Giwa was the most beautiful boy in his town.
Yes, beautiful. The word “handsome” just couldn’t do him justice. With a clear, clean chocolate complexion and shiny black hair, he also had limbs hewn to perfection and lashes that made the village beauties grow green with envy.
After they woke up from swooning at the sight of him, that is.
It was commonly said in the village that the creator was in a good mood the day he made Giwa. Some even speculated that he was created on a day of rest. Afterall, everyone knew it took time and special attention to create a masterpiece.
Nevertheless, Giwa was the pride of the village. Not just beautiful, he was also smart. And hardworking too. Everyone loved him. He was born to a dotting mother who had every reason to pamper him after a prolonged season of childlessness, after sixteen years of marriage!
What no one knew was that Giwa was not an ordinary child. He was “given” to his mother by the river goddess with a strict warning.
He was never be allowed to meet with her again. She was notorious for her love of pretty things. Pretty boys and girls. Pretty rocks. Pretty shells. If anything pretty got to the riverbank on a sacred day (one of the days when she came out to roam the earth in the guise of a human) it always ended up following her home.
However, everyone knew the sacred days, and were wise enough to stay indoors. As such there was no problem.
Giwa grew into an attractive, healthy young man with a fondness for swimming. Knowing his origin, his mother tried her best to indulge him, knowing fully well that he could not be in any form of danger from the water. The only restriction she placed on him was a stern warning that the river was off-limits on sacred days.
She drummed this into his ears from the moment he was strong enough to stand in his own two feet. Giwa knew this. It was law. But sadly, it was not enough.
He had three close friends, and the group of four did everything together, every moment they had free, they spent together. All the boys were handsome to varying degrees, but Giwa outshone them all.
Watching him play with his gang was like seeing a huge diamond nestled in the midst of gold coins. You knew the gold was valuable, but the diamond was more so.
One dark twisted day, a day that started like any other, Giwa’s parents had to travel to a far away village for a meeting. They made sure to provide more than enough food to take him through the four days they estimated the entire journey would require.
His mother drew him to a corner. The fourth day, the day I their return was a sacred day. She warned him not to venture into the river, and after extracting a solemn promise that he would do no such thing, she left. He was almost a man grown, having seen seventeen harmattan, si they were comfortable leaving him behind.
Giwa ha so much fun, eating and sleeping and doing as he wished for the first three days. But soon he was sick and tired of it. His gang had come to meet him everyday, and they ha hung out. But today was a scared day and no one was visiting.
Stuck at home and bored out of his mind, Giwa was thinking of things he could do to pass the time when he heard a knock.
Going to the front door to open it, he met his gang on the front steps playing. They wanted to go to the river for a quick deep and they wanted their nest swimmer to go along with them. At first he declined, but when they put a bit of pressure on him he caved in. In truth, he wanted to go. It was better than sitting at home anyway.
It wasn’t too long when they got to the river and waded in. The river was empty, there was no one around. None of the bigger kids were around to boss them about, none of the noisy little kids to shout and run about ruining the peace and tranquility. It was laidback. Beautiful. Serene…
Little wonder none of the boys took note of time and like grains of sand trickling through the hourglass the seconds slipped away, growing into minutes, which grew into hours and so on and then it struck noon, the hour of the river goddess.
As they lazed in the water, they were suddenly surrounded by the prettiest girls you ever laid eyes on. And among the girls, there was a particularly beautiful lady. She seemed to glide towards Giwa, and his group of friends parted to make a way for her. They started to chat and were soon lost in each other. His friends were not left out as her attendants- they could only be attendants, a girl that beautiful had to be a princess of some sort- kept them occupied.
The hours spun by in pleasant chitchats, until Tanko, an unrepentant prankster decided to kick one other girls in the calf. No one knew why. But he thought it would be funny. But his feet meet with something slippery, something solid. A single limb, not two. Not legs. A tail?
He dived underwater and almost drowned in shock. Underneath the surface of the water, she was a fish! She had a fish’s tail from the waist down, hidden by the murky nature of the river. He broke the surface and the cold look she gave him explained everything. His head seemed to swell to three times it’s normal size. He barely managed to croak “Giwa” when the girls grabbed the other three boys and dived into the water with a flash of fins and shiny tails. Of the gang, he was the only one left. Everyone else had disappeared, with the ripples they left behind, the only evidence they ever existed.
Stunned with shock, prodded by mind numbing fear, he clawed his way to the riverbank like a crazed caged beast set free and ran in a daze to the village, screaming for help at the top of his voice.
He made it to the shrine and was able to rouse the chief priest from his midday slumber. On hearing what happened, the portly man rushed to the river followed by his acolytes but it was too late. No trace of either the mermaids or the boys. He made sacrifices. Pledges. Pleas. All in vain.
The river had claimed it’s own.
Nothing could be done.
Giwa’s parents returned later, to an empty child and an inconsolable tragedy. Frustrated, his mother looped a belt through the rafters and was found hanging and swaying gently the next morning by her husband.
Giwa and the rest of the gang were never seen again.