The Witches of Auchi and The Council of Five(Genesis, Chapter 4)

At the midnight of the new moon every month, when even the moon is scared to show its face and the night is darkest, the witches have their meeting at the edge of nowhere, at the end of time and space.This is where they decided, for better or worse, the fate of their domains.

[12:00 am]

Eve Akpabio’s body was prone as she slept but didn’t dream. She couldn’t anymore; she had killed all her dreams long ago as a sacrifice to the First Mother. She sat up suddenly, her eyes wide, her body jolting with energy, and she knew instinctively that it was time.

She reached over her snoring husband to the yellow piece of cloth on the bedside table and tied it around her head.

And then she disappeared.

[12:00 am]

Aisha Karim worked the night shift at a shitty company for shitty pay. One of her co-workers had been staring and winking at her all night. She made a mental note of him and sighed. She hated the stress, she really did, but she loved killing men.

They deserved nothing less.

A surge of power racked her body, and she gasped, grabbed a black cloth from under her desk, closed her laptop and headed straight to the bathroom, ignoring the pair of eyes that followed her.

She found a stall, opened it and went inside. She hesitated for a second, and then began tying the black sash around her head.

And as soon as the knot was firmly in place, she disappeared.

[12:00am]

If there was anything that Funke Aminu hated, it was slowness; that and people who wore wireless earphones everywhere.

She sat in the back of the Hilux as it barrelled its way through the road, and she tapped her driver and told him to drive faster or he was fired. Her last driver had been his cousin, and they had buried his ashes just the weekend before; he knew she wasn’t bluffing.

“Erm…” the man stuttered, turning around. What was his name? Mike? He looked like a Mike.

“What?” Funke demanded.

“It’s just that — just that…you to…told me….”

“Spit it out!” She screeched.

“Twelve,” Mike said, close to tears, “it’s…twelve.”

Funke could feel her fingers tingling. “Find a space and park,” she said. “Then put your head on the steering wheel, close your eyes and count to five thousand.”

He did as instructed.

“1,2…” he counted as Funke opened her purse and took out a blood-coloured piece of cloth.

She wrapped it around her head and vanished

[12:00am]

There was a special joy Efem Ighohwo found in armed robbery. She smiled as she watched the cashier slowly put all the money in the bag. Although he didn’t make any sudden moves — a gun aimed at your face would do that to you — Efem wanted to shoot him.

He hadn’t annoyed her yet, but he was a man, and she had a special place in her heart that reserved hatred for…her hand shook a little.

“Fuck,” she said to the cashier, who was crying now, “what time is it?”

He slowly looked at his watch. “It’s…it’s midnight,” he said.

She rolled her eyes. “Lock up this place and close all the windows, then go to the toilet and lock yourself there.”

She took a crumpled purple piece of cloth from her pocket and tied it around her head.

Then she disappeared.

[6:00pm]

“Okay, Chichi,” Doreen said, as they sat opposite each other, “say what I said back to me.”

Chichi pursed her lips.

“By twelve,” she said, “I have to wear the sash around my head.”

Doreen nodded. “Yes, and…”

“And I’m not supposed to trust the other witches. They’re…evil. And we’re not.” She added.

“Yes, and…”

“I should tell them that you went to the Underland to get ingredients for a new spell and you won’t be back for a while, and that’s why I’m representing you.”

Doreen nodded, “Good. I’ll be back by tomorrow morning, but you must keep the shop safe until then. Teni is busy, and Wúrà is at work, so that leaves you, Chichi. It has to be you.”

Chichi furrowed her eyebrows. “What about the others?”

“I don’t trust them.”

“But they’re nice.”

Doreen shrugged. “Maybe. But I still do not trust them.”

“Lidia has a funny hat.”

“That’s her hair, Chichi.”

“It’s funny. And cute. We should trust her.”

“I don’t think someone’s hair is a solid enough basis for whether or not to trust them.”

“It’s not?” Chichi said, crestfallen. “It should be.”

“It really shouldn’t, Chichi.”

“Why not?”

Doreen stood and brushed imaginary lint from her trousers, “Because, my dear, people are a wicked, evil breed and sometimes, they also have nice hair.”

Chichi gasped.

“It’s true,” Doreen said, nodding. She clicked her fingers, and Midnight came from wherever he went and nestled on her leg, purring.

“But now, I have to go. Chichi, please be safe and don’t worry. You’ll do fine.” With that, she clapped her hands and twisted them. Blue sparks erupted, swallowed her, and she was gone.

Chichi was left in the store staring at the blue sash in front of her.

She stared at it. And stared some more.

She looked at her barbie watch. It was only 6:30. She sighed. What would she do to pass the time now, she thought, as her eyes glanced through the empty shop at the containers filled with groceries.

Chichi walked around the store, naming everything she could and went around again, doing the same thing in reverse. She went to the cash register and stood opposite it, looking at the wall behind. It was a good sturdy wall. It did all the things a good wall was supposed to do. It held the ceiling up, and you could hang stuff on it.

It also wasn’t real.

There was a way that Doreen explained it. It was real and not real at the same time. It’s like fear, she had said; if you see it, it’s there, but if you don’t, it vanishes into the air.

Chichi could see a wall there now. She took a deep breath and let it out. She emptied her mind like Doreen had taught her since she was a child. Magic was like its own life force that lived within you. It was simultaneously fickle and powerful. You had to calm your mind and empty it, so you didn’t lose control.

Chichi always found that funny;the emptying of your mind thing. It made her think that her mind was a wastebasket and she was emptying —

She shushed herself.

She had to empty her mind.

And be calm.

Be calm.

Be.

Calm.

Someone bumped into her, and Chichi opened her eyes.

“Sorry,” the woman, Lidia, with the funny hair, said, “just came back to pick up my knife. I forgot it.”

Chichi nodded. Lidia approached the wall, looked at it for a moment and walked right through it.

Chichi’s eyes widened as she moved to the wall and walked through it — except she didn’t walk through it. Her head banged against the wall, and she fell on her backside, her hand cradling her aching head.

Lidia came out a few minutes later and looked down at Chichi. “Chichi, are you…are you okay?”

Chichi sighed. “Yes,” she said. “Stupid wall,” she mumbled as Lydia left.

***

She waited and waited, staring at the blue sash in her hands, and she waited and waited; then she began doubting the meeting was even going to happen at all.

Maybe they moved it, she thought.

Maybe they decided that —

Then she felt it, the rush of energy that Doreen told her about.

And she knew it was time.

She wrapped the sash around her head and vanished in a blink.

***

The witches were sitting around the Eternity table at the edge of nowhere in the land of dreams. They say the table was carved from the first tree in the garden from centuries ago and would outlast everything. Even the last storm.

There were six seats, each individually carved to suit a particular coven. Four seats were occupied, with one conspicuously empty.

Chichi was the last to arrive. She looked down at her clothes, she was now wearing a simple blue Buba.

“Nice of you to join us, child,” said the woman in yellow sitting beside her as she held her hand, “it has been very long since we last saw each other. Look how big you are!”

Chichi smiled as she gave her a hug. “Aunty Eve,” she breathed into the woman’s chest.

“How are you?” Eve asked, holding Chichi at arm’s length. “How old are you now? How’s your mo — Doreen?”

“I’m 17,” Chichi grinned. “And she’s fine. She told me to greet you.”

“Ah, tell — ”

A cough came from the head of the table as a woman in red adjusted herself, shooting daggers at them with her eyes. “If both of you are quite done, we have a meeting to hold.”

A woman beside her in purple with her feet on the table smirked. Doreen had told her about them both — the big woman in red was Funke, head of the Witches of Blood and Tears, and the lavender one was Efem of The Witches of Feud.

Eve flashed Chichi a wink as she placed her hand on the table. “Yes,” she said, “let us begin.”

“What about…” Chichi was saying, her eyes going to the empty seat.

Efem smiled at her. Chichi didn’t like how she looked at her; it made her skin crawl.

“The representative of The Witches of Night will not be present for today’s meeting despite the arrangements,” Funke answered with a sigh. “She encountered a…problem. So, Efem, go ahead with your report.”

“Sha, for me,” Efem said, using a toothpick to remove something from her teeth, “we’ve compromised at least three politicians this month, we’re working on destabilising key local government areas around our territory, so business is booming more than ever. We’ve been importing more guns, even a new kind of pistol I like,” She smiled. “So, more violence, more carnage, It just keeps coming in and in.” She twirled her hands.

Funke nodded. “That is good.” She turned to Eve, looking at her with barely concealed distaste ,“Representative of The Witches of Sun? What is your status report for the month?”

Eve maintained her composure and managed to smile. “So far, five women have come to us for fertility. They have accepted our…terms of sacrifice,” she said.

“You’re sure?” Funke prodded.

“Yes. I am.”

Funke looked at Eve for a moment longer. “Okay,” she said, and turned to Chichi. “Witch of Auchi?”

“Well…” Chichi said.

“Well?” Funke answered with narrowed eyes.

“We’ve done a lot this month. A lot.”

“Like what?”

“Oh. You want me to tell you now?”

“Yes. Child.”

Chichi dropped to a whisper as she used her hand to shield her mouth. “But there are other people here.”

Funke sighed. “Yes, girl. This is a meeting.”

“Oh.”

“Yes. So, your coven’s deeds for the week?”

“Yeah, you’ll like what we’ve been up to.”

“Okay…”

Efem nodded. Funke glared. Eve looked expectant.

Chichi slumped in her chair, and then she perked up. “We helped an orphanage last week that was running out of food. We made it with our magic. I grew a tomato myself!” she beamed. “Then, we charmed the governor to provide sanitary — ”

“What the hell are you saying, girl?” Efem said, her eyebrows furrowed. “Your coven has been…helping people? Again? I thought we talked about this last week.”

Funke rolled her eyes and shook her head. “And the week before, and the week before that. You Witches of Auchi have been a problem for almost a hundred years. You know that, right? Have you even been Initiated?” She pointed at Chichi, who shook her head.

Funke sighed. “My mother wrote in her diaries all about your leader. That Doreen.”

Efem smiled again. “I actually like the woman. She has style,” she said and then looked at Chichi, “tell her to come to me when she wants a real woman, not that stick.”

Chichi balled her fists and was about to talk when Eve placed a hand on her shoulders.

“My fellow witches,” she said, “the girl is young, and The Witches of Auchi have been invaluable comrades for generations. Who can forget the issue we had with the Babalawos in ’93 and then the crises of the ancients in 2000. It doesn’t bode well to speak ill of them like this. They are unorthodox, yes. But they are our allies nonetheless.”

“Yes, Eveth,” Funke said. “But where did they come from? We can all trace our origins to our first mothers who braved through the Void centuries ago. Who is the founding mother of the Auchi Witches, hmm? We all get our powers from each of our Infernal Sources, but where do the Witches of Auchi draw power from? Why is their magic so different?”

Eve spoke with calm. “Discretion has always been our tenet. The Accords say as much..”

Funke looked at Chichi and clicked her fingers, a glass sphere filled with blood appearing in her hands. “Young girl, aren’t you tired of not knowing? Of the questions and no answers?” She asked Chichi. “Don’t you want to become your own witch? You know what? Take this sphere and break it when you want to talk to a real witch.”

“You don’t have to take it,” Eve warned Chichi.

But Chichi had her own thoughts and questions. All Doreen had ever told her to do was wait till she was ready, that things would be clearer after the Initiation. She was getting older now and wanted to be like the others — Strong, Confident and able to walk through walls without banging her head.

“It’s okay,” Chichi told Eve as she took the glass sphere and watched it float on her palm.

“I think the Witch of Auchi should be excused,” Eve announced. “She has done her duties to the best of her ability. She must leave. Now.”

Efem leaned in. “But we were only just — ”

Eve held up a hand, turned to Chichi and smiled sadly. “You should go now.” She gave Chichi a hug and whispered something in her ear. Chichi looked confused as Eve kissed her forehead. “Be safe,” she told her. Then Chichi disappeared.

***

“So,” Doreen said as she removed the vials and tubes from her bag the next morning, “how was the meeting? Did anything interesting happen?”

Chichi thumbed the glass sphere in her pocket and rolled her tongue nervously as she shook her head.

Doreen finished unloading her things. She looked at Chichi over the shop counter and her eyebrows creased.

“My baby,” she said, cradling Chichi’s head in her hands, “you’ve been very quiet since. Are you okay?”

Chichi hesitated. “Something happened last night.”

“What?” Doreen asked, anger flashing in her eyes as blue sparks flew out of her body, “If that child, Efem, even — ”

“It wasn’t her,” Chichi said, “it was Aunty Eve. She…she said I should tell you something.”

Doreen cocked her head. “What?”

“She said…She said I should tell you that they’re suspecting. That they’re…close.”

Doreen’s hands fell to her sides, then she pulled Chichi into a tight hug as she stared into the distance and didn’t speak a word.

None was needed.

None would do.

--

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A long time ago, witches came to Nigeria. Witches are known to be bloodthirsty, cruel, and evil. But the Witches of Auchi, a small coven located on Adelabu Street in the nondescript Mama Dee’s All Purpose Shop, are different. These are their stories.

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Anthony Azekwoh

Anthony Azekwoh is a Nigerian-based author and artist. He has written five books so far, and is now working on the sequel to his fourth book Ṣàngó, Oya.