The raindrops were now dripping from the leaves, the cloudy skies rumbled, and streams of water rushed down the tarred street.The storm had passed.The electric high tension cables lay in puddles on Lantana Main Street. The sheet of rainwater overflowed the street, over the blocked sand filled drainage, touching the bottom of the gates on both sides of the glistening road.
House number forty seven was quiet. Other than the owner of the house, Mr. Bitrus, the house was quite empty. His wife and three children had traveled to their mothers village in a neighbouring state. It was two P.M and the maid had already left after fixing him lunch. He had told her to leave and not to mind about dinner because he was going to eat out, and now the rain. His girlfriend would be disappointed. He sat on a plastic chair on the verandah before the parlour, enjoying the cool after rain breeze, watching the rain water stream-lets gushing over the ground, almost drowning the buds of the flowers.
He was, by trade, an insurance broker. He sat there staring at gushing waters, seeing nothing, confused. He was supposed to sacrifice a child. He had a P.H.D in insurance marketing. Two years without a single client was not natural .It was juju , it must be those insurance professors competing with him for controlling shares in insurance firms. Mr. Bitrus was at the verge of bankruptcy. He had signed assignations for most of his hard gotten shares for money. He had mortgaged his house to multiple banks using the same residential house as collateral. His debts were piling up. He was playing a very dangerous game.
The witchdoctor had stared into the finger drawn animal patterns on the sand and said quite clearly;
”You must sacrifice not an animal this time, but a human being. A child. The sacrifice must be without sin. Only a child is truly without sin”.
Only then could the clouds that hovered over him clear. The Lord cannot blame him. He had taken the battle to the Lord. And the Lord had failed him.
“Do not worry my child”, said the pastor, ”Even if your sins be as red as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow. Just take heart. The Lord will bind them for you, and you’ll get clients”.
And still: Nothing. Though he did not tell the priest what was in his mind. The supernatural… death of his enemies .And why should he, he mused, The Lord knows what was hidden in his mind. The destruction of his enemies was the best path to financial resuscitation. But where would he find a child? There was a knock on the gate. Bitrus looked up.
“Who is it?”
The small door at the side of the gate was pushed open and a seven year old girl entered, pushing it close behind her.
“Good afternoon sir.”
“Ah, ah, Mercy. What are you doing here wading through the water?”
“Is Patience back?”
“No she’s not back. They’ll return after the weekend.”
Mercy looked disappointed, standing in the gushing water, a doll in her hands.
“Baba Patince, the high tension wires are down in the street.”
“Really? Stay away from there. Go back home immediately, okay?”
She nodded. She turned and walked towards the gate, singing;
“Mary had a little Lamb, the Governor is dead in the spring without snow.”
She turned at him with a mischievous smile, raising her eyebrows.
“Stop singing that song.”
It was then it occurred to him. The witchdoctor said kill a child. The method was not specified. Why not the girl? The prophet Abraham did it. Or almost did it. Mr. Bitrus would have killed one of his own children, but they were too old. He cannot become bankrupt. If the Mallam made him rich, he would pay him well. For the Mallam was poor. Sitting on sheepskin, counting his rosary, gazing at the mysteries in the animal patterns drawn on the sand .
“Mercy?” said Bitrus.
She stopped in her tracks, one hand resting on the gate.
“Would you like some chocolate and vanilla ice cream?”
“Yes”,she shouted, jumping happily in the water.
“First you must play a game.”
“Play a game? Okay.”
“You see the high tension wires outside? They are not dangerous. I want you to go and hold one. Are you a brave girl?”
“Good. Hold one and pull it off the street. I know you are a brave little girl. You’ll make the road safe for all pedestrians. Mercy, save lives. Your family’s too. When you return, the chocolate and vanilla ice cream’s yours.”
She dropped her doll in her excitement and rushed outside. Mr. Bitrus became still. Waiting quietly. There was the sound of feet splashing through the streams of rainwater, then a loud electrical zap, then silence. Mr. Bitrus took off his slippers and waded through the water to the gate and opened it a crack. Yes, she was roasted, her small body lying in a puddle, dead. He closed the gate.
He walked back to the verandah and sat down on the comfortable plastic chair. The dew was still dripping from the breeze shaken leaves. And the flower buds seemed to float on water. He would inform the witchdoctor. He hoped her parents had taken out a life assurance policy on the child. They would have profited from her death. He closed his eyes, feeling calm and peaceful.
I am not ashamed to lie about how it all ended.He went into the bedroom and hanged himself.