From where came many acts body desired were forbidden, even certain thoughts were called taboo, to travel beyond the river was one of it, to talk about it also was rare but some whispered still of it, say it is home of dead, place of no return, say it is where the gods were born, this belief the traditionalist held to heart also patterned growth the chapel.
It was these along other sayings that bothered Tochukwu much, “if beyond river be home of dead or place no return, who there went then to confirm?”He would ask; Pa Ukene with his smile would answer in those his many proverbs, which even our fathers understood not.
I was warned against Tochukwu, playing or fighting with him, a curse is upon that child’ mama would say; or why else won’t he come to mass and yet prank the priest my father would ask. It was not a question that beckoned reply for to respond is to till hard earth for days’ were not I’d in glad tell of better Tochukwu than whole the chapel and even ask’ if they would believe in some god after the suffering he gone through? And they knew the suffering, heard them speak of it’ that dad his was swallowed by fish day he was born and day after’ the gods took his mother but I dare not say for it be sacrilege to question ones father.
Still, I find moment to sneak from fathers gaze to Tochukwu presence, there by the river he’d stay and say of an unheard voice calling to him, I would try to listen, but the water babbling by and breeze whispers’ or sometimes chatting birds eclipsed this voice that Tochukwu said called to him. It was the other side from and exposed only his hearing. We were young when he first heard it; whenever we bathe in the stream he’d go extra in deep coursing the river and drown almost were not call of help that didn’t always him out pull.
He grew my closest friend beyond that a kin bond only by blood, him was inquisitive, smart, and more unattractive than I was and perhaps clever in many funny way; his cleverness didn’t always forth well-being as times his tricks and jest at others brought rebuke my head. It was prior that carved my love him, his wanting to challenge existing norms, but in all deeds his, he never sought hurt another as priest did who bore fear of death in us by telling of fire that forefathers now dwell because they did not know his God, one we would also if we didn’t follow his instructions.
Tochukwu was somewhat a celebrity, not that he was celebrated, he was popular for the bad things, when yams got missing’ Towards him finger was pointed, Tochukwu wasn’t a thief, I knew how he ate, it was unripe fruit that sustained him and fishes river brought, other times he’d help on farm and get a token, I knew where he slept also, it was in mad Johnny hut. More than other he was popular because he defiled orders and questioned those things considered sacred’ when the other side of the river he went, it spread quickly than a bush fire, wasn’t there when he did, I heard as others did’ how he swept the water away and the stream struggles to get back.
Since then no one known heard or saw Tochukwu, not until week that passed and it is unsure if Tochukwu it was we saw as our reason only attracted to thinking otherwise, to admit it be spirit that grace shores ours’ I knew this, Tochukwu has always been a spirit, his uttering even shifted ones thought further into believing he was spirit of an angel, he had mentioned he was in the stomach of a big bird whose noise grasp our attention when it flew by when we were young, he had pursue and stoned this bird and spoke of its great fall and how smoke ascend its ruin, it was heavy metal skeleton the bird he me brought, he had acquired my admiration then when closer look brought the evil of the bird to gaze’ as it was human and worms the bird ate. Tochukwu also about reaching stars spoke and other impossible deeds in dwelling of my company.
The arrival rather strange, known none other than Tochukwu who’d come in so daringly, this was before I heard name suggested’ the peculiar manner the ghost turned up could have shaped the image they attributed to the spirit’ for Tochukwu was known for scaring and sneaking in on maidens while they had bathe. This was one other thing that endeared me to him as sometimes he allowed my following.
Had forgotten water gourd theirs as they flee and screamed of a ghost from the river, in their unbalance they noted the ghost to be Tochukwus whom they spoke was a companion to a man they could only compare with a portrait in the chapel, the one the priest called Jesus.
Did the ghost from ebb descend? Young Ada had asked and the response she got was in the frown the girls gave. Were not frown shared I’d asked if ghost them touched and if properly fear hasn’t suck reason theirs for inconsistent is the word made for their mutterings.
Either ways nothing was right, either they were sick but even that disease I desire, to see Tochukwu and have him dwell in my gaze and other either was the arrival day priest always spoke of. I knew Tochukwu was capable of many weird things but to return from the river bank or from death and the companion with him left me puzzled, that he was alive was not suppose to be right and what was more abnormal was the companion who had the color of God. Sooner than the young men confirmed it indeed is Tochukwu did my heart twinge a further, it was mama that suggested we all the chapel come which already was filled for all believed no ghost could therein come.
It was Pa Amadi who locked the door after which he sat herein praying with us, soon did knock hear’ ‘’Does spirit have body?’’ Young Ada asked me’ I haven’t seen one before, I told her in a voice that meant be quiet. Then again there was another, the knock seem to be in rhythm, it took just a punch to have the chapel door opened, it indeed is aged and frail, this time we all heard’ as Pa Amadi absorbed to the door’ the silence that filled the chapel made one hear the heart beat of the other’ now it was not that we were frightened’ we only needed Pa Amadi to lead us from committing sin.
From outside the chapel, a rather strange voice called to Pa Amadi, it was quick that I rarely could pick the words but just then Tochukwu voice came over’ ‘’it is Jesus, open this door’’ he spoke rather softly;
There outside the church was one unlike us in skin color and hair, his eyes blue and white and his nose straight, on his head was a crown. ‘’I am Christ, the son of God and I have returned’’ he said; in the most dramatic style unseen. Looking at the portrait that hung in the chapel one would hardly dispute this except young Ada who didn’t dispute but noted she had heard the priest say Jesus would come as thief in night and not in day but her voice quickly was buried as others adhering to the priest fell to their knees and worshipped Him, it was to young Ada he drew to, lifting her up and rebuking others and this deed bought young Ada over. “Did your priest call me thief?” he asked; before stating he knew all things. I did kneel but didn’t bow as I gazed on to see if really it was Tochukwu and to my uncertainty’ he was. I knew Tochukwu more than many, and I know certainly something was amiss.
Evening has returned when this Jesus addressed us all, his motive quite unknown’ but certainly knew it was not far from ruling us all, he had begun by noting, he shall forth return of the dead in his second coming which then is now’ he had pointed to Tochukwu when he said this and confirmed others who were dead to be burning in hell’ thus the reason their absence. When he called Pa Amadi a sinner for not adopting Tochukwu as a child’ I agreed with him and when he disowned those traditional practice of mass and the likes’ I also agreed with him, he had said those who gathered wealth would burn, It was not this statement that began to dawn on us that judgment perhaps was upon us, it was those earlier said. He ended by instructing the youth clan to fetch dry woods that will be used to burn the sinners.
I wasn’t exactly a sinner, but by his words even Pa Amadi seem to be a worst sinner, by now’ the most beautiful house in our community was taken by this Jesus’ ‘’how could you dwell me in that chapel and built yourself such comfort?’’ He asked Chief Isiom; the richest merchant around who soon brought his jewels and robes to him and put himself in his service.
It was easy to find Tochukwu now as he was busy and caught in the crowd, they all his grace sought’ Tochukwu had ordered silence when I caught his glimpse’ ‘’I would intercede for you and save you from burning’’ he said; in summary instructing the crowd to appeal Him with Women, wine, jewelries and food.
The rich had no issue with this, amid quickly’ found Tochukwus abode, I heard it was Mama Ngozi who did first, one wonder where her wealth from forth’ her riches we measured in her jewelries and slaves’ begging Tochukwu to intercede for her and save her from hell was easy and not sooner did I see mama Ngozi take her jewelries and the richness of her harvest to the chapel, after her was Chief Pius and others who all brought their belongings to Tochukwu and his Jesus to escape hell.
No one hardly could open business, the entertainers, palm wine peddler had all been recruited to the service of this Jesus, all those who to farm went was purpose to serve this Jesus. There outside the chapel, beneath the light of moon Tochukwu and his companion sat laughing and drinking palm wine’
“My father in heaven made them all and those Pharisees questioning what my father did would also burn, they all say Pa Amadi doings’ didn’t they read I drank wine in the bible and made gallons for thousands?’’ he asked; at least I am saved from that I thought to myself, thanks to secret drinking and all as I peeped the walls. What Pa Amadi always condemned has now forth to doom him.
Chickens, cows, goat were not exposed to grace, some who already condemned themselves to burn decided to eat all of their produce, while others were on the path to seeing their sins washed away, yam pounded and all prayed be favored that their food be accepted by Tochukwu and his Jesus, the smart amid them paid their way through to see Tochukwu who told them to make sure the food is tendered by beautiful faces as it was only food served by young ladies that was in contemplation, this was an important condition in accepting the food he noted’ also that the one who shall serve the food must in pure innocence be like when born as that is the closest to sanctity they could be and only sanctified food could be accepted.
Maidens into angels, mothers into cook, youths into guards and fathers into oblivion’ the one that came has become father all and those that were selected to serve Him were considered blessed.
Amid even, Mad Johnny dump has grown more rich, I grew up to see Mad Johnny in the street, he was more of a grieving person than a mad one’ he’d talk to his stick and build sand castles and sometimes we simply just don’t understand him’ it was the manner he laughed that was extreme from normal and the odor that followed him around’ it was as I walked home from trying to get myself in Tochukwus glimpse that I saw him, old mad Johnny’ he wasn’t that uncontrollable and when one listened to his mutterings’ one may gather intelligence if not killed first by the odor’ well he could be my ticket into meeting Tochukwu’ I thought to self’ and with help of two others just walking by, we decided to take Mad Johnny to his deliverance, Jesus did heal in the bible, this wouldn’t be difficult either now’ I thought.
In the chapel we were met by Tochukwu, now on a proper look he really hasn’t changed but that was out of issue’ he had bothered about the presence of Mad Johnny, which already was calling crowd’ who desired also to see a miracle, now came his companion in robes, walking towards us, after inquiring, he’d instructed we tie mad Johnny hands while he spent minutes speaking in some strange tongue’ in end we were told mad Johnny couldn’t be healed for he lacked faith and only those with faith can be healed “ he does not believe in me” he said; to the waiting crowd;
‘’How can a mad person have faith?’’ young Ada asked me and then I asked him which made all stare evenly at me, this Jesus then asked ‘’ thou shall tempt the lord your God?’’ this said as left for abode his.
It was Pa Amadi, who raised the alarm the following morning’ that Tochukwu and his companion had returned to heaven along with the gifts. He had noted a thanksgiving on Sunday where we all rejoice for mercy received, as our prayers had been heeded and grace again has sparkled beyond judgment.
The room where Tochukwu and his companion slept became sacred and palm wine was used the following communions’ the ladies that were impregnated by Tochukwu and his companion became sacred themselves and were revered in prayer to heaven.
And that was how Tochukwu became a saint on his return. A day been selected to mark Tochukwus day and I can’t be more blessed than to have had a friend like Tochukwu for I was last he saw before he ascended into ebb, those precious he and his companion couldn’t carry’ he gave me.