Jehlani saw swirling mists and darkness.
Darkness so deep and complete that it was hard to make out the figure of her friend standing at the door.
She reached in and tugged gently on her friend’s forearm; moved her an inch into the brightness of summer but the darkness slammed them both hard… back into its swirling vortex!
Jehlani saw Mr D. Preshon’s face in the vortex. It spun around her and Meeya like one of the scenes from a Batman movie; one where the Joker has his face plastered round his victim’s mind and the mind fractures into a thousand pieces, unable to bear the malevolence behind the rictus of a smile…
…the smile, that same smile that Mr D. Preshon offered to her that fateful day at a cafe in Cambridge opposite the Fitzwilliam museum where her mum was invited to give a talk about the origins of the Afro comb. Did she resist him? How did she resist him? Did he come back? She couldn’t remember…she couldn’t seem to remember anything. This mist…this fog…this darkness; the swirling, the eddying…
Focus, Jehlani! Focus! Her mind screamed at her, silently, in her mum’s voice.
Her mum, that was it! Her mum…what was it? The thought was swirling in the vortex with her. She needed to capture it before it got sucked away into the never-ending abyss that was Mr D.Preshon’s abode.
Her mum referred to Mr D. Preshon as nwa Ekwensu – Ekwensu’s offspring; Ekwensu being the god of mischief. She also said that Ekwensu came from the phrase, ‘Onye kwe, o su’ – ‘when one yields, it will commence’…Ekwensu’s life blood was acquiescence, cut that off and he had nothing…
All these thoughts passed through Jehlani’s mind in mere seconds. She knew she could ‘resist’ nwa Ekwensu, Mr D. Preshon, as it were, but what of Meeya?
‘First things first’, her mum’s voice in her head again.
She focused her entire being on her mum’s voice and began to push back at the mist, bit by bit. She pushed and shoved, keeping her mum as a point of focus. The mist fought back but it had no form, no shape and for Jehlani, it had no point of focus. In her mind, she could see her mum commanding imperiously “Nwa Ekwensu, be gone!” … and then the mist disappeared.
Jehlani opened her eyes, slowly. She was still holding on tight to Meeya and just as tightly, Meeya’s eyes were still closed; her face contorted in fear and pain. Her work wasn’t done, Jehlani thought. Her friend had been pulled deep, too deep into Nwa Ekwensu’s lair; she would need to distract him while she drew Meeya away from his grasp.
“Mr D. Preshon!” Jehlani yelled into the vortex, injecting as much scorn and contempt as she could muster, “Pick on someone your own strength!”
She felt a bristling from the pushed-back mist and pulled Meeya towards her with all the strength she could gather.
Her friend was chained! This wasn’t a case of ‘distract-and-extract’, this needed something drastic but subtle at the same time; drastic may prove more damaging to Meeya.
“What to do…what to do” Jehlani muttered a touch frantically to herself, all the while clutching firmly unto Meeya’s hand. She wasn’t about to let her go, no matter what.
“Meeya! Meeya!, Jehlani whispered. Something else her mum once told her – names weren’t just appellations but powerful markers of one’s chi, identity and self. That in Age of the Spirits, if you heard your name being called and answered without establishing if the caller was human or elemental, you disappeared.
Jehlani needed to keep calling her friend’s name but she wasn’t sure what she would say to her if Meeya did reply, still chained by Mr D. Preshon. She had been visited by Mr D. Preshon but neither captured nor chained so what do you say to someone going through something you’ve never been through before???
What would my mum do? Jehlani conjured up her mum’s face in her mind’s eye once again. She would keep calling Meeya by name to keep her chi from going over completely, speaking to her until she established some kind of link.
“Meeya,” this time, Jehlani raised a voice a notch louder than a whisper. “Don’t let go of my hand, whatever happens. Just like you didn’t let go when we were being chased by that pit bull at East Ham Central Park and we had to jump over that thing…what was it again?”
A flicker of something other than fear passed across Meeya’s face, Jehlani held her breath –
“Barking Central Park, not East Ham, you dolt.” Jehlani could barely make out Meeya’s croaky whisper before her face returned to its previously fear-and-pain contorted state.
A huge sigh of relief escaped from Jehlani before she could stop it. Actually, she didn’t care if Mr D. Preshon heard it or knew what she was plotting.
Her friend had responded to her.
Jehlani saw that there was hope.