Friday, February 9, 2018
PRISONERS OF HOPE, Final Chapter
The following day, the day the medical experts had predicted that Levi would die, Levi went to the hospital for a medical checkup.
Dr. Smart was very surprised to see him. Initially, the doctor thought he had seen Levi’s ghost, because most of the time, the ghosts of the patients who died usually appeared in the hospital. When Levi was checked, and no lung cancer nor memory loss were detected, the doctors glorified God that they had never seen this miraculous sign before.
Thereafter, Levi returned home to oversee how Fabian had been preparing for his wedding. Fabian thought that after the last speech of his dad in the church, his dad would soon die, and so he prepared his wedding on his own.
The eve of the wedding, when everyone had gone to bed, a band of hoodlums raided Levi’s house. Everyone in the house, including Rodwell, was awakened as these would-be kidnappers attacked, creating a frantic noise as they broke open the door.
Adanta’s mind flew like an eagle.
Fabian knew that evil men had come to raid their house.
As they entered, they flooded into Levi’s room, where Rodwell was sleeping, and a voice roared, “See the father of the bridegroom.” Straight away, Rodwell was shot dead in error, while Levi was captured. Cornell’s men had thought that Rodwell was Levi.
As Fabian escaped through the window, Cornell saw Bianca in the dark corner of the room, mistaking her as Mildred; he killed Bianca with his small knife.
“You are a cursed beast!” Bianca yelled before she breathed her last.
Adanta became overwhelmed in grief. She believed that Levi would not survive this turmoil of kidnapping.
This same thought resonated in the mind of Fabian. “This is a calculated assault,” Fabian grimaced, “to ruin my wedding. I must find out the cause of this mayhem."
Mildred ran for her life and hid in a thick forest. She did not fear about pythons and deadly creatures in the bush, compared with these attackers, and she watched the whole scene from her hiding place. She could recognize Cornell as the chief conspirator, the man who championed this brutal mission. She saw Levi being beaten before he entered their car. She wept bitterly. Her grief was heightened when Cornell told his men that he had killed Mildred. Then Mildred realized Bianca was dead. She learned Cornell had been planning evil for herself, as she overheard him while she hid.
Cornell and his men zoomed off with their car; it was declared that Levi had been abducted.
Adanta did not believe that Levi was still alive. “Levi is dead,” Adanta groaned, “because these evil men did not come to spare the life of anyone.”
As Mildred came back from her hiding place, she overhead her mother sobbing. She sprawled at the feet of her mother and wept, “Gracious woman, Father is gone, and Bianca is also dead. I would have been dead, too, because I heard them mention, ‘Mildred is dead.’”
“Who will help us find the whereabouts of Levi?” Adanta gasped.
“Let us wait,” said Mildred, “until Fabian has returned.”
A few hours later in the morning, the whole community gathered to carry the bodies of Rodwell and his daughter to their burial. People wept bitterly because this had never happened in their land before. None of them knew the cause of Levi’s death and his daughter’s, though they all believed that Rodwell and his daughter had died by fate.
A madman who came around the place exclaimed, “Yes, he deserves it. Why would he ‘uncover the feet’ of his neighbor’s wife?”
No one valued what the madman was saying, though Adanta overheard it and pretended nothing happened. She recalled the sexual advances that Rodwell had made towards her when Levi was sick. The word of the madman made her believe that the death of Rodwell was designed by the gods of the land. The peoples’ tradition was that no one should ‘uncover the feet’ of his neighbor's wife. This was what Rodwell did not consider in what he had demanded from her in helping Adanta to pay the hospital bill.
Even after all this, Rodwell did not show any sign of remorse nor confess his sin, and he had allowed her daughter, Bianca, to marry Fabian so that it would give him the opportunity to seduce Adanta again.
Rodwell knew that anyone who ‘uncovered his neighbor’s wife’s feet’ must meet his doom, but he thought that Christianity had eradicated the values and norms of the land. So, he had his eyes gaze amorously on Adanta…and doing so brought his death.
Fabian returned from where he was hiding, and he met the people crowding in his compound. He wept: everything he had bought for his weeding had been taken away by those men. Not only that, his marriage had been ruined because his father-in-law had died, and his father had disappeared.
Fabian moved into his room and saw Bianca dead. This struck him speechless. He concluded forces were working against his destiny. Then he spoke, “Now I know that fate is against me; without my father, there is no family.”
The cadavers of Rodwell and Bianca were carried to their burial ground, doleful songs chanted, the bodies committed to Mother Earth, and the people departed in grief. Simultaneously, Dominic was having a series of bad dreams in the US. Upon awakening, the only dream he could remember was that his father was dead.
Immediately, Dominic called Fabian to ask if anything happened in the house. Fabian could not easily reveal the matter to him since Dominic had fainted immediately when he had been told mistakenly in the past that Levi died. Dominic had spent three days in the hospital before he was discharged. He was later told that Levi had risen from the mortuary.
Now, Dominic’s dreams had disturbed him profoundly, and so he decided to call home. “Fabian, why do you find it so difficult to tell me what is happening in the house?”
“No, Domi,” Fabian responded. “Dad is missing, a bond of abductors kidnapped him.”
“What the hell! Alright, do everything you can to find him. I promise to provide all the money needed. Get in touch with SARS and military officers to ensure that Dad is out of the kidnappers’ hands,” Dominic yelled into the phone.
Fabian summoned the elders of the land to discuss how Levi would be found. Fabian promised that anyone who helped discover Levi’s whereabouts would be paid a huge sum of money. The elders discussed this in detail and decided to alert the police that Levi had been kidnapped.
Cornell, in his house, was restless, because the spirit of Bianca had been haunting him. "Why must you disturb me? Yes, I killed you, but it was a mistake. I thought you are Mildred. I make my plea for you to forgive me. It was because of my love for you that made me ruin the wedding of Fabian with you. I did not want any man to snatch you from me, either by money or by power.”
“Your love for me has claimed the lives of your dad and mine, and now I demand your life, and our wedlock will be where no man can see us. As you laid your bloody hand on me, you can never have peace of mind, until you die,” Bianca’s spirit warned.
SARS got information that these kidnappers camped at Nbibi. SARS invaded the thick forest surrounded by rivers and encountered the kidnappers. They exchanged gun shots. One of the kidnappers was shot dead. Levi was badly wounded.
The kidnappers grew angry and saddened because they had lost a member; moreover, Levi, who was to be the source of money to them, was seriously ill. The kidnappers informed Cornell, their medicine man, about what had happened. Cornell asked them to carry Levi to Rumueke, where he would remove the bullets from Levi.
Cornell was pleased to help revive Levi because of the huge amount of money Dominic would bring. He with his boys had asked the relatives of Levi to pay 4.5 million naira before they would release Levi. Dominic agreed to pay, but he wanted to hear from his uncle, Levi, who had served Dominic as a father since his own father died when he was two years old. Levi had nursed him and trained him.
In fact, no one knew that Dominic wasn’t the first son of Levi; they all believed this. Sadly, as Dominic delayed in paying the ransom money, Levi died because of the gunshot.
Cornell told his men that Levi had died; his men could not do anything other than to ask him to bury Levi. He gathered some village boys and carried the corpse to a bush and buried Levi.
Dominic heard that his uncle’s dead body was nowhere to be found. He then became restless. “I can never have peace of mind, until I find the corpse of my dad.”
A few days later, rumors spread that the corpse of Levi was buried in Rumueke and, furthermore, that Cornell was one of the men responsible for his death. All the villagers in the Rumudashi community teamed up to come to Rumueke with SARS to search for Cornell. Since Cornell was not found, his father, Hullquist – a native doctor, was arrested together with his son, Chinedu, and Chima, his brother-in-law. Their clothes were stripped from them, and they were publicly disgraced.
Hullquist was accused of aiding the kidnappers, doing some medicine for them. His legs and hands were tied with a strong rope. He was writhing in pain as his scrotum touched the ground. People who saw him felt shame, though some people were happy he was being disgraced. Generally, Hullquist, his son, and Chima suffered. They were dumped on the road for people to see the father and relatives of the kidnapper. Later on, police carried them in handcuffs into their van and carted them off to the office.
“I am the chief of my village,” declared Hullquist. “I know nothing about the kidnapping of Levi. Though my son might be responsible for this atrocity, my people would bear me witness that I don’t support evil. Recently, I asked his mother to leave my house with her children before this happened. Unfortunately, none of her children was arrested. Chinedu is my son, begotten from Uju, my first and only wife, while Chima is my brother-in-law. Anything about Cornell doesn’t concern me.”
“Keep silent,” a police officer commanded, “Cornell is your blood, if you fail to bring him to the police station, your life will be exchanged for his. Do you know the gravity of the offense he committed? Kidnapping is a capital offense, and whoever is responsible for it must die.”
Hullquist felt his life had ended. He remembered his bags of money those police officers looted, as they raided his house and shrine. Hullquist was crying, “My money you are carrying,” because all his money stuffed in bags was taken away from him. “Ah, my twenty million naira is gone,” Hullquist groaned.
Hullquist thought about his gods and concluded that they did not have power to save him, “Where are you, you gods?" He asked. His idols and shrines were destroyed. He was left homeless. He thought about how he could survive now that all his earnings had been forcefully stolen by the police.
“O, God, help me,” he yelled in such agony of mind. He no longer called on his old gods again for help; he had found out that they were mere idols. He then put his trust on the living God. Two weeks later, a letter from Rumudashi came to the rulers of Rumueke asking them to find out where Levi was buried. They stated in their letter that Levi was buried in Rumueke, and so Rumueke should find out where he was buried within one week, and they demanded that Cornell should be handed over to them.
At this time, many SARS and ruffians blocked every road, and people could not go out for work for fear of being killed. This prevented me from going to school. I was told that the Commissioner of Education visited my school, and found a few teachers absent. Two teachers who came to school and left for Eketa market before closing the hour made the commissioner angry, adding to what he saw: people had damaged in the ongoing school building project, where the buildings were de-roofed by criminals. The zinc, tiles, giant generators, and many other things were stolen.
Having seen all the foregoing, the commissioner was angry and drove to our school. Those he found absent he gave a query to be answered on Monday, and then he broadcast on the radio that teachers left their duty to attend their customers at the market.
Before we would answer the commissioner’s query, we Rumueke people decided to make a search to find where Levi was buried. Someone suggested that they should write back to the Rumudashi people that if they knew where their son was buried, they should come and pick him up. This suggestion was clever, because if Rumueke began to search for where Levi was buried, it would mean that Rumueke people knew about the kidnapping and the death of Levi.
Since Rumueke people were unable to find out where Levi was buried, Rumudashi people, with the aid of police officers, came to the land to find out where Levi was buried; they had gone to different native doctors and their gods told them that Levi was buried in Rumueke. They came with their corpse-detecting machine and native doctors, including a large number of SARS and ruffians who crowded the whole land. Suddenly, the grave of Levi was discovered by the police dog. Morticians who came along with them aided to excavate the grave, and the rotten body of Levi was found.
At this time, when the body of Levi had been discovered, the men all over the surrounding communities, including Rumudashi, Rumuoga (Levi's maternal home), and other neighboring communities started to break into houses, and then made away with peoples’ belongings. SARS were shooting guns sporadically. The people of Ode and Anyim, some villages in Rumueke, deserted their houses to save their lives. They cried as they left their homes.
A large number of criminals were trooping into Rumueke land. When they saw Clement's beautiful house, Fabian asked his men to demolish it. Clement's house was burnt to ashes; foreign currencies and expensive properties were taken away. People at distant places shouted in grief as they saw smoke and blazing fires engulf the whole land. Houses and properties were vandalized. As people saw the properties that had been carried away from Rumueke, they were surprised because they never knew that Rumueke people had such properties in their houses.
Two days later, Clement returned home. He was in his car and saw his house being burnt to ashes. He fainted, and his driver drove him back to Port-Harcourt where he was admitted into a hospital, where he remained for three days.
After the destruction of my place, I went with other affected teachers to answer the commissioner’s query. As we got to the commissioner's office, we were first addressed by the Education Permanent Secretary, the “Perm Sec.” As we sat, I looked at the teachers' faces: they were all prisoners of hope.
Although before the honorable commissioner arrived, almost all the teachers were afraid of being sacked, I was the only man who was not feeling sad. I knew the God I served.
Then the Perm Sec came in to the large hall and asked: "Are you all come from G.S.S Ochie?"
We replied, "Yes, sir."
"You people are notorious teachers; you don't come to school but receive salaries," the Perm Sec groaned.
When he said this, I thought he was the commissioner, until a fair young man gently opened a door and breezed in. Everyone stood up for him until he asked us to sit down. Immediately, I set my prayerful eyes on him, and my spirit whispered to me that my case was over. As he began to address us, I was fascinated by his soft voice.
He spoke slowly and amicably. "So, you people are the absentees who went to Eketa market?" he asked.
"No sir, there are some of us who did not come to school for one reason and the other and have taken permission from our boss," we replied.
He scolded us and later called our names through our Time-Book. Each of us he called, he said, "terminated," until he called me, "Peterson Lawson," and he noticed that I had never otherwise been absent. He then asked me what happened that I did not come to school.
As I began to give my reason, "Sir, my community was raided," the next thing I heard was, "sit down there," and he stated that he would ask the Governor to terminate our teaching appointments. As we heard about termination of our appointments, I looked at the faces of the teachers again; all seemed not well. They began to cry for mercy.
One widow knelt down in tears, begging the honorable commissioner to temper justice with mercy.
"Woman, what do you have to say?" the commissioner asked.
The widow seized the opportunity to amplify her grief, "I'm a widow. My husband died two years ago, leaving me with two children, and I'm the only parent taking care of them."
I gazed at this widow. I saw anguish and suffering. To her, all hope was gone. I began to ask: "God, where are you?" I then felt the presence of the Supernatural Being, and I hoped it also touched the heart of the commissioner.
The Perm Sec then looked at the commissioner's eyes. I realized that the look was a sign for freeing these prisoners of hope in their custody.
Then the commissioner said, "I'm a preacher of the Gospel, and because of the cry of the widow, I've forgiven you all.”
Thereafter, as I returned home, I heard that Cornell was apprehended at Anambra where he was hiding. No one had thought that Cornell would be apprehended from such a place; everyone thought he hid within the thick forest near the rivers. He was sentenced to die. Since his shrine had been demolished by the police officers, people who had been held captive in his shrine began to be free. Many people in the land were happy for him to die. Those whose nice buildings were destroyed because of him did not want to see him return to the land alive.
When Dominic heard that a lot of buildings and properties were destroyed, he was not happy, because he did not ask them to tamper with people’s properties. He then returned from the US, and he went back with Adanta and her children.
Two years later, it was confirmed that those who kidnapped Levi were not the ones who killed him. One police officer confessed that he was the one who fired his rifle that mistakenly killed Levi. He wanted to shoot the kidnappers, but unfortunately, Levi received the bullet and then died. After this confession, Cornell and his men were released. Cornell had developed a sickness from the prison, and he had no money again to treat himself; all his property and great achievements had been ruined. He roamed aimlessly, complaining of body pains and severe headache. As he walked along a lonely road one night, he slumped and died unrepentantly.
A diagnostic check-up revealed Cornell had lung cancer and pneumonia. I guessed that the lung cancer was as a result of his avid smoking and drinking, while pneumonia was contracted in the prison. I called Mildred, who was abroad with her relations, and told her that Cornell had died. Mildred was happy that he died. He wanted to kill her, and by mistake Bianca was stabbed to death.
I told Mildred that we should not rejoice for what had happened to our enemies, so that God would not be angry with us. It should be that when people rejoice, we rejoice with them, and when they mourn, we mourn with them.
Mildred understood me. One thing she said that moved me particularly was that children should listen to what their reasonable parents tell them. She was glad that she obeyed her parents not to marry Cornell; if she had not heeded them, she would have become a widow.
[This novella, by Nigerian writer and teaacher Fortune E.C. Nwaiwu, has been edited for American audiences by Dr. Douglas Winslow Cooper, firstname.lastname@example.org, through his company, WriteYourBookWithMe.com.]