The mother gazed at her daughter. It was night. The candle flame on the stool beside the mattress on the floor flickered. The girl was shivering on the mattress despite the fact that the night was hot. There was no ceiling in the bedroom, only the iron zinc that embraced the heat of the sun. It was three A.M. Outside the open windows, the night was quiet. In silence.
She had already put out four calls for help. She would have called the doctor but they were tired of going to the hospital;
” Madame, your daughter is fine. We can’t find anything wrong with her.”
Besides, they didn’t have the money. Not since her mothers tailoring business started losing customers to the wealthy tailoring outfit newly established near the suya joint on the same street. They lived in a one bedroom apartment in a dirty neighbourhood. There was one parlour to the bedroom. The bathroom and kitchen was shared with the other tenants. The old building was not painted but plastered. It had plastered cracks on its walls. There was a knock on the door. One of the four people she had called was there.
Miss Eliza Gadzama, who was single, ( her daughter was a love child ), got off the stool she had been sitting on by her daughters bedside and walked through the empty door space that led to the parlour. She stopped at the door.
“Please, who is there? ”
“Sister Eliza, It is me, Father Pius.”
She unlocked the door, let him in, then locked it again. He was not new to the household. He walked straight into the door- less bedroom. He stopped by the girl lying on the mattress on the floor and knelt by her side. The candle light cast in relief her suffering features. She was twenty four, and beautiful. He called her name;
She smiled at him.
She touched the softness of the robe of the catholic priest.
“Are you feeling better?”
“No. But I’m fighting the things.”
Father Pius was silent. It was a local word for people who appeared human but secretly ate your flesh, while maintaining the illusion that the flesh was still there, until there was actually nothing left, at which point you died. The scientific psychiatrists denied this, but he was a priest. He knew and whispered in prayer what was written in the Bible in the second Book of Kings, chapter six, verses twenty six to twenty nine. He whispered;
“Then, as the king of Israel was passing by on the wall, a woman cried out to him , saying;
“Help,my lord, O king!”.
And he said;
“If the Lord does not help you, where can i find help for you? From the threshing floor or from the wine-press?”
Then the king said to her;
“What is troubling you?”
And she answered;
“This woman said to me, ‘Give me your son, that we may eat him today, and we will eat my son tomorrow.’ So we boiled my son, and ate him. And i said to her on the next day, ‘Give your son, that we may eat him”; but she has hidden her son.’
Father Pius also went on and whispered verse thirty three of the same chapter;
“Its the Lord who has brought this trouble on us? Why should I wait any longer for Him to do something?”
Then Father Pius prayed in the Spirit, and said Amen. He got up and reassured Miss Gadzama that her daughter would be okay.
“I have brought a book for you,” he said, giving her a small book.
It was a copy of Nature Power by the Nigerian Roman Catholic priest, Father Anselm Adodo. She already had a copy, but she did not tell him that. She took the small book. It questioned the use of drugs when natural medicine was available. It also recommended drinking your urine as medicine. Eliza had also read the Malleus Maleficarum, which meant ‘The Witches Hammer’, used by the Catholic Church long ago in order to burn witches at the stake. It was not helpful for her suffering daughter. Father Pius departed. She locked the door behind him.
There was another knock on the door by four A.M.
“Who’s there?” she asked as she approached.
It was her herbalist. She unlocked the door and he walked in, and she locked the door behind him. He went to her daughters bedside and touched her head with his hand.
“How are you feeling?” he asked the girl.
‘Like there is something on my shoulders, and something crawls in the body, and an ever present burning sensation, always sensing the presence of evil.’
“Hmm.’ He nodded wisely. “I have some herbs, but in order for the plants to take effect, you need to sacrifice a goat, and rub some…’
“Baba Familoni,”; interrupted Eliza, “I don’t have the money, you hear? When I get the money I will call you.”
He nodded, then left, chewing his kola nut.She shook her head. Honestly, she was tired of his useless concoctions, but she was so desperate. The herbalist left. She locked the door behind him. An hour later the Muslim Seer was by the door. He walked to the bedroom and sat down beside the sick Parmata. Mallam Salihu cleared his throat.
“My little child, how are you feeling?”
“Oppressed by an invisible demonic presence.”
He nodded. He, as he must, knew the entire Qur’an by heart. He began to recite, whispering prayerfully, Chapter thirty six, verses eight and nine of the Qur’an, Sura Yasin, said to be the most dreaded Sura in the evil world of black magic;
“We have put yokes round their necks right up to their chins, so that their heads are forced up ( and they cannot see ). And we have put a bar in front of them, and a bar behind them, and further, we have covered them up; so that they cannot see.’
Mallam Salihu uttered a prayer, quietly. His religion forbade him from trafficking with the unbelievers, but money was… er… money. He looked up at Eliza.
“Madame, Allah has revealed to me this sickness is not natural. It was caused by your husbands first wife.”
Eliza was shocked.
“Mallam, I am single, I have never been married before in my life.”
“Sorry. It was a slip of tongue. What was actually revealed was…”
“And I don’t have any money for you.” she added, interrupting him.
“Well,” he said reflectively, “When I call again?”
Mallam Salihu left. After he left, there was a knock on the door. she went to the door.
“Who is it?”
“It is Paul.”
She opened the door. He walked in. He was known as the Drunken Master. He loved his brandy, sometimes mixed with soft drinks, but only friends called him by that particular name, named after the traditional Chinese martial art of Drunken Boxing. He was their neighbour. He loved his wine, yes, but was ever sober. He walked into the quiet bedroom and sat beside the girl on the straw mat.
“Parmata, Feeling better?
She smiled. He was holding a bottle of fine blended white brandy with some bulbs of fresh garlic poured in it for the oppressed to drink from time to time.
“Paul” said Eliza, “they have all failed me.”
“I said they would didn’t I? Take this,” he said, giving her the bottle; “Vampires hate garlic. If the doctors are helpless, then the power of nature, my dear, the way of herbs, is the only way.”
“You want her to become a drunkard?”
“No. She’s an adult, right? And make sure she doesn’t smoke. Eliza, stay away from superstition, all the bloody hocus pocus. Fight on the proven medicinal ground. Demons have nothing to do with this, Eliza, even though a fairy tale can sometimes be correct. Use only that which you know Eliza. Okay?”
‘Strange words’, thought Eliza, as she escorted him out of the apartment. She locked the door as he left. She walked back to the bedroom. She thought of everything for quite a long time. She had to make a bloody choice. And she made the choice. It was best described by her neighbour Paul’s favourite biblical verse;
“Do not drink water only, but use a little wine for your stomach’s sake, and your often infirmities.”
First Timothy Chapter five verse twenty three. Furthermore, her neighbour Paul loved to play on words;
“If anyone comes to accuse the Drunken Master, just say its the gospel according to Paul.”
Eliza gave some to the girl to sip. The girl later said that she felt much better. Eliza made up her mind. If the bloody priest ever came again she would simply say she prayed and the Lord turned water into wine.
Outside, people were beginning to stir and the light of dawn had finally come.