Pot Of Soup

 

CHAPTER ONE

Zubaida was as scared as her two children. She was also confused, only that she tried not to evince it. Her older son Abdallah, who was always restless at home was now so quiet. Rahmah helplessly looked at her mother as if accusing her of deliberately subjecting them to this torture. Zubaida understood their agony because this was the first time they were travelling in a public transport. The conductor made things worse with the way he shouted, calling on passengers. His endless shrills rattled Rahmah terribly from time to time. Not long, some passengers started sleeping and snoring loudly which added to her unsettledness. Others collected all manner of snacks from hawkers on the streets each time the vehicle stopped and passed them over the two kids heads. The smelly fried fish almost made Zubaida vomit. She really wished she could postpone this journey to the following day, as it was getting late but her eagerness to leave this town that was once a source of happiness to her made, her forget all the inconveniences they were going through, such as a man unknowingly stepping on Rahmahs toes that she yelled and the bus moving on an erratic speed. 

The sudden increment in the velocity of the bus seriously scared not only the two kids but almost everybody. Most of the passengers began to engage the driver and his conductor in a war of words. As the journey progressed, so was Zubaidas confusion. The knowledge of how long and tedious the journey was made her feel guilty over letting her children undergo it. She turned her face to the other side to avoid somebody seeing the tears that had welled up in her eyes. As she couldnt stop them from rolling down her cheeks, she only received them in her palm then rubbed on her hijab.

The vehicle jumped in and out of potholes to give off more noise and this caused her more discomfort.  All of a sudden, a loud bang shook her body. She quickly picked her kids and placed them on her laps which blocked her view of what was ahead of her. She started reciting different invocations, sensing something to be wrong. Then she heard the conductor confirm it, saying it was an eruption from the rear tyre. They all kept on praying until the bus came to an abrupt halt. Everyone rushed out in distraught. Zubaida remained calm, holding on to her children while making way for people to hurry out. When the atmosphere mellowed, she came down with her children and moved determinedly away from the noisy crowd. She had to think fast of her kids safety. And remembering what she had in her bags, she quickly reached the conductor and asked him to open the boot and bring them out. With her bags and children in front of her, the young woman then for the first time wilfully inspected her environment. She figured out that they were at a place not far from the outskirts of a small town. She picked up Rahmah and placed her on her back tying her with a brown wrapper. The girl looked very big on her mothers back but her mother didnt mind. Then placed a small bag on Abdallah's head and put another one on hers, while carrying another small one in her hand. She asked her son to start walking while she trailed him. The boy dragged his feet. Zubaida had to encourage him to walk faster by praising him now and then. When she remembered her sleek big car, fresh tears freely fell off her face. Now she had the luxury of crying emotively because the positions of her children and darkness that had enveloped the space covered her face from their viewview.

Soon they reached the small town. The not so bright light from the electricity bulbs in front and behind the local houses enabled them see the direction they headed. After some seconds, they met an old woman, Zubaida greeted her and asked for a direction to any modest hotel they could spend the night in, so that by morning, they would forge ahead. 

The old woman berated her for even thinking of spending the night in such a place. She instead offered them accommodation. Zubaida thanked her very well and followed her. She was too tired and confused to think things straight. Before any long, the old woman opened a door of a house with a key and led them to a room where they relieved themselves in every sense. Shortly, she returned with water, as Zubaida stretched her hands to receive the bowl, her eyes took in the old womans face for the first time goose pimples suddenly appeared all over her body as her hands trembled back.

The old woman only smiled and kept the bowl on the floor since it could not be collected. She also went back to bring food but the visibly frightened Zubaida shook her head to mean, no, thanks. As the old woman turned and left, Zubaida quickly locked the door and ran back to sit beside of her children. Abdallah looked at his mother with a troubled gaze, what is wrong Mama? before she could offer an explanation she heard a knock on the door and quickly gathered her children in her arms. Abdallah freed himself from her.

"Umma, what is wrong? Lets open the door, this is not our house."

"Shhhhhh, keep mute! None of you should say a word. I am coming." She tiptoed to the door and managed to say, "Yes Mama, we are so tired we want to sleep now."

"Remember you havent prayed and your children need to bathe." Zubaida did not respond and the old woman continued, "alright dont worry about the bath, I will just keep the kettles in front of the door for you, you can use the place for your ablution. Your children can also relieve  themselves there, dont mind it, it would be cleaned in the morning. So I am going to my room now, I wont come out till tomorrow."

Zubaida later heard banging on the door again and waited for some minutes when the place had become quiet again before gently opening the door. She looked round the compound and saw no one. When she felt a little safe, after she had entered the room back, she decided to go out again and called out her children as she felt it was now safe for them to be out. She asked them to use the front of the door just as the old woman suggested. They all performed ablution and returned quickly as she locked the door again. After the prayers, she brought out some of the packaged food they had and gave them to eat. The children slept immediately after eating. She came back to the praying position and sat raising her two hands and offering more prayers for protection. Her spirit was telling her that they were in danger because something about the old woman’s face seemed so. Zubaida resolved to remain awake till whatever would come for them should meet her awake. But after some hours, she was startled from her sleep by only God knew what. She did not know when and how she slept off. She looked at her children and they were still sleeping peacefully. Checking her mobile phone, the time said 5am. She opened the tiny window on the left side of the wall and looked through it. What she saw made her quickly step back in fear. But her curiosity got the better part of her as she glided back to the window to look again. This time, she surprisingly smiled, forgetting the danger she was in, as she admired the beauty her eyes beheld. It was the most beautiful garden she had ever seen, with ravishing flowers and surplus fruits. She saw a pawpaw tree which her mind measured as two feet with its comely and yellowish fruits almost touching the ground. Now Zubaida concluded that she and her children had come to a jinns house.

Then she started reciting Ayatul Qursiyyu. Suddenly a knock came to the door and Zubaida quickly roused the children that all three of them stared blankly at the door. Another knock struck again and when she didnt also respond or open the door, she heard the old woman call her to wake up for Subhi prayer as the time was fast running out. She opened it and peeped outside but the old woman had gone. She summoned courage and asked her children to come out and to say their prayers so that even if something should happen to them they had already performed their morning duty to their Lord. They all met the kettles in front of the door replenished with water and heard the old woman's voice from the corner of the house. The bathroom was at the other end of the house to her left. She followed the direction to the bathroom. Reaching there, she left the door a little ajar so she could watch and hear her children. Though local, the bathroom looked neat and smelled nice. She came out and made her children go in one after the other, but this time the door was left open. They came out, performed ablution and went inside the room to pray. The children greeted their mother and each other thereafter and tried to go to greet the old woman but Zubaida quickly stopped them and asked that they returned to their prayers while she prepared them for the journey ahead of them. When they were ready, she stood, still thinking of the way to face the old woman and tell her that they were leaving, when she heard the sweet voice of the old woman offering Salam and Abdallah responded instantly. The old woman told them that breakfast was ready. Of course, the aroma invading their nostrils was enough to make them hungry and the fact that they stayed for more than a day without a proper food made the food more enticing. But there was no way she could join any jinn in having a meal. Before she could come up with an excuse, her children were already at the side of the old woman. Now she knew they had been possessed because her kids always relied on her instructions before eating or doing anything. She dashed out for them but the old woman stopped her with her gentle smile that revealed a set of white teeth, saying "Please young woman, let them eat before I eat you people."

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