MacKay Wilford
Things Fall Apart Essay

I wrote a chapter that comes between the time when Chielo takes Ezinma and when she is returned to her bed. I chose this time because I wish I knew what Achebe had intended to happen, during this time. I used my imagination - Agbala would not have asked for Ezinma without a reason, and Chielo would not have taken her if Agbala had not asked for her. Also, I believe that the way Ezinma broke free from being an ogbanje meant she was destined for something great.

Chapter 11
Ezinma had never been to Agbala's shrine. And she had never been inside of his cave. She was afraid, but she was no longer crying She knew that it would not help her, and she didn't want to offend her god. Also, she found it difficult to separate the priestess carrying her from the woman who visited and brought her beancakes, calling her 'my daughter.' She was still as they approached Umachi, the broken fish uneaten in her hands. She was silent as they moved away.

She held her breath as they entered Agbala's shrine and released it as they entered his caves. The voice of the priestess was booming but still Ezinma could hear her own quiet rustlings. Outside, the shadows were clearly those of trees reaching their branches to the sky and the form of the not-woman beneath her. But inside, it was a dark void with no shape. Only the priestess was lit by the low light of the sacred fire. Chielo set her down on the floor to stand on her own. Ezinma felt weak, as if she had been the one bearing the priestess.

"Agbala do-o-o-o!" Chielo was full of her god's power. She stood strong and tall and her voice did not falter. "I have brought my daughter to you, for good or for ill."

Ezinma closed her eyes in the dark. She tried to remember a story that would tell her how to act, or a custom that would tell her what to say, or a song to set her at ease. But all she could remember was her mother's story of Tortoise at the Feast in the sky. It gave her no help.

At last the priestess turned back to the child. It seemed to Ezinma that despite the darkness, Chielo could see her clearly and could sense her fear. The priestess continued to chant to Agbala. She also was searching for the proper course of action.

"My daughter, do not fear," said the priestess, "lest you make Agbala angry. He has not brought you here to punish you. You are not the gazelle caught in the tiger's lair. You are here to be taught. You are here to learn. You are here so you can understand, or begin to understand."

Ezinma could not understand the riddles in Chielo's words, but she was no longer afraid. And she began to sense the cave around her. It was not a void. It was dark but it was real. There were walls of stone, an unfamiliar ceiling of stone above her. She could find the mouth of the cave, but she could not leave if Agbala had called her.

"You were to follow my footsteps, my daughter," the priestess continued. A fluttering of leathery wings followed her words. Ezinma wanted to look up but could not turn away from Chielo. "Agbala called to you, the ogbanje who would save herself, many times. But each time you fled, leaving your mother to grieve with her heart broken as Tortoise's shell."

Ezinma wanted to protest but feared it was true. She remembered her mother's resignation. And she had been told of her mother's grief. Then her smooth iyi-uwa wrapped in rags had been found and destroyed, and so she had become as well as other children. The evil spirit had been destroyed, and her mother's heart restored.

"But now, Ezinma, it is too late," Chielo said, her voice softening. She seemed more like a woman again. "You were meant to come to Agbala, but you failed. And now it is too late. Six times you took the proper shape. This is not that shape. This is a shape to help your father and to one day bind yourself to a man."

All the fury and the power returned to the priestess. She was the speaker for Agbala. Ezinma wished that strength would be turned away from her. It made her shake.

"I know not who will follow me now. There is no child, and it cannot be an adult. I fear for the future in which I see the gods screaming their fury and then quieting. This is a terrible future and not one I wish to live through. Great changes are coming, my daughter, and we must not hold our breath."

"I will not hold my breath," Ezinma called in return. "I will stop them."

The priestess shook her head doubtfully. The strength of Agbala was leaving her. She was again a woman. "No, my daughter, you cannot stop them any more than I can. Live your life and protect your family."

Word Count: 857

Achebe, Chinua. Things Fall Apart.