When Wopara saw her, he thought she was a mad woman. The hair, or what was the equivalent of hair on her head, were outgrowths of jaga-jaga mushroom-like features jutting out of her head in various directions – some straight, some curved, some bent at various angles, all giving her the appearance of a lunatic or a demented variant of a Rastaman. But they were far bigger and taller than mushrooms and would make a cozy abode for millipedes and arthropods.
She was in a sitting position, rolling her hair and its payload. If Wopara were close enough, he would see that she was also rolling her enormous eyeballs. But he did not want to get close or to draw the woman’s attention. His only thought now was Utondu. His uneasiness about her heightened. The encounter with Obinikpa had already set him many hours behind his expected return. The least he wanted now was another distraction, from this strange, gargantuan woman. He decided to quietly ghost past without drawing attention to himself, dropping each foot like cottonwool on fur coat. Just then, the woman, who had noticed all along but pretended otherwise, sprang to her feet. She was actually a massive being, close to seven cubits. A few massive steps, and she was right in front of a now distraught Wopara. She didn’t give him time to think at all, as she uttered a guttural sound which perhaps might be intelligible to some creatures. Alongside the sound, she gave him a dastardly shove with her massive breasts. He staggered, as the palm bunch fell off his head, rolled some cubits away. It was then that Wopara saw whom he was up against. It was actually a man. The hideous protrusion in ‘her’ chest region, was the result of hormonal freaks. The biceps were each the size of Benue yam. ‘His’ metatarsals and metacarpals were convoluted, un-mammalian.
Yes, ‘she’ was actually a woman. The leaves that did a good job of covering her crotch area could not replicate that feat in the breast region for, as Wopara staggered to his feet, ‘she’ waved her hands like a bird flapping, preparatory to a big flight. In the process, some of the leaves around ‘her’ bust fell off revealing female – but by no means feminine – pair of mammalian monstrosities.
Although her ears were not pierced, her face, while far from feminine, was nonetheless that of a female. The hairs that were not in clusters or part of the large mushroom’s colony flowed down the length of her huge, masculine legs, up to her knees.
This was the fabled Bugh-Bugh (Neither – Nor), the dreaded creature neither male nor female. When s/he uttered a sound, it carried the softness of the pitch of a woman’s voice, but it was accompanied, usually, by a snarl that betrayed dog genes. Bugh-Bugh was in no mood to hasten the doing of whatever it was s/he was up to, for as soon as Wopara unsteadily got to his feet, s/he casually, almost leisurely, walked up to him, and even had the luxury of rolling his/her head before planting a head butt on him. As Wopara began to fall, backwards, the monster picked him up, straightened him, and stamped hard on both his toes with his/her own feet which Wopara now realized, were as hard as stone.
As Wopara lost his balance, the second push by Bugh-Bugh with his/her busty chest was not necessary at all, except to compound Wopara’s sense of distaste.
Well, what exactly does this monster want, Wopara asked himself. He had forfeited the other palm bunch to Obinikpa, he was not about to divest himself of the other one as well, he told himself, as he made to pick up the palm bunch and dash off. If you too are hungry, you had better go into the wilds. Bugh-Bugh moved. Fast. Kicked the big palm bunch off Wopara’s hands. No sign at all that s/he was in any way hurt by the thorny bunch, which was evidence that the monster’s insteps were as stone-dead as the ventral side of his/her feet which s/he had stamped on Wopara.
At that point, Wopara realized that ‘the handshake had gone beyond the elbow’. He called up all his mental resources, recalling his father’s advice in his early teens that the best way to beat an attacker who was physically bigger than you was to adopt a battle plan quite different from his,. ‘Don’t ever show your enemies your wrestling technique,’ he had admonished him.
By now the monster had lost his/her patience, or had been sufficiently provoked and was now ready to finish off Wopara. S/he let out a sound. Though again soft as a woman’s voice, it was shrill and eerie, sending tingling sensations through Wopara’s head. Wopara was to know, moments later, that it was his/her battle-cry, for s/he instantly picked up the hapless son of Chimenam by the shoulders and smashed him hard on the ground. Then s/he pulled a little weed and stuffed the earth from its roots into Wopara’s mouth, still holding him firmly to the ground.
After a second attempt, Wopara managed to roll off the monster’s grip, releasing one leg to plant a life-and-death kick on him/her. The monster groaned, releasing what looked like mucus from the giant openings in his/her nose. The hairs growing from the two nostril openings were like elephant grass, but that didn’t prevent the mucus from seeping through them and dropping on Wopara. The moment the odious stuff touched him, Wopara’s body went into advanced itching like the body of someone allergic to chloroquine but who overdosed on the drug and, at the same time, came under relentless fresh mosquito battering. The monster then gave him a kick in the spine with subdued force, but that was still able to crack a bone in Wopara’s ribcage. A harder kick might have splintered all the bones and killed off the man in a matter of minutes, but the monster did not want it that way. Although s/he was hungry, s/he wanted to have his/her prey alive, to chew when he still had some breath. All this while, a semi-conscious Wopara had no idea of the game plan. It was only when the monster attempted to gore his eyes that he realized that he was being prepared for dinner. He willed himself strong. Stronger, stronger than any living man and with a superhuman effort, he managed to extricate himself from the monster.
Wopara needed to convert the deathly contest from physical to a cerebral one. But how to do it under the excruciating physical torment? Still, he needed to make some headway, for even the brain needed some ambience to function. As Bugh-Bugh’s punch landed on his nose, he reeled back and pretended that he was going to fall. Bugh-Bugh charged further, but was surprised at what happened next. Wopara summoned every energy he could muster, flew acrobatically, and with his two feet gave the monster a simultaneous ‘dirty’ slap on both ears. Bugh-Bugh lost balance instantly, did an ‘aeroplane turner’ reeling and came down with a heavy thud. The technique was known as ‘ear shocking’. He had learnt it at age grade meetings. It was hundred per cent effective in rendering the victim ‘floating’ and without balance. Its challenge lay in the difficulty in the precision targeting requirement, for no one would permit another the freedom of spreading both hands and then slapping both their ears. Wopara knew that if he had tried to use his hands to do the slap, he would be meat for the monster, so he tried the acrobatic technique; this had not been taught at the age grade meeting.
As Bugh-Bugh fell, Wopara took to his heels, hoping to get as far away as possible before the monster came to. His body was still itching from the effect of the mucus.
But wishes were not always horses! The monster’s state of coma did not last more than three minutes. Still, by the time s/he came to, Wopara was almost out of sight. S/he went after him, following the wave of moving leaves. S/he was virtually flying, spurred on by hunger for human flesh. Wopara could feel the wave created by Bugh-Bugh’s speed. He knew that he could only run so far before the monster caught up with him. When the distance between them got unbearably closer, he suddenly ducked, lying flat on his face. Bugh-Bugh, running without control, ‘flew’ past him while Wopara headed in another direction. “Beasts cannot kill a man who is not afraid”, Chimenam had once told him, “their first goal is to frighten their prey, to make them good for eating. ‘Fear not, for I am with you’ Chimenam had always quoted for him.
As Bugh-Bugh, having also turned, closed in on him, Wopara intensified the gargling he had been busy at, which now intensified to the sound of a smith’s forge at full wind. By now enough foam had formed in his mouth.
Time to devour: Bugh-Bugh had been through with the preliminaries and now him ready for whacking. Meanwhile Wopara lay motionless on his stomach still under the spell of Bugh-Bugh’s mucus. The sight of the flying monster froze his body, but not his mind. All his energies were now concentrated inside his mouth, with his teeth, tongue and gums in relentless gargle. This produced an enormous amount of spittle which had swelled his turgid cheeks. Cannibal hormones had meanwhile taken total control of the monster and as soon as s/he got to its prey, s/he used her/his splintered claws to turn him over, to begin the devouring process. At that material time, the now foamy mass of spittle departed Wopara’s shores and fwhwum! like venom from Okigbo’s boa, it splashed full on Bugh-Bugh.
Stunned by the spittle squash, Bugh-Bugh stumbled, as Wopara rolled away. He grabbed a handful of sand in his right hand and, with incredible force, hauled at the monster. It was when Bugh-Bugh began, instantly, to grope for him that he realized that either the spittle or the sand or both had blinded Bugh-Bugh. As he got to his feet and, cat-like, stepped further away from Bugh-Bugh, Wopara hoped that the blinding would last long. Or, better still, forever.
But once again, Wopara’s wishes were not horses. The blinding of Bugh-Bugh actually pushed him/her to the utmost fit of rage. S/he groped more frantically for Wopara who managed to lie quiet, breath suspended, by the foot of a tree. He had been too weakened to attempt a getaway.
By the time he tried to escape after summoning enough energy, Bugh-Bugh could ferret him out with his newly returned sense of smell. This coincided with the piecemeal return of his/her sight as the effect of the spittle slowly began to wear away. He/she sensed and partially saw with his/her blurred vision the shadowy figure of Wopara hiding behind a young iroko. As s/he came after him, Wopara kept encircling the tree and at the same time began to gargle afresh inside his mouth.
Excerpt from the novel IMMINENT RIVER