Water Child. Chapter 1.
The first time it happened I was five years old. I was playing in the garden with my dolls. I was surrounded by the sweet scent of jasmine and rose. Mangoes pregnant with ripeness, were weighing down the branches of the mango tree, pulling them to the ground. I stood up, grabbed a mango, changed my mind and returned to my dolls. I wiped the sweat of my brow with the edge of my pink dress. Mom had told me not to do that again, but I did it. I heard a noise and I looked up. It was like a screen opened before my eyes and I entered another dimension. The garden disappeared and I saw a wall of water towering above me. I looked up at it in wonder. I was not scared, rather I was curious and reached out to touch it. The water poured over me and I was submerged in it. It felt strange but I was breathing normally under the water. I saw sea creatures I had never seen before, even in my story books. I bent down to pick up my dolls but couldn’t find them. I turned around and that was when I realised that the house was no longer behind me. I called out for mom. Moments later I woke up with mom and dad kneeling beside me. Mom was crying. “They have come to take away my daughter from me,” she said. “My enemies have come to take her away,” she wept.
Dad said nothing. His eyes were alert behind his glasses. He had a puzzling expression on his face. He took off his glasses and wiped the sweat on his face with the back of his hand. He knelt down beside me and asked me a question.
“Lara, how did you get your clothes wet?” he looked around the garden searching for the source of the water. He didn’t find it. He turned his gaze back on me.
Until he asked me that question I had not paid attention to my dress. I looked down at my dress and it was dripping with water. I had this strange urge to lick my lips. My lips were plastered with salt. I stood up and looked around me. It looked like the sea visited me in the garden and when it retreated, it left memories of itself behind. Seaweeds hung from the mango tree, twisted around the fruits and littered the ground. There were blue, green, white, orange coloured sea shells on the spot where I had been playing with my dolls. The strong smell of sand and salt hung in the air around us. The strange thing was that we lived five miles away from the ocean. My parents took me inside the house and changed my clothes. The garden was cleaned and we never spoke about that incidence again. Then another one happened.
One day I ran into the house with excitement and showed mom what I had found as I played in the garden. Mom took a look at it and screamed. Dad ran into the sitting room, saw what was in my hand and stopped in his tracks. It was a squid, alive and wriggling in my hands. Dad took it away from me. He put it in a bucket of water, drove all the way to the lagoon and released it into the water. When he returned, dad sat me down beside him on the largest chair in the sitting room and asked me several questions which I could not answer. How did I get the squid? Where did it come from? Did someone give it to me? Did I leave the house at any time to play in the street? My parents must have come to the conclusion that their questions were futile.
Several incidents later, my parents were advised by some of their friends to seek spiritual help for my situation. They tried some churches but got tired of the pastors pushing me down to make me give up my powers. They decided to take me to a juju priest who lived in the forest. We drove outside Lagos, parked our car in a village and were led by two men into the forest. After an hour of following them through narrow forest paths, we arrived at the hut of a juju priest. It was built on a large clearing in the forest. The priest made me sit before him on the earthen floor while he consulted the oracle. He held some cowries stringed together by a white thread. He threw them on the floor before him. After looking at the cowries for several minutes, the expression on his face began to change into concern. He shook his head and glanced at me in disbelief. Finally he set the cowries aside with trembling hands. He looked up at my parents with terror in his eyes.
“I cannot help you. This is beyond me. Take this child away and leave my house,” he said. My mom quickly grabbed my hand and pulled me up. As we left the hut, he shouted after us. “And do not bring her back here.” Continue reading