“Nnanyi Nwaraka, I have been dreaming about five big tubers of yam and one big broken tuber of yam of late. I have been wondering why they are being shown to me in my dreams. I know what a broken yam means, but I do not know what or who we are owing,” Nneoma lied. “The spirit after your family is a powerful spirit and it is very angry.
If we do not pacify it quickly, it might wipe out your family. Since you do not know much about why this spirit is attacking your family, I will then send elders to Okwohia to find out why this evil spirit has chosen to attack your family,” Nwaraka said. Nneoma turned white in the face with fear. The native doctors in Okwohia were much more powerful than the ones in her village. She was certain they would be able to see whatever Nwaraka could not see. “Nnanyi (our father), that is a good thing to do. I will be glad to have this riddle solved,” Nneoma said, pretending. “Good. To forestall further attacks on your children, they will sleep in my shrine this night. I want you to sleep in your husband’s brother’s house.” “Nnanyi, I am a widow under attack. My husband is in the land of the spirits as we speak, I will like to spend the night by his grave, to call on him to help me and his children. He can reach this evil spirit in ways no dibia (native doctor) can.”
“Are you sure you can stay alone by your husband’s grave in the dark? A spirit like the one after your family might strike you dead. What you intend to do is a serious matter, Nneoma.” “I know nnanyi. As it is, if I do not do my part, this evil spirit will kill me and my children.” Seeing Nneoma would not be dissuaded from spending the night by husband’s grave, Nwaraka gave her some protective charms and sent her home. After conferring with some elders that night, Nwaraka instructed them to leave before the first gleam of dawn for Okwohia to find out what the evil spirit attacking Nneoma’s family wanted. Some hours later, when the entire village had gone to bed, Nneoma rose from her husband’s grave where she had been pleading and crying to persuade her husband’s spirit to help her and her children. She had the intention to end the matter that night or at least buy some time for her husband to end it in the spirit world. She was going to do what no one had ever done before. Blowing out her lamp light and clutching unto it firmly, she sneaked away from her husband’s grave. Under the cover of darkness, she made her way out of her husband’s family compound. She was going to Nwete, the river of spirits. Tied at the edge of her wrapper was a match box. She knew what to do when she drew near the river.
The things she had seen over the years had made her a fearful woman, but on this night, she was going to dare death, spirits of the night, tradition and her fear of the night to save herself, her children and to keep the secrets she shared with her husband from coming out. The night was pitch dark and only dimly illuminated by a swarm of nwa mmu oku (fireflies). The abundant presence of nwa mmu oku at certain nights was held in their tradition to mean the presence of spirits going about their businesses at night; hurrying and doing their best to finish their business before the crack of dawn. It was said of those spirits that on numerous occasions they struck dead and sometimes with paralysis humans who impeded their businesses at night. Nneoma’s mind was filled with fear as she made her way to Nwete. Every noise in the bush, the rustling of trees and plants by breeze, made her heart to leap with dread. When a gush of fresh, moist breeze blew into her face, she knew she had come close enough to Nwete. She untied the knot at the edge of her wrapper, removed the match box in it, struck it expertly and lit her lamp. The glow of light from her lamp caused no small stir in the river. The growling of angry spirits and the sound of scampering spirits running for cover left Nneoma frozen to her spot with dread. She felt her head swoon several times and seemed to increase to three times its size. Raising her lamp above her head, she managed a step toward the bank of the river. On the river were flaming eyes and creatures she could not dene. From behind her, a cloud of darkness thicker than that of the night morphed in a broken circle around her. Nneoma had walked into the den of vicious, wicked, dreaded spirits of the marine world. She could feel their breath on her face and on her ears. Decibels of sounds such as no human ears had heard began to register in her ears. Raising her voice, she yelled “I am Nneoma Uruaku.
A year and seven weeks ago, Eleke came by night and took my husband’s heart away! I am a widow of many curses! A woman of many sorrows! I plead with this gathering of spirits; spirits of great names and powers, to summon Eleke that I may plead my case!” that I may plead my case! Silence. A wave of silence swept through the river and its surroundings. Such was the silence that Nneoma could hear her own breathing, like the sound of a gong. Her eyes darted about in the dark as she waited for a reply.
Suddenly her lamp light was blown out and hands such as no man could count grabbed her and dragged her into the river. Much to her shock, the little Nwete turned into a mighty ocean of water. Those hands held her firm, dragging her to the bottom of the great water. She fought, kicked and bit as many hands as she could until her body grew cold with death.