Wade in the Water by Zainab Sadiq was submitted in May 2022 to Challenging The Writers Writing Contest #3 based on the writing prompt: Write a story from the perspective of a villain who is unredeemable and wicked to the core. By the end of the story, has achieved their goal.
The story I seek to unravel before you is not one of heroism or strength. It will not make you a better person nor plant seeds of good deeds on the Earth. The story which I wish to carve into each chamber of your heart and mould into your form is one of anger, jealousy and greed. One where the bad guy with the heart of coal forms diamonds from its confines. How dare they think that even for a second they could entrap such power? Happy ever after was never meant to exist and I am about to dismantle every fibre of your reality and make you contemplate and contradict the difference between good and evil.
The children huddled around the fire as their sweat-imprinted arms stuck to each other like the gum of the agbalumo fruit. The fire burned with a crackle and a snap that reminded Olufunke of the breaking of stalks in a maze field. If you squinted your eyes just enough you could make out the shadow of your reflection in the flames. The sky had been kissed with the darkness of the night and the atmosphere plugged by the misery of silence. The adults had retreated to their huts for the evening and the children had gathered around the fire with Olufunke the elder, whose skin had seen many battles and eyes had been touched by many wonders.
The children grew giddy as they stamped their feet loudly against the gravel floor of Ile-Ife; the home of creation and watched in wonder as a huff of dust rose in the air. The stars were scattered against the black canvas of night like cassava grains drying on straw mats. The moon stained red with the promise of something chaotic as the red-necked buzzard shielded the village from the cries of the Pariah dogs.
Olufunke smirked as her fingers buzzed with the desire to tell the story. There was magic between the trees, she could feel it vibrating against her flesh and birthing goosebumps.
Oni came into the small circle they had formed and dropped a hand-carved calabash in front of Olufunke.
The children sighed in relief as Ewa broke the silence, unable to remain quiet.
“Finally! Mama Funke, you like to keep us waiting every time.” He whined.
Olufunke smiled sweetly at the nickname, it was something the children had named her to symbolize how much she cared for them. Ewa had always been a curious child but patience was not one of his virtues.
Olufunke turned to look at him with a raised eyebrow before turning back to the bowl and placing her hand into the bowl. “All good things come to those who wait.” She said with a grin causing him to huff and cross his arms over his small chest.
She soaked it for a minute until her hands were stained red and she was certain that the strong smell would linger there for days. She moved closer to the fire as she patted her hands together. She watched as the palm oil dripped down her hands and into the flames. There was a sharp fizz as the fire glowed red, soaring high, causing the children to cower away. The smell of smoke kissed their nostrils and slithered through their senses like a python. A sharp rumble in the sky like that of a deer-skinned drum rang through the sky as though acknowledging their presence.
Olufunke remained unfazed, the thick beads on her waist jingled as she moved to reclaim her seat on the ground.
“Now we are ready to begin.” Olufunke said lowering her head slightly, which had been adorned in cornrow plaits and decorated in ileke beads and cowries. “Finally.” the children cheered. “You may not be so cheerful when you learn of the tale I wish to unravel. It may change your perspective on everything. For nothing is as it seems.” She spoke as she ran her hand along the sand, creating little wells in the ground. She hummed lightly causing her chest to vibrate as she began to sing the words of Oluronbi.
“But why did you choose today to tell us this story?” Tomisin asked.
“You see that moon. How it lures you in. The way the red bleeds into the light. It was this same moon they had used to trap her.” She answered.
“Trap who?” She asked, confused. “Olokun,” Olufunke answered simply. “Who is she? Is she a goddess?” The children asked naively. Olufunke laughed as she began to answer. “She isn’t just a goddess. She is THE goddess. She reigns over the sea dwellings. She pulled the tides and the moon like an arrow against her bow. She played with the stars when the Earth still lay dormant. Before there was Oduduwa and Ife there was Olokun and her creations.” She explained as she drew a circle in the sand.
“How come we have never heard of her?” One of the children asked. “Because Olokun is the villain in every story. And bad guys don’t get to live happily ever after.” She said simply.
“But why? What did she do?” Ewa asked. “She saw a threat to her kingdom and she vowed to destroy anyone who dared to tear it down. She vowed a thousand years ago to bring Ife down to her realm.”
“So what happened to her? Did she give up?” They asked.
“Oh, I assure you she didn’t.” She spoke with a grin.
“But why was she so cruel?” He asked exasperatedly.
“We do crazy things at the high of emotion. But to know why we will have to start at the beginning.” She said.
The children smiled eagerly.
“Take my hand if you dare. But remember seeing is not believing and reality is an altered illusion. Now close your eyes and open your mind.” They did as she said as she began to hum.
A pulse ran through her veins like a strike of lightning, as it surged through her body and when she opened her eyes again, they glowed bright blue with the whisper of the ocean.
The people laughed in a melodic tune that rang through the courtyard as they danced in rhythmic circles around the pool. The children played with hollow flutes while the adults enjoyed the hypnotic sight of the ripples in the water around them. The reflection of the moon basked them in its hypnotizing beauty as they sang praise for their queen and goddess. They danced in a woven pattern like waves crashing against the flooded sand, pulling the water like tides with their hands.
She moved with the grace of a land crane sweeping the floor with the length of her coral-stitched garment. Her long cape which she draped across her form like second skin latching onto her breast like a newborn babe. The beads on her waist shook with every step, ringing across the courtyard as she revelled in the thrill of her subjects being mesmerized by her presence.
Upon seeing her, the dancing and singing stopped as the people froze. They quickly recovered as they scurried to bow before her, touching their heads to the floor as they lay their existence out to her, their creator.
“None of that. It’s a day of celebrating my people. Let the party continue.” She commanded as she walked forward and moved towards her throne, she watched in a thrill as her people were overcome with excitement.
Her blue eyes glowed with the shimmer of something beautiful. She felt a light tug on her garment as she looked down to be met with the face of a broad-nose dark skinned girl. She looked up at the queen nervously. And Olokun smiled as she picked her up. “What is it my darling?”
The girl looked at her nervously as she gave her a weary smile. “It’s just I was wondering if you could do the trick again.” She asked.
Olokun grinned down at her as she patted her bold head. “For you, I will do anything. Now run along.” She said shooing her off.
Olere giggled as she ran back to the middle of the square. Her eyes drifted to the grand statue of Olokun with her broad nose, full almond lips and broad chin that resembled the slopes of the valley. Olokun shook her head at Olere’s impatience as she rolled her eyes at her.
She closed her eyes with a hum and raised her hands. She felt the power vibrate through her as the people cheered. She looked toward the statue and watched as it moulded and transformed into a vessel as sweet palm wine began to flow. The men and women cheered as they rushed to fill their glasses. And Olokun watched on with amusement. Her excitement was short-lived as they felt the waters above them shake and tremble. The people screamed as they tried to brace themselves.
They watched in horror as they were plunged into darkness. The moon which once basked them in its glory became a thing of memory. The people began to panic as they turned to their leader for help. Something large had covered their world in a plague of darkness.
She furrowed her brows as she wondered what the gods were up to now. She watched as their sky was completely enveloped and tried her best to keep the people calm. “It is fine. I will go up and investigate.”
She watched as her people cowered in fear. Some of the children began to pale as others began to pass out. She watched one by one as her people collapsed. They drew their power from the moon and they were losing their life force very quickly.
With the vengeance of a vilomah and the strength of a woman scorned. She used her power to cut through the water like Olorun’s blade beating the current as she made her way towards the surface.
She let out a venomous howl from her lips causing the land above her to shatter and give her room to pass through. There was a figure perched on the land who held a cockerel in his hand. She looked towards the sky and was confused to see a long chain extending from the heavens. She almost laughed at the sight of who it was. “I should have known it was you.” She spoke venomously.
Oduduwa turned towards her as he flinched, dropping the cockerel. “Olokun, goddess of the sea.” He spoke as he bowed his head. “Stop with that nonsense.” She seethed. “Tell me why you’re here before I send you back to your father without a tongue.” She threatened.
Ododuwa was nervous as he stared at his older sister. “I am not going anywhere.” He said trying to sound as firm as possible. “What are you even doing here?” She seethed. “Father gave me permission to claim this land as my own.” He said firmly. Olokun laughed. “And why did you want ‘land’ on my territory? Is it to spite me?” She seethed.