The bus was an island surrounded by a sea of noise. Buses, tricycles, okadas, hawkers, and beggars were all part of the cacophony that jarred his nerves. To make matters worse, Wale was squashed amongst two women and a man, all with considerable weight. The discomfort was unimaginable; a seat that should take three was used for four. It had being years since he boarded a Danfo and he had forgotten how hellish the experience could be.
He had been part of the staff swept away by the tidal wave of recession from the company he used to work in. Receiving the letter had been unbelievable! He had given the best of ten years to that institution and did not believe he could be laid off so unceremoniously. This morning while on his way to submit an application in Marina, his Camry had packed up on third mainland bridge and that is how he had found himself inside a bus at Mile 2.
He was not even looking forward to going home. Before leaving the house, for the first time ever, he had nearly slapped his wife. Her nagging had recently become so unbearable. Life was coming at him from all sides like charging rhinos and it was all he could do not to get gored to death.
He was joined to three other passengers by the conductor who did not have change to give for the N1000 note that he paid. One of the three bought some sweets and got change for everyone. As the man gave him his change, he also slipped a tract into his hand. Wale was not usually patient with such tomfoolery (naturally and harshly, he would have asked the tract peddler to put the paper to more judicious use in a loo somewhere) but that day, he felt his life had hit rock bottom and did not just have the energy for any drama. Head hanging in despondence, he slipped the piece of paper into his pocket and trudged on towards home.
That night, lying on the bed in the guest bedroom, he could not get to sleep. PHCN had struck as usual and there was no fuel in the store. The pumping machine was defective and he could not even take a bath to get some relief from the whipping heat. With nothing to do, he picked the tract and the heading caught his attention….LOVE…..
Wale had been born into a Christian home with his dad being an overbearing pastor. Home and church were filled with so many dos and don’ts. He never enjoyed his childhood and saw God as some kind of Mighty Thor in heaven who delighted in thwacking people with his hammer at the slightest infraction. To stay on the straight and narrow, you had to be a religious wreck without any smidgen of groove. However, the tract struck a chord in his heart. For the first time ever, he was not seeing the legalistic side of a God he had come to totally detest and disbelieve. The love of God was opening up like the bud of an exotic rose before and inside him. Astonished, with faith and unbelief fighting a gladiatorial war within, left leg hanging off the side of the bed, he dropped off the precipice of consciousness into a world of dreams…..
…..Sunlight was rapidly setting and cast a fiery red glow over the world. He was part of a frenzied mob that shouted in enjoyment and amusement as a group of men brutally punished a criminal beneath them. The punishment was ferocious and Wale wished they would kill the guilty man. Ever since armed robbers killed a friend of his over a few naira notes, he usually wished the worst on such vermin of the earth. However, in all the pain, the condemned man did not say a thing. Only the grunts of his agony, escaped his clenched teeth. Funny thing though, his eyes seemed to follow Wale all through as he was buffeted ceaselessly. Eyes dimmed with pain yet were afire with warmth.
Wale started feeling uncomfortable and wondered what it was exactly the man stole. No one could give him an answer except an ancient man with beard as white as frost who said that the guilty man was actually innocent.
“What????? So why is he being tortured?”
“For love…for you…take a look at yourself,” the man urged.
Wale did and was shocked at what he saw. He was horrendously ugly! Misshapen, and his whole body full of boils. Wearing rags that stank beyond imagination, he found himself repulsive.
Wale was astounded by the words of the old man. He could not even love himself in this state; talk more of another loving him. There was no reason to. No value could be attached to such senseless sentimentality.
However the eyes that followed every movement of his were not filled with disgust. They were magnetic pools of affection that reached out to him, drew him in, and embraced him.
The man died! Wale was distraught and wailed in agony while the old man led him away. They walked away from the crowd towards a hilly top. There, on a stony slab, he saw the most beautiful lamb ever with fleece that made snow seem muddy. To his surprise, he noticed the lamb twitching in death with blood running from its neck into a pool. As he looked into the pool, he saw the reflection of the dead man smiling at him and gesturing for him to come, eyes filled with light and right hand holding a shepherd’s crook.
He was bemused by the whole happenings but the old man nudged him towards the pool.
“Do not fear, go in…” said the Ancient One.
Wale dove in, making a huge splash. By the time he emerged, he was back to his old handsome self wearing such beautiful clothes that he knew could not be found even in the most notable fashion house.
“It does not end here; there are still issues to resolve.” He told the younger man.
It was night by now as they moved on resolutely forward through thick forests, jungles with green veils that shielded the skies from devilry that lurked underneath.
Coming out they trekked through caves and caverns where singing streams accompanied them and undergrowth provided rugs for their ailing feet.
They came out into an opening and as they made forward, vicious hisses greeted them, sibilant reminders of evil older than time. The place crawled with all sorts of serpents and scorpions. Tongues darted in and out viciously, tails raised in deadly intent……
TO BE CONTINUED….
©2017 Ekpo Ezechinyere
IMAGES FROM GOOGLE