The woman emerged, flanked by four men bearing her husband on a stretcher, with tiny cotton wools stuffed in his nose. The congregation began murmuring again. People brought out their phones and shutter sounds filled the air. Others who couldn't just stood staring. The following day, it was on all social media platforms and everyone's lips were about the powerful man of God who made strongholds crumble like Jericho's wall. Some termed him Elijah with the supersonic waves of anointing. Others went about questioning his source of powers with flecks of doubts:
Commenter 1: is he real?
Commenter 2: he's using juju, didn't you see him waving one red handkerchief?
Commenter 3: stop judging, don't say wat u don't know.
Commenter 4: shatap Ur mouth, let dem continue fooling you people
Commenter 5: Please friends, follow this link to vote for me (link attached) am constesting for face Gold circle. Help me tag your friends. (Insert heart emoji)
Later, while you slept, you had that familiar nightmare, that flickering images in distorting fragments, that insidious thing that hunts your dreams without relent. It's this nameless thing that wrecked your soul, seizing your entire self. It has always been in the same sequential format.
Your ten-year-old self.
Your parish priest.
You crying, after he wrecked your body.
You swinging the thurible the next Sunday, with an adulterated smile plastered on your face like nothing happened.
You waking up doused in sweat and fury.
In the weeks that follow, the fury in your stomach is a marauding, gnawing thing, jabbing at you, tugging at your chest, piling up like hot coal. Sometimes it comes like a vagueness, hollowness and pains, but this pain comes in multiple ways:
like needles piercing your ears.
Or like a person leisurely rubbing sandpaper on your skin.
Or like a screeching sound in a room with bare walls.
Or like something serpentine crawling inside your stomach.
Or like a person being exorcised.
Sometimes, when this nameless thing in you feels winged, hingeless, strayed, you'd listen to Brymo's 'We all need something', or you call your Bestie and allow the drumming sensation in your chest explode into sobs.
'This your thing again, where are you?' She would ask.
'I'm in the house,' would be your response.
'Just take a stroll small, let fresh air touch you, I'm coming,' she hung up.
But consolation, longing and want is a clumsy and insensitive little thing. That's why when she called you later to tell you that she can't make it again because her boyfriend Somto, a seamed faced guy who walks around clumsily like the rushing wind would jerk into the gutters, had been rushed to the school clinic because of his incessant asthmatic attack you didn't sob, instead you just laid in your bed counting the faded ceilings in your room.
Mornings, to you, are early hours of the day where you're notified by either the muezzin call or your neighbour, Henry and his nagging girlfriend. But today, it's the vibration of your phone under your pillow. The name Bestie with a black heart emoji flickers across the screen. When you pick, she screams,
'Hey, babe? Hope you're fine. Lazy child, you better wake up. Today is Dr. Emma's test ooo. Don't forget. I'll see you in school. Kisses. Bye.'
As you step outside, the sky is a fragmented blotch of a disoriented prism, gnawing icy cold filters through the pink polo you are wearing and you quickly flag down an okada. Hours later, after the test, you're seated at the front of your apartment, when an okada stops and your Bestie unmounted, her face is a screaming shade of everything gloomy. Her eyes, heavy and filled with tears she was trying to conceal, but her ruined mascara gave her away. She walks in and sits on the bed and bursts like a ruined Megaphone in an empty room.
'Somtochukwu died this morning,' she said.
This is the first time you'd hear her call him that, it was always 'Somto', or 'Babe'. You go close and draw her to yourself because you know that loss, pain and discomfort are stringent things wired in the same frequency. You knew this the night your parents died, and you were taken in by your parish priest, you knew the pains you felt, how you would wake up in the middle of the night, your eyes stung, heavy with tears and how you began sleeping in your parish priest's room because he said it will help you bury the past. That's why when she hugs you and sobs on your fragile shoulder, you knew there's nothing you can do. So you just sit still, your shirt wet with tears, and inexhaustible 'sorries' and 'everything will be fine' keep pouring out of your mouth. What happens later is what you still can't explain, because it happened in flash.
Your Bestie kissing you.
You resisting and trying to free yourself from her grasp.
She carried away and trying to unbutton your shirt.
You pushing her away, screaming like a possessed thing.
'What's wrong with you?' she screamed.
'I'm sorry, I can't,' you said running out of the house.
To be continued...