The River’s Toll

The River's toll

Our culture is dying and its imprints fading. The traditions our fathers upheld and the orderliness in which they kept our society have been buried under the loamy fad of keeping up with the Oyibo. We watch helplessly as the present mothers forget to tell children the stories their mothers told them; and their mothers before them. If this responsibility had been realised and carried out honourably perhaps the river’s toll would not have been exacted so. Or perhaps not , the waters have paid no mind to civilization and will never do so.
The masquerades dance and the people laugh. They fail to see that this time the dance is a different one. That the dance is one of warning -a herald. For the spirits can be heard gathered over the still river, sighing restlessly and seeking unfortunate souls to offer into the depths below.
But we are just as complacent in this eh, old friend. We did nothing to prevent it, nothing to stop it. Regret does not bow to an antiquated life neither does its bitterness fail to sting the mouth. I shall submerge my throat in more drink and await the next mishap with blank eyes and a saddened gaze.
.. battered drums thrummed, mangled tambourines squealed, weary hands clapped and the disgraced masquerade danced. Unperturbed. Curious onlookers cheered. Some at the rude manner in which a food seller had just dismissed it from her stall after it had stopped and entered with its entourage -to ask her for money or some other thing in kind.

Other onlookers cheered at the way the masquerade, in its multi coloured regalia that was covered with dangling paraphernalia of all sorts, carried on unashamedly, moving its feet to the cacophony of sounds following behind. Little children with nothing on save for pants riddled with holes gallivanted around the prancing masquerade and ran away when it approached them threateningly with a long cane.

       The procession of this masquerade and its worshippers behind was largely ignored by most of the townspeople on this busy side of Effuru. The fact was that nobody cared about masquerades anymore.  Especially not in December when everyone was hastily trying to shop for the Christmas. 
      Whatever meaning or significance masquerades portrayed was lost in the ancient past after the oyibo man’s civilization like the fiery wind had swept through and left not a single relic of the old customs standing. Now only when a few jobless people needed money did they clad themselves in cheap colourful attire and poorly carved masks and strut around town begging. This was the prevailing impression now and whether any meaningful event could be attached to the masquerade and the fake camaraderie of its followers was a question left to the imagination of only a few.
        Across the road a young couple strolled leisurely, pausing in their idle chat to observe the scenario.
“that’s a scary looking masquerade” the girl said and an indulgent smile appeared on the boy’s trim, dark face.
“i can’t remember the last time i saw one,” the girl offered further, “it must have been years back. One of those few times i travelled home with my family to visit my grandparents-”
“yeah,” the boy concurred, “nobody sees them anymore.” and they lapsed into a short silence.
The girl’s yellow face gleamed in the sun as she curiously watched the masquerade. It suddenly dashed forward at a circle of teasing children who scattered in different directions. The girl laughed and then stopped abruptly as if she had just remembered something very important. She called the boy’s name in a soft voice: “what if these masquerades have like, a time when they are supposed to come out and its only during that time people can see them?” The boy laughed and a twinkle flashed in his dark pupils. He thought that since they were simply engaging in casual conversation there was no harm in giving an answer to her question.
“masquerades are just funny men with nothing better to do than run around trying to scare kids.” He reprimanded himself that masquerades were not on his list of conversation worthy topics.
“hey, you wanna see that spot by the river i told you about?” He asked invitingly.
They  walked along the road a little while then turned into a narrow path, hands loped around each other as hopeless lovers were wont to do.


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