Stephanie’s home was as
quiet as a graveyard, the leaves of the flowers which were used to beautify the compound
had started to fall to the ground as though it mourned the death of Ochuko.
Stephanie’s step-brother, Ochuko, was the quiet one, he was the guy who moved
about silently and never wanted to hurt a fly, his sudden death hit her family
like a volcano. Stephanie was seated on the small veranda at the back of her
house when she heard footsteps, she turned around to see her mother. Her mother limped towards her and sat on the stool beside her.

“Are you sure your
medications are working mom? You are deteriorating before my eyes.” Stephanie
said in concern.
“I am fine…my body is
weak but my spirit is strong, besides I have stopped all medications, it seems
to be making my condition worse. I….was introduced to a church and I’ve been
going there for prayers.”
Stephanie looked at her
mother in shock.
“ Are you serious mom?
How can you jeopardize your health like that? Ignorance is a disease! Church is
for salvation and the hospitals are for healing…”
“God heals…” Her
mother said.
“God heals through the
doctors and not through men of God…”
“I have been studying
the bible….my dear….and I have read of the miracles worked by men of
God…”
“Those were the bible
days…” Stephanie started.
“I am not here to argue
with you….I am here to tell you that we have to begin a seven days prayer and
fast…the four of us, including your sisters and I.”
“Fasting?”
“Yes, from six am till
three pm…” Her mother said.
“Nooo…abeg ooo…I
can’t. I have starved so many nights in Lagos because I have no time to prepare
meals for myself. I would not return to Lagos looking dry and thin because of a
stupid fast.”
“Stephanie! Listen to
me…this is about my health…and…”
“I can join in
prayers…but fasting…no!” Stephanie said firmly.
“Okay then, your sisters
and I will do the fast, you can join us for prayers at midnight.”
“Midnight ke? What sort
of suffering is that? Your pastors are not only trying to deprive me of food
but of sleep as well? Mtchewww…”
“The earlier you wake up
and fight your battles spiritually, the better!” Her mother said and standing
up from the seat, she walked away.
As soon as she left,
Stephanie muttered under her breath.
“I wonder why she’s
being paranoid! Ochuko just died and instead of her to mourn his death,
she’s asking that I join in a stupid prayer and fast….mtcheww…” She hissed.
*******
At midnight, while
Stephanie’s mothers and sisters prayed, Stephanie knelt in front the sofa, placed
her head on it and slept.
********
Thelma sat inside the
church and watched people come and go, she was stunned by the result of the
scan and refused to believe what was said by the doctors. She had seen the
doctor who confirmed that there was indeed no child but an unidentifiable
object which had no life in it and looked like a stone, at first he had thought
it was a fibroid till he saw that it wasn’t.
“Are you okay?”
Evangeline asked her, she had walked up to seat by her.
“How do you expect a
woman who’s been told that she has a stone in her womb to feel?” Thelma said.
Evangeline exhaled and
looked at her.
“I am sorry about that
but something tells me that there’s more to the story…” Evangeline looked at
her. “My husband would see you for counselling soon…”
As Thelma nodded,
Evangeline’s husband signalled to her and she quickly turned to Thelma.
“My husband will see you
now…”
Thelma wasn’t ecstatic
in the least, as far as she was concerned, the man was a young pastor who knew
nothing and who probably haven’t even seen the world. She wasn’t impressed with the church either, it was a small room in a crooked building and the chairs were all wooden benches. Thelma was used to mighty edifies and big houses of prayer, she really didn’t like this church, it looked so poor.
She stood up from her
seat and followed Evangeline to the small altar of the church.
“Thelma, good afternoon,
please sit…” The pastor said.
“Good afternoon…”
Thelma said, trying to hold back the tears that was threatening to engulf her.
She didn’t know why she was pushed to tears as soon as the pastor spoke to her.
The pastor started
speaking, first of all he asked about her welfare, family and her job before
asking her about her fertility journey.
“I know that this might
not be your problem right now as my wife has told me about your husband’s
condition but something wants me to ask you about your fertility journey.”
“It’s been four years of
marriage, and Obinna and I decided to put childbearing on hold for one year
after which we go ahead and have kids and till date, nothing…” Thelma said
with emotion.
“While in search for
children, you must have visited places for solution…” The pastor said.
“Yes, lots of places as
my husband’s family members began asking questions but err…everyone said we
were okay, especially the doctors that we met on our journey to the clinics.”
“Hmmm…have you been to
any other place aside the clinics?”
Thelma almost said no
but at that instant, Baba’s shrine flashed before her eyes.
“ I…err…my friend,
took me somewhere about a few weeks ago and ….the man, we call him, Baba….said that I would err…” Thelma stopped.
“We don’t condemn,
Thelma, this is a house of God and there’s no room for condemnation here.” The
pastor said.
“Well…err…he, I mean
the Baba, gave me a stone and said that I should use it in bathing, place it in
my food and in my drinking water and I’ll see the signs. I remember that
immediately I started, I was still on my cycle but once I started using the
stone, it stopped and I saw the pregnancy signs and symptoms and…my stomach started swelling like a pregnant woman’s.” Thelma
trailed off as a lone tear escaped her lid.
“Are you still using the
stone?”
“Ha! With the situation at hand? Plus that of my husband going senile? No way! I forgot the stone in Lagos….” She said.
“Hmmm…so you stopped
using the stone.” The pastor said.
“Yes…I’ve stopped…”
“Did the baba give you a stone? Are you sure about that?”
Thelma was tired of
answering the same questions.
“Yes, it was a stone
that I….” She instantly trailed off. “Wait…what? Are you trying to say that
it’s the stone that’s in my womb?”
“We can’t rule that
out…because you sought a stone god so…” The pastor said.
“Oh my God! What’s going
to happen?” Thelma asked in a panic.
“We are going to pray
but first of all, we have to be sure of the kind of god you consulted….” The pastor
said. “There are different levels of power….especially in the underworld.”
“It was a …a small
place, the man is old enough to be my father and he has kind eyes and a nice smile. He promised that it would okay and I believed him…and…”
“My dear Thelma, no demon worshipper possesses a nice smile…that’s a façade.”
Thelma looked at him and
buried her face in her palms and began to cry.
“Shhh…don’t cry…I
beg you please…don’t cry…” Evangeline pleaded with her.
“I have waited for so
long to be pregnant and I loved seeing the signs…I…I….feel so bad
that…oh my God! What do I do? Does it mean that when we pray, the baby
disappears? Or does God turn it into a real baby?” Thelma cried.
“Listen to me Thelma, if
you kept drinking the water from the stone and using it, who knows? The baby
might come but….I doubt that such baby would make such a good mark in the
world, many kids like that come and go and from their day of birth, they are a burden
to their parents. For some women who have consulted these gods, they miscarry at the peak of their pregnancies
and almost lose their lives….you are lucky that you stopped using that cursed
stone and God brought you to us.” Evangeline consoled.
“What happens now? What
if Obinna dies? What if they get what they want? I know his uncle wants Obinna’s
lands…I know he wants his property…” Thelma cried. “How do I have a child
for him now that he’s gone mad, how?” She cried louder.
“Listen to me, we never
fight for lands or properties, we let God fight our battles. These lands and
properties have been in existence before we were born and they would be here
when we leave…” Evangeline said.
Thelma cried and looked
at the pastor, he was staring at her and not saying anything.
“You have to be calm,
you can’t cry at this point because if you spend your time crying, you might
lose focus of what is ahead of you…” The pastor started.
Thelma nodded in tears.
“The doctors said I
should come for an evacuation because the thing in my womb doesn’t even have a
heartbeat…” Thelma sniffed.
“Don’t worry about the
evacuation…as soon as you start the prayers and declare that you are for God,
that thing in your womb will leave!” The pastor said.
Thelma nodded and kept
crying.
*******
Ekweme and his family
stood at the shrine of the dibia, the air was silent and all that was heard was
the low hum of the dibia’s voice.
“Agu nta…your people
have come to pledge their lives to you, they have come to wash their hands off
the problems that’s facing their son, Obinna…” The dibia shouted.
Obinna sat at the center
of the shrine biting his nails, he looked so scruffy.
“Ngwa, we will start
from the eldest in the family…” The dibia said. “Bia…come and take the
oath…” He said to Ekweme.
Ekweme did a dramatic
display of grief and walked up to the dibia. He had invited two kinsmen who
looked on at what was going on at the shrine..
“Drink this…and say
after me…” The dibia said.
Ekweme put the small
calabash to his lips and drank while the dibia took a palm frond, dipped it in
water and sprinkled it on his head.
“Mention your
name…” The dibia instructed.
“I, Ekweme…”
“Solemnly swear not to
have any hand in any misfortune befalling my late brother’s family.” The dibia
said and Ekweme re-echoed. “If I do, may the sun never set on my smiles or
sanity” Ekweme repeated after the dibia and stood up.
The dibia repeated the
rites on Ekweme’s wife, his children and Obiageli. When all was done, the dibia
made some incantations and told them to go.
Obinna was helped out of
the place by the two kinsmen and they soon boarded Ekweme’s small bus and headed home. As soon as they reached the gate of the house and alighted,
Obiageli did something unexpected.
She began singing slowly
at first and soon broke out into a full song and soon, ran off stripping
herself of her wrapper and slippers.
“Oby! Obiageli!” Ekweme
shouted, crying aloud.
“Hmmm…his sister had a
hand? Agu nta is a powerful god…it didn’t even take time…f to act…”
One of the kinsmen shouted.
Obiageli raced down the
road, and as she ran, she stripped herself and soon disappeared out of sight.
********
That night, the pastor
and Evangeline held hands with Thelma and prayed with her after which they bade
her goodnight. Their house was a small one roomed space and it wasn’t big enough to accommodate
Thelma so she decided to sleep in the church on the long benches.
She had just closed her
eyes to sleep as soon as the lights went out, when she saw them. Masked hefty
men stormed towards her and began beating her.
“Why did you ingest the
stone if you knew you’d bow to another God?” They demanded.
Thelma wanted to speak
but couldn’t.
“Now, you’ll die and
your God can’t save you…”
Thelma tried to scream
but couldn’t she kept struggling hard. One of them squeezed her neck tight and
cut off her air supply.
“Say it! Say that the
stone god is the greatest of all gods and that you believe in it! Say it or you’ll
die here!”
Thelma struggled
painfully, she was feeling the life slowly ebb away from her but couldn’t do
anything to help herself.
“No one is here to help
you…your pastors are far away and no one is here to help you.” They
whispered.
Thelma struggled blindly
till she had no breath left.

To be
continued on Sunday….

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