Outside, the night sky spread out, an inky canopy of darkness freckled only by the fewest of stars and a tired moon. The occasional hoot of a hidden owl was the only sound to permeate the silence – that and the subdued chatter coming from JSS3B.
There were just three of us lying in the classroom. Tochukwu had left minutes before lights out, announcing that he would be spending the night in JSS3E with his friend. None of us had paid much attention to him. And now, we were spread out on our mattresses, which were positioned side by side each other. Joseph’s was on one end, and he was already asleep, turned on his side, his back to us. Ibuka was lying in the middle, and it was the both of us who were still talking as the night stretched toward midnight. We’d been talking about many things; first, about the prospect of being in SS1, then about what classes we would take, then about the Junior WAEC Homec and Agricultural practical exercises we had just concluded. It was at this point that Joseph slept off. Ibuka and I remained awake, talking about the impending theory examinations; presently, we’d somehow found ourselves talking about my relationships with Anulika, and then Emmanuella.
“I’ll always say it, I’ve never really liked that girl,” Ibuka reiterated.
“Yes, Ibu, if I’m to make money off every time you have said it, I would be a very rich man by now,” I said with a smile. I’d long since forgiven him for being the reason Emmanuella and I split up. It helped that a couple of days after she told me she no longer wanted to be my girlfriend, we’d seen her conversing and laughing quite coquettishly with Franklin, a tall, husky boy from JSS3F. Ibuka had been quick to point that she never really cared for me, otherwise she wouldn’t have moved on so quickly.
“That her anya pussy makes me feel somehow all the time,” Ibuka said.
“Again, Ibu, you’ve said that several times before.”
“It’s not that… it’s just…” He paused and then said, “You’ll probably laugh at me for this…”
“What, tell me. It’s just that what?”
“Well, since all this time we have been worrying about that cat demon, every time I look at Nuella with her anya pussy, it makes me think she’s the one who is tormenting us.” He waited a beat and added rather self-consciously, “Silly, right?”
I didn’t think he was being silly. In fact, now that he’d mentioned it, I became contemplative, wondering why I hadn’t thought of that before. Emmanuella was a beautiful girl with unusually-coloured eyes, an eye colour that even her sister, Senior Gift didn’t share with her. There had to be something unusual about her.
“No, you’re not silly,” I said out aloud. “You could be right.”
“Ah, but come on, we know that Barry White is the person that the cat demon possessed…”
“Do we?” I countered. “We just suspect that he is the one…”
“Well, don’t forget that the person Frank said he saw was a boy, not a girl.”
“Still, there could be more of these evil spirits in our school, and maybe one of them is inside Nuella.”
“Okay, Eze, you are scaring me…” Ibuka said haltingly. “Let’s just be okay with one demon at a time… If what you are saying is correct, then it means that another spirit is after us. And me, I can’t handle that. I just want to finish my exams jeje, and go back to my father’s house for the holidays. God, can you hear me?” he added, raising his voice a bit. “Biko, keep me for my mother until this term ends.”
“Amen,” I murmured, chuckling at his mild theatrics.
Just then, the owl that had been hooting intermittently so far in the night, gave a screech of protest and we heard the furious flapping of its wings as it took flight. Ibuka and I stiffened for a bit, wondering what had disturbed the bird. Then we relaxed, and I let out a nervous laugh.
“All this talk-talk we have been talking about demons and evil spirits is now getting to me,” I said.
“As in eh,” Ibuka agreed, before turning his body on his side as he got comfortable enough to get ready to sleep. “Let’s not talk anymore about them please. In fact, my eyes are feeling heavy. I want to sleep. Good night, Eze…” The last words rode on a yawn out of his mouth.
I opened my mouth to return the greeting when I heard the sound that made my heart stop. I waited. My heart started working again, this time at a pounding speed. Then the sound trembled through the night again, soft and distant, as though the source was quite far away from the classroom block.
“Eze…” Ibuka croaked.
“Did you hear that?” I rasped.
“Yes, is that not…the sound…of –”
The cat meowed again. And again. And again. And with each meow, it appeared the cat was drawing closer to the classroom. There was something almost enchanting about the meows, like the individual trills of a bell. It sounded achingly lonesome, and made me think of the plaintive cry of a child lost in a forest. But as it drew closer, the disconsolate timbre of the meow was gone, and it began to sound harsher, fierce, dangerous, with a hissing undertone. Suddenly, I felt suffused by dread, my mouth ran dry and my stomach turned in an unfriendly way. I felt as if my brain were full of static, either firing off a million unhelpful thoughts at once or offering nothing at all.
I felt the clammy hold of Ibuka’s hand as he clamped his right fingers over my hand. “Eze, what are we going to do, it’s coming here… it’s coming here…” he gasped in a voice dried with fear.
My heart was palpitating much faster now. I swallowed hard as I felt fear pool in the pit of my stomach. “First of all, wake up, Joe…” I said hoarsely.
“Ibu, wake Joe up…”
“I can’t, Eze… please, I can’t…” he blubbered. And his grip on my hand tightened.
“Ibuka, I’m not asking you to go to Jericho and wake up Joseph. He’s right next to you,” I snapped, drawing strength from my irritation to quell my fear.
He still didn’t move from my side. And the cat’s meows had crescendoed so much it sounded as though the animal was on the pavement of JSS3A, slowly padding toward JSS3B.
“Joe, wake up!” I hissed urgently. “Joe, wake up!”
“It’s here… it’s here!” Ibuka squeaked.
Indeed, the sound was so loud it bounced off the walls of our classroom. The cat was in the room with us. I leaped to my feet, and darted a frantic look at the door, expecting to see the silhouette of a mammal. But I saw nothing.
“Where is it?” Ibuka had hurried up too, drawing close to me still. “Where is it…”
I looked wildly around, thinking the cat had perhaps slipped into the dim classroom. But I could spot no movement. The room wasn’t entirely dark, what with the weak light of the stars filtering in through the burglary-proofed windows. And so, I felt I should have seen something, considering how reverberative the meows now were in the class.
“Where is it nau…”
“I don’t know…”
“Blood of Jesus! Blood of Jesus!” Ibuka began to shriek. “I cover myself with the Blood of Jesus! I cover my friends with the Blood of Jesus! I cover this class with the Blood – Eze, say Blood of Jesus with me nau!”
I quickly joined in the hollering of the ‘Blood of Jesus’, our calls clashing with the meows, which appeared to be resonating from thin air.
“Blood of Jesus…!”
“I bind you with the Blood of Jesus…!”
“No weapon fashioned against us will prosper…!”
“Blood of Jesus…!”
Meanwhile, I had managed to slip over to Joseph’s bed, and proceeded to shake him very vigorously awake. “Blood of Jesus… Blood of Je – Joe, wake up!”
He stirred, turned and began stretching while yawning and scowling at me. “Whazzamata…!”
“The cat demon is here!” I cut across his sleepy protest.
“What!” His eyes widened and fear suddenly leaped into their depths. He struggled to his feet, with the words: “Where is it… Where is it?”
And then, I was struck by a sudden, startling change in the atmosphere – the absence of the meowing. Just like that, it was gone. I couldn’t hear it anymore. I glanced at Ibuka; the ‘Blood of Jesus’ coming from him had dwindled to a slight wail. And he seemed also bewildered by the sudden disappearance of the feline noise.
“Eze, I’m not sleeping here tonight…” he rasped.
“Me too,” I agreed. “We need to go sleep wherever it is MOG is sleeping.”
“I think he said he’d be going to Franklin’s class to go and spend the night.”
The next few moments were spent picking up our pillows and wrappers, and rolling our mattresses away. Ibuka planned to take his along with us, so we could all sleep on it when we got to JSS3E. Then we stepped out into the night and began a fast trek to the classroom at the end of the JSS3 block. The darkness of the near-midnight was almost absolute, with only a smattering of luminous stars scattered over the heavens. Even the moon had waned to almost nothing and I could almost not see my hand in front of my face. I felt fear and danger flood my mind as we walked fast toward JSS3E. I could almost smell my fear coming off my skin, as if it was a chemical rising to the surface to escape.
Soon, we got to the classroom and crowded at the doorway, knocking insistently on the shut door until the light was turned on inside and someone pulled the door open. Illuminated by the light in the classroom, I could make out the sleepy irritation stamped on the face of Robor Agberia, the class captain.
“What do you people want?” he said in a very sour tone.
“Is MOG here?” I asked urgently. I could hear the class behind him stirring, as the other boys in there were roused from their sleep.
“Yes, he is,” Robor said. “Ehen? Is that the reason you are disturbing us at this time of the night?”
“Please, we need to sleep here…”
“Why? What happened to your own class?” the other boy heckled. “And why are JSS3B boys now coming to sleep in my class all of a sudden?”
“Robor, let us just sleep here abeg…”
“What’s the problem, Eze…” someone cut in sleepily from behind Robor. The boy moved so that the newcomer could shuffle forward. It was Tochukwu, and he expended a yawn just then, before planting a questioning stare on the three of us.
“MOG, we have a big problem that has chased us away from our class…”
“There’s a cat chasing after us,” Ibuka blurted from beside me.
“A cat?” chorused both Tochukwu and Robor.
I answered, “Yes, please, it’s a long story. Let us tell it in the morning. But right now, we just need to sleep here.”
“Okay –” Tochukwu began.
“Wait!” Robor barked. “Which one is ‘okay’? It’s not your place to grant them access.” He turned his vexed expression from Tochukwu to the three of us. “Besides, how do I know the cat will not follow you people from your class to this place…”
“You’re right. I did.”
The words were uttered by a voice that was both familiar and strange. A voice that was cold and sharp, lifting the hairs on my skin with the apparent malevolence that oozed from it. The words were spoken behind me, and a split second later, a hand clamped down on the back of my neck, and with sheer, superhuman strength, lifted me some inches up from the ground before thrusting me forward. I gave out a strangled shriek as I pitched forward, through the air, past the doorway that had cleared as Robor and Tochukwu hastily moved out of the way, and I crashed to the ground, bruising the parts of my skin that scraped against the ground. Ibuka’s scream began to tear through the atmosphere, but it was cut short with a ringing slap, moments before he was sent flying into the room after me. Robor and Tochukwu hastened further away from the doorway, and Joseph walked slowly into the classroom.
Only, it wasn’t Joseph, at least, not the friend I’d known for three years.
There was something majestic about his presence as he moved hulkingly into the classroom. Under the fierce glare of the room’s fluorescent light, I could see that his eyes were blood-shot, and inside their depths flickered tiny flames that sparked every time he blinked. The air around him seemed to crackle with an alien electricity, and the way the light played on his skin made it seem as though there was a fine lining of fur spread out all over his body.
My spine trembled with fear and I gulped loudly, before venturing with, “J-J-Joe…?”
With the reflexive speed of an animal, he jerked his head around, turning his morbid eyes on me. And then he said in that icy voice, “You stupid human! My name is Seetha. Your friend doesn’t exist as long as I’m in charge. And soon, you too will no longer exist at all!”
And in the second it took me to blink my eyes, he had darted across the classroom, and snapped his fingers around my neck. It felt as though I was caught in the grip of a vise, and even though I instantly began to fight against his weight, beating and clawing frantically at his hands, I couldn’t move him. He laughed at my desperate but ineffectual attempts to fight him off; it was a cruel, cold cackle, one that began to drain all hope, dreams and feeling from within me, replacing them with a feeling of despair, hopelessness and most of all, fear. His grip seemed to cut through my body and wrapped around my brain. It choked the breath from my lungs and left my body dry heaving, desperately trying to rid me of all this. Black mist swirled at the edges of my mind, drawing me into its open arms and salty tears spilled over onto my cheeks leaving a tight, dry feeling. I screamed then. Only I didn’t. I strained my vocal chords but not a sound came out. Still I screamed.
I was dying, a latent part of me acknowledged. The cat demon was finally accomplishing what it had wanted all term.
“I BIND YOU IN THE NAME OF JESUS!”
The grip instantly lightened. Air – and life – rushed into me, and I fell to the ground, gasping and choking. Joseph gave out a startled hiss, before whirling around to face Tochukwu. The boy had regained his aplomb enough to shout the words that just might have saved me.
“YOU FOOL!” Joseph snarled. “How dare you make this fight your own!” And startling speed, he was on his feet, and had streaked across the classroom to where the petrified boy stood, swinging his arm and striking him across his face. I was already familiar with the kind of superhuman strength that had possessed my friend, and so it was not surprising to see the blow lift Tochukwu clean through the air and dropping to a heap amongst some of the belongings of the boys of JSS3E. There were frightened screams from the other occupants of the room.
“You…” a voice quavered.
I turned. It was Ibuka, and he was pointing a shaky finger at Joseph.
“You… Get out of my friend’s body right now… And go back to hell, where you came from in the name of Je–”
Joseph interrupted him with another loud, cold laugh, before he began to advance toward Ibuka with deliberate steps, his eyes gleaming with that baleful fire, his face as stony as marble.
“I bind you! I bind you! I bind you!” Ibuka began to yell frantically, backing away from the creature’s advance. “I bind you! I bind –”
“That’s enough binding, you blithering idiot!” Joseph hissed. He snatched at Ibuka and swung his fist again, this time with the fingers hooked like claws. He struck Ibuka’s face, and he screamed. His head whipped to one side, and I caught sight of the angry red welts Joseph’s clawed blow had raised on his cheek.
“In the mighty name of Jesus, I command you to be gone, you foul spirit!” That was Tochukwu again. He was on his feet again, and there was a grim expression on his face as he shouted the words. Suddenly, he seemed to exude an authority that even the cat demon recognised as he jerked around to face him.
“You have no power over us, demon! You have no power over the children of God! In the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and with the blood of Jesus, I bind you, in heaven and on earth, back to hell!” Tochukwu roared, gesturing a fist at Joseph.
Joseph twisted away from him, screeching. “How dare you –!”
“I dare because I speak with the power and authority of Jesus Christ!” Tochukwu retorted. “It is written that it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be delivered! And now, I’m calling on Him against you. Get OUT” – he emphasized that last word with a higher decibel – “of that body, for it is not yours, and return to the abyss from where you came!”
“You fool!” Joseph moved with a stalking gait toward him. “You do not know who you are dealing with!”
“I know exactly who I’m dealing with. You are an agent of darkness, and He that is me is greater than he that controls you! I’m taking a stand against you, and commanding you in the name –”
His voice was choked off when Joseph snatched at his neck and pulled his flailing body close to him, so that the evil fire banking in his eyes scorched Tochukwu’s face. “Don’t you dare say that name!” he seethed.
Tochukwu thrashed about as he was lifted off his feet, his eyes widened with panic, croaks coming from his gaping mouth as he struggled to say the name the cat demon didn’t want said.
“IN THE NAME OF JESUS!”
I shouted the words at the same time with Ibuka. Both of us had gotten to our feet, hurling the declaration at the creature strangling Tochukwu.
“In the name of Jesus!”
The chant was quickly picked up by the rest of the boys in the classroom.
“In the name of Jesus!”
“Holy Ghost Fire!”
“We bind you in the name of Jesus!”
Joseph released Tochukwu with a screech, and began arching this way and that, grasping and clawing at his body like one being scalded by something hot. Then he dropped to the floor, thrashed about for some time, and lay still. Our exclamations also wound down to silence, and we stared at the supine form on the floor.
“Is he dead?” someone whispered cautiously.
God, please, no… The prayer exploded in my head. Don’t let him be dead. Get rid of the demon, but spare Joe…
“Someone should go and check him…”
“Are you mad? He’s an evil spirit –”
“Shut up!” Ibuka rounded on the boy who said that. “Just shut up! He’s not an evil spirit! He’s merely possessed by one.”
“Then you should go and check him,” the boy rejoined, “to see if he –” And the boy suddenly shrieked.
Startled, we refocused on Joseph. However, it wasn’t just him anymore. A ghostly form seemed to be rising out of him, solidifying and becoming more corporeal the further it rose. The eyes glittered, the fur bristled, and the maw yawned open to reveal the sweep of a powerful tongue and the glint of fang-like teeth. Seetha had finally revealed itself.
“Mummy meeehhh!” someone screamed, and immediately started in a stumbling run for the door. His mad rush released the other boys from their inertia, and in moments, there was a stampede for the door, which emptied the room of everyone but Tochukwu, Ibuka and I; the three of us stood, facing off the feline, who hulked over Joseph’s prostrate body.
The giant cat started malevolently at us for a moment, the hair on its snout bristling as it made small hissing sounds. Then with a snarl, it bounded forward, lifting its front paws to pounce on Tochukwu.
“I rebuke you!”
The boy’s outburst knocked the cat back like a physical blow. With a pained meow, it fell to the ground, twisting in the air to land nimbly on all fours. As it shook its head, as though to shake off the discombobulation from the blow, Tochukwu went after it with renewed fervor.
“I rebuke you, evil spirit, in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and the One True Almighty God. I cast you out by the authority of God and the power of the Holy Spirit. You have no business her with us. From the darkness did you come, and to the darkness must you return! For I will say to the Lord, ‘My refuge and my fortress, my God in Whom I trust.’ And He will deliver us from the snare of the enemy and from the deadly pestilence! He has given us power to trample on serpents, scorpions and all other agents of evil! In the name of Jesus, I trample upon you, demon!” He punctuated the declaration with a stamp of his right foot.
Seetha hissed and recoiled, contorting its body away from him.
“I trample on you now in Jesus’ name!” Down came his foot again.
The cat hissed again, staring maniacally at him, its maw peeled back to reveal its fang-like dentition.
“I trample on you now in Jesus’ name!” Tochukwu stomped his foot again.
The cat retreated from him, hissing madly now, its claws scraping audibly against the floor. Realizing the effect Tochukwu’s pronouncements were having on it, Ibuka and I picked up the chant ‘Amen.’
“I rebuke you in Jesus’ name!”
“I rebuke you in Jesus’ name!”
The responsive shout became thunderous as the crowd of boys outside, peering in from the windows, joined in.
“Holy Ghost Fire, consume you!”
“Holy Ghost Fire erase you!”
“The Blood of Jesus flush you back to hell!”
“Fire him, MOG…!”
“My father, my father – hallelujah…!”
There were intermittent claps now accompanying the prayer session as Tochukwu righteously battled the feline. The cat kept on recoiling until it was backed in a corner against the wall, where it crouched, hissing furiously and swiping at the air with its clawed paws.
“No principality or demonic power has any business being here with us. Fire, consume you –!”
“Consume you, in the mighty name of Jesus!”
Just then, Seetha gave out a keening sound that was a cross between a meow and a screech. It went on for a long minute, so plaintive, giving the feline such a humanly tortured expression that, for a fleeting second, I felt my heart go out to it.
And then, with a crackle, it vanished. It was gone. And a split second after its disappearance, a jubilant roar broke out amongst everyone around. There were resounding claps and some even began to walk back into the classroom to thump Tochukwu appreciatively on his back.
The joyousness was soon interrupted with a soft whimper. A whispery cry that came from the ground where Joseph lay. I turned to him. Everyone else stilled and watched. He was moving, gently turning his body to sit up.
“Joe…?” I ventured.
“Eze…” His voice was thready, and his expression was beginning to turn distraught as awareness started to crash down on him. “What did I do…” he said softly. “Oh my God, what did I do…”
“Nothing.” Ibuka’s reassurance was swift to come. “You did nothing. It wasn’t your own doing…”
The two of us automatically started toward him.
“Wait, where are you going?” someone called from outside.
“After what happened, why do you two still want to go near him?” another queried.
“Because he’s our friend, you idiot!” I flashed at the speaker. “He is our friend!”
We hurried to Joseph’s side and pulled him into a gentle embrace as he began to do what I’d never seen him do before. He was sobbing softly, “I did not know… Oh God, I did not know…”
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