The prophet looked at me with hooded eyes as he closed his holy book. It didn’t look like anyone I knew. Not like the Holy Bible or the Holy Quran. Its shape was odd too.
The elderly man smiled at me sympathetically. The kind of smile a doctor gives a dying patient.
“You have the same problem as many young and beautiful African women. A spiritual husband.” He said “husband” with more than a little emphasis.
“The man didn’t say he was my husband,” I said stiffly. “He only said he….”
“Lisa!” My friend in deed and spiritual matters Ella put her palm on my mouth. She smiled and muttered apologies to the prophet who nodded without taking his eyes off me.
Oh please! The small room was hot and smelt strongly of incense and aromatic oils. I was beginning to get dizzy and sick and I wanted out. So the last thing I wanted was a grey haired and oily man who claimed to be a prophet giving me a look that seemed to say “I am helping you. You foolish child.” Please!
Ella was looking at me strangely too. But hers seemed to me like it said “Lisa, I hope your big mouth won’t get us into trouble one day. Let’s hope this man won’t cast a spell on us. How dare you interrupt prophet Zima?”
Ella had been my best friend for ages. We both don’t remember exactly how we had met but we didn’t exactly care either. What we knew for sure that kept us together was the love for music and art and the will to succeed in a man’s world. We didn’t hesitate to tell any man that the world itself was a woman. We were like twins, sisters and friends. We loved each other and would do anything for each other.
Ella was a ‘special person’. That was her substitute word for ‘superstitious’. I am very sure my great great grand mother who had believed that hitting her left foot against a stone while walking (she was partially blind though) meant something bad was going to happen to her, would have marveled at my friend superstitious beliefs. She had taken me to various places for reasons one would wonder at. I cut my finger while peeling yam, I saw a long lost pal, I saw and talked to a man I admired….the list was endless. Ella would take me from one eerie place to another.
"This is Africa Lisa," she would say. You are an African. Forget your light skin. Here, a blink of an eye means something.
So when I told my dear friend about the dream I had two nights before, she was alarmed and called the prophet on his mobile phone. (I found it surprising that the ancient one had this rather sophisticated piece of technology. I had expected that Ella would make a bonfire at the backyard to give him a smoke signal).
The prophet cleared his throat. “Like I said before, many young African women have the problem of having relationships with men of the spirit world. Many don’t even know that they are already mothers of spirit children. They don’t even have strange dreams. Consider yourself lucky my child. A problem discovered is a problem half solved.”
Lisa nodded approvingly. I felt like hitting her.
“So what can I do to solve this problem?” I asked.
“What can you do for us prophet? This is a very bad thing,” Ella added.
The old man smiled at Ella. “You have shown that you are wiser than your worldly friend. You are blessed my child.”
What! Then why was she always broke? Give me a break.
The man looked at me. “You will need to do some sacrifices child. That is the only way out. The things needed for this sacrifice are eight yards of white cloth, eight tubers of yam, eight eggs of a local fowl that is only eight hours old, eight pieces of white native chalk, eight calabashes that have never been touched and the eight front teeth of an eight month old mamba.”
Ella and I jumped. We had been to places. Places stranger than this place. We had met men older than this man but none of them had given us such a long list that included the front teeth of one of the deadliest animals in the world. We just sat there and stared at him.
“My children,” the man cleared his throat. “You see the problem with spiritual marital relationship is a serious one. The unfortunate man or woman may not get married or even if he or she does, may not have a child. These spirit beings are extremely jealous. They do all they can to frustrate their supposed spouses. They don’t allow the person to progress on earth. There are stories of people who went mad and those who died of strange ailments. Some herbalists don’t know how to go about it. Some pastors and preachers jump around and push down the person and the dreams stop. That doesn’t mean that the person is totally free. It is a difficult task to sever the relationship forever.”
Ella ‘the wise one’ was the first to speak. “Prophet, we can’t get some of the things in the list especially the front teeth of a mamba. How can you help us?”
I nodded in agreement. I couldn’t imagine myself walking the streets an insane woman or dying alone because the disease was worse than AIDS.
The man wrinkled his forehead. He was in deep thought for some minutes and suddenly clapped his hands. The sound was thunderous.
“I will help you get all the items for a given price. That is apart from the charges for the work I am going to do.”
“What would the total cost be?” I had to have some say in it. It was my problem after all.
“Seventy thousand Naira would do.”
Ella and I stared at the man like he had just materialized from the wall at his back. We were beyond being surprised. Telling us to bring seventy thousand naira for anything was like telling us to bring our very own umbilical cord.