Shade and Deacon Soleye struggled with the limp body of Uche up the stairs, entered a room and laid her on the floor. Soleye wiped some sweat off his face as he regarded the woman lying on the floor.
‘You did good,’ he said. ‘You followed my instructions to the letter.’
Shade nodded looking at Uche Okpara on the floor.
Soleye looked at his watch. ‘Now we must hurry,’ he said.
He went around the room making incantations, preparing his deity to receive the sacrifice he had brought for her. After a while he stopped and turned to her.
‘Shade, go and wait for me downstairs.’
Shade didn’t move from where she stood.
‘I said you should go downstairs and wait for me in the sitting room.’
Shade regarded her friend lying on the floor. She pointed at the limp figure of the intercessor. ‘What…what do you want to do to her?’ she asked.
Soleye gave her an angry stare. ‘That is none of your business. You are in no position to ask me questions.’
Shade was silent.
‘Do you remember what happened to you two nights ago?’ he asked.
‘If you don’t obey me, your boyfriend will not recognise you when he sees you.’
She covered her mouth in fear. ‘Please don’t hurt me.’ Fear shrouded her face.
Soleye pointed at the door. ‘Go now,’ he ordered.
Shade hurried out of the room.
Soleye regarded Uche’s helpless form on the floor like an abandoned baby left at the doorstep of an orphanage.
‘With all your boasting look at where your faith has brought you,’ he hissed in contempt. ‘Where is your God with whom you boast? Where is he?’ he asked. He stepped towards her and caressed her face, stroked her hair and ran his fingers down her neck. He grinned. ‘In a moment you will become my slave for the rest of your life. Nothing can stop me now,’ he said.
His demonic laughter bellowed through the house.
Shade shivered with fear as she heard the insane laughter of Soleye bounce around the walls of the house. She sat down not knowing what to do. In her mind she had flashes of the prayer Uche had taught her to use against satanic bondage. She recalled a few lines but her lips could not pronounce the words that floated in her mind. She struggled and finally uttered some incoherent words.
What had come over her to help Soleye ensnare Uche with the necklace? Why had she listened to Soleye’s instructions? She felt disoriented and lost. As far as she could tell, Uche Okpara wasn’t the only prisoner in Soleye’s lair. She was also a prisoner.
He took off his clothes and wore a red robe. He lit seven more candles and positioned them around the room. A cloud of smoke rose from the silver censers hanging on both sides of the door like mythical dragons guarding a castle. He turned to the woman who lay still on the floor of his room and regarded her for a moment before he bent down over her. He worked slowly, hands trembling with excitement like a child unwrapping a birthday present. He stripped off her clothes one after the other until she was as bare as a stone washed clean by the salt water of the Atlantic ocean. He had always known Uche was beautiful but seeing her like this stirred up savage desire in him to possess her. He lifted her and placed her on the bed. He wanted to throw himself on her with reckless abandon but he restrained himself. He had to go through with the ritual if he wanted to gain power with the cult. He brought out a black pot from underneath the bed, took out a white chalk and began to draw on her body. Moments later he tasted the sweat which rolled down his face to his mouth, dripping like a small waterfall on the still body which lay on the bed, smearing the esoteric images of the water goddess he had drawn on her body. He stood to his feet, stepped back and regarded his job like an artist. Soleye was pleased with his work. Images from the sea covered the canvass of her flesh. If it wasn’t for the foolish counsel he received from his father he would have turned out to be a world class artist. But it wasn’t too late to start again, he thought. He reached for his phone and began taking pictures with the light of the candles in the room. He needed the evidence to show the members of the cult if they ever doubted his commitment to their cause.
Soleye entered the secret room built into his wardrobe and emerged minutes later with the horn of a buffalo which had cowries and small effigies of water gods tied around it. He began chanting incantations on the naked body of the intercessor on the bed. A strange wind blew in the room and the candles flickered. Soleye increased the intensity of his incantations. The temperature in the room fell and a strange presence engulfed the room. Soleye’s eyes looked around the room, searching for a sign that the goddess had arrived to take possession of the sacrifice. In spite of the cold in the room sweat poured down the face of the diminutive man as he continued to make his incantations. Suddenly Uche Okpara’s limp body began to rise slowly off the bed. Soleye watched her rise until she was two feet above the blue sheets. He could smell the sea in the air. His lips tasted salty. He stepped away from the bed. The goddess had arrived.
Uche smelt flowers. She opened her eyes to see a clear blue sky hovering above her like an alien craft searching for a place to land. She turned her head to see the sea. She sat up on the white sand and looked around her. She was on a beach and there were flowers covering the beach and stretching into the land as far as her eyes could see.
She heard a voice chanting. It was Soleye’s voice. She got to her feet and looked around to trace where the sound was coming from. Something pulled her attention to the sea and she knew that something was going to happen but she didn’t know what. As she looked at the calm sea a form walked out of the water and stood on the shore. Uche regarded the being in wonder. She was the most beautiful woman Uche had ever seen. She was dressed in a flowing white dress and covered in jewellery. Uche had not seen so much jewellery on a woman before. The woman even had jewellery on her eyelids. In spite of the fact that she emerged from the sea, her hair and her dress were not wet. Something about this woman was not right. From within her spirit Uche began to pray. The words percolated within her like a kettle of boiling water.
The woman walked towards Uche and smiled.
Pastor Cornelius Akanbi sat up in bed. He shook his head to clear it from the bad dream he had. He picked up his phone by his bedside. It was 11:40 pm. In the dream he saw a group of men throwing his church members into a river. He tried to stop them but he was powerless against them. What disturbed him about the dream was the man at the forefront of the attackers was Deacon Soleye. He got out of bed and placed his legs on the floor. He didn’t know what the dream meant but he felt something was wrong. Deacon Soleye was a good man, he thought. How could he be involved with evil men, he wondered.
‘Pray.’ A gentle voice instructed the pastor.
Akanbi didn’t like this voice or what it was telling him to do. He had stopped praying long ago. He did some religious prayers in the church in every service and when the occasion demanded it. He also prayed with his family but he had long abandoned the spiritual art of intercession which he engaged in as a young believer. He had a large congregation and with it came lots of money. His desire for material things had slowly dampened the fire in his soul. What was remaining of his prayer altar were the cold ashes of prayers made several year ago. He left prayer to Uche Okpara and her group of prayer warriors. These days he had more important issues to attend to like the new 10,000 seat church auditorium he was building.
Cornelius held his head in his hands and sighed deeply. His sermons were motivational messages culled from best selling books written by people who were not Christians. He added some scriptures to their books and delivered this to his congregation on Sunday mornings and they lapped it up. That was what they wanted, that was what he gave them. He stopped talking about real spiritual matters and fed the sheep with worthless words.
‘Pray,’ the voice said again.
‘What should I pray for? Who should I pray for?’ he asked himself.
‘Pray for Uche Okpara,’ the gentle voice said.
His wife stirred beside him. ‘What are you doing sitting up in bed?’ she asked.
‘I am thinking.’
‘Thinking about what?’ she asked.
‘Pray now.’ The voice said with more urgency.
He regarded his wife for a moment before he got up from the bed.
‘Where are you going?’ she asked.
He didn’t turn around to answer her. ‘I am going to pray,’ he said.
‘Pray about what?’ his wife asked Cornelius as he walked out of the room. He entered his study, got down on his knees beside his table and began to pray.
‘What is your name?’ the beautiful woman creature asked.
‘Uche,’ she said. The words of her prayer floated within her but her lips could not say them.
The woman stood before the intercessor. ‘Come with me,’ she said.
‘Where do you want to take me?’
‘To my kingdom,’ the woman said.
‘Why do you want me in your kingdom?’ Uche asked.
The woman smiled and walked around the intercessor. ‘I want to give you power to get anything you want on earth.’ She stopped before Uche and their eyes locked. ‘I will make you rich beyond your dreams.’
Uche regarded the woman closely. She was beautiful, with long hair and flawless skin. But when Uche looked into her eyes she saw evil, so strong, so inviting, pulling her into the darkness that dwelled there.
‘I will give you anything you desire.’ The woman stepped towards Uche. ‘Anything.’ She repeated.
Uche resisted her invitation.
The woman stepped closer to her. ‘You can become all you have ever wanted to be,’ she promised.
Uche felt her resolve beginning to erode. The power of evil overwhelmed her mind and went in search of the keys to her soul. Uche struggled in prayer but she couldn’t speak the words.
The creature reached out with jewelled fingers and touched her hand. ‘Why do you resist me? I can make you do whatever I want. This is my world.’ She spread her hands. ‘I own this realm. You have no power here.’
Uche cringed. The creature’s fingers were cold on her skin. Uche tried to mouth some words but it was impossible.
‘I think you need to see a demonstration of my power. Let me show you my kingdom,’ the creature reached out with a jewelled finger and tapped Uche on her forehead.
A force hit Uche and threw her head backwards. She opened her eyes wide in wonder and began to look around her, seeing a world that was previously hidden from her.
The beautiful woman from the sea regarded Uche and smiled.
Pastor Akanbi prayed like he had not prayed in years. An unusual intensity gripped his soul and his words flowed with passion. Suddenly his eyes opened and he saw Uche Okpara tied down to an altar of sacrifice. ‘No. God forbid,’ he shouted and rebuked the enemy. Then his prayer grew more fervent.
‘Will you come with me?’ the woman baited the intercessor.
Uche nodded like a child who had just been offered a box of chocolates.
A giant tortoise as big as a car rose up from the sea and crawled towards them.
‘That is the transportation to my kingdom,’ she said. The woman took her by the hand and led her towards the tortoise. Before they could get on the tortoise the creature started retreating into the sea, an expression of dread on its ugly features.
‘Wait,’ the goddess commanded it but the creature was already in the sea and submerging into the water. The goddess looked up at the sky. It was turning grey. A frown creased her face. She turned to Uche and regarded her with anger.
Uche looked behind her and noticed that the flowers were losing their brilliant colours and wilting. Some of the red roses turned into withered stalks. The woman let go of her hand and stepped away from her. From within Uche the words that had been percolating within her soul became more agitated like the stirring of the pool of Siloam. She shut her eyes in a desperate attempt to disconnect from the horrible sight before her but it was useless. The images floated freely around in her head like balloons on a Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade in New York. She shook her head vigorously like a Haitian voodoo priestess in a trance.
She opened her eyes. The beautiful woman who stood before her a moment ago had disappeared, replaced by a creature she didn’t recognise. Her fair and flawless skin morphed into brown scales. Her bony hands hung to her knees like alien appendages. Her hair turned ashen. Her face became a deformed mask. There was a pungent stench of rotten fish emanating from the creature. Uche was nauseated but nothing came out of her mouth.
‘No,’ she said and scurried away from the creature.
‘Come with me,’ the creature said and barred its fangs at her.
‘No,’ Uche said moving away.
The creature reached out with its long, disfigured arms and grabbed the intercessor’s hands.
Uche struggled to get away from the creature but it was too strong for her. The sand slipped beneath her feet and made it difficult for her to stand and run. The intercessor knew that this was her last chance before the creature dragged her into its subterranean kingdom. She reached into her spirit, gathered all the pockets of strength she had prayed into the reservoir of power that lay within her. She looked up into the dark sky and screamed one word.
Soleye jumped back when he heard her scream. Her body stopped rising and fell back on the bed with a heavy thud. He reached under the mattress and searched for the tortoise he had kept under the mattress for the ritual. His hand found it and he brought it out. Soleye sighed bitterly. The creature’s head hung out in an unnatural angle. It was dead, Soleye observed. With the tortoise dead the ritual would never work. Somehow Uche was resisting the power of the enchantments. She turned her head from side to side, muttering a strange language. Soleye suspected that she was praying in tongues as they called it in church. He wanted to gag her so she would stop muttering that language. He looked around for a piece of cloth to silence her then changed his mind. She could break out of the trance at any moment and return to the real world and his opportunity to have her would be gone.
He bit his lower lip in contemplation of his next move. He no longer cared for the success of the ritual. He threw the horn in his hand to the ground in disgust. It bounced off the floor and broke a black pot sitting near the door. If the goddess wanted a sacrifice she would have to find one for herself. He regarded the woman lying on the blue sheets with lust in his eyes. He had promised himself to wait until the ritual was over before he touched her but the desire within him raged like a wild beast. The more he looked at her, the more he wanted her. In one swift motion he tore off the robe from his quivering body. His stomach hung before him like a bag full of flour. ‘Now you are mine,’ he salivated like a hungry wolf and with trembling hands reached for the body of the intercessor.
To be continued.