Short Stories

The Living Dead-Paul Vihihga Abuul

He involuntarily went through a tremulous dance, shaking in stanzas, gallons of sweat pouring from his head to toe, drenching the log of wood on which he sat. He had to sit on the log when his legs became too heavy to carry his hefty body to his ate. In his mind’s eyes, he crossed one stream after another.

“Which chicken is wanted in my compound? Is it among my children, my wife or myself? This is a very bad omen,” he thought. He wondered where such a bad sign could be coming from and streams of imaginations hugged his consciousness.

Ieren came out of the hut and saw that he was in a pensive mood. She wondered what could be eating him up because she had rarely seen him that way.

              “What is it that troubles you so much my husband?” she jolted him out of his reverie.

“My eyes are beginning to see my ears,” gazing steadily at the floor without raising his head, he spoke with an unusual softness.

          Ieren enquired for more explanation but he retorted, “It is not a matter for women.”

          Although she felt nervous, for the fear of enraging her husband, she did not push him  further.

          Igbazua informed Ieren that he would not be leading them to the farm on that day as he would have to go to Mbabuande, a very distant community, to see Mbatareghna, the great and fearless sorcerer, to help him unravel the mysterious happenings around him.

          As he was about mounting his bicycle, he called Ieren and warned her not to stay on the farm with the children till evening. Igbazua rode his bicycle as fast as his legs could turn the pedals. Before Nagi River, half way to Mbabuande, he saw a  giant rat sitting on the narrow path, oblivious of his presence.

            “Takuruku! This is another terrible omen. In the morning I found a dead akiki in my compound and now this? Who is after me or my family?” Igbazua soliloquised, gripped by pressure and frustration. He killed the rat and increased his pace. For the first time, Igbazua passed his old childhood friend’s compound with just a wave of his hand without stopping for their usual chit-chat.


The Sorcerer, a tall and lanky fellow with two long abaji marks that made his face appear like one of those victims of the Fulani herdsmen attack, on sighting Igbazua from his shrine, said in a croaky voice, “It is only the snake in the house that can cause the house-rat to seek refuge in the arms of the house owner during the day. Death is roaming in your compound.” Igbazua was terrified.

          “My heart is heavy, my legs are weak and I shiver, with tear like sweat streaming down the soles of my feet. Like a child, I fear the tail of a lizard for a snake, not for lack of knowledge, but for the tales my age can tell. Great son of the spirits, as a man, I perceived it. That is why I have come to know why and where it is coming from and how it can be averted,” Igbazua said in a fainting voice.

“Your wife!” said the Sorcerer.

“My wife?” Igbazua asked with incredulity.

“I mean they are after your wife,” the Sorcerer replied.

          On hearing this, Igbazua felt a heavy lump swell in his throat but the aged manliness in him stood firm and gave him courage. He sought to know why. The sorcerer told him without riddles that his late father-in-law’s brother wanted a chicken from his brother’s house to sprinkle blood on his imborivungu.

          “Your wife is the target and the enemy is likely to succeed if you don’t act fast because he has a chia against her. He claims that he has a justified grudge against her because you married her by elopement and thereafter, you did not carry out the full marriage rites.”

“Yes!” Igbazua admitted.

“To avoid this calamity, you must go to your wife’s home and call all her kinsmen and perform the full marriage rites.”

          “Msuur kpish wan ba Taregh,” Igbazua expressed appreciation to the sorcerer and headed straight for Naka, his home town, to prepare for the marriage ceremony.


          After an exhausting work on the farm, Ieren and her son, Tyona were hurrying to get home before the sky would go blind as earlier cautioned by her husband. Half way home, when they had crossed River Kpukuru, a tributary of Nagi River. she felt an urge to defecate, so compelling it was that she could not defer. She asked Tyona to wait for her and went into the bush to answer the call of nature. Unknown to Ieren, she was answering a diabolic call by two fetish assassins.

        As soon as she got to the spot where they were waiting for her, she could neither move nor squat to ease herself. She stood dumb. Suddenly, a wave of extreme fear enveloped her and she became cold. Behind her, a mighty vulture descended fiercely from an iroko tree, flapping its wings against her head, then perched on the ground looking at her intently as she staggered. A thick dark cloud soon engulfed her. She fell backward and got lost into a deep sleep as the vulture took off and a gigantic black bull emerged from beside.

          Tyona became afraid when his mother failed to come out of the bush. He decided to trace the path she took earlier. He was shocked and gripped with fear as he finally found his mother lying on the ground half naked and covered with dust. Most horrifying was the monstrous sight of the gigantic bull that stood beside his mother perhaps keeping watch over her.

            “Aya! Aya!! Aya!!!” He called his mother but there was no response. He summoned courage and advanced more to where she laid as the bull took some few steps behind. As he bent over his mother with trembling hands, he shook her and tried opening her glued eyes, but there was no reaction. Tyona’s fear heightened as the sounds of the forest birds increased and the bull started advancing. Tyona’s heart almost sank into his belly and he ran out of the bush and headed home.

* * *

          When Igbazua arrived home, he met only his two little children who were already starving. He became worried about his wife and son. As he was about leaving the compound to check on them, he saw Tyona from a distance running home in anguish. Igbazua was  troubled.

          “What is it! What is it! What is the matter..?” he inquired anxiously.

          Tyona, panting breathlessly, could not speak. Igbazua rushed into the hut and brought out a pail of water and wetted his head hurriedly. After recovering from the breathlessness, in tears, he cried out, “Mother! Mother!! Mother!!!” Immediately, Igbazua remembered what the sorcerer had told him earlier in the day and  his heart drowned in fear. 

“What happened to your mother?” Igbazua asked in a trembling voice.

          Tyona told his father what had happened on their way home. He quickly took his bicycle and asked Tyona to lead him to the place.

          Close to the river where she was attacked, they saw Ieren approaching. She looked dirty and confused like a child that has been dragged away from the playground.

            “Ieren, what happened to you,” Igbazua asked her. She was surprised at the serious look on her husband’s face. She seemed not to know what had really happened to her.

“I went into the bush to ease myself, suddenly, I felt extremely drowsy and I–I don’t know, I just slept off,” Ieren explained with a groggy look on her face.

          When Igbazua heard this, he lowered and shook his head knowingly. He raised his head and looked sorrowfully at his wife. As a man vexed with vast knowledge of tradition, he knew that he was only beating the ground where the snake had already passed: his wife had been killed and revived with Ikyehegh.

          Igbazua took Ieren home and stared at her throughout that night, sleep far away from his eyes. The lump in his throat remained there. At dawn, Igbazua set  out for his wife’s home with some of his most eloquent and bold kinsmen whom he had informed about what had happened to Ieren.


It was a solemn gathering between Igbazua and Ieren’s kinsmen. Igbazua narrated the sorcerer’s revelation and the subsequent attack on his wife. When he was done, a serious discussion ensued. The flow of discussion was beyond the comprehension of people outside their fold. Ieren’s kinsmen claimed not to have endorsed her death or even to have had a clue about it. They decided to also confirm the revelation made by the sorcerer whose identity Igbazua refused to disclose in line with tradition.

                The kinsmen delegated two elders from each side to consult Biamke, their  own soothsayer since Shaku, Ieren’s uncle was denying the allegation. When the elders returned, they reported that Mbiamke had also revealed exactly as had been alleged. Shaku became tongue-tied.

                      “We had pardoned you before but it seems you are so bent on wiping away your late brother’s household. He was a good man and a good fellow to us before he died and since you are not ready to be a father to his children, we, his fellow kinsmen, will not fold our arms and just watch you,” Udende, the eldest of Ieren’s kinsmen spoke as his fellow elders nodded in affirmation.        

             Shaku nailed his forehead to the walking-stick he held in between his legs; he knew the danger of being under the anger of the entire clan. He knew his life and that of his children were at stake. For a moment, he could not lift his head to look at the eyes boring into him from every side. 

               “Even if Ieren cannot be brought back to life wholly again, she will live longer before joining her ancestors and she would have to be coming home at least three times in a season to drink atakpagh as the water will help her stay strong and healthy,” Udende assured Igbazua and his kinsmen. However, he advised Igbazua to endeavour to carry out the full marriage rites so as to ensure the safety of his children. Igbazua returned home with his kinsmen with a lighter heart.



          Many years had passed and the talk about Ieren’s living-dead too had grown

grey hair. With the passing of the years, her children numbered six and her strong

Supportive hands in the act of farming and her sale of tobacco leaves brought her

husband great prosperity. The story of her revival too gradually extinguished from

the minds of those who had feared her and she later made more friends especially

the ones who borrowed condiments and never returned as promised. Tyona, her

first son too by this time could wear the clothes of men. Ieren never felt sick until

the moments she started seeing the scary images of the fierce vulture and the black

gigantic bull that had caused the gathering of kinsmen. Igbazua understood the

signs. It was time for a second death.

Paul Vihihga  Abuul, a creative writer from Benue State, Nigeria.
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