Excerpt 1

Note: This is from a long story I’m writing. Don’t ask me when I’ll finish because as at now that information is unknown even to me, the writer. But be sure to let me know what you think. Thank you.

– Fui

 

Efo Shishiawovor looked at the eight young recruits seated on the floor before him. They sported uneasy grins, as if to suggest that he was trying to scare them. He was not. He understood their scepticism of his words. The four years of training they had all gone through had been full of tests that had been designed by men long dead to scare them and open their eyes at the same time. If they were able to go through this final ritual, they’d be fine. But he’d been preparing recruits for more than forty years. About half never made it past the final ritual.

“Get up and pick up your cutlasses,” he ordered the young men. They each had two cutlasses wrapped in cloth lying in front of them. They had spent the last three days bent over whetting stones, sharpening the cutlasses till they could slice a hair. They picked them up and stood. There was a quiet rustle as each of them moved in their small raffia skirts. The thought of wearing the skirts had made them uncomfortable at first until they had actually worn them and seen just how well-made they were. The raffia was held together by little strings of cow leather, and it was the most weightless clothing they had ever worn. The raffia also served as a protection because it softened kicks or even cutlass attacks to the groin area.

“When you hear the drums playing, dance. Feel free to move about as you want to. You can dance our traditional dances or even the new ones. Eh, what do you call it…atonzo or azonzo.” A couple of the boys snickered at Efo’s mistake. He smiled briefly, and resumed with a deadpan face.

“When you’re chosen, you will lose control of your body. Do not fight it, or panic. It happens. You’ll be fine. If you’re not chosen, don’t worry about it. Just keep dancing till the drums stop playing. You all become warriors when the drums stop playing. Is that clear?”

“Yes Efo,” they chorused.

“If you see people being chosen and you still have control of your body, do not copy them. Whatever they do, let them do it. Do not try to mimic their movements. You will die. Do you understand? You will die.”

“Yes Efo” they said together, but this time less enthusiastically. They had figured out that he wasn’t joking.

“Good. Agbeve,” he called out to his assistant who was seated on a stool in the corner of the room, “bring them the herbs.”

It took a minute for Agbeve to disappear and reappear with a small pot and a calabash. He sat the pot on a stool close to Efo, and dropped the calabash into the pot. He left the room and came back again with a bucket full of water. Steeped into the water were aviantsi leaves. He placed the bucket next to the pot.

“Drink from the pot, and then wash your hands,” Efo commanded the recruits.

Godwin was the first to take the calabash. He dipped it into the pot, and down its contents with ease. It was a bitter concoction, but he had grown up drinking bitter concoctions. He felt a bit lightheaded as he bent over to rinse his hands in the aviantsi water. Efo hit his shoulders with a horsetail switch and incanted something in Fon to him. Godwin didn’t understand Fon, but he felt the words lend him a strength he didn’t have. His body felt charged.

Fianu followed almost immediately, and let out a low growl when Efo intoned the same words to him. It wasn’t an aggressive growl, it was a growl of excitement. Like an obedient dog ready to pounce on meat once his master unleashed him. He was confident he’d be chosen during the dance. He felt it in his bones.

Kportufe came next to stand by Godwin and Fianu. He had been hit by a calm he’d never felt in his life. His body felt tense, as if he was expecting to enter a battle at any moment. He understood the situation. He’d fought many small battles with the boys from the next villages. What was missing was the apprehension. He felt none of that. Just the confidence that whoever would stand in front of him would be slain.

Ati almost fell when the contents of the calabash hit his lips. He had a little seizure and was only stopped from falling by Gakpo’s strong, vulcanizer arms. Agbeve lay him on the floor, crouched next to him and whispered something into his ear. The seizures stopped almost immediately.

Agbeve looked up at Efo from his position on the floor, “This one is not ready,” he said. Efo nodded in agreement.

“Carry him into the backroom.”

Gakpo watched anxiously as his friend was lifted off the ground with ease by Agbeve, who looked like he was one mosquito bite away from the grave. Ati weighed about one sack of rice, and Gakpo knew this because he’d fought with Ati on several occasions. But Agbeve carried him almost as if he was carrying a tray of Efo’s food from the kitchens; like it was nothing. He shook off his anxiety and dipped the calabash into the pot. He drunk the contents slowly, and not as fast as Ati did. If this conction was poisonous, he didn’t want to consume a lot before the effects kicked in.

But nothing happened. He rinsed his hands in the water and stood next to Godwin and the other boys. He felt normal. There was no effect whatsoever on him. It troubled his mind. To his side were other boys who had drunk the concoction and were behaving as if they had smoked bad hemp. And then there was Ati. Gakpo had expected to on at least one side of the spectrum. Not in the stagnant, unaffected middle.

Adadevor smacked his lips and made a face and went ai, ai, ai! causing the boys to laugh. He was the most melodramatic of the gang, and the reaction was not out of place. Even Efo cracked a smile. Efo repeated the incantations to Adadevor and there was a complete stillness in the room before he gave a loud scream, and jumped back at least two feet from Efo. He collapsed into a heap on the floor. Efo eyed him warily before attending to Raymond. Nobody else seemed to care. They were used to Adadevor’s antics. When he was tired he’d join the rest of the boys standing.

Raymond and Atsu were the last to go through the small ritual. They both did not do anything out of the ordinary, and joined Gakpo in silently contemplating if the ritual had worked on them. But Efo did not allow them to chew over it fully. He clapped his hands firmly.

“We are almost ready to go outside. You will see family members and friends outside. But remember, you’re no longer one of them. They are people from your past lives. You are new beings. And you live to serve the whims of the vodun. Do you understand?”

9 thoughts on “Excerpt 1

  1. 4 stories in one month! You’re spoiling us, Fui, but please, don’t stop.

    I think this is the first I’ve read a piece so long from you. As always, I’m in love with how familiar, how local the dialogue is. The story firmly localizes to Ghana, and the young men seem to be known strangers (if that makes any sense.)

    I can’t confidently guess where the overall arc of the story will go, and that makes me really curious. Is Gakpo your protagonist here, or should we expect him to die a bloody death in the next few paragraphs?

    I almost fell out of my chair at this description-

    “Gakpo watched anxiously as his friend was lifted off the ground with ease by Agbeve, who looked like he was one mosquito bite away from the grave. ”

    If you’re going to edit anyone out, please please keep this unintentionally hilarious young man Gakpo and his one-sack-of-rice kg friend.

    I noticed the characters felt a bit crowded getting to the end- probably a side effect of plucking an excerpt from a long form story without context,

    Also, there weren’t many physical descriptions- faces, body habitus, distinguishing tics and so on. Except of course, one-sack-of-rice kg, one-mosquito-bite-to-the-grave Agbeve and the muscular vulcaniser. I’m especially interested in what Efo looks like, because my mind is conjuring up kumawood-esque pictures. Again, it’s probably the fact that this is just an excerpt from a long form story.

    One last question before I go– When are we getting the next chapter? Or the next few paragraphs, I don’t mind. (See, I didn’t ask when it will be finished 🙂 )

    1. Ah I love reading long comments. Thank you for the feedback!

      I should have added that this is just the first draft and at this point I was introducing the characters as they appeared to me in my head, so it does read as a bit rushed. I posted it because I wanted feedback, which you did a good job of providing. In editing, I’ll probably add the bits you noticed were missing.

      As for when the rest will be out, let’s hope I have enough inspiration to actually finish. Or a publisher to finance my finishing the story. 😂

      1. Fui don’t take liberties with your readers or expect their undivided attention and loyalty. The whole point of a story, be the story ooo. When the lingua gymnastics and fun regarding structure and plot is done and dusted, there still must be a story. You seem to be flogging this one too much… Ah dey develop readers block!! Great story, u got a bredda hooked now let’s go, let’s go with da plot!!! 🤔 Man dey gag for more bro!!!

  2. OK ok ok. I shall chillax and finish my palmio (sum cheap watered down and bottled milk coloured fluid that passes for palmiofor here in London.- actually bought from a shop near your dad’s old office in effra Road in brixton). And i will wait for the further update to this bunch of nincompoops day hahahaah. I luv yourchara tees maaan. Say hi to Sis. Ramatu. Say its ” fadddaaaa”, Fadapeterfodolokpo!!!!

      1. Bossman. Why did they stop using ‘ langalanga’ for ghana? Maan that is such a vastly superior implemt compared to cutlass for cutting grass. Ask our old watchman Braa Fuseini!!! Ah swear man used to be scared of him when he welded that langalanga as opposed to his bow and arrow. Pardon me I realise I am so out of tune with ghana. 😂

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