Let me tell you a story.
It might not be so good, but please excuse me. It’s what you asked for, right?
I will try to tell it as well as I can.
And… It might sound ludicrous, but I swear that it is the truth.
We are preparing for my husband’s burial, and what you saw in the morgue was in fact his body. But… he’s not dead. That’s his body, but it’s not empty. He’s not dead.
I’m sorry. Maybe I should go back a bit so you understand.
Mgbe koghechara ga eme kam mara.
My name is Nneka, in case you missed that part. If you did, I wouldn’t blame you. I am married—no, not was as everyone is saying, but am married to George. I call him Georgie. And sometimes Chibu. My pet name for him you know… he’s also called Chibueze.
A heck of a fine man. He became my one and all, and I’m rather certain I could’ve traded my life for his. I would trade my life for his… but they wouldn’t let me, you see. They just wouldn’t let me.
If there’s one thing I’ve always loved about Chibu, it’s his appetite for reading. I never really got how he could do it, but man oh man could Chibu sit down for hours reading one book or the other. His record is 5 books in one day. One day! It takes me almost a month to get done with a single book.
Chibu also likes to cook, and I truly love that about him as well. Yes, likes. I will not use the past tense when I know my husband is still alive. The people calling me ‘mad’ and ‘witch’ for knowing the truth are ignorant, but I wouldn’t really blame them. It’s with my eyes and mind that I saw and experienced what happened, so I know truly that my husband isn’t dead.
Maybe if I… I might be able to…
Oh, I’m sorry. I had a thought in my head about how to—I’ll get there.
Mgbe koghechara ga eme kam mara.
When did the trouble start? Amazingly, his love for reading ended up being our undoing. Chibu enjoyed to read, as I’ve said, but he also loved to look for books that weren’t mainstream. He would check bookstores, libraries, online stores just so he could find one title or the other that was quite hard to reach. There’s this group chat he’s a part of that shares different titles. I know this because several times he’s shown me a title in his excitement and talked about how wonderful it would be to finally find the book and be able to read it.
His enthusiasm for books… I’m glad that he was also enthusiastic about our marriage. I wouldn’t want to have to compete with books, and trust me, I know I’d fail. Maybe he even knew that. Maybe that’s why he put a lot of effort into making our marriage work. And our marriage works. Forget what you’ll hear from the aproko around here; they don’t have better things to do and they’ve all but given up on their marriages.
Why do I sound bitter? Isn’t it obvious? My husband isn’t dead, and everyone is trying to sully my name and drag me completely through the mud!
I. Will. Not. Have. It!
Sigh… I’m sorry. I don’t want to get emotional. I need my wits if I’m going to get my husband back.
Hmm? Yes, get him back. He’s not dead, I keep telling you that. So what happened to him? His… spirit… isn’t with us. I told you I’m not good with storytelling; that was also Chibu’s forte. But let me keep going.
Mgbe koghechara ga eme kam mara.
Heh, I wondered when you’d ask me the meaning of that. It’s an adage. For me to loosely translate it, it would say; “When it is finished, I will know.” And it is not finished. No, not yet.
Ah… I think I’m gibbering. Am I gibbering? I’m sorry for gibbering. Let me continue.
You see, there was this one book that was shared in Chibu’s group, and it was said to be one of those books that before you found it you would sweat and sweat and sweat. You can imagine that my husband was very keen on getting his hands on it. I don’t know all the things he was doing, but he made mention of something… forums I think? Oh, I’m right? Okay, forums and something else. I can’t remember. But this book had him completely animated from the moment it entered the group chat.
Why was he like that? Yes… that is the question, isn’t it? It had to do with the ‘abilities’ that the book was supposed to possess. Secrets to open up ‘worlds unknown’ and speak to ‘beings unspoken.’ I remember those taglines so well not because of my interest, but because my husband made it a mantra around the house. If I so much as tried to object to him wasting all his time on one book, he’d counter with, “But don’t you want to see worlds unknown, and speak to beings unspoken?” One day I got truly mad and lashed out.
“What does that even mean!?” I barked at him.
He gave me a very excited grin and said, “Excitement, adventure, discovery, adrenaline my love! Things we both love!”
At some point, it started to rub off on me. But I got weary still. It took him… months to get this book. Oh yes, he got the book. One deal that led to another that led to another. How much he spent? He never said, and I never could probe well enough.
I’m sorry if I’m doing this thing writers call ex… exco… expediting? Yes, thank you! Expositing. Sorry if I’m expositing. I want you to get the full grasp of what happened.
Where was I?
Yes, the book.
Chibu got the book quite alright; through feats that I can’t testify to being superhuman, but feats that he would swear were superhuman and his group mates would agree to him being the master.
At first, there was nothing much to it. It looked like gibberish and very boring poetry, until one day my husband found what he called the “key to cracking it wide open.”
Oh God… did it crack open.
This part… this is where things get… different. But I swear on my life, the same life I will use and get my husband back, that it is all true.
Remember the part about ‘worlds unknown?’ Well… my husband quite literally opened a door to another world. And not just any door. It was a watery one. In our very own bathroom
Heh… I see how you’re already looking at me. You’re thinking I’m either a good liar or a good mad woman. Don’t try and deny it, it’s a normal reaction to hearing such. But I assure you I’m neither of those things. If I ever had to lie to save my life that might very well be the end of me.
One night I was looking for him all over the house. You’ve seen it, it’s not very big. His phones and keys were on the table where he left them, and the doors were locked. So there was no way he had gone out and I didn’t notice. I searched, and searched, and began to grow frantic and nervous. And sometimes when I get nervous, I have this uncontrollable urge to pee. So I decided to go pee, and do some thinking while I sat on the bowl.
I hadn’t finished with my thinking when I noticed that the bathtub was completely filled with water. How that happened, I didn’t know. Not then, anyway. I did my business and tried to remove the plug so the water would drain, and that’s when suddenly there was a bright light and out of nowhere, something grabbed my hand!
I was scared almost to death! And then just like that my husband; the same husband I had been looking for, climbs out of the bathtub filled with water; the same bathtub that moments ago was just filled with water and nothing else!
While I was busy clutching my chest, trying to slow my erratic heart and thinking of new ways to give him a tongue lashing, he was busy jumping and dancing while singing “I did it! I did it! I did iiiiiiit!” I won’t lie sha… it was quite funny, with his wet clothes and the flopping and flapping up and down. Eventually, he settled down and told me he had found a way to unlock the door into another world. All the reading, translating, internet browsing, pondering and whatever-ing had finally paid off. He had found a way!
Did I believe him? Well halfway. I saw the empty bathtub, so unless my husband had suddenly learned illusionary magic tricks the alternative was that he actually went to another place.
It’s one thing to be told about a watery world. It’s another to be taken there.
My husband took me there.
It was… nothing short… of magnificent.
We were underwater, floating, swimming, and somehow, we could breathe. I have to believe there was something in that book my husband found that allowed us to do that. What I saw when I followed him the next time into the bathtub was astounding. I can’t… I wish… You know, somehow… words fail me to describe it.
The blues. The reds. The yellows. The way light bent through and caused things to glitter. My goodness. It was the most wonderful thing I’d ever set my eyes on.
Did I mention… there were fishes too? We actually talked to fish. I talked to fish! I don’t even like fish! I told some of them that I don’t eat fish, and they were quite grateful for that. Maybe they admired me a little for it too.
There was this particular… let’s call it temple, which Chibu was very fascinated with. According to him, he had been checking it out on every visit that he had made. Hmm? How many times? I honestly didn’t ask. In hindsight, maybe that was irresponsible. But I swear to you if you were there any and all questions you had to ask would be utterly forgotten. You weren’t there! If you were, you’d understand!
I suppose that’s why I’m telling you this. So that… maybe… you would have an idea.
My husband showed me the entrance to the temple, which had some engravings that I can only imagine was more gibberish. But somehow he knew what it was. Or… I think he knew what it was. Now… now that I think about it, I’m not sure he knew for sure what it was.
But still… his confidence… you know… it was there. I believed he knew what he was doing. Maybe he believed it too. I wonder if he did…
There was a door… We tried to open it, but we couldn’t. It seemed that Chibu had been wrestling with the door each time he entered the watery world. I say we couldn’t open the door, but somehow something happened and then the door actually did open. I remember that moment, you know. There was a look of pure excitement on Chibu’s face. It was so, so infectious. I think I had the same look as well. It was a wonderful moment, and even if I didn’t know what it was all about, I was altogether happy that my husband knew and was excited.
That was enough for me.
But… the excitement turned to dread.
Oh… it seems that the family members are discussing something. No no, you don’t have to go. Not yet. I’m not needed in their discussions. Tell me, do you know of mamiwater? I don’t mean the very fine girls that you see on the road and believe that their beauty has to be spiritual. Although, hehe, that is funny. But no… I’m not talking about those ones. I mean an actual mamiwater of the sea. Yes… human from the head to waist and then fish from the waist below.
We met one. Or… she came to us.
I don’t know how to explain the feeling of a mamiwater coming towards you with pure anger and hatred, but this is what happened. Why was she angry? She said we had defiled her sacred home. Her hatred was because we were ‘land-dwellers’ that had come to destroy her home. No attempt by my husband to explain things actually went through, and all our pleadings fell on deaf ears.
I say ‘our,’ but it was really his. I couldn’t even do anything. I froze. Here I was, astounded by the fact that I was swimming and breathing underwater, only to be met by an actual mermaid. I would say my awe grew, except at that point she was very vicious and so menacing. I froze. At that point, it was all too much to take in. How did all this exist? How was it possible? Was I really here with my husband, or was I dreaming? Were we sharing a dream? I froze, and my mind at that point decided to start asking questions of the universe.
A lot of what went between my husband and the mamiwater is a blur, but I remember that the next thing that happened was my husband suddenly grabbing me and telling me to ‘swim very fast!’ I didn’t know what was going on, but I heeded his words and began to swim as fast as I could. We swam back to the surface, back to the entrance that led into our bathroom, and under us, I could hear the mamiwater snarl and growl as she fervently chased us.
By hook and by crook, we got out. Or at least, I got out. Chibu made sure I broke through the surface first. Which I did, landing on the bathroom floor with so little grace. As soon as I got my bearings and realized where I was, I turned around and immediately dipped my arm into the water, hoping to give Chibu an anchor to hold on to. To my greatest relief, he did so. He held on and pulled himself out of the water, and we were home free.
Oh God… I’m… I’m… I’m sorry. I don’t mean to sob like a baby. It’s just…
The mamiwater followed us. And she made it out of the water and into our bathroom! She grabbed Chibu, and I grabbed him. We were pulling, each person trying to gain the upper hand. But I tell you this moment, don’t be deceived by how beautiful a mamiwater looks. Their strength is not of this world at all! The mamiwater was already dragging me along with Chibu back into her world, and my husband realized this.
He… he said something. Now that… I think about it, it was most likely a spell from the book he got. Before he completed it—after I sat down to think about it, I realized that’s what happened—he looked at me with so much sorrow in his eyes.
“I love you, now and always. And I’m so sorry.”
That’s… what he said to me. Then he completed the spell. And suddenly I saw the mamiwater pulling him in. But at the same time, I was pulling him out! I took what I saw as just my mind playing tricks on me, and was more than joyful that my husband was in my arms. It wasn’t until I tried to talk to him that I realized he wasn’t responding. All efforts to make him answer me proved futile, and then, as much as I wanted to deny it, I realized what my husband had done.
He had separated his soul from his body.
I wish I knew why he did that. Was it intentional? Did he try a spell and somehow it didn’t work well? Did he mean to separate his soul from his body? I don’t know. I honestly… honestly don’t know…
I’ve tried, you see… I’ve tried translating the book. But my husband’s translations? Damn him for his methods. It’s like… like… shorthand! So, I have to make translations of the translations! I-I-I tried! I tried!! For hours I tried! But I realized in my frantic state I was not properly equipped to do it alone. And so, and so… so, I called his sister. I thought she would be the best person to help me.
In hindsight… I don’t think anyone would. My story is not the kind of story that would convince a person, especially if their sibling was lying lifeless. The lifeless body would be the first point of concern, not the story from the crazy, dishevelled woman talking about the bathtub opening a doorway into another world.
I wish… I wish he had shown me how. Just maybe I would have been able to show her… Just maybe…
Oh… seems they’ve taken their discussion outside. I will confide in you now. I’m not going to remain here. I’m going back to the house. My husband is still alive and I’m not going to let him go without a fight. I don’t care what these ones are doing here, it’s their business.
Now you know my story. I know that you don’t believe me. No, don’t… don’t patronize me. I know you don’t. That doesn’t matter. What matters is that you know. If anything were to happen to me, then I know at least someone knows the whole story. I have to just hope that… should something happen and I don’t come back with my husband, then at least you would tell my story.
Mgbe koghechara ga eme kam mara.
I have to hope…
Did you hear the one about the couch potato? Me neither. I was too lazy to listen.