Somayinozo tried to catch up with the Wolf-soul, but she could not. How ever fast she went, it always remained right there in front of her, until it dawned on her that she was never meant to reach or touch it. She recognised suddenly the path along which it led her. To the lake! She had briefly sought it the evening before, but to no avail…
Then she saw it – how odd! The lake was so beautiful, so clean, so pure, a blue mirror in the little valley. Surely such a beautiful place as this would have been often mentioned to her hearing. Yet, in the one and a half years she had lived in these parts, a housemaid in Madame Ude’s household, nothing of it had ever come to her hearing.
The sun was high. The day was hot. The maiden, Somayinozo, the waif, charged down the hill and plunged into the lake. Memories of the beach, of the Lagos beaches, memories from her childhood came to and left her there, swimming in the lake. The water was warm today.
Emerging from it after a long swim, she lay on the grass by the lake, under the sun and, dreaming lazily, brushed and fought off mosquitoes as the steaming rays of the African sun speedily dried her. She arose and strolled around. There was something blue on the grass, on the opposite bank of the lake. She spent long minutes trying to figure out what it could be. Finally, unable to curb her curiousity, she dived again into the purity-clear lake and, free-stroking, slid across the lake and banked on the other side.
What she saw startled her. – – – A book. A blue book. She turned it over. On the front cover was a picture of what looked to be this very same lake as she had seen it from the hill-top. But on this picture, on the surface cover of the mysterious blue book, there was a face reflected faintly on the total surface area of the lake. It was the face of a man, calm, yet intense, expressionless, yet full of expression, and handsomely beautiful. There was no author-name visible on the book. But it was the title of the book, written it seemed by hand with a ball-point pen across the face of the man, that intrigued her:
There was something familiar about that title, the lake of love. Where had she heard it before? These, mixed with a multitude of other thoughts and perceptions, fought for attention in her head as she looked down at the blue novel in her wet hand. She opened it, read the introduction, and shut it again. The language, the pictures, were different from other novels she read. She opened it again and read two pages. Somayinozo looked up at the sky for a long time. How had this book got here? Whose was it?…
Suddenly she felt strange. She looked round at the wild hills that hulked over this beautiful, hidden lake, and had the feeling that someone was watching her. A chill went down her spine, and her eyes went down to the book again. The strong feeling would not leave her that what ever was happening now, it was not by accident. Gingerly the tall, dark girl slipped into the lake again. With one hand she carefully held the book above the water, while with her three remaining free limbs she maneuvered her way bank to the first bank. And then, dripping with the water, jogged back home. And from behind her came a strange howl. The Wolf-soul. She turned around, and saw nothing, only rough green hills and, further in the distance, an African forest.
A short while later she knocked on the door of Madame Ude’s bedroom.
“Come in, dear.”
“You’re wet again!”
“I’ve been to the lake.”
“Don’t catch a cold, please, dear…”
“Ma, I saw a book there,” Somayinozo interrupted Madame Ude, something she had never done before.
The woman pretended not to notice.
“A book in the lake?” she asked with a smile.
“No… by the lake – look.”
Madame Ude took the extended blue novel, and Somayinozo saw an odd look flash through her eyes. She seemed, for a fraction of a second, afraid of opening it…
But the fear passed. It was replaced by a rare sense of expectation. She opened the book. Somayinozo was already by her side, peering down too into the book.
“I wanted us to read it together,” she whispered. “The little I read intrigued me… – it’s like some kind of strange fairy tale…”
“Let’s start now.”
… to be continued.
– CHE CHIDI CHUKWUMERIJE.