“We can teach you more.”
The white man had told him as they sat inside his hut with four sides.
Àjìún hummed. The vibrations chorused his regrets into the metal chains that bounded him. His bones cracked and muscles clenched from sitting in the same position for many moons.
Before it happened, in the time of robust peace and intimacy with the gods. The night his mother pushed him out into the world, his father called out with pride to his kinsmen.
“Àjìún. Omo ti baba re yo lori.”
Àjìún grew mightily. He was blessed by the gods. He brought his family happiness, good fortune and proved to everyone his name was indeed his own.
It happened in a blur that night. The stench of boiling blood and burning flesh filled the air.
Ọ̀nàadé village for 100 years lived under the protection of the gods. Obatala’s hands carved the people from the soil of the earth Oduduwa formed.
The people called themselves Yorùbá. The lands Oduduwa formed from the mysterious okunkun were surrounded by waters the Yorùbá women worshipped.
They believed Osun- Oduduwa and Obatala’s sister- turned herself into clear springs that flowed from the mountains. The waters were sacred because of Osun.
Àjìún became a man within following moon cycles. Each cycle, he would follow his father into the deepest forests searching for wild animals to hunt. Fear was unknown to the men and women of Ọ̀nàadé.
One night. The village was quiet. The celebration for the end of another moon cycle passed away in the villager’s minds as they slept.
“Baba mi, why do the animals we hunt look at us with wide eyes that carry words I do not understand,” Àjìún asked his father.
By the time Àjìún became a man, his mother had passed away into the lands of the gods. The Yorùbás believed that in the afterlife -lẹhin igbesi aye- a person’s life was judged by Oduduwa.
If the person fulfilled their purpose, the gates to their afterlife would open. Àjìún hoped his mother served her purpose.
“My son. I do not understand why you ask me these things.” The old man with coils as white as ivory sighed as he looked at his son -who he held eight and ten moon cycles away in his arms.
“Baba, what if there is more than we know? Something beyond the waters.”
“Hush Àjìún.” His father cautioned, letting his eyes wander around their hut for preying eyes and ears. “You know the rule. We must never think something lies beyond the waters. Òkunkun nikan ni o wa ni ikọja omi.”
He should have never believed his father. Oduduwa knew something more about the darkness. He had formed their very world from it, and it existed before time. There was more beyond the waters, but there was also something Àjìún didn’t know that existed there. It was only a matter of time.
“Baba. Baba. Baba,” Àjìún yelled, swatting smoke with his hands. His midnight orbs watered crimson-soaked soil. His home was on fire, blazing viscously with Obatala’s anger. They promised. They promised him no harm would come to his people.
“Baba, where are you?” Àjìún roared into the darkened skies. The skies mourned with the people. No, it was the gods who mourned. And their tears flowed through the skies to wet the heavy hearts of their creations.
A moon cycle after his father told him about the darkness that slept beyond the waters, Àjìún stole into the night. Everyone’s hut was without light, and the moon was half cut- allowing only half of its glory to shine on Obatala’s craft. The banks of the waters had the softest sands. Àjìún sat and watched the waters dance with the wind.
Tides curved as the wind hummed on their surfaces. Foam swallowed Àjìún’s sturdy feet. There was indeed a presence in the waters, but he could only feel it. He was a man, after all. Osun would never reveal herself to him, but she showed him something more.
He had never seen anything like it. The gods who gave them everything- trees, animals, air, waters, life, and light- never revealed it to the priest. Strange was what Àjìún had called it.
He pounced to his feet, shaking the foam away, his eyes peeled open to take in the tale the waters dance before them. Once Osun allowed the water to become one with her body again, Àjìún took to his heels.
He ran as fast as the wind. He had chased bush rats and antelopes several times, earning him his speed. When he reached, the village was still asleep. Àjìún slipped into his father’s hut.
“Baba. Wake up. Come quick, there’s something you must see.”
His father raced with him minutes after Àjìún retold the tale the waters narrated to him.
“We are not alone Baba, there are more of us. Oduduwa has more children.” Àjìún beamed. The new people were different from the Yorùbás.
“They defiled our waters, our mother,” Arike groaned out to the rest of the elders. They all settled to call the strangers Kọja since they came from the darkness on the other side of the waters.
“Let us all calm down. Few moons ago, we believed we were the only children of Oduduwa and Obatala alongside their sister Osun. It is our duty as their first children to accept them.
“They are not our fathers’ and mother’s children. They come from beyond.” The Yorùbás argued with their priest.
While the meeting went up in sparks of heated disagreements, Àjìún sneaked out. The Kọja people had arrived and built their own huts on the banks of the waters.
“I want to know more,” Àjìún said to the man. The man’s skin was like his father’s hair. Strong ivory.
He should have listened to his father’s words. The people beyond the waters indeed had a darkness within them.
Àjìún never saw his father. Ọ̀nàadé village and the Yorùbás knew fear intimately. The Kọja people were not their god’s children.