Flickers of light
Stella felt excited. The whole church was watching. That was one great thing that came with being in the prayer unit of the church. You’re allowed to do deliverance, even in public. You’re made a celebrity than even that most skillful choir member, and the pompous pastor, who pretended to be humble, mostly referring to himself as ‘my humble self’.
That day, the church, Wild Fire of God, was wrapping up a seven-day open-air crusade. She had been granted the opportunity to wrap-up the program with a prayer session. When her coordinator informed her about the few minutes she had been given, she immediately began to prepare herself for what would look like an eternity of deliverance. With all the energy in her, she got ready to utilize the opportunity she had always craved: to come out of her hiding.
At first, she was going to let the prayer trend in its usual boring style. The church would only shout words that had no effect in the spiritual realm. But then, she saw something that excited her. One of the girls in the choir unit was possessed by the demon of deceit and attention. She craved it. The girl looked simple in her dressing and mannerism, but for some stupid reasons, she always had an unusual gait about her that made people throng around her. Stella rushed to the girl like a thunder storm and began to chant without the microphone. The opportunity was rare.
Normally, the church would assume she was speaking in tongues. And for the fact that she was the one leading the prayer meetings, she was at liberty to do anything she wanted. Although there were a lot of witches in that gathering- some as visitors, others as church members- none of them could understand the ancient curses she used. That was the edge she always had above them. How old were they? The oldest among them would be probably 120 years old and she was edging towards her millennial. They were just kids and she had never for once considered herself as their mates. None of them could ever go through what she had gone through.
Before she moved to the girl’s side, she shouted at the church, ‘you’ll pray that God, every tree you have not planted in me, uproot it by fire’.
If her memory served her well, that was the 57th time they were saying that prayer since her ninth month in that church. Yet, the church members always took the prayer seriously every time they gathered, and had never ceased to surprise Stella with the renewed way they saw the prayer point. Regardless of the number of times they had said the prayer, the church prayed fervently as if their stomach was a field that anyone could just plant any unwanted tree- ignorance. They cried and shouted with enticing energy. She loved it.
Her chant was directed towards giving specific instructions to Heetah, her demon, the strongest demon she had ever seen in Fortune City. Immediately, it began to torture the demon in the girl. The exciting thing about torturing the demons in people was that it made the people receive the same feeling the demons within them were having. The girl screamed, failing to stand aright. She clasped her hands over her ears and began to scream. People lost their concentration and focused on the lady. Stella loved the publicity and would have instructed them to focus the camera lens of their phones on her, but, she needed this one to be done in secrecy.
‘You’d better close your eyes so as not to go home with someone else’s problem. The spirit of Leviathan is at work here. Keep praying’.
The church returned to their fervent prayer, which became louder as if they were trying to drown the girl’s scream with their noise, as if God wouldn’t hear their voices above her painful scream. Even the little children among them vigorously shook their heads as if the unwanted tree was planted in their heads. Stella noticed that some of the witches in the gathering were sending terrible curses towards her, but she couldn’t be hurt. All the smaller demons within her were having a field day at suppressing the power of the witches’ demons. Their faces gave away their disappointment, but from research, she knew that she had to react the same way most of those ignorant powerful pastors would react. She pretended as if nothing happened to her. She was stoic as she faced the girl who had taken to rolling on the floor. Heetah was having fun with the girl’s demon. If she gave it the chance, it would love to play with her body for a long time because he wanted the lady to suffer.
If she still wanted to deceive the witches of Fortune City that she was a Christian, she had to pretend as if she didn’t know anything was being done to her because their frustration had begun to turn to reckless muttering, and screaming. Many of them had turned to the use of loud incantations that looked like speaking in other tongues to a regular Christian but were actually curses.
Stella screamed into the mic. ‘I am the daughter of the most high. I am not just any person. I speak as an authority. Keep quiet oh ye power of the heathen. The most powerful one is in your midst. Be quiet ye kingdom and force of darkness’.
She would have loved to call all the names she had once been referred to as- the good ones: Jadis, Glenda; the bad ones: Eva Nora, Bavmoda- but she kept the details to herself. The demons cringed within the witches around and they yelled in retaliation and obedience. One of them screamed and fell, turning sporadically.
‘The power of the Lord is moving strongly in this place, don’t miss this opportunity’.
Despite the perceived decorum that the church was known for, the ‘humble’ Pastor Praise climbed the altar to join them on the stage. Exactly what she needed. A little interference from the ‘humble one’ because she couldn’t concentrate on the altar if she had to keep fighting the obstinate witches. Stella expected that the Pastor would direct her and the screaming girl to move to the back of the church to continue with her deliverance. That would be a good place for her to make the girl empty and available for the spirit of another Nephilim walking on the streets. The Bible even said if the girl was rid of demons, seven more would inhabit her. As much as she would have loved to help the girl from being a breeder of demons, she was under instruction to make everyone in Black Town prepared for Lucifer’s total domination of Black Town.
‘Sister Stella, please move’, Pastor Praise, whispered into her ear. Stella gritted, moved aside, and smiled. To the church, she was excited about being helped by her pastor, but to her, she had finally made him an egomaniac. With his new ego, the church would crumble easily, starting from his family. His wife had been made addicted to chocolates and donuts, and for that reason, she had been growing obese. Very soon, Pastor Praise would have a fall-out with his wife because of her size. He had always praised her slender nature when Stella first came to the church.
Pastor Praise snatched the mic from her hand, rolled his shirts and stood, poised as if he wanted to fight the demons physically. He began to question the demon, who railed curses at him and the church instead of answering the questions asked of it. This made Pastor Praise angry. After all, he didn’t become the Pastor of such a great church by being talked down by demons. He shouted the name of Jesus, and the demon screamed, pleading first then shouting curses. Then, they started from the beginning and repeated the cycle many times.
Meanwhile, Stella stood beside him and pretended to pray along with him. At the Ministers’ side, the other Pastors linked their hands and were praying fervently. Over a small demon? She shook her head and heaved over the frustrating life that some Christians live.
Pastor Praise called for a bottle of anointing oil. Stella stood beside him and repeatedly chanted for the demon to enter her. One of the protocol officers rushed to their side with a bottle of olive oil. It took Stella a great deal of effort to stop herself from shouting in surprise as Pastor Praise bathed the girl with the new bottle of oil. The girl shrieked and flustered on the ground as if her whole being was on fire.
‘Come out of her’, Pastor Praise shouted.
‘Come out of her’, Stella shouted after him. The girl shrieked and kept rolling as the demon fought its way out of her, into Stella. She felt heavier. She smiled and waved her hand, rejoicing. The other pastors, whose eyes had been blinded by ignorance, rejoiced along with her and the beaming Pastor Praise. The girl stopped rolling, and laid still for a while.
Despite not being a Christian, Stella’s aim wasn’t to disgrace the girl in front of the congregation. Heetah must have seen that she wouldn’t do what he desired, and had stoked the ‘humble’ Pastor Praise’s pride. By this time, many people in the congregation were staring at the innocent young lady, whose white and black choir uniform was now dirty from the excessive rolling on the floor in addition to being soaked in a bottle of olive oil. Stella couldn’t imagine what the thought of the congregation would be towards the little lady. Many of them would her as being demon possessed and would react stupidly around her for a while.
‘Devil, you’re a liar’, Stella said as she helped the girl up.
He knows, Heetah said to her mind.
‘Thank you, lord. Thank you lord’, she shouted.
Heetah had warned her against using the name ‘Jesus’ anyhow. He asked her to always say lord, which referred to Lucifer, their lord. And whenever she was to say ‘in Jesus’ name we have prayed’, she could either aspirate ‘Jesus’ by pronouncing ‘ Jhesus’; or nasalize it, as in ‘Jinsus’. With that, she wouldn’t face the wrath of he-who-seats-on-the-throne, and she was always careful about that.
After a little more charade, Pastor Praise returned to his huge golden seat with a pretentious humility and avid desire for praise while Stella stepped down from the podium, and stared into the weak church. They were all weak and blind spiritually. No matter how much they shouted, no matter how boisterous their plea was, they didn’t have the reality of Christ, none of them. And she wouldn’t be the one to enlighten them, not in this life.
Just as the service was going to a close, Heetah and all the demons in her wriggled.
‘What’s that Heetah?’ Stella whispered. The woman sitting next to her, glanced at her, and nodded understandingly. Everyone assumed she was in the spirit, that she was silently speaking in tongues. So, she made the façade remained so.
‘Someone entered the church. He has light’.
‘Okay. Project it, let me see’, she whispered.
Heetah projected the Church. Everywhere was dark in the spirit except a flicker of light from the end of the row.
‘Was he in Church all this while?’ She mumbled.
‘Are you deaf? He just entered’.
‘Show me his face’.
‘Light! His light is still on’.
She shrugged. ‘I will put it off’.
That was her job in Fortunecity: to put off the light in Fortunecity before Lucifer’s invasion – rather, visit. She was under strict order not to join any coven. Her job was to deceive all – the witches and the Christians alike. That was her job. Since she had killed the light in the Church that seemed to have the most balanced way of Christianity, it would be easier to kill the others.
Her initial plan was to ensure she sought him out after the service, but when the person in charge of announcement called for first-timers, and he was led to the front of the church, she made sure she remembered things about him. He was surely getting his flickers of light from a source outside of Black Town, she could see the singed parts of his spiritual wool and knew that he had just recently received the fire from somewhere else.
After the service ended, she moved to the person in charge of following-up new members, who was watching the members of his unit do their job effectively. She always loved his energy, and hoped he would also realize that he was in danger, but who was she to feel sad for the people of Black Town. They had allowed ignorance to take over their mind, and she wouldn’t do anything about it.
‘Matthew, good evening’, she said as she extended her hand for a handshake. He rose quickly and staggered then steadied himself. His right foot was shorter than the left. She would have loved to help with some incantations that would cause the immediate growth of the leg, but doing that was preserved for the glory of her husband, her master, Lucifer. It would still take a bit of time to do such a thing in Black Town.
‘Good evening ma’.
‘God bless you, sir’.
Then they exchanged pleasantries in a way that was boring and awkward like the formal, religious people do, one she always hated. But she had to follow their trend if she ever wanted to penetrate them and their lifestyle.
‘I guess you must have noticed me and Gladys’, she said.
She bit her lower lips as she remembered whom she had always loathed. Gladys had recently been getting closer to her, and she hated it. Stella suspected that she got closer to have power because Gladys had been chewing the phrase in her mouth like beef. Yet, Heetah didn’t seem to be against her coming close. There was a prophecy that a great one was coming to take over Black Town after Lucifer’s visit. She should have known that Lucifer had a plan that was beyond her reach with Gladys. Heetah had just spoken through her to Matthew, and she had to keep the pretense.
‘Yes. I notice…’
‘Oh! Please let’s have our seats’, Stella said as she dragged a seat out of the row to sit in. Matthew sat as if he was pulling a rope, and she couldn’t imagine the pain that would surge through her body if she ever had that deformity or any deformity.
‘You were saying?’ She said.
‘Yes, I said I noticed you two are getting closer day by day’.
‘Good. I’m her mentor or a sort of um…guide for now. And one of the components of her training is to be actively involved in the unit she is’.
‘That’s lovely. I also noticed that she has been actively showing her ability in God’.
‘So, I want to advise that you sort of make her cattle have something to do. Let it mow the field for God. Let her follow-up one of the new members’.
‘Well there was only one today’, Matthew replied dejectedly, and she gritted as she knew she would soon be soaked in the same message Matthew preached every time he climbed the altar. But she couldn’t resist it. Staying behind to listen would propel him to do her bidding without her having to cast any spell on him.
‘It’s so painful to see the people of God gallivanting around, and not do the sole purpose of their salvation. The main aim of the gospel. How will it be today if everybody brought somebody to church? Oh! The church is dying, and we need prayer. Prayer should resound in rooms, and doorways, and on the balconies of people for the Church of God’.
She nodded approvingly. He was right, but not about the prayers for evangelism; rather, for the gospel to be rejuvenated.
‘Do you know that last week, just last week two brothers left the Church for another Church?’
That caught her attention and she had to make Heetah stop his search for someone to disturb their meeting. Earlier, when his rambling was becoming overbearing, she had made Heetah scout for someone to break their meeting.
‘Where did they go?’
‘Who cares? They said that the Word of God is not here. They are going to one fellowship in Brown Valley. Can you imagine? Fellowship. When there is a Church of God, established and known for the wondrous ways God works’.
‘So they left the Church for a fellowship?’
‘Yes, my sister. And we need to bring back…’
By this time, Stella was tired of his rant, so she made Heetah nudge a woman to come to meet her. The woman, who seemed to have been waiting for her, edged towards them and bent her knees.
‘Oh, Mrs. Kolawole…’ she said and pleaded with Matthew that she wanted to attend to her.
‘Matthew, the prayer unit would bring back the fire’.
He nodded and heaved.
Stella also heaved as she led the woman to a corner of the Church. Although she had left his side, she wanted to knock his head for referring to her as his sister. Her mother knew how many children she gave birth to, and she was aware that Matthew wasn’t one of them. If he saw in her old form, he would refer to her as his ancestor.
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Gladys Bolawole sat still after the service, and waited at a corner for Stella. Normally, she should have queued up along with others to see her, but she had all the time in the world, she could sacrifice all the time in the world, and she would utilize it by waiting patiently, especially as Stella ordered her to wait till she finished with the people she was talking to.
Although Stella wasn’t the prayer coordinator, she was more fire-branded than the other members of the prayer unit. She was an emblem of power and genuine ‘holy ghost fire’. She glanced at Stella again, and saw her talking to the bible study teacher, Christiana, whom she had also started warming up to. However, for reasons beyond her comprehension, Christiana had suddenly become cold to her. She had almost summoned the courage to ask if she did something wrong, but felt Christiana was busy and didn’t know how to handle it.
‘Sister Gladys’, Matthew, the follow-up unit’s coordinator said with a broad smile that she understood to mean that he had gotten someone else to be a member of the Church and he wanted her to approve. She wasn’t even the coordinator or an assistant, but Matthew just had a knack for making sure everything was working fine, and that she was part of the process. If he had the mind of making her his assistant or recommending her for any post, he had better keep his recommendation in the deepest corner of his pocket because she wouldn’t oblige the call to a post until she had laid her hand on what she desired.
Gladys gritted as she tried to avoid staring at the person Matthew came with. He wasn’t the typical tall, dark and handsome type of guy. His body could easily be described as a beans stalk. It was only his neck and few inches of his shoulder that made his head different from his body, but he had a goatee that made him look handsome still. His soft clean-shaved cheeks were the perfect example of what she wanted on any man she would want to call her own.
Despite the nagging painful desire in her heart to see Stella, she presented the man a big smile as she rose from her seat, hand outstretched.
‘Sister Gladys, he is our first timer. He’s bro…’
‘Yes. Bro. Japheth’, Matthew said joyfully. ‘We will be visiting him soon. Both of us’.
‘With all pleasure. It’s a good thing to meet you, Bro… Which of the two is your name?’
‘Good. Nice meeting you Bro. Japheth’, she said as her mind began to creep back to her desire. If she got what she wanted, the thought about him could follow. She glanced at Stella’s seat and saw she had one more person to attend to.
‘Nice meeting you too’ Japheth said. Then, Matthew led him away after lamenting about the poor evangelism of the Church, and how he might start a prayer meeting soon to ensure that the Church came back to sense.
She reverted to her thought, and didn’t care about the way Christiana, sprinted out of the church. She wanted to be alone, in her coldness and desire. When she saw Stella strutting out of the building, she wanted to follow her, but she saw that the other woman was also waiting. She saw the shadows of the chairs on the floor, and wondered at the mysteries of the world. How was it that the sun could give a clear reflection of people’s body? Some people have even learnt how to manipulate to form different objects and animals. What could she do? Nothing. She was so useless that nobody was thronging to her like they did Stella. If she got the power she so much craved, the whole mysteries of this world and of God would be laid before her like a field of herbs. She would know the deep things of God, and have the power that he had endued his own with.
However, she was soon accosted by the assistant Bible Study Secretary, who came to ask her to join their unit. Upon seeing this, the Prayer coordinator rushed down to her side and playfully asked her not to accept the assistant Bible Study Secretary’s offer, that the prayer unit had a better offer for her. The two of them rambled on, and tried to engage her in other drab worthless discussions until the Pastor’s wife, Mrs. Praise, came around that she needed to see her.
‘Do you mean you two are here fighting as if you’re dogs and she’s bone? Didn’t you hear the commotion outside the church?’
‘No, ma’, the prayer coordinator said and glanced at the door that led out of the church.
‘See you. Divine had convulsion outside now. It wasn’t funny. Only God saved her. God really saved her. Even Mama, that old woman that plays a blue fishlike tambourine…’
‘…Her fingers were injured because she dipped her hand into Divine’s mouth. God! That woman. I feel for her’.
‘Our same Divine?’ The assistant Bible Study Secretary bemoaned, and hurried off to meet Christiana, who was leading her daughter into the church. She had a mark that always made her smile look like a frown when she wasn’t showing her beautiful white teeth.
‘Yes o. Thank God for Pastor, and one brother like that. I think he is the newcomer. The man is good. He quickly attended to her, and he helped stabilize her’.
The Prayer Coordinator also joined Christiana and her assistant as they kept trying to make sure Divine was alright.
‘Please have your seat’, Mrs. Praise said as she squeezed her fat self into a plastic chair. Gladys glanced at the leg of the chair and felt for the chair. It was bent to a side. If she were the chair, she would probably give in to the heavy weight.
‘Well done ma’, Gladys said.
Mrs. Praise started out by asking for the unnecessary things like how was her work, and a lot of rubbish that Gladys was sure would eat into her time and prevent her from meeting Stella before someone else came to get counselling from her. Her three-year-old son ran to her with a packet of chocolate to report someone and she waved him away, but not before she tore the wrap, and munched part of the bar of chocolate. Her son ran away mumbling how he would report her to his father. Gladys was sure she would never use her as a mentor. She didn’t want chairs under her to scream in disgust as well.
‘Mummy, I have an appointment with Sister Stella, after that last woman’.
‘So you’re saying I should say I want to say and leave’, Mrs. Praise joked. Gladys smiled.
‘That’s not what I mean’.
‘I know. The thing is that…’ Mrs. Praise said with a serious face as she tried to sit well in the chair. The chair winced and quaked. Mrs. Praise adjusted herself.
Mrs. Praise waved her hand. ‘Don’t bother about that. I know it’s not in my place, but I think I should hint you. Pastor ought to have called you about this, but I guess he is so busy and the person that sent him to you really wants the reply soonest’.
Gladys felt the urge to glance at Sister Stella but she held herself in place like the taproot of an herb would firmly do.
‘How often do you pray?’
Gladys blinked severally, she never expected such question from Mrs. Praise. ‘Regularly, daily’.
‘I mean about him’.
‘Him. The him’, Mrs. Praise said and winked. Her closed eyes made her look like the bark of an old tree. The new suits she wore was in no way able to cover her fatness up. Unfortunately, she wore a small blue camisole that made it hard for her cleavages to get any covering, and because of that she kept covering the cloth with her sweaty hand.
Gladys blinked severally and gurgled. ‘There’s no him’
‘Seriously? At this your age, with this kind of beauty?’
Gladys blinked again. ‘Erm… It’s not on the top of my list at the moment. It’s still in the store and would be later placed on fire, but for now. I’m not in a rush’.
Mrs. Praise sighed. ‘Mr. Akanni, you know him right’.
She nodded. He was extremely rich and was a good singer, handsome and played with kids a lot. Who wouldn’t know him? Most of the ladies in the church referred to him as husband material, 50-yards.
‘He believes the Lord wants you to be his wife’.
At first she stared at Mrs. Praise, then she scoffed and burst into laughter. ‘Mummy, that man…He must be engaged now. Maybe he just said it in passing. I mean…’
‘No. He meant it. Don’t think about it. Just pray…’
‘I won’t lie. I’m not ready to pray. If he can wait, I’ll pray.’
‘He will wait…’
‘For like two years’.
‘Are you joking?’
‘No ma. My desire is different at the moment. And I’m not ready to pray on such frivolity?’
‘Marriage? Frivolity? Are…’
Stella came forward and Gladys felt like jumping on her as if she was her mother, who had arrived to save her from a wicked older neighbor. ‘Mummy. Gladys. Good evening. Sorry for disturbing. Gladys, when you’re ready.’
‘We’re done already’. ‘Just pray about it’.
‘I’ve heard you, ma. Tell him my stand, ma’.
Gladys rose. Even if she would pray, it would be for a bolder man, not for one that hid under a fat Pastor’s wife. She looked at her blue midi skirt and dusted off wrinkles from it. She had ordered her outfit from Fundel Collections, along with the bell sleeved striped top she wore on it, and a Hermes bag. The collection was transported to her from Ibadan, and she wouldn’t want Mrs. Praise to stain it with her ungodly news. How would it be that her clothe that didn’t have any blemish on it when it was transported to Black Town, would now have stains from the rubbish Mrs. Praise was spitting. No wonder the man always wanted to give her a lift despite knowing she had her own car.
Gladys scurried after Stella, who walked away majestically. When they closed the door of the Church’s prayer room, Stella asked, ‘What do you want?’
‘Power. I want power’.
Stella gave her a bland gaze that made her anxious. She sighed as if she had no other option. ‘Okay. Let’s start’.
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