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“The Family of Spirits” — A Short Story by Favour Chukwuemeka

Not everyone is capable of cutting deals with the dead. And I say this as a part of that ‘not everyone’.

On the morning of September 15th, I am dead drunk in my apartment; the entire place is reeking of alcohol and my nearby demise. Even the expensive rug is ruined from the bottles I carelessly knocked over. The curtains are closed, exactly like they have been for weeks since I went out and came in. I had called in at the insurance company I worked in to cancel my presentation that Monday. There is a complete suicide (well, death) message on my phone waiting for a click to be out on social media for the entire world to see. And perhaps have another interesting topic to gloat over for the next three weeks. What are we talking about? I could even be famous!

Slowly, I drag my heavy self from the floor, squeezing my way past the multi-coloured cushions and I reach for the door to the bathroom wherein lies the rusty bathtub and my death ritual. I have not replaced the light bulb in the bathroom for months now. Carefully arrayed on the sides of tub is my death ceremony, well, not much of a ritual I guess: a knife, some lit candles (the C&S type, I’d resolved to involve a church denomination to join in my death procession), and an MP3 player.

Do not be mad; even in the face of death, music still sounds great. Have you not seen Titanic?

When I climb into the icy cold water, the reality of my grave decision hits me. I have been saving chunks of ice in the deep freezer for no reason. I could not throw it out even when it defrosted because the power outage became incessant, and when power stabilized, everything went back to ice again. Now that I think about it, lying in ice is not only a method of ceasing my blood flow, it also reminds me that my life cannot change no matter the tide it takes.

Unlike that ice, my life changed three years ago. What man lives without his woman? What Deji lives without his Morenikeji? I did not just fall in love, I became one with her when the cleric joined us together eight years ago. She singlehandedly picked every furniture in this house. How can I not feel her presence at any time? From the moment she was torn apart from me, I started to bleed. Since her passing three years ago, my life halted. The people, who were careful not to dress in black at her funeral, told me to give it time. Now, I know I’m only delaying what was supposed to happen.

My muscles begin to grow tense, my entire body is plunged into the ice except for my head. I start the MP3 player; there is only one song in it.

“If to say I get super power, I for come meet you where you dey…”

My breathing is becoming hard so fast but I struggle some more to remain in the tub. To fight for my death. Then my phone rings.

It is on airplane mode but it is ringing! I try to decipher the facts but my head is woozy and I am in terrible pain. So, I allow the call end and switch off my phone.

The ringing continues.

I smash the phone on the tiled wall with all the strength I could muster. My death process is becoming more strenuous. With all the strange happenings at once, I reason it may be that my soul is planning to depart from my body and be joined to her.

The MP3 player starts ringing. My phone is smashed, yet it is ringing.
I do not even know how to pick up this kind of call. But I click on the pause/play button and I hear the voice.

“Hello…” The tone is hurried, like the person is running.

“Yes?” I manage.

“Oga, how you dey na?”

“Who’s this?” I move my hips a little in the water, startled that the call is even happening at all.

“It’s me. You dialled this number. So I said let me call you back.”

I hiss, smarting with pain. Clearly, I am hallucinating because I want to tell the person that I am making this call through a multimedia device and not a phone. “Who are you?” I ask sternly.

“You summoned me, Oga. Why can’t you remember?”

“What is the name of the person who’s calling?” This is the farthest I can go. Any more tricks and I’m smashing this player to pieces as well.

“Oga, that one is not important. I just got an important information for you from my family.”

“What’s that?”

“My people. They said to tell you that your wife has returned. She’s on the way to your house.”

What? I cannot believe this is actually a conversation.

“You know I don’t know who you are or what you’re doing in my head but you can’t stop me. I’m about to die, you hear me?”

The voice on the other end sounds confused. “Oga abeg, don’t die o. If Madam comes now, who will she meet at home? It has been long now.”

I attempt to lift my hand backwards in order to throw the MP3 against the wall but I stop when he starts talking again. “Okay. My family’s name is Spirits. They call me Rum. Promise you won’t tell anyone?”

“No,” I say softly. But my heart screams ‘Show me my wife!’

As I smash the MP3 player, I take the slim knife and slice my wrist. Just then, there’s a knock on the door. Someone has entered my house. That door was locked!

A woman suddenly enters the bathroom. She is not shocked to see me in the tub, my blood slowly mingling with the ice. The scent of her perfume drowns out the smell of my blood.

She pulls out a packet of light bulb from her bag and walks around the house to find a stool. I stare in my dazed state, shaking all over from the cold water. Then, the strange woman returns.

“He said I’ll find you right here, Deji. Please, get up from there. Your wife is here.”

My eyes say, ‘Woman, who are you and what are you saying? Where is my wife?’ She points to her belly and that is when I see the protruding belly.

“Come on, let’s clean you up.”

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