Mama Tobi stood up and danced around the fire in the coven. The others cheered. It had been long since they had such a motivated new witch. She was even stark naked, completely at home showing all of her ethereal body. She spoke like she was born in the coven.
“I am making sure my daughter and her boyfriend’s fairytale love ends. Up until now, they were impenetrable. But my daughter has slept with another man, and her boyfriend has just slept with another woman. Because they did this, it was so easy to get into their minds. I thoroughly enjoyed my outing last night. I have cooked a storm in his head and he can even kill my daughter now. My daughter too is open to hating him like a thief. Now they have imbibed the freedom of the world to do as they please with their bodies they will see the misery the world has not told them to expect. Lovers do not know how much we need them to cheat on each other. May they continue to be foolish.”
She continued her dance and then returned to her position.
The following day, as soon as she stepped out of the house onto the frontage of the compound, she felt something like clamps snap together in her intestines and bladder. She thought nothing of it at first, but when she noticed that she was unable to pass urine nor fart no defecate for the whole of that day and could also not leave her body at night, she knew that something bad had happened to her.
Mama Akunna returned from Iddo with the charms and poison. She could not wait to get home to confer with Mama Tobi. The nosy old man had to die. No one said he could not repent. But trying to prescribe to them how to live their lives was going beyond his brief. But as soon as she stepped onto the frontage of the compound, she felt something like clamps snap together in her intestines and bladder. She thought nothing of it at first, but when she saw that she was unable to pass urine nor fart no defecate for the whole of that day and could also not leave her body at night, she knew that something bad had happened to her.
Agbonyibo did not have to go anywhere to deal with Mama Cowbell. He went into his shop and put a few things together and spoke some words and then stayed in bed longer the following morning and listened. Mama Cowbell’s wailing was louder than that of a new widow. With her customers lined up with their plates in their hands, she opened her basin of stew and found lizards slithering in the hot oil. She jumped and shouted and her customers went and peered into the stew pot and each shrieked as they saw the defiant reptiles. Agbonyibo waited until he heard Mr. Zubi’s voice addressing the crowd that had undoubtedly gathered before he climbed down from his bed, wore a trouser and shirt and went out to the frontage to find Mama Cowbell and look into her eyes.
As soon as his intestines and bladder snapped shut he knew. No. The caretaker could not have done that. No witch or wizard survived that. He did not appear suicidal. But then, who else could have such knowledge? There were only a handful of warlocks and witches that knew about that ultimate weapon. The caretaker he was sure would belong to that select group. Why did he do it?
Papa Efe knew the one thing Agbonyibo did not know. Under the right circumstances, the intended victims could be selected by speaking their names. The prosecuting witch or wizard would, however, have to live the rest of their days like normal people. The day they stepped out of their body, they also died. It was not the intention of Papa Efe to spare himself. But he had to because of Evae. If what she told him about Agbonyibo and her pregnancy were true, then she would need him now that her father was going to be no more.
Witches and wizards were the most difficult entities to destroy. They knew every trick in the book and could only die naturally of old age or if they were shot or stabbed with the intention to kill. Stopping them from defecating and urinating was the only other natural method they could not escape. In two weeks they suffered bowel perforation, kidney failure, and heart attack. Mama Akunna, Mama Tobi and Agbonyibo vomited faeces and cried like babies from the pain of ruptured intestines. God dey hospital rejected the three of them. Their family members avoided them after the second week. Mama Akunna was the first to pass away, followed by Mama Tobi. They woke up one morning and found that Agbonyibo had disappeared again and his shop was swept clean of everything as before.
His wife returned with the news of his death and burial. They buried Mama Akunna and Mama Tobi the same day at Atan Cemetary.
Immediately after Alhaji Sirika arrived with a quit notice for all the tenants.
“The kind of things that have happened in this compound are the kind of things you hear only in fairytales. All of you should go. I want to renovate my house. I will remake it into self contains only. You can come back in three months.”
Papa Efe took his son to Warri.
Mr. Zubi sought a transfer from work and took his family to Enugu.
Achike found another room in Katakata Street with his pregnant wife and beautiful mother in law together with Chisco.
Josephine moved in with the doctor on the other street.
The Alfa herded his family to the mosque were they were allowed to stay for three months until the renovation was complete.
Iniquity and Wasiu were arrested with bags of marijuana they were transporting from Ondo to Lagos. It was Iniquity’s idea that they went in big into the drug business and it resulted in another prison time for Wasiu and the first for Iniquity.
Lukman, Mama Cowbell, Mama Kike and the other tenants mostly moved in with relatives until the renovation was complete.
“Who told you you will all be allowed back? It will be expensive and you all are part of a bad past Alhaji Sirika wants to erase!” It was Irikefe’s parting shot to them before he followed his father away.
“He will take us all back whether he likes it or not or we die here when the house is completed.” Lukman retorted.
Mr. Kingsley agreed to share a room with Sister Esther who could not afford a new place. They reached an understanding that they would live as roommates until the renovation was complete and Mr. Kingsley would go back and take a self contain and leave the single room for Sister Esther in the new location. They were brother and sister if anyone asked. With the only money she had Sister Esther bought three months supply of Well Woman Conception and started taking it from the first night they moved into the room they shared. The Lord answered prayers in mysterious ways.
Ndifreke returned to work for Jonjo. Just as Lizzy predicted, Jonjo at every opportunity would tap Maya’s bottom or wink at her suggestively or take her away in the middle of a shoot. Each time Ndifreke witnessed that, he went over to Lizzy’s and made love to her. When the quit notice came, Lizzy asked him to move in with her but he chose to go to Eno Sunday’s. He heard from work grapevine that Jonjo had secured a flat for Maya and her sister Clementina as their mother had passed away.
On their last night at number 225, they agreed to meet at the frontage. Ndifreke requested that they sat on the soakaway as they had done in the beginning – that time when she had looked him in the eyes and asked why he had not attempted to touch her. It seemed like a lifetime behind. “Let’s sit out there this last time. Who knows, we might fall in love again.”
“Yeah right,” Maya retorted.
“Isn’t it easier now that we stopped lying?”
“I guess it is.”
“What went wrong Maya?”
“We fell out of love.”
“I don’t think so. True love never ends.”
“In story books.”
“Why is reality so harsh?”
“Because in reality there is no escape.”
“In storybooks, there is no real poverty. There is no real pain. There is no real witchcraft.”
“So you blame poverty and witchcraft?”
“I don’t know. All I can say is that life became more bearable with Jonjo.”
“Was it when he gave you the job or when you started sleeping with him that life became more bearable?”
“All of the above.”
“Don’t you feel guilt and shame? Especially when you had to lie to me?”
“I lied because that was what I had to do at the time. Guilt and shame? Guilt and shame was when I had to eat my mother’s fufu for breakfast lunch and dinner most of my life. I don’t know how it is that I did not develop Kwashiorkor. Proper guilt and shame was when I had to survive on pap and sachet milk when I carried your first baby.”
It took time to register. When it did Ndifreke said: “What do you mean by first baby?”
“I am carrying your baby again Ndi. I’m pregnant.”
“And you say it is mine?”
“A woman always knows the father of her child.”
“Don’t be silly.”
“It could be Jonjo’s.”
“Do you want me to tell you about our sex life?”
“Doesn’t he use his penis?”
“You will become a dad soon Ndi.”
“Why put it on me?”
“Because you are rich. You live in Banana Island and own a jet.”
“That sounds more like him.”
“Then use your head.”
“It is really mine?”
“Yes. Conceived on the morning of our reconciliation sex.”
“You are sure?”
“One hundred percent.”
“Why didn’t you put it on him?”
“I already answered that question.”
“What if I don’t want it?”
“Who told you I want you to want it?”
“So you want to be a baby mama?”
“I cannot be your wife anymore.”
“Don’t be silly.”
“Sooner rather than later we will resent ourselves. Too much has happened. And marriage is overrated.”
“You have changed Maya.”
“So you are now Jonjo’s official concubine. Installed in a flat for his pleasure.”
“You can come around.”
“Your sugar mummy will not let you?”
“She is not my sugar mummy.”
“What will you tell Jonjo about the baby?”
“He already knows.”
“What does he know?”
“He knows I’m pregnant and that he is not the father.”
“Why is he sure that he is not the father?”
“Because, dear ex-boyfriend, there are men who know how to have sex just for the sake of it and nothing more. Jonjo is one of them.”
“And he accepts it? That his mistress is carrying another man’s baby?”
“Dear ex-boyfriend, there are men who do not see things through the parochial lenses most of you do.”
“Will you come back here when the renovation is complete?”
“I am moving into a flat in Surulere. Do I look like I’m retarded?”
“I will come back. I will have a self contain.”
“Dear ex-boyfriend, do whatever you bloody well want to do.”
The following morning Ndifreke went to help Mr. Cosmas pack his things. He met Mr. Kingsley who had already moved out also lending a hand to his only known pal.
“Where are you going sir?” Ndifreke asked Mr Cosmas.
“To my brother’s at Sango. He gave me a flat in his own house.”
“A flat! That means you will not return after the renovation?”
“I will. My business is here.”
“But there are new developers in Sango. You can have more clients there as it is an emerging city.”
“There is no place like Lagos young friend.”
They worked in silence until Ndifreke said:
“What went wrong, sir? This almost turned out a tragedy. Deaths, insanity, crime, I even lost Maya. Not even love could withstand the tsunami contrary to what you preach about the power of love.”
“It’s happened because as a creation we have lost our way. We have become so fixated with material things that we have lost all connection to the light of God that should guide us. Darkness has so enveloped the world that our efforts are like a small flame, which flickers and ultimately dies off for lack of oxygen.”
“Everything we do is a pale imitation of what it should be. Even when we love, it is shallow and incapable of standing the simplest tests.”
“Maya said it was poverty and witchcraft.”
“Both beneath us. We lost the compass. We are Spirit but we live like animals.”
“How so sir?”
“What we will eat, what we will drink, what we will wear have torn us away from The Source. If he feeds the grass in the field who do not sow, how much more us? But we do not know the import of those words and have become like flies that follow the carcass to its grave. Spiritual indolence has become our death sentence. There is nothing both of you could not have overcome. But you made your choices, which was never helped by the vast darkness that covers this creation. If your eyes were to be opened even for five seconds so that you see.”
“How is it our fault then if the darkness is as pervasive as you say it is?”
“Help still abounds. He never left us all to our own devices. We are to strive with all our might. We cannot be lukewarm. We have been spat out of the mouth of grace because we are mostly neither hot nor cold.”
“So we can’t blame poverty and witchcraft?”
“You too my friend gave up too soon.”
“I am only human.”
“So you must suffer.”
There was silence. Mr. Kingsley continued to arrange Mr. Cosmas’ books in a Ghana-must-go bag. It was as if he was not in the room.
“There are a lot of things you still did not explain. You kept saying story for another day, now we go our separate ways.”
“I will be back here. You say you will come back too. But at any rate, you do not need me. Seek and ye shall find. It is possible that I have done all I could for you already.”
“Mr Kingsley will you come back?”
“The magic thing about home is that it feels good to leave, and it feels even better to come back.”
“I’m relieved. You are queer sir but I like you like that.”
Mr Kingsley nodded and continued what he was doing.
“Any parting words sir?”
“If you are brave enough to say goodbye, life will reward you with a new hello – Paulo Coello.”