Dial Episode 57 is running…
I was too weak, due to the forced old age, to react in any way.
If I had had the strength of my youth and the skills of my GojuFist, I would have broken this uncouth and absolutely wicked man into two without remorse.
How could any man think he could behead another when the urge struck him? This was a cruelty that defied the rationale of right-thinking people. I struggled feebly, gripped by equal portions of fury and fear.
The knife scraped across my throat, and that awful man pressed a hand on my forehead to still my shaking head so that he could cut off my head.
As I felt the uncomfortable and painful edge of the knife steadying on my throat, and realized I was about to suffer a most undignified death, I thought of Abena Adobea, my Maa Abena, a woman of my heart.
How was she going to survive this? How was she going to live this down? Oh, dear…how could this be happening when I could have been in her arms, sharing the last hours of my life instead of being decapitated like a damn cow at the abattoir?
I was aware of movement to my right, and then an elderly lady with plaited grey hair put a hand on the man holding the knife to my neck. She spoke to him rapidly in their language, and I saw the man scowling darkly.
He took a step back and spoke harshly to the woman, who replied him with vigorous nods.
The man looked at me with his head to one side as I gulped in air and stared balefully at him.
“Aboa bi ba!” I said furiously, but my voice was old, and so it came out like a squeak. I felt the warm blood still seeping from the cut in my throat and soaking the collar of my shirt.
He pointed the knife at me.
“Wait a second,” he said, still scowling. “This man who called himself by my name, this other Nana Bosomba you spoke of…describe him to me!”
“He’s old, has thick grey hair, bead, moustache…medium-built, handsome, likes wearing smocks, deep calm voice, and loves green apples!” I said weakly.
“Green apples!” he shouted, suddenly alarmed, and then he quickly put the knife in its scabbard, took out his handkerchief, and took out a large red handkerchief which he quickly pressed against my throat and tied it around the back of my neck.
And then he spoke quickly in his native tongue, and the people all around began to speak excitedly, almost fearfully.
He gave another command, pointing to a man behind me. There was a commotion of sorts, and presently the man appeared with a framed picture in his hands. He gave it to the man calling himself Nana Bosomba, who showed me the picture.
It depicted the man who had come to me and cursed me. He was sitting, and Akos, who looked very young and viviacious, was sitting on the man’s laps and laughing beautifully.
“Yes, yes!” I croaked, pointing at the picture. “That’s the man, Nana Bosomba, who put a curse on me and said Akos was his only daughter!”
“Abojobojobojo!” Nana Bosomba said, his eyes going wide with fear. “Oh, sir! I’m so sorry! That man is not Nana Bosomba. I am Nana Bosomba, Akos’ real father. That man…we call him The Holy Man. He lives in the mountains of Wowo. He’s a very powerful man of God!
Abojobojobojo! You see, a long time ago, Akos was very sick! The doctors said she had cancer, and would die. I couldn’t cure her too. She was just eight years old. We took her to the mountains, to the Holy Man, and Akos was with him for many years. She got well, but she would not come back to us. She liked to stay with the Holy Man. Eventually she came back and went to school, but the Holy Man always called her his daughter!”
I stared at him with a gaping mouth.
“So, this man, this Holy Man, he has a sister?” I asked hollowly.
“Yes, yes, but she’s called Mansa, not Dede!” Nana Bosomba said hurriedly with a worried look on his face. “Heeeey! Forgive me! Abojobojobojo! I didn’t know you you’ve met the Holy Man!”
“So you know where he lives?” I asked softly.
“Oh, yes, yes, he stays in the mountains,” he said miserably.
“And what’s his name, his real name, I mean?” I asked.
“Ah, we don’t know o, sir!” he said in an unsteady voice. “He’s been in the mountains for a long time! We know him as the Holy Man. Yes, he can do all that you said he did, and many more! Look, get up now! I’ll let someone send you to his door!”
Even as relief flooded me at having escaped a most painful and humiliating death, I was still filled with thousands of unanswered questions.
“Akos, please, where was she buried?” I asked quietly.
The man looked down suddenly as a look of sheer pain crossed his face.
“My daughter couldn’t be buried with our ancestors, alas, because she took her own life, and the life of the unborn child in her womb,” he said in a devastated voice. “She was indeed buried in the cemetery of the shameful!”
I looked at him, and tears slowly fell down my face. With a herculean effort I slid off the chair and fell down on my knees in front of him.
“I’m so sorry!” I wailed with acute distress. “It was all my fault, and I deserve every bit of your fury! I was a really bad man then, and what I did to Akos is unpardonable. Please, forgive me! I’ll do anything to have her buried right, please! Tell me what to do, and I’ll do it!”
The man spoke rapidly in his native language, his face filled with pain, obviously translating my words to them.
There were many shouts, and many of the women present broke into tears.
“It is too late, Mr. Biko,” Nana Bosomba said. “We needed you here to marry her corpse, and spend a honeymoon night with her, but alas, we didn’t even know you then!”
“The Holy Man knew me!” I wept bitterly. “He came to me, and begged me to come and do it, but I didn’t! Oh, please, I can’t live knowing she isn’t buried right! Please, look into your customs. Surely there must be something that can be done!”
“What should be done is impossible!” Nana Bosomba shouted, and this time tears came into his eyes. “Her grave has been cemented over! You need to speak to her with sincerity! Our ancestors believe that a tortured soul always gives a sign. If you speak to her sincerely, we shall receive a sign, and then we can all decide to bury her with her ancestors honourably.”
“And what sign are we talking about here, please?” I asked.
“The gravestone needs to break,” he said sadly. “And that, my friend, is impossible! Come, it is getting very dark. We will give you a place to sleep, and something to fill your stomach. And then, on the dawn, we will take you to the Holy Man!”
“No, no, no!” I wept bitterly. “I need to see Akos! Take me to her graveside, please!”
He spoke rapidly to his people, and again his words were met with great wails. He held a short meeting with some of them as I remained on my hands and knees, and then presently he came back to me.
“Alright, Mr. Biko,” he said quietly. “We take you to her graveside.”
Some young man lifted me up and put me across a stretcher-like contraption. Four men carried it, two in front and two behind, the handles across their shoulders.
It was quite dark now, and they chanted and beat drums as we moved through a small path at the back of Nana Basomba’s shrine. Many people came along, wailing with distress, as if it were a second funeral for Akos.
Finally, the people set the palanquin-like contraption down.
Nana Bosomba, holding a lantern, pointed to my right. I followed the line of his pointed finger, and then I gasped!
What he was showing me was a wretched bog! It was a dirty, stinking, muddy place. The grass was almost overgrown. It was filled with debris and smelt strongly of excreta. The area was a muddy slush, both disgusting to the eye and an atrocious enemy of the nose.
I could see crude tombstones rising up at irregular portions of the ground.
“That’s her grave, the one with the green tombstone,” her father whispered with a sob. “That is where my daughter is lying!”
“How could you people do such a dastardly thing to her, to her memory?” I cried with pain. “This is sick!”
“No, Mr. Biko, it is custom!” he said grimly. “If you had done the right thing, she wouldn’t be there now!”
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“Please, take me to her,” I said earnestly.
“No, Mr. Biko, we’ve come as far as custom allows,” he said grimly. “We can’t go any further. We only enter that graveyard to dig a new grave, or to bury a new humiliated soul. If you still want to be there, you have to go yourself, or we’ll carry you back to the shrine. It is your choice, please.”
And so, with great difficulty, I struggled to my feet without a second’s hesitation, and then I walked double like the old man I was into that nauseating, disgusting patch of soggy and muddy land.
The stench was awful, and a few minutes inside I threw up severely, but I didn’t stop. They were standing behind me, a bunch of men and women holding lanterns and torches and looking on.
I remembered Akos…so sweet, so innocent, so beautiful! Oh, how she had been so happy believing in the love she thought existed between us. I remembered her messages, filled with pain and heartache! And I could have done something about it to avert her death, but I hadn’t, and now look at where her final resting place was!
I shed tears for her as I trudged on. My heart hammered, and soon I couldn’t walk anymore. I fell to my hands and knees in that nauseating muddy sludge, and crawled slowly and painfully forward until I got to that green tombstone, and then I fell on it.
The tears choked me as I spoke.
“Oh, Akos, I’m here!” I said with great pain, unable to contain my sorrow. “Forgive me, Akos, my dear! I hurt you so badly because I was a fool who didn’t know what compassion was, and didn’t see the evil of my ways. Oh, Akos, I do now, and though I could not say it to your face, I beg of you to forgive me now! I don’t believe in ghosts, Akos, but in a way I’m certain you can hear this! My dearest, I beg you! I beg you! Akos, Akos, forgive me, forgive me, forgive me!”
I bowed my head and wept bitterly and deeply, the pain blasting through my heart in unrelentless agony!
I didn’t know just how long I cried with genuine remorse, my tears falling on that drab grave, but suddenly I heard wild screams, and looked behind me. The group of people were screaming wildly and pointing, and when I turned my head and looked up I gasped with sudden shock!
The green headstone had broken off, and in its place was a fresh, long, beautiful green olive tree!
But beyond that, I saw something else…
Something white and spectral, hazy…a sort of whiteness, taking shape faintly.
And then the picture was a bit clear, and I saw that it was that man, that strange man who had lied to me and introduced himself as Nana Bosomba, but who was known around this place as The Holy Man. I saw too, that standing by his side was a shimmering indistinct figure of…
She was smiling, her face bright and incredibly happy for a moment, yes sad, in a haunting kind of way. And it appeared as if she were waving to me, and mouthing the words “I love you!”
“Oh, Akos!” I gasped, holding out my hand to her, and that was the most painful moment of my life, and unarguably the loneliest.
The Holy Man was smiling too, for the first time, and nodding his head, and then he and Akos turned away…and I could not see them any longer!
Nana Bosomba and the people were all around me, their faces filled with awe and a little fear as they touched the olive tree.
“Oh, yes, the sign!” he cried with passion. “Thank you, Mr. Biko…oh, thank you, thank! Now we can bury my daughter in an honourable way.”
I could not speak, though.
I only cried.
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