Hi everyone! Welcome back to Portraits. In Dayo’s story (Read it HERE), we first met Funem, a member of the youth group and schoolmate of Dayo, Ameli and Chidi. This is his story.
Ever since a long talk with Mama last week, when I wake up in this expansive darkness I call home, it’s the realisation that it’ll all be mine soon that propels me out of bed, out of the house itself as soon as I can.
She said, “My son, Ndukwu has chosen you..”
My mind has been in perpetual chaos since.
Mama Ndukwu, as she is called by unwilling worshippers/supplicants at the shrine, begun rites of initiation into the priesthood for me that day, and now I have to bow to the graven image of Ndukwu and make supplication with chicken blood as a daily ritual before leaving the house.
Before I was done today, mama got an early visitor. I don’t usually take interest in worshippers. They are one kobo a dozen. Students afraid of failure, Ageing spinsters, men looking for easy money, sick people in mind, body, and spirit, etcetera, but I recognized this one.
You see, I had accepted the faith in my university after I was persuaded by girls in tight-fitting jeans. They said I had to join a home church when the school is on holidays. For over a year, I’ve been a full fledged member of a Pentecostal church whose pastor was a passionate preacher and whose son – Dayo is now my friend.
This same pastor whose gaze transfixes the congregation on Sundays was here at the shrine of Ndukwu but I couldn’t listen in on the conversation he had with Mama.
I have successfully hidden my home from all my friends. I tell them that I live in Ikorodu and my mother doesn’t like visitors. Now this pastor was about to undo my carefully structured lies.
I avoided him till he left because my eyes are accustomed to the perpetual gloom of the shrine of Ndukwu.
Immediately after he left, Mama Ndukwu called me into her presence and she seemed distracted when she said ,
“Ndukwu will bargain for souls soon, you will be a complete vessel for him.”
I couldn’t make sense of those words and I dismissed them as the usual ramblings of Mama when in trance induced by one of her many concoctions. In fact, I couldn’t make sense of much because someone I thought to be a ‘man-of-God’ just grovelled before the verdigris-coated mask of Ndukwu.
I told mama, ” I don’t want to be a priest of Ndukwu.”
Mama was shocked, like I just spat on the mask of Ndukwu.
Then she laughed and said, “Soon, I’ll travel to the spirit world where flesh is a burden, where I’ll trade one soul for another and you’ll be required to deliver a death blow.”
Sometimes, I think mama is mad. I left the house with nowhere to go and my thoughts were in a whirl like sloshing water in a WC.
After a short while, I found myself in a shack. A dimly-lit place with a low ceiling to trap thoughts as men nurse the bitter brew. There were a few men on separate benches, the usual okada riders and good-for-nothings. I had a few drinks myself, contented with the effects which included numbing my brain.
I had stayed there for too long apparently because a text message from Ameli to remind me of the youth meeting jolted me awake and I fled into the safety of routine from alcohol.
As I left the shack for home, I saw Ameli alight from a black Mercedes but I instinctively dodged her. When I got home, the same black Mercedes was there waiting.
I went in through a back door. I caught snatches of mama’s conversation with someone in the shrine.
“Do you have the girl?”
“N-no I don’t”
The rest of the conversation was a whirr in my ears. I left immediately for the youth meeting at the chapel. Dayo was addressing the mini-congregation. I just couldn’t wait till the end of the meeting to bare my mind to him.
I eyed Ameli a few times and I caught her and Dayo exchanging cryptic glances.
As soon as the meeting ended, I walked up to Dayo and I told him: “You are evil”. I was already walking away before he replied because I heard my name distinctly called thrice and I knew it was Ndukwu.
My walk progressed into a slight jog and I ran with nothing but a vision of home in my head.
Red-brick bungalow, grey roof.
All the people I saw while I ran had ram horns. Ndukwu Channel 25; Temple Run.
When I got home, it was dusk and night seemed to follow me into the shrine-house. I slipped on a slimy substance at the door, then I smelt blood.
“Mama Ndukwu!” I called into the darkness, and I knew her habitual salutation will not come forth. I got drenched in cold-sweat and I started to grope around till my eyes adapted to the darkness.
I found my way to the point where the mask of Ndukwu was and I found mama in a foetal position; curled around the dais as if for warmth. Her hands were black with blood and the butt of a knife jutted from her chest.
“Ndukwu” I cried.
Mama coughed as I cradled her head on my laps while I cried and she watched me with eyes of childlike wonder.
Her last words were:
“Hold my hands”.
Photo courtesy of Logor of Africa