Fear gripped him as he valiantly tried to fend off the grotesque being that was grappling at him. Those detestable hands were all over him and as he struggled for his dear life, he willed himself to remain rooted to the ground. His will however wasn’t enough to stop the mmanwu; that fiendish masquerade, from gleefully lifting him and dumping his lithe 7 year old frame on his broad shoulders.
It baffled Dike that his father; Akunne, who should be defending him, would have that annoying smirk playing on his face, when his son was in apparent distress. As the mmanwu made to storm off with his trophy, Dike caught a glimpse of his brothers peering excitedly from across the louvers, safe in the confines of their living room. Those two pairs of eyes, he had grown to detest, gawking at him. He had been regaled with stories of how the mmanwu would take troublesome boys to their ant hole abode and his spine melted at the chilling fate that awaited him. How could his father, connive with his devious brothers to get rid of him? How could he carry out such a threat on his own son? Question after question, tormented his mind with none providing any form of reprieve. He prayed for some sort of deliverance even as he kept struggling to regain his freedom.
It had all started like a joke. He had been drawn to the balcony of their village home by noises of the mmanwu hailing his father. He had abandoned every other distraction and rushed to the unfolding spectacle with his two elder brothers. As the mmanwu danced and inched closer to the balcony, he remained alert, waiting for the very last moment to dash for the safety of the living room. In his excitement however, he failed to notice when his brothers sneaked in and locked the door from within. That was how the dreaded mmanwu was able to isolate him and whisk him off on that mythical, macabre journey to the spirit world.
Left with no other alternative, Dike instinctively reverted to his trusted defence mechanism and dug his teeth into the mmanwu’s dirty raffia garb. To his pleasant surprise, he made contact with flesh, repugnant human flesh. Fear seeped through his assailant and like a predator, Dike sensed it and attacked with more vigour, eliciting a scream from the mmanwu. It wasn’t that piercing eerie sound made by such spirit beings, no, it was the cry of a human specie in agony. Roles had been reversed, the aggressor had been put on the back foot. The mmanwu in exasperation, quickly put him down and stepped away. “The family should carry their own cross”, he must have reasoned. “What sane boy would bite a spirit? It’s even more galling to think that all these were put-up to deter him from this same vice.”
Dike was embarrassed, not for his carnivorous display but by the fact that he was driven to a state of panic by a human being. A weak one at that, who had to hide behind that ugly mask to intimidate him. “What a lily-livered spirit?” he sneered at the retreating mmanwu, mocking him for feeling pains like mere humans. Quickly picking up stones, Dike dared him to step forward and fulfill his mission. Akunne looked on in dismay. His well thought out plan to redeem his errant son had come to naught. Now he had a job on his hand to assuage Dike, who was prancing around like an enraged Bull.
Having been the only son of his own father, Akunne had longed for many sons. Unbridled, defiant and crafty, this third son of his is becoming a handful and a scourge. Perhaps he erred in naming him Dike, after their celebrated, battle-hardened forebear.
Dike n’agha; a strong man in battle… he has lived up to his name yet again by thwarting their plot and coming out on top in a contest with none less than a spirit being.