesson to prove that they owned it. Stop now, ” His wife had warned him and his five children had supported her.
He had laughed hard that day. What an unfounded myth that was.
It’s absurd to believe such things. He never believed in the reality of ghosts or spirits roaming the night or day. All were conceived and birthed only in the mind of the cowards who dreaded the night and terrified by the tree trunk in the dark.
As he walked on the bright moon began to disappear into thick darkness which gradually intensified and swallowed the entire atmosphere.
All he could see was black. He saw nothing but black. No object in sight and he felt he had gone blind since eyes were open and he couldn’t see.
The cry of the owl had ceased giving way to a frightening stillness. Not the crickets nor the wind sweeping across the forests could be heard
“What is happening to me?” He hushed to himself as he continued to feel his path with both hands as a blind man would to find his way. His whistling became hushed as well.
At a point he couldn’t walk anymore. It was absurd to continue to walk like the blind. He had to wait with hope that the darkness would clear.
He thought to himself, waiting in such thick forest could mean harm. Dangerous snakes could be around the corner and a bite could send him to his early grave. So, he decided against waiting.
Fortunately or so he thought, someone whistled from a distance and in no time the whistle sounded close, closer than normal and he felt goose pimples all over him.
“What is happening to me? Why should a brave man like me quaver for nothing? I hope my death is not approaching.” he hushed to himself and looked at the man. He was a palm wine tapper or so he thought.
“Greetings! Happy to come by someone,” He greeted the palm wine tapper. Who else could it at such unholy hour if not a palm wine tapper, walking from palm tree to another to check if his wine has collected.
But the so-called tapper did not talk to him. Instead he glided past him like someone floating in the air. His headlamp lit up the vicinity as he was passing. He held his climbing rope and three kegs tied around his waist.
When he passed him, the thick darkness took over again, even thicker than before. So, he decided to follow the wine tapper to see and to ask for help.
When he looked back, the thick darkness gave way to a kind of day – a very strange day.
There was something about the source of light. It didn’t look like the sun. Even though it was spherical, the colour was light green and he saw two eyes on it glowing white and starting at him and was something sinister about it.
He withdrew his eyes from the source of light to look at the man he saw earlier but he had vanished and the whistling had stopped and another bizarre silence had descended once more.
He looked in his direction, it was still thick darkness.
With an unusual feeling, a gutless feeling already taking hold of him, He stood and closed his eyes, and waited for his mind to stop playing games with him. He must be hallucinating or better still dreaming. But it felt so real.
He decided to continue in the dark path. So he stepped into it. As he was about to step the second stride into the dark, he heard his mother’s call.
His mother died mysteriously some twelve years back.
She slept and didn’t wake up. Before her death she was vibrant and full of life up to the time she went into her hut to sleep.
Everyone who heard about her sudden death was sure she was murdered spiritually by evil men but he didn’t believe such things.
He believed death could come at anytime and anyhow. No one should be accused for someone else’s death as long as it’s not a physical killing.
He heard her call again.
He knew better not to look back. It could be a trap.
“What trap?” He laughed himself.
It was all in his mind. He overcame the temptation to look back and continued to walk into the dark.
But an unseen hands took hold of him and dragged him back to the day.
“Good you didn’t answer your trespassing mother. She’s the good one and we don’t like her?” The voice didn’t come from the ones holding him but from the source of light. It sounded like a very bad woman’s voice.
They were many hands on him. They lifted him up the ground and took him him away farther into the day.
“Okezie!” His mother called from behind but then, he couldn’t answer. He was so weak and gasping for breath.
Could this be how death comes? Dying must be terrible. He thought weakly.
Suddenly he heard screams and they left him and he fell with a thud. From their voices he sensed they were running away from the unseen.
He regained a little strength and stood up, dusted his body and looked around frightened. He saw no one.
The strange day had disappeared with the voices to give way to a normal day and he found himself on the path to his house and voices approaching.
He could see them but he couldn’t open his mouth to talk neither could he think straight.
He reached home to see his wife and children and all his extended family members with their hands under their chin and the women consoling his wife.
It was noon and he had been missing for three days.
The whole thing was a mystery to him but one thing was sure, he would never keep late nights again. He had started to believe such a myth as the night belonging to the spirits.
When he told his closest friend what happened, his friend said something that sounded like reality;
“Have you not heard that the night is battle hour between the good spirits and the bad ones? They both fight over us. The good ones fight to protect while the bad ones to destroy. The winner is determined by the state of the man being fought over. If the hands of the man are clean, the evil ones are defeated. If the hands of the man are soiled, the evil spirits win – that’s the end for that man.”
Okezie believed every word!