They did not hear anything.
“Go closer. Get closer all of you!” Castro cried.
Mr. Cosmas and Achike marched into the corridor and went all the way to the kitchen. The rest of the gathering waited with bated breaths. The two men returned three minutes later shaking their heads. “We saw nothing. We heard nothing.”
“Okay young men. We can see that you could not wait to remind us all how much of a nuisance you are,” Mr Zubi said.
“Mama Akunna is in the kitchen. I heard her voice!” Irikefe cried.
“No one else can hear anything,” Mr Zubi said, “And the both of you can understand why we cannot take you seriously. Or do you want me to remind you how irresponsible you have been? Is it that long ago you came and gathered us here and told us old wives tales about Agbonyibo God bless his soul?”
“God will not bless his soul! Irikefe cried. Why do you people behave like this when somebody has died? Mr Zubi have you forgotten already that these people were witches and wizard? They were evil people that could have killed all of us! I sometimes play but I was also the first person that told you who Mama Akunna was and you people did not believe me!”
“Papa, I swear to you,” Castro stepped forward gingerly. “Mama Akunna was in that kitchen.” Castro’s disposition unnerved Mr. Zubi at that instant. Castro who had been unabashed in showing his adultness lately, was then as meek as a lamb. The timber in his voice was gone. It was as if the trip to the kitchen had sucked every ounce of testosterone from his system. This was his son after all. And for once he felt inclined to believe him.
“Why will they not see a dead person when they cannot put their nyash in one place? We are all here trying to see if we will survive this china virus, and you are going piam piam piam and have reached the kitchen now-now! What did you go to do there?” Achike said.
“And why is it always the two of you? Two other people have gone there and saw nothing,” someone else said.
“That is to tell you that you should stay one in place!”
“Alright everyone” Mr. Zubi took over. The intervention of the others bringing him some perspective. “We all know that Mama Akunna is dead. We have also listened and sent people to the kitchen. We also know that mischief is never far from these two. So the overwhelming evidence is that we have nothing to worry about. So, bia, both of you, sit down there and keep quiet. The lovely nurse was going to tell us about life outside of number 225.
Not everyone in the gathering was as unperturbed as Mr. Zubi and some of the men. They had all seen and heard Castro. They were not so sure everything was alright.
Nurse Jo stood and said “Neighbors, I think I want to go inside now. I don’t feel too well. Some other time.”
“Me too,” Mama Kike said.
One by one compound members and those from the neighboring compounds stole away from the gathering, leaving behind the men of number 225 that usually constituted the council of elders.
“Erm Papa Efe and Mr. Zubi. With due respect, you must both rein in your children. They have ruined our reunion like they always ruin everything,” Achike said.
“What if dem talk true?” Papa Efe said.
“But we heard nothing and they are rascals for want of a better word,” Achike affirmed.
“I say what if na true dem talk? What if Mama Akunna been dey the kitchen?”
There was silence as the men pondered the words. The two boys had not left the gathering. They were clearly too scared to walk away. “I swear again Papa. I know what we heard.”
Mr Zubi tuned to Mr. Cosmas and said “Cosmas, what do you have to say on this? I know that you know about these things. Is it possible for Mama Akunna, clearly dead and buried to have been in that kitchen?”
“Yes, it is,” Mr. Cosmas said without any hesitation.”
“Ah! I am finished!” Josiah cried and put his hands on his head. But when people die they have died nau? And the Bible says it is appointed unto man once to die ehn? what will a dead person be doing in the kitchen after I emptied my account to pay the rent to come back here?”
“When a person dies, depending on how they stood, their souls either rise to the lighter regions or descend to the nether regions. A person whose volition was mainly good and did positive things usually is lighter spiritually and ascends quickly. But a person of base propensities, one who was wicked, to put it bluntly, is so heavy that they descend to the darker regions. But some, due to their propensities remain earthbound. A person who liked to cook all the time could hang around kitchens after they pass on, the same as a person who liked smoking, excessive eating, sex, gambling or any other vice. They would hang around perpetrators of these lifestyles so as to continue to experience the enjoyment of these things through these people. Simply put, anything you do on earth that has become a propensity, that you cannot do without, clings to your spirit so that when you die, it holds you down. A person can be in that state for centuries and even millennia. That is the explanation for homes and neighborhoods that are haunted. The people that lived and died there enjoyed too much of what went on there and would not leave the environment even at death.”
“Papa Efe please give me back my money. I don’t want to live here again” Josiah cried.
“Bia Cosmas,” Achike said. Are you being serious or you are joking?”
“I have told you the truth.”
“So what do we do now?”
“Nothing. An earthbound soul cannot harm you. In fact, no entity that is not in the flesh can harm you while you are in the flesh. Your physical body is your protection while you are here on earth. You don’t know how privileged you are to be alive ye earthmen! The protection your physical body gives you helps you to stay grounded so you can work your way towards freeing yourself of everything that would hold you down so that when death inevitably comes, you can free yourself and ascend into paradise. So with the right standing every entity would burst and dissipate at your presence because you have the advantage of your earthly cloak and are therefore stronger than them. It is fear and lack of understanding that gives these entities power over man. Even then, they only stand back and watch you harm yourself because you are running when no one pursues you.”
“So you mean Mama Akunna even though she was in the kitchen could not harm us?” Irikefe said hopefully.”
“No entity that is not in the flesh can harm a human being who is in the flesh. Go about your normal business and pray for the departed ones that they see the light and cast off their base propensities so that they can begin their ascent.”
“Mama Akunna can never ascend to anywhere,” Irkefe said.
“That is possible. Souls can be earthbound for only a short while. If they quickly recognize their fault the can cast them off and begin their ascent. Also if they are very dark they would find it harder to reach recognition and would sooner descend even lower. Then you will not sense them around you again.”
“That is what will happen to Mama Akunna.” Irikefe affirmed.
“It is not in your place to adjudicate young man. However the laws of God are inexorable. Our spirits will succumb to gravity when we depart this life whether another human being wishes it for us or not. Therefore let me exhort you all! Live well! Do everything in moderation! Do not let anything become a propensity so that when you cast off this earthly cloak nothing will stall your ascent to the regions of light and bliss where we should all aim to go to.”
As was his custom, Mr. Cosmas walked away from the gathering when he had made his submission and left the men to digest what he had said.
Josiah was disconsolate.“My pastor told me not to come back and I did not listen. In fact, he even saw this thing. He told me he could see entities surrounding this compound. I don’t know what blocked my ears. Normally I take him seriously.”
“Wait o Josiah, did you say entities? That means they are all coming back. Agbonyibo and Mama Tobi will soon be here?”
“And Agbonyibo is not gentle. O Lord!”
“That means tomorrow Mama Tobi will cook fufu and supply to all the spirits in Katakata street. I am done for!”
“Stop it all of you. Cosmas said they cannot harm us. Have some faith!”
“Why will he not say that? Is he like the rest of us? Is it a normal person that knows all those things he knows? And was Mama Akunna not his friend? He is speaking for himself. We have to do something for ourselves. Heavenly father! What have I done to myself?”
“It is okay Josiah. We will be fine,” Achike said.
“Oya, Mr. Kingsley, please tell your woman to organize that crusade again. Let us bring a powerful man of God to come and remove those spirits. Cosmas spoke of haunted homes, we see it on television all the time. Even oyinbo people bring spiritists to come and remove spirits from their homes.”
“The woman is not as she was before,” Mr Kingsley said.
“What do you mean by that? Did you nack the holy ghost out of her in three months?”
“That is not too far from the truth,” Mr. Kingsley said.
“Oh! You mean…”
“A sudden bold and unexpected question doth many times surprise a man and lay him open – Francis Bacon” Mr. Kingsley said.
“Congratulations my brother. But if I were you, I will take her and run away. You don’t want your woman to be pregnant when Mama Akunna’s spirit is on the loose.”
“But what has pregnancy got to do with organizing a deliverance session?”
“Okay, Josiah why don’t you bring that your pastor?”
“He will not come,” Josiah said and began to sob. “He will say that the spirit of prophecy is to warn, and the spirit of strongheadedness is to suffer. I know him.”
“So what do we do?”
“I know what I will do,” Castro said.
“I will go and join Amotekun.”
“They say they operate with jazz. They will open your body and put something that will make you disappear if faced with danger. Have you not seen their adverts? It is what I need in my life right now!” Castro finished.
“Foolish boy,” His father hissed.
“They will not even take you. They will call you Omo Ibo. Is that not why I did not get a scholarship in this Lagos?” Irikefe surmised.
“I will try. I need powers. Didn’t you people hear of the old witch in Niger State that led forty hunters against bandits? In thirty minutes they annihilated all the bandits. They stormed their camp and became invisible and massacred them. The old woman used the blood of dogs to do the jazz. The criminals did not know what hit them until it was over.”
While they spoke, Ndifreke stole away, still deep in thought. What had he also gotten himself into? He also did not need to return to number 225. But unlike the others, he believed Mr. Cosmas. If Mr. Cosmas said that they would not be harmed by an earthbound spirit, then he would not be harmed by Mama Akunna or whatever spirits roamed the compound.
Ndifreke went straight to the balcony. This was why he took the rooms he took. The balcony was almost like an extension of his rooms. He felt more entitled to it than any of the others on the floor, or as much as Josephine who was in the opposite rooms to his and was already out there gazing into the night sky and no doubt thinking about the events of that evening.
“Good to see you again Nurse,” Ndifreke said.
“You are still calling me nurse this 2020. What can I do to make you have sense?”
“Sorry,” Ndifreke said and chuckled. “Old habits.”
Josephine hissed and Ndifreke heaved a sigh.
“I thought things would change here,” she said.
“This is Katakata Street. Now I am convinced it has to do with the name,” he said.
“But there are peaceful compounds on the street. Why always this one?”
“I don’t know. It baffles me too.”
“What are the men saying? What is the way out of this?”
“They are all scared and talking gibberish. I am taking what Mr. Cosmas said. I don’t want to go anywhere.”
“I’m scared,” Josephine said.
She had changed into a large tshirt that barely covered her hips. And when she said she was scared, she moved closer and Ndifreke took her in his arms by rote.
“Don’t be afraid. I believe everything will be alright.”
Josephine nodded and pulled away from his embrace and wiped what he imagined were tears off her eyes.
“Are you crying?”
“Of course not,” she said and chuckled.
“Okay tell me about life these past three months. Not what you wanted to tell the general gathering.”
Josephine shrugged and said “The only thing I wasn’t going to mention there was that I was with only one man for three months. That’s a record for me.”
“You were trending for refusing his marriage proposal.”
“I always told him marriage was not for me. I could have considered it because I really saw how good he was. But he tried to manipulate me. That is a red flag.”
“Come on Jo.”
Ndifreke shook his head.
“And you…what will you tell me that you will not tell others?”
“I missed Maya every single day of those three months.”
“No one told me it took this long to forget an ex.”
“Your new girlfriend has failed. That is what me I have to say.”
Ndifreke knew what she meant and knew it was not true. Elizabeth was an even better lover than Maya. But Maya…
Ndifreke saw Josephine shiver and put her arms across her breasts.
“I am sleepy but I’m scared to go in and sleep alone,” she said.
Their eyes locked for a full minute. Then Josephine continued “You have your cousin with you should Mama Akunna show up. I’m not that lucky.”
Ndifreke thought about it.
“I’m not trying to seduce you okay? I have had enough sex the past three months to last me another twenty-four hours at least.”
“Twenty four hours! I thought you’d say a lifetime!”
“For what na?”
Ndifreke chuckled again.
“I just want company tonight. It’s still too fresh. I’ll sleep in the living room. I just want to know that there’s someone close enough if I shout. I’ll be fine by tomorrow.”
Ndifreke thought about it and then said: “Give me five minutes.”
TO BE CONTINUED.