Amaziah swivelled his head towards the sound of the frenzied cry, and did a double take at the sight before his eyes. There, right in front of the market entrance, was a man who he supposed was some kind of preacher, especially because of his dreadlocked hair and beard, his gaudy cloak made out of bright strips of cloth and the outsized, ornamented bronze staff he repeatedly pounded into the earth.
Shaking his head, Amaziah recalled that in his younger days, a simple white gown, a staff and a bell were enough to identify you as a man of God. But looking at the person who had caught his attention, he ruminated about how this sartorial simplicity had become a casualty of the desperate search for souls.
“TAKE HEED, for I, Prophet Aiamonfaiah, have received a PROPHECY from GOD that the DAMNATION OF SOULS IS NEAR!”
Aiamonfaiah, thought Amaziah, still shaking his head. Apparently, good taste in names was also a casualty of the search. He looked around him and saw the prophet had succeeded in seizing the attention of many other market-goers, who like him were probably more caught up goggling at the man’s strange appearance than anything he had to say. Well, he had run his errands at the market, so he might as well stay around and hear what he had to say. The only thing he was worried about was that the sky, which had been bright earlier on, had begun to cloud over; he hoped that he would not be drenched if the weather turned to rain. His thoughts were interrupted by the prophet who had launched into a tirade, pounding his staff for emphasis.
“I say unto you, God has weighed the sins of this town… this NATION… and He has found them full to overflowing! He has seen the iniquities of you people – robbers STEALING from the mouths of babies, murderers and assassins SLAYING innocent victims in COLD BLOOD, leaders CORRUPTING and ENSLAVING the people He has charged them to take care of!”
The prophet paused, and stared this way and that, penetrating the captive crowd with his accusing gaze. Then he stabbed a finger at a plump middle-aged woman with a baby on her back.
“You – yes, YOU!” he shouted, as the woman tried to hide within the crowd. “Can you say that you have been blameless? Can you say that you have NEVER lied – NEVER stolen? Can you say that you have NEVER wished bad for anyone? Do you not know that as you have been wishing bad for your fellow man, you have been wounding them as surely as if you stabbed them with a long, sharp knife?” He paused, waiting for the woman to respond, but all she could do was to cover her face and give a slight shake of her head. “YES – as your wishes have issued from your mouth, KNOW that there have been EVIL ENTITIES that have been on standby, waiting to carry them out! KNOW that you are just as responsible for the GENERATION of STAGNATION and ABOMINATION and God’s INDIGNATION at our NATION as the officials of this ADMINISTRATION!”
By this time, the crowd was completely spellbound. Amaziah heard a few fearful murmurings of “Jesus!” and saw a few people bow their heads in shame. He began to think that perhaps he himself should move to a less conspicuous position in the crowd to avoid the fate of the unfortunate woman, but it was as though he had been hypnotized to the spot with an overpowering compulsion to see and hear more. Not even the clouds, which by this time had completely blotted out the blue sky and begun to darken with the prospect of rain, could invoke his earlier worries of being caught in a downpour.
As the prophet ranted on, he wondered what it was that had caught his attention. Was it that he was being forthright about the culpability of everybody, not just the rich or powerful? Was it his penetrating stare and his strident voice which carried all the way to the back of the crowd, which by this time had swelled to several times its original size? Was it the evidence that he was a cut above the run-of-the-mill prophets who peddled the message of impending doom, with his use of words like “abomination”, “stagnation” and “generation”?
“I have interceded with God on YOUR behalf! I have pleaded with him to spare this NATION, despite its many transgressions! I have FASTED… I have PRAYED… I have WEPT with TEARS of DEEP ANGUISH… but every time, God has responded by showing me the LENGTH, the BREADTH, the HEIGHT, the WIDTH, the DEPTH, the sheer size of your WICKEDNESS in not three… not four… but FIVE DIMENSIONS! God has asked me, ‘If someone takes your shirt and vomits on it, then urinates on it, will you keep it?’ If God asked you that question, what would YOU say?”
Huddled below the darkening clouds, and buffeted by a breeze that was beginning to stir, the crowd replied with a murmur. This tepid response stirred the prophet to another level of righteous indignation.
“I said, if God asked to what to do with a shirt that is completely SOILED from top to bottom, WHAT WOULD YOU DO?” he shrieked. “Let me tell you what you do to a shirt that is soiled from top to bottom. You THROW IT AWAY. You INCINERATE IT. You SHRED IT TO PIECES. You BLOT IT OUT OF EXISTENCE. And this is EXACTLY what GOD has purposed for this nation.”
The tails of the prophet’s cloak were fluttering agitatedly in the stiffening breeze as he continued without letting up. “God has told me that there will be NO LAST CHANCES. There will be no LAST CALL FOR SALVATION. This nation has used up all its spare lives. The only thing that awaits now is imminent DOOM.”
Unexpectedly, the prophet switched on a broad smile, leaned on his staff and grandly surveyed his audience, as though he had performed a magical trick. By this time, the sky was completely dark, and the breeze had developed into a furious wind, contributing to the apocalyptic feeling amongst the crowd. Amaziah folded his arms and shivered with fear and cold.
“Yes. I said DOOM. This is the end of this nation. It may happen in a matter of DAYS. It may happen in a matter of HOURS. It may even happen–“, and at this, he glanced meaningfully at the dark sky above, “in a matter of MINUTES.” The prophet’s smile grew wider and his eyes gleamed brighter as he warmed to this theme. “Yes, God will rain DOOM and DAMNATION upon this NATION. There will be DEGRADATION. There will be DIVISION. There will be DESTRUCTION. There will be DESECRATION. There will be DESPOLIATION. There will also be DENUDATION. There will definitely be DEPREDATION. And worst of all, there will be D–“
But the crowd was never to find out what the last of the seven damnations would be. At that moment, a bright fork of lightning arced its way from the sky to the tip of the prophet’s staff. The crowd gasped in horror as the prophet, bathed from top to toe in a bright white light, jerked out his arms and legs, uttered an unearthly yowl and collapsed to the ground.
The loud crack of thunder that followed seemed to snap the people in the crowd out of the hypnotic trance they had been in for the past several minutes, and they buzzed back into excited activity. As the first fat raindrops began to fall, a few of them crowded over the fallen pastor, while around them there were earnest conversations over what they had just seen.
“Na true man of God o! See as e come call down lightning from heaven!”
“’Man of God’ ko, ‘God of man’ ni! If na man of God, how come God no protect am from lightning?”
“True talk, my brother. E fit be say God come vex as e day say ‘God go cause digi-nation hia, God go cause daga-nation dia’, so God come punish am.”
“No-o, don’t say that. God was not punishing him. God wanted to carry him up to heaven first so that he would not witness the suffering and destruction. And it’s not ‘daga-nation’, it’s ‘damnation’.”
“Which one concern you wit’ how I call am? Abi you be Professor Prophet?”
The rain was now falling fast, and Amaziah thought it was time to start heading home. He still wasn’t sure what to make of what he had just witnessed; maybe it would make more sense to Efosa, his flatmate. He turned round for one last glance at the prophet; he was now sitting upright, looking very dazed and chastened as several of the crowd fired several urgent questions at him. Amaziah hoped that he hadn’t suffered anything more than a bruised ego. He didn’t think that this would discourage the prophet from preaching in the future, though; very likely, he would bounce back to proclaim how the Devil had struck him with lightning as he was doing God’s work, but God interceded to spare his life. One thing was certain; he had literally and metaphorically lived up to his name of Aiamonfaiah.
With this thought, he chuckled to himself as he headed off towards to bus stop.