She trusted him so much. So much I was beginning to wonder if he had hypnotised her with some sort of dark magic. Growing up with her, I never knew her to be so trusting. In fact, she was the most cynical person I knew( trust me, there was no one worse).
My thoughts were interrupted by her loud and angry voice. Thankfully, I wasn’t the victim; it was this keke driver. Maybe he didn’t know but my mother was as stingy as she was untrusting.
“Oga, na 70 naira I go pay!” she shouted.
“I no gree oo, na 100 naira be my money!” he retorted, but that was it. She was out already, dragging my skinny arms along. She flung two notes at him; one fifty and one twenty and off we went. The irate driver hurled invectives at us as we trudged forward but mother was in no mood for an exchange. We were late already and the prophet hated lateness.
We meandered through muddy grounds before getting to the shanty that was the prophet’s abode. The sickening smell of burning incense and ringing of multiple bells welcomed us. Mother held her breath for a second before taking off her slippers and pulling the curtain aside to enter. As always the prophet was kneeling in front of a large crucifix and spewing some incoherent jargon. All of a sudden, he spun our way and glared at us like a lion staking out its prey.
"My daughter! " his voice rang out.
Mother went on her kneels and tugged at me to do the same. I knelt, vexation brewing in me. How long would this charade continue?
“I’ve come here because of my child,” mother stuttered in barely audible pidgin. “I fear people are after him”.
I looked at mother incredulously and the prophet laughed, his coffee-brown teeth accentuating his ugliness.
“That’s a small thing, my daughter. Get up.”
The next few minutes saw the prophet giving stringent instructions to mother while she nodded gullibly every now and then. When he was done, he handed a small bottle to mother and instructed that I drink the content in small quantities over the next two days. Mother thanked him graciously and unwrapped the knot of her wrapper where she had kept the proceeds from her sales the past two weeks. She handed the money to the prophet who gave that irritating smile again and bade us farewell.
As we headed home, I could sense the relief in mother’s features just as much as the pangs of hunger tormenting me. I was only 12 years old but even I knew mother was being played.
That night, after a miserly meal of leftover beans and garri, mother forced me to take from the bottle. I didn’t want to, though. Perhaps, I should have been more vehement in my refusal. Before long, I had downed a quater of the bottle. What I didn’t anticipate was the pain that came as I slept that night. At first it was my tummy on fire before I began to convulse. By the time my mother got to me, it was already too late. As I gradually sinked into oblivion, I heard her screams of anguish and saw blurry visions of her panic-stricken and tearful face. She shook me violently and begged me to stay but there wasn’t the strength nor the will. The last thing I saw before succumbing to the claws of darkness was the face of the prophet, laughing hysterically as he administered the potion to another child.