Home Blog My Past Life by Emmanuel Enaku

My Past Life by Emmanuel Enaku


The full moon blazed down on us at its highest intensity as we strode through the forest, our feet making occasional rustling sounds when they crushed down on dried leaves, seeds and twigs, accentuating the thudding sounds of hard soles — that carried weary bodies — matching down on the dry, craggy and coarse track of the evil forest.

As we sauntered on, manoeuvring our way through thick forest bushes, each of us had a hand fastened on the handle of a sheathed sword tied to the waist while the other hand held firmly to a blazing local torch, our lips were clamped down hard on the fresh palm blades between them and our eyes darted around, shining with grim alertness as we scanned the spaces around us with pinpoint accuracy. We were warriors and we were trained to remain calm and alert even in unbearable discomfort.

There was a sudden wind that blew harshly in the forest, swaying trees and shedding semi-dried leaves and then, a sharp sound pierced briefly into the night. The chirping, buzzing, humming and whirring noises of forest insects that accompanied us all through the journey stopped abruptly. We froze and our muscles tensed and our eyes bulged, assessing the area to catch even the faintest movement or anything that was out of the ordinary. Iyankpor, who was in front leading us, raised his right fist up and we did not move another body part except for our eyes which got even more alert and darted wildly. Everyone’s bodies were shredded of its weariness reflexively and in its place, to enormous levels, was pure and total adrenaline.

We stood hard and still like rocks as Iyankpor strained his eyes and ears, marking the position where some strange sounds only he seemed to have heard came from. He turned suddenly, impaling us with hard glistening eyes that reflected the fiery burning torch in his right hand. He threw the torch on the dry ground a distance away from him and it began to burn the leaves around. In the sudden illumination, due to the effect of the burning leaves, we could see him clearly. His shoulders that were always proud had sagged, sweat poured out of his face and muscular body which still had traces of our local tattoo, made with cam wood and white chalk and oh, his eyes! Those eyes — which were always confident, daring and hard, lacked all these qualities now. As he took his palm blades from between his lips and faced us, his expression spewed nothing but unadulterated dread that threw us all into confusion.

“Run! Save yourselves! The quest — you must deliver it to the king!” he hissed in an agitated manner.

The leadership of Iyankpor was never questioned. He was an efficient brute, clever and powerful with amazing sixth sense and reflexes that made him undefeatable. His feats in the village wrestling arena and combat skills in war were things that almost made us think him a supernatural being but our brute of a leader was not looking anything like what we knew him to be. He looked more like a weak and lost boy in the midst of the blazing, burning fire. The initial rush of adrenaline through our bloodstreams subsided rapidly and we stared at each other with incomprehension. The cloud of fear that showed in our leader’s eyes — now doubled — was reflected in everyone’s eyes as we tried to communicate wordlessly and perhaps, read the other man’s mind because we could not take the palm blades from our lips; the mere evil essence of the terrain we found ourselves creepily dared us to.

Iyankpor took out his sword and crutched in one fluid movement. His sharpened sword shone ominously under the dull light of the moon that was partially covered by black clouds and the topaz glow of our torches which burned dimly. His right knee was pinned to the ground and his body was doubled over the left knee. His arms were astride and his face bent to face the ground.

There was another strong wind and then, repeated whoosh sounds as the flames of our torches were snuffed out. We flung the extinguished wooden poles away and frantically reached for our swords, our hearts palpitating wildly, loudly enough for the other man to hear. Holding our breath, we strained our ears to pick up any further sound as we returned fully into destruct mode. We could taste the adrenaline on our tongue and our bodies vibrated with anticipation.

We heard it, then — a low growl that emanated from somewhere in the shadows. It grew louder until it began to vibrate the ground where we stood and then, it was joined by a deep rasping chuckle that sent shivers down our spines. Suddenly, out of the shadows stepped a hulking figure that was as terrifying as it was strange. It, definitely, wasn’t something fit for the eyes of men and our fear was complete.

Iyankpor stood up then and began to approach the beast, his glistening sword trailing a path behind him. His face was screwed with intense hatred and he once again looked every bit of the fearsome warrior whom we accepted and recognized over the years as our leader. We stood disoriented and watched what was happening. However, that creature did not break strides in its approach. Its eyes glowed red and its long claws glinted in the moonlight as it moved confidently giving total disregard to the counter approach of our leader. Instantaneously, it gave a horrible snarl and lunged at its assailant, its unpredictable movement taking us all — with the exception of Iyankpor, of course — totally aback.

Quickly, Iyankpor ducked and tumbled, gaining his feet as his legendary reflexes — which made us refer to him as “the cat” — came to the fore. He barely escaped the sharp claws of the horrible creature and the creature crashed to the ground with the effect of its own momentum.

That beastly creature did not stay down, though. It gained its feet quickly with an agility that was inexplicable for its size and fixed Iyankpor with a deadly stare, its eyes glowing a shade redder.

Iyankpor was a blur of movement as he charged at the beast, his sword slashing the air wildly in all directions, he ducked, spun, somersaulted, tumbled and rolled, dodging the onslaught of the beast and giving series of deadly attacks of his own. He was like a spirit, an angered spirit but the fight was not one that was supposed to last. The creature was fast, efficient and deadly but there was something else that was horrible to witness about the beast; something that took the fight totally out of our leader’s already famished body and fatigued mind.

Iyankpor suddenly got the upper hand and he quickly grabbed the opportunity and went for a frontal attack with a savage, cruel curl to his lips. The beast spun and blocked, allowing the warrior’s sword, which had a huge amount of force behind it, to go through its upper left limb, completely severing it off. The beast gave a yowl of pain and stepped back as blood and viscera sprayed across the ground. Iyankpor started to smile but stopped immediately. We gasped with shock too at what was unfolding. The beast stretched the severed, bleeding limb before it and the wound began to seal itself shut, knitting together flesh and bones in a horrifying display of regeneration. Soon, the limb was restored, strong and spotless as though it was never harmed. It flexed its newly-healed limb and let out a guttural growl. Its baleful gaze was fixed on Iyankpor and its expression was mocking, seeming to relish the look of shock on the warrior’s face.

All of a sudden, the beast moved with ineffable speed, thrusting its claws forward. Those claws went through Iyankpor’s body like hot knives through butter. Iyankpor shrieked in pain and terror as the beast ripped him apart in two equal halves, spewing his insides on the forest grounds.

The beast came for us then. We went from five to four and then three — each disappearance, announced by a loud scream. I stood with Udoka and Ogonzi, my sword glistening in my shaky arm. The beast materialized from the darkness and squashed Udoka’s head like it was made of eggshell. Udoka’s limp body dropped to the knees first before finally falling to the ground. Ogonzi took to his heels, running blindly into the bushes but soon, his wail of terror split through the forest and then, everywhere was quiet.

The beast returned. It growled and snarled as it circled me, trapping me in the middle. I dropped my sword, took out the blades of fresh palm from between my lips and lifted my right arm to the sky. I was no longer afraid. In a deep and loud voice, I began to speak.

“My name is Ugbo Uzo, the son of Uzochukwu Odiga, the hawk”, I screamed and the beast stood still. “I come from the powerful line of roaring lions and I have the birthmark of a roaring lion on my back. My father, Odiga, had it and so did all my ancestors before him. I have undergone the full ritual of ancestral impartation and I have been imbued with all the skills of my ancestors, from magic to war tactics and I can call these up by a simple incantation. I am on a mission to deliver a parcel to the current king. I do not want to clash with you. Get out of my way!”

The beast moaned and began to retreat. The sun came up and I picked my sword and the parcel and continued my journey home.

My name is Ugbo Okeke and I vividly recollect these happening many generations ago, in my past life.

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