Under a certain brown-rusted roof in Beere, in the heart of the ancient city of Ibadan, Lati Johnson, the middle-aged sole proprietor of Latson International Mortuary, sat hunched at the hard wood desk at the centre of his little office. His eyes were fixed on the screen of his low budget android phone, on which the viral video of the IGP’s transmission speech played. He had heard a lot about the, clip but had been too parsimonious to expend his data on it. Now, after getting a neighbour to send the video to him, he was finally seeing the reason it has trended so much.
“… Of effective transmission… trans, I mean emm…”
“Ha! Àwon ayé ti get man yí o. He is under the influence of the terrestrial forces,” Lati said with a slight shake of his balding head as he watched the IGP mumble an apology after stumbling over yet another sentence.
Just then, a pubescent boy with jaundiced eyes and a conspicuous navel that stood out prominently against his faded FC Barcelona jersey ran into the office screaming.
“What is it?” Lati thundered, irritated at being disturbed.
“Daddy, coman see ghost.”
“Ola, are you okay? What ghost are you talking about? You’d better shut up and get out of here before I pounce on you.”
Ola did not budge. “Daddy, I’m serious. I saw the ghost with my two eyes. I was going to ease myself when I heard someone cough in the morgue. I looked through the keyhole and saw that man they brought two days ago, stirring on the embalming table.”
“Ah! Tèmí bámi! I’m in ruins. Come, let’s go.”
The mortician and his son dashed out of the office and down the corridor that led to the morgue. As they scampered on, Ola found himself wondering about what the man had seen in the whole time he had been dead. Had he seen beautiful angels in paradise, the likes of which were illustrated in Ola’s book of Bible story? Or had he been beset by the hordes of darkness from hell; that dreadful place that Ola’s Sunday school teacher never stopped talking about.
“God, let daddy ask the man about his experienced,” Ola prayed under his breath.
A few paces away from their destination, Lati jolted to a halt in a manner that bespoke caprice.
“Have you eaten?” he asked Ola, who was left befuddled by the unexpected and unnecessary question.
“I… yes, sir.”
“Really? No problem,” Lati muttered as he dipped a hand in the pocket of his native trouser and fished out a wad of dirty looking notes. “Go and buy some candles that we’ll use at home this night.”
“Are you deaf, ni? I said, go and get some candles.”
Ola tried with little success to hide his bewilderment at his father’s unprecedented exhibition of amnesic tendencies. How could he have forgotten that they had two fully charged lamps for the purpose of keeping their house lit? What on earth did they need candles for? He wanted to remind his father, just in case he had really forgotten, that they had no need for candles but the stern look on his father’s face caused his throat to go dry and his voice to desert him. He meekly collected the fifty naira note held out to him and departed.
Now, Lati proceeded to the morgue alone, his shaky hands and glistening glabella being testaments to his angst.
“My creator, don’t let me be unfortunate,” he breathed as he pushed open the door.
Lati’s fear was confirmed. The man on whom he had expended his costly embalming chemical just yesterday was no longer lying dead on the slab. He was now sitting, trying to get his bearing. He had nothing on his person save the fold of white material wrapped around his groin.
“So you are really awake?” Lati blurted out before he could catch himself.
“I can hardly believe it myself. My God is faithful. Can I get a cup of water, please?” the man said. His voice was hoarse, perhaps due to days of disuse.
“You really don’t need it.”
“Look, I can’t let you stay alive. Your brother won’t pay me once the news of your… er… resurrection reaches him. And I have made so many plans on that money.”
A look of wild fear crept onto the man’s face. “My God! Wait, wait, how much is the money? I will pay double the amount. Just… just let me go.”
“No way. I wasn’t born yesterday,” Lati said as he charged at his quarry.
The man tried to get away but his evasion was hampered by the weakness of his body. Lati pounced on him, slipping a hand over the man’s mouth before he could scream for help. With his other hand, the mortician whipped out a small gourd from his pocket and pressed it against the man’s forehead and began to utter incantations in a rapid-fire manner.
“Every tree that Elegede touches in the forest gives off a sound.
Pity for the eyes won’t allow us poke it
The fear of the snake won’t let us trample on its offsprings
Nothing I do today will haunt me
Because whatever we tell Ogbó is what Ogbó hears
And whatever we tell Ogbà is what Ogbà accepts…”
By the time Lati was done, the man was left gasping and sweating. He was enmeshed in a pitiful battle to hold on to dear life. When Lati saw that his death throe was lasting too long, he pocketed his gourd and snapped the man’s neck.
“Olóshì. Unfortunate fellow. I have transmitted him back to where he came from,” he said as he pushed the corpse off in disdain.
Someone gasped at the other side of the door. Lati froze. Had someone seen him kill and probably recorded his malevolent act on phone? He quickly ran to the door with his head full of the thoughts of the video going viral like that of IGP’s transmission speech.
“Elédàá mi kòó. God forbid!” he said as he turned the knob.
Behind the door was Ola, shaking like a man in the height of orgasm, his yellow eyes widened with fear and his striped jersey drenched with sweat. Lati needed not to be told that his son had looked through the keyhole.
“Th… They d…don’t have can…candle.”