“Run for your lives!” the crier’s voice rings out. We scurry away and hide. Me, behind the huge Udara tree, others, I am not sure where because I do not see them.
I must see, oh, I must see it all today.
Papa says I must never watch, I must never look at her when it comes, I must run and hide. Nne says never to even greet her. “Don’t say a word, inugo?” Dede laughs at it all, he says there’s nothing his strong arms cannot do for him, if she ever comes near, he would beat the demon out of her and teach her a lesson that would last her a lifetime. When I ask why, why we must run every time and what is even wrong with her? No one answers me. Papa goes back to his pipe becoming moody, Nne grumbles, says I ask too many questions and goes back to her grinding stone to continue with making her oseoji. And Dede – his reply stings the most – he laughs at me, baring teeth as brown as the Utaba he has been taking since he turned eighteen.
Today, I must see, I must see it.
Her evil must be greater than that of Nwokekeocha, because he only gets a fine and suspension from two dance nights when he steals goat from Mazi Ebunu’s goat stall. Apart from a few sneers, everyone acts normal toward him. She must be possessed, her demon greater than thieving imps that possess Nwokekeocha every month because Nne says I can greet Nwokekeocha, everyone does, but never to “waste greeting on that witch”, no one ever greets her.
“Run for your lives eeee eeeee!” the Crier screams at the top of her lungs for the second time. I crouch further in my position behind the Udara. If I do not see today, I fear my heart will burst open with not knowing. Ah, but it shall soon burst open from the way fear makes it pound against my chest now. But I must see it!
I see her every day, sometimes she passes by our school building especially when we sit in class listening to Miss read from the reader or when we recite the Times Table. She hides so that Miss does not see her by the footpath that leads into the farms, but I see her from my seat. Sometimes she stops and looks longingly into the class as if she wants to come inside and sit with us. We are only little children with one Miss to protect us, so I pray to God to keep her away from us. Yesterday, I nearly cried with fear, because she stood longer by that window and our eyes met. She smiled a beautiful smile and mouthed ‘kedu?’. Fear gripped me because her smile was beautiful, it should not have been because Nne says she is evil. I turned away quickly but when I looked back, she was gone.
All morning I follow the Crier who usually follows her around on Nkwo market days when we are not in school to ensure it does not come when she is near the children. But if it comes today then I must see.
“O biago ooo, it has come!” the Crier screams one last time and runs for her own life, never once looking back.
Everywhere is quiet after the scurrying feet have quieted. Slowly, carefully, I peep from behind the Udara tree with just one eye and I see her; she is taller than I know her to be, but how can I know? I never look closely at her. She stands still, her lost eyes have a faraway look like one who sees things others do not. Her face takes on a power of their own as it contorts and the black of her eyes soon disappear. Dark slender arms suddenly thrust forward and I see scars all over them, they freeze in mid air as her fists clench and lock in tightly as if in a death grip. Her legs stiffen and twah! they do not carry her weight anymore, so she falls, like an Udara falls from the tree and hits the ground. She begins to jerk, her body dancing forward and backward in the dirt. When I eventually summon courage to look at her face again, she is not there, I only see a grimace, a contortion of yesterday’s beautiful smile. Her teeth, white and even, very unlike Dede’s, bare themselves. Her body thrashes about like one in need of solace, stones hurt her arms and legs and I now know the origin of her scars. As I watch her I slowly stand, and despite myself, I creep out of my hiding place and walk gingerly towards her.
Now I see.
This woman suffers, she hurts herself each time, but everyone runs from her, no one tries to help, they say it is a demon and that it can enter another. If it will enter me today, I do not know, all I want to do is move this big stone lying next to her head.