Bro Hygi dipped his thumb in the bowl of olive oil and leant over her supine body. He traced small crosses on her forehead, lips, and cleavage; he got to her palms but they were tightly shut. He tried to pry them open but the girl clenched them even tighter.
“Aha!” Bro Hygi yelled, “See her hand. See it!” The entire prayer team paused to stare down at Emem. Somebody moved the rechargeable lantern closer and as the full glare hit her hands, the group broke into excited chatter. Both palms were clenched into ferociously tight balls and the veins stood out defiantly, intertwined around them.
The prayer warriors scattered all over the room that was deliverance arena for the night – they had found the abode of the demon. Some of them knelt in supplication, in preparation for the coming battle, the younger ones did little dances and high-fived each other with their bibles. Through the frenzy, Bro Hygi stood calmly in the centre of the circle. His large head was bent low over his chest and his legs stood slightly apart, as leader he had to stay calm. Soon he signaled and the rest of them quieted down.
Suddenly a willowy stem of a lady jumped into the centre of the circle and began swaying violently in all directions. Sister Miracle had sweated through the sheer material of the cream work shirt she had on, her tiny bra and their surprisingly generous twin occupants visibly jumped with every move. Nobody ever interrupted Bro Hygi but this one had to be an exception because he only smiled and waved her on. The spirit was moving.
“Prai-prai-prai-prrrrraaaaaaiiiiiiiiizzzzz jiiiiiizes!” Sister Miracle sang.
“Alaluyah!” they responded.
“Praaaaaaiiiiiiiiiizzzzzz da lawwdu!”
“Oya clap ya hans, ya hans!” And so began the next hour of songs and dance.
Emem was bored stiff. Literally.
Her back and buttocks felt dead against the floor, her entire arm weighed tons from the strain of clutching her palms so ferociously. That Sister Miracle had really taken her sweet time with the praise session, starting one song, working herself – and apparently every other male in the group – into a frenzy, before switching abruptly into another song. They were done with that, Bro Hygi now led the prayer session. Each time Emem sneaked a peak beneath her eyelids, she was impressed anew by their energy. They pranced, danced, flung their arms as energetically as the words left their mouths; it seemed each prayer warrior tried to outdo the next.
It was this over-zealous energy, and its stark contrast with their hypocrisy that had forced Emem into pretending to ‘fall by anointing’. Since Aunty Nkpa joined the prayer unit of the new church, her home had become a point of weekly rendezvous for the group. During each visit, Aunty Nkpa always had the prayer warriors well fed, and entertained, sometimes until the next morning. In return, they occasionally held impromptu deliverance sessions for the family. Emem and her older cousins played the roles of attendants during these visits. But as the prayer warriors left in the early hours of the morning, it was Emem alone who woke to open the front door for them and hand them packs of food and canned drinks as they each went through it. It was also Emem alone who noticed the pencil-thin Bro Justin exiting the visitors bathroom just seconds after a dishevelled Sister Maggy waddled out; it was Emem alone who constantly fought off the groping hands of Bro Jero, Bro Faith and Sister Chika with the dreadlocks and happy eyes; it was Emem alone who saw the tiny cigarette butt floating in the toilet bowl after Bro Tom-tom left; and it was Emem alone whose acute nostrils picked up the scent of alcohol on Bro Hygi’s breath as he wished peace on her one last time before leaving.
She never cared for any of it; in fact, Emem was usually in high spirits enough to at the antics of the prayer warriors. But she was not in the best of the moods tonight. It had been a very tiring day, and worse, Bro Faith was on demon-casting duty for the night. He held her still with one firm hand at the back of her neck while almost boring a hole in her forehead with a finger on the other. The whole time he was yelling into her face: Out! … Out in da name of jiiizes … Evil principalities and powers, possessing spirit, gerrout of her! … holy ghost fayaaaa … Emem did not budge.
When he grabbed her at the shoulder and roughly ran his hand down her arm in a brush-off motion making sure to brush her breasts, Emem was shocked. She knew Bro Faith’s inclinations but that he was brazen enough to grope her in the middle of a prayer session? She was repulsed. He brushed her other arm down too, then he knelt, apparently to repeat the action on her legs. She could not take anymore, so she did the next thing that came naturally to her.
She shut her eyes, screamed and fell on her back, making sure to knee Bro Faith in the mouth on her way down. She trashed around a little, drooled some saliva, and then lay still as the entire army rallied around to her.
That had been over three hours ago; now Emem was bored stiff. She was quickly tiring of the pretense, plus she really felt sorry for her family in the room. Poor Aunty Nkpa, how frightened she must be.
Emem knew that after the round of prayers, someone would bring in the holy water; that was when she planned to let herself be ‘delivered’ of the possessing demon. When the first blast of water hit her, she would scream, roll around on the floor, maybe speak some gibberish and abruptly lay still; then she would allow herself to be slowly revived. And when she would eventually open her eyes and sit up, her poor Aunt would be brought to hold her and walk her through the redemption prayer – her oath as an ex-possessee to never again allow a demon possess her body.
She was tired, but she had to finish what she started. So she waited.
…this is the first part. A final sequel is coming soon. Watch out!