Kwabla was shocked when he saw the young men attacking the soil with the shovels.
This was, in a way, a great miracle!
He knew nothing would have made them dare to undo something the fetish priestess had done, but even though his heart was warmed by this incredible gesture, he knew that was too late!
Jon Fii had been inside that grave for too long, pressed down by rocks and sand, and bleeding from a wound that the wicked Sophia had inflicted on him.
He sank on his haunches and wept softly as more soil was scooped out of the grave. And then, quite suddenly, he heard a harsh roar behind him, and he turned sharply.
A huge figure was coming towards him!
It was Bobo the Killer, the thug Jon had sacked from the church earlier!
Kwabla’s heart beat with trepidation and he jumped to his feet, quite convinced that the thug was going to beat him up mercilessly now that he knew Jon Fii was buried alive!
Bobo’s huge muscles rippled as he looked down at the carnage in the yard, and then at the grave. He demanded from the men if Jon was still in the grave because his men had come to inform him that the fetish priestess had buried the pastor alive.
The men, scared of the thug, confirmed that indeed the pastor was in the grave.
And then Kwabla received his second shock of the dawn!
Bobo began digging the soil out of the grave!
He worked like a robot, his shovel going in and out with frenzy, working with a sense of urgency, and then suddenly the shovel thudded against the rocks!
More men joined in as the rocks were removed and thrown out of the grave, and then suddenly, Jon Fii’s head and shoulders emerged.
He was so still, so inert, as if he were sleeping, and Kwabla burst into fresh and louder tears, aware that the miracle he was hoping for had not worked, and that the young man was dead!
More people came into the church yard as the body of Jon Fii was gently lifted out of the grave and placed on the ground near Kwabla. He was smeared with the wet soil such that his skin was not visible. He really looked horrible and messy.
“Please, take him inside for me,” Kwabla managed to say. “I’ll clean him.”
And then, as they made to lift the young pastor, he coughed suddenly and sat up by himself.
All of the people fled!
They screamed and fled from the courtyard!
Even Kwabla raced up the stairs and was almost into the church when he came to a stop suddenly. Breathing hard, he turned around slowly.
Jon Fii was standing now, and was brushing mud from his face with disgust!
Bonifius Kwabla Atoklu stood on the top step and shouted.
“Why are you shouting?” Jon asked as he stepped over the carcass of a goat.
“Kakalika! Is that you?” Kwabla asked. “Is that you, please?”
Jon shook his head and laughed.
“Pastor Atoklu, you should know better,” Jon said.
“Kakalika!” Kwabla screamed. “God be praised!”
He came down the steps with outstretched arms and embraced the young pastor tightly, oblivious of the mud still plastering Jon.
And he wept bitterly!
When the villagers saw Kwabla embracing the man who was supposed to be dead, the brave ones among them ventured tentatively back into the courtyard, and leading them was the giant Bobo.
He came forward haltingly and stopped five paces from the two men. His face was filled with terror as he craned his neck and pointed with a trembling hand.
“Are you a ghost?” he asked in the Twi language.
Jon pointed a stiff forefinger at Bobo.
“You I’m angry with!” he said harshly. “You had the audacity to sleep with a woman in the sacred house of the Lord! Have you no respect?”
And at the sound of his voice, Bobo shouted in a great voice, turned around, and rattled off a series of excited sentences in his local dialect! More of the people rushed fearfully into the courtyard to stare at Jon Fii with awe on their faces.
Bobo took three steps towards Jon, and then he stretched out a finger tentatively, trembling all the while, and then poked Jon with the finger. When he felt Jon’s body, he poked again just to be sure, and then he stepped forward and clasped a hand on Jon’s shoulder.
“You’re powerful!” he said in awe.
And then the people swarmed all over Jon!
They were speaking excitedly as they touched him in wonder, and one man even parted Jon’s pyjamas shirt to examine his skin, and he screamed with horror and moved away, trembling with fear. He tried to run away but Bobo held him tight and spoke rapidly to him.
The giant then looked at Jon Fii with a scowl.
“This man… he says he saw the Bosombaastabbing you with a knife, and you were bleeding!” the giant said. “Is it true?”
Jon Fii opened his shirt and ran his hand down his stomach.
“She stabbed me, and I bled, but look, my skin has closed up again,” he replied calmly. “That is the miracle the God I serve can do!”
The people chatted excitedly, and several of them touched Jon’s stomach to ascertain what had happened. Suddenly, they became animated, and they spoke excitedly with great wonder. They smiled at Jon and looked at him with hope, and with admiration.
They moved away in little groups, still chatting excitedly.
“Listen,” Jon said to them. “Tomorrow, I’ll clean up this place. I’ll appreciate any help I can get. And on Sunday, the day after tomorrow, this church will be opened. I expect to see all of you!”
They nodded animatedly, and as they moved away Jon smiled and looked at Kwabla.
“You know, God always does beautiful things,” he said calmly. “I could have spent years here telling these people about grace, about redemption, and the culminative effect of their sins, and they would not have been moved because they believe in signs, in wonders, and in the mysteries of life just as their fetish priestess had been showing them.”
“But this dawn, they’ve seen something more powerful than they had ever seen,” Kwabla said with mounting comprehension. “Kakalika! A living testimony!”
“Exactly, my friend,” Jon Fii said with a smile. “They’ve been used to the wickedness of Sophia and her gods! They had seen her destroying things, taking lives, and they live in terror of her. But, tonight, they saw a different kind of power. They have seen a man live, a man saved from death, a stabbed man who has recovered. It is hope, it is a glimpse of a power that does not destroy, but restores… Pastor Atoklu, this is the time for you and me to rise up and take this opportunity, and redeem Obosomfie!”
“Me?” Kwabla said as he shook his head vehemently. “No, no, no! Kakalika, no! They’ve seen me messing up, becoming a drunkard… no, Jon! They have no respect for me!”
“They saw you descending into the doldrums!” Jon said fiercely. “They saw you descending into a life of decadence, into a low ebb, and yes, they lost respect for you! But, when you put on fine clothes, and mount the pulpit, and tell them how low Sophia and her vile gods took you, and how high God has now raised you, you will touch their hearts!”
“Kakalika, stop it!” Kwabla cried with tears in his eyes. “I’m no longer a pastor! I have been excommunicated, and my clerical has been taken away!”
“By men!” Jon said harshly and put his hands on the old man’s soldier. “You were disowned by men, sir! But the harvest is great, and the workers few! God has seen it best to raise a flock for you, sir! This is your church, and you’re the senior minister here! I believe I was brought here to make you see a new light in the Lord that chose you, and anointed you as his servant. Grasp it, sir! Grasp it! This is your time!”
And then Pastor Kwabla nodded, and his head came up a bit higher, and his shoulders squared up. He wiped tears from his eyes.
“Thank you, my son,” he whispered and nodded. “Let us sell our Lord to these people!”
They had been so animated that they had forgotten for a moment that Bobo was still with them. As they began to climb the steps, he spoke hurriedly.
“Please, Pastor Fii!” he said suddenly.
Jon turned and touched his forehead.
“Oh, Bobo, forgive me, my brother,” he said in Twi and extended his hand. “I forgot to thank you for taking me out of that grave. Thank you, sir. Thank you very much and God bless you.”
“Well,” Bobo said as he fidgeted. “I need a little favour.”
“Go ahead,” Jon said instantly. “Anything I can do to help, I will.”
“Well,” Bobo said. “I left some old pictures of my mother and me in the church, and some very important things from my dear mother.”
“Yes, I saw them,” Jon Fii said. “In a little green box under one of the beds.”
“Yes, exactly!” Bobo said passionately. “It means a lot to me, sir. I beg of you, that is all I want to take, please.”
Jon Fii nodded and stepped towards the man.
“How many people are in your gang, Bobo?” Jon asked.
“Thirty,” the man said promptly.
“Good,” Jon said and put a hand on the giant’s shoulder. “I’ll keep that box in safe custody for you.”
“No, I want it now!” Bobo exploded. “It is my treasure!”
“I understand, but you didn’t let me finish my submission, Bobo,” Jon said, unperturbed by the violent action. “I will give you that precious box, Bobo, if you and your gang come to Sunday church service. If you come, and stay for the church service to end, I will give you back your box!”
“Fuck that!” Bobo exploded. “I saved your life, man! I need that box!”
“No!” Jon said, and his voice was cold now, the smile disappearing from his face. “You didn’t save me! I could have spent one year in that grave and still survived if God wanted me to! Do you understand? You will come to two consecutive Sunday Church meetings, you and all your followers. And after the service, on the second Sunday, I’ll give you back your box. And it is not negotiable! Do you accept or not?”
“I accept!” Bobo screamed. “I accept your terms.”
“Good,” Jon said with a smile. “I’ll see you on Sunday then. And thanks again for helping me out of the grave.”
Bobo watched the young pastor climbing the stairs with the old pastor, and then he sighed heavily.
Who was this man?
And then Bobo smiled.
This man had beaten him, the only man who had been able to do that. And the man had survived certain death! Heck, he had even recovered miraculously from a deadly stab wound!
But all those were really not significant, no. They paled in significance to the one glaring fact that had astounded most of the villagers who had witnessed this: this strange, new pastor had survived the attack of no other than the dreaded Bosombaa, the only person Bobo feared on earth!
No one – no bloody one – had ever survived an attack from that Bosombaa Sophia! And, to make it worst, he had been told that the man had actually struck the witch!
Now how was that even remotely possible?
Anybody who even looked at the Bosombaa in a way that displeased her suffered her wrath! Many people had rotten up and died simply because they displeased her!
And this man had actually struck her and lived? He had actually survived an attack from her panther, and from her grave?
“Heyiyayaya!” Bobo said as he walked out of the church courtyard with an awestruck expression on his face. “This man has something! He has something than a blowman!”
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Sophia woke up in the morning and sat morosely on her bed for a while.
The shrine had a huge compound, and there were other men and women who served her. She had a huge building for herself, though. It was fitted with modern fittings that made life bearable, in a way.
She had not had any cause to be unhappy here. The power she wielded, given her by the entities that reigned in her life, had always been exhilarating. To be able to do as she pleased, and to make people cower in her presence, was a fulfilling experience.
Even the king of the land shivered in her presence, and did not take any decisions without consulting her. Many people, including supposed men of the Bible, came to her for fortune, for a piece of the mystic, a little flash of power for them to impress and make money.
To Sophia, there was no other power, no other element mightier than she was!
The name of the Lord was an abomination to her, and that was why she had waged war on all pastors that dared to set foot on Obosomfie! This was her terrain, and her domain! She was the power and the queen.
But then, suddenly, that young man with the penetrating gaze had appeared, the man who had hit her and apologized to her, a man who had looked down on her with contempt, and somehow been able to stand worst evil rays.
But, in the end, like always, he had succumbed to her superiority, and lay under rocks and soil.
And yet, her night had not been peaceful!
She had seen that face over and over – staring at her!
Not with hatred, not with evil, not with dislike… but with compassion, warmth, and forgiveness!
Sophia stood up from the bed with a little cry of disgust!
That man was dead, and she was not going to allow him or his memory to assail and cripple her!
She was naked as she moved from her bedroom and crossed her living room. Her incredible figure seemed like a dream as she glided towards a set of decanters at the far end of the room.
She reached for a long tumbler of blood from the table, and suddenly she felt a severe cold in the room, and a humming sound behind her.
Sophia gasped and slowly put the glass tumbler back on the table.
When she turned around slowly, she saw them.
Four shrivelled pale entities that looked like old men were hovering above the floor. They had white skins and long, grey hair that fell from their heads and trailed down their faces.
They were joined at the hips, and had flashing red eyes. Their shroud-like apparel glittered as they glared at her, and Sophia sank to her knees immediately and bowed her head.
These fused spiritual entities were her masters.
And she could see they were displeased.
“Have I erred, Masters?” she asked in a halting voice.
“He lives!” they hissed dangerously in four different voices, all high-pitched. “Look!”
Sophia raised her head, and in the space between her and the evil entities, she saw him, that handsome, young man she had buried… and he was now wearing shorts and a T-shirt, his feet encased in sneakers!
And he was with some of the villagers!
They were cleaning the church!
Sophia gasped and almost got off her feet, so complete was her shock!
“Kneel!” the entities hissed at her. “He is a danger to us! A great danger! And you will not defeat him unless he sins of the flesh! You’re going to him, to lure his mind and his heart, for we perceive fondness in his heart for you! When you make him fall from grace, in the lust of the flesh… only then will he be vanquished! Are you listening, Earthling?”
“Yes, my Masters!” Sophia whispered with a trembling fear. “I am awaiting your directions humbly!”
“You will deliver him to us here, in the catacombs… and we shall tear him to bits!”
to be continued