As Labake drew closer to the glinting object, she realized that it was an axe. Very pleased, she plucked the weapon off the wall and stalked back to the garden. First, she hacked down the bamboo gate and got into the garden then she bent down and began to tear the flowers off the ground, flinging them anywhere. After wreaking havoc in the garden, she walked around the statue, breathing hard as she thought of what to do next. With a sinister smile, she stopped behind the statue, wrapped her hands firmly around the wooden end of the axe, and with all her might, she brought down the sharp blade of the axe on the back of the left knee of the statue. A sickening cry of agony came from the statue but Labake didn’t care. She continued to hack at the back of the knee while she muttered profanties under her breath until she had completely detached the statue from that leg.
The sickening cry from the statue had stopped and Labake could see blood oozing out from the stump of the leg. Her rage made her mad that she began to hack on the rest of the body of the statue until she had brought the entire thing to the ground in a heap of rubble. By the time she was done, she was breathing very hard, axe still in hand. The only thing that was left on the pedestal were the cracked feet of the statue. Satisfied with the havoc she had wreaked out of jealousy, Labake set to leave when she heard someone yell. Turning her head, she was shocked to see her husband running back towards the garden with an outstretched hand and his eyes wide in horror.
“Ha! What have you done?! What have you done?!” He screamed.
When he pulled closer and could examine the complete mess his wife had done, the king helplessly fell to his knees, weakly trying to gather the rubble of the statue as he lamented. “Ha! Omolabake, you have killed me. Omolabake, why?! Why would you do this?!”
“Don’t ask me silly questions, Kabiyesi! Do you think that I’m stupid?! You can no longer fool me! You think that I don’t know that your plan is to replace me with this whore you have been sleeping with!” She gestured with the end of the axe at the rubble. “You can’t marry me as a trophy wife, deny me of sex only to come warm up her thighs when mortals are asleep. Now, that I’ve destroyed her, let’s see how you sneak out at night.”
The king began to weep. “Labake, you don’t know what you have done! You don’t even know whom you have just destroyed.”
“A whore is whom I’ve just destroyed! Nothing but a shameless whore who sleeps with another woman’s husband! You had better get up and stop shedding those unnecessary tears because the deed has been done.” She said, tossing the axe away. As she stepped out of the garden, she paused when she realized that the king was still trying to desperately gather the rubble. “Are you not coming?” When she got no reply, she flinched her lips at him and said: “Shioor! O ma sun e (It will tire you.) When you are done crying over spilt milk, you know where to find me. I’ll be waiting in the bedroom, naked for you to come perform your duties as a husband! And for your own good, you had better leave here before any one sees you this way or word about this will spread through the village. Don’t say that I didn’t warn you.” Having said this, she walked away, feeling fulfilled and satisfied with what she had done.
The next morning, Labake woke up to a loud scream. Jolting awake to a sitting position, she was a bit disoriented at first as she looked around, trying to remember where she was. When it finally dawned on her that she was in the bedroom, she began to wonder if the king had not returned home the previous night and she figured that she might have fallen asleep while waiting for his return. Soon, she heard noises outside and as she started to get off the bed, her personal maid rushed into the room, looking so scared and at the verge of tears.
“Olori, good morning!” She greeted quickly, briefly bending the knee.
“What is it?” Labake asked, noticing her countenance.
The maid began to stutter as she gestured with a thumb over her shoulder. “Olori… It’s the king…”
Every traces of sleep and grogginess suddenly disappeared from Labake’s eyes now. “The king?” She asked in alarm. “What has happened to the king?!”
“You have to come see for yourself, Olori.” The maid told her.
Quickly, Labake tied her wrapper firmly around her waist, grabbed a blouse and slipped it over head then she rushed out with the maid to see what was wrong. There was already a small crowd gathering outside. In fact, she was surprised to find the chiefs hurrying into the palace. Labake quickly ran down the palace towards the statue and stopped abruptly when an unwelcoming sight greeted her eyes from above.
From the single tree in the garden which had been providing shade for the statue, hung the king’s body. He had committed suicide by using the statue’s white cloth as a noose and he was dangling with his eyeballs bulging, his tongue sticking out of his mouth and his head bent in a weird angle. Labake was trembling now and she could barely utter a word. Her hands trembled and her eyes lowered to meet the Queen mother’s accusing ones who had turned to look at her. The Queen mother was standing close to the garden between two guards and Labake could see the deep accusation in her eyes. There was no denying that the Queen mother must had seen the havoc she had wreaked, and her glare was so cold that Labake felt like melting to the ground.
Four chiefs including the Otun arrived and the Otun ordered the guards to quickly bring down the king’s body from the tree because it was a taboo to keep the king hanging like that to the eyes of all. As they deliberated on what to do next after trying to speculate on why the king would have committed suicide, the Queen Mother approached Labake now and glared at her for a moment while Labake quickly averted her eyes in shame, unable to meet the angry woman’s eyes. She was guilt-ridden and began to scratch the back of her head and neck not knowing what to say.
“Sebi, o ti kpa mi lomo. (You have killed my child, haven’t you?)” The Queen mother stated. “Se ara e ti bale ni si n? (Hope you are now calm?)”
“Yeye Oba-” Labake started to mutter but the Queen mother rudely cut her off.
“Don’t you act innocent, you little witch! You have succeeded in murdering my son, hope you are happy now?!”
“Please forgive me.” Labake blurted, suddenly falling to her knees, pleading. “I’ve erred, please forgive me, Yeye.”
“Get up!” The Queen mother ordered. “The forgiveness is not mine to give. You’ll face what you have done but first, follow me, there’s something I must show you.” With this, the old woman turned and started for her hut with her hands behind her. Labake rose to her feet, dusted her wrapper and reluctantly followed her.
When they arrived at the old woman’s hut, they went in and she pointed to a small mortar turned upside down. “Sit on that.” After Labake complied, the old woman turned, went to a corner of her hut and returned with a Calabash which had a red piece of cloth tied around its neck. The old woman set the Calabash down in front of Labake and sat down too. “Look into the Calabash.” The old woman ordered.
When Labake did, she realised that the Calabash was filled with water. The old woman pulled out a piece of chalk and drew a circle around the pot on the floor then said an incantation and immediately, Labake gasped in shock when the image of Adigun sleeping with her in the bush appeared on the surface of the water. With her hands covering her mouth in shock, Labake sharply turned her face away from the Calabash in shame.
The Queen mother gave her a disgruntled look. “I know everything, Omolabake. I just wanted you to see this. You think you got away with this right? But little did you know that nothing is hidden under the sun… Anyway, let me ask you this- I know that you have been pretending as if I don’t stink. Well, I do, and now, I’ll reveal to you where the stench is coming from.” The Queen mother pulled her wrapper up to show Labake her lap and Labake almost toppled from the mortar in shock. The gory sight almost made her vomit that she had to quickly cup a hand over her mouth to keep from barfing. On the Queen mother’s lap was a big open wound housing a lot of wriggling maggots. In fact, the stench grew so worse that it permeated the air in the room and made Labake’s eyes moist.
“Don’t be too surprised.” The Queen mother told her. “This is the price I had to pay for hitting a hoe against the statue’s lap and breaking off the surface. Or did you think it was only you who went through this?! My husband, the late king, my late son’s father was also sleeping with that statue. He married me when he was thirty five and for five years he didn’t touch me until his fortieth birthday.
That statue you saw there is a goddess. She helped conquer the true inhabitants of this land, drove them out and gave the land to us, but before she gave us this victory, she made a pact with the very first king that any king who was to ascend the throne must sleep with her only. Only when he’s forty, could he be freed from the vow and allowed to sleep with any other woman.
The day any king broke the vow, she would unleash her wrath on the entire village and all the people will suffer from one plague to another. My husband kept me in the dark about this and married me because people were beginning to wonder why he was still single at thirty-five. I got angry after waiting for weeks and he still did not touch me. So one night, I followed him and since I was already used to black magic, it was not difficult for me to discover the truth of his refusal to make love to me.
Well, I was very angry. I felt used and cheated because I was young, foolish and ignorant. The next night, I got up and stalked over to the statue. I hit her on the thigh with a hoe. A chip of her lap fell off and I had an instant migraine. I dropped the hoe and quickly returned to the hut, and three days later, I woke up to find this injury on my thigh, exactly where I had hit the statue. My late husband finally explained everything to me and I had to patiently wait for five years before he made love to me. My late husband only made love to me once because he couldn’t bear the stench that came from this spiritual wound, and that was how I was able to give birth to your late husband. He was my only child since the king would not come near me anymore.
Your late husband has been sleeping with that statue ever since he was eighteen years old. He had no choice because his father had told him the secret and what he had to do to keep the kingdom safe. My son was supposed to visit the statue once a week a week like his predecessors, but when my son started going to her twice or more, I realised that he was beginning to fall in love with her which made me beg Otun to help him look for a wife before things got out of hand.
My pain now is that, you have rendered me a motherless widow all because of your impatience. Your husband was just thirty eight and all you had to do was endure for two years, but no, you were desperate and you took away from him what mattered most after letting Adigun defile your virgin body.
Well, I want you to know this, for taking advantage of your desperation and giving you that charm which led to your discovery of the goddess and my son’s unfortunate demise, I have rendered Adigun, blind and mad, but as for you, I’ll let the goddess deal with you herself because I know what she will do much worse to you than she did to me. Now, leave my hut!” The Queen mother finished in indignation.
In despair and regret, Labake got on her knees, placed her palms together and began to plead amidst tears but the Queen mother turned her angry face away, paying deaf ears to her daughter-in-law’s pleas. Soon, Labake began to panic and scream. When the Queen mother turned her head to look at her again, she was not too surprised to see that Labake was now sprawled on the floor and her legs began to forcefully joined together and gradually began to turn into stone. This stony change began to gradually ascend up her body and Labake wept the more and cried out, trying desperately to get up.
“Yeye…” She called in a hoarse voice. “Yeye, please what is happening to me?” She asked.
The Queen mother rose and answered. “You are turning into a statue. Now, you are being punished by the goddess. You shall take the form of the statue you destroyed and you’ll take her place on the pedestal. You shall only come back to life ten years later because the next king in line is your late husband’s cousin and he’s only eight years old now. When he’s eighteen, he shall come to you and his incantation will awaken you and set you free for that night and only then will you make love to him because you are now a slave to the goddess and your body is hers to use as she pleases. She shall make love to the next king through your body. After thirty two years, you’ll be set completely free and allowed to continue your own life. You can marry again if you choose to but never in a royal family because you’ll bring them bad luck.” The Queen mother explained.
“No, no…” Labake shook her head in tears as her body continued to turn into stone on the floor. “Thirty two years is a long time to wait, Yeye. Please save me. Save me please! Yeye, I beg of you!”
The Queen mother bitterly laughed out loud. “I might practice black magic, Omolabake, but my powers are nothing compared to that of the goddess’. This is your fate and by the time the first decade is over, I might have joined my ancestors by then. Since my husband and son are dead, there’s nothing more to live for. Accept your fate because you brought it upon herself.”
“Yeye-” before Labake could say her next word, she completely turned into stone.
The Queen mother called out for two guards, when they came into her hut, she ordered. “Take this statue to the garden and cement her feet to the pedestal. Place an earthernware and a horn cup in her hands and tell the maids to dress her in a white cloth and royal beads. After that, tell Otun to see me. We have to start preparing the next king towards what awaits him in the future.”
The two guards bowed, carried the statue of Labake and went out to do as they had been ordered to, while within the statue, imprisoned Labake dreadfully wept, regretting her irrationnal actions. Not only had she killed her husband, she had also brought a curse upon herself which she would have to live with for the next thirty two years. A decade was a awfully long time to wait for her first awakening and three decades was even a longer time to wait for her freedom but her desperation had been her own folly and this was the price she had to pay.
Written by Angela E. Okoduwa