The evening air was thick and damp. It had just rained in the little village of Umukabia and the cold swept through the village like the Grim Reaper. The smell of rain on dust wafted across the village and you could even touch the fog. Crickets and frogs harmonized their ministrations as their chirps and croaks serenaded the evening.  Families gathered beside piles of wood burning in the corner of their houses. You could hear the 'kliop kliop' sound of stragglers wadding through the water towards an unknown destination.

Inside one of the huts, Nkechi sat on a wooden stool. She was sitting in the corner of the room that was not dripping water. The kerosene lantern in the corner of the room cast a glow around. It was almost cosy but for the fact that there were three leaks in the roof. Nkechi listened to the musical concert organized by frogs and crickets. Even though the night was beautiful and almost embracing, it meant something else to her.

In the corner of the room, her six month-old child was burning up with fever. She cradled him in one arm and used the other to stir the pot of herbs on the fire. The baby kept crying and shivering as his temperature spiked. She laid him on the wrapper she had spread on the ground and used one corner of her own wrapper to wipe her runny nose. Her body ached from the tiring work she did in the farm earlier in the day. She stood up and stretched, listening to the cracks her strained joints made.

Nothing could stop the tears flowing down her cheeks. She sobbed as she looked at her baby and recalled the day her husband died. She was there in the farm but could do nothing as she watched him fall from the palm tree. Before anyone could do anything, he was dead.

She sniffed, stirred the pot and picked up the crying child. Rain water kept leaking through the roof into the plastic containers she placed under the spots. She dipped her hand into the bucket beside her and used the cold cloth to wipe the boy's forehead.

 After sometime, the ‘agbo’ was ready; Nkechi dropped the child and brought down the pot. She served the hot concoction and waited for it to cool down. The child had stopped crying but his temperature was still high.

After the concoction cooled down, she sat down with her back to the wall. She placed the child on her laps and fed him the cool medicine. The child cried at the bitter taste of the drink and began to kick. He soon stopped crying and his temperature began to drop to normal. She thanked her chi and began to breastfeed him. As the child suckled on his mother's breast, she drifted into a light sleep.

The distant rumbling of thunder jolted Nkechi out of her sleep. She removed her breast from the child's mouth and laid him on the wrapper. She then proceeded to clear the pots and plates she used. While she cleared the pot, she noticed some strange-looking leaves among the herbs she used. They looked like something she had seen before. After a cursory examination, she shrugged and dropped them with the other used ones. Then she went back to pick her boy.

Nkechi felt her heart thud as she realized that the boy was stone cold. She shook him vigorously but he did not respond. She put her ear to the his tiny chest and failed to hear his heartbeat.

Then it hit her. She remembered with trepidation. The strange leaves she saw belonged to  the deadly Ugumborogwuosisi. She had mistakenly added it to the pot and had given it to the boy in a large dose. She realized what just happened and her heart shattered into many pieces. No one survives even a drop of the leaf's juice. She had given him a full cup.

She knew she was doomed. How would she explain this? To who? She could already see herself burning on a stake- the witch that killed her husband and now, her son.

No one will see her as a mother who was only trying to treat her son. She was already a dead woman.

For the last time, she dared to hope against hope. She put her head on her baby's chest again. Nothing. No thud. No pulse. Just coldness.

The loud scream from her little hut woke everyone who had fallen asleep  in the neighbourhood.


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