Mama Cowbell was the first to see it. She was out early to cook her rice when she smelled the blood and pointed her torch at Agbonyibo’s shop.
Your blood my blood I’m coming, inscribed in fresh dripping animal blood.
“Aiye mi o!” she screamed and ran back into the compound. She went to her room and shook her husband, but it was no use. Nothing would wake him up before 10 am having just turned in after his night watch duty. Next, Mama Cowbell banged on Josiah’s door, the nearest one to hers.
“Who is that? What is it?” Josiah said from within as he scrambled into a pair of shorts.
“Come see! Come see!”
Josiah jumped out and followed behind Mama Cowbell who got to the shop row and pointed from a distance.
Your blood my blood I’m coming.
Daybreak met compound members gathered in front of the shop and viewing the inscription as if it was actual dead bodies hanging from the wall.
“What is this one now?” Mr. Zubi said.
“It’s a threat.”
“Is he going to come and massacre us? Like, shoot everybody like that madman in New Zealand the other day? I don’t understand?”
“When you see him, you ask him.”
“Your blood my blood I’m coming. No punctuation. He did not even write it in good English.” It was Akunna. He finally made an appearance after weeks of being reclusive. Compound members only saw him returning from the market with plenty of food and whiskey where he stayed indoors and knocked himself out every day. He had also bought a new generating set and kept himself busy watching television.
“He doesn’t need to write it in Queen’s English. The message is clear. He threatens us with death.”
“I don’t want to die,” Josiah said.
“We here we want to die. In fact, death is hungrying us. What we should be talking about is what to do about this, instead, you are saying what we already know.”
“My mother called me from the village last week and said she was seeing dead bodies in her dream.”
“Please keep quiet.”
“Alright. We will take a picture of this and go and lodge a complaint at the station. We know who we suspect. We will also use that opportunity to report Achike’s rape.
“Una think to say gun him wan take come shoot una?” It was Mama Akunna. She too was back home from the hospital and was living peacefully with her son again.
“What do you think Mama?”
“Una no see as dat man take juju lie for my head say I thief money? Una never know by now say na winch him be?”
They all looked at each other. The stealing spectacle surely worried them. Josephine also remembered that Mama Akunna was clinically dead by her examination and the man brought her back to life.
Then sister Esther spoke: “For God hath not given us the spirit of fear but of power, and love, and of sound mind. Brethren we will call on Yahwey, he will fight for us. Report to police in case he brings guns, and I will report to the most high if he comes with his blood-sucking demons. Neighbors fear not! Tonight we will have a vigil in this compound.”
“Nothing dey happen – Tubaba,” Mr. Kingsley said.********************************************************
Ndifreke met Maya in a squatting position beside her mother on the corridor. Mama Tobi’s eyes were now as bright as a cat’s at night. She was looking from one direction to another, seeing what others could not.
“Agbonyibo,” she said. “Agonyibo what have you done to me! Stop her, stop her, get her out of here.” Mama Tobi was pointing at emptiness in the corridor as far as the others could see.
“Agbonyibo again?” Ndifreke said, and then he turned to Maya.
“My mother is seeing people we cannot see. She is not well.”
“Who told you I am not well? Find me Agbonyibo. Just find me Agbonyibo.”
By this time neighbors had begun to gather. Someone said “This one is also Agbonyibo’s fault? It must be because of Agbonyibo that that school building collapsed on Lagos Island.”
“Don’t make fun with that. Children died there.”
“I am not making fun of it. I am just saying, somebody stole, Agbonyibo shows up with magic. We are flighting konji, Agbonyibo’s daughter shows up with open breasts, sombody’s anus is leaking, Agbonyibo was there. Blood on the wall, the same Agbonyibo. Now Mama Tobi’s head has turned, it is still Agbonyibo that is fingered. What sort of onmipresent Agbonyibo is this?”
“At least let her speak. We know we cannot underestimate that man.”
“He holds the antidote. He knows what he did to me!”
“Did he rape you too?” Someone said.
“Get him! Get him o!” Mama Tobi cried.
“Maya, we have to take her to the hospital.” Ndifreke said.
“What am I going to do?” Maya said and burst into tears.
Ndifreke pulled her away from within her mother’s earshot.
“You are right that it is the onset of mental illness. We don’t have much choice but to take her to the psychiatric hospital.”
“No one in my family has ever been to the psychiatric hospital.”
“Come on Maya, you only go there if you need to.”
“Madness is not in my family.”
“But you just came and said you needed help for your mother. I am saying we take her to where she can be helped and…”
“Oh Ndi!” Maya said and held him in an embrace. It felt awkward because he was wearing only boxers. Ndifreke could see Tobi’s venomous eyes on them, and a few others chuckled excitedly, even though Maya was clearly shaken and only wanted the comfort of her man. He gently unlocked her from himself and said: “I know how it seems but it is what we must do.”
Sister Esther showed up and said “This is an attack. The blood of Jesus!” and others chorused “The blood of Jesus.”
And so they began to pray. Ndifreke snuck away to go and wear more clothes. By the time he returned, the praying had subsided to a few solemn murmurs. Mama Tobi rested her head on Maya’s bosom.
“Ndi she is calm now. I think it is spiritual. Let us manage her till after the vigil tonight. I will not leave her side.”
Ndifreke wanted to be with Maya. But he knew he dared not let his feeling show. He was about to turn to leave when Maya’s phone rang. She looked at him for a few seconds before she picked up.
“She is better now. Yes sir, she is calm. No, you don’t need to come anymore, I got someone to help. Okay, sir. Thank you, sir.”
Ndifreke glared at her. Maya averted her eyes. She already called Jonjo. She called Jonjo!********************************************************
Dozie told his grandmother everything.
“So Agbonyibo made it possible for her to see you.”
“That means she knows the truth of how I got to know about the money.”
“Yes. She has seen me. She knows I am not an infant. What do you think will happen now?”
“They have to find Agbonyibo or take her to another witch doctor.”
“But they are having a vigil here tonight.”
“That should work but the people are too rotten and their faith levels no where. If they were any good collectivey they could make something happen.”
“So are we waiting around to see if the prayers will work?”
“No way. We are going to Iddo till very late. There is new ogogoro arriving. I want to be there when it arrives. It’s a nice place to cool off at that motorpark with those village traders. Sometimes it is good for us to also meet colleagues in the flesh.
“Alright. So when do I start drinking ogogoro? I have waited long enough.”
“You organs are still that of an infant. It cannot cope.”
“Small, just small please.”
“Alright, I will give you some this evening.”********************************************************
“Did you hear of another building collapse in Ibadan?”
“Added to the heartwrenching one here in Lagos.”
“And last week also the Ethiopian plane crashed. Why deos God allow such to happen ehn, Cosmas? How can there be God and such bad things happen? Who will console those families?”
“The Lord made the world and put in it his natural laws that are inexorable. These laws work automatically without the Almighty making per second inputs. Every action, every event, and every happening occurs as effects of these laws. You may not like to hear it but everyone in those buildings was supposed to be there at that time. Everyone in that airplane was also supposed to be in it at that time. The laws ensured that all those whose time it was to exit this earth and in that manner found themselves on that flight. Those who needed the experiences of dying or surviving the collapsed building all were brought together by the laws so that they meet with their “destinies”. It doesn’t mean that what has happened to them is necessarily bad, though as humans we grieve.
“The major religions believe in life after death and heaven, don’t they? As comedians will say, everybody wants to go to heaven but no one wants to die. Paul said in Romans 14:8 Whether we live, we live unto the Lord, and whether we die, we die unto the Lord, whether we live or we die we are the Lord’s. The Quran states “Allah causes you to live then causes you to die; then he will assemble you on the day of the resurrection Verse(45:26).” So while we grieve, it may be that these ones are in a better place and will be wondering what the fuss is all about here on earth! We are told the streets of heaven are paved in gold. Is that not a better place than our roads here where they have embezzled the money meant for their rehabilitation, with not even ordinary coal tar on them? It is a place of Joyful activity where beings swing in the will of the Almighty. Some of those dead people if they could return, would come and punch your grieving mouths shut because they are now better off than they were before. When you die on earth, you are born into another plane where people there celebrate your arrival as much as we celebrate a newborn baby here; and depending on how you have lived, it could be a much better place.”
“So that means they are not resting in one place as we believe.”
“It is an ignorant assertion when we wish the dead to rest in peace. What are they resting for? Do you know the kind of gbedu that goes on there? And for those who need to continue to work to cast off their faults, if they are resting, how will they do that? Hear me, my people, life on earth is not the be all. In Isaiah 40:15 we are told that all the nations are like a drop in a bucket. The universe is so vast with other planes and other beings living and swinging in the will of the Almighty that if we understood that we won’t make too much of life and death here on earth.
“So, when your loved ones die, please do not wish them to rest in peace. Instead, wish them Godspeed and the grace to find their way to where they are going to.”
“So that means that as Agbonyio wants to come and kill us now, he is paving the way for us to go to heaven?”
“If your time to go to heaven has come, you will go irrespective of how you die.”
“Na wa o. So all this one Atiku is desperate to be president, maybe if he even dies sef, he can become president in another part of the universe where there is no Tinubu and Buhari to stop him.”
“Did you hear that even though the court said he should be given access to election materials for a forensic audit, INEC refused to give to him?”
“I told you INEC was corrupt. Governor Rochas claims that each APC governor bribed its leadership with 1 billion naira each to rig for Buhari.”
“Chai. All that because they did not give him a certificate of return!”
“Why would they give him when he forced the returning officer to announce a fake result?”
“And his son in law was also not elected Governor. That is another joining Akpabio in political oblivion.”
As they spoke, a DINA truck pulled up and Josiah alighted. He did not look at anyone or even say a greeting. He proceeded with the help of the truck driver and his assistant to remove his things from his room and also from his shop and loaded everything in the truck. He then walked up to the gathering and said “Gentlemen, it was nice sharing my life with you guys these past five years. But eh…I need to go now.”
“You are running away Josiah! Already!”
“Call it whatever you want.”
“Cosmas said Agbonyibo killing us will just pave the way for us to return to heaven.”
“Enjoy your trip all of you. I am an only son.”********************************************************
Later that night, Sister Esther’s church prayer band was on hand to support the cast of 225 Katakata Street in prayer. Everyone came out. Mama Tobi was in her daughter’s arms, seated on the front row and avoiding to look in any direction other than the face of the officiating pastor.
And so the casting and binding began. Ndifreke was distracted because of his worries. His eyes were not always closed, which was why he was the first to notice the unexpected person that snuck into the gathering, lifting holy hands.
TO BE CONTINUED.