If the leaves on the tree in the center of Baba Ramota's compound for instance, all turn brown overnight, in the middle of the rainy season, I am more likely to assume that the tree was suddenly infected by some tree disease than to suspect any Juju foul play. Not even after hearing, through the grape-vine, that Baba Ramota's sudden wealth came about after Mama Ramota, his wife's death.
My generally non-superstitious outlook was challenged recently.
In many parts of the world, Nigeria inclusive, most people associate bats with sorcery, witchcraft and general evil. The reason isn't far fetched - Michrochiropteria (Insectivorous bats), the kind mostly found in Nigeria have small eyes, sharp pointed teeth, strangely-shaped ears and bizarre nose structures. Frightening description isn't it?
Let's go back several months to the first time we had a bat incident.
It was around 8:30pm, my sister and I were watching TV in the living room when she suddenly screamed in fright. I must have dozed off half-way through the movie we'd been watching but her scream had me scrambling to my feet.
I didn't need to ask what the matter was. There was a bird flying over our heads and with the way it was darting here and there, occasionally swooping low, we instinctively knew it was a bat!!
I joined in the scream, running around the room in confusion, imagining the bat chasing me as I went.
The front door burst open and my Father-in-law dashed in from the balcony where he'd been lounging. My sister had run into the kitchen and locked herself in there but I was behind the drapes which separated the living room from the central lobby, peering out at the creature that had taken over our living room.
Quickly, F-I-L took one throw-pillow from the couch and with a few swipes, the bat was on the ground.
I yelled to my sister that it was okay to come out and together, we stared at the bird on the ground, not much larger than a mouse but which had appeared a lot larger as it flew over our heads earlier. F-I-L picked it up with a piece of cloth and took it outside.
The scenario I just described was repeated two more times before the night was over. No sooner had we settled back to watch TV than my sister screamed again. Another bat. And yet another one 30 minutes later! F-I-L was on hand to 'save' us from the bats but after the third time, I really began to wonder. Was there a colony of bats that just moved to our area? Did we by any chance leave a door or window open?
Later that evening, after I had given hubby the 'gory' details of our clash with three bats, we both took our time to check the windows and doors, stuffing pieces of old newspaper into the small spaces between the sliding windows and the base of the doors. We had just finished and were about to turn in for the night when F-I-L whom we thought had snoozed off on the couch, beckoned on us.
"Er...I don't want you two to begin thinking in another line..." he trailed off as we gave him puzzled looks. And then he continued "...Er..you know, don't start thinking that maybe...maybe somebody sent something to you...just clear your mind..."
It was his turn turn to look puzzled as we laughed incredulously and bade him good night. We were still chuckling to ourselves as we snuggled close....Somebody? Send something to us? Like juju? Too funny.
Well, we weren't laughing any more two weeks later.
F-I-L had left our house in a huff. The purpose of his visit had been to attend a meeting to sort out a family dispute. There was no resolution and he accused us of siding with the 'enemy'. It's a long story which I am not at liberty to share here.
Early one morning, 2 weeks after F-I-L's departure, the bedside alarm went off. It was around 4:30 am, hubby stood up to switch on the lights so we could have our devotion. The next thing I knew, he let out a sudden expletive and ducked. I immediately became wide awake. There was a bat flying around in our room!! I kicked off the comforter, scrambled out of bed and headed straight for the door crouching as I ran. Hubby was the man of the house so forgive me if I ran and left him to deal with the situation alone.
I stood outside our room and pressed my ear to the door. I could hear him moving about in there with the occasional thud and slapping sounds. In about 3 minutes everything became quiet. I opened the door a crack and peered inside trying to decide if it was okay to go in. Hubby assured me it was all right as he pointed towards his reading table. The plastic waste bin was turned over. He said the bat was in there but he wasn't sure if he had killed it or just merely stunned it. We carried on with our morning routine, all the while aware that there was a bat in there with us - dead or alive. By the time we were ready to leave the house, hubby slowly lifted the waste basket. The bat was dead. I couldn't help noticing again just how tiny it was. He picked it up and took it outside.
What concerned me the most was the thought that the bat had been inside the room with us as we slept. For how long had it been there? What if it had bitten us? And for that matter, HOW did the thing gain entrance into our room? The AC was on all night and so the windows were all shut. We had stuffed pieces of newspaper into every little space that could have served as an entry point. Besides we had installed heavy drapes to keep out the sun as much as possible. We just could not explain it!
The bats visited us five more times after that over a period of 4 months. One more time in our bedroom - we got home one evening and there it was flying around. One time in the central lobby - this was the only time we could attribute the visit to an open window. And three more times in the living room. All these times, hubby was there to 'deal' with the situation. I was the one who always ran to hide, shrieking as I went and somewhere in the recesses of my mind, something kept asking me the question, "what will you do when the bats come visiting and hubby's not there to save you?" That thought was always squashed even before it completely formed. "Tufiakwa!" I would reply. "God forbid bad thing!"
Within those four months, one of my S-I-Ls called to say she'd been having strange dreams. Maybe I should mention here that F-I-L also considers her to be siding with the 'enemy' in the family dispute. She also developed a rash that rapidly spread over her body. The dermatologists couldn't do much and so she had gone to see her pastor who told her it was a spiritual problem. She commenced a prayer regimen and the rashes disappeared as rapidly as they had appeared.
When she heard about the bats, she became convinced that the same person who sent her the rashes, was sending the bats to our house. We could easily deduce where she was headed with that line of thought and we waved her off. We didn't believe in that sort of thing but we took the time to pray all the same. Rebuking the enemy and declaring our home unfit for strange visits from strange creatures.
Just like that, the bat visits stopped. Until very recently...when the opportunity to face my fears and put the issue of the bats to rest once and for all. And we did solve the mystery. Find out how in Part II!