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Santa's Coming for Us

Tonight Comes the Dark Feast

  • December 22, 2023
  • 12 min read
  • 203 Views
Tonight Comes the Dark Feast

Sunlight, pale and hesitant, crept through the bamboo slats of Chioma’s hut, painting stripes of gold across her face. With a stroke of luck, and in what seemed like a Christmas miracle, Dad had agreed to make the 6-hour long journey to their village some three days back.

The air, still heavy with the dew-kissed scent of mango blossoms, vibrated with the joyous cacophony of Christmas morning. Laughter, the rhythmic pounding of ogene drums, and the excited chatter of children weaving through the village like brightly-colored birds – it was a symphony of pure Christmas cheer. The kind that originates from a blissful union between beautiful mother nature and highly ecstatic humans.

The last harvest was bountiful, and the weather-still very serene, added to the welcoming atmosphere that had wrapped its embrace around the joyous children. A sharp contrast to the eerie scenes from last year. Mama Nkechi had complained very bitterly to her son – Chioma’s father – requesting that he send some money to help with the family’s deteriorating situation back home, owing to the mass destruction of farmlands by the rain.

Chioma, however, lay unmoved. A thick, oppressive dream clung to her like a shroud. In it, the sun had turned a malevolent crimson, casting grotesque shadows that danced on the thatched roofs. The festive drumming morphed into a chilling dirge, and the children’s laughter echoed with a hollow, soulless ring. And then, there was Santa.

He wasn’t the jolly, rotund figure from the faded picture books her mother frequently showed her in her bedtime stories. This Santa was a gaunt, skeletal creature, his crimson suit a mockery of Christmas cheer, his cotton beard writhing with shadows. His eyes, two bottomless pits of darkness, burned with an unholy hunger, and his smile, a predator’s leer, promised nothing but fear and despair.

He stalked through the village, his laughter a rasping wind that sucked the joy from the air. Children cowered in his wake, their faces drained of color, their laughter extinguished. The elders, once vibrant and strong, withered at his touch, their voices reduced to whimpers. And Chioma, frozen in terror, could only watch as the spirit of Christmas, once a vibrant tapestry of light and laughter, was devoured by an encroaching darkness.

Then, with a final, ear-splitting shriek that ripped through the very fabric of her dream, Santa lunged at her. His icy claws reached for her throat, and Chioma felt herself falling, plummeting into an abyss of endless shadows.

She woke up with a gasp, the sound echoing through the quiet hut. Her heart hammered against her ribs, a frantic drumbeat against the silence. Her breath came in ragged gasps, the taste of fear clinging to her tongue. She looked around, her eyes searching for the remnants of the nightmare. The sun, now high in the sky, bathed the room in a warm, reassuring light. The familiar sounds of Christmas morning filled the air – the joyous shouts of children, the rhythmic pounding of ogene, the warm aroma of breakfast wafting from the kitchen.

But the dream, with its chilling clarity, refused to fade. It was a premonition, a whisper of darkness in the joyous melody of Christmas. A shiver ran down her spine, and before she could stop herself, the words escaped her lips, a desperate cry echoing through the hut:

“Santa’s coming for us!”

The world outside froze. Laughter died in mid-air, replaced by a stunned silence. Chioma, her eyes wide with a mix of terror and defiance, looked at the faces staring back at her, searching for a sign, a hint of understanding. Would they dismiss her as a dreamer, a child caught up in the excitement of Christmas? Or would they see the truth in her eyes, the chilling premonition that clung to her like a shroud?

Will Chioma’s warning be met with skepticism or understanding? Will the villagers heed her words and prepare for the coming darkness? Or will Santa, disguised in the guise of Christmas cheer, descend upon them, leaving behind only a chilling echo of his promise:

“Santa’s coming for us!”

…………………………..

Aunt Nneka, ever the pragmatist, scoffed.

“Santa? Child, it’s Christmas morning, not Halloween. Go wash your face and come downstairs to eat before the akara gets cold.”

But Chioma’s gaze flickered to her grandfather, Okoro, the village elder. His eyes, usually twinkling with laughter, held a flicker of ancient fear. In a hushed voice, he reached out and touched her hand. “Chioma,” he said, his voice gravelly with age, “Tell me your dream. Tell me everything.”

*************************************************************************************************************

The kids outside were having fun.

The harmattan, that mischievous prankster of a wind, whispers through the mango trees, tugging at your shirttails and swirling dust devils across the ochre-red earth. It kisses your cheeks with sandpaper grit, leaving rosy cracks blooming like desert flowers. But even that can’t dampen the fire that crackles in the air, the fever pitch of excitement that thrums through every child’s bare feet.

Christmas Day in Umuokwe is a symphony of senses. The sun, a lazy lion stretched across the sky, bathes the thatched roofs in gold. Laughter, high-pitched and infectious, erupts from behind mud walls, where little ones play “police and thief,” sticks for clubs, mud cakes for handcuffs. Their ragged shirts flap like flags, faces smeared with a war paint of red sand and snot.

Across the compound, a chorus of rhythmic thumps announces the mothers’ battlefield. Wooden pestles pummel mounds of yam – fresh, gigantic tubers that were harvested by gallant men of the village from the day before, each blow a beat in the Christmas song they sing with their bodies. Sweat beads on their foreheads, jewels sparkling in the sunlight. The air around them hums with the pungent perfume of onions and pepper, an intoxicating prelude to the feast to come.

Behind the hut, in the shade of a gnarled old baobab, Papa Eze stokes the fire, coaxing flames to life. The aroma of burning palm kernel whispers promises of succulent suya, its smoky kiss dancing on the wind. On the spit, chickens glisten like roasted treasures, their skins taut with promise.

Suddenly, a guttural yell splits the air. Not a cry of distress, but one of triumph. Chike, the village daredevil, emerges from the thicket, brandishing a stick taller than himself. He’s “caught” the thief, his best friend Nkechi, who pouts dramatically, her bare feet kicking up dust. But it’s all a charade, dissolving into giggles as they chase each other around the compound, their joy painting the dusty canvas with vibrant streaks.

Auntie Nnenna, ever the matriarch, appears with a tray balanced on her head. Akara, golden spheres of fried goodness, float like miniature suns. Children swarm, fingers sticky with honey, their smiles wider than the bowls of garri she distributes. Every bite is a burst of sweetness, a promise of the sugar-laden joys to come.

As the sun dips below the horizon, painting the sky in fiery hues, the village gathers around the crackling fire. Stories are traded, seasoned with laughter and the occasional gasp of fear. Grandmama Ujunwa, her eyes like pools of ancient wisdom, recounts tales of mischievous spirits and forgotten gods. The embers paint shifting shadows on her face, making her seem as old as the baobab itself.

And then, a guitar’s gentle strum steals the air. Uncle Chukwudi, his voice rough and warm like aged whiskey, sings carols in Igbo, the words twisting and turning around their tongues like familiar friends. Children sway, mimicking the elders, their faces illuminated by the dancing flames.

The night settles, a velvet cloak studded with diamond stars. The air, still crisp from the harmattan, now carries the scent of woodsmoke and fulfilled promises. Christmas Day in Umuokwe, a tapestry woven from laughter, sweat, spices, and stories, a tale etched in cracked feet and sand-kissed faces, a hymn sung under the boundless African sky.

And you, standing here amidst it all, can’t help but feel your heart swell with the warmth of belonging, a single note harmonizing with the symphony of joy that is Christmas in the village.

*************************************************************************************************************

The moon, a luminous pearl in the ebony sky, bathed the village in a ghostly glow. Okoro’s voice, rich and seasoned like aged palm wine, wove tales of ancient heroes and mischievous spirits, weaving a spell of wonder under the baobab’s gnarled canopy. Children nestled close, eyes wide, faces reflecting the flickering firelight.

Okoro’s voice dipped into a hushed reverence as he spoke of Ekwensu, the trickster demon who loathed Christmas cheer. A serpent-faced being who, on the holiest night, donned the guise of a jovial giver, luring children away with promises of forbidden sweets and glittering trinkets. He spoke of a forgotten village, cursed by Ekwensu, where children vanished every Christmas Eve, leaving only echoes of laughter and empty beds. He spoke of a desperate plea to Uzo, the Light Bringer, a celestial warrior clothed in sunbeams, who banished Ekwensu with a song so potent it cracked the moon and filled the night with blinding radiance.But amidst the shared laughter and whispered secrets, a chilling silence bloomed in Chioma’s heart.

Suddenly, the story shattered. Mama Uju, a wraith in the moonlight, stumbled from the hut, her voice a ragged croak. “Nneka! Ndidi!” she screamed, the names of her twin daughters echoing into the night like a death knell. The fire seemed to shrink, shadows creeping from its edges. Panic, a rabid beast, tore through the gathered crowd.

Chioma felt the ground vanish beneath her. A wave of nausea assaulted her as a forgotten fragment of her nightmare returned, sharp and horrifying. The crimson Santa, his eyes bottomless pits of hunger, snatching children from their sleep…and she hadn’t remembered, hadn’t warned them! Guilt, barbed and venomous, coiled in her stomach. It was her failure, her silence that had invited the darkness. Her heart hammering against her ribs, she choked out the words, each syllable a shard of shattering hope: “Santa…is coming for us!”

The moon, once a pearl, seemed to bleed crimson. A cold wind sighed through the baobab, whispering her words back in a thousand chilling echoes. And from the depths of the forest, a monstrous laugh boomed, shaking the very earth. The fire sputtered, shadows engulfed the scene, and the chilling certainty gripped Chioma’s soul – tonight, Ekwensu would feast.

Hysteria gripped the village. Men stormed into huts, lanterns casting frantic shadows, mothers clutching their children tighter, their terrified whispers carrying on the wind. Chioma felt paralyzed, fear a leaden weight anchoring her to the spot. But Okoro’s call, his voice raw with urgency, pulled her back from the brink.

“To the church!” he roared, eyes blazing with a desperate flame. “The Uzo song! We sing it together, drive him back!”

Chioma stumbled forward, propelled by a renewed fear, not for herself, but for the village, for the flickering lights of hope still glowing in tear-streaked eyes. Her voice, hoarse with terror, joined the rising chorus, the words of the forgotten carol a desperate plea piercing the night.

The air thickened, charged with a preternatural electricity. Shadows coiled and writhed, a dance of unseen horrors lurking on the edge of the firelight. Then, from the forest’s depths, a chilling laughter rang out, a discordant counterpoint to the song. The crimson Santa emerged, his skeletal form a grotesque mockery of Christmas cheer.

Terror choked Chioma, but the Uzo song pulsed through her veins, a shield against the encroaching darkness. She saw Okoro, his face etched with grief and determination, lead the charge, brandishing a burning log like a sacred torch. Others followed, mothers wielding pots and hoes, their fear transformed into a desperate courage.

The song rose ever louder, a desperate symphony of hope against despair. Children, their innocent voices soaring above the fray, became beacons of light. Chioma poured her soul into the words, each verse a blow against the darkness, her voice hoarse but unyielding.

The crimson Santa faltered, his eyes burning with frustrated hunger. The light pulsed around him, a shimmering cage, the Uzo song like a sonic whip lashing at his form. He screeched, a tormented howl that ripped through the night, and lunged for the singing children.

But Okoro stepped forward, his burning torch held high. The flames, imbued with the villagers’ collective will, blazed with the righteous fury of a thousand suns. The crimson Santa recoiled, his form writhing in agony, consumed by the light.

With a final, ear-splitting shriek that tore at the fabric of reality, the dark figure dissolved into ashes, a wisp of smoke carried away by the wind. The song faltered, replaced by ragged gasps and a stunned silence. But then, tears of relief broke the dam, sobs and shaky laughter filling the air.

Victorious but shaken, the villagers embraced, the warmth of shared fear and survival knitting them together. Chioma slumped to the ground, her heart a frantic drum against her ribs. Survivors huddled around her, their eyes filled with gratitude and a mixture of awe and terror.

She had failed to see the darkness, failed to speak its name. But the spirit of her village, fueled by faith and the flickering embers of tradition, had driven it back. Christmas, a celebration of light and hope, had become a testament to their resilience, a victory carved in the moonlight’s silver.

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Joseph

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6 Comments

  • Nice one

  • Nice read
    Best stuff I’ve read in weeks

  • Awwww good work

  • Nice on Joeboy

  • Nice article

    • Wow, this is lovely. Might not be a reader but I am prompted to read this, great job ❤️

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