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THE MIDNIGHT CRY
The moon was full, darkness had eluded Umueke Village. There came the loud piercing cry that punctured the silence of the night. The villagers tried to close their ears tightly but it was a futile exercise.
The sky was awoken, the river was calm, blood spills covered the land. The land was in tears as many villagers mourned the loss of their dear ones. Villagers staggered to the palace in tears carrying their dead ones as a sign of mourning. The ambience in the palace was greeted with tears.
” Your majesty, every night we lose our loved one. We cannot allow this to continue. We must find a solution to this calamity before it consumes us totally “, said Obi who lamented bitterly.
“Let us send for Okikiri the great. The goddess who sees beyond what our eyes can see.” said Chief Amayo.
The king sighed and responded ” My people, it breaks my heart to see our land covered in blood. Indeed we cannot continue to live in this peril. Our ears have heard enough of this mysterious mid night cry that snatches the soul of a living being in the village every night. I shall send for Okikiri at once.”
The villagers murmured amongst themselves and left the palace with a sling of hope.
The moon was set as the king looked up to it in despair,hoping for a quick solution to solve their predicament.
“How many more lives do we have to lose? Who will be next? ” he thought.
Suddenly, he is greeted by Obiageli his first wife who sees him from afar and tries to give him succour with words of encouragement. The king frowned at the sight of her and Obiageli takes her leave hoping to be shown affection once again.
Obiageli was the most favoured wife of the king but her inability to bear a child caused disaffection from the king. She was often nick named as Barren Witch by her mates. The king had two other wives who bore him sons and daughters and his affection for them was evidently great.
The moon was full again and the loud piercing cry came forth which snatched more souls and the palace wasn’t left out this time . The heir apparent to the throne had been snatched by death. Instantly, the palace was thrown into mourning with wails and confusion. The king wept In silence. Every night became a night mare, everyone kept vigil hoping to see the next day.
Okikiri the great, arrived Umueke Village, only to be greeted by a fierce aura in which only her senses could perceive. She was welcomed by the people of Umueke village who poured out their sorrows and fear before her. The king was anxious to know what her eyes could see.
“Death! I see more death! A fierce aura surrounds this village. There is no end to this.” said Okikiri the great.
The air was tensed. The king said ” Okikiri the great one. We cannot continue to live this way. More lives will be lost, Please, help us, What must we do to stop this? ”
“I shall witness the mid night cry and see what the ordinary eyes can’t see. ” she replied as she hastened out of the palace.
Okikiri the great was known for her unimaginable powers. She was a great seer who In her youthful age could find solutions to great predicaments. Blessed with this power, Okikiri only did what was right before the eyes of the gods.
Darkness covered the village. The night cried which woke up Okikiri the great. The only woman who could perceive the danger of the night. With her powers, she managed to stop death which exhausted her spiritually.
The king visited Okikiri the great in her abode because she was too weak to enter the palace. “Great one, accept my greetings on your quick recovery. This is what we have been facing in this village. Thanks to you, no life was lost last night, please stay with us.” Said the king.
Okikiri gave a stern look and asked “What did you do?
“I do not understand your question” said the confused king.
“Your majesty, my permanent stay in the village cannot guarantee the safety of your people. Only a solution can.” she said.
” Then what is the solution? ” asked the king.
“I ask again. What did you do? ” she asked.
” You confuse me with your questions. I have no answer to that.” the king answered.
” Your majesty, you alone have the answer to that question. Take your mind back to the sacrilege you committed many years ago. Today, you reap the consequence of your misdeeds” said Okikiri the great as she staggered towards her room.
The king sat down on his throne reflecting on his past, like a trance the horrible incident he committed years ago came to light . As a youth the king was easily carried away by the flare of every woman. His eyes wasn’t fixed on one so he was known to have several love affair, however his heart melted for only one woman known as Ifeoma. He made sexual advances towards her which she refused on the grounds that she would remain a virgin before marriage as tradition demanded. The young prince as he then was, was persistent and forced himself on her. That horrible incident caused her pains which made her summon the courage to report to the palace. The young prince denied vehemently and accused her of trying to seduce him. With no one to stand for her, she was banished from the village for false accusation against the crown prince. Ifeoma wept as she had no one to turn to. She was orphaned and alone in the world. Ifeoma lived through the thick nights in the evil forest, only to take her own life, in desperation she left a seed of curse which today the people of Umueke are suffering from. Her tears became the curse In which every night snatches a soul from the village until the last man.
The villagers gathered at the palace for a council meeting. Okikiri the great had recovered her strength ready to listen to what the king had to say. The people were informed that the solution lies beneath the secrets and sins of the past. The king informed his people what had transpired years ago. The hearts of the villagers sank in shame, disappointment filled their hearts.
“What must we do to end this curse? ” asked Chief Enebeli.
“For the curse to be lifted, a life must be taken”.
Everyone was astonished.
” You mean someone must die? “asked Chief Amayo.
“That is the only way to appease the dead soul that lives in fury” answered Okikiri the great.
“How many more lives must be lost? We have lost too many souls already” one of the villagers cried out.
“If my life is the only way to bring sanity to this village let it be” proclaimed the king.
The air was tensed. The atmosphere was embraced by silence with every heart in shock.
Okikiri the great chuckled ” Not so fast your majesty. Only the heart of another female soul can appease the lost soul of the past. Time is running out. I see greater calamity.”
The village was in chaos. No one was willing to sacrifice their life nor give away their daughter, sister or wife. Some villagers began to flee and many met their demise. The king had no one to turn to except his family. He summoned his Royal household and admonished them but none was willing.
“How could a man ask such favour from his family? exclaimed the second wife who lamented so bitterly.
The king should face his problems alone. He started it and brought us this pain.” the third wife lamented.
The first wife tried to calm the situation but all fell on deaf ears. They all walked away threatening to leave the palace.
“May i have a word with you my king?” asked Obiageli.
“Your words would only make me feel bitter. You lost your place the moment you couldn’t bear a child. I wish to be alone” he replied.
His words pierced her heart as she walked into the night. Waiting patiently for the mid night cry, villagers kept their sight in check.
Alas the sky brightened, trees seemed to greet the warm stroke of the sun, the river was warm and friendly and the air was peaceful.
“What could have happened?” people wondered curiously as a message was sent to summon every villager for a meeting.
“Finally, you did it. Okikiri the great. Your great powers must have stopped this terrible curse” said one of the elders.
” I do not have the powers to stop such a grave curse. Only a soul was used to appease the bleeding heart of the past. That soul was willingly given away by the first queen of this village. Queen Obiageli. Now that sanity has been restored I wish to return to my hidden cave.” she replied.
The people murmured, the Royal household was in shock. The king’s heart sank.
The king wept in his inner chambers. He lived in regret never to forgive himself for all the pains he caused his late wife and the people of Umueke.
As a sign of respect, he proclaimed a day in memory of her life and sacrifice and declared a river sacred where people were forbidden to go which he named after the late Queen.