I have always been afraid of lightning because it feels so close, and the accompanying sound of crackling thunder gave me terrible shivers. As a boy, I would startle and wake up to see flashes all over the room.
The clothes and hanging bags would come alive and point at me. I was sure they pointed at me because then I would wrap my arms around my face, run out of the room and hold my breath. I felt the figures that haunted me were hiding behind those clothes and bags.
My parent’s room was just across the hall, so it was easy to run in there and jump between the sheets. Mum would wake up to hold me and sing into my ears.
It became a serious problem when I turned ten and I was still frightened, I could not sleep alone at night. My sister had a room to herself because siblings are not allowed to sleep together at that age.
My parents had started locking their door, everyone felt it was best that I was left to fight my own demons.
“You are not going to continue being a coward! Get up!” Dad would bark at me, sometimes hitting me on the head. The smacking was meant to toughen me up. He did that every day till I was fifteen.
How do you toughen someone against something that was inside him? This was not a case of getting bullied or beaten in school. Once it started to rain, my heart would beat like a locomotive train, I would start hyperventilating, the sheets would quickly soak up with sweat. I practically could not visit with friends, I was an embarrassment.
My mom tried to understand, this was not a part of motherhood she had prepared for. We went to the psych hospital, the church, and deliverance centres. She died while on a trip back from the village. Some people at the church said she was not going to make heaven because her trip was about helping me get some abewo from our village witch doctor. She drove while I sat behind her in the car, it happened so fast that I only remember being dragged out of the burning car.
I moved in with my sister and her husband after father got sick. It had to be that way because I could not live in the house all alone. I was twenty-five by that time and still frightened. The pointing fingers always came even when it was not raining, I would wake up to see them all walking to my bedside and pointing.
My sister had always found it disgusting that I got preferences from our mother before she died, she thought I was just insane. She told me several times how our mother would still be alive if not for me. “That woman would have been alive till now, if not for you this demon possessed idiot! Look at your father too, all because you will never allow him to rest, he is tied to a hospital bed.”
“But Dunsi, that’s not fair. I didn’t ask to be like this, and I think Daddy is just old. It has nothing to do with me,” I replied her calmly, knowing that I had nowhere to go. The relationship between us had always been strained so moving in with them only made things worse.
The night after I visited my Dad for the last time, it rained hard and I can only remember waking up to a tight grip around my neck. I held my throat and tried to scream, my body started to cramp up as the figures closed in on me. I passed out. The next day, a call came in and we all rushed to the clinic. I still didn’t understand why my clothes had been soaked with more than the usual sweat. The doctor said he had been attacked by an unknown assailant, his hands had bruises and signs that he had struggled with his attacker. It was a private ward and the nurse on duty was known to sometimes take a nap in between shifts, I had seen her do that a number of times. The entrance to Dad’s ward directly faced out to the highway, nobody could understand why anyone would have killed him. The doctors talked with my sister while I stood at my father’s bedside, I looked down at him and suddenly he was pointing at me.
I dashed out of the ward and ran, his eyes had been exactly like those figures that show up in my room. It seemed impossible but I didn’t care to confirm, I just ran. I got back to my sister’s house to meet her husband returning from work, he saw the look on my face and just moved aside as I ran into the house. The whole house was grave silent for days, I was not going to give an explanation, Dunsi was losing sleep and stress-eating. I overheard her telling her husband that they had to push me out.
“Remember he is my brother, I am telling you he is possessed! I don’t know how he did it but my parents died because of him, I want that boy…”
“Dunsi! Will you stop this nonsense! Are you accusing your brother? He is just troubled, why not focus on the burial plans ehn?” he was agitated. Dayo had always been nice to me but then, no one could come close to my mother.
It was June again and the rains were heavy in the sky, I knew it would rain again soon. The first rain had closed a chapter of my story, Father was at the morgue, I had not been there with Dunsi on any of her visits. I knew she hated to see me around her, the way she avoided me was even worse than the darkness I felt closing in on me.
The house we lived in was a detached building with a small compound, the gate was built such that no one could see anything from the other side. Dayo had earlier stocked the generator house with twenty-five-litre petroleum kegs, the power supply was typically unreliable so we spent more on petroleum and storing some was just normal. At night the gate was usually locked from inside, the entrance also had burglary-proof metal doors which were locked from inside.
The generator house was just a few yards away from the rear kitchen door where the gas connection was. The rain started as a drizzle, my heart started to race, I turned and tossed in my sleep. The room was suddenly glowing bright yellow, my lungs filled up with smoke, the thunder crackled and I could see the figures clearly. They all pointed at me. The faces were all familiar, they had pulled back their hoods and they kept coming at me.
The fire had raged all night, someone passing by the street had seen the smoke and flames. They hit our gate for a long time and realized no one could come out to open up. The men finally gained access and I was told they found my room locked from inside, the firemen had to pull it down, drag me off my bed and out to the streets. No one else came out of the house alive.