Tales by moonlight

Story, story? Story!!! Once upon a time? Time, time!!! Have you heard the story about the village of Ìlárá-Amòyè and her Odún Orò?

Tales by moonlight

The day started like any other day. I was on night duty at the hospital which meant I had the morning to myself. I can’t remember what exactly I did that morning. It’s funny how one day bleeds into the next and everything seems to be the same. Life goes on and the details of our lives are filled with doing laundry and washing dirty dishes. It is also possible that, given how the day turned out, my mind simply chose to ignore the unimportant details that occurred that morning and use all the available memory for the events that transpired that night. I still remember every single thing clearly, even the peculiar timbre of Mr. Aiyeju’s terror, as though it was yesterday. The mind is indeed a wonderful thing. 

It all happened in Ìlárá-Amòyè where I was posted for my NYSC. Ìlárá-Amòyè can only be described as rustic, and she does embody that word in every sense. The village is really a collection of thatched houses, complete with raffia roofs, in the middle of a dense rainforest. The legend of the village actually has it that Amòyè had founded the village after he left Ìlú-Omoba in a fit of pique over the meager reward he had received after the war with Adó. Everyone knew that without him, Ìlú -Omoba would have lost the war, but what the king had given him wasn’t fit for a foot soldier in the army, much less the general of the whole army. It was all a ploy by the king to curtail Amòyè who he felt was too powerful, but Amòyè hadn’t taken the bait. He had walked out and gone to establish his own town, several leagues away from Ìlú -Omoba. However, establishing the village wasn’t as easy as picking a fertile patch of uninhabited land after a stroll through a dense jungle. While there was a confluence of streams in the land and it was ideal for farming, it was also the domain of demons and spirits of such ferocious disposition. Amòyè would not be dissuaded though; the land was good, and he was going to have it. He was a man who didn’t let anything, not even demons, get in the way of what he wanted.  An all-out war that lasted for 14 days and nights therefore ensued; one which shook the heavens and the core of the earth, the mortal realm and the spirit world. It was a one-sided fight. Amòyè slew these demons right, left, and center. They came in waves and he killed them, one after the other or in groups. Some came in the morning and others in the afternoon and he killed them. Others rumbled along in the dead of the night and it made no difference; Amòyè killed them just as well. Finally, the queen of the demons proposed a truce and Amòyè had what he wanted. 

When I first heard this story, right after I got to Ìlárá-Amòyè, the first thought that crossed my mind was that there was one thing that was right about the story. My belief has always been that fables, legends, and all tall tales, in whatever culture, from Òrànmíyàn and his staff to King Arthur and his round table, have a core of truth around which the fanciful and fantastic elements of the story is woven. Over time, from one generation to the next and with each retelling of the tale, this core becomes obscured and sometimes lost entirely. With the origin story for Ìlárá-Amòyè, you could tell what that core was; the village was secluded.  

It wasn’t quite in the middle of nowhere, but it was close to being- perhaps a few kilometers from been smack in the center of nowhere-ville. It was at least 35km from Ado-Ekiti, the state capital. The road from Ìlárá-Amòyè to Ìgèdè, the nearest town, was 20km and it used to be nothing more than a well-worn grass lane until recently when the commissioner for Works and Housing in the past administration had tarred it. There were few signs of civilization in the village. The Oba’s palace was plastered with cement although you could see the red, mud bricks through the cracks in some parts of the building. Cell phone service was spotty at best with 2 bars on a good day, and although there was a video rental place, it was mostly stocked with Yoruba movies and the one pirated copy of Titanic- all VHS tapes.

As you can imagine, I hated being there. Well, I did at first. For someone who grew up in Lagos, Ìlárá-Amòyè was like a graveyard. No, that’s the wrong description; it wasn’t like a graveyard, it was a graveyard. The silence after the sun sets in the village always weighed heavily like a wet towel on a newly baked sponge cake. Nightlife was zilch. A nightclub was asking for too much; there wasn’t even a pepper soup joint. All my friends kept asking why I didn’t transfer my posting to some other pleasant locale in Ekiti. Everyone else was doing it but I had always thought of the NYSC as a one-year adventure in a different part of the country, the equivalent of a gap year but one that starts after undergrad and is mandatory as per governmental decree. I had sworn to stay wherever I was posted. My hometown was also in Ekiti and being in Ìlárá-Amòyè felt like a return to my roots. On one hand, I was glad I stayed. It is amazing the numerous and wonderful things you can do when you don’t have to fritter your time away mindlessly. The need for constant motion and activities- hallmarks of my life back in Lagos- held less sway in my life. I was in touch with my spirit and soul. I could be still without being uneasy in my own skin. I even had a garden where I grew vegetables at the back of my house. Also, the people of the village were all very straightforward and hardworking. Their interactions with one another and outsiders were marked by a decided lack of guile. Doing gra gra- that special blend of aggressiveness and assertiveness, one which I had perfected in Lagos- was not a virtue there. That was far from what I was used to, and it was a pleasant surprise. 

I left for work at 4pm that day but that was a bit earlier than was usual. At this point, I was about 7 months into my NYSC posting and I was firmly entrenched in my routines. Life in Ìlárá-Amòyè moved at such a languid pace and with a relative consistency that any disruption stands out. Night duty at the hospital usually started at 6pm and my commute was a 10-minute ride in my car. I sometimes walked to the hospital in 15 minutes if I took the short cut by the palace, but I usually drove to work to keep my car in good condition because, other than the odd trip to Ìgèdè or Adó, there was nowhere else to go. On this day though, I walked to work at 4pm because Dolapo and Chuks had left with my car to Ìgèdè. It was the village’s Odún Orò, the founding day festival, and everyone had to be indoors by 6pm. For over 2 months, the festival was all everyone in the village talked about. It was impossible to go anywhere without been reminded of the upcoming festival; at the butcher’s, in the market, in the hospital, even in church- right after offerings and testimonies. It was a constant barrage. Even the Oba, HRH Akinfolarin Adetiloro, invited all the NYSC members to the palace and addressed all of us personally about the festival. We were all to be indoors by 6pm, all windows locked, all doors locked, and we were warned rather sternly not to come out until the next day. 

Even though I grew up in the city, I often went to my village in Ìlawè with my parents during the holidays and I was familiar with such festivals. They are mostly the same, at least in general outline if not in detail. There’s a strict curfew, no one is allowed out, and one imagines demons and ghosts traversing the village in company of the village elders and seasoned babalawos. A ritual will be carried out in the dead of the night to appease the demons and, as support for the strictness of the imposed curfew, there’ll be stories of people who disobeyed the curfew and disappeared forever, never to be seen again in the mortal realm. I always thought these were just stories told to dissuade the curious and what really happened during these festivals was that the king and his chiefs visited their concubines in secret or whatever shenanigans old men get up to. In Ìlárá-Amòyè though, the insistence by everyone on staying indoors during the festival was different. There was an edge to their warnings, even when I found out that no one had ever disappeared or died during the festival in Ìlárá-Amòyè. It was hard to understand why they were terrified but when in Rome... 

By the time I arrived at work, everyone was there, even Mr. Aiyeju- the janitor, porter, attendant, and all-round handyman- whom I had never seen get to work on time, was already there and going about his work. After exchanging pleasantries with Mrs. Eniomola and Mrs. Adekunle, the nurses on duty for that night, I started my ward round. Now when I say ward round, I do not mean anything elaborate or fancy. Like I said earlier, Ìlárá-Amòyè was a rural outpost, and the hospital was a village hospital through and through. The hospital was in a converted two-bedroom bungalow that was at the edge of the village and bordered on two sides by a dense jungle. The hospital building, like most houses in the village, was made from mud bricks, had wooden shutters for windows, and a pit latrine outside the main building. The general ward, which was the only ward there was, was the living area and one of the bedrooms combined. The other bedroom was partitioned with plywood into a nurses’ and doctors’ room. There were 7 beds on the ward, but we only had one patient that day and he- Pa. Adurogbola- was stable. He was the Olú-Ode of Ìlárá-Amòyè. He was retired from his post as the chief hunter in the village for over 15 years due to his age, but as Mr. Aiyeju told me, it was also a chieftaincy title and as such everyone still called him the Olú -Ode. He was admitted about 3 days ago on account of his ramblings about devils and impending apocalypse. It looked like a case of acute mental confusion precipitated by a subacute infection. He wasn’t febrile at the time, and it was impossible to get a blood work from Ìlárá-Amòyè, but I managed him accordingly and he was soon better. He was going to be discharged in another day or two.

After my walkthrough, I went to read by the Olú-Ode. Whenever I’m on night duty, I usually read at the nurses’ station, inadvertently picking up whatever is going on in the village, but since the Olú-Ode was admitted, I had moved to reading by his bedside. I can’t explain why I started doing this, perhaps it was the relative quiet to be found around him. His bedside was far enough from the nurses’ station that I wouldn’t hear anything being said by the nurses, but it was close enough that, should I be needed, it wouldn’t require a lot to get my attention. The Olú-Ode wasn’t much of a talker either but my grasp of the Ekiti dialect in particular was such that we could converse adequately if we wanted. He didn’t have any immediate relatives in the village. His children were said to have left the village a long time ago, and we probably looked a little strange to the others in the hospital, but it didn’t matter. If I’m being honest, he did remind me of my late grandfather. 

Like my grandfather, he was taciturn, but his silence was not foreboding or off putting. You could sit next to him without a worry. He also had hidden depths, also like my grandfather. The first time I had an inkling of this was when I examined him on the day he was admitted. As he sat in the consulting room that day, there didn’t seem to be anything special about him. He was just a delirious old man with a run of the mill ailment, but when I lifted his bùbá to examine his chest, I found out otherwise. His entire torso, front and back, was covered in tattoos. Again, I’m perhaps using the wrong term. What he had on his body weren’t artistic renditions of trees or tiger heads; they were gbéré, scarification marks that took up every inch of his torso. These were about 10mm, arranged in concentric circles of various diameters, in different juxtaposition and intricate patterns, all over his body, stopping short of his elbows and being essentially invisible whenever he had his clothes on. It was a sight to behold. Even with the sagging skin and loss of muscle tone wrought by ageing, you could tell a lot of thought went into making those marks and one could imagine how imposing and terrifying he must’ve looked when he was young. Of course, the marks were also probably linked to the occult, perhaps they were for protection or for power of some sort. One doesn’t become the Olú-Ode based solely on their prowess with a Dane gun. Like my grandfather once said, there are a whole lot more lurking in the forest than squirrels and snakes. I should state that although I grew up in a Christian family and know the creed and catechism, my grandfather- despite the protestations of my parents- made sure I knew about the existence of legions of principalities and powers that existed outside the purview of the Christian faith.

The night shift, which officially began at 6pm, had barely started when there were loud rumblings of rain and accompanying thunders. I remembered how sudden it all was. One minute I could still read with the light filtering through the shutters and the next thing everywhere was shrouded in darkness, the rumblings of distant thunders could be heard with occasional flashes of lightening dispelling the gloom, and the rain started in earnest. There were gusts of wind that rattled the shutters as the rain picked up in intensity. Predictably, there was also a power outage to accompany the flash thunderstorm, NEPA and rain being immiscible, like oil and water. One of the nurses lit a kerosene lamp and two candles. The flames flickered all over the room, sending shadows dancing across the room, but there was no effort to put on the generator. Putting on the generator when there was a power outage was the routine. The generator was on till 10pm and, if there was still no light by 10pm, it was put off till the next morning except if there was an emergency on the ward. That made me wonder after about 15 minutes why the generator wasn’t on. 

“Doc, no gen tonight. No one is going outside.” 

I knew there was a curfew on, but the generator was right outside the back door of the hospital, and it wouldn’t take 5 minutes to put it on. Surely nothing could happen to Mr. Aiyeju in that time. The nurses and Mr. Aiyeju were adamant that everyone was to remain indoors. Even the Olú-Ode said as much when I decided I could do it myself. It seemed everyone had bought into the ironclad nature of this curfew. End of story; the nays had it. There was nothing else to do but sit there and watch time go by. My reveries were set to the gloom of the room and the tattooing of the rain against the roof with occasional gusts of wind and murmurations from trees nearby. With one stable patient and a curfew in place that was further enforced by the sudden storm, it was going to be a long, uneventful night.  

Oh boy… I was wrong. 

It all started with a loud and sudden bang that came from the nurses’ room. It sounded like a shutter had been flung open and slammed against the wall. Perhaps the shutters weren’t latched properly and the wind had blown one open. It didn’t seem like much, just one of those things that could happen in a storm, but the Olú-Ode, who had hitherto been in a sleepy repose on his bed, sat up a little too quickly and I could see his tense facial features. 

Mrs. Eniomola, having reached the same conclusion as I did, sent Mr. Aiyeju to check the room. Perhaps due to the Olú-Ode’s reaction or maybe for a lack of a better thing to do, I watched Mr. Aiyeju as he walked to the nurses’ room with a torchlight in hand. The beam of light cut through the night in a divergent path, dispelling the darkness in its way. With Mr. Aiyeju in tow, the light traced a path across the ward, lingered on the piece of paper by the bed in the middle of the ward, and continued on its way to its destination. Mr. Aiyeju stood in front of the nurses’ room for what was less than a moment but felt like forever. In that time, he was bathed in the light reflected by the door. You could see him clearly, standing still like an island in a sea of darkness, his torso as though on a plinth subsumed by the darkness all around. He looked every bit like an old man, perhaps a few years younger than my dad, going about his duties. Did he think about the things he would do after the call was over tomorrow? Will he savor the all too brief respite from work before resuming for work again? All immaterial. He opened the door and walked into the room, lost from view forever. What followed, as soon as he out of sight, was a clattering of the torch on the floor and a scream that would’ve woken the devil if he happened to be sleeping nearby and- if I'm being honest- probably did wake him up even as he slumbered in Apaadi. The scream was a distillation of fear vocalized and turned up to the max before been shut off in a croaky death rattle. Despite the rain still falling, the ensuing silence was total.

No one moved. The beam of light from the torchlight danced around before the torch rolled outside the call room and settled into a fixed position that shone along the floor. There was nothing else but silence.

“What was that?” 

That was a rhetorical question, and it was Mrs. Adekunle asking no one in particular. I find these questions- especially the subset with obvious answers- annoying and surely no one on the ward knew exactly what that was, but I could also understand why it had to be asked. The suddenness of it all bordered on the surreal that hearing your own voice served as a marker separating dreams from reality.

Several differentials ran through my mind. Perhaps Mr. Aiyeju had a sudden stroke or a ruptured subarachnoid hemorrhage and that scream was from the pain or an involuntary spasm of the vocal cords. There was only one thing to do. 

I picked up the torch from the floor and, together with the Olú-Ode, entered the room. The window was open and the flimsy white curtain with red stars stirred in the wind and raindrops flickered in the light as they fell on the bed by the window. Mr. Aiyeju was on the floor, motionless. He was most likely dead, but I had to be sure. He had no pulse in his carotid arteries, no visible respiratory movement of his chest, and his pupils were fixed, dilated, and unresponsive to light. Yes, he was dead. His face was frozen with the terror present in his cry etched across his face, as though carved on wood, even though he had just died and rigor mortis shouldn’t have set in.

“Doc, what’s happening?” 

Mrs. Eniomola was standing at the door, next to Mrs. Adekunle. They were all looking at me for answers even though it was hard to narrow down the differentials for why a man would die of fright. I was about to get up and run through my doctor spiel when I noticed a fluorescent line on his neck. I noticed it as I moved the torchlight and there it was- a glowing, luminescent line peeking out from beneath his collar. Further examination of his torso revealed several of these lines across his abdomen and chest. The lines all converged over his heart in a swirling circle that glowed blue in the white light of the torchlight. The circle swirled around the edge of a hole that was over where his heart should be and all you could see was inside his chest where there was no heart or lungs, just an empty thorax, and there wasn’t a single drop of blood spilled on the ground or on his shirt. I don’t think I read anything like this in my textbook of Internal Medicine. 

Was I hallucinating? 

I was still trying to process all these disparate thoughts when the Olú-Ode tapped me on the shoulder and motioned for me to get up. He had locked the window and had seen what I saw but he looked unfazed.

“They are here?”


“Let’s get out of this room. This room is too small.” 

I couldn’t even say no since I had no idea what exactly was going on and he seemed to be in the know. I shuffled out of the room in a daze. 


We all clustered together in front of the Olú-Ode, having nothing to say despite the curt explanation he gave on what exactly was going on. Mrs. Adekunle, with the candle in her hand, was shaking ever so slightly and the flames of the candle in her hand translated her tremors into our trembling shadows. The light from the candle washed over us and disappeared before it reached the far corner of the general ward where we stood. The darkness seemed to be crawling with all kinds of evil, with hisses and rattles joining the sound of trees swaying in the rain and punctuated by claps of thunder.

“Wait what?” said Mrs. Adekunle, speaking for all of us since I’m certain none of us truly understood what he said. 

“Demons from the forest have gained access to this building and we have...” 

We didn’t need to be told anymore since it was certain that there was something in that room with us. The Olú-Ode was staring at the space outside the nurses’ room as though there was something there but all we could see was darkness. There was a charge in the air though that crawled over my skin in a million prickles like a centipede moving slowly along a dirt floor and that gripped my heart in fear. We all stood behind the Olú-Ode, huddled together and frozen in time. It was hard to say how much time passed. We were transfixed for an eternity, bathed in fear at God-knows-what but drenched in that fear nonetheless, like sheep before slaughter. Mrs. Adekunle who was clinging to my left arm started sobbing and that was when I saw it.

What I can only describe as an apparition was standing outside the room. Its head was a huge wooden mask, with tufts of hair all around it and covered with eyes that blinked asynchronously. Its entire torso, all 8ft and counting of it, was covered in a garb that wasn’t so much black as it doubled as darkness. The light from the candle could not illuminate it and what stood in front of us looked like a mask with eyes floating on an outline of darkness. It stood there, looking all around the room with its head occasionally turning with short, sharp movements as it surveyed everywhere including our past. 

“Blood of Jesus!” 

“Don’t move and stay behind me” the Olú-Ode said. 

The Olú-Ode had barely finished saying those words when the apparition let out a scream that was the most peculiar thing ever. A mouth opened at the top of the mask- displacing and squishing the eyes in that spot to the side- and a forked tongue littered with fangs slithering out with an accompanying scream. I didn’t actually hear any sound, the room was still quiet, and the rain was still beating a steady tattoo on the roof but inside my head was a deafening sound of blood, death, and perdition doing rounds along my neurons. The others must’ve heard it too since everyone clutched their heads save for the Olú-Ode who remained standing straight while we were all doubled up behind him. 

Even though he was unbowed by this scream that wasn’t a scream, it was hard to think of him as anything more than an old man that used to be the chief hunter in a remote village, and that was not a whole lot of good in our present predicament. I was either going to wake up from this nightmare or I would die a horrible death from this otherworldly apparition. As though on cue, the apparition edged towards us with malice radiating from its core. This was surely the end. The Olú-Ode, as though listening to a private joke, chuckled to himself. The sound of his chuckle, clear and unencumbered by our impending doom, was unexpected. The apparition stopped as well. The chuckle made me think that my assessment of the old man might be wrong, perhaps he was stark raving mad. 

“I guess I’m too old to be considered scary.” He mused to himself, and with that, he snapped his finger.

Nothing happened. I looked around, not sure what to expect, but still expecting some sort of reaction to the Olú-Ode’s finger snap. Everything looked as it was before but then I noticed the apparition was swaying from side to side but rooted to the spot. It looked like he was held in a vice like grip by an invisible hand. The mouth on top of the mask opened, this time without letting out a scream, and it got wider and wider as though it was being pulled apart. A tear, marked by a green, fluorescent light, appeared at the corner of the mouth on the mask, and just as suddenly as it appeared, it traveled down the length of the creature as it was torn apart into two pieces that dangled for a moment in the air, revealing a stunted, reptilian figure within the fold of darkness. After a while, the pieces disappeared, and the room was quiet again.

“I still have it.” 

The Olú-Ode looked pleased with himself while the rest of us had our jaws on the floor, in a manner of speaking.

“And what exactly is going on.” I ventured after a while.

“As I was saying before we were interrupted earlier, demons have invaded this hospital.” 


“Because it’s all part of the truce Amòyè agreed to for him to have this land. For one night, during the Odún Orò, demons and spirits that were original settlers of this place try to take the land back for themselves, and if they can gain total control of even one house, they have free passage to every space within the village and that means death to everyone.”

“So, we’re all going to die?” 

“Not if I have anything...” 

He didn’t have a chance to finish that sentence for the air in the room was once again charged with malevolence, and this time it a whole lot worse, a miasma that was breathtaking in its awfulness. A horde of demons were in the room and they had us surrounded. It was a scathing collection of the grotesque made up of floating heads with eyes and slithering tongues all around. The sphere of influence from the candle in Mrs. Eniomola’s hands shrank as though the rays of light were afraid to go anywhere near the darkness, and all around in that darkness were howls and grunts that spoke of death. Someone within our huddled mass of shivering bodies urinated on themselves. I didn’t know who it was- I can’t be certain it wasn’t me- but the smell of urine, mixed with a large helping of fear, was unmistakable, and that was the least of our problems. The end was truly nigh.

You know how people always say your life flashes before your eyes before you die? Well, it didn’t happen here and I’m not saying that it doesn’t. Perhaps it does when the suddenness of death as a possibility triggers a flood of neurotransmitters in the brain but here, with the slow but certain approach of death coming on ghostly notes, all there was was fear, a longing for release, and a jumble of mundane thoughts. 

Who would inherit my electric stove? Would Chuks return the N10k he borrowed last week to my family? 

The Olú-Ode removed his danshiki, laid it around us like a barrier, and he told us not to cross it. There was a stand-off with the demons peering at us, curious but not ready to slake their bloodlust. It was agony. Mrs. Adekunle, perhaps tired of the suspense, shouted blood of Jesus again and ran at the nearest demon with a bottle of anointing oil in her hand. It did not end well. In an instant she was encircled by a tongue that shot out of the gathered gloom and she was gone in the same instant. Her screams died before they could even reach my ears. Then all hell broke loose. 

With the Olú-Ode’s instruction ringing in my ear, I held on to Mrs. Eniomola and closed my eyes. I didn’t see what happened next, but I heard it all, every last bit of the snarls, shrieks, and howls as a battle raged on all around. Oh, how the battle raged as the foundation of the hospital was shaken by what was happening, but just as suddenly as it started, the cacophony reached a crescendo and all was quiet, like someone had pressed the mute button on this nightmare. 

When I opened my eyes, the Olú-Ode was the only one standing. He was tottering amidst a carnage of broken masks and demons rend asunder. The entire room was visible in the light of the candle and the old man wasn’t looking too good. He had a nasty cut that stretched across his back, with the flesh ripped off in a long chunk and the fluorescent lines at the edge of the wound seeping into the surrounding skin. This was bad. I got a first aid kit from the cupboard behind the nurses’ station and tried to clean the wound as best as I could. I suspected he had worse things to worry about than wound infection but the motion of caring for him eased my fear and made the whole scenario less insane.

“Don’t worry,” he said, “all you have to do is survive till morning and I will make sure of that.” 

“But you’re injured!” 

“Don’t worry about that. Just remember to stay within...”

And then it was round 3. The light from the candle and the kerosene lamp suddenly became flickers as a darkness that was nearly total engulfed the room. 

“What an honor. I did not think the queen would make an appearance.” 

It was hard to understand what the man was talking about but out of the surrounding gloom came a humanoid figure, no taller than a child, towards his prostrate figure outside the circle.  

“I don’t have much time before sunrise, and I haven’t seen you in forever Amòyè. You have grown weak.” 

“Age catches up with the best of us eventually.”

“Will you give up this land and take a well-deserved rest? All these centuries of fighting, standing guard before my horde, and for what? Let it go.” 

The Queen reached out with a scaly hand towards him. He held the finger in a tender gesture. These were old enemies that looked like friends. 

“Perhaps I should. It certainly has been too long.” 

“Yes, it has.” 

“But I can’t, and it all ends today” 

Before I could blink, all the marks on the Olu Ode’s torso fizzed and glowed like an incandescent bulb flushed with too much power. The room was engulfed in a blinding flash of light, and everything turned white. When I opened my eyes, it was morning. 



Shola Olubunmi has always wanted to get an MFA in creative writing. He has fantasies of sitting out on a bench on a beautiful campus, somewhere that is not 9ja, discussing the finer points of literary devices with his peers. Oh what bliss. Sapa no go just let my guy be great.

Copyright © Shola Olubunmi, 2022. All rights reserved. No part of this work may be reproduced in any form on by an electronic or mechanical means, including information storage and retrieval systems, without permission in writing from the author/Alolitmag.

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