I woke up one night to pee and found mama sleepwalking in the dark. At first, I thought she was checking the exit doors to make sure they were locked but something about her gait made me turn on the corridor light.
Her eyes were open but had a glazed look. It was quite unsettling.I called her five times but she said nothing and kept walking up and down the corridor. Worried and scared, I rushed off to papa’s room and woke him up.
It took some minutes but papa was able to rouse her from her sleep walk and take her back to her room. This was the beginning of her sleep walks.
At first it was funny, then it became irritating because someone had to stay awake and watch her before she hurt herself. It was during this watch-time that we realized something. She murmured a lot in her sleep walk. Initially we thought it was mere murmurs till my younger brother called our attention to what she was always saying, ”Ifediora, lọ ta ba”.
Ifediora was her twin brother. He was the one who had snuck out of the house to join the children soldiers during the Nigerian Civil War. My grandparents did their best to bring him home but he always eluded them. The lure of war seduced him too much.
He was expected back home when the war ended but he never came home. From all reports, no one saw him fall. Everyone who knew him claimed he was alive to the end. But he never came home.
We told our father about her murmurs and it worried him so much. Papa whose spirituality always teetered on the edge of atheism, started to consult every prophet(ess), priest(ess) or guru with a fourth eye. He needed answers and Mama encouraged him too. Finally, they found an answer and a family meeting was called.
The family agreed to go to Akokwa in Imo State and pack some soil for Ifediora’s funeral. Since that was the last place it had been claimed he was seen, it made sense to represent him with Akokwa soil.They believed he might have died on his way to Uga airport – all conjectures, of course. My family had a funeral for Uncle Ifediora. They really went all out for him. My mom played the role of the grieving twin sister so well and my grandmother shed tears anew for her lost son. Of course, my maternal community – ụmụọrụka – represented well at the funeral. Kedu nke gbasara ha? All they said was, ‘ha echetago ikwa nwa ha nwoke Ifediora’.
The funeral went well. Uncle Ifediora got a proper burial and everyone went home.However, the sleep walking and murmur didn’t stop.
What to do? What to do?
Papa did his consultations again and it was agreed that Uncle Ifediora’s grave must be secured with heavy duty chains. According to Papa’s ‘consultant’, since Uncle Ifediora was a victim of a brutal war, it should be expected that his spirit will forever be restless. Apparently, a grave can’t hold in his spirit so it needs to be kept in by a stronger iron with a stronger force.He added that failure to do so might lead to my mother’s death because her sleep walk is a manifestation of the pull of her twin from beyond.
Finally, Uncle Ifediora’s grave was prematurely plastered and a chain was installed around the grave after it was ‘blessed’. Mama stopped sleep walking and we were warned not to ever mention the name of the dead again.
So right now I’m standing over his grave and wondering what might happen if I remove the chain.
You see, Mama is dead now. We just buried her yesterday, so I doubt she’ll sleepwalk where ever she is now. Today would have been their 64th birthday but I guess they’ll be celebrating it together for the first time in 50 years.
Written by Adachukwu Onwudiwe
Adachukwu Onwudiwe loves to tell stories. She strongly believes that storytelling enables humans to bare themselves to one another and see the perfection and imperfection makes us who and what we are.This, she believes, makes healing, acceptance and forgiveness, easy to reach.