“Kodjoe, whatever you did, a man came here this morning. To the shop. He looks like your uncle who passed away last year. I swear he was wearing the cloth you buried him in. He said to tell you that the ritual you came to perform so you could sit on the stool was not accepted by the ancestors.”
“Really? But I……”
“Listen, let me finish. He said that you disrespected the gods by talking too much when you poured the schnapp and that the hen you brought was sick in the leg. He says if you want the stool and love your life, you should bring a young girl for the gods.”
“What!! As for the stool, I must sit on it. Whatever the stool demands. I will give it up.”
“He said you have ten days. Kodjoe, I’m scared. The place was windy when he came. He didn’t look human oo. whatever you have done, don’t come and drag the family into it.”
“As if when I sit on the stool you wouldn’t enjoy all the benefits with me. What did he say about Mensa’s own?”
“I heard Mensa was struck down ooo by a tree branch on his way from his farm. I heard he was drunk whiles doing the ritual for the stool so he drank most of the libation alcohol. Asare was found murdered in his compound. Everyone is waiting to see what will happen to you and then step forward to claim the throne. The gods want a woman, if you provide it but they kill you, there will be a struggle for the thrones. They are waiting for that.”
“I can’t believe they even dared to compete for the stool. The gods will not harm me, I will do it right this time.”
“What are you going to do about the girl?”
“The girl for the gods Kodjoe or they will do what they did to Mensa to you. his wife is already blind and his son, last year’s wrestling champion is running mad. You must do something. The village is in chaos. The gods want a woman to replace Paa, the chief priest after his mysterious disappearance. Everyone wants to be chief now. The gods were right to strike down the whole royal family for their abomination of mixing blood. We must rule, my husband”
“I have heard you woman. One of our two daughters must go.”
“Or what of your sister’s daughter? Our daughters will be princesses.”
“My sister will not agree to that. Pokuaa her only child after her husband died.”
“We will work something out. Come, let’s go before the strange man returns again. Let me lock the shop quickly.”
The sun is in quite a mood this hot afternoon, as clouds made sneaky tiptoes across the blue sky. The sun sent her fury down in scorching invisible rays, burning into the naked backs of the men and women. The wind seemed scarce on such days, unable to cool the long strings of beads of sweat running down sunburnt faces.
Kudjoe and his sister sat under the shade of a mellow mango tree. Avoiding the hot glares of our yellow friend.
“So, you are telling me you’ve come to take my daughter for the gods.”
“Sister, you have always said she is a troublesome and weird girl.”
“That doesn’t mean I want to give her off to the gods. She is all I have got, who will take care of me when I am old, who will give me grandchildren?”
“I will take you into my home when I ascend the stool.”
“How will that benefit me?”
“I will give you a young man to marry, so you can have more children. You are not old sister. I will give you as many maid servants as you please.”
“Bring your men for her tonight. Before others make the ritual to ascend the stool. You owe me brother.”
Kodjoe and his wife sit in the weary night with a bowl of boiled yam and stew before them. Kodjoe sits on his lazy chair, legs spread apart, taking in the view of his compound.
“What will you do first as chief?”
“I will organize a big feast for the whole village and we will drink and dine. Power is sweet.”
“It is ooo, my husband. I have ordered our daughters to pack their things because any time soon we will be moving to the palace. When will you send the girl?”
“Tomorrow. I can’t hang around for the other men to beat me to it. I know Agya Kwasi wouldn’t think twice before handing his daughter in. Neither will Appiah. They are all just waiting to see if I will fall. I cannot waste time. right now, it is fear that is keeping them back. Soon, I will fade and they will come forward to see the gods themselves. I must be fast.”
“Everything will be prepared tomorrow.”
Kodjoe balls plantain in his palm and dips it into the garden egg stew. He eats with a new hunger for glory, mixed with a thirst for power. His wife sits by with a lustful gleam in her eye. Planning how to spend her days as queen mother.
A girl clad in a white wedding dress sits on the floor with a veil on her face. She is surrounded by bottles of schnapps and bowls of food. The whole village is gathered around, wearing their best clothes. Mothers holding their usually-crying babies who are silent as if aware something ominous is about to happen. Men standing in groups, hoping for the fall of Kodjoe to get a chance to take the throne. Old men and women shake their heads, thinking about how a greedy man like Kodjoe will bring their ruin. Noses are high up in the air smelling the thick air of chaos.
“My fathers’ gods and my mothers’ gods, the new gods and the old gods, the dead gods and the living gods, I have brought your woman. I have brought her as a gift, as a sincere apology for my actions. I have brought her as a payment to a debt owed. I have brought her as a replacement for our old priest who has been missing for some time now.” Kodjoe says in front of the shrine whiles pouring a bottle of Schnapp on the ground.
“She is to serve you in place of our old priest.” He lifts the veil and sinks to his feet. His wife rushes to his side.
“Kodjoe, this is not your niece, what is Nana Yaa’s daughter doing here? Where is your niece? What is all this?”
Kodjoe remains speechless on the floor.
“She is your husband’s mistress.” His niece, Pokuaa walks up from behind the throne and says. “I exchanged my place with her, just as he would have done to you immediately, he sat on the throne.” Kodjoe’s wife screams, clapping her palm to her mouth.
“Kodjoe, I have borne you two daughters”
“And she has bore him a son”, Pokuaa laughs.
“What are you doing here?” Kodjoe says, screaming to the innocent girl in white.
“She said you wanted to marry me,” the girl in white points at Pokuaa, “before you ascend the stool. She came last night with the wedding gown. She told me to hurry and wear it and be ready here.” The girl says crying.
“You men and your gods and power. the gods have no real power because men in ourselves are immortal. We do not die. Maybe our flesh does but our spirits live on. We are merely gods too buried beneath flesh. You have made gods kings but they are nothing.”
There is a gasp from the crowd. Mothers gather their children between their legs and fathers whisper among themselves.
“We are gods, women. We are crowns who have birthed thrones and crowns. Get up,” Pokuaa says to the girl. I will not sacrifice to any gods who do not know the pain of giving birth, who do not know the pain of death. Choose me as your queen and I will reign better than any gods. I will put back glory on this village.”
“The gods will kill us if we abandon them”, a woman in the crowd shouted.
“We will do no such thing. We will only put ourselves first. We have seen men run in times of war with their gods on their heads and lost their lives all the same. Put your faith in a woman. I will lead you to war myself. I will not sit on some throne and demand sacrifice before I let you defeat your enemies.”
“We will not be led by a common woman”, one of the warrior shouts.
“She is right”, another woman shouts.
“For years, women have been cast aside and left to tend to farms whiles the men fought and hunted. Whiles the men made all the decisions. In these farms, I have seen animals eat animals and I have learnt from their ways. Follow me, I will create a new name, a new history for us.”
“If the gods end the whole village, then they will serve themselves”. All of a sudden smoke fills the air and everyone looks at Kodjoe holding a match, standing near a burning bush.
“Then the village will burn. Me and everyone in it. A woman will not rule, especially over the gods.”
The fire moves like a mad woman whose baby has been stolen, devouring everyone in its path. Are there gods? Shall we make them bleed? Shall we make every woman a queen?