The land was dry. The villagers strained their depths. From sundown, the Eye of the Gods challenged and poked at the spirits with his ofo. He gazed at the faceless sky, but the floor of the sky was mackerel.
When the sky was orange, the landscape reflected the shadow of the sinking sun. The Eye summoned the clan heads, each with his own wooden stool, and they sat in a circle, their hearts coated in venom, waiting for an opportunity to spite. Okongwu, the old blind man, was present and listening. The Eye sat at the center with his legs stretched apart. When he dipped his arm in his talisman bag to show the cowries, an elder sprang like an angry puma and kicked the sandy earth, nearly blinding the priest.
The elder shouted at the top of his voice while he was taken away.
Okongwu couldn't see, but he felt the unrest. He waved his staff and hit it on the ground. The Eye was furious and wanted to vacate the scene when Okongwu called his name. For a while, everyone was calm, and the old blind man opened their eyes with a tale.
Our land has suffered a drought. We are handicapped because we can't redeem ourselves. Why are we accusing our priest? Listen: When our ancestors migrated from the mushy savannahs to this land, the firmament was closer to the earth, and Ani, our god, created a passage for easy transit. The seasons came in their time and our land flourished. One night, Ani summoned Dim, the foremost chief priest, with some elders. He dictated laws and consequences to them. He said, "Nobody should bathe naked at Mmiri Ugo; the source of our Iyi and rivers." He made the declaration and attached a severe penalty to scare the people. Our people enjoyed the benevolence of the gods for many moons.
A time came when Isiani, a mischievous spirit, charmed Akwaugo, granddaughter of Ejelu, with an incurable curse that spiked her body like agbala, velvet seed. She was consumed with her beauty. The spirit lured her to the banks of Mmiri Ugo. The tickly sensation made her take off her clothes
She stepped her feet into the calm and still water and walked in. A strong lightning flashed, zig-zagged, and whipped over the surface of the water. The passage fell and the firmament vanished with Akwaugo trapped inside. When you stare at the moon in the night, you will see her. We should search for a solution and how to bring our daughter home.
The night was gray and the moon swept the earth. The Eye walked the foot path to Okongwu's compound. The blind man was sitting outside. A taper was burning low at the center of the compound. The Eye praised Okongwu’s name and sat on a stool opposite him. When Okongwu asked for kolanut, a little boy ran out of the hut with a plate of kolanut and pepper. Okongwu took the kola, broke it and offered his visitor to choose. As they talked, they bit the kola from the sides of their lips.
"This year's rain is taking time. What shall we do?"
"We shall pay the gods a visit. We need volunteers and a plan. Call the people at the village square tomorrow. None of us knows how long this will linger, and the silence of the gods is a message. Only the wise can understand the star signs."
The village town crier went around the nine clans with his gong. The villagers gathered under the canopy of an Udala tree. The Eye made his intentions public. The eldest sons from each clan volunteered.
When the twilight was young, there was a display of the spirits in honor of the volunteers. Palm frond shades were erected on every corner. The artistic faces of the masquerades scared the onlookers. The proud display of the masquerades overtook the arena. There was a stampede. Most of the spectators climbed palm and Orji trees to geta clearer view of the dancing spirits. Okoroto was a masquerade to behold while he chanted the mbem; language of the spirits. The masquerade was for men, women, and children to watch, and the spectators were eager to see his swift body movements. The village maidens graced the event with a dance; their waists were cinched in rows of jigida, and their breasts were ripe and bustling like pumpkins. At the sound of the Ikoro, the wrestling match commenced. The wrestlers locked like bulls and tried to maneuver and outsmart one another with calculated body feints. Emotions ran high as the onlookers anticipating throws from their favorite wrestlers were disappointed. The entertainment went on into the night, and the people were livid and merry.
Before the space voyage, the five-man team offered themselves before the watery presence of Orimili, the benevolent marine princess of the Niger River. The priestess anointed them with water. They shuddered at the touch of the water, but their spirits were renewed, and they leaped about on the tips of their toes.
The priestess called "Ojiogu" severally. "You and these valiant men shall be the first in the history of our people to visit Ezechitoke, and you shall return in one piece."
"I communed with the unseen realm above. They granted a safe passage. The powers of Odakpu and Odachi shall not see you."
"You shall return to us in sound mind and body."
"You are free to embark on your journey, the spirits are with you."
Construction began on Eke day. The field was barren and vast. There were several sketches made on a clay tablet with descriptions of each stage captured in Nsibidi. A blacksmith sat on a proposed engine compartment that looked like a cylinder made of iron forged in a furnace. Here and there were tinkered canisters which were soon rolled like wheels toward the cylinder. The cylinder was placed on a manually controlled crane. They monitored the canister carefully in case the iron chains holding it snapped. The driver aligned and attached it to the body of the cylinder. The engineers recreated the mental description on the tablet and made a dome, like a nose cap, as the roof for the second chamber. The news of glass production at Ile- Ife was popular at the time. They imported these rare materials made of snail shell, feldspar-rich gigantic sand, and pegmatite as a source of silica. They fixed the transparent ware for a better view.
As the construction advanced, a team transported, from the mill, hundreds of gallons of biodiesel distilled from crude palm oil as fuel. The frame of the gigantic construction had taken the shape of a siphonophore; each chamber was jointly dependent on the other. At the tail was a vent for the hot gas to pass; the shining iron biceps extended east and west. The space rocket stood at 122 feet off the ground. The construction was completed.
On the day of the launch, the villagers surrounded the arena with enthusiasm. The crew entered the space vehicle. The space shuttle ascended upwards, and got so tiny in their eyes. They waved at it until it vanished from their sight.
The crew planned to steal into space at night, when the gods would be sleeping. The vehicle made a landing, but they were terrified. The sight they saw was empty and far away. They didn't see Akwaugo and there were no gods anywhere. They saw the emptiness of the old blind man's tale. They reversed their mission home. While they were in space, the rains came down, and the villagers praised their space explorers for challenging the gods and bringing rain. Okongwu died a month before they returned, so they couldn't speak of what they witnessed to keep the memory of the deceased blessed.