It wasn’t surprising how people gathered with the speed of light whenever an alarm was raised on our street. Usually, the first group of spectators, or rather gossips consisted women. You would see one tying her wrapper as it fell flying while she ran to the scene, and another holding her cut, worn out slippers. It was yet another of such days when an issue attracted public opinion. I had helped myself to a space of comfort on the second floor of my father’s uncompleted storey building.
“I saw him”, Mama Risi said assuredly, as if to prompt someone to disagree with her. “Who saw him?” another woman asked. I adjusted my stool upstairs listening intently and smiling when there was need to.
“What is it?” Iya Kabira voice arrived at the scene earlier than she, barefooted like many others while her five year old Kabira ran after her, mucus dripping her nose; she used her tongue to do the cleaning. I spat in disgust, sending to oblivion, the fact that I was worse even when I was much older than she.
“It is Baba, it is Baba” another woman answered Iya Kabira, panting heavily, unclear if she was reciting a psalm or chanting a spell. My eyes drifted to Iya Kabira, now at the fore of the whole crowd, throwing her hands into the air as if the matter had more to do with her than others. “What if she had even seen the ghost?” I thought.
If I had not seen Baba myself, I would never have agreed that such thing existed. I however was unaware that it was Baba whom I was leading to the house beside ours, his house. An old, frail man had stopped me on my way from school and demanded that I lead him to Baba Ewe’s house, a request to which I consented.
I had taken him to the house entrance when one of Baba’s children, an eight year old Aina had shouted, “Baba Ewe”. I looked up to his face and immediately, a blanket of cold seemed to encircle me, causing me to shiver and draining all the courage I had. I released a scream that seemed to deafen even me and cut through the street to summon all the women.
Iya Risi continued her explanation of what she hadn’t seen. I smiled upstairs, wondering if I would also grow to become another gossip of a woman in the future. I wanted to tell the horde that Baba Ewe didn’t put on white garment as against Iya Risi’s claim. She couldn’t have seen him, I thought, Baba had disappeared the moment I yelled, almost as immediately as our eyes met. Not even Aina’s explanation could save the crowd the mendacious information that Iya Risi had begun to propagate on the street.
I encircled my hands around my knees then placed my head on them. I reminisced on the incidents around me. Yesterday made it exactly seven months after Baba joined his ancestors and seven years, two weeks after my own father died. I raised my head and surveyed my father’s uncompleted building, if only he had not died when I was ten, I would be living in one of the rooms closest to the kitchen, where I could easily sneak my way inside and eat enough of the fruit that would be in our white chest freezer, one like those I usually saw in movies.
Gone were the days when my father had just died, for three consecutive months, I had sat beside his grave late in the evening and wept my eyes out hoping he would appear, so I may do, one; challenge him on why he had to die, leaving my unemployed mum to take care of me and my three siblings; two, give him two options, whether to take me with him, or find a way money would always be available each time we were in need, then I would report Mama Risi, how she rained invectives on mummy each time she could not pay up her debt for gari as agreed. But father never appeared, the poor man, I later concluded that he had been the one sending crickets to chirp and frogs to croak so I might be scared away from his grave.
“Ghosts do not exist…it is the work of demons. Demons put on the image of the dead and make men believe in reincarnation”. Pastor Biodun had said in his glorious, all-knowing voice that drowned the noise of the crowd. This made the people pay him enough attention as the most revered man of God on the street. His opinion provoked counter opinions. Whiles some agreed, others disagreed. Whatever the case was, I remained indifferent, for to me, it wasn’t a matter of weather ghosts existed, but rather that I had led a dead man to his house in the image of the living.
Iya Risi was the first to leave the scene, after it was reported that a goat had made its way into her supermarket, a shed made of joined planks, and helped itself into a lunch of dry gari. The population reduced just the same way it had been made up and everyone left with these erroneous stories that Iya Risi had cooked up. This only intensified my fear, for it had been three weeks of uninterrupted power failure and mum would not allow me use candle while sleeping, plus, the thought of ghosts had successfully found its abode on my mind.
Two weeks later…
Pastor Biodun sat in front of his house, enjoying the fresh air that power failure had denied him. He had been reading his Bible with a torch whose battery had been drained of energy but charged enough to create his silhouette in the dark night.
“Who is that?” he had asked when a figure in pure white went past him in what seemed like a calculated ghostly movement without speaking. Another figure followed, but with a humming, frightening sound. By this time, Pastor Biodun raised his torch which could not even create the wanted picture. He stood up and raised his Bible but was forced to retreat when another white figure charged towards him with a chirp.
The fourth figure, in the same colour from head to toe moved swiftly towards him with an eerie laughter that caught Pastor Biodun throwing his torch against the scary figure, reciting or rather chanting “the Lord is my shepherd…” and running frantically to the entrance of his house with a wail that condescended his age.
I quickly ran away, avoiding being caught by the crowd who later rushed out of the house to see the ghosts that had come to attack Pastor Biodun. I went upstairs our house to join my three other friends, looking through a window and listening to how Pastor Biodun relayed his ghost experience to the people two houses away. Good job, I thought, even Mama Risi’s make up story could inspire much.
We silently began to remove our pyjamas and clean ourselves of the white paint. We really had a long time doing that, thanks that mum wasn’t at home. I smiled; wondering what would have happened if Pastor Biodun’s torch had hit me. “Even Pastors are afraid of ghosts” I thought.