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They walked with increased paces, so did the wind. Different sounds produced by popular birds, rodents and some unidentified creatures started ringing out like they were all suddenly freed from bondage.
Chike who was behind was really sweating in fear. He wished he could find a way to get in front of them all, even if it meant flying.
If someone taps me from behind, what will I do? He thought.
“Please kindly wait for me oh!”A voice called a little distance from them.
“I don’t understand what is happening today and this heavy bucket of water is causing more difficulty for me.”
Chike was surprised to know that someone else came to the stream too. He turned a little but could not see clearly as a result of leaves which extended from their branches into the cleared walkway.
“Walk faster Chike, can’t you see that we’re in trouble.” Ezinne who amongst the rest heard the voice shouted back.
“Stop shouting my name Ezinne before the spirits hear it. I’m behind Arinze.”
“Who is there then?” She shouted back at Chike.
“Who is that?” Chike called out.
“I diverted to the upper stream thinking the main one would be polluted.”
The statement answered their questions and they slowed down reluctantly to wait for the stranger.
“Please can you——” Chike wanted to request when he felt the person was delaying but his voiced trailed on the last few words as he caught a glimpse of something. He stopped abruptly, shook his head and tried to refocus on the unclear image once more. What he saw got his legs pinned to the ground. Chills ran down his spine and bare chest. In a flash, he pushed down his water container, screaming at the same time to his friends to run for their lives.
Without delay everyone ran, pushed, fell and got up again, all in a bid to escape from whatever it was.
They ran for a long while, taking the only path leading to the stream. Instead of getting closer to the village, rather the path seemed endless.
At a time they felt they have outrun the reason for running, so they slowed down a bit to catch their breathe. Chike’s mind was still nowhere at rest.
“Chike what is it? What did you see? Why did you shout the way you did?” they all queried impatiently.
Chike just stared on. He was too shocked to talk. At a time he only managed to mutter “A hanging pot…….nobody was carrying it…….” Everybody went silent. Perhaps the message was yet to sink in.
The birds seemed also to be eavesdropping because they were silent at the moment. Two girls started crying.
“Crying won’t help us in this situation. We have been running for a while and we’re supposed to be out of here by now, but see what is happening. It seems we’ve been running in circles. I don’t know how to explain the possibility of this because there is only a path leading to and from this stream except the diversion to the upper stream which is out of the question.” A boy among them reasoned.
“It’s true. I know I have run past this particular rock twice now. The weather has even refused to change. It has been cloudy since we left the stream. This is the dry season, so the possibility of it raining this morning is very low.” Another boy whose name was Ugo agreed.
“Wait, it’s as if I heard something.” Chike cut in and they listened.
A flash of lightening passed and then crumpling of dried leaves was heard not far from where they stood. This saw them off into another round of helter skelter. Since it seemed to them that they were running endlessly, they decided to divert from the cleared path into the tall but sparse bushes. That way, they would have taken shorter routes into the village.
So they formed two groups, each taking a different direction from the other.
It was agreed that whichever group escaped first should call for help.
The groups disappeared hoping to be out in no time. Getting to a cleared area, Arinze was too tired to run so he beckoned on others to take a little rest before they continued. Five of them sat on the stony foot of an old cashew tree, each breathing heavily. After resting a while, they continued on the walk.
Their stomachs were rumbling out of hunger but they didn’t mind. All they cared for was getting out alive.
They walked deeper till they got to a junction, then they realised they had lost their way again as each of the five paths looked similar. They were posed with another difficulty but in the end, they concluded to take the path directly opposite to that which they had trodden.
Few minutes into the path, they started hearing faint voices and as they got closer, the voices became louder and distinct. They were so happy that finally they would be out of the scary place in no time.
This reality activated their epinephrine and they jolted into a hopeful race. In no time, they got out of the bush and continued towards home, this time they walked since their fears were over.
“Chei! I’ll never forget this day in my life” Ugo who was with them confessed.
“I wonder if Chike and the rest have reached home. I hope nothing has happened to any of them.” Arinze said after a while in concern.
“I think they should be home already. The route they took is shorter than ours, so they must be resting by now.” Ugo responded.
Getting to the farms, not a soul was seen. Rather goats were tied each to farm pegs located in each family land.
“Where has everybody gone to?
Nobody is in the farm or did the goddess also forbid going to the farm today?
Why did all families tie goats to their farms?
What is actually going on?” they asked among themselves but got no helpful replies. This made them wonder the more where the noise they heard earlier came from.
Still they continued for a while in silence till they got to the houses, yet the few houses they passed were quiet and looked deserted. By the time they got to their various homes, they were sure something was wrong somewhere.
They found nobody at home. All had disappeared without a trace. Everything was beginning to get them puzzled.
They decided to check the village square.
“Maybe there is an important meeting going on and everyone had to attend.” They consoled themselves as they set out to the village square.