Being the last child of a huge family like mine brought many advantages as well as disadvantages. The more food you ate from leftover plates, the more dishes or errands you run. Who sends an elder on an errand when there is a young, strong man like myself? Well, this was the life of Uchenna or you can say “The Adventure of Uchenna”. By the way, I’m Uchenna.
I hated the word “boy”. Eleven years old, I was taller than most of my contemporaries if not all. I had developed broad shoulders, huge chests for my age and my voice had already started to thicken. Most people thought I was between the ages of fifteen and sixteen, I was only young in mind.
Most times it was torture living in both worlds, acting tough and macho some days and sliding between the covers of a kid another day. While I tried to outgrow childishness, I could never get tired of running to Grandma Nene’s legs as she prepared to share her tales with us. The child in me came alive once I saw the clouds darken to allow the moon its place in the sky.
Nene is a renowned storyteller. I could tell no one told better stories than her, her stories even attracted the older ones in my household. Nene would say “Stories do not know age, race or gender.” She was late into her nineties but her voice was as firm as a fifty-year-old and her memory was very sharp. Nene was everyone’s role model and I adored her.
I think she adores me too. Who wouldn’t? I was as adorable as a doll in a toy store.
The moon looked rather elegant tonight. I thought it looked hypnotic too because I felt particularly drawn to it. For some reason, it made me more anxious about listening to Nene this night than any other night.
“Do you want to play”
Huh! I turned. Where did that come from? I looked around and I didn’t see anyone. I became frightened. I looked at the moon again, It looked calm. So what could it be? I asked myself as I calmly brushed the bush in search of whatever spoke.
I heard the voice again, this time it whispered. I stopped in my tracks.
Who are you? I called out. Show yourself! I tried to sound as brave as I could meanwhile I was as scared as a homeless cat in the rain.
“Look up scared little cat”
I looked up and saw the moon wink. It wasn’t possible. Couldn’t be possible.
Did you wink? I asked, even more, surprised that I still stood there.
“Oh! Yes, I did scared–ty“, the moon smiled this time.
No! I exclaimed as I blinked and wiped my eyes. I looked up again and this time it was smiling at me. This was unbelievable! A talking moon.
Nene must have put me in one of her stories. I laughed. I was amused and perplexed at the same time. Suddenly I watched the moon come down to sit on the Udara tree.
“Come up scared–ty, can you even climb,” It asked me in a sarcastic tone.
“Onwa, I doubt it can, I have watched him for years” the tree spoke.
Whattttt! I screamed. A talking tree too? What world was I in? Definitely not the one where Ma and Pa served sanity like an exotic meal.
I must be nuts, I must be nuts…I said to myself repeatedly while panting as I wondered what suddenly happened to our planet. Meanwhile, it occurred to me again that I was the only one out here. Where was the rest of my family?
I’m late for the party” a squirrel said as it shoved my feet to climb the tree interrupting my thoughts.
A talking squirrel too! This one seems like a mad hare, I said sighing.
Oh! The human! He turned to face the tree. “You didn’t say he would come to Osisi,” the squirrel asked the tree I supposed was called “Osisi”.
It turned back to look at me and sized me up with a snare on his face. I was certain he was the mad one, I thought to myself grateful my thoughts were still private with all the strange happenings.
I’m Osa, you must be Uche, the squirrel finally spoke maybe because the tree snubbed him.
I hoped they wouldn’t invite you, it continued. And I wonder what they saw in you, Osa said suddenly jumping on my head as it held my shoulders in the most painful way.
Ouch! Let me go you despicable animal! I screamed. Wasn’t a snare enough, he had to show his disgust at my presence by breaking my shoulder bones?
Despicable? Despicable? Did you all hear him? Osa said letting out a shrill. It quickly hopped from my shoulder to the tree grunting. “I told you this human was no good Onwa, even you Osisi. You both should have listened to me” Argh!
Listened to you? A huge firefly said as it flew to make its grand entrance before me.
“Could it get any worse”, I sighed still wincing in pain from the Osa’s attack.
I’m Okúfó, the most elegant of them all, the firefly said taking a bow. You shouldn’t mind Osa, his mischief is a trademark. Something he was born with, the firefly said laughing. I thought she looked like a girl, a pretty huge girl. I smiled at her warm remark.
“Firefly isn’t this huge, you are almost six feet”
“Six feet, five inches to be precise, Uche”
“Should I be surprised that you know my name”
“You are the most talked about human around here, so you shouldn’t be surprised”
“Most talked about, I asked very surprisedly.
“Don’t engage him Okúfó, Osa said grudgingly. The human thinks he is more important than the rest of us, she said sighing. I came for a party not a lame introduction of this unfortunate one.
Enough! One shouted.
Unfortunate? I asked. How so? I didn’t ask to be here you know. Maybe I’m truly unfortunate.
I felt sad suddenly. Osa had a way of making a fool out of a person. I thought to leave there, but I didn’t even know where I was. Clearly, this wasn’t home else Nene or anyone would have come to find me and probably join me to witness the strange things I had seen or dragged me out till I recover from such sights.
Nene may have been excited, who knows, she could be famous here too. After all, she was “the story” herself. I smiled as I thought of Nene. I would tell her all of this when I see her. I hope she believes me.
Hmm. I thought.
I felt something chilly yet warm touch my shoulder and I turned to see Onwa. Its little fingers with which it held my shoulder firmly surprised and amused me too. Onwa was like my Ma, kind, bright yet small.
Uche, it called me with a very soft tone.
Onwa, I’m sorry. But I don’t belong here. You must take me back to where I belong.
“You belong here, Uche. This is your kingdom. Your light created us, gave us existence”
Argwnnnnn!! Osa made a mocking yawn. Shhh! Okúfó quickly shushed him.
I turned back to face Onwa who looked so apologetic.
What do you mean by I created this place? I asked Onwa.
There is more you need to know, how about we start tomorrow? Onwa asked.
Yes, tomorrow. The Prince is tired, you must sleep.
Prince? I asked more confused than I was before. What was going on here?
Goodnight your majesty! And yes, there are more people to meet! Okúfó said excitedly.
People or strange beings I thought to answer but I wouldn’t dare. I rather wait for tomorrow, if I survived tonight, I would survive tomorrow.
Goodnight! Osa said with a tone I found funny. It made me chuckle and made him wrinkle his nose as I chuckled.
Goodnight Prince, Onwa said calmly.
I heard Osisi snore, I didn’t realise he had been sleeping the whole time. Just before I turned he said goodnight in a sleepy tone.
Onwa made me at peace, Ofúfó made me feel special, I didn’t know how Osisi made me feel, but I was certain I would knock Osa down someday.
What a night! Onwa said there was more to come. I hope to clear my confusion. I had lots of questions to ask, where was. this place, why was I called Prince, how did I create it. Too many questions.
Should I tell grandma?
Speak to no one of this! I suddenly heard. I turned to see Onwa wink at me. No one Uche, not even Nene.
Huh? She knew! My Goodness!
“Oh! I apologize for calling you a cat too” Onwa said making an apologetic face.
I shall wait for tomorrow. My answers must come. Too sad this has become my little secret. Too sad Nene can’t know.