It was a cold eerie night, an unusual one at that. It was supposed to be a full moon but it’s as if the heavens had impeded the movement of the moon. People dispersed into their homes as fast as one could say Jack Robinson. By 7:00 pm in the evening, the village of Ufuma had gone to sleep. There was no noise to be heard in homes and nothing to cheer up the night that looked deadly.
Me and my little brother, Chika stayed in the house awaiting the arrival of our mother who went to see her sister in the next town. As a teenage boy of 13 years, I could tell when something was wrong in the air and this night was no exception. In order to relieve Chika of fear and myself of lots of questions from him, I urged him to sleep on the mat and wrapped him with my wrapper to keep him warm through the night that seems to get cold as minutes ticked by.
I stayed awake and waited. Soon, the night seemed to become natural and the bad air removed. It made me light in heart to see the moon now appearing in the sky, its light shimmering into our room from the little window. I ran towards the window to get a good view of the full moon. It was lovely. Oh! how I missed playing Egwu Ọnwa with Okeke and Adanna on a night like this one.
When I had gratified my heart with the view of the moon, I went back to sit on the mat and sing songs in order to keep myself awake. But the night had other plans for the people of Ufuma. I didn’t know when I dozed off in my singing.
I woke up with a startle when I heard a drum beat. It looked to be far from us judging from the distance of the sound. However, this beat was not like the familiar one we hear when the king wants to summon men of the village or a festival is at hand. This one had an edge to it. Everywhere had gone pitch black again with the cloud covering the moon totally from radiating. I heard the sound of the drum again, Dum! this time louder, clearer and nearer. My heart beat hitched up as fear began to travel down my body. I used my hand to see that Chika was still sleeping so I let him be.
Dum! Dum!! came the sound of the drum again. This time,with the echo resounding the drumbeats. The night was still as grave. Not even a candle light could be found in houses near our own.
Dum! Dum!! Dum!!! came the loudest of them all and a strange rhythm began. As the echo resounded, a deep wail was heard in one of the houses around. As the wailing continued, the drummer continued beating the drum one at a time while retreating. Soon, the sound became distant and later unheard.
With the silence of the night, the cloud released hold of the moon but there was nothing encouraging or soothing about it. No one was bold enough to come out of their homes and inquire about what has just occured. After my heartbeat has been restored to normal, I wondered “is this the first of many nights with the strange drum beat in Ufuma?”
“When will be the next drum beat?”