Note: This story is rated PG13. Younger children might find the content therein a little bit too scary. Enjoy!
We – you and I – had a friend that lived in Awka. During the holidays, my parents would take me to visit them. They lived in a small village and they had a big backyard in their compound. I loved to play there during the day. When we arrived, her grandparents welcomed me with open arms. She, Efeyin, was their only grandchild, so they spoiled her as best they could.
I saw them last when I was 8 years old.
As usual, my parents sent me there during the holidays and we drove from Benin to her grandparents’ house. They were very happy to see me and had lots of little presents to give us. My parents wanted to have some time to themselves so after a few days, they took a trip to another part of Awka, leaving me in the care of Efeyin’s Grandma and Grandpa.
One day, we were playing out in the backyard. Her grandparents were inside the house. It was a hot day and I lay down on the grass to rest. I stared up at the clouds and was enjoying the sun and the gentle breeze. Just as I was about to get up, she said she heard a strange sound.
“Po… Po… Po… Po… Po… Po… Po…”
Efeyin said she didn’t know what it was and it was hard to figure out where it was coming from. It sounded almost like somebody was making the noise themselves… as if they were just saying, “Po…Po… Po…” over and over again in a deep, masculine voice.
I was looking around, searching for the source of the noise when she suddenly noticed something on top of the tall hedge that enclosed the backyard. It was a straw hat. It wasn’t resting on the hedge; it was behind it. That’s where the sound was coming from.
“Po… Po… Po… Po… Po… Po… Po…”
Then, the hat began to move, as if someone was wearing it. The hat stopped at a small gap in the hedge and she said she saw a face peering through. It was a woman. But, the hedges were high… almost 8 feet tall!
I was surprised at how tall the woman was. I wondered if she was wearing stilts or some sort of huge high-heeled shoes. Then, a split second later, she walked off and the strange noise disappeared with her, fading into the distance.
Boy, did we run. We got up and ran the short distance to the house. Her grandparents were in the kitchen drinking tea. Efeyin and I sat down at the table and, after a while, we told them what we had seen. They weren’t really paying attention to us until I mentioned that distinctive sound.
“Po… Po… Po… Po… Po… Po… Po…”
As soon as I said that, both of them froze. Do you know those cartoons where their eyes grow wide? That’s how her grandparents looked. They covered her mouth with their hand. Her Grandpa’s face became very serious and he grabbed me by the arm.
“This is very important,” he said. “You must tell us exactly… How tall was she?”
“As tall as the garden hedge,” I replied, beginning to get scared.
Her grandfather bombarded Efeyin and I with questions… “Where was she standing? When did this happen? What did you do? Did she see you?”
We tried to answer all his questions as best we could. He rushed out to the hallway and made a phone call. We couldn’t hear what he was saying. Efeyin looked over at her Grandma and saw her trembling.
Her grandpa came barging back into the room and spoke to her grandmother.
“I’ve got to go out for a while,” he said. “You stay here with the child. Don’t take your eyes off her for a second.”
He looked at me with a sad expression in his eyes and said, “She has been liked by Ozala.”
With that, he hurried out, got into his truck, and drove off.
I turned to her grandmother and cautiously asked, “Who’s that?”
“Don’t worry,” she replied with a shaky voice. “Grandpa will do something. There’s no need for you to worry.”
As we sat nervously in the kitchen waiting for her grandfather to come back, Grandma explained what was happening. She told us there was a dangerous thing that was haunting the area. They called it ‘Ozala’ because of its height. ‘Ozala’ mean ‘evil tall spirit’.
It takes on the appearance of an extremely tall woman and it makes a sound like “Po… Po… Po…” in a deep, male voice. It appears differently, depending on who sees it. Some say it looks like a haggard old woman in a dress and others say it is a girl in a white funeral shroud. One thing that never changes, though, is its height and the sound it makes.
A long time ago, it was captured by native doctors and they managed to confine it in a ruined building on the outskirts of the village. They trapped it using four small religious statues that they placed at the North, South, East, and West of the ruins and it wasn’t supposed to be able to move from there. Somehow it had managed to escape.
The last time it appeared was 15 years ago. Her grandmother said that anyone who saw the spirit was destined to die within a few days.
It all sounded so crazy, I wasn’t sure what to believe.
When her grandfather came back, there was an old woman with him. She introduced herself as ‘Kola’ and handed her a small piece of paper, saying, “Here, take this and hold it.” Then, she and Grandpa went upstairs to do something. I was left in the kitchen with Efeyin and Grandma again.
Efeyin needed to go to the toilet. Granny followed her to the bathroom and wouldn’t let her shut the door. She was beginning to get really frightened by all this.
After a while, Grandpa and Kola took us upstairs and brought us into my bedroom. The windows were covered in newspaper and lots of chalk had been written on them. There were small bowls of salt in all four corners of the room and a small wooden human figure placed at the center of the room on top of a wooden box. In the far corner of the room, there was a bright blue bucket. We were meant to pee and poo in the bucket.
Kola sat us down on the bed and said, “Soon, the sun will be setting, so listen carefully. You must stay in this room until tomorrow morning. You must not come out under any circumstances until 7 o’clock tomorrow morning. Your grandmother and your grandfather will not speak to you or call you until then. Remember, do not leave the room for any reason until then. I will let your parents know what is going on.”
She spoke in such a grave tone that all we could do was quietly nod our heads.
“You have to follow Kola’s instructions to the letter,” her Grandpa told us. “And never let go of the paper she gave you. If anything happens, pray. Make sure you lock this door when we leave.”
They walked out into the hallway and after saying goodbye to them, we closed the bedroom door and locked it.
I grew up in a home that was filled with lots of fairy tales, cartoons, and many many books. I am not ashamed to be scared of spiders and I love a good bed time story.
P.S. Looking forward to being the scary awesome big brother.