“The things Hafeez saw”
Word count- 1984
The things Hafeez saw
“Monsters are real, and ghosts are real too. They live inside us… and sometimes they win.” – Stephen King.
21 April 2015, the eve before the presidential election.
Dusty winds shifted, sawing across night time in Broad street, Marina, Lagos, unsettling the several slender road signs pointing blindly in the dark, rattling lose rust aluminium roofing sheets and the sun bleached bones of the few wooden stalls that still somehow managed to stand despite the government’s incessant attempt at renovation. Then the great bell of the Cathedral church of Christ rang, tolling twelve times, its knelling sound mixing with the rising uncoordinated medley of the wind to create an ominous feel to the already eerie night. Scores of sleeping bats who had found home in several crevices in the huge church’s asbestos roofing fluttered in a swarm, roused from their sleep, into the night in search of mate and another nightly fulfilment of their instinctive desires. Under the glare of the silvery full moon, the spires of the oldest standing Anglican church in the city seemed to stab upwards as if in defiance to the empty near cloudless skies like a crown of thorns, casting a gloomy air to any still awake to look upon it. The hour was 12 o’clock, the hour of the goat, the witching hour, mid night when a great many mysteries of the night chose to unveil themselves.
Crouched precariously upon the edge of one of the chapel turrets of the cathedral roofing, his silhouette as cast by the masking moon’s glare-seeming like those of one of the sculptured gargoyles upon the roof, bony reptilian mask of a face hidden behind a pale black adire hood, Eru, the element of fear waited, near frozen. His tattered inky black cape billowed, caught in the wailing winds, but Eru shifted not his gaze from the empty streets before him. Hafeez Oluwa watched helpless through the eyes of the body of the demon, through eyes that were once his, jailed by ancient spells coursing through a cursed old family heirloom, a black ring; Eru wore on ‘his’ index finger.
“What are we doing here?” Hafeez whispered, asking for the umpteenth time.
As if in reply, Eru’s eyes glowed a deep amber, reflecting some unseen inner fire like dying coals, just then, a figure clad in deep dark and crisscrossing deep green stripes sauntered into the empty streets, nearly stumbling. The demon of fear picked every single detail with clarity, sheltered far, from a score or so feet from the street as it were. He watched the masked man stagger into the church premises, left hand held tightly to his bleeding right side before disappearing from view into the church. Eru shivered in anticipation, no not a shiver born of fear… he was a creature came out of fear, he fed off fear, lived fear, he was the fear element. Eru shivered in excitement, the adrenaline rush of his host, Hafeez’s body pumping through his accursed bloodstream.
“How can you possess my body and still leave me in the dark without answers. You will answer me you demon.” Hafeez spoke, Eru’s refusal to acknowledge him giving him enough bravado to insult the demon. “Do you know what they do… do you know what will happen to me the day i get discovered wandering the streets at this hour…at any hour, no, wandering a church…POSSESSED?” Sirens wailed afar off rising as time slowly past by, Hafeez didn’t wait for an answer, “…I will be dragged to a bar beach by my cele…white garment wearing…mimo chanting parents and humiliated, nobody, no girl in her right senses would fu…”
“Gbe enu soun” for the first time that night Eru’s maniacal voice, hollow and icy sounded. Hafeez recoiled, his consciousness roused to uncontrollable fear at the sound of the beings voice, “… we are hunting here.” With that, Eru leapt off the precipitous ledge, downwards, free falling like a hawk about to grasp a chick, the fire in its eyes burning, his mouth lighting up, the cursed ring glowing. Fear had once again found its quarry.
* * * *
In a catacomb beneath the church’s main hall, one only very few knew existed, in a dank room dimly lit by several scores of melting candles and burning incense, in a room with cobweb like curtains draping the cold walls, the man Nigerian dailies called June12 knelt, praying, left hand held to his bleeding right, his head banging as he relayed the events of the night. He had ambushed or so he thought, a dozen or so score of militia men intent on rigging the country’s national election, once again, in Tafawa Balewa Square, a few miles from where he now knelt losing his life’s fluid. Memories of fake ballot boxes, fabricated voting papers with ghost names already registered, a bag of palm kernel and ink to falsify the thumb print of thousands of falsified Nigerians surged forth. But no one warned him that something supernatural would be at work with them. No one told him that the nation’s problems were spiritual, emanating from the hallowed thrones of Orun, heaven itself. No one warned him that he would be battling a – a crash sounded outside. June12 was roused from his feverish thoughts as he sensed the presence of another within his hide out. The candles began to go out, inky black fumes spread out from the sole entrance into the catacomb. For the first time since time immemorial, cold beads of fear trickled from the black mask marked with a huge green ‘X’ June12 had on to cover his features. His enemy had found him, he thought.
“Who … who is it?” June12 managed to stutter a question, but silence greeted his need for an answer as his voice echoing bounced to and fro the infested walls of the room. From a corner of the catacomb, feral eyes lit up in the form of twin beams and low burning fire spread from an opening beneath them as a voice touched June12’s soul.
“I am he that lurks in the night, sheltered by its fear… he whom is without an iota of fear. Eru is my name…and in this knowledge despair.” A maniacal voice called forth. June12 whispered prayers to Zik, Awo, Balewa and the founding fathers of Nigeria.
“I do not know of you… but… but what do you…”
“What do I want of you?” the thing in the dark barked, “You kill and pillage in righteous wrath, you whom is called June12… but innocents fall in your wake.” The eyes moved closer, more candles went out. June12 calmed himself, his breaths came slow now, his heart beat slowed equally, ‘…it is better to die on your feet than live on your knees.’ Old words of wisdom from a source he could scarce remember reached him. He stood, weak as he was and prepared to answer the challenge.
“In all my life, I have served the innocents; their pain is why I am here. Why I cannot pass on to the void.” His bones were racked as a strange sound that should be laughter from the creature reached him.
“You forget flight 1145, Sosoliso crash… you could have stopped it, but you chose vengeance… to remind a flawed system that it needed airways reforms. Irony? You hypocrite!” the memory tugged at june12 like a dull ache. A silvery light flashed in the dark beside the creature, it could only be a blade.
“How do you know?”
“Your sins call to me… they sing my song June12. Now… say your prayers.”
Immediately, an explosion rocked the door into the catacomb, tearing it apart. Old bricks flew in different directions, flung by the impact. June12 dodged out of the way, but saw the creature named Eru react with cat like grace, snatching a piece bound for him in a hand and crushing it to dust.
“Who dares disturbs my judgement?” Eru barked in anger. Moon light spilled from the streets above, liming a figure June12 knew all too well, his adversary, Eshu, god of mischief and crossing planes. Suddenly things seemed to have taken a turn for the worse.
* * * *
Hafeez, the new bearer of the cursed ring, possessed and incapable of nothing more than a watcher observed a thin figure stand in the path were a stone door once stood, a slender wooden staff in hand, adorned in rags, his hair streaming before him, huge twin ram horns coiled around his head.
“O beere oro? But gods do not defer to mortals.”
“A wise thing I am not a mortal, now be gone and leave me to my vengeance.” Eru turned his back on the figure in the door way to search for his quarry. A low song in old Ijebu reached Hafeez.
“Eru look out!!” Hafeez screamed, too late. A crackling burst of mystic energy sliced through the room, aiming at the head of Eru. Hafeez felt his brain would shatter from the intensity of the heat, surely his skull had been cracked in a million of places as he sailed through the air. Eru arose from the debris to find a bloodied June12 beside him.
“Thank me later.” June12 muttered, coughing up blood. He had somehow managed to breach space and time just in time to push Eru out of harm’s way in the last moment, and the brain shattering pain Hafeez felt was the collision of the demon’s head, his head on the stone floor.
“Why?” Eru asked, the pain Hafeez felt in no way hindering him, he could sense the uncertainty in the demon’s voice. Yes why indeed had June12, condemned to death by Eru’s hands come to his aid?
“Because the enemy of my enemy is my friend.” June12 said, wiping his mouth clean of blood as he struggled to stand up. Uneasily, Eru gave him a helping hand. “If you seek to know the cause of the crash that day, the creature stands before you, he alone is responsible for more than half the problems this nation faces. Death, rape, suicide bombers, name it.”
“…and he walks free in my city?”
“Eshu is a deity of confusion.”
“I see you have found a new friend June12… but no matter you will die as all things else, you and your demonic companion today.” Eshu spoke in a calm sing song like voice. His speech like poetry
“I can’t sense his fear.” Eru asked confused for a moment.
“He has none.”
“I have waited and watched this nation swell and rot as a carcass from within, fanned the flames of corruption till the fire aroused,” The godling Eshu walked towards where Eru stood supporting June12, “…I fanned the flames till they awoken a tempest… no self righteous man will break well laid plans, not one man, not one demon, you are countless ages too soon to think you will make a difference.”
Eru watched the being before him walk forward, so cock sure, Hafeez was bathed with a new emotion from the demon as its snake like tongue on fire licked its bony canines. Hafeez did not understand, why would Eru feel ‘exultation’?
“What was that you said again June12?” Eru asked, spreading out his hands as his cloak grew immaterial turning into living shadows.
“That being before us is without fear.”
“Then why does he so badly want you dead?” In the silence, June12 thought, Hafeez watching him through the eyes of the demon. “No being born is without fear… for fear in itself is itself a manifestation of being. I am unbeing… I was never born, I came.” Then a chant broke through the night, one wreathe in fear, chronicling terror through the ages. A new form of darkness covered the room were the threesome stood. Then the silence broke and a god learned to cry.