Obi Nwankwo Meets The Dark Sprit by Marc Worley

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Little Obi Nwankwo was on his way home from school when he heard the distant thunder of gunshots. He was late because he had stayed behind to look at a strange old paper book that the teacher had brought in. The fact that it was made of paper was strange enough but it was full of big colour pictures of a place his teacher had called "The North Pole", a land, his teacher had said, that was made of ice and snow that sits right on top of the world. Obi was transfixed by the strange, alien beauty of that white, empty world that was so cold it would freeze you to death. His teacher, a thin white woman called Miss Hughes who was always sick and sweating had told him that the North Pole was melting and that there wasn't much of it left these days. Obi felt sad and resolved to journey there as soon as he was old enough and see for himself this cold place where no trees grow and where great white bears as big as trucks live on the ice, bears so big that they can swallow a man whole.

Little Obi Nwankwo had stayed late at school that day, poring over those pictures until Miss Hughes had finished her work for the day and shooed him home to his family. Obi's family was big. He had him mum and his dad, three older brothers and two older sisters who all shared a home with his maternal grandparents and uncle John who was very ill and who was waiting to die his grandma had said. Obi was the youngest of the family and because of his bad hips he was mostly left to his own devices. His father had told him that one day the family will have enough money to send him to the hospital in Lagos where doctors would fix his legs and he would be able to run, climb and play football like the other boys. Had he been big and strong like his brothers then he would have been at work and not at school. Despite the pain that made him cry in the morning when he struggled out of bed, Obi thought he was very lucky. He loved his family and he loved his home and he loved going to school.

Obi stopped for a short while to monitor the progress of a colourful beetle before picking up his pace because he remembered that he had promised his dad that he would feed the chickens and collect the eggs. Just then he heard more gunshots followed by screams. He worried a little because the sounds were coming from the direction of his village. As he walked around the sharp bend in the road he looked up and saw, much to his surprise dark columns of smoke reaching up into the blue, tropical sky.

Obi was very worried now and walked as quickly as he could without putting too much strain on his fragile hips. Something was very wrong. There was no mistaking where the noise and the smell of burning were coming from. A voice inside had told him to leave the road and sneak through the bush until he was sure it was safe to come out. When he found the old water tank he knew he was only a few metres from home. Now he could hear clearly the screams and the shouting, some men were swearing and laughing and guns were being fired.

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