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Crime fiction: A flicker of hope

Flash fiction: A flicker of hope (short story)
EJ
Emeh Joy

He cowered in the darkness. He had hidden behind the big oak tree immediately he heard footsteps coming from the opposite direction.

Just some distance away was a T-junction. The junction connected four important roads in the village.

One road led to the Village Nkwo market; the other road leads to the town hall, the other led to the Igwe’s house; you will also find the village school located along that road.

The road where he hid crouched behind a huge tree that has survived numerous decades led to the village church. It is the church he has led for over ten years.

The two young boys approached closer and passed; they didn't see him. They couldn't have seen him. They were sweating profusely with patches of sand on their short trousers. They must have gone to play football.

It hasn't gotten very dark yet but he knew it would soon get very dark that you can't see someone walking some distance away from you except for their footsteps. So he crouched, waiting.

He was called into priesthood when he was just about 20. He found favour in the eyes of the missionary who was, in fact, the founder of the church.

‘Onye nkuzi’ loved the way he was devoted to the things of God. He was always the first to come for mass. He would sit in the front seat, close enough to watch as the priest prepared the ‘communion meal’ as he calls them.

He often wondered why it was called the ‘body and blood’ of Christ.

“In fact why should Christ share his body and blood to people to eat and drink?” he had asked onye nkuzi one day thinking that Christ during the days he was on earth actually cut out some pound of flesh and gave his disciples a share of that with his blood as communion.

He never understood the concept of the Holy Communion until the missionary explained further

Then, he didn’t know any better. He had never heard the gospel of Jesus Christ until the missionary arrived in the town, constructed a makeshift church and started attracting children to the church by sharing them gifts in the form of toys and snacks.

The children would often run home after his small sessions with them in the evening squealing in delight and waving through the thin air their packets of biscuit, sweet and sometimes books and pencils for those who answered questions right.

The missionary had told him, doctrines shouldn’t be taken literally. “This is spiritual. As it has been blessed, you take the wine and the bread believing that you are partaking in the body and blood of Christ”.

He later got baptised and got so knee-deep into church activities. The missionary couldn’t overlook that and thus, had him nominated for the priesthood.

Just a few years after the nomination, he went fully into priesthood eventually replacing the missionary when he was leaving the church

By then, he had learnt a bit of reading and writing. The onye nkuzi had solicited for help from the higher authorities, and they sent him some helping hands – three other missionaries who helped with the school session.

Now, today, he has replaced the missionary. And, for close to 15 years, the people of this little town had called him “onye nkuzi anyi”.

Everything had been going on well. Over the years he had grown and established the church. He had drawn more villagers to Christ and had mentored young boys and young girls in the way of the Lord.

People had looked up to him to give them marital counselling; he would always advise the young boys and girls not to defile themselves while teaching the younger children the danger of lying and disrespecting elderly ones – hellfire.

“Onye nwe m nara ekele m, mma mma ekele…” the voice came cutting through the cold night and disrupting the silence.

The voice was singing and humming the song at the same time. It was in fact, the most angelic voice you’d ever hear in the town, and he knew the owner of the voice. It was the lead singer and choir leader of the church.

Anene had gone to the church to see the onye nkuzi as he had told her after mass the previous day to meet him around that time so that they can finish up the discussion they started.

She wondered why he was shocked when she told him she was pregnant. Was it not the two of them that had sex together? When he was moaning in pleasure, it never occurred to him that his seed could decide to fuse with her egg?

Anyways, she had told him she was keeping the baby. She noticed him tense, but she took that as an initial shock that comes with such news.

She had asked God for forgiveness for seducing him the first time it happened. But he had committed the act with her the second and third time of his own accord.

The second time they had the discussion, he had still insisted that she aborts the baby.

“Anene what happened between us was a mistake. We both know this. I shouldn’t have allowed it to happen. I…”

“Oh, it’s a mistake yet you came for the honey pot not once and not even twice? Why didn’t you stop after the first time?

"And what was that whole talk about loving me? Ehn, onye nkuzi uka?”, she burst out, saying the ‘onye nkuzi uka’ sarcastically. 

“Anyways, it’s too bad I have fallen in love with you, and I’m never going to part with this baby. When are you coming to meet my parents?”

“Haa”, he was dumbfounded. Who is talking about love at such a point? Yes, she is a beautiful young maiden, but he just isn't ready to have his name dragged to the mud because of her obsession with him.

“Anene, I’m a Catholic priest for crying out loud. You know I can’t get married. Plus, keeping this pregnancy would bring a huge dent on my name. In fact, it would be the end of priesthood for me”.

Anene was sure she wouldn’t budge. He also realised she wasn’t ready to budge. If nothing is done about it and on time, the whole village would know.

 “He would come around”, she muttered in between the song she was humming oblivious to the fact that someone was crouched in the bush just a few distances away from her.

Just as she drew nearer, there was a sudden rustling of leaves. She heard something like footstep and stood to listen. Nothing. She continued this time a little scared but dismissed the noise as some night creature.

“These cats are always everywhere especially along this path”, she muttered.

“Is it that Elekwa forgot our appointment or what?” She had stopped singing and had started soliloquising to herself.

Now, she can address him by his name and no longer ‘onye nkuzi’. He has no option but to drop that priesthood thing and marry her; she thought, smiling to herself.

Of course, many girls in the church have wished to have him to themselves. Who wouldn’t want a handsome, educated man with a house and a motorcycle? He was also well-respected in the town.

However, the girls only admired from a distanced. They only talked about him in groups and resigned themselves to their fate that since a catholic priest cannot marry, he had no business being with them.

Anene, just like the other girls in the church had always admired the young priest, daydreaming of life with him while wondering why the church would have such rule that prevents them from having a spouse.

Then, she, like those other girls, could only daydream, but not anymore. She has gotten him right where she needs him to be – with her.

Now, unlike the other girls, she has a flicker of hope.

“doom doom”, the step was very close. A hand covered her mouth, immediately replaced with a cloth which the captivator wraps around her mouth and tightens behind her neck.

The figure was much stronger, and with the cloth covering her nose as well, she could barely breathe. She tried fighting, but her hands had already been tied to her back swiftly. Before she knew it, he had hit her into blankness.

Slowly, he dragged the slightly heavy unconscious body farther into the bush. He was breathing hard.

With eyes darting here and there, he held her tight and steady. The object appeared out of nowhere glistening even in the dark.

It went straight for her throat, slashing through and slitting it open. Blood gushed. There was a whimpering sound from her.

She hit the grass beneath with a thud sound. Her legs vibrated for some seconds before it finally went still.

Soon, he would wrap the body up and move it further away from where prying eyes would easily see it.

From a distance, you can hear what sounded like an owl hoot; he felt something trickling down his hands.

He looked; he was drenched in blood. He slumped right there beside the body, his shoulders rocking as he sobbed silently.

"I am sorry, but I had to make you go away. You wouldn't listen, now look what you made me do", he sobbed.

He would find a way to his house, which is close to the church, wash up the blood-drenched body using multiple buckets of water and burn the clothing he wore that night.

He would enter the church, kneel by the gigantic cross which is hung on the wall and confess his sins.

The next Sunday, he would conduct mass and give Holy Communion while his predatory eyes search through the congregation for his next victim.

And no, Anene isn't the first. He seemly played along knowing that she was interested in him, but she didn't seduce him.

He simply had his way with her just as he had with Martha, and Tochi and Ifechukwu and... he couldn't remember the other girl's name again.

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