A story written by Jakemond… If you missed part 6, read it Here
Except for a few of my friends, no one knew that I was responsible for destroying Nneorji and her family, and as far as I can tell, no harm ever came to me as a result of this. With time the people of Owerri Nkworji would become enlightened, and the wooden gods, and their houses, would disappear from the town.
Meanwhile, my clairvoyant ability grew even sharper and, though it had at first seemed like a good gift, it was rather tormenting to foresee terrible events—of which the potential victims were unaware—and mostly be unable to do anything to stop them, except for a few occasions where I was able to keep myself and my siblings from harm.
I remember one time, when I was five years old, my Aunt Mercy had just gotten married, and her husband had taken her home to his village in Nnaze to spend a few days with his family, as tradition demanded. Since Aunt Mercy did not want to be alone in this strange village, she persuaded my mother to go with her. My mother agreed, and took my siblings and I with her. Nnaze was a very small village at the time, and all the houses were made of mud with thatched roofs. My aunt’s mother-in-law lived in a small three-bedroom mud house. The first few nights, my aunt and her husband slept in one bedroom, my mother and the mother-in-law slept in another room, and my siblings and I slept in the third. Since there were no beds available, we all slept on the hard floor. On the fifth night, a huge python came into the room where my siblings and I were sleeping, and lodged itself between us. We were asleep and oblivious to the danger.
My mother, though, was able to hear the hissing of the python from her room and called out, asking what the noise was. Still deep in sleep, I responded, telling her there was a python in our room trying to swallow us. My mother hurriedly woke everybody, and they eventually killed the python. I slept through all of this and only saw the dead python when I woke up the next morning. Everyone marveled as to how I could have known about the python while still asleep, but I knew better, since I understood my powers more than anyone else. They recounted to me what had transpired that night and praised me for saving the day. They also told me that it was my mother who had struck the blow that killed the snake. This was no surprise to me: I had always known that my mother was a matador when it came to snakes, while my father would run like a little girl and jump on a table, refusing to get down until the snake was killed. I was surprised and confused by my father’s reaction to snakes; he was strong and very well respected, and most people thought of him as a daredevil. I realized that every Superman has his kryptonite.
Of course, I had my own kryptonite—though it would take many years before I could see what it was.
Holidays were the best part of my schooling experience. I would always travel to Aba City, where my uncle lived. Uncle John was my mother’s elder and only brother. He was a vibrant, kind, single man and was a lot of fun to be around. Every holiday I spent with him in those days was like a Disney World experience. The two of us loved hanging out together. He had a Vespa—a fashionable motorcycle at the time—and he drove me around town. His bachelor pad of an apartment was like a dream to me, with all the modern amenities that were lacking in my village. It was always difficult returning home at the end of a vacation spent at Uncle John’s.
At the end of primary three (third grade), my parents allowed me to live with Uncle John. By this time, he had gotten married and had three children, the first of which was a few years younger than me. Within few days of being in his house, it became obvious to me that my uncle’s wife didn’t like me and didn’t want me around. She was jealous of my relationship with Uncle John, and managed to poison my uncle’s heart, turning him against me. Things changed and he began to show hatred toward me.
My uncle’s house at the time was a townhouse with a large yard and a beautiful garden. The house was located in the affluent part of the city. My uncle was a thriving architect and had about a dozen apprentices working and living in his house, of which about nine slept in the boys’ quarters while the others slept in an office on the ground floor.
One would imagine that my uncle would let me sleep in the main house with his family, or at least in the living room, but his wife convinced him to make me sleep on the bare floor of his office with strangers. Many times I complained that it wasn’t fair to let me sleep with strange adults and asked that they allow me sleep in his children’s room, or at least in the living room, which no one slept in anyway. But each time I did, he would beat me until I cried, and then he would pour pepper mixed in water on my face and lock me in a toilet for hours. This happened often because of his wife’s hatred toward me. I remember one time when I fell asleep in the living room and didn’t make my way down to my assigned sleeping place. In the middle of the night, my uncle crept up on me and violently shook me. When I didn’t wake up, he threw ice-cold water on me and flogged me with a cane, after which he forced me to go back down and sleep with the apprentices in the office. That same night, after I had fallen asleep again in the office, two of the apprentices killed a cockroach and tried to shove it into my mouth, which woke me up, startled. When I later reported the incident to my uncle, he punished me for lying, and as usual poured some peppered water on my face. This time I was briefly blinded by the pepper, and I ran into the street and got hit by a car. My injuries were serious, but not life-threatening, and the incident was never reported to my parents.
My uncle’s wife had four sisters and two brothers, and occasionally they would come to my uncle’s house, sometimes for a few hours, other times for days. The youngest of them, Okey “De Boy,” was my age. I really enjoyed having him around. He was my only friend in my uncle’s family, and whenever my uncle locked me in the toilet, he would plead on my behalf.
As time went on, my uncle’s business became even more successful. He became one of the richest men in Aba, and he bought many cars and hired more servants.
Despite my terrible ordeal living at my uncle’s house, I have a few memories that I treasure from that time, particularly of my Sunday morning walks. Every Sunday, my uncle, his wife, and my cousins would dress up in their beautiful, expensive clothes—the females in exquisitely tailored dresses with nice shoes and scarves, the boys in nicely tailored suits and lovely shoes—and drive to church in the Volkswagen and the Volvo, while I was left to walk to church alone. I would wear my short pants with a tattered shirt to church because I had no other options. I was also barefoot because my uncle and his wife didn’t think I deserved shoes. On my way to church I would stop to admire a British girl of about my age, whom I would usually find sitting on her balcony. She would look at me and smile as I passed. I would return her smile and stand there, staring at her. Finally, she would wave at me, and I would wave back before continuing on my journey.
Walking to church provided me the opportunity to take in the beauty and scenery of the city. Seen through my young eyes, Aba was very beautiful compared to my village. There were nice buildings made of glass and brick, and electricity and neon signs everywhere. Beautiful cars cruised along the streets, and there were many people in their Sunday clothes heading to their various churches.
Most important on my Sunday walks was the mechanic’s shop two blocks away from the church, which I constantly fantasized about. My naïve young mind didn’t understand that the cars in the shop belonged to other people, and that they had only brought them there to be repaired. I would stand there for a few minutes, admiring the cars and wishing that I could just go in and drive off with one of them, perhaps to show my uncle that I, too, could have a car. This delusion came to an end when my mother paid us a visit once and decided to walk to church with me. As we approached the mechanic’s shop, I stopped as usual, then started crying and refused to go any further until she bought me one of the cars. She did her best to explain the concept of mechanics’ shops. I let it go, but I was not deterred. I never gave up hope of buying my own car.
Sundays were also days of freedom for me, and I always did my best to use the opportunities they afforded me to the fullest. Most times upon my arrival in church, I would search out Okey De Boy and we would sneak out of the service and go out on the street, looking for fights and adventure. When picking fights, I tended to gravitate toward older boys, and sometimes I would even fight with a whole group. Looking back now, I think it must have been a way of releasing all the repressed anger and frustration from the constant abuse by my uncle and his wife. During these fights, De Boy would always stand aside and watch me, but whenever he saw that there were more people than I could handle alone, he would join in. At the end of every adventure, usually ten to fifteen minutes before the end of the service, we would abandon our fight and hurry back to the church, taking care to not be seen by my uncle’s or De Boy’s family.
I also had an overwhelming crush on an older girl who lived next door to my uncle’s family. Every evening I would sit on the balcony and watch her coming and going. She was always dressed to kill and had countless suitors and boyfriends who frequented her house. I never expected her to notice me or discover my crush, and she never did. She was nineteen years old and wouldn’t want to have anything to do with a child my age. She had a younger sister named Daisy, who was my age and liked me a lot, but I liked her only as a friend. Daisy and I belonged to the same neighborhood play group, and we were always paired up together. We were almost like brother and sister.
School provided yet another source of personal struggle. The main reason I had come to live with my uncle was so I could be enrolled in a reputable primary school like Santa Maria, where his children were attending. It was undoubtedly the best school in Aba at the time—not just for its excellent academic reputation, but also because of its beautiful facilities. But my uncle didn’t see fit to enroll me in the same school as his children, so I was sent to St. Michael’s Primary School, which, by all standards, was one of the worst schools in Aba. I hated it.
On several occasions I abandoned classes at St. Michael’s and went to Santa Maria just to admire its facilities and mingle with the students. Afterward, I would go in search of food, since I was never fed at home in the morning and wasn’t given lunch money like other kids. My search usually took me to the waterside, where I would follow other young boys to assist the palm wine dealers. Palm wine is a famous drink in Nigeria that comes from palm trees. It is extracted in its natural form and drunk fresh without brewing, processing, or mixing it with anything else. The palm wine sellers from the villages used bicycles to transport their wine all the way to the cities. However, just before reaching the center of town, there was a hill that always proved difficult for them to ride over, so they would hire young boys to push them up the hill for a token. I would use the few kobo coins I earned to buy lunch. I would always leave smelling like palm wine, and I would have to go to the waterside and wash myself off. I did this job almost every school day.
Once, I almost drowned at the waterside. I was washing off the wine smell as usual when some children invited me to go swimming with them, and I foolishly obliged. I didn’t know how to swim, and before long the fast-flowing river swept me off my feet. The only thing that came to mind was a wish to see my mother again. I started shouting the magic words: “The Blood of Jesus!” It was the last thing I remembered before I blacked out, and I woke up to find myself on the bank of the river. From that day on, I became afraid of water.
I needed relief from my uncle and his family, and I would beg him to allow me to spend my school vacations somewhere else, particularly with my mother’s elder sister, but he always turned me down. One particular holiday, I became dejected because, once again, I was being forced to spend a dreary vacation at my uncle’s while being made to work like a slave. But a few days into the holiday, I overheard my uncle and his driver discussing sending the driver to my aunt’s town. As the driver left, I jumped onto the back of the pickup. I hung on for many miles until the driver finally noticed me and, instead of slowing down, he accelerated. I lost my balance and fell off the truck, sustaining serious injuries. Some good Samaritans later found me on the side of the road and took me back to my uncle’s house. Instead of treating my wounds and consoling me, my uncle gave me the usual treatment. He beat me up, put pepper into my eyes, and locked me up in the toilet.
During the second term of primary four (fourth grade), I became more adventurous. I started to attend more classes and do things I couldn’t previously imagine myself doing. I became more interested in schoolwork, for a good reason: there were rumors that my school had been chosen to be featured on a National Television Authority’s children’s program in Aba City called the Children’s Variety Show. I wasn’t selected to participate—but, being a smart kid, I was able to find a way around the highly biased selection process, which tended to favor children from wealthy families.
I connived with a friend, and we both went to the television station on the scheduled day. We walked for about five miles, and when we reached the gates, we calmly told the guards that we were participants in the show, but we had arrived late at school and were left behind as a result. The guards were nice and immediately allowed us to enter. By the time we got inside, the show had already started and was broadcasting live. We joined the already seated students and, because it was a live show, nobody could do anything to stop us. I sat at the center of the group, where the camera would directly focus on me. I started waving into the camera, giving a few shout-outs to my friends and becoming a distraction to the whole event. Though I later calmed down, the damage was done. After the show, I received a lashing and caning by the presenter/teacher.
The next day, the headmistress was informed of what we did, and because she was a friend of my uncle’s, she contacted him and reported my actions. When I got home that day, my uncle flogged me and rubbed pepper all over my body, as usual, and I ended up spending the rest of the day in the toilet. Punishment notwithstanding, my TV adventure was definitely worth the trouble because I wanted all my friends to see me on television, and they did. I became bolder and more adventurous after this experience.
At some point I came to the realization that my uncle would always punish me, regardless of how I behaved, and I decided that I might as well earn the punishment. There was a train station near the house, and some days, pretending to go to school, I would get on the train and travel to Port Harcourt without paying. There, I would beg for money. Other times, I would take the train to Mbawsi, where my aunt lived with her husband and children. I loved traveling to Mbawsi because my aunt and cousins treated me well and seemed to genuinely care about me. My aunt’s youngest daughter, Mercy, was a little more than a year older than me and we got along very well. My aunt’s husband was a pastor and treated me like his son. During every visit, he would pray for me and give me money before I left their house. On the journey back to Aba, even though I had received money from strangers or my family, I would still avoid paying the fare. Whenever the conductor came to check for tickets, I would go from one coach to another. Finally, I would hide inside the train’s bathroom until the conductor was done, then return to the first coach, which he had already checked.
One day, while returning from Mbawsi, the train began to experience mechanical problems and finally broke down. The train operators couldn’t fix it on the spot and everyone was forced to sleep on the train. We were in a remote area and there was no alternative means of transportation. Around midnight, while I was asleep, some teenagers attacked me, taking all the money my aunt’s husband had given me. The next morning the train was fixed and I continued my journey home. By this time I had been declared missing in Aba and people were looking for me everywhere. When I got back to my uncle’s house, I received one of the worst beatings yet. I was peppered and locked up in the toilet for an entire day. While in the toilet, I decided that I would take revenge on my uncle and his family for all the wrong they had done to me.
I conceived of an ingenious way to carry out my revenge while reflecting on the doctrine of the Faith Tabernacle Church. I knew that my uncle was wayward in many ways, but I had to ascertain which one of our church’s revered doctrines he and his wife had violated completely. There was the doctrine prohibiting the consumption of alcohol, which he violated on a daily basis. There was also the prohibition of the use of medicine or medical treatment, which his wife also violated constantly. At about this time, my uncle’s wife had given birth to her fourth child. I rumbled through the baby ointments and found a powder she was using on the newborn baby. The label indicated that the powder contained medication. I also looked through the various brands of wines that my uncle drank, and noted that the labels on the bottles indicated the alcohol content.
Satisfied with my findings, I marched straight to the church to report these violations, taking some of the evidence with me as proof. I met with the assistant presiding elder, who….
To Be Continued…