The following day, I woke up in the living room feeling exhausted and famished. Dad led the morning devotion which lasted for almost an hour. When he was done, he turned to Agatha and I.
Normally, in our family, the first stage of discipline begins with a stern rebuke and reminder of the consequences. My father started by asking us to read some chapters and verses of the Bible before him. Those verses bluntly condemned immoral acts. We read about five places in the Bible that condemned sexual immorality.
He further stressed that as part of our punishment, we would choose one day and go for a morning cry. By that, he meant early morning evangelism. That was something I had never done all my life. And he said after that, he would tell us what next to do. His punishment seemed so unending. Yet, he didn’t release my phone to me.
Fast forward to the following day which was the day for the church program. The one we had gone for the publicity days ago, led by Desiré. The venue for the outreach was quite distant from our apartment, but every one of us made it to the venue later in the evening. All thanks to my father’s car. The program was to start at 6 pm but we arrived there at 5 pm as per Minister and his family.
I wasn’t really all that happy when we got there. Thoughts about Biola’s texts still clouded my head. I couldn’t think properly. I reached for the back seat and sat quietly, but my father came a moment later and asked me to move to the front seat. I did as he said without delay. I sat there and bent down, staring at my timberland footwear.
The weather was quite friendly and inviting. Little children were seen playing around the empty seats. The Church ushers were after them, while they re-arranged and cleaned the seats with a piece of wet cloth.
Gradually, people trooped into the venue from different directions and routes. When I looked up, I sighted Desiré and a few others. They were busy fixing one or two at the altar. I just couldn’t join them to do anything. I had lost it all. No zeal. Nothing at all.
The program kicked off around 6:20 pm. Could this really be me? Sitting on the chair for hours listening to my Dad and other ministers who preached for so long. Don’t get me wrong, not like I don’t go to church but not every day. If only church services lasted only for an hour or less, but that of my Dad’s church had always been an endless something. I grew more uncomfortable when one of the ministers preached against lust, fornication, and every damn immoral act. I felt like he was talking to me directly. “Whoever that heard this word, shouldn’t harden his heart, but should confess and forsake his sins,” the minister added to my discomfort.
The program soon got to its peak, with people praying aloud; speaking in tongues, and all that. I remembered I once argued with Shola over speaking in tongues. She said it was for every believer but I strongly believed it was only a gift God gave to a few people while others just try to force themselves by speaking in the ‘rubbish’. She only laughed at me then and said I needed Jesus in my life. But right there, I still heard them speaking in several tongues that seemed not genuine. I wasn’t just moved by any of those things. I simply closed my eyes and murmured my prayer.
“Amen!” The church finally ended the program by declaring the last Amen. I let out a sigh of relief. I then looked at my wristwatch, it was 9:45 pm. It was time to finally get out of the premises. I followed the congregation as they moved out in numbers. Truth be told, people really turned out for the outreach. I never thought I would meet such a crowd that evening.
“Femi!” My father called. I stopped in my track, and let out a frustrated sigh before finally faking a smile on my face.
“Yes, Dad?” I walked to where he stood.
“Where are you going to? Can’t you go and help the youths return the instruments where they rented them.” He said and squeezed the Bible under his armpit. I knew I couldn’t say no or else I’d get it rough with him. And there were only a few youths who waited behind.
“Okay, sir,” I replied.
I walked towards the altar where Desiré and a few others were dismantling the altar, the decorations, the wooden pulpit, speakers, and every other stuff. I felt so uncomfortable approaching them. I didn’t want Desiré to see me at all. But before I climbed the wooden stage, she had already seen me.
“Femi, so you came? I’m just seeing you.” She said.
“Yes. I have been around.”
“You are here to help out, I guess.”
“Yeah. You’re right.”
I reached to the speaker and lifted it on my head. I already knew the place it was rented. It was a popular place. But it was dark already. Cars and trucks swooshed past the tarred road by the other end. Few shops were still open but darkness covered most of the area. I had walked about ten minutes away from the venue of the program. I got into the neighborhood, only for me to look around to see about five boys smoking and drinking. They had their eyes on me. I wasn’t like them, so I probably looked like a stranger, dressed in my plain black trouser and white shirt. I added more pace to my walking step, not liking those kinds of people staring at me. I had to divert to a different route just to make sure they didn’t come after me or something. The new route I followed had several old buildings, windows, badly painted walls, and some empty houses.
Before I finally arrived at the showroom, I heard some shots fired in distance. I had to run till I got there.
“Femi, are you also helping out?” A man from the church said as he helped me carry the speaker down. He was probably surprised to see me there. I simply nodded my head affirmatively. I looked at my timepiece, 10:18 pm it said. The speaker was the last instrument. Others had gotten to the place and left before me, simply because I diverted fearfully on my way. When the man quickly locked the place, he turned to me and said:
“Do you need a ride?”
“Um, not really. My Dad is waiting for me over there. We will all go home together.”
“Oh! That’s true. I haven’t forgotten your father owns a car.” He replied speedily and entered his blue Avalon. But it then occurred to me I would be walking through that neighborhood alone and I didn’t really think of that, and before I could get to him, he already zoomed off on the tarred road.
I had just walked out of the showroom, my eyes caught some group of boys outside. I could tell something was fishy the way they lurked around. I was only with my small Bible. I held it firmly in my right hand and started to walk in a hurry. I didn’t want to draw any attention by running. But then how can I not run when all I heard was yelling, breaking stuff, and some strange sounds that seemed like gunshots. The shot sounded really close. My body froze when I looked up to see someone with a gun and another person on the ground.
Omo! I didn’t have to think twice before I ran towards another route that I barely knew. I kept running until someone crashed into me. I fell to the ground and landed with my hands with my knees supporting me from falling flat. I felt my heart pounding faster than usual. I smelt cigarettes on him, I knew I was dead. I covered my eyes not wanting to see the gun he pointed at my head. “Where do you think you’re running to?” echoed a thick voice. I didn’t get a clear picture of the dude because it was dark. If only he stepped more into the street light, I would have seen him. I was about to utter something, but not even sure of what to say. Just then I heard clopping footsteps running in my direction.
“Get up,” demanded the other guy from behind. I really didn’t care who he was, but then he was my only hope at that moment. I got up and he pushed me in the back of him. He looked very pissed.
“Hand him over to me,” he requested.
“Why do you need him?”
“He saw too much. He shouldn’t have seen a lot,” he pulled out his gun from his pocket. A bullet of panic rose in my throat; fear crawled over my body, prickling my skin
“Oh! God, is this going to be the end of the road for Femi?” I had pondered. Deep down I was regretting why I even obeyed my father in the first place.
“Hand him over to me or watch me kill the both of you.” He raised his gun at both of us. The other guy simply laughed, and when I thought he was going to do something silly, he took on his heels. I didn’t understand why he ran away. Maybe his gun had no bullet or what? Then the other guy laughed and turned to me. I was stunned to see how muscular he looked. He was looking res in the eyes.
“Now, you, what the fuck are you doing here?”
“I—I was walking home,” I stammered.
“You surely shouldn’t be around here. You are easy prey,” he leaned against an old dirty wall. He then lighted his cigarette and puffed up a smoke.
“We had a church program. I only went to drop off some equipment. I’m sorry for seeing what I shouldn’t have seen,” I said, my mouth shivering. He flicked the cigarette in a pile of dirt and pulled the trigger of his gun.
“I’m sending you to heaven right away. Since you have gotten purified by the program,” he said and pulled the trigger. The words thudded in my skull; my blood went cold. I stared in silent horror.
To be continued…
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