PASTOR CLIFFORD HEARD the noise of distress in his dream, oblivious that the noise was actually coming from the real world. Suddenly, he was jolted up from sleep by his cell-phone lying by the bed side on the bed shelf, buzzing annoyingly. Etia, his wife propped up after him on the other side of the bed, seemingly alarmed. Then they heard a long shrill of a woman outside from distance like three streets away, sounding like she was in a serious danger.
“What was that noise?” Etia asked rhetorically, hurrying to the window in her pajamas to take a peek even though they lived in a bungalow and couldn’t see the street through the fence that boxed up the building. Her heart pounded like the devil’s submachine gun.
Clifford’s phone kept ringing, identifying Sister Debbie as the caller. She was one of the ushers at the All Saints’ Pentecostal Church which Clifford headed as the pastor.
He picked up the phone, “Hello?” he said into it. Anxiety’d gripped them both and adrenalin was invisibly spewing through their bodies into the room to thin the air. At this time, the wall clock fingered at 11:52pm.
“Hello Pastor…” was all Clifford could hear. The woman on the other side was crying as she spoke. Her voice seemed clogged with whatever the grief was and her words were impossible to hear clearly.
“I can’t hear you Sister Debbie. What is going on?”
Etia was now sitting beside her husband on the edge of the bed. He’d put the phone on speaker.
“They killed my husband in cold blood. They butchered him. I can’t find my son!” she said incoherently, crying.
“What?!” Clifford felt like his head had been split into two by a seismic blow “ Who?”
Sister Debbie snuffled, and then continued.
“The indigenous tribe, they are on rampage. They are killing Christians and setting houses on fire. They chased my son off with machetes, I don’t know if they’ve caught up with him”, now her voice‘d switched into falsetto as she continued weeping.
“Where are you now, Sister Debbie?” Etia asked; shuddering like jelly she already was beside her husband.
“I’m hiding in a reservoir down the street with my daughter”
“Can you find a way down here?” Etia continued “with your baby?”
“No, I can’t. They are all over the streets with all kinds of weapons hacking anything that moved down” she said, her voice quavering.
“Okay, are safe where you are?”
“I don’t know, maybe it’s a matter of time before they found us here”
Clifford promised to call her back every five minutes, and then ended the call. Now he was pretty shaken up too. His hands and legs quivered on the floor.
“Go and bring the kids here” he told his wife who hurried away. Two minutes later, the children were with them. James, their first son was seven years old. David, their second, was five, while Rebecca the youngest was three. They continued their sleep on their parents’ bed comfortably and innocently while their mother huddled up solo beside them.
Clifford left the room and then resurfaced, holding a machete of his own. He’d bought it some few months back to do some gardening work around the house, and to fell the guava tree in front of the house.
With the machete, he was going to wait outside in the compound incase anyone jumped in. He would do whatever was necessary to protect his family. He wouldn’t just cow inside the house with his wife and children, until some stray animals invade, maybe set the house on fire, wait for them to run out, and then hack them down like pigs.
He argued with Etia for a minute on his intention, and then she later agreed. Though he was a man of God, it was a sin to inflict pain on any man, butcher or worse still take a life. But, he was not about to let the inevitable carnage befall his family. He knew this town and the indigenous people, life meant nothing to them. They would take it just before you shout Jesus.
“Don’t stop praying” he told his wife and then left. The front door to the house was locked from inside by Etia after he’d stepped outside.
The gates to the house were under padlock, he always made sure of that every night before he went to sleep. Hence, if anyone was planning to get to them, he would have to jump the fence. And he would be there to give them a swift surprise as they came. He put all his senses to work, clutching the machete firmly and oozing out sweat massively. Though there were atoms of fear in him, his pounding heart was evident. But he was a desperate man.
He was a popular pastor. He was sure they would come. He leaned his back on the fence and his eyes swept all over the place like a surveillance camera.
Suddenly, he caught a glimpse of a silhouette of someone over the fence on his right side. And instantly the figure jumped and landed on some slime in the grass, then fell splayed out on his back.
Clifford ran forward, raising his machete to heaven to take a better of the intruder. Suddenly, he was stopped cold when he heard the man shout in fear.
“Pastor, it’s me- it’s me!”
He instantly lowered his machete destined for the centre of the intruder’s head. He had recognized the hoarse voice and the young man who now wobbled all over the place.
“Brother Edeabe?” Clifford said, squeezing his face in bewilderment.
Edeabe was one of his security guards at the church. He watched him pant like his life depended on it for a while.
“They set the church on fire, chased Rufus with machetes. I’m sure they’ve …killed him” he explained still huffing and puffing. “I think Rufus is dead!”
Rufus was his partner at the security post “They were over fifty, maybe more. I ran, I can’t believe I escaped”
“The church is on fire?” Clifford asked rhetorically, the news tugging his heart strings. For a moment, he just went mute and utterly senseless.
Then after a while, he swung back and noticed that Edeabe had already found himself a plank of wood to defend himself with.
“Are they still in pursuit of you?”
“I’m not sure pastor, but I think I shook them off”
He asked him to go and man the other side of the wall opposite him, and do what he almost did to him, should anything jumped in.
They waited doggo for about fifteen minutes, and then suddenly they heard the sound of a moving vehicle outside on the street. Thereafter, headlights seeped in through the openings in the gates. Clifford hurriedly went to take a peek. Outside there, he saw a military truck patrolling the street. He heaved a sigh of relief and called Edeabe over.
He produced the key to the padlock from his pocket, unlocked it and then opened the gates. They hid their weapons behind the gate and then scurried towards the truck to share their fear.
The truck halted and three camouflage uniform men came out holding rifles, only the driver stayed put. Their eyes seemed hard and unfriendly. Clifford understood it was peculiar with soldiers.
“Good morning Officers. Please help us. We are unsafe. My family is inside the house…” he started.
When he was done talking, the soldiers looked each other in the eyes, and then into the sky. They chanted in their indigenous language, “God is great!” aimed their rifles at the two armless men and fired them point blank. They plunged to their deaths. Slowly, blood slithered away from their motionless bodies on the ground and began to gather into a pool.
Then the soldiers walked away into Clifford’s house, to finish the job.