By Oselumhense Anetor
+234 816 425 4347
Omonigho heard the sound again. She shriveled closer to the wall of her bedroom. She felt the icy fingers of the cold wall against her left cheek. She quickly removed her face from the wall. Why won’t the voices stop? She pressed her forefingers into the holes of her ears, hoping to cut out the sound. But they kept humming inside her skull. Omonigho knew her condition usually worsened at this time of year. It was raining season, and the powers within her grew as the rains fell. Tonight, she had gone to bed wearing many clothes. She had even worn the oversized cardigan her mum had given her for her sixteenth birthday. Yet the chill seeped into her bones, defying the warmth of her many clothes. It felt as though she were naked on a cold harmattan morning. She could hear the rattle of her teeth as they shook to the rhythm of the chill she felt deep inside. The voices called to her again and again. The humming rang clearer and faster. There was something seductive about it; something alluring.
Omonigho had been carrying this burden since she was seven. She had dreamt of a tall beautiful lady in white, under a vast sea. She had even been given a room adorned with jewelries and embroideries, too beautiful to describe. In her dream world, she was a princess; a very favoured one. The Queen had told her that she was privileged to have been chosen among the maidens of her lineage. That dream had been several years ago. When she woke up, she had told her mum about it, but her mum had looked at her with dishonest eyes and told her it was just a dream. Over the years however, Omonigho had come to realise that her dream state was not just a figment of her imagination. In fact, there were times the dream world felt more real than her ordinary world. She had long since come to accept the voices and the dreams as part of her existence.
The voices continued humming inside her head, driving her to ecstasy. Omonigho tried to resist. She knew what would happen once she gave in. She knew she’d be back at her room under the sea, where the Queen sat with reddish eyes, where a mighty serpent kept eternal watch over the ancient book of names and secrets. She needed to fight. She wanted her freedom. She didn’t want to go to that place of fear and extreme obedience, at least not tonight. She clutched her pillows in a strangling embrace. But before she knew it, she was carried into the darkness, into layers and layers of waters.
Back in her bedroom, Omonigho rolled unconsciously from her bed onto the floor, her limbs parting and closing as though she were swimming in an imaginary pool of water…
Dawn arrived late the following morning. Mama Omonigho, as she was fondly called by her neighbours, woke up late as well. But she was yet to know. She sat up on her bed and waited for the familiar chime that would signal the early hours of dawn. But the old clock hanging on the opposite wall was silent. Mama Omonigho peered at it from her position, trying to make out the tiny frail hands of the aged thing. But she was unable to see clearly enough. Rays of dawn were yet to illuminate her cluttered room, and she didn’t want to make the walk across her room unless she could see a little through the darkness. The lantern that she had kept beside her bed the previous day had gone out, in its thirst for kerosene. Thinking she was probably up too early because of the intense cold and rain of the previous night, Mama Omonigho lay down again. Unknown to her, the old clock hadn’t chimed all through the night. It had died noiselessly at midnight.
The rays flooding the room woke Mama Omonigho up. She had dozed off. She jumped up from her bed and instinctively glanced at the clock. “Twelve O’ clock?” She muttered to herself in disbelief. She rushed to the window, drew the weary curtains aside and studied the skies. “Oh God”, she said again and again. “Oh God, we’re late.” It was Ewatto market day and she was already supposed to be in the market at this hour. She rushed out of the room. Then she came back, gave the old clock a good shove and went back out. In the silence, the clock came alive and began chiming all the hours it had missed.
Omonigho was fuming. She sat on her small throne, inside the chamber of the Queen mother under the sea. The woman wanted her to lead the other girls on a mission that promised to be dangerous. Omonigho was having none of it. How could the Queen mother ask her to go on a mission inside a church again? She hated churches and she didn’t like going into them. She had already been to several churches and successfully brought down many men and women of God. Their names were now successfully written in blood on the pages of the ancient book. But each time she went inside a church, something changed within her. It was not a feeling she could describe. The Queen mother should know better than asking her to risk her life continuously in this manner.
“You’ll do as I say”, the Queen mother bellowed. Her voice rang out like thunder all over the ocean floor. “How dare you question my authority?” Her eyes blazed fire, and the ancient serpent curled and uncurled, sensing the Queen mother’s discomfort. The Queen mother knew her little princess was stubborn. But she also knew she could not punish her even if she wanted to. She was a rare child, with all the qualities of destruction etched into her destiny. She had single handedly accomplished many more missions than all her other maids put together. Her position was not just bestowed; it had been written in the sacred books many years before she was born. She was a maid with ‘extra grace’. So she could misbehave a little now and then, knowing she could get away with it. The Queen mother let her temper recede. “Don’t worry my princess. You’ll be safe. I’ll make sure of it”.
Omonigho kept quiet. She didn’t like it when the Queen mother read her mind. She always did it. It annoyed her. She knew the time of cleansing would soon begin – the time the box that only she could open would be brought to her. Then the missions will begin in the seven regions, and the blood will begin to flow in preparations for the big feast. Deep down, she hated these moments. It was as though a part of her wanted none of it. She felt the eyes of the Queen mother on her and she raised her head. The Queen mother had been reading her mind yet again.
Mama Omonigho rushed into her daughter’s room. “Omonigho! Omonigho!” Her daughter lay on the floor of the room, as still as a corpse. The harsh words she had wanted to spew on her daughter for not waking up early enough on a market day screeched to a halt inside her throat. She knelt beside her and shook her gently from side to side. “Omonigho?” She shook her with a little more force. “Omonigho?” Her voice had gone up a notch. “Hei! Osenobulua ooo. Not again. Not again oooo. Omonigho! Wake up ooo, wowo. Heo!” Even as she wailed, her mind went back to the circumstances surrounding Omonigho’s birth; circumstances that none fully understood, circumstances best forgotten.
Omonigho bore the third giant pot of hot water on outstretched palms as she glided towards Agbor junction with three maids from her court following closely behind. She had decided to delay her mission to the church till last. In the meantime, she needed to make sure she performed her sacred duties before the feast. They had already made stops at the junctions in Ogwa and Ebelle. Agbor was the final stop. Omonigho moved past the swarming crowds of people; people without sight. Many of the children of the world were without sight; they had eyes but they couldn’t see beyond their noses. She recalled that these preparations used to be done at midnight, when everyone was fast asleep. But because of the way church members went to those junctions en masse at midnight to pray, many of their activities had been hindered in the past. So the Queen mother had decided that preparations would henceforth be done in broad daylight, when many persons were most likely not praying.
Omonigho got to the junction and glided down at the very center of the express way. Her maids took their respective positions, as alert as they could be. She set down the giant pot of hot water and watched it dissolve into the asphalt. Then she said the final words and made the signal to depart. In the next few weeks, these buried pots would be the altars from which the realm of the underworld would summon souls into their kingdom. In the ordinary realm, cars drove past as usual, and human beings moved about with indifference, oblivious of what was happening before their very eyes.
Mama Omonigho was hysterical. She wailed helplessly as the doctor tried to rouse her daughter from her deep slumber. It was already midday of the second day, and Omonigho was still fast asleep. She had abandoned all thoughts of going to the market as soon as it dawned on her that there was something unusual about this particular episode. She knew that Omonigho occasionally came in and out of consciousness, a mystery she never fully understood. But each episode never lasted more than fifteen minutes. She had finally alerted her neighbours when it was getting close to an hour and her daughter still showed no signs of coming round. That was how they had landed in the hospital in the evening of the previous day. Mama Omonigho had thought her daughter would die this time. She had had to get help.
“Mama,” the doctor began. “Your daughter is fine. Her vital signs are normal; her pulse is strong and stable. Her heartbeats are firm and regular as well. I’ve checked everything I should. There seems to be nothing wrong here mama. This situation is truly mysterious.” The doctor wrote something else in his pad and asked the next question. “What happened to her mama?”
Mama Omonigho looked at the doctor and began narrating her story.
Somewhere else, Omonigho was being prepared for her mission to a Catholic Church in Sapele. She and her seven maids stood still as the Queen mother summoned a fallen angel into their realm. Fallen angels were summoned for missions with high priority and maximum risk. The Queen mother only controlled the realm of shadows, dreams, serpents and mermaids. At the higher plane, principalities and powers of various ranks reigned supreme. These were governed by legions and legions of fallen angels. They controlled all the seats of wickedness in the high places.
The fallen angel stood tall and huge. His presence significantly dwarfed even the regal majesty of the Queen mother. He looked angry and impatient. Without saying a word, he raised his hands and conjured a corn-like object from nothingness. He handed this to the Queen mother and departed in a hurry. It was as though he was never there.
The Queen mother stretched out the corn-like object toward Omonigho. “Take my princess. Eat of the bose and become unstoppable. Eat, and march to victory. Eat and vanquish the foe. Eat my princess. Eat!”
Omonigho took the corn and consumed it. She could feel the powers grow within her as soon as she tasted it. Then she walked to the ancient sanctum. The mighty serpent moved aside, revealing the ancient hole. Omonigho stepped into the hole and lifted the book that none could carry. She opened it and read the portion that contained words none could read; words more ancient than time; words that aligned times and seasons. She closed it and took off, her maids following closely behind.
On her throne, the Queen mother sat in majesty, eyes blazing with pride. Her throne was bathed in the glow that emanated from the one inscription at its topmost point ‘EKANS’, which was the inverted spelling of SNAKE.
As Omonigho made her way to Sapele that afternoon, her mind kept drifting to the reason she hated churches. Because of her extreme beauty, many men were irresistibly drawn to her. As she grew up, she had come to discover that men of God were drawn to her the most. They always wanted to be close to her for a reason she could not understand. It was much later that the Queen mother had told her that she had been born with ‘the eye’. She had further explained that the eye was reserved for the most privileged of princesses. Princesses with the eye only needed to glance at men, and they became enveloped in lust. Seduction was one power they wielded with utmost expertise and accuracy.
Omonigho had grown to love her powers. With time, she came to realise that she had serpents attached to her body. These serpents always led her to all the places the Queen mother wanted her to go, including churches. She was so powerful, she usually went alone. Her missions were also simple – initiate young girls, seduce men of God and scatter their flock. She usually did. Soon afterwards, these ladies, as well as the men of God would come to their water kingdom without knowing exactly why they had come, and their names would be entered into the ancient book of secrets for constant manipulation and oppression.
Omonigho felt the Catholic Church before she saw it in the distance. The force coming out of the building disrupted her thoughts. It had taken about ten seconds to make the journey from the ocean floor to the Church. She glided closer to the entrance and paused. Her seven maids waited silently behind her, waiting for her cue. Omonigho had never been inside a Catholic Church before. The Queen mother had a different mission for her this time – sow the seed of discord. It was a simple enough mission. All she needed to do was go in, drop the seed of discord at the middle of the Church and depart. Omonigho surveyed the surroundings and made the decision to enter the Church from the roof; a big mistake.
The Queen mother watched the progress of her maids from where she sat on her throne. This was one mission she wanted more than all the others put together. She wanted this particular Church brought down. The sheer force of the warfare coming from that point in the universe was engendering the highest of confusions in her seven realms. She had tried severally to focus on the activities within the Church and failed. This was why she had had to send her most trusted princess on this mission. Discord was the only thing that could weaken the warfare. It had to be done. She saw Omonigho ascend to the roof, with her maids following close by. She held her breath at that moment, pleading to all the high powers to favour their mission.
Mama Omonigho rushed into the Church compound at exactly 3 pm. She looked at the signboard in front of the Church in order to make sure it was St. Michael the Archangel Catholic Church. One young boy came towards them. He looked at her, at the seeming lifeless girl she carried, and rushed back from whence he came. No one needed tell him the urgency of their situation. Mama Omonigho sat down on the ground at the vast compound of the Catholic Church. She was like a mad woman with a dead child. Her hair was disheveled. Her wrapper had long since lost bearing. She has even forgotten her slippers inside the cab that had brought them from the hospital. She gazed into the heavens and cursed the day Omonigho’s father had dedicated her poor daughter to the family goddess. Back at the hospital, one of the nurses had approached her as soon as the doctor left the room. “Madam,” the nurse said, looking at her with sad eyes. “You need to carry you pikin comot for hospital o. Wetin dey do am nor be ordinary at all. I beg, carry am go Church. I go show you one Catholic Church wey near here well well.” That was how they had been discharged. Now, here she was, sitting on the ground completely exhausted. She shifted her gaze to the closed eyes of her unconscious daughter, waiting anxiously for someone to come to their rescue.
Omonigho glided down from the roof. There was dead silence within the Church. One could hear a pin drop. The silence was deafening. Omonigho looked straight ahead at what seemed like the altar of the Church. Her gaze met a peculiar object. She couldn’t remove her eyes from the shiny star-like object that was seated at the middle of the long altar. There was something inside the object; something whitish. She couldn’t tell what it was. One moment she was gliding, and the next she had crashed down at the center of the Church. Even on the ground, she kept looking at the object. It was as though the thing within the object was calling out to her. She tried to move closer but couldn’t. It was as though she was bound in invisible chains. She felt utterly powerless. Deep within, she knew she was doomed.
Omonigho looked around and saw that no one had noticed her presence. People knelt down inside the church. They were motionless, with eyes lifted toward the same object that had so silently called out to her. Maybe it was a kind of charm; something that gave them power. She tried again to get up, but she couldn’t. She was worried and scared. What about her maidens? She was supposed to give them the cue to move in. Omonigho closed her eyes. This was like a bad dream she couldn’t wake up from. She pushed all her powers to her arms and made the sign. She knew the maidens were not supposed to come in just yet. But she needed all the help she could get. She didn’t even know if the sign had worked.
Nothing prepared the maidens for the situation they met within the Church. They crashed straight down as soon as they made entrance. It was as though their powers refused to come into the Church with them. They lay there on the floor with Omonigho, their gaze drawn to the shiny object in the distance, their mission totally forgotten. Omonigho had never felt so alone in her life. Well, at least now she knew the other maidens had heard her sign…
Fr. Esene came out of the rectory with a frown on his face. He had not properly understood the little boy that came running to him with an absurd tale. Why would a woman bring a corpse to the Church? She wasn’t expecting him to raise the dead now, was she? She might have mistaken the Church for the Catholic hospital which was a few blocks away. That was where the morgue was located.
“Please sir! Help me. Help me o!” Mama Omonigho wailed as soon as the man in white came close enough to hear her. “Please save my daughter. Please.” The tears dropped freely down her cheeks.
“Easy ma’am. What’s wrong with her?” Fr. Esene looked closely at the woman and the girl lying face-up across her knees. They didn’t seem to notice the heat of the sun at all. The girl wasn’t dead as he had feared. He could see her chest heaving up and down. Maybe she was unconscious.
“Sir I don’t know o. She has been like this since yesterday…”
“Since yesterday? Fr. Esene exclaimed. “Did she fall down or something? Have you been to the hospital?”
Mama Omonigho kept sobbing. “They told me to come here sir. They said it’s a spiritual problem o. Heo! Please help me o. She’s my only child. Heo, Okosun o! I am finished.”
Fr. Esene looked at the young girl once again. She wasn’t moving at all. He turned toward the boy who was looking at them from a safe distance. “Harry, go into the sacristy and get a red stole. Bring a bottle of Holy water as well. Hurry!”
Harry couldn’t mask his excitement as he ran to get the items. Father was about to raise the dead in his presence. He wasn’t going to miss it for the world.
The Queen mother summoned the fallen angel again. Her maids were in deep trouble. If she had been able to see through the thick wall blocking the Church she would have known enough not to send them there at this hour. The fallen angel came into her chambers as quietly as he had left it moments ago. He made a sweeping motion with his hands and kept still. After a while he did it again. Then again. The Queen mother was bemused. She had never seen Reficul repeat motions before. This was more serious than she thought. After the fourth trial, Reficul looked at her. Then he went toward the big serpent. It uncurled and moved away from the pit. He looked down at the pit, nodded at the Queen mother and he dissolved into thin air. The Queen mother went over to the hole. Sure enough, her maids were all in there, momentarily dead to the realm of humans and of the spirits…
Omonigho felt the cold again. She was standing on a tall mountain overlooking desolate plains. It was dark; probably late in the evening, or was it early in the morning? She wasn’t sure. Gusts of wind tugged at the tiny piece of clothing she wore. She couldn’t tell if it was a dress or a cloak. She wasn’t seeing straight. But she wrapped her arms around herself in an attempt to limit the effect of the cold. Then she saw them. They were lined up in a single file, all the way down to the horizon, as far as the eye could see. In the midst of that multitude, she felt totally alone.
Omonigho turned away from the mountain and broke into a run. She knew these men. These were the same men that took her night after night. She had been with them as far back as she could remember. They were the reason the Queen mother had told her she couldn’t ever marry. In a way, she was married to them. It was a covenant she didn’t remember entering into. As she ran, the men followed her. They were tall and muscular; completely naked. They seemed to fly across the air straight at her. She increased her pace; running through the ruins as far as her legs could take her. Blisters formed beneath her feet as they brushed over the rough-hewed surfaces of stones and rocks. But she felt nothing. No pain; just an overwhelming sense of emptiness. She could see light ahead. She continued running, hoping to get to the light before the men caught up with her…
“Let God arise, let His foes be scattered. Let those who hate Him flee away. Let them melt like wax in fire…“ Fr. Esene kept reciting palm 68 in a booming voice. He knew exactly what he was doing. Cases like these always came to them. It hadn’t taken too long to notice that the young lady was probably oppressed by marine and serpentine spirits. When he began sprinkling holy water on her, she erupted into the most indescribable twists and gyrations he’d ever seen any human person perform. He had to stop after a while. He didn’t want the young lady injuring herself fatally on the altar rails. They were before the tabernacle inside the Church, and the young lady had been lying just close to the railing.
Fr. Esene looked at the girl’s mother who had taken many paces back from the sanctuary. From the look on her face he could tell she couldn’t believe what she was witnessing. He waited some moments. Then he continued the prayers, “By the authority of God most high, through the passion of Jesus Christ on the cross, by the power of the Holy Spirit, I command ye marine and serpentine spirits, BEGONE!” The girl began gyrating again…
Harry watched as the scene unfolded before him. True enough, Father had raised the dead. True enough…
Omonigho had left the men behind. She wasn’t sure she outran them. It was as though they had suddenly withdrawn of their own volition, as though they saw no reasons in continuing the chase. But she could not get to the light. The faster she ran, the faster it receded from her. She increased her pace repeatedly. And just as she felt she was close enough to the light, floods of water rushed in upon her and carried her off in its waves…
The Queen mother watched as her princess was being swept away in the floods. Her spirit body would heal with the waters. Then she would return, and with her the other maidens. For the first time she had to admit that the mission had been a bad idea. But this was not the time for regrets. The battle was only just beginning…
Omonigho opened her eyes inside the hole. She couldn’t tell how long she had been there. One moment she was being swept away by strong currents, the next she was in here? She felt pain for the first time; hot searing pain. The heat jarred her into total consciousness. The other maidens were all inside the hole with her. Recollection came slowly. Wasn’t this hole supposed to be a sanctuary, a refuge? Why then was it so hot? This was where they came to regain strength whenever missions failed. The ancient hole had protective and healing powers. One was supposed to be untouchable in here. Then she heard voices. Voices? How was that even possible? At first they seemed far away, then the sounds came loudly inside her head. Or was it her mind? The voices increased her discomfort. What was happening to her? Omonigho struggled to get out of the sanctuary. She needed to get out, or she’d die. As she lifted her head, she caught the steady gaze of the Queen Mother. For the first time in her life Omonigho could have sworn the Queen mother seemed unsure of herself.
“God the Father commands you, God the Son commands you, God the Holy Spirit commands you, the blood of the Martyrs command you… “Nothing prepared Fr. Esene for what happened next. The young lady who had been still for sometime suddenly jumped up and took to her heels. The movement had been so unexpected that no one moved for another second.
“Come back o! Come back. Father is not done o.” Harry was the first to recover from the shock. He ran after the fleeing young lady. He was surprised that she would run out like that. Wasn’t she supposed to wake up calmly and thank Father for bringing her back to life? Harry was amused. The young lady was running in the wrong direction.
Mama Omonigho jumped into action almost simultaneously. She ran after the young boy. She couldn’t understand what it all meant. But they were heading somewhere and she wanted her daughter back inside the Church. She wanted this thing completed, whatever that meant. She could hardly quantify her relief that her daughter was awake, let alone up and running.
Fr. Esene took a break from his prayers. He took out his handkerchief and wiped perspiration off his face. It was good that the young lady was awake. Now he would need to speak to her. Getting her to renounce her other life would not be easy; it never was. Whatever would happen next would largely depend on whether she was willing to let go of that other world. When it came to matters of deliverance, free will was important. He knew that from experience.
Somewhere else, the Queen mother watched in amazement as her princess was sucked out forcibly from her sanctuary. That had never happened before. Strange things were happening under her watch. Strange things! She could tell higher forces were at play. She immediately put her arms together and began the ritual that would bring her princess back to her…
Many days had passed since Omonigho was taken to the Church. She couldn’t quite explain what had happened to her there, and why her mother had taken her to a church in the first place. But she knew that the experience had changed everything. Everything! Now she was standing in front of St Michael the Archangel Catholic Church not knowing exactly why she had come. There was something mysterious about these Catholic Churches. Something she could not fathom. So maybe she was here to find answers. Maybe she was here to take a better look at the shiny star-like object with a white center. Maybe she wanted to know why she could not perform her mission within a Catholic Church. She needed to know. And she needed to see that man again. The man of God that had been able to pull her out of the sanctuary of the Queen mother. The Queen mother had warned her against coming here. But she knew she had to disobey.
“Excuse me o. But were you not the girl that ran away the other day?” Harry had been watching the young lady from a distance. He had given her sometime to wander around inside the compound before making his appearance. “I thought you’d never come back. But Father said you would. He was right.”
Omonigho was silent. She looked at the boy and smiled. She couldn’t help smiling since the boy was grinning so much. He was probably her age mate. Fifteen? Sixteen at most. But he was certainly not as dark skinned as she was. He had chubby cheeks like one of those very rich children she often saw around. Why was he smiling at her like that? Omonigho looked down at the worn-out slippers on her feet. She then lifted her gaze to her dusty legs and the rumpled dark plaited skirt she wore. Or was he laughing at her faded yellow t-shirt? Whatever it was, she could tell he didn’t mean it in a bad way. There was no air of superiority in the manner the boy presented himself. And his smile was welcoming after all.
“You don’t talk much, do you?” I am Harry Abulu. I just finished minor seminary, and am now on holidays. This is my home parish.” Harry stretched out his hand for a handshake. “Do you live here in Ekpoma?”
Omonigho’s smile widened as she took the boy’s outstretched hand. He was doing like one Oyibo person. She didn’t know which question to answer first. And she had no idea what a minor seminary was; she didn’t intend to ask either. They hadn’t talked much the last time. She had not been in any condition to speak to anyone then. She had been so angry. Angry at her mom, at the man of God wearing white, and at this very boy for trying to convince her to go back into the Church. Things hadn’t gone so well that last time. In the end, the man of God had had to let her go with her mother.
“So? Are you going to talk or just hold my hand?” Harry withdrew his hand and folded his arms across his chest as though he had all the time in the world.
“Omonigho Okokhere is my name. I was wondering if I could know more about this Church. And maybe I could also meet the man of God that was praying for me the other day?”
“Of course. Of course.” Harry checked the wrist watch on his left arm. “It’s just 10 ‘o’clock. Father is in the office. Please follow me.” He turned swiftly and led the way.
Omonigho followed at a distance.
The Queen mother kept monitoring her princess with her mirror-like globe. Why was her princess so stubborn? She had told her not to go back to the Church. She had been very clear about that. Yet she had gone there? The Queen mother summoned some maidens and sent them to the Church compound. They needed to keep an eye on her princess. But they would go in their human forms this time. She wasn’t taking any risks. Her princess was playing with what she had no idea about. Worse still, she might stumble on the truth about the Creator. That was not to happen. She couldn’t let that happen.
Omonigho had been telling Fr. Esene her story. She hadn’t wanted to say anything at first, but the man seemed to know about her other world so well. Besides, this was the first time she had ever been able to talk to someone else freely about herself. With this man of God, it wasn’t as difficult as she had thought it would be. He easily believed her story.
“So what about your Father,” Fr. Esene asked. “Did you try telling him about your dreams and the voices?”
Omonigho looked at her hands. The office was silent yet she could hear voices. They were here. She could tell. The other maidens were here. They were yelling at her, discouraging her from telling the priest anymore of her story. “My dad died before I was seven. That’s what my mum told me. But it seems she knows things I don’t. I stopped talking to her because she pretended I was normal.” The yelling inside her head was becoming a roar.
Fr. Esene looked at the child, noticing her discomfort. She shook her head from side to side as though trying to ward off some invisible forces. “Would you like me to introduce you to the person of Jesus Christ?” He asked her in a gentle voice.
“No!” Omonigho roared. She jumped up from the chair and moved towards the door. “Don’t come near me. Don’t please. Don’t…”
Mama Omonigho heard screams. She jumped out of her bed and made for Omonigho’s room, knocking over a few objects in the darkness. Not again! Her mind chided her. Not again. These screams had become frequent since her daughter started going to the Catholic Church. She couldn’t tell if it meant things were getting better or worse. She had to admit that for weeks now Omonigho had not gone into intermittent unconsciousness as she used to do. So maybe she was getting better after all. But she couldn’t explain the constant nightmares, and the long reddish streaks that usually appeared all over her daughter’s skin each time. The most frustrating thing was that Omonigho refused to talk to her whenever she asked her about the screams and marks.
Mama Omonigho was scared. She didn’t want her daughter to die the way her husband had died many years ago. She couldn’t wait any longer. She’d have to go to the man of God and tell him all she knew. Every other avenue had failed. Time was running out.
Omonigho was sprawled on the floor. Once again, she had rolled off her bed. Her face contorted in intense pain. “Omonigho!” Mama Omonigho shook her daughter gently as she called her name. “Omonigho, please wake up.” She shook her daughter again. The young lady rolled onto her right side. Then she drew in her knees to her chest like a baby and opened her eyes. “Omonigho, what’s wrong? You were screaming in your sleep.”
Omonigho sat up on the floor. She was so cold. She looked at her mother as the tears spilled down her cheeks. “Mama! I am tired. They want to kill me. Mama they want to kill me.” Omonigho still felt the sting of the slap the Queen mother had given her. She had thought she’d go blind. She had been trying to understand it all. She had questioned the Queen mother. She wanted to know why she felt pain when the man of God prayed. She wanted to know if there were powers greater than theirs. She wanted to know why their realm could not withstand this new power. But instead of answers, she kept receiving the beating of her life each night for disobeying the Queen mother.
“No one will kill you my baby. Heo! No one will kill you. God forbid! I won’t let that happen. I won’t. God forbid! Osenobulua!” Mama Omonigho held her daughter close to her breast, refusing to let go.
As her mother wrapped her up in a tight embrace, the anger rose within her. Omonigho made up her mind right then to tell the priest everything she knew. Everything!
Fr. Esene sat on his desk in silence. He listened with patience as Mama Omonigho and her daughter recounted secrets they had hidden from each other for many years. He knew Mama Omonigho was very shocked at many of the things her daughter said. For instance, she hadn’t known it was Omonigho who had struck the death blow to her father for refusing to sacrifice more members of his family. Omonigho on the other hand was surprised to hear that her father had dedicated her to the altar of the serpents as soon as she was born. He had been the chief messenger of the marine and serpentine realms. That was why all those that had issues with her had died mysterious deaths. That was why she had nightmares and heard voices… Fr. Esene continued to listen in patience and in silence.
Mama Omonigho looked up in tears. This was becoming too much for her. She still remembered how they would all dress up in white clothes and go to the river every fortnight to do the dance and appease the goddess. She had stopped the ritual after her husband died. She had even stopped performing the sacrifices since then. But she hadn’t imagined that her daughter would turn out this way. She had thought the thing her father did to her would pass after his death. She had been wrong. She didn’t even know her daughter; the destinies she had destroyed; the young ladies she had initiated; the young men she had slept with and contaminated with serpentine spirits of destruction. She could not take it anymore.
Omonigho kept a straight face as she narrated her story. She knew her mother was devastated. But she didn’t care. She had had to carry her cross alone. She had wanted to share with her mother when it all started. But she had never taken her seriously. Well, she no longer had anything to lose. She was going to die either way. She had disobeyed the Queen mother yet again by coming here. And she had even made matters worse by revealing most of her secrets. They were definitely going to kill her now. She was sure of it. So it was better to die disobeying the Queen mother. She was tired of being pushed around like a slave. She was tired of being told what to do. She wanted to do something out of her own free will this time. She was tired of ruining other people’s lives. She was done.
“Are you willing to give it all up?” Fr. Esene asked mother and daughter when they were done talking. “Are you ready to be delivered from the kingdom of darkness? Do you want to encounter God in a most powerful way? Do you believe that He can save you and offer you protection from the Queen mother, and from her marine and serpentine spirits?”
Omonigho nodded. She was ready. She had nothing more to lose. She knew the Queen mother was so afraid of this Church. She knew the shiny star-like object would protect her. She just had to try. She had no choice.
Mama Omonigho looked at her daughter. Then she nodded as well. They were in this together. She was willing to take the risk. She didn’t want anyone coming after her because of her daughter.
As Fr. Esene took mother and daughter to the chapel, he knew that the battle was only just starting. He knew that the following weeks would strongly challenge the decision they had now made. But for now, it sufficed that they were willing to take the initial steps. He trusted God to provide them the enabling grace for the challenges ahead…
Unknown to her, Omonigho was dedicated to a water goddess at infancy. She could see and hear what others couldn't. She was a beauty; one of her kind - princess of the serpents and daughter to the Queen mother. She could wreak havoc with a gaze and draw the souls of men with a flick of her fingers. Oceans and seas were her abode till a mission failed. Another home now beckoned to her. Against the will of the Queen mother, she knew she had to seek higher powers...