JANET’S MISTAKE

In my younger days, I was stubborn. There’s no two ways about it. When I picked something, no one could make me drop it. When I thought something, no one could change my mind. I was very stubborn, strong-willed, opinionated call it whatever adjective you prefer… And had become something of a thorn in my mother’s side. This often resulted in disobedience.

Frustrated, she sent me off to my Grandpa. He was the only person I would listen to. One the day I arrived, he had a hot meal of pounded yam and egusi awaiting me (it’s a traditional nigerian delicacy- common among the Yorubas of Nigeria, West Africa) then afterwards we settled down to watch TV.

Later that evening, just before I was to go to bed…
“Ahmed!”

“Sir!”

“Sit here. I want to tell you a story. A little one, perhaps you might see what I see of you in it.”

A bit disturbed but also very curious, I sat down cross-legged at his feet to listen. Grandpa cleared his throat, gave me a wrapper of candy, and as I stuffed it in my mouth, he began…

“A long time ago, in a far away land, there was a girl, named Janet, of about your age. When she made up her mind to do something, no one could stop her. This trait of hers lead to disobedience and as people would often do, they tagged her ‘Janet the disobedient girl’ and she was the only child of her mother. Just like you.”

“But Grandpa I-”

“Shhhh. I’m not done yet. You see, an adage says that what an elder sees sitting, a child would not see even if he climbed the tallest iroko tree. When someone older than you asks you to do something or refrain from doing it, remember they have more experience than you do, and heed their advice. The land where Janet and her parents lived was a stone’s throw from the evil forest, home to many spirits, most of whom were terrible man-eaters.
The average adult could recognize one of these spirits, for even though they often took human forms, character is like smoke and cannot be hidden. An astute observer would know them for what they were and avoid them, as they were weak in their human shapes and could not change unless they were back in their abode.
Janet’s parents, like every other, cautioned their children against playing with people they did not know.
This was because the older villagers often went to the farm and as such had to leave the children unsupervised.
This was necessary, you see, back in those days, farming was primarily subsistent, and if you did not grow your crops, you would have no food.
It was nothing like today.

As such the children often stuck together in the village-square and were relatively safe. One day, a handsome young man with shiny black hair and a lot of expensive looking toys came to the village square, attempting to befriend the children. With their parent’s warnings ringing in their heads, they all turned their backs on him. All but one. Can you guess who that one was?”

“Janet?”

“Good guess. Janet thought he could not be one of the evil man-eating spirits. He looked too handsome for one of those creatures, she thought to herself, and she saw no harm in playing with him. The other children would not have him in their midst however, so he invited her to play with him at his own playground, not too far from the square. He promised her a lot of food, fun and games.
Janet agreed. He was handsome, wasn’t he? And obviously rich. She looked at the expensive toys he had. She looked at his shiny hair. She looked at his bright, glossy skin. He looked too good to be true.
‘I would be foolish to throw this one away, I could get a lot from him’ she thought as they walked away despite the cries and warnings of the other children that the evil forest was in the direction they were headed.

Janet ignored them, her head held high as she walked off with her ‘prince.’ He told her he was a prince and she accepted that too, afterall, was there not evidence of wealth all over him?
The shouts of the other children was because they were jealous.

Janet was so preoccupied with her thoughts, she didn’t know when she crossed the stream that was the boundary of the evil forest. Soon she began to hear catcalls and wolf whistles. She spun left and right but could see no one.

“My prince. I’m scared. I haven’t been here before. This looks like the evil forest.”

“There’s nothing evil about it jare. it’s a forest, nothing more. We’re just going to cut through it on the way to my town. I passed through it on my way to your town, and I’m safe am I not?”

Soon they were in the heart of the forest. Suddenly the prince fell, and as Janet wondered what was wrong, his skin tore apart and the most ugly, most hideous creature stepped out from the torn flesh. It had an over-sized head, and four arms. It hopped on one leg towards her, but the most fearful thing was it’s mouth. It’s mouth was crusted with dried blood and shreds of flesh hung from it’s teeth. As she watched, paralyzed with fear, it ate the human skin it had just shed. With a hideous smile it said ‘and now it’s your turn’

As far back as the village square, the children could hear Janet’s screams. They cried hot tears but there was nothing they could do. Her parents had warned her. They had warned her, she wouldn’t listen.

When her parents came back, they heard what happened, and with a gathering of strong medicine men, went off to the evil forest the next afternoon to search for Janet. All they found was one shoe, filled with blood and a big toe. They never found the rest of the body.”

Now done, he looked at me. I had nothing to say. The next evening when my mother came to pick me, I hugged her fiercely and cried. She hugged me back and patted me on the head.

“Shhhhh. I’m here. I’m here.” Looking at my Grandpa she asked “Is anything the matter?”

“Oh ask him,” Grandpa gestured at me with his pipe.
I wiped off enough tears to blurt “I don’t want to end up like Janet Mama, I’ll never disobey you again. Never again!”

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"All they found was one shoe..."

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