#Fiction: Deceptive Mirror
By Odesomi Olanrewaju (@lanreode)
Friday – 7:30
Aduke ran outside, arms in head, screaming. “Help me. Help me” Her retorts filled the dark night, ripping it of its innocence. “People, help me” She threw herself on the dirty ground, and rolled, the uneven, bumpy road ripping part of her top, and trouser. Her blood soaked top was now a dark shade of red as it mixed with the brown mud on the road. She stood up, jumped, as her hands trailed beside her, and her voice rang out incessantly.
Neighbours were by now coming out in their numbers. Some were alarmed, while others were simply annoyed by the disturbance. What’s wrong, they asked on seeing her on the floor, her hands beating the hardened ground.
“Where’s John, is he all right?” John was her son.
She continued wailing, and shaking, hands in head – in typical Yoruba calamity pose. She was now surrounded by concerned faces, all asking questions at the same time, as some tried to get her off the ground. Her face was streaming with tears, and her nose ran wildly with watery mucus. She managed to rid herself of their hold, and pointed to the house opposite; the house she shared with her Uncle and his wife.
They followed her insinuation, as some went towards the building; with it open gate, and shadowy interior, gingerly, cautiously. Others kept asking what the matter was. She just shook as she watched them, her gaze pensive, and faraway.
She sat there, hushed, as people whispered around her, their heads bubbling together in speculation, and fabrication. Suddenly, there was a piercing noise from inside the house – loud gasps, after hollow ones, followed by a chorus of deafening screams.
Surprised, people left her, and watched the house fearfully, as the screaming ceased. A man reminded others that some of the neighbours just entered the house and a woman in iro hyper ventilated, knowing her husband was one of those that entered.
The unusual occurrence had now turned the street into a beehive of human commotion – someone shouted for the Police to be called, as another looked to stop a bike. Many ran inside their houses, shouting at their children to get inside, and stay there.
“Uncle. Uncle. Uncle” Aduke kept murmuring, as she clutched at her soiled tank top, her head bubbling forward, and backwards monotonously, as if in a trance.
TWO DAYS EARLIER
The market as usual was humid with humanity, and greediness, the lack of patience palpable, and deafening. But even with such unlimited activities, hardly could Aduke pass a store without stares. Every now, and then, a seller would pause in the midst of cheating a customer, and glare at her, while some buyers, before telling their stories of woes and lack, would fix her with a heated gaze. She was sixteen, slight of frame, with a heavy bosom, and a face strikingly beautiful. But it wasn’t her physical glory that was demanding their attention, as their faces were not shining with envy, nor were their brows furrowed together with jealousy. In fact, they were not even contriving to hide the displeasure, drawn on their faces like tribal marks. But instead, they bore holes into her in shape of their superiority, and judgements – she was yet another young girl with a child.
She hated the never ceasing glare, and even the little time she was able to summon courage, and returned it with her own increasingly deepening pout, their glare only turned to frown. Most times though, she just looked at their feet, too ashamed to look them in the eye.
She was used to the stares, and murmurs, yet every time, a thing died in her – shredding the humane in her soul, a stare, or shake of head at a time. What they saw was the ‘useless nymph’, not the beautiful and sprightly girl she was. She slightly touched the rear of the baby on her back, sighing from the strain his weight demanded of her small spine. She felt her purse, currently hanging under her armpit, and increased her strides.
As was typical of the market, people were everywhere, all talking at the same time, trying to better everyone else, financially, and for space. She sidestepped a small huddle of water, and was almost ran over by a woman who brushed her off, and just continued walking, without even a backward glance. Her laboured movement only drew further attention.
She knew the kind of message she conveyed; she, barely more than a child, slightly built, and no more than sixteen, and already with a baby could only mean one thing – promiscuity. The real bone of contention, for those who knew her or her story was who fathered the baby. She knew people have asked, wondered, and gossiped about the father of her child. Most of her friends stopped seeing her, as their parents warned them against continuing a friendship with a girl that was not only pregnant, but also without any idea who the father of the child was.
She could barely go anywhere without whispers, and even when she decided, after she gave birth, to go back to school, she stopped after the third day when a girl told her to go and search for the father of her child instead of being in school, and later when a teacher made an example of her in the midst of a lecture.
She didn’t defend herself, as she thought they were probably right. She didn’t blame them, as she believed she could have stopped the acts. School wasn’t for her again anyway, as she was nothing but a mere squashed being.
She couldn’t tell them the truth too, as sometimes; the truth is more dangerous than facts. She had never even revealed it to her Guardians. She left school that day, and never returned. When she told her Aunt, she promised brimstone; yet, Aduke stood her ground, and was helped by her Uncle who insisted she shouldn’t be forced to do anything she didn’t want to.
Her uncle always defended her in all matters. In fact, it was he who stood by her when they discovered she was pregnant, and her Aunt wanted her out unless she revealed who was responsible, of which she remained mute. Even when her father, who stayed in the village, heard, he exploded with expletives, cursing her, and questioning her sanity when she still refused to name anyone.
Yet, her Uncle was calm, holding on to his ‘faith’ that things would come good. He had to, for the sake of his family. It was the same unshakeable faith with which he preached every Sunday in church. He stood by her when everyone else thought she didn’t deserve to crawl on the earth. His favourite argument being ‘let him without sin cast the first stone’.
If only they knew the real sin, she thought. She didn’t need the reminder that came with the stares though, as every waking hour was spent reliving the horrors of her existence, and every sleep was a ticket into the deepest, scariest echelons of her subconscious, laden with horrific disturbing imagery.
The ‘thing’ on her back was another vivid reminder of her curse, and cross, and she alternated, depending on her mood, between love, and hatred for it.
She got to a junction, with two turns, and a shop in the corner and stopped. At the other side of the shop was a man dancing, attired in some sort of rag, a rope holding together small nylons, wrapped around some brown powder, hung around his neck. He saw her looking at him, pointed at the wrappers, and asked if she wanted to buy rat poison. She bounced from one leg to another, trying to appease her wailing son, and thought about it. She decided that would be too easy, and turned away from him.
She faced the shop at the corner, where they sold farm instruments, and paused, an idea forming. An old man bumped into her, shouting for her to leave the road. She quickly moved towards the shop, and felt her purse again. The attendant, a young girl smiled at her, and asked what she wanted. She had an accent, probably from Oyo, and reminded Aduke of her younger self that arrived Lagos two years ago – eager to please, and innocent of spirit. She just wanted to check if there’s anything she might need there, she replied. The girl left the way, as Aduke entered the shop and browsed through their catalogue.
There were daggers, cut lasses, rakes, shovels, and all sizes of knives. They had ropes too – long, and thick. She stared at the rope, and scratched her brows, deep in thought. She tore her gaze from it, allowing it to wander to other stuffs in the shop. Nothing interested her again, but her eyes returned to the rope, lingered a bit there, and finally back to the dagger, and shovel. The dagger especially was the right size for her. Something she could wield easily. Perfect.
FRIDAY – 6:00PM
She watched the Choir as they practiced the songs they would sing for the programme tomorrow. Her Uncle’s church was a small church built on a half plot of land on a narrow street. He was the head pastor, loved and respected by his congregation. They all thought him a saint, with many even believing the only reason she still had a home, despite her misadventures and disgraceful acts was down to his magnanimity, and Godliness.
The building itself was uncompleted, and the walls were not yet up to the ceiling level, leaving spaces in between, from which the evening sunlight strolled in, brightening part of the church, the altar in particular. Four pillars held up the roof instead. The church was currently empty, apart from the choirs and Aduke.
Aduke was not part of them, but she needed to be there. She watched them as they argued over things she couldn’t decipher from where she sat at the back of the church. She left her son with her Aunt and left the house without a word. She needed time alone with her maker. She stood up, and with shaky legs, made her way to the altar, ignoring the stares from the choir.
She knelt below the statue of Jesus on the cross, and closed her eyes.
“Why me? What have I done? Why has your well of mercies dried up, leaving me in a desert of woes? Every Sunday, I pray for emancipation from this pain, this hurt, these demons, but yet – yet, they still mock me with their presence.”
She sighed, her eyes still closed, as a heavy silence descended over her, punctuated by the chorus of ‘God’s mercies’ coming from the choir. She sighed, and stood up. The sunlight seemed to directly beam on Jesus ‘frowning’ face, leaving everything else in a haze of shadows, as if telling her only he could save her.
She was tired, and empty. She looked up, and gazed at the ceiling as the rising crescendos of the choir reached a feverish pitch, swelling her heart. Her eyes welled. Her mates would be writing their WAEC in a month’s time, but she cared less.
He not only took her virginity, but also her zest for life. Her days were now not only filled with a dramatic indifference for everything beautiful, but as well, a disdain for anything masculine. All she wanted was to spend her days in the doldrums of her small room. She was not worthy to do anything, nor be anything. Not after what happened. No one understood, no one cared. She couldn’t tell anyone, because then, they would see her for the squashed orange she was.
No, she would not; instead, she’ll take it to her grave. And dying couldn’t be that bad a customer as they all preach, especially when one was dead inside already. She was dead already. She thought she saw the frown on the dying Jesus deepen. When her father brought her to Lagos after the death of her mother, it was here they came to meet her Uncle. He was simply dressed in a shirt, and trousers, and with a Bible in toll, welcomed them with prayers, and praise.
He promised to take care of her, ‘God willing’ as his eyes twinkled with joy. He and his wife had been trying unsuccessfully to have a child, and she was to act as one to them. His uncle smiled often, and his lanky frame and easy countenance put her at ease. That was a Friday too. He was the one that brought her to Jesus, and it was from his sermons that she learnt about the abiding glories, and powers of the angels of light. He preached about love, and Godliness, and echoed everything through tongues, while eschewing continuously, the powers of the Holy Spirit, and then some.
But he also showed her that real evil was mundane, and not an exception – the exception was light, especially in this world of shadows. Now, she knew better – evil was not just the old, wicked mother in law in fairy tales, but something close to heart, and sharing a home.
In her case, it shared a bed, and slept with her, quite literally.
Evil did not discriminate, neither did it hold punches. No, it gave a lot of itself, and demanded a lot of you. The world it seem adored the audacious, and it was with a great deal of audacity that evil visited her bed every night, forcing her to squirm in shame as it conquered her peak, and swam into her valley, probing and throbbing for release.
Evil in the form of her Pastor, and Uncle.
He raped her for months while his wife was in the same house, only stopping when her stomach began to sing a tune of the disgraceful acts. People lamented, and got carried away by the tune, yet, not one of them understood the music.
When she gave birth seven months ago, she saw the lights of lust return to his gaze, and the heat of his thrust resumed their warmth between her legs. Now, every time she saw him, conflicting emotions fight for domination in her. She was scared of him, knowing what he had done, and could still do to her. How with just a stroke, and thrust, he took her innocence, dreams, and sanity away. Yet, she wanted so bad to kill him. She wanted him to suffer, the way he made her suffer.
She wanted him to grunt with pain, the same way she did with shame. But also, she wanted to end it all – her whole miserable existence. She was just tired; tired of living, and also tired of praying for grace not to smother her own child. Jesus frowned down. He knew her thoughts.
The sun suddenly disappeared, leaving darkness in its wake. She crossed herself, turned and left the church.
FRIDAY — 7:15PM.
Demons do come in form of angels. She was now sure of that. She just found it hard believing the man she stayed with wears the crown of the Godly to hide his scalp of darkness. She went to the back of the house, took the dagger she knew was there, and made her ways indoors. She couldn’t take this no more – the lies, the deceit, and the pain of knowing, yet doing nothing. She was at the edge of her sanity, and she needed closure.
A man forcibly having canal knowledge of his own niece didn’t deserve to live, man of God, or not. She opened the door to the sitting room, and there, sitting on a cushion was the so called man of God, looking like a lamb – innocent, as he welcomed her with a smile.
Then he spotted the dagger in her hand and the smile faded, replaced by a confused look as he seemed to recognize something sinister in her poise. The fan circling above singing a monotonous tune was the only sound in the room, yet, the deafening, silent understanding between the hunted, and the hunter drowned it.
“Why” She asked, the dagger hanging loosely in her right hand.
“It’s the devil’s work” He whimpered cowardly, as his lips quivered. They both knew what she meant. The knowledge had been a silent understanding between them for some time, neither willing to open Pandora’s Box, until today.
“So, the devil made you sleep with your own niece? You, a pastor? And you better not lie to me.”
“Yes” He whispered. And she believed him – she knew humans were rarely called into action through reason, but mostly by darker forces. It was the same force that was now domiciled in her, she welcomed it even. Evil was redundant in everyone, until it arrested their attention, and occupied any available space. She stared at him, her eyes glistening with hatred, and a picture of all he had done to hurt her and decimate this family.
She sighed deeply, as she took two steps forward. He recoiled against the chair, holding on to it for dear life.
Two steps later, and half a dozen raised dagger after, blood cascaded from the carcasses of his perfidious, cowardly guts, painting her, and the carpeted floor, red with murder.
He didn’t even try to fight back. He was a coward, except for prurient matters. The wailing of the child in the next room echoed against the deathly silence in the sitting room, but it dwindled evanescently into a lull in her head. She spit on him, and wiped the smirk of blood on her nose, and left brow.
She felt nothing – no remorse at all, only a gaping hole she hoped to fill with thoughts of his death, and suffering. She watched with icy detachment as he feebly clutched at his open skull, where she had hit him first. It was now gushing with blood that escaped through his fingers, and dived into the rug on the floor as his eyes dulled.
He whimpered, and lifted his body a little before going still as life left his battered body. Yet, she felt no contentment, nothing, just finality.
She heard a surprised gasp, and turned to the doorway. Aduke leaned against the door frame as if she needed the frame to support her wimpy legs, as her eyes widened with surprise. The shaky hands that covered her mouth were doing a poor job of suppressing her bout of hiccups.
Aduke stared at her Aunt, dagger in hand, as she hovered over her dead Uncle, who was in a pool of his own blood.
“I know what happened” Her Aunt said, barely moving her lips. Aduke didn’t say anything.
“I put one and two together, and came up with a conclusion – you always seem scared in his presence, and he always changes the subject whenever we talk about the father of John. And I can’t live with it. I can’t live knowing what he did to you. I can’t live on with him as my husband knowing what he did to me also, and I can’t possibly reveal his deeds to the world either. I guess I just lost my mind.”
Aduke looked both agitated and confused now. What could he have done to her Aunt?
Her Aunt smiled sadly. “He did to me what he has been doing to you, and that’s the only reason we married.” She gave the lifeless body a stare full of contempt and hatred. “When I was about your age, and he was the youth leader at our church, he raped me too.” She made a howl that pierced deep from her lungs, and reverberated against the grey walls. “Do you know the sad thing, Aduke?”
Aduke was still as the body on the floor.
“No one believed me. Not even my own mother. The consensus was that I was the one that seduced him. Imagine.” She kept starring at the lifeless body, her mouth carved into a wry smile. She released a deep breath, and faced Aduke.
Aduke starred into her Aunts eyes, and was taken aback with what confronted her. Her Aunt’s normal dull eyes were now alive with a dark shade of brown, sunk deep into her irises, which were now transparent like a body of clear, clean water, asking you to take a peep into its soul. Aduke averted her gaze instantly, too scared of what she might find mirrored in her Aunt’s soul if she looked too much.
“It was actually funny. The bastards praised him for agreeing to marry me after it was discovered I was pregnant.” Her Aunt suddenly started laughing wildly, her hands flaring everywhere, as saliva streamed down her mouth. The laughter ceased as suddenly as it started. “I aborted the bastard.” She smiled. “and then paid the doctor to tie my wombs. That’s why we can’t have a baby, and I don’t care.” She starred at the door, and then at Aduke, her mouth quivering the whole time.
Her Aunt seemed to have not only lost her husband, but her sanity too. Aduke discovered her Aunt was staring, not at her, but at an imaginary figure behind her. She suddenly moved towards Aduke, slowly, and Aduke retreated, until the door stopped her, and she could only watch as her Aunt’s smile grew with each step. Then she hugged Aduke.
Aduke froze, and held her breath.
When her Aunt released her, she surveyed the sight again, as Aduke, with a shaky voice, asked what they would tell people.
“Lie of course.” Her aunt didn’t miss a beat. “He was murdered by a gang of criminals in a robbery attempt that went awry. You of all people should know by now that perception is greater than reality. They will believe what we tell them, especially with this sight.” Aduke nodded.
“You were planning on killing him, weren’t you?” Her Aunt asked, still smiling. There was silence. “I know you wanted to. You bought this dagger, didn’t you?” More silence. Her Uncle seemed to have created two monsters; while Aduke was turned into a self-depreciating, suicidal young girl, her Aunt has transformed, obviously not overnight, into a new kind of monster – an unfeeling one who could murder in cold blood, and it scared Aduke to her marrow. Both were not much different though as they were now capable of taking a life.
Her Aunt ignored her silence, and said. “Just go outside, and create a scene. I’ll do the rest.” It was only then that John’s cries permeated through to their consciousness.
Aduke turned, and left the building. She was no longer sure what was real, and what wasn’t; what was perception and what was reality. She had a baby by her Uncle and was about helping his wife get away with murdering the same Uncle.
She stepped outside, and immediately shrunk against the hallowed reverie of the night, and watched with welled eyes as the sky line twinkled down like an interlude of dancing lights. She sighed, and stepped out of their gate, a blot of blood on her tank top.