The Forbidden Village


"Eveline, come on,” my friend Saara called to me from our kitchen door. “It’s time for chapel.”
“Be there in a second,” I responded to Saara in Hausa.
My friend Saara was only a little taller than I. Her brightly colored tunic was knotted in front of her, and her braided black hair peeked out from beneath her kerchief.
“I’m ready,” I said, entering the kitchen. My mom told us to be careful, and we were off.
Saara shone her flashlight ahead of us on the darkened path. My light met hers, and we carefully made our way toward the chapel on our compound.
“Tonight I thought I had a scorpion locked in my drawer,” I whispered to my friend.
Saara sighed. The African darkness hid many dangers.
I squeezed her hand tightly. It was the rainy season. All around us frogs covered the ground. It was almost impossible to walk. I was nervous because lots of frogs meant there were snakes around.
The night sky was filled with clouds that nearly hid the moon. Every day now the rains fell. Large, noisy drops soon created puddles in the sandy soil. I heard the drums from a nearby village.
I did not want to go to chapel tonight, and had tried to convince my mother it would not matter.
“Sorry, Evie, it rains only in the daytime here,” Mom had said, chuckling.
Above Saara and me, littering the trees, were bats. There were hundreds of them clustered together. Silently they searched the night sky for flies and plucked juicy figs from trees.
“They are harmless,” Dad had told me.
“Look, Evie. Ahead of us, the village is celebrating.” Saara pointed toward the thatched roofs in front of us.
Now the path forked. One way led to the chapel, where I was expected. The other led to the local village, a forbidden but enticing place. Tonight their village was lit with torches, and the drums seemed more frenzied.
“They’re pagans there, kids,” Dad had explained. He visited there regularly, meeting with the chief and elders in the village. I imagined blood sacrifices and voodoo magic.
I pulled my friend toward the village.
“I promised your mama,” Saara reminded me.
“I won’t tell anyone,” I assured her. “We’ll stay only a little while, and then we can go to the service.”
Saara bit down on her bottom lip and reknotted her tunic. “Well, just for a little while,” she said.
“Great!” I exclaimed.
Soon we were at the edge of a group of thatched kraals. Crowds of children were dancing around a fire. Men in feathered costumes sang and raised sticks above their heads.
Suddenly a woman in a bright-orange tunic yelled, “Strangers!” She grabbed me by the arm and thrust me toward the fire. Saara immediately appeared beside me. “Strangers,” she hissed at us.
The music stopped. A crowd of people surrounded us.
“I am sorry,” I stammered. Their faces, painted in white with black lined eyes, terrified me. I stepped back as a large man in a black robe covered with feathers approached me. I looked into his dark eyes and saw anger.
“No good!” he roared, and thrust a dead rooster in my face, shaking it and chanting. I backed up and could feel the heat of the fire against my dress.
Saara was crying.
Now more men dressed in feathers with masks on their faces danced in front of us. They sprinkled spoonfuls of beads in a line in front of our feet. The women chanted. The crowd danced and swayed to the sound of the drums. They pinned my arms to my side. Suddenly we were lifted up and carried away.
“Saara!” I called. Terrified, I tried to wiggle free, only to be clasped tighter. Turning my head, I watched as the fire trailed behind us, and we were carried to a place I had never been before.
We stopped. Placing our feet on the ground, they pushed us into a hole in the side of a rock. We were in a cave. The big man in the feathers ranted at us for interrupting their ceremony. He shook his fist at me, then thrust a torch into Saara’s hand. I could hear him ordering two men to close the entrance.
No Way Out
I pushed against the heavy stone that had been rolled in front of the cave. We were trapped! Frightened, I sat down on the damp earth and cried. Why hadn’t I just gone to chapel? I should have listened to my parents. How would we get out of here?
“We will need God to protect us,” murmured Saara.
I knew she was right. All we could do was trust in God. I felt bad because my disobedience had placed Saara in danger.
The light from the torch shone brightly in such a small place. I thought of scorpions. Saara shone the light toward the back of the cave. I could see only a deep unending blackness.
“Maybe there is a way out if we search the back of the cave,” Saara suggested.
I nodded and rose to my feet. Holding the torch before her, Saara led the way. I held on to the back of her tunic. She was shivering. Each little sound seemed to echo inside the hollowness of our prison.
There was a whooshing sound, and the torch began to flicker. Something else was in the cave! There was more whooshing. Shapes moved in front of us.
Saara stopped. Her trembling turned into violent shaking. Muttering prayers to God in her native tongue, she held on to me.
“We can’t go any farther,” she whispered.
I strained to see around her shoulders and beyond.
Something touched me. A loud whooshing sound flew by my ear. Saara and I screamed. I grabbed her hands, and we scrambled back toward the front of the cave.
Then our light went out.
Saara and I fell in a heap together, shielding ourselves from the sounds around us. I felt something touch my arm and screamed again. Please, God, I prayed, save us.
Then I saw a small light far ahead of us.
“Look, Saara,” I cried. The light grew larger. Now I could see what was swooshing all around us—bats!
“Evie, Saara, are you all right?” It was Dad! We watched as he walked through the haze of flying bats to rescue us.
Not seeing us at church, my father had gone to investigate. He knew I loved adventure and guessed we had chosen to spy on the village. The chief, wanting no trouble from our God, had told him where we were.
I remembered my prayer in the dark cave, and I thanked God for protecting Saara and me despite my foolishness. During the next church service I welcomed the crowded and hot chapel. I didn’t even complain about the wooden seats or the length of the program. It was wonderful compared to being trapped in a cave.

Pattie Emanuele