“Kill him if you must” cried the hungry voice from within “there is no other choice, take him from behind or they would die” how quick and oppressing the impulse when evil must take hold and its destruction made manifest. The fangs of its baseless needs sinks deep into the unwilling flesh; will it or not the deed is done and another victim is born. Tears or no tears the mourning song is chorused loud if not by family then by Mother Earth or the countless spirits that must now bear silent witness. Triumphantly he walked the route home, the warmth in his heart ignited by the hope derived from the act of theft which like countless others before it necessity had prompted. The victim had struggled and for an instant he had feared defeat like the withering depression of a deflating nightmare that is certain to lose out with the approach of the morning sun.
His resolve had prevailed and that resolve had rekindled the fervent urge to succeed, whether by the hook or by the crook. In this matter his conscience had been relegated to the shadows of insignificance. Though still a poor fellow he was now with hope, enough to last the few weeks to come. The discontent and animosity from hunger can now be mitigated to a bearable degree, at least so he thought. Now it was easy to imagine the smiles and sigh of relief that would define the moment the polythene bag filled with food items would come before their eyesight. For once he hoped his actions would alter the countenance of a wife whose expression over the past painful years had adopted a constant vagueness silently displaying her irritation towards his inability to make ends meet.
He would have preferred she shouted out her anger which he perceived existed but yet remained concealed, that expression that spoke little of her discomfort, and almost nothing of her love for him except at those times when it must react to the needs of her kids. Poverty had indeed stolen from her that natural ability, had permanently altered her mind. There was no story in their past that spoke of plenty, a time characterized by the pride of abundance. Life for them was always about poverty, a classical case of wants and scarcity stretching back many generations down his family tree. To bear the name meant inheriting the poverty. To which his immediate family was now victim. He shared in the pain that was general in its affliction, like the stench of bad breath it was offensive to all. He could only imagine the resentment and the contempt felt which had now fashioned their emotions, emotions his manly pride could no longer withstand. The fear of resentment, the fight of confrontations certain to arise because of hunger had engineered his motivation for the morning and so swiftly he had ventured out.
His thoughts militated against each other, one proffering its solution only for it to be eroded by another until finally a victim he became to the desperation that blinds men’s conscience. The lane was the narrow type that often tries to conceal itself without success. The kind people fear to engage when the hours become unfriendly. You see no women trying to be brave nor kids in the mood to disobey direct orders from parents who themselves fear that route, only those men that could stand their ground, either for self protection or the motive for a clandestine intent parade themselves through its darkest hours. And it was at this darkest moment that Chukwudi ventured forth into the depth of what normal people fear.
He maintained his silence, took to a dark corner and waited for the ideal victim. He could hear without doubt the thuds of his heart beats and the warning that came with it but when hunger and the desire to please instantly create a barrier, the stimulations of common sense would find impossible to break through. All he had to do was wait a little while and before long came the match he instinctively felt his physical strength could manage. With stealth he made his advance, with a deliberateness to subdue he had impressed his full strength; the slap understood its purpose and was eager to fulfill its motive as it forced the confused prey onto the receptive earth. Dazed by the suddenness of the assault his reaction for a moment displayed defeat as he struggled, slowly but surely towards the recovery of his senses which that malicious swipe had so dutifully dislodged. But Chukwudi would not give him consent as he spiritedly descended on him. He had expected instant victory, to succeed with this act of thievery without any course for undue violence. To instill fear that would shake his victim into complete submission and his purse filled to the brim with the loot. But if the world under the stewardship of God could go awry how much the expectation of man which is nothing more than the varying impulses that must sometimes answer to the will of providence.
Moments later the struggle which he had hoped would last only for a little while was still in session and the sweat and panting was enough proof that it would last much longer. It was then it came to him, that vicious resolution that defines all criminals; the desire to accomplish the purpose at hand by any means possible. In the eyes of the supposed victim he saw the will to survive the moment and was frightened by it and so with a well consulted choice the motive to kill became the priority. The motive of taking from a fellow man his life and wealth became a necessity. He stood before the body his violent will had slain and for a moment his remorse was all there was to his emotions. His character carried upon itself the veil of contrition and fear, the aura that suddenly saturated his space. His first act of thievery had gone beyond boundaries and now not only was he a thief but also a murderer.
It was from this drama of brute force and blood and the consequent loss of innocence that he heavily carried himself home, to a family that would never understand. To feed mouths that would easily spit curses if they were to know the truth that must now be concealed, even from his conscience. He carried his burden of guilt with silence as he pondered of what way forward, for so obvious the truth that he had stepped over the line and thus, the point of no return. It was still on the path home that the firing of gun shots became more and more registered by each passing minute and he who had effortlessly before now performed the act of killing felt a fright not to be imagined. The fear and chaos that was the main theme of such moment became more pronounced as people of all caliber darted from here to there in search of safety. And behind the disconcerted crowd was Chukwudi almost made paralyzed by fear as he made silent prayers for both protection and forgiveness of sin. In no time at all it became clear the reason, as people who had the unusual habit of gossiping even when in full flight began to spill the real motive behind the moment.
“A raid! A raid!” cried a voice from nowhere. And that was all that was needed to inform Chukwudi of the calamity ahead. And now he wished he was still the man from before he had soiled his hands with blood and so fall out of the grace of God. The stories of raids by arm bandits were as legendary as the wickedness of Satan; from their wrath no one intended for injury could actually survive except when exempted from it by the same grace of God he had earlier forfeited. Now he wondered to what power he must pray to for relief. Without choice, after much deliberation he once again focused his sight on that narrow path. With fear in his heart he retraced his steps and with great hesitation he made his way into the darkness as if by now he feared that the ghost of his victim would have already began its malicious stroll. His fear became more real when on his return the corpse he had left cold and idle on the bare ground was nowhere to be found. In a frantic effort he had searched the fullness of the dark, to pick up smell or find any clue but all to no avail. And so he wondered in fear, instantly allowing his thoughts to shift from one possibility to another.
The first was simply a theory of how a relation or acquaintance had stumbled on the lifeless body and in grief carried it to the family gathering. The other was that he was still with life and when certain his assailant had fled managed to make the escape home. As was to be expected he had preferred the first theory, the second was more of a threat. For no one could tell when the ghost from the past could come hunting and so for the sake of peace of mind he effortlessly adopted the first. Almost forgetful of the raid and the fear that completely crippled him when he had first discovered the disappearance of the corpse he plowed his way home, whistling as he did so. It was a mile or two from his building when the pain came searing through his entire body. He had never before felt such pain. The type of pain that instantly creates goose pimples and institutes fear in the fabric of the mind while transforming a complete adult into a child that finds it without hesitation the need to cry in public.
Instinctively he bolted, the speed was the kind bound to defile any resistance. It was as if his sight had fallen on a vengeful apparition and to do what necessity demanded his legs had taken to full flight. He was now closer to his house, and he who had gone out with the primary purpose of fending for his family now desperately wished that they would at this sinister moment come to do the same for him. But who is that man so fortunate to escape the net of nemesis, to avoid the punitive measures of consequence. He had maintained his pace, but yet could not outrun his fate. He felt the pain yet again and this time the tears fell as his entire bulk fell to the ground. They had come with a singular intent, to make manifest a cruelty that would instigate fear in those that would hear the story afterwards. He felt the smash to his head produce the desired result as the droplets of blood brought with it great pain.
As he fell to the ground he thought of the abundance that must administer its service to a contrite soul when death shuts the door to one’s living reality. A heavenly place where there exist no pangs from hunger or the responsibility that saddles the shoulders of earthly Fathers and sometimes prove impossible to attain. He waited for his consciousness to drift into that oblivion but the pains were not the type to bring death but the sort seeking to institute unbearable suffering on the flesh.
Then he wondered what kind of thief would show this manner of temerity even before the houses that comprised his neighborhood, this was when it came to his mind, the help his neighbors could bring if summoned. Like the deranged suddenly with fervent strength he began shouting for help, for help that would never come. The more he shouted the more the hands multiplied, the beating increased and the pains more suffocating. Then he saw her, and instead of pity, what he saw was shame on her face. He wondered why as the excruciating pains sank deep. His wife stood there unmoved by his suffering. Then he heard from behind. “He had almost killed me” cried the voice. His heart almost failed him as the reality of the moment became glaring. He wanted then desperately to explain to his neighbors who now stared down angrily at his tearful face. Never before had consequence held its ground and instantly doles out its bitter rewards. But then it is not every time that a victim left for dead is rescued by the culprit’s wife. She was a friend of the people and despite her poverty, her charity recognized no malice. It was she who rendered her help even after hearing the poor lad cry out. “Your husband, your husband did this” It embittered her heart, the story of thievery as was been narrated by the young lad who was in serious pains but in clear mind, making lucid the horror he had suffered.
She marveled at her husband’s thoughtlessness and even more, at his failure to have recognized the same lad who had brought succor to their door on that very hungry Christmas morning. That little relative of hers to whom the responsibility for her sake was once again forced upon by family to bring sustenance to her poverty stricken home. It was on this errand that her jobless husband had descended on her own kin with intent not very far from murder if not for the chance that he had survived. There was little she could do as her angry relatives went out with fury, to make the search for a man oblivious of the impending shame his actions had brought on his reputation. Now he understood better as the angry faces of his in-laws became as limpid as their hate for him. They hated his poverty and the consequent effect so obvious on their daughter.
So they took their time and only pain was what they had to offer him. There comes a time in a man’s life when death becomes a better alternative to whatever drama of misfortune and so for Chukwudi this was a perfect moment in time. “Daddy! Daddy!” Cried his little kids, yes they made their tiny effort towards him and afterwards wondered why Mama had acted as the barrier, why the tears kept falling and yet would do nothing to help Papa. How she had wanted to help him from the throes of paralyzing pains administered on him, to reverse the moment but he had been the one to have brought the moment on himself and who was she to stop the hands of justice. Not until her nephew had received justice her mind was made to remain still, for she was that sort of woman with a keen heart for justice. All she did in this moment was allow the tears drop as she endured the shame at his attempt at thievery and now the humiliation. But there in her heart was the hope that they would stop at the set time, for they had promised her so.
The moment was to play out only for a while, her only chance for vengeance at the gruesome penury she had suffered over the years. Though the kids would never understand, the vengeance was also for those times they had gone to bed hungry while their Papa did nothing to alleviate their suffering. She stood her ground and for once she was the one responsibility for the hardship.
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