A Walk into the Forbidden Forest (A true story)
By Jacob Conteh, Editor, Diaspora Dispatch News
My heart jumped out of its cage. My greasy knees danced in disunity, my lips quivered, my mouth dried up and my hair rose to the top of the trees. My forehead dripped with sweat and my sweaty palms trembled. My eyes refused to blink, and my lips quivered. There, a few feet in front of me, sat a killer python coiled up to the size of a huge tractor tire with eyes pointing at us and tongue salivating with hunger. I motioned to my little brother Donald and pointed my fingers to the monster. We tiptoed backwards for a minutes, turned around and ran for our lives.
My people, the ...view middle of the document...
Noticing the strange man, and to avoid the wrath of the devils, the headman simply turned toward Chainkafutu and shouted “You have left one behind! In a flash the man disappeared! Such stories used to send fear to my weak spine.
Once every five years, the people Patfu had a huge celebration to appease the devils of Chainkafutu. A few days before the celebration, men would scale the hill, clear some brushes and make “benches” and build a huge fireplace for the women. On the day of the celebration, the whole village woke up very early. Men, women, children, and even the elderly would carry their pots, pans, goats, chicken and cooking ingredients for the huge cookout on the hill. In our days, the cookout was divided into two. All those who were born at Patfu went to the first camp with their children where they slaughtered their chicken, and goats, smeared the blood on the rock, cooked a big meal and ate while singing and dancing. For those born outside Patfu, they stayed at the bottom of the hill where they cooked their food and ate.
One story that fascinated me from year to year was that of the healer in our village, Pa Gbla. Each year, after the feast, he is reported to go inside a cave that was more than a mile long. He would go there and meet with the devils to talk to them about a good harvest, preventing disease or giving more rains in the following year. According to Mother who narrated the story to us as if she were there with Pa Gbla, many of the devils were in the form of pythons, cobras, giant turtles and lizards, but Pa Gbla understood their language and could speak to them. All these stories made Chainkafutu a sacred revered forest. No one went there to hunt, chop a tree or farm. One year, when we made a farm close to the forest, I was terrified one day when I saw a bunch of white chickens at the stream drinking. When I told Mother, she told me those chickens belonged to the devils, and we should not scare them away.
It was 1979. After graduating from high school at Yele Secondary School, they hired me to teach English, history and Bible to the junior classes. With lots of time on my hands I read many books. One day I read the Adventures of Tom Sawyer. I was thrilled with some of the things Tom did. Then an idea came to my teenage mind. I would convince my baby brother Donald to take a journey with me to Chainkafutu where we would discover for ourselves the things old Pa Gbla saw in the cave. It did not take long to get my brother on board. For our preparation, we bought some candles, notebooks, flashlights with batteries and some pens. We also had some sticks to help us on our journey. We would not tell anyone about the trip until after we returned.