Mom and I were at the Saturday market in Epe town. She bought some pepper, onions and spices. Our next stop was the fish market which was by the lagoon. Some fishermen tied their boats to the wooden pier and brought in their catch for the day to the market. We stopped by the table of a young woman selling fish, crabs and snails. Mom pointed at some fish and the fish seller set them aside. While mom haggled with the fish seller, I looked around at the other fish sellers in the market. Out of the corner of my eye I noticed an elderly woman watching me. She regarded me for a while, then she stood up and started walking towards me. As she got closer to me, she kept her gaze on me and it made me uncomfortable. I moved close to mom and held her hand.
The woman came over to where we stood but her eyes never left me. There was something about her eyes. I had seen that look before when I read dad’s books about the southern parts of the country, where the oil companies had damaged the ecosystem, poisoning millions of fish with oil spills, turning fertile farmlands into a dark, depressing, barren wilderness. The woman grinned at me but her eyes were cold, lifeless, like…dead fish.
The woman spoke almost in a whisper. “Good morning.” She pointed her head at me. “Do you know that your daughter is from the sea?”
Mom regarded the woman in silence.
“Do you know that they want her back?”
The fish seller handed over mom’s fish purchase and mom dropped it inside her market bag. Mom gave me a ‘shut-your-mouth look,’ then began walking away from the woman. But the woman followed and caught up with us.
“Is what I am telling you strange?” the woman asked.
Mom looked around to see if anyone was listening to what the woman was saying. Nobody seemed to pay us any attention.
Mom’s face was creased with concern. “Why won’t you people just leave me alone? What do you want from me?” mom asked.
“I do not want anything from you. I wanted to let you know that if you do not return her, there will be consequences,” the woman whispered.
Mom seized the woman by the hand. “Have I not suffered enough? What consequences are you talking about? When will this torment come to an end?”
The woman was silent.
“Please tell me how to stop this. I have suffered a lot because of my daughter. It has been one calamity after another. My husband left me when he found out that she was a gift from the ocean goddess. What should I do?”
The woman regarded mom with some intensity. “Your daughter is too powerful to live with you.”
Mom looked confused. “You keep talking about her powers but she has never shown any powers. She is a normal child,” mom lied. Mom knew I had some powers. She knew this since the day I brought in a squid into the house.
The woman knelt down on one knee so that our eyes were on the same level. “Lara, you speak to fish, don’t you? I know you do. They know you are here. They feel you. They hear you.” She stood up and spread her hands towards the fish market. “Speak to them.”
I turned towards the fish market.
Before me were hundreds of basins of water full of fish. I looked at mom, she was scared. The woman looked at me and nodded. Her face was glowing with expectation.
“Go ahead,” she whispered.
I shut my eyes.
I heard sounds coming from the basins of water. I heard sounds that no normal human ears could hear. I heard fish speaking to fish. I heard fish communicating through the water to other fish in ponds, lakes, rivers, seas, oceans. I heard the messages they were sending to other creatures in the sea. Their power was in the water. I put my hand in a basin of water, full of fish. The fish kept moving, speaking to each other and playing.
“Silence,” I said. All the fish in the market stopped moving in their basins.
There was silence in the market. The women selling the fish noticed that the fish had stopped moving in the water. The silence in the market enveloped the air like a thick blanket.
“Play,” I said.
Fish started to play in their basins. The fish jumped out of their basins onto tables. Fish leaped out of the water and landed on people who were standing by the pier. Fish flew into the air and landed on the ground.
The woman looked at me in awe. “My queen,” she went on her knees and bowed down on the brown earth.
Mom looked around the market. There was chaos. Women were running away from fish; flying fish, jumping fish, fish tumbling and rolling on tables, fish hitting themselves on the bodies of the women who came to the market to buy sea food.
Something drew my attention to the edge of the lagoon, some distance beyond the boats of the fishermen. I saw a man and a woman emerge from the lagoon. They looked at me in a curious manner. Their bodies were shimmering in the sun as if they had scales on their skin.
As I looked at them I heard their voices in my head. They spoke in an alien language but I understood them.
“You are one of us. You belong here. We await you, Ariana.”
I turned to mom. “Mom, who is Ariana?” I asked.
She tore her eyes away from the chaos in the market and looked around us. “That’s the name the priest said I should give you but I decided to call you Lara. Who called you Ariana?”
I turned my head towards the creatures from the lagoon. Mom followed my gaze. She gasped when she saw what I was looking at. She grabbed my left hand and started walking quickly out of the fish market.
I turned back to look at the old woman who knelt on the ground.
She was gone. On the spot where she previously knelt were the beings from the Lagoon, looking at me. Their gaze was fierce. As I looked at them, I knew their names, who they were, and why they were here. The woman was Takuri and the man was Jakta. They were both warriors from Saturi, a tribe on the submerged continent of Aguria in the Atlantic.
In a moment they stood beside me. Mom turned to see what was going on. She saw the two beings from the sea. The man broke mom’s hold on me and pushed her to the ground without touching her.
“She belongs with us,” Takuri said.
Jakta was silent and looked on.
“God, forbid,” mom said.
The woman wore an olive green pendant around her neck. It was glowing, pulsating with life. I was fascinated and drawn to it. I reached out to touch it. The woman did not stop me but watched as my hand moved towards her chest. My fingers touched the pendant and there was a burst of power from it that surged through my body, lifting me off my feet. I levitated for a moment and returned to the ground.
Takuri turned to Jakta. “She touched the pendant of power and she is still alive. She’s the one,” she said. Jakta nodded. His eyes did not leave me. Takuri grabbed my hand. “You are coming with us,” the woman said.
“Who are you and what do you want with my child?” Mom asked.
Takuri regarded my mom with condescension. “The fate of the world depends on her. She must come with us.”
Takuri touched the pendant on her neck and immediately we were teleported into the sea. The water was blue and calm. Fish of all species swam around me in a circle. None touched me. I was surrounded by warriors; men and women riding on sharks. Jakta and Takuri rode on two great sharks. They formed a large circle around me and I floated in the centre. Hanging around my neck was the pendant that had been on Takuri. It emitted a glow that lit up the area. I caressed it. Power surged through my body and I started speaking in a strange language. As I spoke more warriors joined the hundreds who surrounded me. The power from the pendant grew stronger until I shut my eyes and I began to shiver in ecstasy.
I opened my eyes.
Mom sat beside me on my bed, shaking me.
“Wake up. You were having a nightmare. Are you okay?”
“I am okay,” I said.
Mom did not look convinced. She looked at my hand. “What do you have there?” she regarded me with suspicion.
“Mom, it’s nothing.”
We locked eyes.
Tension slowly built up, heat began filling up the empty spaces that hung between us.
Mom exhaled and stood up from my bed. She walked towards the door, stood there for a while holding the door handle. She turned around. “Your nightmares are becoming too frequent, too intense, too scary. I hear you talk about war, destruction and death in your sleep.” She wiped the tears from her eyes. “When I asked for a child from the sect I never knew that it would be like this. I never knew I would have to bear such suffering because of you. Your father is gone. He left because of the lie I told to protect you. I cannot handle this on my own.” She looked at the floor in frustration. “Lara, I am sorry but I can’t do this anymore.” She opened the door and left my room.
I got out of bed, walked over to the door and locked it. I got back in bed and sat down. I opened my hand. Nesting in the hollow of my palm was the green pendant that had hung on the neck of Takuri.
The pendant was warm, pulsating with power.
To be continued….
© Praise George, May, 2019