Sunday, 29 July 2018

Bring Him Back (Part 4)

Click here for Part 3

Finally, someone responded to Folake’s ceaseless knocking. The door opened and a male voice yelled “Who is that?” in Yoruba. We couldn’t see who it was since he blinded us with the light of the torch he shone on our faces.

“We came to see the Priest,” I responded, also in Yoruba.

A short pause, then “Come in.”

We were ushered into a small sitting-room. It was moderately furnished with a settee, TV and nothing else, with a couple of candles as its only source of illumination. There was power outage in the village, that much I had noticed on our way.

I could dimly make out the person who had let us in. He was young, thirty at most and garbed in a flowing off-white babariga with his head cleanly shaved. Was this the infamous Priest?

“Make I call the Priest,” he answered my unspoken question, switching to Pidgin from the Yoruba we had hitherto been conversing in and disappeared through a side door.

He returned a few moments later with a much older man: a very short man with a pot belly that protruded out of proportion to the rest of his slight frame. The astounding thing about him was the fact that he was an Indian, very dark-skinned, but nonetheless an Indian. His beard was a profusion of white-speckled dark hair that curled to his hairy chest. Comically, he was wearing a turban and a pair of boxers and nothing else.

I wondered if this was the same Priest Abdul and Tuoyo had met back then or someone else.

“Yes?” he prompted when Folake and I continued to stare at him dumbly.

As best as I could, with disjointed words and hesitations, I asked him if he remembered the guys that had come to him over a year ago with the body of a dead girl whom he had brought back to life.

He continued to stare at me expressionlessly. I spluttered to a halt, realizing how awkward this would be if he turned out not to be that same Priest.

“We need the same service from you now. My son… we want you to bring him back…” Folake helped me continue.

The Indian looked around and back to us suspiciously. “Where the boy?” He spoke without an accent, and apart from the fact that his English was broken in a way that was totally different form the usual Nigerian broken English, he sounded like anyone off the street. It was clear he had been in the country for a long time.

“He is in the car.”

“Bring him.”

Folake and I rushed back to the car and retrieved our son’s corpse, while the young man that had let us in stood at the door, watching. I carried the blanket-wrapped body like small sack of gari, alarmed to feel what the blanket held feeling so rigid in my hands, it had not been so when we had left the house. Was rigor mortis already setting in?

Staggering, I managed to get the body into the house. Then I deposited the body on the bare concrete floor of the sitting room.

“Not here. Come.” The Indian directed us to another room, I lugged the body after him and Folake followed. The young man – his assistant? – stayed back.

The room he took us to was obviously his shrine. It was plushily carpeted with a raised dais that had to be the altar at its center, directly opposite a large painting of a bald Indian with very long flowing beard. There were several lit thick, red candles about. Very few things in the room were not red.

“Put him there,” the Indian Priest gesticulated in the general direction of the altar as he began pulling on a flowing red robe.

“Can you bring him back?” my wife asked. Like me, she had doubts about this rather comical-looking man, and they were heavy in that question.

The man turned to face us, fussing with his turban. “Bring back from dead, my specialty. Some come, say ‘Guru, make me rich’. I laugh. If I know the secret of richness, I become world’s richest man, not Priest. I no know how to make rich, but put back life where it has gone away, I know very well.”

He sat beside our son’s blanket-wrapped body and gestured, “Let me see.”

Gently I unwrapped the body from its covering, revealing my son’s corpse. It was as still and restful-looking as before, though quite rigid now. I couldn’t bear to see him like that, so I quickly turned back to the Priest.

He bent over the body, patting the chest and stomach area searchingly. “It okay, can bring back, no problem. Body fresh small. Stay too long, then problem will be. Bring two hundred thousand naira and sacrifice thing and I do it. I bring him back.”

“We came prepared,” Folake eagerly responded. She dipped her hand into her handbag where all the money we had was stashed, and produced a thick roll of one thousand naira notes. Briskly, she counted out two hundred of those and handed them over to the Indian Priest.

He received it with two hands and shrieked something that sounded like, “Eeeeh!”

Startled, Folake almost jumped out of her skin. I was alarmed too and wondered if we had angered him. The young man who had let us in came rushing. “Yes, Guru.” The Priest handed the money to him and turned back to us, “Remain sacrifice thing.”

“Yes, how much will the goat cost?” Folake responded before I could open my mouth.

“Goat, eh? He your son, no?”

We nodded.

“So why you want use goat for sacrifice? You want him come back and be like goat? Get human sacrifice thing, small boy good for small boy, not goat. He come back, behave like small boy, not goat.”

I understood what he was saying but was still confused. We couldn’t use a goat to bring our son back so he doesn’t end up behaving like a goat? But he had used a goat in Letty’s case and it had worked, so why not now?. Why human ‘sacrifice thing’ now? I didn’t even want to think of the full implications of what he was suggesting.

I put my confusion into words, saying, “I don’t understand. My friends… that night… a year ago… they told me you used a goat. And it worked. Why can't we do the same now?”

“Your friends no care how girl be when she come back, they just want her come back. So I use goat. She come back but never be human being again. If you want, I do the same. Your son come back but never be like human being again. He be like goat.”

“How much will human sacrifice thing cost?” Folake asks quickly.

“What?!” I turned to her in shock. “Do you even understand the full magnitude of what he is suggesting?”

There was a desperate glint in her eyes. “I don’t care. All I want is my son, and as a human, not a goat.”

My mind was in turbulence, this was really getting to be worse than a nightmare. Why had I given in to Folake when she suggested this crazy idea? Now we were getting sucked in deeper by the minute. I tried to recall that night and how Letty had behaved when they came back out of the Priest’s house, but my memory was hazy. All I could remember was that she had sat in a rather comatose fashion there in the backseat of the jeep. She had said nothing, done nothing; but she had definitely been alive. What did the Priest mean now saying she came back as a goat. A goat? That was hilarious in a sick, morbid way. I felt like screaming, I felt like grabbing my wife and son and hustling ass out of this home of madness as fast as I could.

But I hadn’t heard anything yet.

The Priest was telling my wife, “I no know cost. You go bring human sacrifice thing; small boy good for small boy. And I bring him back.”

I laughed out loud then. It just came unbidden, bursting uncontrollably out of me. It went on for a full minute and ended in hiccups.

“You mean, we should go out there, get a little boy from God knows where at 1a.m in the morning and bring to you to do – I don’t even want to imagine what – in order to bring our son back to life? Wonderful! But you know what, forget it!”

Still hiccupping I rose to my feet. “Folake, let’s get out of here.”

She didn’t move a hair. Didn’t even act like I had said anything. Just sat there, staring intensely at our son’s pale, rigid body, biting her lower lip so hard I could clearly see the drops of blood her teeth drew. My blood went cold; I knew that look of determination, never this strong, but I knew it.

“I will do anything, Jide, anything.”

Her words stole the wind out of me, and while I stood there gaping at her like she had suddenly metamorphosed into an alien, she jumped to her feet and dashed out of the room with a simple “I’ll bring it” to the Priest.

I rushed after her, catching up as she slid into the driver’s seat of the car. We had left the doors unlocked and the keys still in the ignition, too focused on what we had come to do to even worry about being robbed.

I got into the passenger seat, “What are you trying to do? Little boys don’t grow on trees, you know.” I was actually beginning to fear for her mental stability. Maybe all this was too much for her; maybe she had lost it. “How do you intend getting a boy-sacrifice for that maniac in there? And even if that were possible, how can you even contemplate doing such a thing? How can you..”

“Shut up, Jide!”

She had started the car and begun to pull out back through the road we had come. “I just want my son back. I will do anything to get him back. Some mothers have many and I have just one. Is it fair? Is it fair?”

“Folake, please, please, you need to just calm down. Let’s go back in there and retrieve our boy, then we can calmly talk about this.” Her concentration remained on the road, profile a hard mask of almost maniacal determination. “This is obviously not going to work, and I am sorry about that. But we just need to accept he's gone and we can't bring him back… do you even know where you are going?”

She was squinting as hard at the road as one trying to make her way through a thickly networked maze.

“I know the way we took down here.”

“Fola… where exactly are we going?”

A long pause, then:
“At the end of our street, just behind that stretch of land the government is developing into an amusement park, there’s this mad woman. She's not really a mad woman, more like a destitute with no home that has developed some mental issues due to her abject poverty. Well she has four children. Can you believe that?” A short barking laugh. “She has no home, nothing to feed them with, yet God blessed her with four children. And they are all so healthy. Three boys and one girl. Can you beat that? And I am certain she can easily have more. Why didn’t he take one of hers? Why mine?”

She was crying now, spurts of dry sobs that racked at my heart and broke it to bits. I tried to reach out a comforting hand to her, but she swatted it away.

“I used to stop to give her stuffs anytime I drive by and see her with those kids. Mostly money, sometimes foodstuff. She always calls me her friend. One of her boys is roughly Bosun’s age. He will do.”

“You can't be serious, Folake. You can't be serious. We go back so close to our neighborhood, where people are definitely looking for us already, and kidnap one of a homeless woman’s children? Great plan.”

“I am ready to take my chances. I would do whatever it takes to bring my son back.”

I lapsed into silence, and sagged into my seat, suddenly tired. I knew when Folake was like that, there was no changing her mind, except with drastic actions. I didn’t have any energy left for such actions at the moment. I wasn’t certain I even wanted to do anything to stop her. She wanted her son back, simple. It wasn’t asking for too much, was it? Even if getting him back meant doing something so terrible. She had hinted at killing herself if she didn’t get her son back and I knew she would do it. I couldn’t let that happen, I had to let her have her way. I loved her too much, and all I wanted was to see her happy; to get my old Folake back and have the life we had had before today. If this terrible thing we were about doing was the price to pay, then so be it.

God… forgive us.

The Story Continues>>>Click Here for Part 5

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