For 5 years, I’ve sat at this corner every night, muttering the words Mama taught me to keep the spirits at bay.
“Just keep saying it until you can’t feel them around anymore.” She said the first night they came, I just turned 16 the day before.
“Kumakuma paiwa.” I said it over and over until I could feel their presence no more. But as soon as I closed my eyes, they pounced on me. Literally tearing off my clothes, they molested me till I passed out.
Mama came into my room the next morning, to find me crying. “I think I’m possessed!” I wept, starring at my blood stained sheets. “Mama! A ghost raped me! Two ghosts!” I had lost my mind.
“Shh,” she put her hands over my mouth “don’t speak of them like that, or they’ll be more brutal tomorrow.”
I would come to find out that day that I had been chosen, out of my five sisters, to “service” the gods. Each family in my tribe took turns to present a virgin to the gods in exchange for protection, it was my family’s turn and the gods had chosen me.
“You need to see this as a privilege my child.” Mama said, bathing me in the yard.
Part of the rites included that I’m bathed in public, it was a sign to all that I now belonged to the gods.
I stood there, petrified, why was I not required to die instead.
But it didn’t take very long before I got used to them. In due time, I came to figure out that they visited between the hours of midnight and 4:00am. They couldn’t have their way if I kept my eyes open. So, I stayed up, on the nights I could, muttering the words to keep myself from being ravaged by the gods of our land. And on the nights that I couldn’t keep awake, I’ll let them have their way and wake up at daybreak in a pool of my blood. Yes, I bled every time.
Three times I tried to kill my self, but I wouldn’t die. The first time, I tried to drown myself in Kasamika river, I was washed to the river bank and rescued by the fisher men. The second time time, I drank a mixture of the poisonous Epkekem leaves. I fell ill for a few days and bounced back to health, stronger than ever. Finally, I cut my wrist. I watched a trickle of blood drip into my palm and that was all.
As Mama washed my wrist that evening, she looked into my face and said, “Stop trying my child, only the gods can take your life.”
Beyond the molestation and brutality I faced at night, I had to deal with being treated like an outcast in the day. Nobody wanted to offend the gods by offending me, so no one spoke to me. Even my friends in school started avoiding me, news spread fast, I now belonged to the gods. Three weeks into my final year in the Community Secondary School, I tried to rescue a younger boy from being beaten by some bullies. One of them struck my face before he saw it was me. He fell to his knees begging, while the others ran for their lives. I left him kneeling there, begging for his life. Even I didn’t understand the gravity of what he had done. Two days later, he was found dangling from an orange tree in his parents backyard.
The incident almost took my sanity. I spent many nights at the village shrine because I’d keep screaming at night for hours and the whole neighborhood couldn’t sleep. It took Obantagyi- the eyes of the gods, almost two weeks to bring me back to normal.
“They would give her a break, for now.” She told Papa, the night she brought me back home. “Her sanity is also important to the gods.”
After I slept uninterruptedly that night, I knew Obantagyi wasn’t speaking fallacy. The gods had given me a vacation. When I woke up the next morning, it became clear to me what I had been deprived of for two whole years. Everything in me wanted out.
I packed a few things and set out on a journey to nowhere. Dressed up for school, some clothes in my school bag instead of books, I headed to the bus park. Walking all the way, I didn’t bother flagging down a biker, they’d never stop. I sat in the bus for almost two hours before I realized that, one by one, all the passengers before me had alighted and no one else got in.
Tears pouring down my face, I walked back home. I hadn’t eaten all day, but what would food do for me. I would have given anything to die that night. The ghostsresumed duty the next day, more brutal than ever before. As if to punish me for trying to escape.
I was rounding off my final year when Janka was transferred from the town to the Community Secondary School. After all the orientation he had been given to avoid me, Janka went ahead to greet me.
“Do you want to die?” I had to ask him when he wouldn’t give up. In the bid to save his life, I would ignore him when he greeted me, but Janka had a death wish.
“I can’t die.” He sounded so certain.
Throwing caution to the birds, I let him in. I had nothing to loose and he had a strong conviction that he’d was indomitable.
Two months past and Janka didn’t die, we grew closer and many people feared for him.
“I think you should go to the Township Teachers College so that you can get trained as an English teacher.” Janka told me one day. He believed that my predicament was no limitation at all. “If it’s the tuition fee you fear, I can get you a full scholarship.” He smiled.
“Where would I live.” He didn’t know the details of my nightly escapades with the gods. How my clothes are wrenched off my body. How I vibrate violently when they are inside me. How I bleed profusely staining my sheets. He had no idea.
“With me, and my parents.” I sat before him and wondered, what gave him such audacity?
With pity in their eyes, my parents permitted Janka to take me away. They tried to talk him out of it to no avail, he was hell bent on giving me a life.
“Janka, you are a good man. You have done enough, we don’t want you to die.” Mama said weeping, I’d never seen her so sad.
Early the next morning, all packed and set for the trip, I said my final goodbyes to my family. I sat in the yard and waited for Janka. He was supposed to pick me up by 6:30am since our bus left by 7:00am.
I waited till 9:00am and there was no sign of Janka. I went with Mama to the staff quarters, where he lived, and his apartment was totally empty.
“He didn’t say anything to us, he just packed up and left” A neighbor reported.
Like all the hope I had had before him, Janka disappeared with no trace.
That night, there were four of them. I felt them storm into my room at midnight, with growling sounds- of anger and fury. I kept my eyes open, tears streaming down, muttering the words Mama told me. They didn’t go away, they waited until my eyes gave way, then they pounced on me. I felt my body elevate into the air and slam into the wall. There, they had their way with me all four of them. I tried to scream, but I had no voice.