I was not hypnotized but I felt transfixed by the whole drama. Something told me not to join their prayers so I just bowed my head without saying any words. I do not recall for how long we were there but it seemed long enough to make me impatient and I was eager to continue my journey. Without realising it, I started to tap my foot impatiently and since we all linked hands, I was swinging our arms. The fat lady jerked her hand so suddenly that it hurt me and I turned to look at her from under my lashes and she gave me a hard stare. Something was definitely not right and I thought I had done something wrong although I had no idea what it could be.
After the lengthy prayer, I took a step back while the ‘man of God’ continued to talk. He was probably giving advice but I was not interested so I paid no attention. I suddenly remembered why I had left home and abandoned my business: to find my mother with hopes of a better life. But here I was in the bush with total strangers whose vibes were dark and dangerous. It was while I pretended to be listening that I remembered that one of my customers had mentioned something that sounded exactly like this and he had even explained in detail. I was not in a daze but something seemed to have switched off in my head for a while. Thankfully, NEPA had restored power back in my head and I booted, thinking of a plan to escape without releasing a dime to them as I realised where the story was ultimately heading.
Suddenly I fell on the floor writhing with seizures and convulsions and the ‘man of God’s’ story quickly changed into a prayer to deliver me from the epileptic spirit that plagued me. I rolled around trying to secure my purse while he casted and bound the spirit within me and just as suddenly, I lay still; panting intermittently. I had somehow managed to secure the purse tightly to my wrist because it contained all my savings and to lose it was to go back to square one. I opened my eyes slowly where I lay in the sand and I saw them all looking at me, disappointment plainly written on their faces. I knew I had gotten them or at least I hoped so. I have not lived in Lagos all these years without learning anything!
“Sorry my dear”, said the front passenger stretching out his hand to help me up. He appeared to be the kindest among them. I nodded giving the impression that I was weak and talking was difficult.
“You should lift her up gently. All that tossing around weakened her”, the ‘man of God’ said sounding fatherly with concern.
The thief and the front passenger helped me sit up and then asked if I could walk. “Yes”, I whispered. As I stood up, I buckled and the men helped me sit on a wooden bench close by. The thief hissed and I apologised (although I understood his disappointment).
“So like I said, each of you will contribute what you have so that I can buy the materials needed to break the spell.”
“Okay”, they all chorused. The thief was the first to drop money and he turned his pocket out so that its lining hung like a limp tongue. After they had all contributed, they turned in my direction with some hesitation and I said in a small voice,
“I don’t have much money because I ran away from home so that my father would not marry me off to a sick old man today”, I lied. “I have very little and I would even appreciate it if you people have any job to give me so that I can get some money to take care of myself.”
“Anything you have, just contribute. Remember that the money is in dollars. Dollars”, emphasized the ‘man of God’.
“Okay”, I said. I put my hand in my purse and came up with N200. I squeezed it like the others did and threw it into the black nylon they stretched out to me.
“Man of God, I go leave this geh fo yu make yu treat am. I no cari her again”, the driver announced.
“But driver, I go pay yu complete na”, I protested. “I dey ok”.
“Then find another vehicle. I no cari yu”, he said opening the car door to bring out my bag that I left on the seat.
“Don’t worry my dear, I will treat you and you can stay here for a day or so. I will deliver you from this seizures”, the ‘man of God’ said. “Bring the carton”, he commanded.
The driver opened the boot and produced an old Peak milk carton but I could not see inside the box. He seemed in a hurry to leave now. “When should we come back?” asked the thief.
“I will call you. You can go now”, he told them.
They all got into the car and the driver zoomed off. Shortly after, a phone rang and the ‘man of God’ picked it. From his end of the conversation I gathered he was talking to either the driver or the thief who sounded angry that I had wasted their time. I heard ‘wrong passenger’ several times and I figured they were referring to me. I was thinking of a plan to leave when I heard another car coming in the distance. He quickly ended the call with,
“Make Victor bring better fo me. He don show.”
I yawned till tears came out of my eyes while my stomach growled. I had given them my money for food and I was mildly upset with myself even though I knew I did not have a choice. The man told me to take my bag inside and make myself comfortable when he saw me yawning. I was plotting in my head as I stood up from the bench. As he stood watching the road with his back turned to me, I quickly slipped around the side of the house with my bag and hid it in some bushes. I entered the shabby house and saw the remains of his half-eaten breakfast on the table. I ate the rest of the akara balls and tore a huge chunk of bread for the road and wrapped it in my scarf. I climbed out of the wooden window that was wide open, it had no netting. What made this dubious ‘prophet’ think I was going to trust a total stranger? I thought to myself. I picked my bag and set off on the trail that led out of his backyard…