Life and General Fiction StoriesNaija Stories

The Light in Everyone

There is a light in every human being whether we acknowledge it or not. That light is the goodness of God, which He gives to us all,” you’d heard your pastor say over and over again. You never had any reason to doubt him; he was a man of God, and it must have been God who told him that. Why would you have any doubts?

Yet, as you stood over your kitchen sink, washing the plates used for dinner last night, you wondered why you do not see that particular light in your one and only son, Chekwube. Everything about him spoke of utter evil—his eyes, his smile, the way he talked, moved, and most especially, the things he did. He was a demon in human form.

At that last thought, you cringed at the implication of it. You are a mother, you should not harbour such thoughts about your own child, but you cannot help it. You have watched him all his life, watched every step he had ever taken, watched how he had grown from the little angel he was at birth to the dangerous demon he was today.

You sighed, kept the last of the plates you were washing in the basket and sat down on one of the seats in the kitchen. You allowed yourself to travel down the treacherous road of memory, allowing your mind to dredge up every single detail about the life of your boy. Without your permission, tears fall down your cheeks, which have been crisscrossed by wrinkles within the past few years. When you’ve gotten to the start, the place where everything began, you allowed yourself a moment’s pause, and opened the door to the memory.

It was the months before you gave birth to him. His father had never wanted to be part of your lives; he was a married man, and had pleaded with you to terminate the pregnancy but you had refused. You had strong opinions against abortion, and there was no way you would kill your unborn baby. Even at three weeks then, you could already feel him inside of you, already feel the bond that held your lives together.

Against his advice, pleas and threats, you had kept the baby. You had promised him that you would not disturb his marital bliss with that secret. And thankfully, your family supported you. It had been hard on them initially, but they’d decided to put their prejudice against single mothers aside and stand by you. Your mother was even the one who insisted that she would be with you in the theatre when you were in labour.

That led you to the next door of memory. Without hesitation, you opened it and relived that night again. It was a day that the spring of maternal love in you finally burst open. It had been a long, heart-rending seven hours of labour. But as you held the little bundle of flesh and bones in your tired arms, you felt as if you would burst open with love. How can you love someone so much and not die out of the love?

So it was that love that compelled you to move to the next checkpoint on the memory road. This time, it was the first time you noticed his evil nature. At that time you did not know what to make of his action, so you had dismissed it as a childish behaviour, but in retrospect, you realized that his love for inflicting pain on others has always been there. That evening, you were breastfeeding him when you felt a sharp, needle-like pain. You stared in horror at him as he bit down on your right nipple. In his young eyes you could see murderous glee, coupled with the smile of satisfaction that tugged at his lips. You knew it took twenty-five minutes for him to be full whenever you breastfed him, but this time, he had held on, biting on your nipple and enjoying the tremors of pain and agony that coursed through your body and wounding your soul.

When you had told your mother about the incident, she had dismissed it as one of those things children did. Maybe, she had said, it was time to start feeding him something heavier. You had been unconvinced; how can you feed him heavier stuff when he was just five months old? But you didn’t voice this out, instead, you decided to chalk it up to hunger. Anything would be blamed, if it meant not confronting what you suspected—that your child was not normal.

You decided to bring yourself back for some minutes because you knew that opening the next doors would be like trudging up a steep hill of sorrow and anguish; you wanted a breather before facing the mountain of memory, where you would be confronted with further truths about who your son is. You opened the kitchen fridge, took a can of water and gulped half of it without taking a breath. The water tasted delicious, and water you’ve decided, would be the means of ending—

No, you would not think of that. Not yet. Not before you’ve gone through every piece of memory relevant to the decision you wanted to make; you wanted to scour through every memory file to be doubly sure that you were making the right decision.

At that, you willed yourself to go back to where you stopped. The door to the next memory was harder to open, because you knew what lay behind it. It was you who had tried to shut out the memory when you were still in denial of the terror you’ve given birth to. You shut your eyes tighter, forcing the door open. When it finally gave way, the full blast of what you witnessed that day and the days after assaulted you with the force of a tornado.

He was six years old then, and very handsome for a young boy. And he was one of those children who matured beyond their age. You had woken up that Sunday afternoon from a well-deserved nap and had called out to him. He did not answer, and you did not bother. He was probably also sleeping. But as you made to rest for some time, you heard his chortle coming from the backyard. Your curiosity piqued, you tiptoed to the backyard; you’d wanted to peep on the love of your life and see what he was up to.

But you could not resist the gasp of horror and astonishment that escaped from your throat. He had barely glanced up at you before focusing on his task. It was obvious that he was deriving some twisted pleasure from watching the innocent bird struggle for its life, but you knew—oh you knew—that your boy was a monster. You had shouted at him to release the parrot, but he seemed not to have heard you; so focused was he on his sinister mission that you had to go to him yourself and pry the animal from his clutch. It had been too late for the parrot anyway, within some seconds, it gave up the ghost. Your boy then gave a satisfied sigh, as though the bird was the source of his problems.

When you had questioned him about his actions and why he had killed the bird in cold blood, he had simply replied, “I felt like doing it; it was fun to watch it die.”

That particular statement would go on to haunt you for another eight years. This particular door of memory you wanted to open was one you knew very well. You would have skipped it, but you decided to go over it again; maybe you would find something that would be the key to all you’ve been wondering.

He had been fourteen then and in SS2. Due to his academic genius, he was made head boy of his school. That day you were called to the school because of another one of the numerous sinister actions he had done. Immediately you saw him in the principal’s office, your heart had lurched in fright at how his eyes seemed dead and lifeless. Then the principal called another boy. The boy was without any shirt on, and you stared at him in frozen terror. His body was riddled with tiny straight lines, from which drops of blood dripped.

“Your boy did this to a junior student. With a razor,” the principal had said, his voice booming inside the little office. He looked like he wanted to pulverize your son, but you barely took notice of that. You couldn’t pry your eyes from the junior student’s body as the words “Your boy did this” resonated and echoed in your head. When you asked Chekwube the reason for his action, he had said that the boy had disobeyed his order. Then: “I felt like punishing him,” he added nonchalantly.

In the end, you had pleaded with the school management and the boy’s parents not to take up the case; you took care of the boy’s treatment, but that did not stop the school from expelling him.

You had run to your mother again for an advice and she had told you that your boy probably was possessed by a demon. You had taken him to your pastor, who had told you that after a two-day deliverance session, all his antics would end. He had said that he was under the influence of an ancestral spirit, who needed to be cast out.

You let out a sound that was a mixture of a laugh and a cry. You remembered how your boy had stared defiantly at the pastor as the man of God had shouted and ranted at the demon inside your child to vacate. Your boy never as much as twitched, neither did he act as if he had been affected by the prayers, anointings and shouts. The pastor had obviously given up and had told you that your son had been delivered.

But two days later, you saw him reading a book about torture. He had been so engrossed in his reading that if the building had collapsed on him, he would have probably not noticed. When you took the book from him, you had thrown such a tantrum that you did not know what to do than to return the book to him. You had taken him to a psychologist at the advice of a friend, but within one week, the woman had told you that he was beyond her help. She had told you that your child had a mental problem, and the best solution would be to take him to a correctional facility, one of the few that had been set up in the country.

But you did not want to abandon your son in some cold and sterile facility. And he was not crazy either. He was your son, your blood, you had to take care of him; he would not be put in any facility when you had breath in you.

So you had lived with him, with some measure of fear of him. And now two years after he was expelled from his former school, none had agreed to take him. Stories of the sadistic boy had spread around town. The only education he got was from a friend of yours who had agreed to coach him at an exorbitant price. But you didn’t have any choice, did you?

Finally, you opened the last relevant door. Immediately you gasped as the full import of what you had seen landed on you again. You had gone into his room this morning to clean it up. While arranging his books, you had come across a piece of paper that left you breathless and shaking with terror. He had written on it with capital letters: “KILL THE OLD BITCH THIS NIGHT!” You had refused to believe your eyes, refused to believe that the same person who had grown in you could think of such a horrible thing. But as you turned the paper over, the full horror of his plans hit you with the force of a sucker punch, leaving you gasping for air. At the back of the paper, he had drawn with great detail, how he intended to torture you to death. That was when you knew that he was lost to you, that was when the idea came.

At that instant, he unlocked the door and stepped into the kitchen. He greeted you and sat on the other chair in the kitchen. You looked at him and tears choked you. He was a very beautiful young man. At least physically, you added. You had always looked at him trying to see if there was any trace of his father in him, in the way he looked or acted, but there was none. He was the spitting image of you; you knew that if you were to be a young man, you would definitely look like him.

But all these were not enough to make you change your mind. You had to do what you had to do before he went out of hand. You served him the food you prepared. As you poured the water into the glass bottle, you covertly added three drops of the colourless liquid into it and dropped it beside his food.

As if he knew what you intended, he took the glass, raised it to his lips while fixing his piercing gaze on you. You froze for an instant. Did he suspect you? But he just smiled and parted his lips as the doctored water rushed down his throat. He downed a quarter of the glass before dropping it and taking a spoonful of the rice and beans you prepared.

A minute later, he started choking, holding his throat and stomach. He fell to the floor and thrashed about, trying to call to you. You just stared at him, making no move to help him. He stared at you with horror as he realized that you had poisoned him, poisoned your own flesh and blood. You watched him, your heart shearing into a million pieces at the sacrifice you had made. The last thing you noticed before he closed his eyes in death was… nothing; he had been a cold human being even in death.

You sighed and sat down on his abandoned seat. The okro never grows taller than its planter, you thought as you stood again. You took the glass of water you offered him and in one swig, you downed the poison. Then you lay down beside him and closed your eyes.

Death would be the best option for the both of you.

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