A ChrisEffe Bliss
A moment later, Effe was brought out of the helicopter by Rupert, Jonathan and the two pilots. The presence of the white men brought a new wave of excited chatter and happy screams from the people.
There was a sturdy gurney which Rupert had brought, so they put Effe on it and drew up the covering of the gurney to protect her from the sun.
Two men pushed it as the delegation headed for the Chief’s palace.
Judging by how daring and enthralled some of the people had become about the helicopter, the two pilots stayed behind to make sure nothing bad happened to it. In the end, they took the people in little batches for guarded tours of the inside of the helicopter.
The Ya-Na, or the Chief, was an old, wiry man in a grand smock.
His palace was well-built and painted. It had designs of lions and other wild beasts on the internal walls.
He received them in the courtyard with his elders. Local drinks like palm-wine and pito were made available. He turned out to be a kind, pleasant man who was cordial with them. He expressed profound pity for Effe. And he stood up himself to look at Effe and shook his head sadly.
He assured them that indeed, there was a strange man inside the forest of Barina who was a revered god to them. This strange man helped them to cure diseases that would have killed most of the villagers.
Unfortunately, the Gandun Daji Ubangiji, the Supreme Being of the Forest as the strange man was known, only attended to really horrible sicknesses nowadays. He did not attend to people who went directly to the lakeside in the forest anymore. The man had made this arrangement because a lot of people began thronging the lakeside with the commonest of diseases.
So, the man of the forest nowadays wanted sick people to be examined by the doctors at the Government Clinic first. If the illness was very severe, the doctors would give a written report to the patient to send to the lakeside.
“The doctors really refer urgent cases to this bushman in the forest, sir?” Eyram asked with great shock.
“Oh, yes, the doctors do trust him implicitly,” the Ya-Na replied.
Effe, lying immobile on the gurney, was in a turmoil.
She knew she had just about a day or two left before she died from Wailer’s injection. If she had been able to speak, she would have told her family all that she had been through before she died.
She would have spared her family this long journey and the frightening prospect of being taken to some hideous bush doctor!
But she could not speak, see or move, and so she had to endure whatever was in store for her.
Some minutes later, after they were served with delicious yam and beef gravy, a woman came to the compound of the palace. She was a beautiful fair woman with a medical kit in her hand.
She was introduced as Doctor Anifat Abubakar Mahama.
And she was very excited when she learnt that Eyram was a nurse.
Eyram then assisted the doctor to examine Effe and gave some background information.
“You trust this man?” Eyram asked in a worried voice. “You know, we didn’t want to come here, but my mother was adamant and pretty certain God made this avenue available to us for a purpose.”
“He’s brilliant!” Doctor Anifat said with the wonder of one professional to the other. “I’ve never seen a more brilliant man!”
“Oh, you have seen this mysterious man before?” Eyram asked, intrigued.
“Oh, no, never his face,” the doctor said quickly. “There was a woman who needed urgent surgery, the type that could not be performed here, you know. It was her heart which needed a by-pass. The cost involved was astronomical. So, her husband went to the lakeside to see the Gandun Daji Ubangiji, who promised to come and perform the surgery. We were very sceptical at first, you know.”
Eyram nodded with a sad smile.
“I can imagine,” she said softly.
“Yes, exactly,” Doctor Anifat said. “I mean, we could not allow a complete stranger to carry out a surgery here. We knew the patient would surely die, so we refused to have him perform the surgery. We had no option than to discharge the woman from admission when her husband insisted. Well, this strange man evidently took the sick woman somewhere into the forest and then she came back three weeks later. I examined her. Excellent surgery, my dear, simply amazing. And she’s still alive today. That was four years ago. Since then, I’ve been referring complex cases to him. And he comes out prime, every single time!”
“And you haven’t even seen him once?” Eyram asked, deeply troubled. “He sounds like a brilliant professional, so why is he hiding in the bush?”
Doctor Anifat shrugged.
“We don’t know,” the doctor replied. “The people here revere him, you know, absolutely worship him as a god of some sort. I’ve tried to meet him, but my efforts have been in vain. Those who have spent time at his hideout describe him as a bearded man. He blindfolds them, so they don’t see the route to his hideout. But I do trust him. Come on, cheer up, Eyram. He’s good.”
“And how do you inform him that there’s a patient at the lakeside?” Eyram asked worriedly.
“Oh, nowadays he checks every Wednesday, late afternoons,” Doctor Anifat said. “Your sister is lucky. We’ll send her up with the Chief’s people. And then we’ll wait for the feedback.”
“No way!” Eyram cried indignantly. “I’m not leaving my sister in the care of some man in the bush I do not know! What if he does…bad things to her? I would have to accompany her!”
Doctor Anifat looked at her gently.
“He’s an honourable man, to say the least,” she said quietly. “These arrangements are from him, and he does not take any money for what he does. Over the years, I’ve seen him treating diseases that would have taken millions of cedis to heal, or a trip abroad to cure. Trust me on this, Eyram. If there’s any hope for your sister, any hope at all, the smallest glimmer of hope, then it is with the Gandun Daji Ubangiji”
“Then I’ll accompany them to the lakeside,” Eyram said dejectedly. “I insist, please!”
“That is understandable,” Doctor Anifat said as she scribbled on a pad. “And you must.”
Eyram held Effe’s hand as they sat in the Land Rover of the Ya-Na.
There were four men with them including Rupert and Jonathan. The car puffed and ate up the miles into the forest.
After almost an hour of rough terrain, the driver parked the car in a remote spot in the forest. He told them that the overgrown tracks had ended, and the car could no longer progress beyond that point.
The rest of the journey would be on foot.
They all got down from the car and continued on foot.
It was an arduous journey!
They had to carry Effe on a stretcher provided by Doctor Anifat. Their progress was slow and treacherous. The path climbed steadily through a terrain of trees, shrubs and rocks. They had to rest for several minutes frequently, and Eyram saw Effe weeping silently the more they moved inside the forest.
Eyram wondered if her sister knew of what was happening.
Could it be that she had not completely lost her hearing?
Eventually, the path began to descend until they hit flat grounds deep inside the forest. Next, they followed a treacherous and winding path through a thicket of trees and sodden forest floor.
The guides killed two gigantic snakes along the path, and on each occasion, Rupert had been freaked out.
It was obvious that as brave as he was, he was scared of snakes. He admitted as much to Eyram, and she smiled gently at him, admiring him even more for his candour.
And then, finally, the huge lake came into view!
It was bigger than Eyram had anticipated. There were shrubs along its edge, but one side was raised and a crude wooden platform was constructed there.
They placed Effe on a bamboo bed on the platform and put Doctor Anifat’s notes under her feet.
One of the guides, Abdallah, then looked at them as he pulled a long rope dangling from one of the trees, and a bell sounded close to them.
“And what’s that bell?” Jonathan asked curiously.
“If Gandun Daji Ubangili is nearings we, the bell sounds tellimg we is nearbys and we is now going to hides,” Abdallah said with a shrug. “We pullings one tells him we heres, and we bring the sicks peoples, and we pullings pull the ropes five times, then the Gandun Daji Ubangiji he comes!”
“I see,” Jonathan said sadly. “I’m not really happy about this, guys. Doesn’t sit well with me at all.”
“Me too,” Rupert said with a shake of his head. “This is silly, to say the least. Maybe we should take her back.”
“No backs, please!” Abdallah said sharply. “I see woman sick sick bads. Not worry, she get well well by Gandun Daji Ubangiji, you sees soons.”
He waited for a minute and then pulled the rope again. He repeated this five times, and then he turned away.
“Come!” he said sharply. “We is hiding. He not wantings sees anybody. If he is seeings us, he goings away bye bye forevers. We comes back when he ringings bell, and we see what happens.”
They looked at each other with unease, but there was nothing they could do. They followed Abdallah to a large shed in the forest where there was a clearing and sat on the wooden seats to wait.
Almost forty minutes later, the sound of the huge bell clanged through the forest.
“Aha, the Gandun Daji Ubangili, he finishings so we is goings to seens,” Abdallah said excitedly. “Comes, quicks, quicks!”
And when they got to the lakeside, Effe was gone.
But there was a note pinned to the bamboo bed she had been lying on.
A note, written in beautiful cursive handwriting, masculine and assured:
She is almost dead. She has to stay with me.
Come back in two weeks for updates.
“Is that all?” Eyram whispered as her legs gave and she almost fell down. “Some unknown man took my sister away to only God knows where, and this is all we have? Oh, my God! What have we done? What stupidity is this? Oh, Effe! Bring her back! Bring her back!”
She was getting hysterical.
Rupert held her tightly and thrust the sheet in her face.
“Eyram, Eyram, control yourself!” he said sharply and shook her. “This guy seems to know what he’s talking about! Your sister looks bad already. Let’s hope for the best.”
“Good Lord,” Jonathan breathed with horror. “He took her away across this lake, and I see a deeper forest beyond! This does not make sense, Rupert!”
“We had good testimonials, man,” Rupert said calmly. “That doctor seemed sane enough to me, and she recommended this dude. Only God knows why he doesn’t want to be seen but hey…that’s how the cookie crumbles sometimes. Let’s give him the benefit of the doubt.”
“Oh, not worrys at all, at all!” Abdallah said in a pleasing voice. “You sees good well, well things, not worrys at all, Sister Yirama!”
Eyram looked at Rupert weakly and nodded numbly.
“So…you trust…this…whoever he is?” she asked lamely. “He took my sister away! It feels like I’m dying!”
“Let’s trust God, Eyram,” Jonathan said calmly as he stood gazing across the huge, dark lake. “Let’s trust God. Right now, that’s the only thing that makes sense.”
Eyram nodded lamely and slipped her arms around his waist. She rested her face against his chest, and he held gently until her body stopped trembling and her tears stopped flowing.
Behind her, Jonathan looked at Rupert and made a circle with the thumb and forefinger of his right hand, and then jabbed the hole with his stiff left forefinger in a crude gesture suggesting that Rupert would be making love to Eyram soon.
He winked crudely with his mouth open as he continued with the gesture.
Rupert clamped his lips together to prevent his laughter, and then he made circular gestures around his right temple with a stiff forefinger to indicate that Jonathan was mad.
In the end, the return journey seemed a lot shorter than when they came.
Eyram and her parents decided to stay in Barina in a house allocated them by the kind Ya-Na. They would wait for the two weeks.
The men left, albeit reluctantly, with Rupert and Jonathan promising to make time to visit in a couple of weeks to find out how it went.
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