I swear by Apollo, the healer, Asclepius, Hygieia, and Panacea, and I take to witness all the gods, all the goddesses, to keep according to my ability and my judgment, the following Oath and agreement:
To consider dear to me, as my parents, him who taught me this art; to live in common with him and, if necessary, to share my goods with him; To look upon his children as my own brothers, to teach them this art.
I will prescribe regimens for the good of my patients according to my ability and my judgment and never do harm to anyone.
I will not give a lethal drug to anyone be it being, beast or spirit if I am asked, nor will I advise such a plan; and similarly I will not give a them a pessary to cause an abortion.
But I will preserve the purity of my life and my arts.
I will not cut for stone, even for patients in whom the disease is manifest; I will leave this operation to be performed by practitioners, specialists in this art.
In every house where I come I will enter only for the good of my patients, keeping myself far from all intentional ill-doing.
All that may come to my knowledge in the exercise of my profession or in daily commerce with beast, being and spirit, which ought not to be spread abroad, I will keep and will never reveal.
If I keep this oath faithfully, may I enjoy my life and practice my art, respected by all creatures and men, and in all times; but if I swerve from it or violate it, may the reverse be my lot.
A Humbled Elder
Mr. and Mrs. Hindan were the most unstable and unusual parents anyone could ever meet, and they couldn’t care less what you, or anyone else thought, because they were happy to be so. They could never be caught dead taking their children to the park like other normal parents do, or to school, because they felt that such practices were dull and unnecessary. Instead they usually took them to their workplaces where they did their daily business transactions. And that would have been okay if the work they did involved selling schoolbooks for little children, or doing charity work for hospitals, no, their job description was nowhere near any of those.
Mr. Hindan was an acquirer and Mrs. Hindan was a distributor of magical items. Items that were so unusual and dangerous that to handle some of them, you had to be depressed, while others you had to handle them during the full moon, and most of them had to be handled by children to prevent them from exploding, causing any adult within a three-mile radius permanent unhappiness.
Mr. Hindan was a handsome and dark man. He was tall and lanky, with slightly graying hair which sometimes made people address him as Uncle Jeffery, while Mrs. Hindan was a fair woman with freckles on her face and a slightly long nose, which came in handy when sniffing for poisonous or cursed objects.
Yes, they were unusual parents, but all that was to change when Mrs. Hindan died in a car crash. A ‘normal’ death I’m sure you’ll say but even her death, scorns the word. The crash happened while they were escaping some supernaturally powerful men called ‘elders’; earth guardians whose job it was to rid it of everything magical be it witch, wizard, warlock or any object that had a drop of magic in it.
The death of Mrs. Hindan is what led Uncle Jeffery to get a nanny and move with his children to a peaceful suburban estate called Ringewud, where they could live a normal magic-free life. Sadly, the normal family life of a widower and his three children was short-lived, for five months after they had moved into the estate, the neighbors had called a meeting in the estate hall to discuss the weird things that Mrs. Wamaka and Mr. Ladejobi of house number five and four claimed they had seen
“It was around eleven o’clock,” Mrs. Wamaka started, scratching at her hair which had been tied to a bun. She was a rather fat woman with a friendly face, who knew almost every dirty detail about everyone. Nothing ever happened in the estate without her knowledge. If you were up to no good in the estate and you wanted no one to know about it, it was safer to tell her about it, for she was also good in covering things up. “And naturally I was going to bring in the clothes because I had done some laundry earlier.”
About four or five people snorted from behind, but Mrs. Wamaka ignored this.
“Eleven O’clock?” said one of the women from behind. “Bringing in your clothes by that time? Are you sure you were not doing something else?”
“Like what, Pedita?”
“Pork-nosing, maybe. We wouldn’t put it past you.”
Mrs. Wamaka stood up angrily, but before she could say anything Mr. Humphrey silenced her. “Enough bickering,” he shouted, banging his fist on the table. “And let’s get on with the matter at hand; you were saying you saw something when you were bringing in your clothes, yes Wamky?”
“Well, err,” Mrs. Wamaka cleared her throat loudly, and continued. “It was beside house number seven, two men tying only wrappers, both of them were carrying staffs, and they were on fire. They were talking about,” she paused for a moment, wondering what Pedita and the other women at the back would say if she told them everything both men had said. It would just be another excuse for them to call her a busybody.
“Wamky my dishes won’t wash themselves, carry on please.”
“Well, they were trying to get into house number seven,” she decided. “But they couldn’t – couldn’t even get past the front porch. Then my phone rang, and they vanished, just like that.”
“Really!” cried several people. Some in mock awe while others in fear.
“Yes I saw them too,” Mr. Ladejobi, a frail old man said, trying to stand up, his walking stick by his side. “At the same house number seven. I was walking my dog, and though my hearing and sight are quite bad I could have sworn I saw three men get thrown off the front porch of house number seven. On bare feet where they not?” he asked, nodding at Mrs. Wamaka, who nodded back. “Well, there you have it. What do we have to say about it? Never has anything like that occurred in the fifty years that I have lived in this estate, which brings us to the major question. Who lives in that house?”
Heads turned, searching for the owner of house number seven, and when no one saw the house owner, a series of snorts could be heard again.
“Too proud, couldn’t even bother to attend,” grunted a man sitting close to the hall door.
“Probably busy,” said Steven, a bottle of beer under his shirt. “Couldn’t bother himself with this meeting, I for one wouldn’t have-”
“Is it not his house that they have been after?” barked Mr. Humphrey, cutting Steven the estate drunkard short. He banged on the table. “I won’t be surprised if he has something to do with this weird people, from the day he moved in here with his children and that nanny of his – if she is just a nanny, you never know…” Here people laughed, drowning out the rest of Mr. Humphrey’s words, while others nodded, but Mrs. Wamaka seemed offended by this.
“Ah! Please you people,” she said angrily. “He’s been through hard times, he lost his wife, and has to live with three children, two of which do not want to be with him – that’s no reason to-”
“If you spent as much time on your marriage, as you spent on other people’s sordid affairs,”’ said Pedita, nodding at the other women for their support. “Maybe Paul wouldn’t have run off with Henrietta the baker.”
“Enough of this nonsense!” Mrs. Wamaka shouted, kicking her seat away and preparing to leave. “I thought the essence of this meeting was to get people who would volunteer to patrol the estate at night, and keep an eye out for these strange visitors.”
“As far as they have not harmed anybody,” said Steven shifting slightly. “I don’t see any reason we should bother with patrolling the estate.” He fingered the beer bottle under his shirt, longingly.
“We must not wait for them to harm anybody before we act,” said Pedita. “I have five children.”
“And all of them are old enough to have five children of theirs,” replied Mrs. Wamaka sharply, which resulted to an argument, and, everyone joined in. Mr. Ladejobi brandished his walking stick threateningly at Steven who used the opportunity to take a big gulp from the bottle, Pedita was shouting at the top of her voice while Mrs. Wamaka kept laughing, keeping her distance. Beside them, a woman put her hands to her baby’s ears to stop the child from crying, while Mr. Humphrey, in anger, took off his worn out sandals, and banged it hard on the table, causing everybody to fall silent.
“Sit down and be quiet everybody,” he shouted. “We’ll make this quick and simple. I have already prepared a time-table for the volunteers,” at this he stood up and handed out some papers with the days of the week, and schedules filled on them. “Please we must adhere strictly to them.” He waited for a while as they looked through the paper, and then said, “Are there any problems? Is it clear enough for everybody?”
There was a general murmur of “Yes,” and “Very clear indeed,” and in Steven’s case, “Whatever,” and then Mr. Humphrey continued.
“The only thing we need to make it work now, are volunteers. Interested people should signal by raising their hands.”
Most of the men suddenly became engrossed with their phones, while others like Steven, pretended to be in prayer.
“The men in the house please,” cried Pedita after a moment’s waiting and no one had raised their hand. “I would have volunteered, but I don’t think it would be proper since I am a woman, I am sure Humphrey agrees. Why, if my husband was around he would have risen to the task.” All the men pretended not to hear her, but Mr. Humphrey cleared his throat, and added, “Women can also volunteer – you would all be given a whistle should you see anything strange, so Mrs. Tonslip if you would please come and write down your name here,” he raised a paper to her. “And we can continue from there.”
Mrs. Tonslip looked as if she had eaten something that tasted horribly. She suddenly began to fan herself with her hands, looking around, and trying with no success to avoid the stares of everybody, including the men, who looked at her, with exaggerated expressions.
Mrs. Wamaka had even gone ahead to tell those women sitting close to her (in audible whispers) so Mrs. Tonslip could hear her clearly. “Selfless woman that Pedita, her husband must be very proud.” And at that, she stood up and began to clap her hands, shouting “Pedita,” continuously till everyone joined in, and Mrs. Tonslip had no choice but to stand up, smiling sheepishly as she walked towards Mr. Humphrey’s table.
“Thank you,” said Mr. Humphrey proudly, handing her the paper and pen. “Just fill in your full name – you can leave the other boxes blank, we obviously know where you live, and that you are married of course… We just need another volunteer, and we are good to go,” he continued, facing the crowd.
Mrs. Tonslip had finished filling the form, and was now standing in front of everybody with her hands folded. Unlike Mrs. Wamaka who now had a satisfied smile on her face, she did not look happy.
“…anybody? Not even you Peter – Steven – Johnson – Mr. Ladejobi please put your staff down!” For the old man, whose raised hands Mr. Humphrey had pretended not to notice for the past minute, had raised his staff as high as he possibly could, his weak legs shaking under his weight. “Oh well if that is the way it is, then I guess we should forget this whole matter and-”
The hall door opened, and then closed. Uncle Jeffery walked in. He was wearing a blue T-shirt with knee-length shorts and a pair of flower-patterned flip-flops.
If his graying hair which reflected the sunlight coming through the open windows gave him the look of someone holy, or his handsome face and tall body, which made all the women whip out their mirrors, and all the men hide their faces, it was nothing compared to his smooth and soft voice – it was like flowing water, which carried around the hall, causing everyone to be quiet.
“Sorry I am late – my kids,” he continued, walking briskly towards the table where Mr. Humphrey and Mrs. Tonslip stood. “I volunteer if it’s not too late; you saw the men around my house. It is only fair.
“Well,” Uncle Jeffery said when he had reached Mr. Humphrey and Mrs. Tonslip. “Where do I sign up?” he grinned widely.
“Oh, yes of course,” said Mr. Humphrey, a second later nodding his head. “Jeffery isn’t it,” Uncle Jeffery nodded. “… moved in here five months ago, have three children, your wife is dead?” he just kept blabbing, like he was being compelled. “… Good, good, good. Sign here please.”
Unaffected by the outburst of questions, he smiled and filled in the form. Mrs. Tonslip giggled slightly like a little girl, as she directed Uncle Jeffery on which spaces to fill and the ones to leave blank. Mrs. Wamaka took this to mean something else and so immediately volunteered herself. The next moment, everybody raised their hands to volunteer as well. This time, Mr. Humphrey let Mr. Ladejobi put his name down.
“Football nights are a no, no,” Mr. Johnson, a potbellied banker with a hairbrush mustache warned as he wrote his name down.
“If I manage to remain sober till night I am good,” said Steven with a hiccup.
“Anything to get away from the wife,” added Bonaventure feebly. He was a bald-headed tiny man, whose left eye was puffy and his middle tooth was missing. “I need a break.”
The meeting ended shortly, neither one of them knowing that in a few days, the strangest and most dangerous of all these visitors would be paying house number seven a visit, and this time, would succeed in entering.