Burn

Uzo trudged across the dusty street in a blind daze, oblivious to the heat that caused beads of sweat to form on her brows and trickle down her face. As her feet turned ashy from the dryness of harmattan, she continued to walk in a zombie-like fashion, with no regard for her appearance.

Uzo was losing her mind.

There was no doubt that the baby that grew in her belly was his, after all, no one else had explored the secrets of her womanhood. She had given him the license to roam her body on the basis of his promises, sweet promises of love from the sweet lips of a lover. She yielded, wholly and completely, to the gentleness of his touch, her defences collapsing in the heat of passion. He was hers, at least in that moment, entirely hers.

She wondered what she had done wrong to warrant his rejection. She never believed that a baby could be a mistake, and so he must have known and accepted this possibility. Why then did he claim to never have touched her? She whimpered as she remembered the excitement she felt when the stick showed her the sign that she was pregnant. She had taken a bus to another town to buy the kit from a pharmacy in the next town when she missed her period, because she did not want to be recognized by anyone in her town. She had also hidden it from her aunt, the one that she lived with in the hopes of learning a trade. In excitement, she had worn his favourite shirt of hers, the one he got her for her birthday, and gone to his house. She had greeted his mother like all responsible daughter-in-laws, and inquired of him. He came out, as he always did; headphones hung around his neck, trousers sitting below his waist, and one of his many colourful t-shirts covering his upper body. He did not take the news well.

His mother had never liked her, she knew that very well. She figured that a baby would change things between them, but she was not expecting the viciousness she received. They had driven her away like she was leprous, causing a scene and shoving her repeatedly, and with every step she took away from that house, she hoped and prayed that they would call her back to apologize for the misunderstanding. But with every step she took, her heart sank deeper, until it could sink no further. There would be no call back, no apologies, no hug from her lover or his mother. She had been used and dumped, just like her Sunday school teacher said happened to girls who did not spend an hour praying everyday. How would she tell her aunt? How could she face her parents? What would her choir mates think? The more she thought about it, the more she felt the tethers of her sanity slipping, beckoning to the numbness of denial. The test could have been wrong, never mind the covert vomiting every morning, or the disappearance of her menses. The test had to be wrong, or there would be hell to pay.

***

The Discarded One could not put at bay the nudging of the spirits. They were hardly this insistent, ever since those ones set up a church at the centre of town. Her clients dwindled into non-existence as the church attendance grew, with people trading good old divination for the promise of eternal life. The Discarded One put aside the potion she was brewing, and got up as quickly as she could. The potion was for her aching back; her age was catching up to her. She began to move with a sense of purpose, she could feel what the spirits were saying now, the justice that was demanded would have to be meted out. One of their own had been wronged; a girl, barely an adult, at the perfect age for the initiation, treated with disregard and the spirits would not have that. She grabbed her staff in one fluid movement, marching out of her hut and into the dry heat of the afternoon.

The people made way as The Discarded One stormed towards the girl, giving her a wide berth, some out of shame for denouncing her, and most out of outright fear of the woman. It was not often that the old woman was seen in broad daylight; white hair flying behind her, staff rattling with an ominous sound, and the swirls of the spirit on her skin in white chalk and black coal. Whatever brought the old witch out in the afternoon had to be serious, and it was best to not test the spirits that spurred her. Heads were bowed, eyes averted, as she continued to move with purpose, muttering under her breath in communion with the spirits, seeking answers to infinite questions.

The Discarded One knew she was the one as soon as she saw her. The girl, bright as the sun, hair darker than coal, was to be her reincarnation. The girl, who stood crying on a dusty street, was to be her salvation. The girl, who had been wronged, had to be set on the right path, beginning with the justice her chi was crying out for. The girl would never cry again. The discarded one cleared her throat and spoke.

***

“Uzo.” A voice said, snapping Uzo out of her thoughts.

Before her, a young woman with large eyes and a beautiful smile stood with outstretched hands.

“You don’t know me, but I think you will like what I am about to tell you.”

Uzo stared at the woman in front of her. Something told her there was more to her than she could see, a shimmer of sorts around her beautiful form. Perhaps more upsetting was the fact that the language spoken to her was ancient, and she could not explain how she knew it was. All she knew was that there was a link between the two of them, and that listening to the woman would give her the opportunity to seek revenge. Uzo squared off with an inexplicable confidence.

“I’m listening.” She replied, in the same ancient language she did not know.

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