Ura ga-eju onye nwuru anwu afo.
A dead person shall have all the sleep necessary.
How do gods die?” Odion asked, a puzzled expression on his face. He was till sitting on the cold hard ground, facing Sango. “Can gods even die?”
Sango coughed, and blood came out. Sango didn’t need to say it. He was getting worse.
“What do you know about the nature of gods?” Sango asked, wiping his blood splattered hand on his garment, which looked like something Odion had seen in the museum. It resembled the war garments worn by warriors, way back when.
“Not much, just bits and pieces from stories I’ve heard,” Odion said.
Sango looked wary, and the more Odion looked at him the more he saw. His eyes told the story of a being that had been at war for so long with others and himself. The lines on his face were etched deep and spoke of battles that took place long before Odion was born. Odion looked at the scars on his arms and legs, and they too shouted, practically screamed a message that was as clear as the dull grey eyes staring at him. He was stronger than anything that had ever been thrown at him. No matter the danger of his foe, no matter the cost, this was someone who always came out fighting.
How, then, was he bleeding out on the floor in front of him?
Sango looked at Odion with an intense gaze and seemed to read his mind.
“Gods are powerful, yes. But we are mere manifestations, embodiments of the stories you humans tell. So I ask you, what happens when the humans who created these stories stop believing in them? What happens when humans stop believing in the gods? We were already beginning to weaken. We knew it. We were at the edge of nothingness, and we wholly accepted it. We had all existed for so long. But then the war happened, and we were all robbed of the quiet farewell we were hoping for.”
Sango had stopped talking. Odion knew he should say something, but the question kept ringing in his ears. What happens when humans stop believing in the gods?
“What was the war about?” Odion finally asked. “Why were you fighting? You’re all Orisha. Why would you all be fighting?”
Sango cocked his head to the right. The way his father sometimes did—or rather, used to do when he was looking for the best way to say something incredibly important.
“We were not fighting amongst ourselves. We were fighting Amadioha and his ilk. We were fighting the gods of the Igbo people.”
This was too much to process. “But…how is that possible? How can they be—”
“Real?” Sango asked. “You ask how they can be real while having a conversation with an ancient deity your ancestors themselves worshipped. When I spoke to you about gods, did you think it was limited to only the Yoruba people? They are all alive, the gods. Some more…active than others.” As he said this, he looked towards the west in a rather accusatory manner.
Odion was glad he was sitting down. He didn’t think he could stand and still comprehend this kind of information.
“But why were you fighting? What was so important?” Odion asked.
“What do you know of the 1966 pogrom?” Sango asked. As soon as he said this, Odion was taken four years into the past, back when his mum used to give him history lessons at home. He wished he’d listened more.
“What’s that?” Odion replied, confused.
Sango bore the look of a teacher, tired of explaining things over and over again. He launched into a coughing fit, this one more violent than the last and with a lot more blood.
“This was a time before Nigerians knew anything about unity. The country was divided and ruled by leaders who fanned the flames of ethnic fanaticism. As if ethnic relations was not strained enough, the failed coup—”
“Oh, I know about that one. The infamous 1966 coup where eleven politicians died and Abubakar Balewa was overthrown.” Odion said, happy to be able to follow the narrative for once.
Sango looked shocked that Odion knew this, but he continued.
“Yes, it was also one of the events that led to the Nigerian Civil War. But more importantly, in the wake of this act of rebellion, the northerners launched an anti-Igbo pogrom.”
Odion didn’t like where this was going.
“Blood calls for blood, they said. Close to fifty thousand innocent Igbo people were killed in cold blood. They had done nothing wrong and yet they were cut down like Iroko trees. Some people back then were still loyal to tradition and still worshipped their old gods, so they cried to them day and night. Amadioha heard these cries and wanted to help. He wanted to save his people. But his hands were tied. Gods were not to meddle in the lives of mortals. It is not our place to do so. It was also left to us to stop any and every being who wanted to take human affairs into their hands.”
“So what happened next?”
“Amadioha went against the code of divinity and planned to wipe out the northerners to save his people.” Sango said, his voice low and cold.
“I went to try to converse with him, make him change his mind. I did not know that the others followed me to his kingdom, all with unseen rage in their eyes. They laid waste to his palace. We all returned home and celebrated. We thought we’d won. But it was the beginning of a never-ending war.”
Sango sounded sad and drained of energy, and for the first time, Odion noticed a pale blue pearl necklace around Sango’s neck. He was holding it, thumbing it with each of his fingers, as if it were a rosary.
“We could’ve fought for centuries, but something happened in the last battle, the one where I was wounded.” He said this as he gestured to his side. “One moment I was fighting, the next I felt weak and tired, almost as if my very essence was being sucked by some unknown malevolent force.
“I fell from the skies both from the injury and my weakened state. It seemed like the others fell too…but I don’t know.”
“They…fell?” Odion asked.
“Yes they did.” Sango answered with a groan, his wound was becoming worse.
“But the war is far from over. Something is happening. Someone is doing this. It is left to you to find them and put a stop to this.”
“Me?” Odion said, pointing to himself incredulously. “Why me? I’m an average Lagos boy. I know nothing of your world.”
“Odion…” Sango said in a voice that was both stern and kind.
Odion didn’t remember ever telling him his name.
“Odion, it was no coincidence I fell here. You are more than you know and stronger than you imagine. There are things that have happened to you. Tragedies you have faced, and you will face many more. Right now, I present you with a choice: find who is doing this and save your world because if this force succeeds, it will not stop at killing Igbo and Yoruba gods. It will go after the human world, unleashing chaos and death. It will not stop until your world is nothing but an empty husk. I can tell you that much. You can also just walk away and pretend you never saw me. You can leave all this behind with the knowledge you have now.”
Odion recalled his mother’s words: It all happens in one moment, just one. When we’re called to action, called to be heroes, called to be more. We all get the call, so the question isn’t whether or not it’ll come. The question is, when the call comes, will we be brave enough to answer it?
He was about to give his answer when Sango launched into yet another coughing fit, this time his whole body wretched. He was coughing for about a minute. He didn’t look quite like a thunder god who fought countless battles. He looked like a frail old man.
Odion didn’t know what came over him. He stood and reached for Sango’s arm in an attempt to help him. But as soon as his finger’s touched Sango’s skin, the world tilted and suddenly, they weren’t in a cold, dark alley anymore. The world seemed brighter now, with gold tint. He looked around to find that he was in some sort of throne room. He looked down at his hands, and he wasn’t even himself anymore. His skinny arms had become muscular. He touched his face and felt a full beard. What was going on?
Suddenly a beautiful woman came in. She was dressed in a pale blue dress of some sort. Her eyes held him captive. She spoke in the sweetest voice he had ever heard.
“My husband, are you ready to go? Your supplies for the trip are ready.”
Odion pulled his hand back and found himself back in the alleyway, his heart racing. What had just happened? It felt so real. It was like a dream but more immersive and intense. What was that? He moved away from Sango.
Of all the things that could have been said at that moment, Sango asked only one question.
“So what will it be, young one. Will you run or will you fight?”
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