Nana was telling us the story of the sun and the moon today. Rana and Wata. Nana’s Hausa was spoken like she was the first student of the gods of the kanem Bornu empire. Even when she was wrong, it was difficult to tell and she seemed to hold her head high when she spoke in her strong undaunted dialect, something many men had faulted in. Nana was flawless . As we sat in a circle listening to Nana telling us her folklores, there was always a hidden truth behind it, one would always think that Nana had journeyed to the far ends of the earth and collected mysteries in the knot of her wrapper like cowries, and if she did, she indeed was wealthy with them; ” Once upon a time, before man was born, before the first cockcrow, before the first sin, there lived Rana the sun, Wata the moon, and Sheila, their lover, the soul offspring of love and life. Wata and Rana were brothers in love with the maiden soul. Sheila was priceless, she was a Sarauniya(Queen),even though she had no throne to rule over, she definitely ruled the hearts of these two entities of light. Wata and his brother dwelled in the sky, together. Sheila was a wanderer, a wild free spirit. Rana and Wata contested for her heart. Rana was strong and bright, but that was all there was to him. He had no sides, phases, and sometimes he lost control and became so bright that he burned everything around him, a flaw in which he prided in. Wata on the other hand was a weak, pale sky entity, his light was dim, some other stars even believed he borrowed his light from his brother, but it was beautiful and deep, he had so many sides of himself to show to everyone, there were times he was full, he used to be energetic and almost as bright as Rana, when he was waning, he was back to his old introvetic self, not talking or doing much. When he was new, he had a certain promise to himself attached, like a new phase resolution and things like that. He had so many things that beauty had to offer. He understood that Sheila was a complex being and needed to be with someone who understood beauty like she did…” The whole atmosphere was very quiet now, apart from the distant crickets squeaking, and crackles from dying firewood, all the children and younger women sat in awe of Nana and listened to her speak, even the air was dormant, as though he was a story nomad stopping by to have dinner with a familiar stranger, looking for the next story to tell the distant kingdoms of the Sahara plains. Nana spoke and each sentence built with her tone, word by word till the last word in it. Even the moon shun brightly, as though he wanted everyone to know that his story was being told. She overshadowed the stool she sat on so well that it almost looked like she was afloat, well maybe she was I concluded; “Eventually, Rana decided to take to the offensive and forcefully took Sheila and wedded her and chased his brother Wata out of the sky, threatening to kill him if he dared to return. Rana had become obsessed. Sheila was unhappy with Rana, because every time was daytime and all he wanted to do was exert his dominance and get praises from all corners for getting his ultimate prize, Sheila. But whenever Rana went out, Wata would sneak in with the dusk that trailed behind Rana and comfort his beloved. He would sing to her the howls of the creatures he had created in his head in a far faraway place out there somewhere that even he didn’t know of. He would recite poems to her. And whenever she got sleepy, he would form his crescent shape so she could lie inside him and fall gently asleep. Whenever dawn came, it meant that Rana was close and so he’d flee and leave her sound asleep,in peace. They kept this on for a while, until one day Rana noticed starflaked trails in the sky. He knew immediately that Wata had being coming and he siezed Sheila by the arm and took her down to the field of the earth. And there he slew her, saying to her just before she died,that if he couldn’t have her and she would love him, then nobody could, not even his own brother. Her blood flowed through the fields and it gave life to the creatures in the field of the earth that were all formerly clay or stone. And that was how man and every living thing was created, from Sheila’s soul. Rana and Wata were forever divided, even though they eventually came back under the same sky, they could never stand each other, and Wata in his wisdom suggested that they divided the sky according to time. Each had his space and territory, crossing had its consequences. Wata couldn’t kill Rana, he was too powerful. Wata always visited the earth’s fields whenever he could to see if Sheila’s soul was still there somewhere. And she would reach out to him through the howling of the foxes and wolves, through the poem of love struck creatures, even through culture, silently telling him she still thought of him in a million and one ways… And whenever Wata came out full, naked and unashamed, Sheila was always there to show herself to him. He found solitude in her through the Earth’s creations, which were one way or the other Sheila. Rana, on the other hand was met with constant cursing from the creations, but being that he was her husband before death, she had to yield to his touch sometimes, even though she didn’t want to… And so the circle will continue fill eventually Hanun Ubangiji(Hand of God)stops the wheel of eternity…” Her voice trailed off, as she let the last words resonate deep into each and every soul. She had everyone thinking about their lives and things they had loved too much or too little. She got up slowly, and laughed to herself a bit out loud in her light baritone husked voice and bade us good night, saying tomorrow we’d each get to ask our questions and tell her what we learnt tonight, because everybody was too mentally destabilised to say anything sensible. She disappeared into her hut, and so did everyone else around, each with his partner or mother. I sat alone in the darkness with the dying glory of the flames in the wood and the limelight of the moon, and I was thinking over and over about the story, and about the girl that I love. Whether I was Rana, or Wata. As I sat down on my mat, bewildered, I heard footsteps approaching, but I couldn’t make out the shape from the darkness and awaited the figure to appear. It was my best friend, Alpanda; “So have you figured out who you are to her yet? Her man or her lover?” I scoffed and nodded negative. “Anyways it’s a good thing you’re out tonight, I needed to see you about something urgent… It’s about your origin, where you’re from…” I took my gaze off the huts before me and faced Alpanda to hear what he had to say. I cocked my left brow upwards and waited for him to go on; ” Well, those strange men that we saw the other day, at that village, they came in today into the empire looking for the King, they said they were looking for an outcast, that a fugitive woman had eloped with a child, that was many years ago. They said the woman should have passed on, because they had succeeded in poisoning her, but the child…” ” Is me… I’m the one they are looking for. Lokacin ta zo(the time has come).” “The Mai knew it was you, but told them to give him time to search for this outsider because his empire was a very large one, so it’ll take time to find him. He had to meet with his Kokenawa(statesmen).They are currently in the Mai’s guest residence… But you have to leave, because it was the King that sent me to you to inform you, you know he trusts you,and he said he’d have to surrender you eventually because failure to do so, would result in war, the Benin empire is the most powerful empire in the world, they are second to none. Their magic is not of this earth… So many things about them are not human…” Alpanda was already getting tensed up. I couldn’t blame him, not after what we saw those strange men do to those villagers that had attacked them for not identifying themselves and their mission. No army would do what they did. Ten men impaling a whole village. I was still trying to understand how that had happened. I had this weird feeling that it was me they were looking for. But my fear wasn’t even the men anymore. The fact that I’d have to leave Ihotu was what was scary. Ihotu had become a root person to me. But me staying was putting her and everyone I loved in danger. My eyes were as hot as the heat of day, my breathe fell in line with it. I looked at Alpanda, his face was empty, he couldn’t say anything to me that’d make sense. He just patted me on my shoulder, a sign that I knew what I had to do. He left. I packed my mat and went into my hut. I lay my head and I rested. Today was dull. I seemed to take note of the most unusual things. Like the little gaps in between the straws that served as the roof. The soil was getting desert brown, harmattan is here. It seemed that the air of the atmosphere was now the Saharan dust because I could feel the freckles go in and out with each breath. Nana took note of my unusual behaviour today and called me to the front of her hut. ” So it is time, Ayenajei.” I gave her a puzzled look and she giggled;” For you to leave us.” I was even more puzzled but then this was Nana, what didn’t the wise old woman not know, maybe it was the wind that must’ve told her today. She continued; ” And yet this isn’t what bothers you, it’s the fact that you have to leave the one you love that haunts you.” I decided to opened up to her; ” I don’t want to leave her Nana, she has become my world, my everything, my family. It’s hard, but I know iń ban tafi ba( if I don’t go),they will kill her, and probably all of you too… I don’t know anymore, I’m just…” “Everything in the world has a soul, the soul of Sheila lives even in the most unlikely non living things. She may not speak, but she pours her emotions in a way that any heart open enough, will understand. That’s how I knew that something was wrong with you, everything around you knows that your time to go has come, even your hut, because it was your hut that told it to me. You don’t want to be a Rana to her, and yet the Wata within you doesn’t want to leave. Everyman that has a dream must awaken from it so he can live his dream,Ihotu is your sleep. But this dream that you’ve been having…” she put her hand on my shoulder; “This is your destiny. I started my tales under the moonlight because of you, every mystery you ever needed to conquer your destiny, was woven in them. You know all you need to young man. And if Ihotu does love you, she’ll understand that you have to go. After all these years it should have dawned on her that you were meant for something special, that one day the winds from the west would beckon you home. And because the cry of your people has reached the world beyond, Hannun Uba(hand of God) has called on the throne of your ancestors, which have in turn, called on you, Mai karshin gidan ka(the last of your house). The kingdom’s fate lies in your hands now. Remember this Ayenajei, that when a man truly wants something, the soul of Duniya(world) and Sheila would conspire to help them, whether good or bad…”She spoke these words with a passive passion, she didn’t complete her statement, as usual,that was for me to figure out. She was googling her mouth softly, it must’ve been her usual, bitter kola. I got up and dusted my bum and touched her hand and then put it on my chest, nodded and headed for my hut. I packed up and sent Iska to get Ihotu for me. I went to the open fields and waited for her under the oak tree near Masawa the hill. She emerged from the edge of the field plains like a mirage after a while. Her smile broke me the more, her skin was still radiant, defying the Saharan atmosphere. She sat next to me and sighed, rested her head on my shoulder and told me about her day so far. I was preparing to lie to the one I loved, so I could save her from whatever danger the strangers brought with them and the ones that were trolling not too far behind them. But my mouth betrayed me for I could not speak,and so did my eyes for they shun brightly as she spoke instead of the tears that were there before she came, everything except my beating heart that was racing fast, had betrayed me….
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