Isio Knows Better is an attempt to capture the shocking and highly entertaining conversation within myself. The conversations between my mind (the sharp witty one), my soul (the lover and the spiritual one) and my body (the playful one concerned with the more mundane things of life). She is the eternal referee between the caustic mind and the sensitive soul. This is Isio. So, here’s to making private conversations public.
We decided to skip afternoon classes that day. Wait, wait, wait… it wasn’t like my friend and I were bad students.It was just that, that day we had already had our normal school day (8am-2pm) and we would have evening prep (let’s say another two hours) and then further night reading (another two hours); then, as seniors we would still have “over-night reading” – which was typically from 11pm until such a time that your brain rebelled and refused to cooperate anymore. Therefore, “stabbing” the ninety minute afternoon classes was only logical. After all, we had heard about (but never seen) students who had allegedly over exercised their brains to such an extent that they just had to run mad.
Such madness was definitely not our lot -we agreed – so we decided instead to go gist at the Students’ Second Home – the car park. Besides the teacher was going to be teaching Organic Chemistry, the one subject I detested more than other people’s saliva. My friend agreed, and we both walked to the biggest bench in that car park and gisted about the many mundane things sixteen year olds consider important.
Of course there were several students from the school’s primary school playing in the area. While my friend (Rukayat) and I were gisting I noticed from the corner of my eyes a small group of kids who were bullying a younger boy. He looked frail and about six years old. He kept trying to play with them but they kept pushing him away. Then the biggest girl pushed him away so hard he fell to the floor. Not being able to take it anymore I chastised her sternly and called for her to treat him with respect.
The biggest girl ran to us, her eyes twinkling with the eagerness of an over-sabi child who was about to snitch on a sibling.
She said to us, “Ahhh, elder prefects, please don’t be angry. [She curtsied briefly] But this boy [she points accusingly at him] is not a human being! He is a wizard! A big one! At night he changes shape to a lion!”
I hissed at such foolish talk, “Sharrap there! What manner of rubbish are you saying? Lion ko, antelope ni!”
“Ahhh, dear senior, I swear that I am not lying to you. Yesterday after classes, this boy changed to a pussy cat!”
She bent to touch her fingers to the earth, then to her lips and then the heavens. This was a cultural symbol of truth telling that had been passed down from our ancestors. It was said that this had all started when he had asked a hostel-mate to kindly accompany him to the toilets in the middle of one night, and halfway there, he magically became a lion to the horror of the hostel-mate who fled screaming down the halls. Many juniors were happily bed wetting since that incident.
Still, I was in doubt. There were no such things as shape-changers! She saw the doubt in our eyes and barked at the accused to come explain that she was telling the truth. He came woodenly and then slowly lifted up his head to fix a liquid gaze at me with such an intensity I almost peed ice pellets. His eyes looked six hundred years old.
“It is not my fault. I did not mean to turn into a lion. It was the witches in my former coven. They vowed to punish me.”
My mind kicked me mentally and frothed her displeasure. It was obvious she did not want to hear or deal with any supernatural matters. AHHHHHHHHHHHH! WITCHES KE?! Haba beast changing witches and wizards?! Mba ooo! Oya make we dey go school!
Rukayat and I exchanged looks. Sistehhh, are you hearing this?
We spent the next few minutes trying to bamboozle the boy with logic. We said things like, It’s-okay-we-are-not-going-to-punish-you, you-don’t-have-to-lie-eh, human-beings-don’t-change-to-lions, what-witch-and-wizard-abeggi! You-this-small-boy-what-do-you-know-about-winchi-winchi? How-old-you-be-sef? Taaaaaaah!
We laughed the high embellished laugher people who are nervous but trying to hide it laugh – you know the kind- where deep down they sense you just might be telling the truth about something they refuse to accept, so they laugh loudly but with darting, nervous eyes to convince you that you are the mad one.
He didn’t budge.
He insisted he didn’t mean to frighten anyone. The witches in his old school had decided to punish him for wanting to leave their coven. At first they had begged him to stay, but when he refused, and his parents had brought him to our school, far away from their territory, they got angry and decided to make him an outcast amongst human beings. He demonstrated how they made a miniature version of him and put him into cup. They would toss him around and laugh. He insisted it was highly spiritual. They wanted his soul.
“HAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA! Sweet Jesus of Nazareth! Soul ke?! This one seems like he is possessed o. What if his coven members and evil spirits were watching? What if they decided they would shakara these two seniors who were querying their former member? These ones he was telling their secrets to? Oghene biko o! Isio! I no dey put hand for winch matter o! Hian! Don’t shout on him too much o. Please be kind.”
Hmmmn. My mind made a valid point.
And so I did the best thing a God fearing Christian would do. I whispered questions to Rukayat, who in turn asked the six year old with the six hundred year old eyes. He answered all of them. He was looking at Rukayat now. I wasn’t about to receive a demonic visitation that night. Rukayat looked like she could take care of herself. What are friends for?
Needless to say the things I heard shocked me greatly. He explained his situation to us in detail. How and where he was indoctrinated into the coven (happened in kindergarten!) Why he wanted to leave, some more deeply spiritual stuff a six-seven year old has no business knowing, how his parents handled the issue, their initial dismissal of his claims, then attempted exorcism. About him being trapped in the body of an animal and feeling helpless – because he had renounced his powers he couldn’t do much to defend himself. About how all of these torture was to make him re-join the coven-
The school bells, they rang.
Afternoon classes were over and it was time to leave. We scurried away, not looking back at the liquid eyed boy.
And then that cold, dark night… the distant cries of the wild cats that roamed the school grounds filled the night. I lay in bed, my bible clutched tightly to my chest after reading several psalms. It was going to be okay. I smiled and drifted into a soft dreamy sleep. It felt good, like I was encased in clouds. It was a good feeling. It was too good a feeling. I felt… woozy.
And then- BAM!
Something yanked my pillow right from under my head.
Two words, one moment.