“Sit here. Rub this,” the old woman said. Five year old Eni did what she was told. She sat on a small wooden stool as the old bent woman paced around the little hut, chanting, murmuring, speaking to someone Eni could not see.
Suddenly, the woman stopped. A look crossed her face that Eni could not identify. Eni’s mother finally made a sound from the corner of the hut to which she was confined. “What is it my mistress?”
“Silence!” the old woman bellowed.
Eni turned to her mother, wanting to say something, but her mother made a sign for her to follow suit and be silent.
The old woman finished with her strange devices. “You must leave now. She has been accepted.” Eni’s mother stood up. She started to move, but hesitated. A look of doubt colored her features. Eni turned again towards her mother, beginning to understand.
“Leave now,” the old woman said again.
Eni’s mother ran out without another word. “Mama,” the little girl spoke finally. “Mama!” but her mama was nowhere to be found; she had gone back to her many other children, and the many mouths to feed.
The little girl’s sobs filled the tiny hut. The old woman turned sharply towards her, and her body racked with unuttered cries as a sudden fear gripped her, along with a sense of impending doom.
Sixteen year old Eni woke up screaming. Nothing like the usual nightmares to complete her sleep cycle. It took a moment to realize where she was. Her room was corner of a shabbily fixed tent; her bed, the mat she sat on in the day time during her ministrations.
She listened for the sound of the man’s snores on the other side of the drape- her new owner. The only thing that kept her from his lust was the clear instruction that her powers would leave her if she was no longer a virgin. At least she fed well enough here and had a mat to sleep on; the spirits be praised.
Eni stretched her limbs. She wouldn’t be able to fall asleep again.
The sounds of the market waking up around them entered into the small tent.
A man and woman arrived early that morning. Eni was dressed and painted with black soot, a new touch to her ministrations. Her master would be able to attract more clients if she looked exotic.
Maji, a large man with just as large an appetite sat to her left. He was in charge of the proceedings. He made a show of lighting candles, and making incantations even as the smell of incense became overwhelming.
The man and the woman were obviously afraid, Eni could tell from the fact that their eyes were constantly darting about the room. The woman seemed much less eager than her husband to be there but for fear of his authority would stay put where she was. To make sure she didn’t bolt, he whispered some sharp words – a threat. Eni pitied them both.
“Make your request,” Maji spoke, his voice richer than his intellect.
The man spoke up. “My wife is pregnant.” Eni flinched at the way he spat out the words. He continued. “I need to know…I need to know the fortune of this one. Only the wicked ones have graced our tents, sent by the spirits to torment us for a time.”
The wicked ones? Eni’s training didn’t let her show much of her emotions. The poor woman pleaded with her eyes, but could say nothing.
It was her turn. This was the part she feared. Every day the same thing. Every ministration a dreadful imprint on her soul and body.
She called on the spirits. She said those dreadful words, and waited. Silence filled the room. Then it happened. The room went black and she was catapulted into the world of darkness which she had come to know too early in her life. A piercing scream came out of her mouth, not of her own making. Fear gripped her heart, and there were no words to comfort or sooth the pain in her chest.
“Death. I see death.” She turned to the man, finally seeing him. “Your death.”
The spirits didn’t always give the people what they came for, but they would always pay – Maji made sure of that.