Chinwe had no control of her body. ‘Leave me! Leave me!’ she screamed, as her baby pink chiffon dress was ruined by the dirty tiles she was rolling on.
Her voice was unrecognisable. On a normal day her voice was silvery, but this wasn’t a normal day.
‘That’s the demon speaking!’ the apostle screamed into the microphone, and I wondered if he knew the function of the equipment in his plump hand that lacked the touch of lotion.
‘Come out, come out!’ he spoke to her but commanded the ‘evil spirit’ in her and her rolling became more intense.
I worried that, with her eyes closed and her uncontrollable movement, she would hit the standing fan and get hurt. I worried more that the congregation believed that there was an evil spirit in her.
My eyes only went shut when my head felt an unexpected pain inflicted by my mother. ‘Do you want demons to enter you?’ she said through clenched teeth and let her knuckles drum hard on my head again.
I only started to come to church with my mother three Sundays ago, because she was tired of having to live with an ‘ungodly child’ who would rather sit at home with her ‘ungodly father’ on a Sunday.
For three consecutive Sundays, I remember the church secretary announce the coming of ‘the apostle’ as though he was the Messiah himself. ‘Praiiiseeeeee da Lord somebody’, his lips grew longer than they already were, ‘I said praise, praise, praise da Lord brodas and sistas’, he called again as though the first ‘hallelujah’ response was not loud enough. ‘I know we are all preparing for an encounter with Master Jesus! Don’t miss that encounter, tell your neighbour don’t miss that encounter’, and the congregation did as he said. ‘The Apostle will be in this auditorium with us, come with your handkerchiefs, your pens, your cv’s. All your problems will be gone in Jesus name!’ the congregation screamed back ‘amen’ in excitement. All I could think was how long his dark lips were, and how the letter ‘r’ turned to ‘l’ when he spoke.
I didn’t like the apostle much, I don’t think I liked him at all. He always wore a different shade of brown short-sleeved suits like that was the only outfit he allowed into his wardrobe. His expensive gold watch and rings made me wonder how much of the people’s offerings he shared with God. For someone with two decaying premolars, he smiled with so much pride.
‘Three years ago, this woman came crying before the Lord in search of a child!’ he pulled a sweat stained handkerchief from his pocket and wiped his furrowed forehead. ‘After we prayed for her God gave her a child. Now three years after and the devil is fighting again! Devil today this war is over I command you to leave this woman’s womb in Jesus name!’ His screaming became louder and Chinwe’s turning became furious again.
I remembered Afam’s dedication ceremony…. Chinwe was the happiest I had ever seen her on that day. Uncle Fred’s family had made life miserable for her during her ‘barren years’, sometimes locking her out of the house when they came to visit and he wasn’t home. Our home became a second home for her…who else would have understood the dilemma of a barren woman than the neighbour who had experienced the same?. So when Afam was born it was a break from the wahala. Recently though, the in-laws started to wag their tongues again on her inability to give their son another child.
All too suddenly, the apostle’s binding and casting was brought to an end by the sound of a gunshot at the back of the church. No longer were the church members focused on Chinwe, rather everyone begun to pray for their own lives as confusion arose. Even Chinwe had stopped rolling and her eyes were wide opened filled with fear as she saw her husband walking down the aisle with the gun in his hand.
‘Get up!’ he commanded her with bloodshot eyes, ‘get the hell up you stupid woman!’ he expressed his irritation in her reluctance to stand.
She stood with her head facing the ground like a child being reprimanded.
‘Everyone sit down, nobody leaves this building!’ Uncle Fred now turned to the congregation. In a few minutes everyone had sat without thinking twice.
I turned to my mother and I could see her confusion. I could tell she wanted to walk up to him and slap him as though he were her own child. He was, in a way, her child. She had known him since he was 13 and often people referred to him as her son. History has it that my mother and his family had always been neighbours and in her free time she was always at their house, helping out with the chores and being a nanny to Fred and his three younger sisters.
Uncle Fred avoided my mother’s deep eyes by all means. ‘Chinwe tell the church who the father of your child is!’ Chinwe looked at him in shock. ‘Are you looking at me?’ He asked calmly and then asked again when she refused to speak.
‘You are’ she stammered.
‘I am’, he said as though he was in agreement with her.
The congregation gasped as Uncle Fred unexpectedly slapped his wife sending her back to the ground.
‘Get up!’ he commanded and she obeyed in a hurry, ‘Chinwe tell the church who the father of your child is!’ He said again as he was losing patience.
‘My child’, the apostle begun to interrupt, ‘please don’t let the devil use you this way’, his voice could hardly be heard and I wondered why he couldn’t cast the evil spirit from the man with a gun.
‘Mr Man, if you talk again I will send you to meet with this Jesus you say you serve’, Uncle Fred threatened.
‘Chinwe who the hell is the father of your child! Because it can’t be me! I was told today that my sperm count is too low for me to father a child! So who the hell is the father of your child?’
‘Brother, can’t you see that God did a miracle for you? Or are you trying to say that God is not above a low sperm count?’ The apostle pushed his round rimmed glasses up as he spoke in fear.
At this point, people no longer sat in fear but with anxiety and intense interest, waiting to hear Chinwe unravel the mystery behind the father of Afam.
Uncle Fred roughly pulled Chinwe closer to himself and pointed the gun to her head.
‘He is!’ Chinwe screamed as every head turned to the direction to which she pointed.
‘Ahn! I Bind you in the name of Jesus!’ the apostle said as all eyes focused on him,’ this is a lie from the pit of hell. Your wife is possessed’, his sweating became profuse.
Slowly Uncle Fred moved closer to him, this time letting his eyes meet my mother’s.
‘Touch not my anointed and do my prophet no harm’, the apostle managed to say as he feared for his life and the congregation burst into laughter.
‘Tell the church how you got my wife pregnant’, Uncle Fred ignored the laughter as he forced the heavy man to his feet.
‘Will you shut up?! Do I look like your brother?! Tell the church how you got my wife pregnant!’ this time he put the gun to the apostle’s head.
‘She needed a child!’ he begun to speak as his fear caused him to wet himself, ‘am I God that gives children? I’m not. I only tried to help her out in the way I could. I’m not God that gives children na!
‘So you performed your own miracle on my wife and slept with her’, Uncle Fred said laughing.
‘My brother wetin I go do, the people want miracles. Please no kill me I dey beg’. Uncle Fred looked at him with disgust.
‘Behold your apostle!’ he turned to the congregation and said mockingly as he pushed the man to the ground. ‘When you get to the gate, you’ll see your bags there. By Monday you’ll get your divorce papers’, he said as he turned to Chinwe.
Uncle Fred begun to walk out of the church and my mother didn’t hesitate to pull me out of my chair and drag me along as we walked out too. One thing I was sure of was that, we were never coming back to this church. I wasn’t sure however, if our home would be opened to Chinwe ever again.