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‘Why did the gods see it fit to make me pregnant and give me false hope if the babies they see it fit to give me all come and die without seeing the end of the four market days’, Ekemma said. She sat upon a huge bed made out of bamboo sticks with her feet planted firmly on the ground, her back bent in the agony of near birth.

Watching his first wife, Odogwu hissed and shook his head sadly. he hated to see his wife in such a condition, everytime they laid together as husband and wife, he prayed so hard for the gods to spare her the agony of pregnancy.he had sworn to marry only one wife, but Ekemma’s children kept dying, one after the other,and even though noone had said it openly,he could hear the whispers and the voices spoken behind the ears…ogbanje…..ogbanje, the child that comes and was very uncommon for an ogbanje to be a boy, but this time he was was the same boy.the last pregnancy had been bad, the midwife has struggled to make sure that ekemma did not lose her life and she had warned against another pregnancy being fatal. he had summoned the dibia during the last pregnancy and as soon as the baby was born he had cut him, the dibia had claimed that the mark would keep him from going like his previous journies, that this time he was going to stay because the mark was a reminder that his secret was known.

He had lived beyond the first market week- none of the others had done that before him- and they had thrown a huge ceremony in his honor, only for the wails of the mother to be heard the next day from all points of the village.
The dibia had claimed that they had celebrated too soon. some people looked at her with pity in their eyes, some with sympathy but others looked at her and wondered what she had done to anger her chi, some claimed she was paying for her previous sins or the sins of an ancestor.

Odogwu snapped out of his thoughts as he tapped impatiently on the mud covered floor, he had sent his second wife, mgbeke, a long time ago to go look for the midwife.mgbeke,he had married her out of fright that he wasn’t going to have any sons to carry on his lineage and any daughters to marry off. he had been pushed into it by his parents and Ekemma had begged him to get a second wife so that she too could hear the lasting cry of a baby in the compound. he was lucky to have found mgbeke, within the first few months of her arrival she had gotten pregnant and laughter had filled his soul once again. he could now go out among his peers and not be laughed at behind the palms, mgbeke was also a well behaved girl who respected ekemma and wouldnot trust anyone else with her babies if not ekemma but he felt sorry for her because she would have to live her married life knowing that he didnt love her, but he tried to be good to her.

Mgbeke rushed into the room with an unusually large woman following from behind with her wrapper undone,Nneka.Nneka had served as the village midwife for a very long time and before her, her mother and her mother’s mother. nneka had complained the previous week about how unusually big Ekemma’s stomach was but had had the discussion brushed off by Odogwu because of the consequences of such talks. Ejima, the dreaded children who were killed as soon as the sun hit their little faces, she had given birth to a lot of ejimas and had had them killed but a woman from the near village of umubele had recently given birth to three at a time…and she had been praying to her chi to spare Ekemma such ordeal as the villagers had had her killed and had her kids thrown away for the tides to carry them as sacrifices to the gods for an alu such as that.
Nneka quickly ushered odogwu out of the room as she prepared to usher in Ekemma’s child into the world.Odogwu walked up and down outside the room as the cries of agony from his wife tore at his heart. he kept thinking of how other women forgot the pains of childbirth as soon as the baby arrived but since he had doubts about this particular baby staying he wished Ekemma had never gotten pregnant.after standing there for what seemed like the longest time to odogwu, he heard the cry of a child and another cry and another cry and another.
Mgbeke rushed out of the room screaming and tears gushing down her face as she rushed to odogwu and held his wrapper and whispered…’they are four, one of them has that mark, the dibia’s mark, the ogbanje returned,he returned to cause his mother more pain’.
Odogwu rushed into the room to see his wife sobbing quietly as the midwife, Nneka, stood their in shock as she repeated muttered..‘alu, alu, alu’..with such madness in her eyes.
‘I have to go alert the dibia and the villagers’, said Nneka after a couple of minutes of trying to get herself together.

‘You can’t do that’,Mgbeke screamed still crying, ‘They are all going to want to kill her,im sure we can resolve this peacefully, i can take one child, noone would ever know, ill take one, they would wonder at the sudden appearance of a child but noone would ever dare ask’.

‘Shes already dying, she lost a lot of blood so it wont make a difference. i dont want to get my family involved with the wrath of the gods whenever it comes to visit you and your entire family, so i cant be a party to this by keeping quiet.Besides, all of Ekemma’s past children died within four market days of their birth,why should i keep quiet when the children may die soon anyway’, nneka screamed back at Mgbeke looking adamant.
‘But you dont know if they are going to die.We have to give them a chance to survive.You can take one to my sister in umuogbu and one to my sister in umubele, noone would ever know if you dont tell. Isn’t my death good enough for the gods?I will give the marked one to the gods as a sacrifice, i will give it to gods for him to serve them all of his days. Odogwu you would take him to the oracle at agulu and offer him to the ezemuo. im already dying Odogwu m, they wont die,i will be their chi, they would not die and make me leave this earth with nothing that reminds you that i once lived’, said Ekemma softly.

‘To Umuogbu and Umubele? but we at war with both of them, i cant possibly let my sons grow up in a village where they would not know me as their father and they would grow up to hate me. plus you are giving one to the oracle?Do you know what that means?He would become an osu, an outcast, he would never be able to get married to his peers or give have a lineage of his own.what kind of life is that?’, Odogwu asked as he bent gently and held his wife’s hands.

‘My sisters would accept them, they wouldnot know you as their father,yes. But isnt that better than the fate that awaits them? Mgbeke takes one, they take the other two while the marked one goes to the oracle at agulu. I do not care what becomes of the marked one, he has caused me so much pain and sorrow and you still want me to show him any kindness? No, he shall be the sacrifice that will save this family from the wrath of the gods.dont you understand? Four children at a time is an alu.I’m dying Odogwu, please promise that you would do as i say and please do not seek them out, watch them from afar but do not claim them.’Ekemma said very softly as she touched her husband’s cheeks and life slowly left her.

‘if you promise upon your chi that you will sacrifice the marked one to the oracle as your wife has asked then i will live and die with this secret.but you have to promise, odogwu, you have to promise’, Nneka said adamantly.
‘I promise’….
25 years later,
four boys,
an osu,
one from umuike,
one from umubele,
one from umuogbu,
three villages at war.
a diabia- a native doctor, an osu- an outcast, ejima- twins, alu-abomination.chi- a personal god.
The igbos believe that every person has a personal god that is assigned to monitor them from the day that they are born till the day they die and these chi is supposedly supposed to beg on your behalf to the Chukwu.

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