The sun crawled slowly across the sky like a sulking child who didn’t want to go to bed. From the western horizon it peered at the three friends sitting on a bench in front of a house who were deep in their own world, laughing at jokes and making fun of each other.
“No, no, guys listen. I have a date seriously. Why is that so hard for you to believe?” Nonso, the smallest among the three quipped.
“You have a date?” Igwe asked, stretching his tall frame.
“Haha, Nonso let us hear word abeg.”
Ebube was struggling to contain his amusement.
“I’m dating someone, you fools.”
“You’re dating someone? Is she calendar?” Igwe asked before he and Ebube burst out laughing.
“Very stupid guys.”
Nonso couldn’t help smiling despite himself.
“Guy, date calendar nah,” Ebube suggested.
“You’re just a fool,” Nonso mouthed, “an ewu.”
Igwe and Ebube laughed some more while they watched two men approach them from across the street. The men strode up to them, purpose behind every footfall. Igwe’s laughter died in his throat as he espied them wearily. It was Sunday evening and he knew what they were coming for.
“Nwanne, good evening,” one of them greeted.
His beard was bushy around his mouth and he looked like the self-appointed speaker among the two because the other one who was lanky as a broomstick fell in line behind him.
Igwe grunted in response. Ebube didn’t say a word. Nonso replied their greeting cheerfully. The bearded one stared at them unsure of how to or if to start, but continued anyway, focusing on Nonso and buoyed by his acceptance of them.
“We brought you the good news,” he began.
“I don’t think I’ll be listening,” Igwe replied before Nonso could say anything.
“What do you mean?” the broomstick-looking preacher behind the bearded one exclaimed.
It was more of a rebuke than a question.
“We won’t listen. You guys should go,” Ebube responded, his voice cold as harmattan nights.
The shock on Nonso’s face must have got hold of his tongue. He couldn’t stop staring at his friends.
“Are you rejecting the word of God?” the first speaker asked, trying desperately to keep his cool.
“We just don’t want to listen today,” Igwe replied.
“The bible says if you reject the word of God, he will also reject you,” the speaker began.
“Yes yes, can you go now?”
Ebube was visibly irritated.
“You’ll go to hell, three of you.”
“Oho, what did I tell you? All they do is preach condemnation,” Igwe remarked, “just go, we have heard.”
The preachers stalked off with righteous indignation leaving behind awkward silence.
“What did you two just do?” Nonso asked.
“Bought a first class ticket to hell,”
“It’s not funny.”
Nonso looked like he was about to launch into an unpleasant homily before Ebube broke in.
“Listen, Nonso, what if you die and it’s Allah you see at the other side?”
“It can’t be,” Nonso exclaimed.
“That’s what they also say.”
“How about Buddha? Amadioha? Sango?” Igwe added.
“Both of you are crazy.”
“Just think about it.”
Igwe saw the star fall behind his house. He had seen his room filled with blinding light which illuminated every corner of his room before he saw it fall over the hill behind their house. It had come with a buzzing sound that made everything vibrate. He wondered if anyone else had seen it as he turned to wake his brother who was sleeping in his room that night.
“Emeka,” he started saying before he stopped.
Emeka’s bed was empty except for the clothes that he wore to sleep that night. He wondered why Emeka would remove his clothes. He climbed down from his bed, it seemed there was something wrong with the clothe, like it was torn. The light which he always left on at night blinked twice before it blinked off. He stared outside through the window, there was still light in the neighbourhood.
A scratching sound came from the direction of the door, like the one rats made while he struggled to sleep. But this was longer, bigger and made with something bigger than a rat’s claws.
“Emeka,” he called.
Emeka and his stupid pranks, even this late at night. He was probably responsible for the light that had flooded the room not long ago. The scratching sound came again, closer to the door. Igwe fumbled for his torch, found it and stumbled towards the door. He tried to open it and found it was jammed. Emeka was not going to sleep in his room again, he cursed.
“Emeka!” he shouted.
“It’s the end of the world, bro.”
That was definitely Emeka’s voice.
“Are you stupid?” Igwe raged, shaking the door handle furiously, “are you ma…”
The door opened, throwing him backwards and his torchlight just glimpsed it before it rolled away from his hands as he lost his balance.
Igwe didn’t believe in demons. Okay, there was a time he believed all that shit, when all his parents had to say was “hell is real” and he would pray for days on end. But not anymore, so he was at loss on what to call the creature in the doorway as the light from the torch fell on the wall and illuminated the room. The shadow stood for a while before mimicking him.
“Are you stupid? Are you ma?”
Slowly, Igwe picked himself up and backed away from it towards the window. It was almost ten feet tall and Igwe could feel its red eyes unblinkingly sizing him up. In the little light cast by the torch he couldn’t make out much else and he very well couldn’t go to pick up his torch for a closer inspection.
“Jesus,” he whispered.
“Or Allah or Buddha. Bottom line is you didn’t make heaven.”
Igwe felt it then, as the thing took a step into his room, bending to get in, the scorching heat emanating from the body.
“God save me.”
“We are God,” the demon moved closer, each step thundering through the house.
“No no no no…”
Igwe felt the hands on him and the heat which threatened to roast him. Then he felt something else, a prick, a rigid prick. The demon held him and turned him over.
“Jiiiiisssooooooss!” Igwe screamed as he sprang awake.
His heart threatened to abandon his chest and run away. His eyes were wide as he tried to convince himself it was just a dream, a terrible nightmare. He wiped the sweat on his face before turning to the other bed in the room. It was empty and Emeka’s clothes were on it. There was something wrong with them. They looked tor…
The light went off.
Samuel Oge Thrills us with this column.