It was 3 a.m., the first time Abena came out of her two-week comma. She was as would be expected completely flustered. So much so, she made one swift motion of her head from left to right, then fell back against the pillow, into a dream state.
The second time, it was afternoon. She opened her eyes and her mother was seated at her bedside, reading a bible. She looked older than she remembered; with her spectacles and graying hair poking out the edges of her headscarf. She wanted to call her, to whisper, “hello Mama” and watch a brightness take over her eyes. She didn’t. Rather she watched her: her lips moving slowly as skinny fingers traced the words of the holy book. It was the last she would see Mama. Her eyes closed shut, and with it ,the physical essence of her mother, became forever lost.
Daddy came back from church an hour late, he was always late nowadays. He grumbled about an elders meeting taking longer than was supposed to and fell into one of the two sofas directly facing the television set; the Papa chair, which had not felt much like a Papa chair in a while. Not since the mama chair had become permanently unoccupied. Grand and harrowing, it felt like a certain darkness had come over its leather, so it no longer looked the exact copy of Papa’s. Its creases seemed more pronounced, its brown, a darker shade. One day, Abena looking to pick up a newspaper from off the center table, had met Joojo, her little brother standing next to it, feeling its edges with the small of his fingers. “What are you doing?”, she had asked. He looked up at her with confused eyes and put his thumb inside his mouth. His natural response to anything he did not have an answer to.
“Don’t play with that chair again, okay?”
He nodded and walked away., leaving her alone, wondering why she had told him not to.
Abena was seated at a small table on the porch, doing her social-studies homework when Pastor Jesus pulled up into their driveway. His red corolla shone brighter underneath the gaze of the streetlight. He opened the driver’s door and loud choral music enveloped the usually quiet neighborhood. He was wearing an oversized blazer, as usual, black and mismatched with the yellow shirt he wore inside of it. He had on jeans and the same crocodile skin boots she had seen him with at Sunday service, when he had come in to say hello to the junior youth wing. He smiled at her and asked if her father was home. She nodded, already half-way lost in thought. His voice was so rough, so husky. She had overheard one of the women at church tell her mother once that, it was the authority of his voice that drew out the demons. After all, how else could a man, so young and attractive, be as powerful and dedicated to the will of the Messiah? It was the power of his voice, amplified ten times over by the holy spirit. The two had broken into a laugh, slapping each other’s hands and repeating the women fellowship motto, “WOMAN!”
“It is you that births Kings”,
“It is you that births Kings”.
When he was leaving, Pastor Jesus did something peculiar. He walked up to her and bent over to inspect what she was writing. His fingers, one adorned with three gold rings pulled at the corner of her book. Then almost so fast she was unsure it actually happened, he asked her how she was doing. It was the first time anyone had brought up the incident, even in the form of a slight reference. She turned from the neatly made out pen marks of her exercise book to his brown eyes, and he immediately raised himself up and walked away. He did a half-sprint down the short stairs, shouting something about her being a good girl.
Holding her brothers hand, Abena followed behind her father as they entered the large black gates of the cemetery. In her other hand, she held a bouquet of flowers. It was a long walk up to where Mama was buried, long and emotionally tormenting.
Papa placed his bouquet on the grave first, then Abena’s, before finally taking the single flower given to Joojo from him. He was always quiet when they came. So much so, Abena had stopped believing he did not understand why Mama wasn’t around anymore. They closed their eyes and said their individual prayers. Then Papa reached for her hand, the cue that it was time to pray together as a family. She reached out for Joojo’s and took a deep breath,
“By the blood that was shed to amend man’s wicked ways”
“We say we do not deserve the love of Jesus, he then and as incarnated”
“Forgive our mothers sins”
“Broaden her mind, even in the afterlife, that she understands the sacrifice of the saved”
“Forgive her and give her heaven”
“We as alive, supplicate in the name of Jesus; He then and as incarnated.”
Papa squeezed her hand before letting go. She smiled up at him. He smiled back.
Two Years Later…
Benedicta wiped the sweat off her forehead and recited to herself, for what felt like the one-hundredth time what she was going to say. Straightening her dress, she took a deep breath and rang the doorbell. A muffled voice responded from inside, then the door suddenly burst open. A little boy, about 10 stood at the doorway staring at her.
The boy did not respond, only looking her over curiously. From behind him, the muffled voice came out again, becoming clearer as its owner came towards her. The man, who she immediately figured to be Mr. Jedidiah, pulled at his sons collar and took the front of the door. He looked back and whispered something. The little boy run inside.
He looked to be in his late forties, wore thick rimmed glasses, ones that did well to further accentuate his large eyes. He almost spilled his coffee turning it over back to his left so he could shake her hand. She noticed he was in a morning coat, open and up to his knees. She had not considered the time until now. Maybe it was too early to be bringing things of this nature to a stranger’s door step.
“Hello Mr. Jedidiah, my name is Benedicta, I’m from Abena’s school”
He took off his glasses and flinched, then put them back on. “Come in, come in. I can barely see you, the sun’s out early, isn’t it?”
He led her past the pictures of Jesus splattered across the walls of the corridor leading into the hall, and offered her a seat. A morning news program was showing on the television, he put it off and turned to her. The house now distressingly quiet.
“Benedicta, is everything okay? Why are you not in school? Last I heard, boarding houses were not giving out exeats for cordial visits”
She looked down at her fingers.
“Mr. Jedidiah, I came here because something is happening that I think you have a right to know about. The school is trying to hide things but my Christian morals will not allow me watch your daughter suffer. Sir, supernatural things have been happening around Abena. Things I do not know how to even explain.” She shrugged her shoulders and traced the cross.
Jedidiah inched forward in his chair, “You can start from when it started”.
She looked at him, then continued, “It started about two months ago. We were asleep in the dorm when we were awoken by screaming and shouting. We all run to the source of the noise and it was Abena’s bed-mate. The one who sleeps on top of her. Sir, I saw this for myself otherwise I swear I would never have believed it. The bed was shaking putuputu…” She gestured the motions with her hand, “So much that it had thrown her from off the top bunk unto the floor. People were shouting, crying, my Christian Union friends and I, we started praying. There was so much noise and pandemonium and fear, but sir, all this time Abena was sound asleep on the bed. Nobody wanted to touch her, we were afraid. When she woke up, it was as if she had not even felt it. Since then, it has been happening at least once every 4 days for the past two months. Nobody is talking to her, nobody wants to associate with her, people are calling her a witch. The sad thing is that, she does not even…”
Benedicta was caught off guard by the sharpness of his dismissal. He smiled at her, as if just realizing what he had done, “Thank you very much Benedicta. It takes bravery to do what you have done. This is a very serious issue. I will deal with it.”
With that, he got up, forcing her to rise to her feet too. He excused himself and came back with money for her transportation. Benedicta was in such shock she took the money in silence and slowly walked away.
“You did what!!???”
“Sheila, I couldn’t take it. That poor girl needs deliverance. They are proper Christians too ooo. So many pictures of Jesus around the house”
“Haven’t you heard? You know Naa Korkor right? She was in the same JHS with her, ASAD Academy.”
“Yes, yes, yes”
“She said Abenas family erh? they are not proper, proper Christians ooo. They are part of that Pastor Jesus man’s church”
“Ah, the one who says he is a reincarnation of Jesus Christ?”
“Hmmm…. You know her mother is dead right? According to sources, me I don’t know this ooo, she killed herself.”
Abena’s eyes closed shut, and with it, she again dreamt of her mother.
It was dawn and she was coming from church, for some reason alone. As she approached the stairs of the porch she saw Mama, dressed in all white sitting at the small table with her head bent down. She approached her, wanting to touch her, to hug her and tell her how lonely and afraid she was. A bright light stopped her in her stead. She turned and another Mama stood behind her, dressed in a brighter white. The new Mama, gestured at her worriedly, whispering that she come to her. She turned and the Mama by the table was on her feet, her head still bent, thick black hair scattered over her face. She run to the bright Mama and hugged her, crying.
Warm palms went through her hair, cooing her to calmness.
“She can’t get you now. You are with me”
She turned her head to look back at the evil woman and froze. Mama was crying and reaching her hands out to her, mouthing “my daughter…”
A cold shudder passed through Abena’s body. She pulled her head back to look at the woman she was hugging. The devil stared down at her.