The Legend Of Dayo is now running…
THE LEGEND OF DAYO
SEASON 1: THE EMERGENCE
Neji Helen woke up earlier than any other member of the family, as usual.
She swept the shop and cleaned up, mopping up some water that had finally managed to leak in. She hummed to herself as she worked, and soon had things arranged nicely in the shop.
Swiftly, she moved toward the storeroom where the stranger was, and as she walked along the dark corridor toward the door she came to a halt suddenly. She could see that the room was brilliantly lit because she could see the sharp light around the tiny spaces around the door!
Her heart gave a painful lurch!
The light seemed very bright, like burning fire, and she wondered if the lantern had fallen down and started a fire in the room. She quickened her steps and threw the door open, but she saw that the room was dimly-lit with the lantern still on the peg.
She sighed with relief, and wondered if she had imagined it all.
The blind hunchback was lying on his side on the mattress, facing the wall, and he appeared to be asleep. She looked at him for a moment, and then she turned away, closing the door silently behind her.
As she walked away, she paused quickly and looked back, but the outline of the door was just dim now, and she shrugged ruefully, sure that she had imagined the bright yellow light inside the storeroom.
She opened the store and sold some items quickly. People normally came in for bread, eggs, sugar and other ‘morning items’.
Neji dashed into the kitchen and found her father already in the kitchen. Normally, it would have been her mother preparing breakfast. Her father would have come down later, taken breakfast, and then gone to the store.
Her father was filling two water bottles with hot water, and Neji’s heart sank immediately.
“Mom?” she said hollowly. “The arthritis?”
Mr. Olusegun Osuolale tried to smile, but he was very worried and sad, and it showed.
“I won’t lie to you, my darling,” he said miserably. “It is tough this time round. Her feet and hands are all swollen up.”
Neji just nodded because she felt very sad instantly. She knew exactly how much her mother suffered from her terrible arthritis, which seemed to be getting worse as the years passed by.
She began to prepare breakfast, and a few minutes later the store bell chimed, indicating that someone wanted to buy items.
Impatiently, she sighed and put the porridge on low heat, but just then her brother entered the kitchen.
“You better let me continue, Nej,” Uche Joseph said. “Long queue in front of the store. Just took a peep outside and saw the queue. Really strange.”
Neji scowled at him.
“Queue? This early? Don’t make me laugh, Uche,” she said with a shake of her head.
Customers were not that frequent to the shop because of the competition from other similar shops around. Sometimes they needed to really reduce their prices to the barest minimum just to increase sales and clear stock that was expiring.
When she got to the store, however, she saw that Uche hadn’t exaggerated.
There was indeed a queue.
She was baffled, but she opened up the store and began to serve the customers.
It was Mrs. Ibrahim, the town’s biggest gossip, who first broached a subject that set Neji Helen’s mind thinking overtime.
Mrs. Ibrahim was elderly and fat, and had unsightly pimples on her face, and she was always suggesting remedies for the pimples to Neji because Neji also suffered from unsightly pimples.
That morning Mrs. Ibrahim, who was buying a five-kilogram bag of flour, came up to the counter and paid up. Neji was counting out change in Naira when she saw Mrs. Ibrahim staring at her with bulging eyes.
Neji handed over the change, but Mrs. Ibrahim was just staring at her with disbelief.
“What’s it, Mrs. Ibrahim?” Neji Helen asked. “You look as if you’ve seen a ghost.”
“I was here yesterday, in the morning!” Mrs. Ibrahim murmured, her voice quite unsteady.
“Yes, you were, and I served you,” Neji Helen said.
“Y-yes, and y-you ha-had a bump attack on your face then, such horrid huge and messy pimples, and I promised to bring you some Indian seeds my husband brought, good for the pimples.”
Neji Helen raised her eyebrows, not really knowing where the conversation was leading to.
“Yes, you did, Mrs. Ibrahim,” she said politely.
“So, what’s your secret, Nela?” Mrs. Ibrahim asked in a tiny voice. “How did they all disappear like that? How did you get your face all smooth like this overnight? There is no pimple on your face this morning when just last evening, your face had been peppered with huge, unsightly bumps! What’s going on here, Nela?”
And that was when it hit Neji!
Yes, after they brought the blind man in the other night, her face had been inflamed with painful pimples, and she had feared she would have a terrible night, and they would be swollen and filled with pus in the morning.
Yet, she didn’t feel any pain!
She had not felt any pain in the night!
She raised her hands slowly and touched her face, and explored her face with trembling hands.
Her face was as soft and as smooth as a baby’s cheeks!
Neji Helen was aware that most of the shoppers were now staring at her, hooked by Mrs. Ibrahim’s observations. She knew just how superstitious these town folk were, and knew she had to spring out of her shock and offer a palpable explanation otherwise something really unpleasant would happen.
But just then her father put in an appearance, and he saved the situation by laughing.
“I told her that herbal extract works just fine and she should get more,” Olusegun Osuolale said as he came to stand beside his stunned daughter. “Mrs. Ibrahim, a ragamuffin-looking Igbo boy came through the store three days ago with some herbal concoction he claimed could clear pimples in a day. Neji here thought he was just another hungry rascal, but I bought one phial of the thing, and she had been using it for three days now.”
“Oh!” Mrs. Ibrahim said with an envious look on her face. “It has worked! It has worked so beautifully! Oh, do you still have it? Can I go try a bit of it?”
“Just a small phial it was, dear Mrs. Ibrahim, and it stank like the backside of a goat, but it is all finished now,” Mr. Osuolale said with a sad smile. “That boy promised to come by within a week with more, though! We’ll surely buy more, and some for you!”
“Oh, please, do, please do!” she said with an envious giggle. “Look how beautiful you are, Nela dear! Oh, buy many for me!”
“Yes, Mrs. Ibrahim, I surely will!” Neji said listlessly, still unable to get the shock out of her voice.
The tension died down, and amidst laughter they served the customers. When they were only a few left, Neji left the counter, and her face was still pretty much in shock as she ran straight to her room and sat down in front of her dressing-mirror.
She was stunned as she looked at her reflection.
Her face had never been clearer, smoother, more beautiful!
All the dark spots of her pimples were gone, without a trace!
Neji Helen sat for a long time regarding her reflection, and she ran her hands slowly across her face.
Hurriedly, she stood up and descended the stairs again, then through the store and down the corridor toward the storeroom.
She came to an abrupt stop again.
The bright light was there all around the door!
Once again, she blinked hard, twice, and it was still there.
She closed her eyes tightly for a full minute and opened her eyes, and she saw the bright light all around the door.
Neji’s heart began to pound.
Surely, that could not be the lantern! This light was too bright, too powerful and too alive, with a sizzling sort of energy!
She began to walk forward slowly, her body trembling slightly now, and then when she reached out to open the door, the light suddenly went out.
With trembling fingers she opened the door.
The blind hunchback was standing in the middle of the room, and he was holding his silver bell against his groin, closed eyes turned toward the door.
Neji Helen regarded him for some time as her heart continued to pound.
“Who are you?” she asked softly, her face troubled. “Who really are you, stranger?”