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some people in our village are dying quick

reason for this; Ubagabi.

they said they were chopping woods,

gathering woods

in the forest when the uncanny bird appeared.

the bird circled around in the air and fixed

them a target gaze, then came hurtling down towards them.

they saw its

bird body and old woman's head,

and they immediately knew what it is.

they took to their heels but the bird was faster. It hit them in the

back with a thud. they spoke about the searing pain that manifested

in them like it was a stone that was catapulted against their back.

the pain subdued in moments, however, like nothing happened. but

that wasn’t a relief. anyone who Ubagabi hitted

at anywhere in the body,

would live only three years longer

from that time on.

probably less.

 

the recounting of Ubagabi’s origin was a popular one;

 

it tells of long ago

in our village,

how there was a very poor old woman.

to survive, she begged for alms,

but no one was willing to spare anything.

so she did the only thing she could, to

make ends meet. she resorted to stealing oils

from shrines and people’s home,

and then went on to sell them in some outlying marketplace.

oil stealing was a great crime.

oil was a difficult and expensive commodity to make.

it requires skill, efforts, and hardwork to extract it from tea seeds.

the tea seeds themselves were rare.

it would take pain to find them.

 

eventually the old woman was caught

and from then on, she was mistreated all around the village

and everyone would shout “oil thief” on her

every time she entered into their sight.

the old woman’s shame was so great she

wasn’t able to live with it.

she went to the river and drowned herself in it.

such deaths were the unclean kind.

so rather than dying properly and passing on to the afterlife,

she was turned into a supernatural monster—one we have come to nickname Ubagabi.

she’s grew so spiteful that she wasn’t willing to spare anyone of

her supernatural curse.

 

she only appears on occasions

and it’s only in the forests.

lot of people don’t want to near the forests

but there’s no way around it.

the woods earned from the forest is essential

for cooking … and other stuffs

people still come to the forests, but their only hope is that

Ubagabi doesn't appear to them.

people hope they won’t be so unlucky.

 

I had hoped that too,

on the day I went to the forest to chop woods,

that I could light up to heat myself,

against the cold atmosphere of the cold season.

all of a sudden,

I saw a black bird alight on a tall tree branch.

I thought nothing of it,

at first,

until I looked upon the upper part of its body and saw that it was

the way they had described it.

Its hag head was unfitting and big for its bird frame.

the eyes from the hag’s head gave me a soul-crushing gaze

I felt the need to avert my eyes,

quick,

but I was frozed up; every part of me was unresponsive.

I wanted to sprint away

fast as I could.

but I was reminded Ubagabi would caught up to me

and make a hit on my body,

a hit that would initiate the curse.

 

nonetheless, I couldn’t do anything.

I just remained there, our eyes interlocked.

Ubagabi acted first; swooping down from the branch,

propelling towards me.

I acted second, mere moments,

as Ubagabi was about to hit me.

 

Abura sashi, I shouted. Oil thief!

 

Ubagabi vanished into thin air,

and no one saw her again. Ever since.

 

her shame at being called out

as a thief is too much to bear even in death,

apparently.

 

 

 

[Editor’s Note: Publication of this poem was made possible by a gift from Mary Soon Lee during our annual Kickstarter.]



A. A. Ademola is an emerging author from Nigeria, who started his writings in mid-2022. He has works forthcoming in some venues, and this is his first publication. He's semi-active on Twitter: @tyrecty.
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