Afam was seated adjacent to the couple who was making use of the only two-in-one upholstery chair in the lounge. The couple was dressed in Pyjamas of different colour patterns while Afam put on dark-blue jeans, purple T-shirt spotted with strips of white colour as well as black shoes. Ujunwa stood up, leaving only Chief Okeke in the seat. “So what do we offer you?” She asked Afam. “Don’t bother yourself, ma.” “How?” she said. “You don’t care for any drink?” “No ma.” Afam responded, waving his right hand. “Afam, what did you mean you don’t care for any drink?” Chief Okeke quarreled, frowning. “I am Okay, sir.” “What about food?” Ujunwa chipped in, stood still. “Or, have you taken your breakfast?” “Ma, I am Okay.” reiterated Afam.
“Thank you very much.” He added, smiling in false pretence. It was obvious that the young man wasn’t looking bright. He conspicuously seemed pale. “Na wa ooh!” Ujunwa exclaimed, calmly went back to her seat. “Afam,” Chief Okeke called. “You don’t look happy.” He observed. His wife nodded in agreement. “What is wrong with you?’ quoth Chief Okeke.
“Sir, that is why I am here.” The couple looked each other in surprise on hearing the last clause. “Madam, please excuse us.” Chief Okeke urged. It appeared the chief host was already aware of what was on Afam’s mind. Sure, even a blind man could spot the bitterness written on the latter’s physiognomy. On receiving the request, Ujunwa hurriedly stood up and walked to her matrimonial room leaving only the two in the parlour. Afam abruptly became mute as he sat quietly in his seat, couldn’t utter a word. “Is it about your trade?” Chief Okeke guessed. Afam looked at him amazingly. “How did you know, sir?” Chief Okeke smiled.
“Because I saw it coming.” He succintly replied. “Saw it coming…?” uttered Afam. “How, sir?” “Never mind, my boy.” There was absolute silence at this moment. “Sir,” Afam truncated the silence. “My business is really giving me troubles.” “Like I said earlier,” quoth Chief Okeke. “I saw it coming.”
“I don’t understand, sir.” Afam said, profoundly confused. Chief Okeke became speechless. “Afam,” he eventually broke the muteness. “There is more you need to know about this trade.” He disclosed hesitantly. Chief Okeke who was densely rich was a member of an occult confraternity, but Afam was not yet aware. And the tradition of the cult was that any apprentice who was settled by any of its members having concluded his apprenticeship would never be successful in his trade unless he joined the group. Afam quickly left his seat for that of his boss, sat very closely to him. “Sir, is there anything you are not telling me?” He anxiously enquired. “Meet me tomorrow at Braxton Hotel,” Chief Okeke enjoined. “Room 116.” He supplemented in a jiffy. Afam was shocked. He apparently least expected the invitation. Braxton Hotel was one of the most exotic hotels in the city. Afam was yet to know how its interior parts looked like because he had never been privileged to be there.
“We need to talk.” Chief Okeke landed. * * * * * * “Young man, remove your shirt,” the Grand Master of The Classic mandated Afam in a thick and frightening voice. “For you are in the presence of Ogbojiji.” He added. ‘The Classic’ was the name of the confraternity in question. ‘Ogbojiji happened to be the name of the god or the Supreme Being worshipped by the members of the cult.
This was taking place at about some minutes past eight at night of Wednesday June 29, 2011 – exactly three days, or the fourth night, after Chief Okeke met with Afam at the ‘Braxton Hotel’. During that meeting, Chief Okeke succeeded in cajoling him into joining the secret society. There were about seventeen men, including Chief Okeke, uniformly clad in black overall in the enclosed hall. They were all on their feet creating two parallel lines among themselves, and were facing each other as the tradition demanded.
The two lines were about two metres apart. The arena was undoubtedly fearful that even the blind could testify to it. Afam, a plump, chocolate and about 1.7-metre dude who wore corporate native attire, hastily complied with the directive. Chief Okeke who stood directly opposite Afam, nodded in appreciation to Afam’s knee jerk reaction. “Come forward, my son.” the Grand Master as he was addressed, urged. “It is time for you to be cleansed and duly initiated into the big family of Ogbojiji.” Afam immediately stepped toward the beast-like creature (the grand master) that was standing ahead of the group and was equally facing the entire members. The initiation, which was accompanied with series of incantations, lasted for several minutes.
“My son,” said the Grand Master. “Congratulations!” He excitedly applauded the moment Afam went back to his initial position. There was some seconds’ silence afterwards. “By this time tomorrow,” he proceeded. “You shall bring your mother to Ogbojiji for the final ritual rite.” He ordered, pointing at a huge basin filled with water that was positioned at the centre of the gathering.
The white-coloured container was displaying the image of Afam’s mum to his greatest shock. It’s noteworthy that the master pointed at it with the symbol of authority he held in his right hand. Afam who became astonished on hearing the demand, couldn’t believe his ears as well as eyes. It was like a mere joke until the reality dawned upon his person.
Prior to this period, right from when his boss joined the cult about fifteen years back, he had sacrificed his both parents and two siblings apart from the non-members of his family he offered as requested by the confraternity. More so, based on the cult’s norm, he – likewise other members – was not entitled to have or boast of any male child. After several days, in spite of the series of importunities from Chief Okeke, Afam insisted not to comply with the weird and ungodly request. He remained resolute to the extent that he began to avoid his boss who was functioning as the cult’s delegate or intermediary. Two weeks on, having exhausted the grace given to him by the occult group, the fugitive who felt not unlike taking his own life was eventually overtaken by madness. The rest is history, please.
• Nwaozor – novelist, playwright and poet, is Chief Executive Director, Centre for Counselling, Research & Career Development – Owerri