On the 13th night of January 2017, there was a full moon for about 4 ½ minutes. In that time, something remarkable happened to four people in different parts of the country. Now, neither person knew or had met the other, save for the connection they shared that night, by the misty light of a full moon.
He had been driving for at least thirty minutes. The road from Nsukka to Enugu city was long and rough. Not to mention unsafe at this time. But he had no choice. If he was to make the 7am interview the next day, he had to be in Enugu before dawn. What kind of person fixes an interview so early? He thought. Maybe someone who had run out of screening ideas?
He had been on duty all day. Thankfully, this weekend was free. This prospective new job meant everything to him; if he got it, it would make a lot of difference. The road was deathly lonely and narrow. There was nothing on either side except grassy knolls and thick bushes. Although it unsettled him, he reassured himself that things were faster this way.
Suddenly, the headlamps went off. Odd. He turned the light-switch both ways. Nothing. This was the beginning of a nightmare. Now he would have to navigate the pitch blackness without light! He slowed his speed and strained his eyes. It made no difference, he was driving blind.
After 10 minutes of driving, something strange happened. It was more about the timing than the event itself. The clouds brightened and a full moon slowly emerged in the night sky, lighting up the road ahead of him. He quickly applied the brakes. A few more meters and he would have plunged his car into a fatally deep gully. He circled around it. A signpost in front read, “9th Mile”. There were halogen lamps from there on. He would be in Enugu soon.
Many people believe in witchcraft, but few are brave enough to try it. Few like Hafua. She hadn’t always been a witch though. A series of unfortunate circumstances had forced her to seek answers in a dark path. Tonight, she had spent hours conjuring a therianthropic spell. It was a painful one too, but the relief of vengeance was worth any physical anguish.
As she flew over the rusty zinc roofs and dense vegetation below, she imagined all the horror she would inflict on Tony. After seven years of dating, her boyfriend had left her cold and dry. Why? Because she had told him she couldn’t have children. Why was he so selfish? They were in love. What did a few kids mean in comparison with what they had?
She heard he was going to wed his new bride tomorrow. She had to act fast. Tony would never know happiness. She wanted him to hurt hard, to cry as much as she did all those nights after their breakup. The starless night was perfect. She would camouflage her feathery crow animagus in the shadows and torture him.
Unfortunately, as she swooped over and under the electric wires, the Benin skyline was suddenly lit by a materializing brightness in the clouds. A full moon. No! Not now! She cried. One of the conditions of the spell was that it could only happen on a moonless night. A therianthrope would die if moonlight struck its wings. As Hafua dropped from the sky, all she could think about was Tony and the lovely children he would have with his bride.
She was crying, and they were crying. But not because of the pain, like her. They were afraid for her life. Anatu had been in labour since noon. All attempts to push her baby out were unsuccessful, and the fight had gone out of her. She was surrounded by an expectation of midwives whose repeated dabbing with damp towels did little to quell her discomfort.
You see, Anatu’s problem was more psychological than physical. Having borne five girls already, she was scared of the sex of her next baby. Being the first and senior wife of the village Chief Imam, it was imperative that she have a boy. The other two junior wives already had three boys between them. And she was often the subject of their wordless taunts.
This was her last chance, if she didn’t produce an heir as the senior wife, she would be demoted and cast to a secluded part of the Imam’s compound. Anatu believed strongly that this would happen, so in an attempt to delay the inevitable, she held back her birthing. Even if it was for a few more minutes, so she could remain the senior Shaykah of the household.
The pleas of the midwives fell on deaf ears. She would die, they cried. In a way, Anatu believed it was a better fate. In the small birthing hut, the night sky was visible through the open thatched roof. Anatu looked up and saw the misty glow of a full moon peering through a mass of slowly floating clouds. It seemed to reassure her. She decided to push one last time. Soon, a baby’s cry filled the room. With the last strength in her, Anatu sat up to see her baby and flopped back on the bed in relief. It was a boy.
His typical day was a busy one. Which was why he cherished the quiet times at night. He had done this job before, but didn’t remember it being as challenging back then. To be honest, he hadn’t a clue what he was doing. Well, he thought to himself, he would wing it as others had before him.
He grabbed a bottle of Hennessy from his private stash and went to the left-wing balcony of the rocky mansion where he poured himself a glass. He spilled a few drops on the marble floor but he couldn’t be bothered. He took a sip, swirled the hot liquid between his gap teeth and sighed. Opposite him, the Abuja skyline was dotted with numerous lights from swanky ministerial buildings. Below him was a 30-foot drop into the terraced garden.
He realised the bottle was empty. So soon? He zigzagged back into the bedroom for another bottle. His stash was thinning. The tall frail man made a mental note to request a restock. These small delights provided succour from the economic meltdown, the haranguing journalists and whining middle class. Sometimes, he longed for the old days when he could shut people up. Permanently.
Once outside, he lit himself a cigarette. Ayisha didn’t like it when he smoked, but he didn’t care. Besides, she was away on some women’s summit somewhere. The other room was empty. He chuckled to himself at the thought. At that moment, a cloud moved away in the black sky to reveal a shiny full moon. The sudden brightness startled him. He made a quick retreat for the bedroom, but slipped on the wet marble floor and dropped off the balcony. Thirty feet below.
In the morning, 170 million people would hear the news.
11:38 ½ pm
The full moon retreated.