We searched throughout the weekend, looking for where he might have been. Two days devoted to finding one man. It was harder than even I expected. While I dropped Eno at his friend’s house, we canvased the area, asking questions as we went. Mummy said she wanted to keep all this from Eno, until at he was at least older.
Despite our efforts, though, we didn’t even find a trace of him. It was like he just disappeared. Because of school on Monday, my mother suggested we at least suspend the search even after I protested that one day wouldn’t really hurt.
“You have to continue your life, I’ll search for him during the day. But your father will be in somewhere magical and you, because of your heritage will be able to feel it. It’ll be somewhere strange, it’ll feel like it’s not meant to be there. If you find anything, just call to me, I’ll hear you.” And that was that. I took Eno to school and settled into mine. That day, something was off about Mr Anisan. He stared at me in this strange way during class, in a kind of—sinister way? It was hard to interpret.
It was like he was leering at me and then taunting me at the same time.
School passed like a blur and I noticed Mọ́remi looked stranger than usual, but she passed by like a hurricane, leaving me with no chance to ask genuinely, what was wrong. I went by Eno’s school at breaktime just to randomly check up on him.
It was something I did sometimes, just to see how he was doing. But that day, I had this eerie feeling that the next time I saw him, things would have changed. On the short way there, I went through a mental list of where my father could be. My mind was racing with worries, what if he hurt himself, or worse still, what if he hurt someone else?
Eno was swinging on one of the playground swings as his friend, Jide, was nearby, playing with the sand. I hadn’t even reached his side before I knew that he was sad, I could feel it, even see it in his body posture, the way he moved. I was beside the swing as he went up and down slowly until he came to a resolute halt.
“Eno…” I said, my voice catching as I spoke. How could I even explain the past few days? Even our mother… She left when he was very young, so early in his life that he didn’t remember her face. Or so he told me.
“I’m ten,” he said slowly, “not stupid.” He looked up at me. “Where is daddy?” I could see the tears forming in his eyes and I pulled him into a hug, he smelt like dust and coconut.
When he pulled away, I held his head in my hands. “I’ll bring him home tonight, I promise. Follow Jide home, we’ll come and get you.”
“Promise?” He said, bringing out his pinkie
I took it in mine.
I entered my school after the short walk and that damn shed caught my eye. The roof was broken in pieces and the colour resembled greyed meat. It wasn’t much to look at and yet, I found myself drawn to it in a way I didn’t understand.
I remembered my mother’s words. It’ll be somewhere strange, it’ll feel like it’s not meant to be there.
That shed was definitely not meant to be there, just beside the field like that.
During class that day, I felt wired, my body was like a spring waiting to be unwound, my eyes glued to the clock in front of the class, counting down the hours and then minutes till we could go. I ignored John and the rest for the entire day but I spare a glance at Efe, who was putting all his attention in the English lesson.
I’d always thought about what it’d be like to have a conversation with him, fantasized about it even. But now wasn’t even the time, he’d probably be disgusted if he ever found out about the way I felt about him. I kept on telling myself that maybe it would be different, that he’d looked at me the same way too. But I knew lies more than anything and I could tell their taste whenever I even thought those thoughts.
I hung my head, I had always thought I was cursed, and after everything that had happened that weekend, I was sure of it. I had promised Eno I’d bring our father back but honestly, I didn’t even know how I was even going to go about it.
How could I face a spider god, even with my mother?
It was easy to figure out, I’d been reading things like this all my life, if I’d known my world was even crazier than I could have ever imagined, I would’ve figured it out earlier. Anisan—Anansi.
It was some sort of personal joke to him.
The day ended and I left my bag in class as I walked out, everyone shuffling past me. I stood at the entrance and closed my eyes, she said I should call to her, I hoped she heard me.
I smelt the scent of salt water that normally clung to her being and I knew she was close, immediately. And then, I forged through to the shed, for perhaps the fight of my life.
When I reached the entrance and nobody was looking, she materialised out of thin air, her hair flowing even while there was no wind. Her eyes were dark and she looked solemn.
“What’s wrong?” I asked, my eyes searching he for some kind of answer.
She came up to me until we were eye-level and I noticed, for perhaps the first time, that we were now the same height.
“I love you.” She said as she kissed my forehead. “You and your brother, I always have, I always will.”
“Mummy,” I said. “What’s wrong? Talk to me.”
“It’s nothing, dear, let’s get your father.” She said as her hands held the door handle.
“Mummy, one more thing,” I said, my eyes o the ground. “How did I… How did I call you? I‘ve never felt anything like that before.”
“I have a connection with all my children,” she said, not turning around, and then quietly, “I always hear you and your brother. All those dark days and nights, all that pain and anger, I hear it, and I am so sorry for how things turned out.”
She nodded once she sensed I had nothing to add, and then, she twisted the door knob and we entered the magic shed.
It was dimly lit, and smelt like horse manure, the walls were cracked and aged with time. But none of that concerned me, I didn’t care about the details, what mattered was my father kneeling in the middle with a dagger to his neck. He had been stripped to his underwear and the spider necklace glinted on his neck, the jewels visible even from that distance.
“Idemili, you crafty water spirit.” Anansi said with a sick smile, tightening his grip on the dagger. “How nice of you to join us.” He spared a quick look at me. “Oh, and you brought your bastard son.”
I clenched my fists then relaxed them, he was trying to bait me, I could feel it.
“Anansi,” my mother said levelly, “please, let him go.” She got down on one knee, her head down. “I beg of you, oh, Great One.”
Anansi was quiet for a beat. “That’s nice, love, but you know the rules. Almost as well as I do even.”
“You can’t do that, I can’t allow you to.” My mother said, a hidden anger to her voice, it was an edge I had never heard in her before.
“Mummy, what’s Anansi talking about?” I asked, not taking my eyes of him.
“Hmm, you figured it out quickly, let’s if that brat of a girl is smart enough, maybe I’ll pay her mothers’ a house visit. Well, tell him, Idemili, tell him what has to happen.”
Brat of a girl.
There was a slight hesitation in her voice as she spoke. “That necklace your father stole, it absorbs a person’s lifeforce, energy that Anansi can then absorb. But for that to happen… the host has to die.” She looked at my father who was now semi-conscious. “Anansi wants to kill him.”
“The necklace, that’s what’s been affecting him.” I said, thinking of ways we could maybe get out of it.
“It’s a powerful relic, powerful enough to corrupt any human being…even your father.” She answered sadly. I realised she was crying softly now, but her voice was steady and sharp, her fists balled. “Anansi, let us bargain.”
He smiled in a wicked manner, “What do you have that I would want, sea wench?” In a second, his expression changed to annoyance as he tightened the grip on his dagger, drawing blood from my father’s neck. “In fact, I should just kill this fool now.”
“But you haven’t,” She said, the tears flowing freely down her face. “And you won’t, because you know I have something better to offer, old god. You know that there is a bigger prize.”
“Go on,” he said, his eyes curious.
“You have always fed on stories too, and I have one of the greatest stories to tell you, a story you have never heard nor will ever hear. One of pain, regret and, not the least,” she said, looking at me now, “love, pure love. My gentle flower, Uyai, please, be strong. Don’t hide your tears, or your emotions, they don’t make you less of a man but more of a human being. You are a strong beautiful young man, and I am so proud of you, keep your brother safe for me.” She kissed my cheek, the smell of salt water as gone now and she smelt like a stagnant river. I was frozen speechless, I was wondering why it sounded like she was saying a goodbye.
Then I realised it was because that’s exactly what it was.
“Stay back, Uyai, and when it’s over, take your father,” she said, her voice faltering. “Take him and run.”
“Come forward,” he said, his attention leaving my father and focusing instead on my mother’s words.
She walked towards him, gracefully and it seemed that time was slowing down.
I whispered, “No.” But I knew there was nothing I could do to stop it. It was like I was watching a car crash.
She spoke as she walked.
“It’s a beautiful story, the most beautiful one ever told. Of a young water spirit and how she fell in love with a young god.” As she spoke, the room seemed to rumble, the lights getting brighter. “But their love wasn’t meant to last, and as she was pregnant with their first child, she could see clearly who he was: a monster. Nothing more. And so,” she sobbed. “And so, she fled, to a new world, and a new life. But even that wouldn’t last.”
She had reached Anansi now and was in front of him. “With every passing day that she found happiness, she remembered the darkness of her past. Until that darkness came looking for her and to protect her family, she left. Her heart broke each night every time she heard them call for her, every time they said her name, or wished she was there, her heart broke every time. And when danger came, she risked heaven and hell to come back to her—”
Anansi reached to her mouth with lightning speed, his eyes glowing a deep orange. “Yes,” he rasped. “Give me the story.” My mother’s body jerked as her eyes glowed a sea blue as Anansi sucked the story out of her.
It was too much to handle, I had lost her before, I couldn’t lose her again.
“No!” I screamed as I tried to run to her side. But as always, I was too late.
An impossibly bright light flooded the room and time slowed down, I felt it even before I saw her dissipate into bright blue dust.
She was gone.
He collapsed into his chair that night, it was his favourite chair, not that he had many chairs, he hadn’t met much when he came back, but he was still lucky to be alive, it was lucky that those stupid gods were fighting their stupid battles, if not, he’d still be floating across the isles of the endless abyss. He had settled into a small place in Ikeja, it was out of the way, attention was the least of what he needed now that he was back in hiding, his body still buzzing from his last adventure.
He flexed his fingers; the girl had proved difficult but he got all he needed from that boy and his foolish mother. He could feel the power returning to him, his old strength coming back. The chaos he would bring would be something unparalleled in history.
He stood up, straining as he did so, but he knew the strain wouldn’t last for long, he could even feel the glow of his eyes returning. He walked over to the table he had kept her body on.
The hot tears fell expectedly on her dried husk of a body which he had covered with a thin cloth. Asase Ya, his own mother, killed by those monsters. And the creator, N’yame, even allowed it, helped them even.
He smiled to himself, they would all pay. He had been forced to amass power, he needed it. Not just to resurrect his mother but to fight them. Even now, after he had run all the way from Ghana to another magical hub, Lagos, he could feel them fast approaching. The demons that killed his mother.
The leopard, the python, and the hornets.
They were all coming, with blood in their eyes, to finish what they started.