Jon Fii, in a way, was barely aware of what was going on around him as he raced towards the shrine.
His prime focus was Sophia, and all he wanted to do was free her from the terror he was witnessing, from the claws of the vile demon that was dragging her through the air at such a frantic pace!
When the ten old men with the swords closed on him, he moved like a robot, his military and martial arts training coming to the fore as he twisted, spun, dodged, and hammered in terrible and debilitating blows of his own.
He was aware of sharp and unpleasant pain as some of the sword swipes and thrusts struck his body, and somehow he knew he was hurt, maybe fatally, but that was not for the moment… that pain could not be acknowledged now.
He had to get to Sophia, and that was paramount!
But that was proving to be a difficult thing because these horrible old men were not really that weak. They were skilled swordsmen, and they were strong!
As hard as he fought back, they steadily began to overwhelm him, and he had a sense of failing, and a great pain descending on his soul.
But then, miraculously, blissfully, he heard a great roar, and suddenly the giant Bobo was at his side holding a huge cudgel.
Fii had managed to incapacitate four of the swordsmen, and with a furious Bobo at his side, using his cudgel expertly, fighting and screaming like a demon himself, four more of the men suddenly lay on the floor, wounded badly.
The remaining two exchanged looks, and then they tried to flee.
Bobo brought his cudgel heavily on top of the skull of the one nearest him, and the old man crumpled with a groan.
The last one was running as if the devil himself was after him.
Weakly, sight almost hazed out, Jon Fii began to move forward.
“Pastor, please!” Bobo shouted with horror. “You’re wounded! Look at you! you’re bleeding all over, brother! You need attention. If you don’t stop you’ll bleed to death!”
“She’s going to die, Bobo,” Jon Fii said weakly. “If I don’t help her, she’ll die!”
“What do you care?” Bobo said with disgust. “She’s a witch! She’s killed many people already! Let her die, habba! You want her body? She’s fine but she’s so evil, obonsambaa! You’ll get fine women too, perhaps not as fine as the witch but, well, curvy-curvy too!”
Fii shook his head sadly.
“It’s her, Bobo,” he said. “I don’t know what God would do a thing like that but, for the first time in my life, I think I really care about a woman strong enough to want her.”
“Yei, pastor!” Bobo said with horror. “You will make that witch a sofomaame in the church? Habbakuk! She’ll chew us all!”
“Jon, my son, kakalika!” Pastor Kwabla said with horror when he reached their side. “You’re bleeding badly, man! There’s… there’s a hole in your belly! You need a doctor in the city! Jesus! Kakalika! We need to get you to the lakeside and take a raft to the city hospital.”
“I’ll be fine,” Jon said. “I need to save her!”
“But you can’t save her!” the old man shouted. “Kakalika! You’re almost dead already!”
“God will not let me die,” Jon Fii said stubbornly. “But if I die trying to save a soul, well, that would be a really fine death in the sight of the Lord, don’t you think.”
“Ahhhh, na foolish talk, Pastor Jon, na foolish talk!” Bobo said in a trembling voice. “There are more people here, needing a pastor, needing you. Habba, Osofo, you’ve done something good here! You’ve even changed me, Bobo, me! Wee smoker, thief, robber, bully, and I even fucked in the church! But you’ve changed me! How can you die for one witch who even buried you alive? Habba, pastor! Is Christianity sometimes stupidity?”
“You’re a good friend, Bobo,” Jon said with a smile. “Your faith is great, and you’re going to be a good Christian. I want you to help Pastor Atoklu here. He’s the real pastor of the flock. Me, I’m beginning to think the Lord called me here to save that girl from the horrible shrine and demon.”
“You don’t fight demons, my son!” Pastor Atoklu said with tears in his eyes. “An old man of God once told me about some soldiers of God, known as Unblinds, or something like that, who fight those things! Jon, I’ve taken you as a son, so listen to me… if you enter that shrine, you will die! You will die, my son, kakalika!”
“Then that would be the wish of the God I serve,” Jon said weakly. “We’ve wasted enough time. Go back and tend to the church, the two of you. I’ll be with you soon.”
“Habba, pastor!” Bobo cried in anguish. “I want to help you but I can’t enter that shrine, no. I will die. Can’t follow you in there!”
“I won’t allow you to, my brother!” Fii said as he hobbled towards the entrance of the shrine. “Go back, please, both of you!”
And then he walked into the shrine, leaving the two weeping men behind!
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There were thick walls on both sides of the entrance with hideous faces etched on them! The floor was slick with blood and the slaughtered bodies of three white sheep!
In front of him, Jon Fii saw three white buildings. Two were not so huge, but there was one at the far end which was huge and imposing and shrouded with a sinister aura.
There were huts too, neatly arranged, all painted white.
Jon was sickened at the sight that met him.
Several men and women were chained to posts in the middle of the courtyard, like animals. He even saw a pen-like coop where little children were tied and kept, their naked bodies smeared with blood, and in front of them were disgusting concoctions in little white pots.
“Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I shalt fear no evil!” Jon chanted softly. “For thou art with me! Thy rod and thy staff they comfort me!”
He heard a sharp scream to his left, and he spun around fast.
It was Sophia!
She was lying on the ground at the entrance of a path that led into a thick bamboo field. Jon did not fail to notice that the shrine had not received any rainfall; it was as dry as the sun itself!
He tried to move towards her, but she held up her hand feebly.
“Jon!” she shouted. “Please, go back! This is not your fight!”
“Sophie!” he whispered and limped towards her!
She screamed and was yanked forcibly off the path and dragged savagely through the bamboo trees, her scream echoing in Jon’s ears!
Jon broke into a weak run!
He entered the bamboo trees even as his vision blurred from the loss of blood! The branches and leaves of the bamboo seemed to come alive, lashing frantically and painfully at his face and body, digging grooves in his skin and puncturing more holes, making him bleed faster!
The tree ropes came for him, lashing out savagely and trying to bind him!
“I serve a living God!” Jon screamed. “You evil shall have no dominion over me!”
He heard the guttural screams in the bamboo trees, but they were silenced only temporarily!
Horror of horrors… Jon knew his voice had lacked conviction!
Incredibly, he had heard the note of uncertainty in his own voice, the note of self-doubt, the note of… yes, fear, deepening fear!
And then, ahead of him, he saw the cemetery!
An aged, disgusting cemetery!
The tombstones were broken and caked with green growth!
It was weedy, and stinking, and evil!
White crows with red eyes were perched dangerously on tombstones, watching him with fury and hatred!
Beyond the cemetery was a huge, silvery lake! It was covered with a misty, vapour-like emission, made eery by the pale moon! And Sophia was suspended on the lake with her arms and legs outstretched as if invisible forces were trying to pull her apart!
On her face was a grimace of pain, of torture, and her eyes looked at him with horror!
Jon fell to one knee, weak and increasingly becoming scared! He struggled to his feet and began to chant Psalm twenty-three, but suddenly the tombs began to crack open with loud, scary sounds!
And out of them, rotten corpses began to crawl out!
It was the scariest thing Jon Fii had ever seen!
These were rotten, grinning, pus-dripping fiends from hell, and they made horrible, gnashing sounds as they came for Jon!
Involuntarily, Jon Fii forgot his prayer and took a step back, but then he heard a horrible sound behind him and spun around!
The path he had come from was now blazing with a terrible, crackling fiery, fire! It was so hot that he could not turn around! His approach to the lake was also blocked by these wailing zombies!
“God, my Lord, help me!” the young man whispered in a shaky voice.
This was the last vestige of evil he would ever had imagined!
This, indeed, was something he had never dreamt of encountering, evil at its most vile, evil at its echelons of horror!
And, to make matters worse, he felt the climbing ropes slithering across the cemetery grounds and lashing him fiercely, climbing all over him, and then they pulled him against a tree stump and bound him so tightly that he could barely breathe!
On his left, the fiery fire blazed, and on his right the zombies came for him, filed with vindictive hatred, their rotten heads filled with crawling worms, their skeletal fingers reaching out to hurt him, their horrible jaws opened to chew him up!
He could even see Sophia screaming, but he could not hear her!
Jon could not move!
The climbing ropes were binding him too tightly!
He could not even focus to pray!
For the first time in his life, he was terrified out of his mind!
And then the first evil hosts reached him, and its jaws opened wide, ready to bite into Jon Fii’s face!
And Jon screamed then!
His terror was complete!
But then, the evil entity paused suddenly, and its evil face was turned towards the fire!
They had all stopped and were gazing at the fire!
Jon stopped screaming and turned his head towards the fire!
Then he saw him!
A tall, powerfully-built man was walking through the fire almost leisurely, coming towards them! Jon stared, wondering if this was another demonic entity, sure that he was going to die!
What kind of man could walk through fire?
He stared, unable to take his eyes away, as the man emerged completely from the fire and stood gazing at the sight in front of him.
A tall man, well over six foot, well-built and wearing black jeans, sneakers, a black T-shirt and a cap.
He was handsome, extremely so, but his face was filled with a fury Jon had never seen on a human being, and his eyes were fixed on the evil entities with sheer hatred.
“You fucking pieces of shit from Hades!” the man said in a deep voice, his eyes barely looking at Jon. “If I be a servant of the Most High God, burn. Just burn, you fucks!”
And then, incredibly, amazingly, crazily, the zombies that were about to chew Pastor Jon Fii burst into flames, one by one, screeching with agony, and not one of them escaped.
The man waved his hand, and the raging fire behind him died out.
He pointed his finger at Jon Fii.
“Release him,” he said.
The climbing ropes around Jon Fii became suddenly dry and brittle, and fell off the pastor. Jon crashed to the ground, weak and barely able to look up.
The strange, handsome man pointed at him again.
“Regain thy strength by the healing blood of our Lord,” he said grimly.
Jon Fii felt the sizzling energy galvanizing him, healing him, closing his wounds, and buffing up his blood!
When he stood on his feet, his clothes were shattered, but there was no scratch on his body!
Jon had never felt so overwhelmed, so grateful, and so filled with love for God. Already the strange man was walking towards the lake where Sophie was still suspended.
Jon Fii staggered after him.
He reached out blindly to touch the man.
“Keep your damn hand off me!” the man growled as he fixed Jon Fii with furious eyes. “Keep away!”
“Who are you?” Jon whispered, his voice choked with passion. “Are you an angel? Who are you, sir, please?”
“My name is of no import to you,” the handsome man growled. “Just keep the fuck away from me, pastor!”
to be continued