The Ula River


The silence woke her. The melodious symphony of the nightlife that usually serenades her sleep was not within earshot and this sent a strange chill down her spine. Angling her ear in the cold, dark hut she sought to identify any signs of life yet she could sense none except for her cold breath. She rose up and walked out of the room, moving towards the door of her hut that served as an entrance and exit to her room.

She cast her eyes towards the clouds in search of the moon. The absence of the round, luscious, ripe and full moon or the glittering stars made her feel very uncertain. “Something did not feel right,” she thought to herself. This thought however lingered only for a moment as she strode back to the hut to pick up her clay pot, balancing it on her head with such dexterity honed from years of experience. The echoes of her footsteps could be heard reverberating as she passed by a long row of mud houses set one after the other. Rising up all around the mud houses, was a tall wall of elephant grass, tall trees, mountains that kissed the night sky and to the east of the village flowed the Ula River, the rendezvous point of her meeting with him. She was determined to walk the snake-like dirt road through the outskirts of the village to the Ula River to see him. She walked fast with the clay pot on her head miraculously holding steady as she took long strides. She must come home before the first cock crowed else her mother will be querulous on her return, annoyed that she was walking through the village at this time.

Glistening like a thousand diamonds, the Ula River created a surreal ambience where they had shared several unforgettable memories on the riverbank unafraid of the consequences of their action. This place has been their haven, the one place they sought solitude from all the noise in the outside world. Whatever obstacles presented themselves during the day or night, they could seek each other again at the Ula River. She was jolted back to reality by the rustle in the bushes and this brought to mind the real reason behind her meeting with him today.

She meant to break things off tonight, the consequences of their passion was one she could not bear to live with as she would be banned from the village and he would be hanged until death slowly took his last breath away. The softness of the ground underneath her barefoot indicated that she had gotten to the riverbank. She had heard stories of the wrath of the river gods by the fireside at night. People who disobeyed the gods vanished; others were struck with dumbness and others death of friends and family members: but that was a long time ago. She had never put any stock in superstitions however she couldn’t shake the feeling that Awo’s stories had a ring of prophecy. “The gods were lenient in recent times” she assured herself. She felt a warm embrace and his mouth met hers in a gentle brushing of lips. They had shared so many passionate kisses which always ended up with their naked bodies tangled as one. She was black, a daughter of the land whilst he was white, from the land beyond the sea and horizon. She wanted to speak and set things into motion.

The right words hovered in her mind, but she could not find her voice, her thoughts muddled and unclear. She heard the gentle sound of the flowing river and wondered how the river so calm and gentle could be angry and cause so much pain. The loss would follow her regardless – shaping as the course of the Ula River. Their lips met in a more passionate kiss, their breaths merged. She broke the kiss although she wanted to explore every inch of his body.

“Tell me to stop. It is forbidden to lie with a man from another land” she said in a husky voice.

“No! Please do not stop” he responded, “. It is better to ask for forgiveness than to ask for permission. Come with me. Let’s run. Let’s go to a place where they won’t find us” obviously enjoying the lure of the forbidden.

Suddenly there was a deep guttural roar from the river and he began to spasm as if hit by a hit by lighting, a searing pain gripped him forcing the breath out of lungs and bringing him to his knees. He was turning red, holding his throat whilst gasping for air, arms outstretched towards her as he crumpled to the ground. She stood there momentarily shocked at the sight that before her.

With tears streaming down her face, she run down the dusty road, barely able to see through the tears in her eyes. The whole world looked blurred and watery. Awo’s story was true, she had evoked the wrath of the river gods.

By Abena Maryann

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