Author Archives: Laolu Olowo

About Laolu Olowo

Maya Angelou once said there was no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside of you. Well, this is me getting rid of that agony. Follow me on twitter @Laolu_Olowo and let me know if you've got a story to share...

​THE STORY OF THE FISHERMAN AND THE GENIE

There was once an aged fisherman who was so poor that he could scarcely earn as much as would maintain himself, his wife, and three children. He went every day to fish betimes in the morning, and imposed it as a law upon himself not to cast his nets above four times a day. He went one morning by moonlight, and coming to the seaside, undressed himself, and cast in his nets. As he drew them toward the shore, he found them very heavy, and thought he had a good draught of fish, at which he rejoiced; but a moment after, perceiving that instead of fish his net contained nothing but the carcass of an ass, he was much vexed.
When he had mended his nets, which the carcass of the ass had broken in several places, he threw them in a second time; and when he drew them, found a great deal of resistance, which made him think he had taken abundance of fish; but he found nothing except a basket full of gravel and slime, which grieved him extremely. “O Fortune!” cried he, with a lamentable tone, “be not angry with me, nor persecute a wretch who prays thee to spare him. I came hither from my house to seek for my livelihood, and thou pronouncest against me a sentence of death. I have no other trade but this to subsist by, and, notwithstanding all my care, I can scarcely provide what is necessary for my family. But I am to blame to complain of thee; thou takest pleasure to persecute honest people, and advancest those who have no virtue to recommend them.”

Having finished this complaint, he fretfully threw away the basket, and, washing his nets from the slime, cast them a third time, but brought up nothing except stones, shells, and mud. No language can express his disappointment; he was almost distracted. However, when day began to appear, he did not forget to say his prayers like a good Mussulman, and he added to them this petition: “Lord, thou knowest that I cast my nets only four times a day; I have already drawn them three times, without the least reward for my labour: I am only to cast them once more; I pray thee to render the sea favourable to me, as thou didst to Moses.”

The fisherman, having finished this prayer, cast his nets the fourth time; and when he thought it was proper, drew them as formerly with great difficulty; but instead of fish found nothing in them but a vessel of yellow copper, which, from its weight, seemed not to be empty; and he observed that it was fastened and closed with lead, having the impression of a seal upon it. This turn of fortune rejoiced him: “I will sell it,” said he, “to the founder, and with the money buy a measure of corn.” He examined the vessel on all sides, and shook it to see if its contents made any noise, but heard nothing. This circumstance, with the impression of the seal upon the cover, made him think it enclosed something precious. To try this, he took a knife and opened it with very little labour. He turned the mouth downward, but nothing came out, which surprised him extremely. He placed it before him, but while he viewed it attentively, there burst forth a very thick smoke, which obliged him to retire two or three paces back.

The smoke ascended to the clouds, and, extending itself along the sea and upon the shore, formed a great mist, which filled the fisherman with astonishment. When the smoke was all out of the vessel, it reunited, and became a solid body, of which was formed a genie twice as high as the greatest of giants. At the sight of such a monster the fisherman would fain have fled, but was so frightened that he could not move.

The smoke ascended to the clouds, and extending itself along the sea and upon the shore formed a great mist.

“Solomon,” cried the genie immediately, “Solomon, the great prophet, pardon, pardon; I will never more oppose your will, I will obey all your commands.”

The fisherman, when he heard these words of the genie, recovered his courage and said to him: “Thou proud spirit, what is it you say? It is above eighteen hundred years since the prophet Solomon died, and we are now at the end of time. Tell me your history, and how you came to be shut up in this vessel.”

The genie, turning to the fisherman with a fierce look, said: “Thou must address me with more courtesy; thou art a presumptuous fellow to call me a proud spirit; speak to me more respectfully, or I will kill thee.” “Ah!” replied the fisherman, “why should you kill me? Did I not just now set you at liberty, and have you already forgotten my services?”

“No, I remember it,” said the genie, “but that shall not save thy life: I have only one favour to grant thee.” “And what is that?” asked the fisherman. “It is,” answered the genie, “to give thee thy choice in what manner thou wouldst have me put thee to death.” “But wherein have I offended you?” demanded the fisherman. “Is that your reward for the service I have rendered you?” “I cannot treat thee otherwise,” said the genie; “and that thou mayest know the reason, hearken to my story.”

“I am one of those rebellious spirits that opposed the will of Solomon, the son of David, and to avenge himself, that monarch sent Asaph, the son of Barakhia, his chief minister, to apprehend me. Asaph seized my person, and brought me by force before his master’s throne.

“Solomon commanded me to acknowledge his power, and to submit to his commands. I bravely refused, and told him I would rather expose myself to his resentment, than swear fealty as he required. To punish me, he shut me up in this copper vessel; and that I might not break my prison, he himself stamped upon this leaden cover his seal with the great name of God engraven upon it. He then gave the vessel to one of the genies who had submitted, with orders to throw me into the sea.

“During the first hundred years of my imprisonment, I swore that if any one should deliver me before the expiration of that period, I would make him rich, even after his death; but that century ran out, and nobody did me the good office. During the second, I made an oath that I would open all the treasures of the earth to any one that might set me at liberty; but with no better success. In the third, I promised to make my deliverer a potent monarch, and to grant him every day three requests, of what nature soever they might be; but this century passed as well as the two former, and I continued in prison. At last, being angry to find myself a prisoner so long, I swore that if afterward any one should deliver me, I would kill him without mercy, and grant him no favour but to choose the manner of his death; and, therefore, since thou hast delivered me to-day, I give thee that choice.”

This discourse afflicted the fisherman extremely: “I am very unfortunate,” cried he, “to come hither to do such a kindness to one that is so ungrateful. I beg you to consider your injustice, and revoke such an unreasonable oath; pardon me, and Heaven will pardon you; if you grant me my life, Heaven will protect you from all attempts against your own.” “No, thy death is resolved on,” said the genie, “only choose in what manner thou wilt die.” The fisherman, perceiving the genie to be resolute, was extremely grieved, not so much for himself, as on account of his three children, and bewailed the misery they must be reduced to by his death. He endeavoured still to appease the genie, and said, “Alas! be pleased to take pity on me, in consideration of the service I have done you.” “I have told thee already,” replied the genie, “it is for that very reason I must kill thee.” “That is strange,” said the fisherman, “are you resolved to reward good with evil? The proverb truly says, ‘He who does good to one who deserves it not, is always ill rewarded.'” “Do not lose time,” interrupted the genie; “all thy chattering shall not divert me from my purpose; make haste, and tell me what kind of death thou preferrest?”

Necessity is the mother of invention. The fisherman bethought himself of a stratagem. “Since I must die then,” said he to the genie, “I submit to the will of Heaven; but before I choose the manner of my death, I conjure you, by the great name which was engraven upon the seal of the prophet Solomon, to answer me truly the question I am going to ask you.”

The genie finding himself obliged to a positive answer by this adjuration, trembled, and replied to the fisherman: “Ask what thou wilt, but make haste.”

The genie having thus promised to speak the truth, the fisherman said to him: “I wish to know if you were actually in this vessel: dare you swear it by the name of the great God?” “Yes,” replied the genie, “I do swear by His great name that I was.” “In good faith,” answered the fisherman, “I cannot believe you; the vessel is not capable of holding one of your size, and how should it be possible that your whole body could lie in it?” “I swear to thee, notwithstanding,” replied the genie, “that I was there just as you see me here. Is it possible that thou dost not believe me after the solemn oath I have taken?” “Truly not I,” said the fisherman; “nor will I believe you, unless you go into the vessel again.”

Upon this the body of the genie dissolved and changed itself into smoke, extending as before upon the seashore; and at last being collected, it began to re-enter the vessel, which it continued to do by a slow and equal motion, till no part remained out; when immediately a voice came forth, which said to the fisherman: “Well, incredulous fellow, dost thou not believe me now?”

The fisherman, instead of answering the genie, took the cover of lead, and having speedily replaced it on the vessel, “Genie,” cried he, “now it is your turn to beg my favour, and to choose which way I shall put you to death; but it is better that I should throw you into the sea, whence I took you: and then I will build a house upon the shore, where I will reside and give notice to all fishermen who come to throw in their nets, to beware of such a wicked genie as you are, who have made an oath to kill him that shall set you at liberty.”

The genie, enraged at these expressions, struggled to free himself; but it was impossible, for the impression of Solomon’s seal prevented him. Perceiving that the fisherman had the advantage of him, he thought fit to dissemble his anger; “Fisherman,” said he, “take heed you do not what you threaten; for what I spoke to you was only by way of jest.” “O genie!” replied the fisherman, “thou who wast but a moment ago the greatest of all genies, and now art the least of them, thy crafty discourse will signify nothing, to the sea thou shalt return. If thou hast been there already so long as thou hast told me, thou mayest very well stay there till the day of judgment. I begged of thee, in God’s name, not to take away my life, and thou didst reject my prayers; I am obliged to treat thee in the same manner.”

The genie omitted nothing that he thought likely to prevail with the fisherman: “Open the vessel,” said he, “give me my liberty, and I promise to satisfy you to your own content.” “Thou art a traitor,” replied the fisherman, “I should deserve to lose my life, if I were such a fool as to trust thee.”

“My good fisherman,” replied the genie, “I conjure you once more not to be guilty of such cruelty; consider that it is not good to avenge one’s self, and that, on the other hand, it is commendable to do good for evil; do not treat me as Imama formerly treated Ateca.” “And what did Imama to Ateca?” inquired the fisherman. “Ho!” cried the genie, “if you have a mind to be informed, open the vessel: do you think that I can be in a humour to relate stories in so strait a prison? I will tell you as many as you please, when you have let me out.” “No,” said the fisherman, “I will not let thee out; it is in vain to talk of it; I am just going to throw thee into the bottom of the sea.” “Hear me one word more,” cried the genie; “I promise to do you no hurt; nay, far from that, I will show you a way to become exceedingly rich.”

The hope of delivering himself from poverty prevailed with the fisherman. “I could listen to thee,” said he, “were there any credit to be given to thy word; swear to me, by the great name of God, that thou wilt faithfully perform what thou promisest, and I will open the vessel; I do not believe thou wilt dare to break such an oath.”

The genie swore to him, upon which the fisherman immediately took off the covering of the vessel. At that instant the smoke ascended, and the genie, having resumed his form, the first thing he did was to kick the vessel into the sea. This action alarmed the fisherman. “Genie,” said he, “will not you keep the oath you just now made?”

The genie laughed at his fear, and answered: “Fisherman, be not afraid, I only did it to divert myself, and to see if you would be alarmed at it; but to convince you that I am in earnest, take your nets and follow me.” As he spoke these words, he walked before the fisherman, who having taken up his nets, followed him, but with some distrust. They passed by the town, and came to the top of a mountain, from whence they descended into a vast plain, which brought them to a lake that lay betwixt four hills.

When they reached the side of the lake, the genie said to the fisherman: “Cast in your nets and catch fish.” The fisherman did not doubt of taking some, because he saw a great number in the water; but he was extremely surprised when he found they were of four colours; white, red, blue, and yellow. He threw in his nets and brought out one of each colour. Having never seen the like before, he could not but admire them, and, judging that he might get a considerable sum for them, he was very joyful. “Carry those fish,” said the genie to him, “and present them to your sultan; he will give you more money for them. You may come daily to fish in this lake; but I give you warning not to throw in your nets above once a day, otherwise you will repent.” Having spoken thus, he struck his foot upon the ground, which opened, and after it had swallowed him up, closed again.

The fisherman, being resolved to follow the genie’s advice, forbore casting in his nets a second time, and returned to the town very well satisfied, and making a thousand reflections upon his adventure. He went immediately to the sultan’s palace to offer his fish, and his majesty was much surprised when he saw the wonders which the fisherman presented. He took them up one after another, and viewed them with attention; and after having admired them a long time, “Take those fish,” said he to his vizier, “and carry them to the cook whom the emperor of the Greeks has sent me. I cannot imagine but that they must be as good as they are beautiful.”

The vizier carried them as he was directed, and delivering them to the cook, said: “Here are four fish just brought to the sultan; he orders you to dress them.” He then returned to the sultan, who commanded him to give the fisherman four hundred pieces of gold, which he did accordingly.

The fisherman, who had never seen so much money, could scarcely believe his good fortune, but thought the whole must be a dream, until he found it otherwise, by being able to provide necessaries for his family with the produce of his nets.

As soon as the sultan’s cook had cleaned the fish, she put them upon the fire in a frying-pan, with oil, and when she thought them fried enough on one side, she turned them upon the other; but, O monstrous prodigy! scarcely were they turned, when the wall of the kitchen divided, and a young lady of wonderful beauty entered from the opening. She held a rod in her hand and was clad in flowered satin, with pendants in her ears, a necklace of large pearls, and bracelets of gold set with rubies. She moved toward the frying-pan, to the great amazement of the cook, and striking one of the fish with the end of the rod, said: “Fish, fish, are you in your duty?” The fish having answered nothing, she repeated these words, and then the four fish lifted up their heads, and replied: “Yes, yes: if you reckon, we reckon; if you pay your debts, we pay ours; if you fly, we overcome, and are content.” As soon as they had finished these words, the lady overturned the frying-pan, and returned into the open part of the wall, which closed immediately, and became as it was before.

The cook was greatly frightened at what had happened, and coming a little to herself went to take up the fish that had fallen on the hearth, but found them blacker than coal and not fit to be carried to the sultan. This grievously troubled her, and she fell to weeping most bitterly. “Alas!” said she, “what will become of me? If I tell the sultan what I have seen, I am sure he will not believe me, but will be enraged against me.”

While she was thus bewailing herself, the grand vizier entered, and asked her if the fish were ready. She told him all that had occurred, which we may easily imagine astonished him; but without speaking a word of it to the sultan he invented an excuse that satisfied him, and sending immediately for the fisherman bid him bring four more such fish, for a misfortune had befallen the others, so that they were not fit to be carried to the royal table. The fisherman, without saying anything of what the genie had told him, told the vizier he had a great way to go for them, in order to excuse himself from bringing them that day, but said that he would certainly bring them on the morrow.

Accordingly the fisherman went away by night, and coming to the lake, threw in his nets betimes next morning, took four fish like the former, and brought them to the vizier at the hour appointed. The minister took them himself, carried them to the kitchen, and shutting himself up with the cook, she cleaned them and put them on the fire. When they were fried on one side, and she had turned them upon the other, the kitchen wall again opened, and the same lady came in with the rod in her hand, struck one of the fish, spoke to it as before, and all four gave her the same answer.

After they had spoken to the young lady, she overturned the frying-pan with her rod, and retired into the wall. The grand vizier being witness to what had passed, “This is too wonderful and extraordinary,” said he, “to be concealed from the sultan; I will inform him of this prodigy.”

The sultan, being much surprised, sent immediately for the fisherman, and said to him: “Friend, cannot you bring me four more such fish?” The fisherman replied: “If your majesty will be pleased to allow me three days, I will do it.” Having obtained his time, he went to the lake immediately, and at the first throwing in of his net he caught four fish, and brought them directly to the sultan, who was so much the more rejoiced, as he did not expect them so soon, and ordered him four hundred pieces of gold. As soon as the sultan had the fish, he ordered them to be carried into his closet, with all that was necessary for frying them; and having shut himself up with the vizier, the minister cleaned them, put them into the pan, and when they were fried on one side, turned them upon the other; then the wall of the closet opened, but instead of the young lady, there came out a black, in the habit of a slave, and of a gigantic stature, with a great green staff in his hand. He advanced toward the pan, and touching one of the fish with his staff, said, with a terrible voice: “Fish, are you in your duty?” At these words the fish raised up their heads, and answered: “Yes, yes; we are; if you reckon, we reckon; if you pay your debts, we pay ours; if you fly, we overcome and are content.”

The fish had no sooner finished these words, than the black threw the pan into the middle of the closet, and reduced them to a coal. Having done this, he retired fiercely, and entering again into the aperture, it closed, and the wall appeared just as it did before.

“After what I have seen,” said the sultan to the vizier, “it will not be possible for me to be easy; these fish, without doubt, signify something extraordinary.” He sent for the fisherman, and when he came, said to him: “Fisherman, the fish you have brought us make me very uneasy; where did you catch them?” “Sir,” answered he, “I fished for them in a lake situated betwixt four hills, beyond the mountain that we see from hence.” “Know’st thou not that lake?” said the sultan to the vizier. “No,” replied the vizier, “I never so much as heard of it, although I have for sixty years hunted beyond that mountain.” The sultan asked the fisherman how far the lake might be from the palace. The fisherman answered it was not above three hours’ journey; upon this assurance the sultan commanded all his court to take horse, and the fisherman served them for a guide. They all ascended the mountain, and at the foot of it they saw, to their great surprise, a vast plain that nobody had observed till then, and at last they came to the lake, which they found to be situated betwixt four hills, as the fisherman had described. The water was so transparent that they observed all the fish to be like those which the fisherman had brought to the palace.

The sultan stood upon the bank of the lake, and after beholding the fish with admiration, demanded of his courtiers if it were possible they had never seen this lake which was within so short a distance of the town. They all answered that they had never so much as heard of it.

“Since you all agree that you never heard of it,” said the sultan, “and as I am no less astonished than you are at this novelty, I am resolved not to return to my palace till I learn how this lake came here, and why all the fish in it are of four colours.” Having spoken thus, he ordered his court to encamp; and immediately his pavilion and the tents of his household were planted upon the banks of the lake.

When night came the sultan retired under his pavilion, and spoke to the grand vizier thus: “Vizier, my mind is uneasy; this lake transported hither, the black that appeared to us in my closet, and the fish that we heard speak; all these things so much excite my curiosity that I cannot resist my impatient desire to have it satisfied. To this end I am resolved to withdraw alone from the camp, and I order you to keep my absence secret: stay in my pavilion, and to-morrow morning, when the emirs and courtiers come to attend my levee, send them away and tell them that I am somewhat indisposed and wish to be alone; and the following days tell them the same thing, till I return.”

The grand vizier endeavoured to divert the sultan from this design; he represented to him the danger to which he might be exposed, and that all his labour might perhaps be in vain; but it was to no purpose; the sultan was resolved. He put on a suit fit for walking and took his cimeter; and as soon as he found that all was quiet in the camp, went out alone, and passed over one of the hills without much difficulty; he found the descent still more easy, and when he came to the plain, walked on till the sun arose, and then he saw before him, at a considerable distance, a vast building. He rejoiced at the sight, in hopes of receiving there the information he sought. When he drew near, he found it was a magnificent palace, or rather a strong castle, of black polished marble, and covered with fine steel, as smooth as glass. Being highly pleased that he had so speedily met with something worthy his curiosity, he stopped before the front of the castle, and considered it with attention.

He then advanced toward the gate, which had two leaves, one of them open; though he might immediately have entered, yet he thought it best to knock. This he did at first softly, and waited for some time; but seeing no one, and supposing he had not been heard, he knocked harder the second time, and after that he knocked again and again, but no one yet appearing, he was exceedingly surprised; for he could not think that a castle in such repair was without inhabitants. “If there be no one in it,” said he to himself, “I have nothing to fear; and if it be inhabited, I have wherewith to defend myself.”

At last he entered, and when he came within the porch, he cried: “Is there no one here to receive a stranger who comes in for some refreshment as he passes by?” He repeated the same words two or three times; but though he spoke very loud, he was not answered. The silence increased his astonishment: he came into a spacious court, and looked on every side for inhabitants, but discovered none.

Perceiving nobody in the court, he entered the grand halls, which were hung with silk tapestry, the alcoves and sofas covered with stuffs of Mecca, and the porches with the richest stuffs of India. He came afterward into a superb saloon, in the middle of which was a fountain, with a lion of massy gold at each angle: water issued from the mouths of the four lions, and as it fell, formed diamonds and pearls resembling a jet d’eau, which, springing from the middle of the fountain, rose nearly to the top of a cupola painted in Arabesque.

The castle, on three sides, was encompassed by a garden, with parterres of flowers and shrubbery; and to complete the beauty of the place, an infinite number of birds filled the air with their harmonious notes, and always remained there, nets being spread over the garden, and fastened to the palace to confine them. The sultan walked from apartment to apartment, where he found everything rich and magnificent. Being tired with walking, he sat down in a veranda, which had a view over the garden, reflecting upon what he had seen, when suddenly he heard the voice of one complaining, in lamentable tones. He listened with attention, and heard distinctly these words: “O fortune! thou who wouldst not suffer me longer to enjoy a happy lot, forbear to persecute me, and by a speedy death put an end to my sorrows. Alas! is it possible that I am still alive, after so many torments as I have suffered!”

The sultan rose up, advanced toward the place whence he heard the voice, and coming to the door of a great hall, opened it, and saw a handsome young man, richly habited, seated upon a throne raised a little above the ground. Melancholy was painted on his countenance. The sultan drew near and saluted him; the young man returned his salutation, by an inclination of his head, not being able to rise, at the same time saying: “My lord, I should rise to receive you, but am hindered by sad necessity, and therefore hope you will not be offended.” “My lord,” replied the sultan, “I am much obliged to you for having so good an opinion of me: as to the reason of your not rising, whatever your apology be, I heartily accept it. Being drawn hither by your complaints, and afflicted by your grief, I come to offer you my help. I flatter myself that you will relate to me the history of your misfortunes; but inform me first of the meaning of the lake near the palace, where the fish are of four colours; whose castle is this; how you came to be here; and why you are alone.”

Instead of answering these questions, the young man began to weep bitterly. “How inconstant is fortune!” cried he; “she takes pleasure to pull down those she has raised. Where are they who enjoy quietly the happiness which they hold of her, and whose day is always clear and serene?”

The sultan, moved with compassion to see him in such a condition, prayed him to relate the cause of his excessive grief. “Alas! my lord,” replied the young man, “how is it possible but I should grieve, and my eyes be inexhaustible fountains of tears?” At these words, lifting up his robe, he showed the sultan that he was a man only from the head to the girdle, and that the other half of his body was black marble.

The sultan was much surprised when he saw the deplorable condition of the young man. “That which you show me,” said he, “while it fills me with horror, excites my curiosity, so that I am impatient to hear your history, which, no doubt, must be extraordinary, and I am persuaded that the lake and the fish make some part of it; therefore I conjure you to relate it. You will find some comfort in so doing, since it is certain that the unfortunate find relief in making known their distress.” “I will not refuse your request,” replied the young man, “though I cannot comply without renewing my grief. ”

To be continued… 

Extracted from; The Arabian Nights:their best known tales

STORIES FROM THE HUNT

Just a moment before it hits its target, one of the hunting dogs caught a whiff of the predator and smoothly slid into action.

With a loud bark that alerts Ogunjimi and probably saves his life, the brave hound launches itself headlong to meet the approaching threat. A heartbeat later, the other hunting dogs follow suit.

It’s a bloody, drawn out battle. Snapping teeth, scratching claws flashing here and there, with Ogunjimi shinning his flashlight and trying to get a clear shot at his assailant with his dane gun.

A chance! Quickly gone. Still anticipating- another, the barest flash of black and BOOM!!!

The silence that follows is deafening. Carefully, gingerly our hunter makes his way to the corpse of the big cat. Limping and whining, the dogs move away.

 With the muzzle of his gun, he prods it. It moves just slightly- quickly he fires again, this time at the head. He prods it once more. It does not move. Now satisfied that it is dead, he fetches a cord of hard leather and binds it’s feet with it. Binds it really tight.

Then the muzzle follows, or really, what is left of the muzzle after the bullet has shattered the skull and torn fur and flesh apart.

The skin of the beast will provide a befitting covering for him. The meat could be eaten or sold to the highest bidder. The claws made into amulets and charms.

Nothing will go to waste.

This is the life of a hunter in the forests of mother Africa. 

Kill or be killed.

STORIES FROM THE HUNT

A fat drop of rainwater makes its way through the intricate gathering of branches and leaves- gathers at the top of a leaf and hangs upside down, suspended for a brief moment before falling.

You can follow it’s shimmering path through the evening air, and it’s subsequent splashing against Ogunjimi’s left eyelid. This was what woke him up.

With a yawn and a stretch, the hunter wakes up. As he moves, he rouses his dogs from their sleep. He gathers his catch and fetches his torchlight. Tries it.

It flickers, coming to life briefly before dying a slow sputtering death. He gives it a good smack and it brightens, steadying, releasing a small focused beam of light.

With the light, he makes his way out of the enclosure, followed by the three hunting dogs. Slinging the day’s catch over a shoulder, he checks the gunpowder in his gun. Satisfied, he nods and slings it over a shoulder too. 

Whistling a merry tune, Ogunjimi and his hunting dogs pick their way home, unaware of the presence of a new companion.

As the happy group moves through the forest, a black leopard trails behind, perfectly camouflaged with it’s blue-black coat, it’s biding it’s time. You see, in the jungle, every predator is also prey to some other beast.

Having gained on them, it’s hind legs bunch, tense for a moment and then the big cat pounces…

STORIES FROM THE HUNT

“When a lion wakes up, it prays just one prayer. Lord, show me the animal I’ll eat today. Then leave us alone.”

High-pitched bird calls echo around the forest bouncing off tree trunks and leaves dripping water. Sunlight cuts little paths through the canopy of leaves, tracing a delicate pattern of light and darkness on the leaf strewn floor.

Twigs and dried leaves crumple and crackle as tiny life-forms continue their busy schedule of eat or be eaten. Which in all fairness isn’t much different from what we larger life-forms do. We just happen to be better at that eating part.

A deer steps out nimbly from behind a tree. Wary, she looks to the left. Then to the right. She raises her nose to the air to sniff daintly, and satisfied, takes a few steps to her objective. A small, crystal clear brook. Gently, ears active for the slightest warning, she lowers her head to drink. This is how it is to be prey. 

A wary life. Always watching, always looking, always ready to run. A moment’s hesitation would be the difference between deer and venison. 

Not to far away, hidden in the undergrowth, lies one of the biggest predators known to nature. His muscles taut, he readies himself for his moment. He knows the perfect time to strike, it is that moment after the deer has had that first sip of water, where the thirst almost drives her mad and she hurries to take even larger gulps.

At that moment, hopefully, she would be temporarily distracted. At that moment, she would be easy. But not a moment before.

Here it is, a slow, careful sip, and… Now!

Ogunjimi releases the arrow he is aiming at the deer, and the breath he didn’t even know he was holding.

The arrow flies true and sinks into her head like a knife into butter. She falls to the ground. Quickly he leaves his place of concealment and goes to fetch his prize. She’s a good, big one. More than enough meat for the next few days. And perhaps he could sell some body parts for extra cash. Chuckling softly, he drapes the corpse round his shoulder.

Hanging from his belly are two dead squirrels, not too far away, attached by means of a rope to a low hanging branch of a tree, is a fat, juicy, bush pig.

All in all, not a bad day. As he gets to the place where he tied the pig, his hunting dogs come running to greet him with yelps and barks of joy. He pats all three on their heads and tells them what a good job they have done today. Then he adds the boar to his burden and slowly, they make their way through the forest, heading for home, rest, and a warm meal to end the day with.

The sky is brightened by a flash of lightning and thunder rumbles in response, the forest going quiet. Dark clouds block out the sun and it becomes impossible to advance further. Rain drops, fat and heavy, begin to fall, splashing lazily against his hunting gear, the meat, the dogs. With the light from a torch, Ogunjimi finds a place to hide to keep away from the rain till it subsides. He drops the carcasses a short distance from where he and his dogs huddle together to keep warm…

To be continued…

REDEMPTION part 2

I know Anu said not to look for her, but in his one thing, I can’t respect her wishes.


It hasn’t been easy, and I have spent a lot in time and finances, but I know where she is now. Or where she will be by 5:45pm tonight.

The thing is, after she left me, Anu went back to her old ways, standing in street corners and getting picked by strange men. I always went after her but somehow, someway, just as I got there, she’d be gone.

But I never gave up.

Even now, I’m still after her. The thing is, life is hard as a prostitute. It’s no easy life, the life they lead. And Anu found a terrible vice which she clung to with the desperation of a man drowning. Drugs.

 And now she’s in serious debt to the biggest drug pusher in this country. His real name, nobody knows, or perhaps those who know would  rather not attract his attention by showing it.

Irregardless, he’s known as ‘the dark one.’ People whisper it and look at you sideways if you ask about him. Those who offend him have a habit of going missing. Government officials, policemen, even soldiers.

Mysterious deaths trail his rise to power and his location is rarely ever known beforehand. He simply pops up somewhere and vanishes again.

But today, I know where he’ll be. At exactly 5:45pm.

And that brings me to the reason why I’m been chaffeured into the seediest part of town in a taxi.

There’s a small hotel not to far away, named ‘birds of paradise’ and that’s where I need to be by 5:45pm sharp.

The taxi pulls up and I alight. Quickly I pay the driver and glance at my rolex- 5:42pm. I’m just in time. Quickly I cross the street and enter into the building.

It’s dimly lit, with smoke clouding the ceiling, everywhere is hazy and strobe lights are flashing. It’s not the kind of place I would frequent, but I’m a man on a mission and as such, I’ll do what has to be done.

Anu is in trouble. Big trouble. Her supplier works for the dark one, and she owed him a whole lot of money. So he told his boss what happened and then he came for her. He licked Anu off the streets and initially planned to do away with her. But then he had an idea and decided to have an auction instead. So he’s​going to sell her off to the highest bidder.

She’s a pretty woman, well versed in pleasuring men. For any of the crime lords that show up, she’ll be a good catch. All they have to do is simply bid high enough.

I have also come to bid.

Just as I get a seat, a bright light comes on and Anu walks onstage. As she walks towards us, seated in a ring at the end of the stage, the spotlight follows, showing everything. My breath catches in my throat and I have to struggle a bit to breathe again.

That’s my wife, dressed in nothing but a short dress and makeup. The dress is tight and clingy and it’s obvious she’s not wearing anything underneath. Her hair is all made up to look pretty but her eyes tell the truth. Even from way over there I can see the pain in them. She knows what she has gotten into.

Someone comes on stage after her. He’s of medium height, a vague dark shadow only distinguishable by being darker than the other shadows that form the background.

“Gentlemen, this is the moment we have all been waiting for. I’m giving out this young, delectable sweetheart for a price. But only if it’s reasonable. If you want her, then let your money speak for you.”

There’s abiut thirty seconds of silence while the men take it in. Then a voice rings out.

“I’m willing to pay fifty thousand naira.”

Quickly I speak up “One hundred thousand naira”

“Two hundred!” Someone from the back.

Soon the price goes up to a million and gradually people drop off till I’m left with the gentleman from the back. He shouts “I’ll pay one million, five hundred thousand naira for her.”

Fairly desperate, I reply “I’ll pay three million naira for her and I’ll pay now!” The room goes quiet. We don’t know exactly how much she owes him, but we all know it can’t be that much.

I hear whispers

“He’s mad. Three million for a woman?”

“I hear she’s even a prostitute. I could get another one on the street for far less.”

“Yes, but you can’t keep her can you? This one is for keeps.”

“Why does he want her so bad? He’s not even one of us.”

“She means something to him, I can tell.”

There’s a satisfied chuckle and then the dark one speaks up for the first time since he made the introduction

“Any other offers?” I hold my breath. No one talks. 

“Three million it is then. Sold. Please come with me.” I release the breath I’ve been holding and follow him. He leads me into a small room. Then he sits and offers me a seat. There’s better lighting here, and I can see him clearly. He’s nothing spectacular, an easily forgotten face. Just one among thousands, but this man has the one thing I want most in this world.

He extracts a pack of cigars from his suit pocket. He offers me one. I decline. I don’t smoke. The door opens and Anu comes in followed by a thug.

“Here it is” says the drug pusher. “Now make good on your bid.”

“Can I have an account number?”

“Of course. Tade?”

The thug gives me a piece of paper. Quickly, I get my phone out and make the transfer. A few seconds later, a phone beeps. The thug produces a small phone, looks at the message and nods.

Oga the alert just came in.”

The dark one nods and says “You can have her.”

Fifteen minutes later, I’m flagging down a taxi.

A year later…

 It hasn’t been easy. I had to check Anu into a rehabilitation center. She cried everytime for a whole week and her eyes were red each time I came to visit. Soon she was clean and drug free. I also had her checked and treated for a few STDs. Luckily enough she didn’t catch anything that couldn’t be gotten rid off.

When she was through with everything, she looked like her old self again. And I asked her if she would  mind coming back to me.

On hearing that I intended to still keep her as a wife, she fell to my feet and cried a whole lot, begging for forgiveness. I was moved to tears too and soon joined her on the floor where we hugged and cried and hugged some more.

But a last, she’s back home, once again in charge of her business- I had someone manage it in her absence and proud mother to my two wonderful kids.

REDEMPTION part 1

Do you know how it is when you really, really love someone who doesn’t love you in return?

Someone who doesn’t care?

Let me try to explain it to you. It’s something terrible. They hurt you, but it really doesn’t matter, because it’s them.

Its like gripping a sharp knife, and it’s cutting you to the bone, and you can see it, feel it, feel the blood trickling down your wrist, your arm. But you cannot let go, because losing them is a fate worse than death.
Anuoluwapo.

When I met Anu for the first time, it wasn’t really the best of first impressions. I was driving past the red light district a few blocks from my house- a necessary evil, the only other alternative being to take the long, arduous road that trailed the back of the estate, an extra 35 minutes of driving, not to mention the fuel consumed.

Some of us who owned property in the estate had picked offence at prostitution taking up residence at our front door and time and time again, we petitioned the government to have them do something about it.

We kept getting the same answer

“We’re working on it.”

But then, the girls weren’t too forward about what they did, they didn’t call out to customers or build brothels nearby.

They just stood outside, striking seductive poses in skimpy clothes, waiting patiently for business. When someone interested came by, he’d pull up to his pick, they’d bargain through a lowered window and when a deal is struck, she would get in and drive off.

Being a busy person, I often return home by 7 or 8 in the evening, just in time to witness the start of the skin business. 

On that day as always, I drove slowly past, careful to dodge the people milling about and picking girls up when I saw a girl sitting on her own in a corner. Unlike the others, she wasn’t up and about. For some reason, that drew me like light draws a moth.

I pulled up and killed the engine. 

“Hi. Why are you on your own?”

“Nothing. I just like it here. Do you want a girl for the night?”

“No. Not really.”

“Oh.” She sounded so disappointed, I felt I had to make it up to her someway. So I checked the glove compartment and gave her a small bundle of cash. She collected it and counted it then turned to me with a big smile

“Ten thousand naira? That’s a lot! Thank you.” Then she turned coy, eyeing me from under lowered lashes as she hid the money in her bra

“Are you sure you don’t want some company? I can make it worth your while you know. I’m really good. Everyone says that.”

I smiled and handed her a business card and a pen.

“How about you write your number here and I’ll call you if I need you.”

She gladly took the pen and scribbled her number across the back of the card. From somewhere, she produced a stick of gum and started chewing it.

“Call me.”

“I will.”

Over the space of two years, I got to know Anu as more than a walking fleshlight. We talked a lot over the phone, and she often confided in me. Busy as I am, I always have a listening ear for people I call friends. Anu’s case was no different.

Gradually we became close. And one day, I asked her out on a date. She agreed. By 5pm that evening, she alighted from an okada (a commercial motorcyclist) in front of the eatery I invited her to.

She was dressed in a very, very, short dress. So short in fact, it covered almost nothing. Quickly I gave her my suit to wear. She gave me a dubious look and I coughed softly

“It’s cold inside.”

“Oh. Okay. Thank for the suit then.”

It indeed was cold inside, but it wasn’t the real reason for me giving her the suit. As she followed me to our table, men turned to stare at her. They were almost drooling.

But we had a quiet uneventful dinner. Time, as it is wont to do, flew from us. Before you could say Jack, it was late and she had to go.

I offered to drop her off. When she got into my car, she took off my suit and started to unzip her gown and loosen the clips binding her hair.

“What are you doing, Anu?”

“I’m getting ready. Aren’t you planning to have sex with me? I’ve done it in cars before, you don’t have to worry about me. Just adjust the seat so you can-”

My hand wrapped around hers shut her up. Leaning forward to look directly into her eyes, I said slowly

“Anu, I’m not planning to sleep with you. I mean it.”

“Why are you so nice to me then?”

The question hit me like a runaway train. Different thoughts and emotions swam in my head and I stuttered.

“I, I think I’m in love with you.”

“Harold. You’re a business mogul, a respectable person. What would you want with me?” Her voice broke.

“I’m just a common whore.”

That night I took her home and we talked for a long, long period. She finally admitted to loving me but quashing it, because she felt nothing productive would come out of such. I assured her that she was worth a lot to me.

Anu is a person. A beautiful person. She has been through so much, and she’s a bit jaded and distrusting of people but deep inside, she’s sweet and caring and in her own way, better than a lot of the girls that walk around with their heads up in the clouds like they’re not as human as the rest of us.

Gradually we started dating. We eventually got married. A small quiet court wedding. My friends raised hell over my decision, some honestly thought I had gone mad. Even now they think it was insane of me to have done what I did. But I’ll do it all again if I had the chance.

Anu moved into my house and became my wife. I changed her wardrobe and got rid of the skimpy clothes, remainders of a past that no longer bound her. I bought her jewellery and dinner gowns. I bought shoes and sandals from Italy and Paris.

Nothing was too expensive. Then one day she told me she was pregnant. I almost died of joy. When she put to bed, it was the most beautiful baby ever. A chubby little angel. I named him Oluwagbemileke. or as we called him around the house, Leke.

Four years after Leke, Anu got pregnant again. When she announced it, I was so ecstatic I kissed her right there on the kitchen counter. 

“Daddy, why are you using your mouth to touch mummy’s mouth?”

That brought us back to earth real quick.  I ‘discovered’ a box of biscuits and soon distracted the boy. A few months later, Oluwafunmilomotodarabi was born.

It was all nice and dandy, a picture perfect family. Anu had a thriving business as a makeup artist and my business was going good and strong.

Then one day I got back from home and met a note on the bed.

Harold.

Thank you for everything you’ve done for me. But I can’t continue this life we’re living. 

I need excitement. Thus marriage is nice, but its boring. I need to feel like a woman again. I’m leaving. I’m not right for you.

There are a lot of other women out there, respectable women. Go after one of them and settle down.

Please don’t try to find me.”

ALONE?

Remi has a simple, easily predictable lifestyle. 

As a working class woman, the  official closing time from work is 5pm. So once it’s 5 on the dot, she’s done for the day, and thats it.

  With about 15 minutes needed to pack her things together and get to the parking lot, she’s always out of the company building by 5:15pm.

She immediately turns right, and driving at a constant speed of 50kph, it takes her 20 minutes to get home. Exactly 20 minutes.

Everyday.

And then she pulls into the driveway, gets her house keys and walks up to the porch, house keys in her left hand. By 5:37pm on workdays, she’s to be found in front of her house, unlocking the door and slipping inside.

She doesn’t go anywhere on weekends, except when she has to replenish her store of foodstuff and that occurs every third weekend, during the market days.

You see, Remi’s life is quite nice and cozy, comforting in it’s consistency. So today, like every other workday, she’s at the door by 5:37pm, just turning the lock when she hears a rustle. She doesn’t pay it much attention, infact she doesn’t pay it any attention. She knows the neighbours have a pet of some sort, and it’s most likely the animal was slinking about in the decorative shrubbery. Nothing to bother about. How much damage could it do?

It’s at that precise moment that she feels the touch of something cold and heavy in her side. Involuntarily, she is rooted to the spot, quaking with fear. Her eyes travel slowly downwards and she finds a gun pressed nicely to her waist. Like it wants to give her a big hug. Muzzle-first.

Shielded between her lithe frame and the stranger holding it, the gun isn’t obvious to anyone nearby, and besides, she hadn’t gone to any trouble trying to establish any level of camaraderie with her neighbors.

They wouldn’t even notice if she went missing. The thought hits her like a brick between the eyes. Unbidden, a hot tear makes it’s way out and trickles down her cheek.

The stranger holding a gun to her side orders her with a rough voice:

“Lock the door and come with me, no funny business now. I don’t want to have to do anything stupid.”

Docile, fearful, she obeys, twisting the key in the lock and hearing the sharp ‘click’ as the tumblers slip back into place, the door once again, locked.

With that sound, all hope abandons her.

She’s walking quietly towards her car, destination unknown when she sees her new neighbor wave to her. He’s a handsome, muscular young man, about the same grade with her. Sometimes he waved to her when he saw her over the shrubbery. Often he’d shout a greeting. But she’s​ never replied a greeting before, and not replying one now wouldn’t be anything new. She prays fervently in her heart that he notices something out of the ordinary. That he calls her back. Anything.

But nothing happens. She’s in front of her car now. When suddenly she hears

“Hello sir, do I know you?” She turns quickly. It’s her neighbor and he’s talking to the stranger.

“No sir, you don’t. I’m Remi’s brother, and I need to take her back home.”

“Back home? She lives here.”

“I mean ‘home’ home. Our mum is sick and she’s been wanting to see Remi for so long. It’s been a while since they’ve spoken. So I’m taking her home to see mummy.”

Time passes as her neighbor considers this tale. Meanwhile Remi is firmly chanting in her head- Please don’t believe him, please don’t believe him, please don’t believe him, please don’t believe-

The neighbor nods, apparently satisfied. So the stranger steers her away from safety. Her eyes widen.

Suddenly, like a cat, he pounces at the stranger and knocks him down, slamming his hand once, twice to the ground. He loses his hold of the weapon. Then his head follows, with one heavy hit against the pavement, the stranger is unconscious.

“Call 911. Do it quick woman, before he comes around.” Even as he talks, he’s producing something shiny from his pocket. It’s a pair of handcuffs. He snaps them around the strangers wrist.

Task complete, he turns to give Remi a long hard look. 

“I’m Chibuzor by the way, your new neighbor. It would do you a fair bit of good to be more friendly to people in the future.”

Soon the police men arrive and bundle the suspect. Chibuzor exchanges a few words with the officers, they salute him and come for her. A few questions and then it’s all over.

Later that week, she gets the details. The stranger was interrogated and the police are able to get his house address. They get a warrant and go in for a search. His house is covered with photos. Photos of Remi. Leaving her car. Entering her car. Eating at a restaurant. Talking to a guy. The guy’s face is peppered with holes, holes made by something being jabbed into the picture repeatedly. There’s a pencil nearby. The photos are all tagged with time slots. 4pm. 3:13pm. 12pm.

When she sees the picture evidence, she confirms that yes, at that precise time, she was doing just that.

But that’s not even the most disturbing thing. Far from it.

In the bedroom, there’s a full wardrobe of clothes, all her exact size. Shoes too. And underwear. Fancy, lace stuff. The windows are  covered with thick red drapes. There’s scented candles at every point in the room. Small heart-shaped pillows litter the place.

There’s a sheer nightgown laid on the thick king-size bed in the center of the room. It’s almost transparent, doesn’t really cover anything.

In one of the locked drawers, they​ find a wrap of cocaine and several packs of condoms and lubricant. Several ‘toys’ are there too. Things would have gone real bad for her if she had been taken back there. But she got lucky.

Thanks to a neighbor who just wouldn’t mind his own business.