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Temps de lecture :4 Minutes, 56 Secondes

Part I- The sound of the drum

          Once upon a time, there was a man named Yao, who lived in a small village called Tsido of about 60 people. The village was located in the middle of the forest, hence, very far away from other villages or towns. During that time, there were no cars, no motorcycles or even bicycles, so people were basically travelling on feet. Very rare, wealthy people had horses, but those were only found in specific towns.

          Rumor said the ancestors who founded Tsido escaped a war and they were trying to find refuge in the nearest village. They were supposed to cross over a forest before reaching the village they were headed but since all the trip was done on feet, and the road seemed longer than they thought, they decided to take a break when they reached the edge of a river crossing the forest. They were exhausted, so they planned to continue their road when everybody would feel rested. Thus, they spent the night. The next day, when the first ray of sunshine introduced itself, and highlighted the colors and the beauty of the environment, the travelers found the area so welcoming and refreshing, especially with the fresh wind of the river caressing gently their faces. Thereby, they decided to stay one more day, which turned out to be two, then a week, and they finally built shelters for themselves, so they never left. They named their village Tsido after the river, which means the hole of water. They lived on farming and hunting.

          Yao was born in Tsido and lived there all his life. He was 52, he never got married and never had children. Everybody in the village found him a little off since he always spent time alone. He was a farmer and had a land within the forest, about a mile away from Tsido. All other farmers were going to work early morning and came back in the evening before night fall so they could have dinner with their families and friends, enjoy some good stories, laugh together before going to bed. But Yao usually waited until the evening when other farmers were coming back from work to leave the village and head to his land to work. Hence, every day he got back at midnight when everybody else was asleep.

          There was a cemetery on the west coast of the forest and usually people of the village who woke up in the middle of the night heard the sound of drums with voices, usually songs just like during traditional festivals. A lot of people of the village talked about it, and apparently the event was happening at some specific time of the night, between 12am to 2am.

          So, as mentioned earlier, Yao enjoyed coming back from his farm around midnight when everybody else was asleep. What he didn’t know was that every time he walked through the forest on his way back, he was bothering the spirits of the dead who gathered every night around that time to play drums and have fun. So, every time the spirits saw Yao coming back from the farm, they ran to free the way and let him pass before putting their stuffs back together for their « midnight show ». Yao couldn’t see them, so he had no idea what was happening. He was not able to hear the sound of the drums himself, so he used to say to people who were talking about hearing it that they were delusional.

          One night, Yao left his farm a little later than the time he used to leave. As usual, he walked through the forest, using the same route expecting to be home soon, not knowing that something unexpected was awaiting him. The ghosts saw Yao coming again that night, but they had everything already set up to start their festival. They got very upset because every single night Yao disturbed their peace, they had to make space and let him pass every time they saw him coming, the only difference was that, that night, Yao was late and they were all ready to begin their « midnight show ». Therefore, they decided to teach him a lesson. By the time Yao reached the place of the “ghost-festival”, the ghosts started playing their drums and started singing, and this time Yao could hear them, very closely, but he couldn’t see anything. The ghosts gathered around him, to play, sing, and dance. Yao felt a very cold breeze and he started shivering. He lost his way back home, he was turning in circle, not knowing where to go. The voices were rhymed with the sound of the drums. When the treble was playing, people with tiny voices sang “tonye kademe, tonye kademe, tonye kademe” which means “my situation is better, my situation is better, my situation is better” and when the bass was playing people with big voices took the turn to sing “tonye vo gbidi gbidi gbidi” meaning “my situation is over, over, over”. Yao could hear everything clearly and couldn’t see anything. The more confused he was, the louder the songs and the voices in his ears.

          He finally fainted and stayed there all night long. Farmers on their way to work in the morning found him lying on the floor and brought him home. He finally woke up but was seriously sick. Despite all the treatments the villagers provided him, he wasn’t able to recover. He finally died a year later. From then, the population of Tsido had the confirmation that they were not the only living beings in the forest, so they had to respect the privacy of other inhabitants as well by letting them alone do what they had to do at night, as they as well let the villagers do what they had to do during the day.

The author,
Fiwa Togbonou

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