The boy and the well

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Status: In Progress  |  Genre: Poetry  |  House: Booksie Classic
"The boy and the well" is a collection of five short stories and twenty three poems.

Submitted: May 04, 2017

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Submitted: May 04, 2017

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THE BOY AND THE WELL

From the moment Jokotho opened his eyes, he could tell that there was nothing familiar about the room he was in. It had only been a few minutes since he had woken in a strange new world but he kept drawing blanks as he struggled to recollect his memories. His head pounded with every attempt at trying to understand the situation he was in.

As Jokotho examined his surroundings, he noticed the large brown wooden door. He had a feeling that whoever was behind the door would give him the answers he was desperately searching for. With every step he took, his body ached like he was being stabbed by a thousand knives. As he neared the door, he heard commotion outside. His heart beat faster as he recognised the sounds as those of people screaming and shouting.

No sooner had he reached the door than it burst open. In a flash, two people scrambled in. The first one, a woman, grabbed his hand and forcefully led him back to the bed. The other, a man, closed the door shut and bolted it. As if that was not enough, he pushed against it with all his might. Jokotho could tell that the man did not want whatever was behind the door to come in.

As the woman protectively embraced Jokotho, she whispered to him, “Don’t be scared, child. Everything will be fine.”

Jokotho examined the two strangers in his room. Something about them did not seem right. They adorned very fine robes and were covered in expensive jewellery. He had never come across anyone who dressed and talked like the way the two people did. Before he could find out the identities of the two people, there was a loud bang at the door.

On hearing people at the door order for it to be open, the woman placed her hands on the face of Jokotho as if to comfort him. She held his gaze and said, “I need you to be brave.  I need you to be strong. You should never forget who you are.” She then placed a necklace of beads around his neck. Pausing to wipe the tears that were now flowing down her face, she continued, “I promise we will meet again but for now, Kembo is going to take you to a place where you will be safe.”

“Kembo?”Jokotho muttered under his breath as his mind swirled.

“Yes, Kembo your protector,” the woman repeated as she pointed to the dark corner of the room. On hearing its name, a fluffy little beast slowly rose from the darkness. The hairs on Jokotho’s back rose as the beast drew closer. It was the weirdest animal he had ever seen. He couldn’t tell if it had no head or if it had no abdomen; it was just round like a big ball.

The creature then slowly approached Jokotho and opened its large mouth revealing endless rows of dagger like teeth. “Kembo at your service, my Prince,” it bowed. Jokotho felt the ground giving way beneath him as he slumped to the ground. The room went dark.

A few hours later, Jokotho regained consciousness. From what he could perceive, he could tell that he was no longer in the room. He realised he was now lying on grass and far above him was open sky. He then heard singing a few meters from where he was seated. Turning round slowly, he discovered that the song was coming from the thing that was with him earlier. It was preparing something on the fire. Jokotho’s first thought was that the fire was meant for him. He jumped up and held out his hand to the creature. “Please don’t eat me,” he begged.

The creature was startled, “My Prince, you have awoken.” It quickly scooped some of the soup, it was cooking, into a bowl. Holding the bowl in its hand, it moved towards Jokotho. Jokotho was so spooked out that he remained frozen to the spot as the creature reached him. It sat right in front of him and handed him the steaming bowl. “Here, you must eat. We have a long journey ahead of us. Eat and get some rest. At the cock’s crow, we set out.”

Jokotho stared at the creature motionless and speechless. Out of nowhere, someone else startled Jokotho, “If you are not going to eat the food, just give it to me.” Jokotho quickly scanned for the source of the voice.

“Shut up, Kujja. Now you want the Prince’s food. Have some respect,” Kembo implored.

Jokotho could see that the creature had turned its eyes upwards to whoever it was talking to. Slowly following the direction of the creatures’ eyes, he lifted his face until his eyes met the eyes of the mysterious voice. From what he could tell, two stalks that supported the eyes rose from the back side of the furry ball creature. On his knees, Jokotho crawled around Kembo to examine his backside. His eyes landed on the most hideous thing he had ever seen. The stalks of eyes emerged from a worm like mass that had somehow attached itself to the centre of the back of the fur ball. The sight of it scared Jokotho so much that he scurried off as fast as his legs could. Behind him, he could hear the creature calling out, “My Prince, my Prince. Wait, don’t go.”He was running so blindly, he did not see the tree branch carefully hidden among the tree leaves. The impact almost split his head and he blacked out again for a couple more hours.

“He is opening his eyes. I think he has woken up, Kembo.”

“Shut up, Kujja. It is because of your running mouth that the Prince was hurt again.”

“You cannot blame me. You have yourself to blame: Carrying the Prince like a sack of potatoes. You must have hit his head really hard. Shame on you.”

Jokotho struggled to raise his head. His eyes couldn’t help but move back and forth between the two sets of eyes of the creature. Uttering his first words of the rather odd evening, Jokotho inquired, “What are you?”

Kembo and Kujja looked at each other like that was the last question they expected. “Forgive me my Prince,” Kembo then bowed, “You must be in shock considering what happened today. It is understandable that you must be suffering some form of temporary memory loss.” Clearing his throat, he continued, “Just to remind you of who we are: I am...” He was interrupted before he could say his name.

“I am Kujja and this dimwit here is Kembo. I happen to be a Jalabanga while this fool here is a Wuzzaka. We have been with you since the day you were born.” Seeing Kembo start to boil with anger, he continued, “There is nothing special about this ball of fur. He is just my man servant. I am the brains here so if you want answers, I am the one you should be talking to.”

Kembo clenched his paw and swung it forcing Kujja to duck. “You are not the brains here. You are nothing more than a lazy parasite living off me. You are lucky my claws can’t reach you.”

Kujja fired back, “I was born here and I will die here. And by here, I mean your backside.”

The way they were arguing with each other reminded Jokotho of a cat running round in circles chasing after its tail.

Jokotho was hungry for answers. To get the creatures’ attention, he cleared his throat. Kembo and Kujja stopped harassing each other and paid attention to what their Prince had to say.

Stammering, Jokotho tried to explain, “This is obviously a big mistake. You all have me mistaken for someone else.” Jokotho could tell from the way Kembo and Kujja looked at each other that they thought he was going cuckoo.

“My Prince, you are obviously tired, a good night’s rest will bring you back to your full healthy normal self.”

“First of all, I don’t know why you keep calling me Prince.” He stated, “I am no Prince and this is not my home.”

As much as Jokotho tried to explain himself, his pleas were falling on deaf ears. Jokotho then sighed and started to walk away.

“My Prince, wait,” Kujja and Kembo chased after him.

As he was making a desperate getaway, Jokotho came across a small pond a few meters on. Seeing the refreshing water reminded him of how exhausted he was. He thought to himself, “Just the thing I need, a little water to cool my mind.” Kneeling by the pond, he bent to scoop the tempting water. Just as his hands reached for the surface, he was met with a sight that horrified him. What he saw explained a lot: the reflection in the pond was not his, it was someone else’s. It then hit him that whatever face he had on at that moment, it was not his.

He sat there lost for words, trying to comprehend what was going on as Kujja and Kembo reached him.

“My Prince, we must camp for the night. You need a good night’s rest,” Kembo implored.

Jokotho looked up at the creatures. He sighed as if to signal that he had given up and they could do with him as they wished. In his mind, he pondered, “There is nothing I can do. There is nothing that makes sense and there is no one who can help me. How can anyone believe me yet all they see is their own version of the truth.”

The trio eventually found an abandoned cave and set off to sleep. After wishing their Prince a good night’s rest, Kujja and Kembo were soon deep in slumber land. On the other hand, Jokotho wrestled with thoughts of the dilemma he was in. Hours passed with Jokotho getting more stressed and restless. Not taking it any longer, he got up. Checking to see that his cave-mates were deep asleep, he set out into the night.

Jokotho swept through the dense thorny bushes and blades of tall grass. He had only one thought on his mind: to get to a human settlement. “Maybe there, I can find some help,” he reassured himself. His goal was crashed as soon as he reached the bank of a river. He tried to peer as far as he could to both ends of the river but to his dismay, there was no way to cross. A wave of hopelessness swept through his body. “It ends here,” he concluded. Not able to bear it any longer, he went down on his knees and wept.

Out of the blue, a soft soothing voice called out, “Don’t cry.”

Jokotho was startled. He wondered, “Who could that be?” He stood up and turned round to investigate. He was stunned to find that it was only a little girl. She was barely six years old. “What could such a young girl be doing out here at this time?” he pondered. Her innocent demeanour disarmed him.

“Why are you crying?” the girl asked Jokotho.

Jokotho rubbed his eyes and wiped his cheeks. He was embarrassed that a young girl had caught him crying so he lied that it was nothing.

The girl smiled and her eyes twinkled in the dark. “Are you lost? Is that why you are crying?”

Jokotho simply nodded his head.

The girl then spoke, “Hello, my name is Orchid. What is yours?”Jokotho replied. “Jokotho; that is a nice name and it is nice to meet you.” The girl then held his hand and with a cheerful smile told him, “There is a village on the other side of this river. I am sure we can find someone who can help you there.”

“Thank you but how do we get there? Can’t you see the river?” We will be swept by its strong waves the moment we try to cross,” Jokotho feeling both relieved and sceptical, asked.

“Do not worry. I know a bridge we can use not so far from here,” Not waiting for an answer, Orchid started to hop and skip away while humming. Jokotho saw no point in not following her after all he was short of options.

They were at the bridge within minutes. Orchid then led Jokotho across the bridge. As the moonlight shone on the both of them, Jokotho started to take in the features of the girl. As he noted how small her hands were, he noticed something strange happening to the girl’s hand. It was changing . It was turning darker and more slippery. Her skin was getting gooier.

“Hey, what is happening to you?”Jokotho gasped.  No sooner had he uttered those words than Orchid stopped humming and burst out into a disturbingly malevolent laughter.

Jokotho gasped as an enormous monster rose from the body of the young girl. Tentacles popped out from the young girl’s limbs and its entire mass was covered with eyes. The sudden emergence of this monstrosity scared Jokotho to near death. Jokotho held onto the bridge rails for his dear life.

The monster bellowed: “You have fallen for my trap.” It laughed hysterically, “the moment you accepted my help was the moment you death warrant was signed. You now have to bend to my will.” It then slithered its slimy tentacles around him. “I will let you walk away with your life if you offer me something more valuable than your life.”

Jokotho’s heart raced so much that he could barely hear the monster over the sound of his own heartbeat.

The monster tried to make itself clear, “Have you not heard my demands? If you have nothing of value, I will eat you right where you stand.”

Beads of sweat rolled down Jokotho’s back. He mumbled, “I have nothing.”The monster moved its face closer to Jokotho’s. “I didn’t hear you, what did you say?”Jokotho no longer caring whether he lived or died defiantly faced the creature. “I said that I have nothing of value.”

Jokotho then closed his eyes and waited for his impending death. After what seemed like ages, a thought crossed Jokotho’s mind that he was still alive. He wondered, “What is taking so long?” He slowly opened his eyes and that’s when he learnt that one of the tentacles had lifted the necklace of beads from his shoulders. As the monster examined the necklace, Jokotho remembered it as the one the woman from the room had given him. He could see that the monster was mesmerised by it. Taking advantage of the opportunity, he inquired, “Do you like it?” The monster didn’t reply as it was lost in the splendour of the beads. “If I give it to you, do you promise to set me free?”

After careful deliberation, the monster caved, “Fine, give me the beads and I will not eat you.”Jokotho quickly lifted the necklace from his neck and thrust it in the nearest tentacle. He tiptoed away from the monster leaving it transfixed on his gift.

As soon as he crossed the bridge, Jokotho broke into a sprint and did not stop until he was certain that there was a safe distance between him and the horror he had encountered. He clasped his knees as he paused to catch his breath. He then stood tall to scan his surrounding to see if he could reach the village. From what Jokotho could tell, it was about an hour’s walk from where he stood. He looked around and his eyes fell on a hut hidden amongst the dense bushes. “I could get some help from there,” he thought. He then walked to the hut and found an old woman digging in the nearby garden. Careful not to frighten her, he spoke softly, “Excuse me.”

The women stopped digging and looked up to see who had disturbed her. For some reason, she smiled when she saw Jokotho.“You are finally here. I was wondering what was taking you so long.”

Jokotho was stunned at the woman’s reaction. He stammered, “What do you mean? Do you know me? How do you know me?”

“So many questions, so little time,” she blurted out. The woman then walked to Jokotho, placed his hand over hers and guided him to her hut. She told him she who he really was, a fact that stunned Jokotho. “I will tell you all you need to know. First, you must regain your strength. Rest and eat, then we shall talk.”

Meanwhile back at the forest, Kujja and Kembo were just rising as the first rays of the sun entered the cave. As the two stretched out, Kujja realised something was amiss. “Kembo. Kembo: Where is the Prince?”

“He was right here,” Kembo yawned while pointing to the spot he had last seen Jokotho. His jaw dropped on seeing an empty space. “Oh, no,” Kembo panicked and started searching within and around the cave for the Prince.

After making several loud calls for the Prince, Kembo and Kujja dived into a heated exchange. They traded accusations.“You damn fool, you lost the Prince again”

“No way, you were supposed to keep an eye on him,” Kembo defended himself.

“I cannot believe I am stuck with an idiot,” Kujja cried out. They went on and on forgetting that they were running out of time.

Back at the hut, the old woman had returned with a tray full of delicious treats and a jug of cold refreshing water. Jokotho wasted no time in diving in for he was famished. The woman sat on a mat and looked on as her guest had his fill. When Jokotho was done, he politely extended his gratitude to the woman.

“It is a pleasure hosting you. I am truly honoured.” After taking back the tray, the old woman returned and said, “Now, we may begin.” She sat right next to Jokotho, placed his hands in her wrinkled ones and asked, “What is the last thing you remember before you woke up?”

Jokotho’s eye brows furrowed as he desperately tried to recount his last steps. “We had gone to the village of Oruu, where my parents were born. It was just my dad, mum and I. We were visiting my grandma.” A flash pain seared through his head. He took a moment to let it subside and then continued, “Right before bedtime, I went out to fetch water for a bath. There was this well. As I reached for the bucket in the well, I slipped and my whole body tumbled into the dark blue abyss.” He then concluded, “That is the last thing I remember before I woke up in a strange room; before I woke up in this strange world in a body that is not mine.” The memory of his parents brought tears to Jokotho’s eyes. He worried that something terrible may have happened to them.

The old woman listened intently while rubbing her chin. “I see, I see.” She then got up, clasped her hands and paced the front of her hut. After a few minutes, she stopped infront of Jokotho and placed her hands on his shoulders, “I know you are still wondering what is happening. Be patient, I will tell you everything. Let us wait for your friends to arrive.”

Jokotho was puzzled, “Friends? Which friends?”He needn’t have asked for at that very moment, Kujja and Kembo made their way to the hut. Jokotho closed his eyes and cringed, “Not again, not these two.”

On seeing his Prince, Kembo was ecstatic. He dashed to the Prince and blurted out, “My Prince, we are so happy to see you alive and well. We thought we had lost you.”

Kujja rebuked Kembo, “Get a hold of yourself. You are embarrassing me before my Prince.”

As if suddenly noticing the old woman, the furs on Kembo’s body stood up. “Forgive us, great Ata; mother of the forest. We are your humble subjects.”

The old woman spoke, “Now, now. Please feel at home. There is so much to discuss.” With those words, she went inside the hut and reappeared with a tray of treats for Kujja and Kembo. Kembo could not contain himself at the sight of the food before him. His drool betrayed his giant appetite. “Please, help yourselves,” the old lady offered the tray.

While Kujja and Kembo feasted, Ata began explaining everything to Jokotho. “This place is called the grand kingdom of Shokora. Shokora was founded by our founding father Osebo I. The tale goes that once, when he was travelling through the forest, he encountered a group of bandits. To enable him escape, a leopard gave up its life for him. It protected him from the enemies who had wanted to kill him. Since then, we have had generation after generation of great leopard Kings rule this kingdom. The body you have is that of the crown Prince and heir to the throne, Osebo XIII. His father, the man you encountered in the room, is the current ruler. He is called King Osebo XII. Yesterday, the general of the army, Ojok Ojara led his officers in a mutiny and overthrew the royal family.” She paused to let the information sink in. “I know you are wondering how you got to this world. You should understand that your world is one of many. That well you spoke of must have been some form of door to the spirit world and to this. Somehow you ended up in the body of Prince Osebo XIII. I am still trying to figure out where the young Prince’s spirit is. That is what I know for now.”

The story had shaken Kembo so much he had stopped eating. He mumbled to Kujja, “What I still don’t understand is why she keeps on referring to the Prince as Jokotho. Do you think she hit her head too?”

Kujja clenched his teeth, looked up to the heavens and cried, “Kill me, oh Great Spirit, kill me and save me from this buffoon.”

Jokotho who was still trying to connect all the dots, then spoke. “It all makes sense now. If I may ask: if the leopard King was so powerful, why did he get so easily overthrown?”

Ata disagreed, “No, he was not easily overthrown. It was an evil plan that greatly weakened him.” She further explained, “A week before King Osebo XII was overthrown, two of the royal insignia disappeared. Every King throughout history has had at his disposal these objects of power. They have enabled him crush his enemies.”

“And what are these three insignia?” Jokotho inquired.

“They are the great leopard skin, the spear of Labong and the beads of Gipiir. These are objects of such massive power. The great leopard skin made its wearer invincible. No sword no matter how sharp could even scratch it. As for the spear of Labong, there was no mark it could miss and no surface it could not penetrate. To top it all were the beads of Gipiir, granting the wearer the ability to shape shift. With the beads, one can be anyone or anything. I think you now understand why it is important that not just anyone should get their hands on these objects.”

“So, what happened to the objects? You mentioned that they were lost.”

“From the information that I have gathered, the great leopard skin was taken by the general. As for the spear of Labong, word has it that a renowned monkey; one famous for his cunning, stole it.  His name is Jogo Jogo. I am yet to know where the beads are.”

The mention of the beads made Jokotho visibly uncomfortable. He suddenly remembered his experience on the bridge and had a strong feeling that the beads that were taken by the monster girl were the same ones that Ata was talking about.

Ata noticed the shift in her guest’s expression. Curious, she asked “Have you heard anything about the beads? If you have, you must tell me. It is very important we retrieve them before something happens or worse; the general gets his hands on them.”

Jokotho admitted, “I had the beads but now, I do not.”

Ata pressed him to reveal what had happened. After hearing his story about his encounter with the monster, she sighed.

“I should have known better.” She looked down. “The girl, the monster, you met is none other than my granddaughter.”

Jokotho raised his eyebrows. “Your granddaughter? You mean to say that that thing that almost ate me is your granddaughter?” he emphasised. He was astonished.

“Yes, much as it is hard to believe, Orchid is my granddaughter. I have tried time and again to ensure she behaves well but sometimes, she just disappoints me. But she is still my grandchild and I love her despite everything.”

Ata then stood up. “I know where to find Orchid. I will find the beads. In the meantime, Kujja and Kembo will go and retrieve the spear of Labong.

“Seems easier said than done. And where do you suppose we begin, great Ata?” Kujja smirked.

“Jogo Jogo maybe cunning and have a number of tricks up his sleeves but he does have one weakness.” Smiling, Ata stated“ Jogo Jogo has an irresistible urge for local brew. He cannot last a day without a sip of that poison. If you go to the village of Barandu, where he was last seen, simply check the places where one would sell local brew. I can assure you without a doubt that he will be there.”

Kujja and Kembo gleefully eyed each other on getting to know that juicy piece of information. From the way Ata spoke, they had a feeling they were in for quite an adventure.

“As for you,” Ata pointed to Jokotho, “You will stay put until I return with the beads. Then you will begin your lessons in shape shifting. Only you can fetch the great leopard skin for it is your destiny.”

Jokotho half-heartedly accepted the task given to him. He then sat idly in the hut and waited as Ata, Kujja and Kembo set out to retrieve two of the lost royal regalia.

It was just half past noon when Kujja and Kembo reached the village of Barandu. They stopped at the first drinking hut they found and walked in. “What are we looking for?”

“An albino monkey that has obviously been drinking.”

“I see something,” Kujja pointed to a monkey that was sited all alone in the middle of the hut, slumped in his seat struggling not to doze off. Not wanting to draw attention and alert the monkey, they carefully crept towards their target. Unknown to them, they were already made. Jogo Jogo had seen them enter and suspected they were after him. He pretended to be asleep to throw them off their guard.

After they the had ordered for a large pot of brew, Kujja and Kembo took a sit right next to Jogo Jogo. As soon as the brew arrived, Kujja exclaimed, “Wow, all this brew just for the two of us.”

Kembo played along, “Oh, my. It will take us days just to get to the bottom of this pot. I wonder who could possibly help us achieve this feat?”

On hearing what sounded like music to his ears, Jogo Jogo pried open one eye. He saw right before him a huge pot filled to the brim with the best thing in his entire world. “All that malwa, isn’t this my lucky day?” He licked his lips as he imagined the brew sensationally flowing over his tongue. He hatched a plan. Yawning, Jogo Jogo pretended to wake up fully. He then leaned towards his neighbours. “Good day to you both,” Jogo Jogo smiled, “I can see that you are celebrating something. I also have a lot to celebrate about. If you shall be so kind as to invite an old monkey like me to this feast of yours, I shall forever be in your debt.”

Kembo looked up at Kujja. “I don’t know. Kujja, what do you think? Should we invite the monkey? After all, this is so much for just the two of us.”

“Let me think,” Kujja pretended to be reaching a decision, “He does look harmless and could be good company.” He then acted like he had made up his mind. “You can join us, monkey. On one condition though only; you must be fun. Do you agree?”

Jogo Jogo saluted, “Fun is my middle name. By the way, I am Jogo Jogo.”It was not long before Jogo Jogo acted like he was best friends with Kujja and Kembo. He ranted on and on about his exploits and did not leave out any detail about the spear of Labong.

 

By this time, Ata had returned to the hut with Orchid firmly in tow. Jokotho instantly recognised her as the girl from the night before. It was hard for him to imagine the same girl as a monster.

“Now, Orchid, do you have something that belongs to this young man? Ata quizzed her granddaughter. Orchid crossed her arms and sealed her lips as if to defy her grandmother.

“Orchid, I am going to ask you only one more time: Do you have something that belongs to Jokotho, the young man before you?”

Orchid eventually caved in to her grandmother. She answered softly, “Yes, grandma.”

Ata bit her lower lip to avoid saying something she would regret. “How many times have I told you not to steal? You must ask if you need something. Now, give back the beads you took.”

Furious at being caught, she half-heartedly reached into her bag and revealed the much sought after beads. She then handed them over to the previous owner.

“Now apologise to Jokotho,” Ata ordered after releasing Orchid from her firm grip. Orchid mumbled an apology and stomped out of the hut.

After seeing that her daughter had left, Ata spoke, “I will deal with her later. Now, you have to learn to shape shift.”

Jokotho carefully placed the beads around his neck as if scared that the wrong movement would turn him into something he could not undo. Ata then led the young man out into the garden. They reached a spot that was right in the middle of the garden.

“To shape shift requires a great deal of focus. You must have a single thought on your mind. When you have achieved that, you will then chant the words: Gipiir, Gipiir, I am your humble servant. Grant me my wish.”

Having memorised the words, Jokotho began the ritual. His palms became sweaty as he grew more nervous. He struggled to maintain a single thought on his mind which was rather challenging considering all that had happened. He then said the words, “Gipiir, Gipiir, I am your humble servant. Grant me my wish.”

Holding his breath, he waited for something to happen. Curious, he opened his eyes and inquired, “What happened? Did it work? Did I change?”To his dismay, he could tell from Ata’s expression that it had not worked. He thought of giving up.

Ata tried to motivate him. “No one gets it right the first time. Let us try again.”She then thought out loud, “What we need is a plan.” She faced Jokotho and placed her hand on his shoulder. “What will you need to become in order to get into the palace and out with the great leopard skin?”

Jokotho thought long and hard. “To get into the palace, I will need to be fast and small to avoid detection. Kind of like a bee.”

Ata agreed, “A bee is perfect. How about escaping? Keep in mind that you will have to carry the great leopard skin.”

“I will still need to be fast. Only that this time; I will need to be able to carry something as heavy as the great leopard skin. If I could soar like an eagle, I think I might make it.”

“Great, then an eagle it is. Now, you have to learn how to transform into both animals.”

Jokotho tried again and again. After several attempts, he changed into a flower.

“Nice try, you are getting there. Remember to have one thought on your mind.”

Jokotho turned into several things including an ant, a cow and a log. He was about to give up when he morphed into a bee. A few more times and he had mastered how to be an eagle and fly like one.

Ata was ecstatic. She advised him, “When you reach the palace, all you have to do is find General Ojok Ojara. He always keeps the great leopard skin close to him at all times. Best of luck.”

Jokotho then motivated himself. “This is it. This is the moment that will make everything okay. I have to do my best.” A second before he turned into a bee, he gave one final look at Ata as if to remind himself of the stakes. Buzzing a goodbye to Ata, he flew off to the palace.

Dusk fell and with it returned Kujja and Kembo. Their stance radiated victory. In Kembo’s large paw was the spear of Labong. After telling Ata the story of how they got the spear, Kembo and Kujja sat down. They were exhausted. Kembo murmured with his paw over his mouth to Kujja, “Remind me to quit drinking.”They looked round the hut and realised that Jokotho was gone. Ata confirmed that Jokotho was off to get the great leopard skin.

They all waited desperately for the return of Jokotho. With each passing hour, Kembo grew more impatient. He nibbled nervously on his claws, “The palace is not so far away. A bee could make it there in an hour tops.”

“Patience, my child, patience. Jokotho will make it.”

A few more hours passed, Kembo eventually could not take it anymore, “I am off to find my friend.”As soon as he said those words, an eagle flew into the hut and in its claws was the great leopard skin.

Kujja and Kembo erupted into a mix of relief and excitement for their friend was safe. After handing over the skin, the slightly bruised hero recounted how he had managed to sneak into the castle and escape past its defences. Jokotho finished his tale by stating, “That was probably not only the scariest but also the most challenging thing I have ever done in my entire life.”

After giving a few minutes to Jokotho to rest, Ata spoke, “I am really happy that we now have all three insignia. Our duty now is to help the Prince escape from the spirit world so he may come and save his people.” Turning to Jokotho, she mentioned, “I am afraid that this most difficult task is up to you. Only you can make this journey.”

Jokotho stood up with his head held high. “I am ready, whatever may come.”

“Good.” Ata then led the trio out into the woods. They trekked until they reached a heap of tree branches. Ata bent and proceeded to move the branches thereby uncovering the top of a very old well. “It is similar to the one through which you travelled, Jokotho.” She explained what was to happen to Jokotho. “I will put you into a deep sleep from which your spirit will emerge. It will be channelled through this well into the spirit world. Once there, you will search for the Prince.” In a serious tone, Ata warned Jokotho, “The spirit world is a treacherous one. It is easy for one to get lost. Always remember to stay on the path.”

Keeping those words at the tip of his fingertips, Jokotho lay down. Ata slowly walked towards him. In her hands was a bowl with frothing green liquid which she placed close to his lips and requested him to drink. Jokotho first looked around and could see Kujja and Kembo sobbing. They exchanged goodbyes after which Jokotho took a deep gulp and with it, a hot fiery pain raced down his throat. Within seconds, he was cold.

After some time, Jokotho woke. His body felt strange. On closer observation, he realised it was now his real body. “It has worked. I am back to my real self,” Jokotho celebrated. He then noticed something strange about the world he was in. It was the exact same spot in the woods where just minutes ago, he had lay on the ground. “Where is everybody?” He could tell he was still in the world of Ata but this time, there was no Ata. Neither was there Kujja nor Kembo. Weirdly, there was not a single soul in the woods. He was surrounded by a deafening silence.

Slowly, Jokotho lifted himself up and proceeded to explore the area. His first theory was that he was now in the spirit world. “That will explain why it’s so quiet. No living being in sight. Only the spirits would be walking around. I suppose they do not make a chatter like living beings would. ” He then set out to find the Prince. He never forgot the old woman’s caution, “Stay on the path.”

Jokotho searched for several days for the spirit of the Prince. He grew weary and decided to search for a way out of the world. Against the warnings of Ata, he strayed far from the path. This led to him losing his way and almost his mind. He became a wanderer in the spirit world and waited each day for death to come for him. One day, he took a random road. As he was on this path, his gaze fell on a distant blur of a castle in the distance. He remembered this castle as the one from which he had retrieved the great leopard skin. Out of the blue, he experienced flashes of memory from the previous world. Smacking himself on the head, he exclaimed, “Where else would someone find a Prince than at a castle.” With that revelation, he sped off to the castle with hope that the spirit of the Prince would be there.

On reaching the castle, it was dead quiet. He searched the entire castle, room by room. To his dismay, he could not find the Prince. “I guess this is it. No Prince. I have failed myself. I have failed Ata, Kujja and Kembo. This is where it all ends.” As he was leaving the castle, he heard sobbing in the courtyard. Quickly, he set out to investigate. To his delight, he found a young man just about his age. On reaching him, he recognised him as the owner of the body he had previously inhabited.

On seeing another being, the Prince’s eyes lit up. It only took a few minutes for Jokotho to explain everything. He then led the Prince to the woods where they found the well just as he had left it.

“You have to leave now. Your people await you. You will find Ata with the three insignia.”Jokotho guided the true Prince to the well. The Prince was still slightly dazed. He could not believe that he would soon be reunited with his people. Even as he stepped into the well, he never stopped thanking Jokotho.

Feeling proud of what he had accomplished, Jokotho watched the Prince drift into the well. “That was enough adventure to last a lifetime. Now I must be off to my home world.”

END

 

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A GIRAFFE NAMED SPOT

Baba giraffe sprinted as fast as his long legs could carry him. He tore through the dense bushes of the forest like they were little twigs. He finally reached the clearing to giraffe village where he was met by an elderly giraffe.

“Welcome, Baba.”

Baba, still trying to catch his breath, muttered, “Where is she? Where is my wife?”

“Come with me Baba, she is in the nursing hut.” Baba was escorted to the hut. At the entrance, he met the midwife.

She stopped him, “Before you enter, there is something you must know.”

The way the midwife spoke worried Baba, “What is it? Did something happen to my wife? Is the baby okay?”

The midwife placed her hands over his shoulders and tried to reassure him, “Mother and child are perfectly healthy,” She paused and looked down.

“What is it? Nurse, you must tell me.”

“The baby is really special. That is all I can say.” She then held his hands and led him inside the hut.

Baba entered the hut cautiously. His eyes soon fell on a bed in the corner. “Olive, my love,” he embraced his wife who was lying down.

“Baba,” Olive whispered back. The birthing ordeal had made Olive so exhausted that she could barely muster the strength to speak.

Baba then gazed upon the bundle of joy in Olive’s arms. He could not hold back the tears of joy as he slowly lifted up his baby.

As he brought the child closer to his face, he realized something was not right. Puzzled, he turned to his wife. She looked away. He then walked up to the midwife.“There must be some explanation for this.”

“If by this; you mean the fact that your son doesn’t have the spots a normal giraffe should have, then you should have no cause to worry.”

“But why doesn’t he have the spots?”

“Not having spots does not mean anything. It is merely on the surface but beneath it, he is as healthy as any giraffe could possibly be.” The midwife then pointed to the newborn giraffe. “Look closer and you will see it.”

Wondering what the midwife meant, Baba giraffe examined his son. Right at the tip of the child’s neck, he found what the midwife was trying to point out. “It’s a spot. This is good; it means he could grow others.”

“He might grow or not grow others. It does not change a thing. You will love him because he is your son regardless of how he looks.”

With those words, Baba made a choice there and then that he would love his son and his wife for all time. He strutted to his wife.“We shall call him Spot because he is special.” They then thanked the nurses for their help and went home to raise their son.

 

With time, Spot grew up into a healthy strong boy. Every morning Baba giraffe would call the boy aside. He would then proceed to examine Spot to see if any other spots had grown. But alas, no other spots grew on Spot. “It is okay son, we love you all the same,” Baba giraffe would hug his boy.

Time came for Spot to go to nursery school. His parents were even twice as ecstatic as Spot himself. After class was done on the first day, Spot went out to play. He was very excited and reached the field just as the other giraffes were being picked for the soccer team. As was the usual way the players were picked, all the players stood on the sideline as the captains each took turns in calling a player to his side. When it came to Spot’s turn; the most absurd thing happened. The first team captain took a step back and remarked: “I can’t pick that.” He turned to other side’s captain, “You pick him.”

The second captain replied, “No way, it’s your turn.”

The first team captain was furious. He walked towards Spot and poked him in the chest. “You are not welcome here. I do not need you on my team. You are weird.”All the other young giraffes on the pitch burst out into laughter.

Spot wished the ground could swallow him. He dashed home and didn’t stop till he had banged the door shut behind him.

Hi parents saw the manner in which Spot had returned home from school. They got worried and dashed to their son’s rescue.

“Spot, dear, are you alright?” Baba giraffe knocked at the door to Spot’s room.

“It’s all the other children, they hate me. They don’t want me to play with them.” Spot sobbed as his parents entered the room.

Spot’s parents looked at each other. Baba placed his arm over Spot’s shoulder. “It’s not true that they don’t want to play with you because they hate you. It is just that they cannot have a player as magnificent as you playing for any side. It would be unfair to the other side.”

Spot wiped his eyes and turned to his mother, “Is that true?”

“Yes my dear, any side that would have you would always win.”

Spot broke out into a smile, “It all makes sense now. I forgive them.”

The family embraced each other.

From that day on, Spot never bothered to join any of the other kids on the playground. He would simply sit and watch from the sidelines. Watching the other giraffes play seemed to draw a little sadness in him but he always consoled himself, “I am the best so I will just have to wait for better players to play against when am much older.”

One day, while the children were playing, several pairs of eyes appeared in the bushes. It was man and he had come to hunt.

“Ochen, do you see them?”

“Yes, I do, Omach. I count at least twenty of them.”

“Today, we have been blessed by the gods. We shall bring meat to the village to last us weeks.”

“Ogeng, since this is your first hunt; you will take the first shot at the giraffes. May the spirit of hunting guide your arrow so it can be swift and direct. May it not miss its target.”

“Thank you, elder.” Ogeng then prepared his bow and looked for a target. His aim fell on a large sturdy giraffe in the centre of the pitch. He waited and just as he was about to let his arrow loose, he felt a tap on his shoulder.

“Don’t shoot, I see something. What possibly could that be?”

“What kind of animal is that?” Omach pointed to a figure on the side of the pitch.

“My gods, it has the shape and size of a giraffe but the skin is one I have never seen before.”

The men all turned to the elder who was with them.

“Oh wise one, what is the meaning of this?”

“Let me consult the gods,” the elder then placed a cloth on the ground. He scattered some small bones on the cloth and spat some half chewed herbs onto them. He carefully analyzed the arrangement.

With lowered eyebrows, the elder turned to his men, “This hunt will be cursed if we harm that animal or any near it. That animal is a god that is looking after the giraffes. We will all die if any harm comes to it or any animal within the vicinity.”

The men shuddered at what might have happened had the arrow been let loose. “We must call it a day and head back to our village. We will live to hunt another day.”

The men then packed their belongings and left. Unknown to them, they were being watched the entire time by a figure hiding in the branches upon them. This animal had watched and heard everything the entire time. “The entire animal kingdom must hear of this strange phenomenon at once,” he sped off to spread the word about what had happened.

Dusk fell and all the giraffes, including Spot, went back home.

The next morning, Spot woke up. He waited for the daily ritual examination by his father to happen. “That is weird, why is father taking so long?” As he left his room to search for his father, he heard commotion outside. The melee seemed to be coming from the compound. Curious to find out what was happening, he walked out. What he saw stopped him dead in his tracks.

“Is that him? Is that the giraffe with one spot?”

His father called out to him, “Spot, these animals have travelled far and wide to come and see you.”

The leader, a lion, came forth and bowed before Spot. “Oh hail, Spot, the protector of all animals.”

Spot took a step back, “I think you have me mistaken for someone else. I am just a simple giraffe.”

“I highly doubt that. Monkey, come and tell everyone what you saw yesterday.”

From the crowd, a small mammal stepped forth. Monkey recounted the previous day’s events step by step. What monkey said blew away everyone’s mind.

After hearing the story, Olive looked to her son with tears in her eyes and said, “I told you that you were special.”

Life in giraffe village was never the same again. Animals came from far and wide to stay close to Spot so that they could be safe from man. Soon, the village came to be known as Spot’s village.

END

 

 

This and many other short stories and poems can be found in “The boy and the well.”

The book is available on Amazon


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