Of many things she felt when the midwife handed her the baby, love was not among them. She pushed it out of her heart when she saw the spiral, all fresh and bleeding as though she just drew it with a knife on the skin. The midwife stood in awe, watching patiently for Funmi to bring the crying baby to her nipple. And when she was tired, she shouted at her, asking in a voice that belonged to a night masquerade, if she had no feeling of joy and love for the baby she just brought to life. She ignored her and stared fearfully at the crying baby who was throwing his little hands about as his voice pierced the cool of the night, drowning the voice of the midwife. It was the same spiral she had drawn with a penknife at the funeral home Ten months ago, chanting the same prayer song that the circle break, that the beings who lucked in the shadows stop tormenting her. Now she had the same being, same dybbuk, same fiend in her hand but with a different gender this time.
“Feed him na, ha ha”, the midwife said and came closer. Spasms surged through her again, this time it was as if she was prickled with needles by his mates. She could see them now dancing, circling the bed, laughing and tickling the baby, pulling at the baby, making him cry. Then before they left, one of them came closer and pinched her abdomen, setting her inside on fire. She outstretched her hands with the baby at the midwife.
“What?”, the midwife said and looked at her quizzically. “ I should hold him?”
She nodded. Now vertigo joined in the torment and she could barely see clearly. The midwife took the baby and rocked him. Funmi was watching her baby in the arms of the midwife before she passed out.
Edward was jarred from his sleep by the crying of the baby. He ran down the hallway and when he got close to the room where he had led his wife, holding her arm and nestling her head on his shoulder for support earlier this evening, he met the midwife. She was no longer in her greens, now she had a brown blouse on black skirt. She had a faint smile on her face, a kind that you gave people with a hybrid of anxiety and excitement running through them.
“How is she ?”, Edward asked, pushing his eyeglasses up the bridge of his nose.
“She fainted”, She replied and stared at his brown eyes, as if she was waiting for Edward to absorb the shock before she continued. “She was tired, you know how these things work na. We decided not to call you till everything was resolved. Your wife and son are resting, a nurse is close by if you need anything, congra…”
He wasn’t listening, he rushed straight to the door like oil beans from an exploding oil bean pod. When he entered, she was already awake with her body like a log on the bed, her face blank as though she was oblivious of his presence. He shot his glance at the crib close to the bed
Then his fears crept back, gawking at him. The spiral.
”Did it return? ”, His words laced with fear and sadness, rolled out slowly.
She nodded and tears trickled down her chin. Edward’s legs became heavy as he walked to the crib and stared at the sleeping baby. He marveled at the innocence, the rich dark curly hair, at his checks, the pink lips. He looked normal like every other baby, except he was not. He resisted the urge to strip the baby of the blue dress and check the incision his wife made on the baby’s skin in his previous life. He turned to his wife and sat on the edge of the bed.
It was the night of her third marriage anniversary that the pixie, who kept telling her silently in her mind that she had time, died. She was pulling the ribbons of a little pink box, her hands wet with sweat, and her maid waiting patiently to take the box and set it on the pile that was on the ground. After the ribbon was loosed she opened the box slowly and her heart lurched and a cold fire began to burn in it. Seating on the violet coloured floor of the box was a shoe that would only fit an infant. She left the stunned maid and wept in her room till she was limp.
The couple decided to seek help and it was Ifeoma, Funmi’s friend who took her to the diviner.
They drove miles to the outskirts of the town to the house the diviner lived in. It was a red log house that glistened in the sun because of the bronze bells that adorned the pillars. The inside of the house was painted brown with masks portraying faces with different emotions.
He was a dark-skinned man with a tattered beard. Ifeoma spoke first:
“This is my friend I spoke to you about”.
“Ehen, the one who wants a child?”
“Yes”, Ifeoma replied.
“Do you want children,” the diviner asked Funmi.
“Yes, I will be glad if I have one”
“Don’t say one, you will have children. Go and buy doll baby, give am name, back am, after ten months from now if you no born, no come back”
It was the silliest idea she had ever heard, but she did it and got pregnant.
When she gave birth to her baby, they named her Lola after her mother. Funmi quit her Job to nurse her. She spent most of her savings on child care stuff. Gold coloured crib from Italy, clothes, diapers, and skin-nourishing lotions from France. She read many magazines on how to Nurse her baby and became a fan of DR.Frank, Happy baby shows. She also hired a family Nurse to nurse her and on weekends Edward’s mother came over to provide care. The baby in turn grew into a beautiful girl. She had the brown eyes of her father and the olive skin and hair of her mother which fell to her small shoulder whenever her mother combs it. She also had the voice of her mother which Edward said sounded like the chirping of a Nightingale.
Sometimes, Funmi would dress her in blue and back her to the complex just to enjoy the stares and endless questions of people she often meets there.
“Is he half-caste?” a chubby woman with bleached skin once asked her when she visited the complex on a sunny day to buy things she already had.
“No”, Funmi replied and frowned as though she was angry.
“Sorry,” the chubby woman said and walked to Lola who was busy dropping packs of sweets into their cart. “Can I touch her hair?”
“No!” Funny screamed and ran to her daughter. The chubby woman cowered. Lola was scared and she asked her mother what the matter was, but she wasn’t listening, she was busy brushing the sides of her hair.
Lola had the brains of her father, at four she was already the head of the Nursery of the private school she attended where the teachers were eager to fill her sheet with good comments. The couple were grateful she turned out good, what they didn’t know was Lola was telekinetic.
Lola and her friend were playing on the see-saw at the school one afternoon when the class bully came with his friends. The bully told her he and his friends want to play on it and she should leave. Lola told her they could join in play if they could play in turns. The bully who had never settled things nicely before yanked her off her seat and her friend fell off her seat on the other side.
Lola stood on her toe, clenched her fists and came closer to the Bully. The other two boys waited in anticipation for who would be floored. With a simple push, Lola was flat on her back. The boys laughed and cheered their hero. . Lola’s friend hugged her and they watched the bully and one of his two friends play with the see-saw. A fiendish fury erupted in her suddenly and she wished they fall and break their legs. Almost that second, the see-saw detached from its’ base and both boys came tumbling down. Both broke their legs.
From that day, she kept on using the power. She dealt with bullies and made friends. She had her room swept and notes written with her mind. But just as other forms of power, it got corrupted, one night when she was angry with her parents she wished the house was razed to the ground.
On the eve of her eighth birthday, Funmi’s fear was confirmed. She went to Lola’s room with an insecticide spray. Right in midair, her daughter floated. Funmi’s fingers loosed grip on the can and it fell to the ground. Lola overturned and smiled fiendishly at her mother and fell to the ground with a thud. When Lola got to her, she was dead because her neck broke.
They buried her in Edward’s village three weeks later. The rain was falling and it filled the grave slowly. As the muscular men lowered the brown coffin into the grave, she wanted to grab it, yank the cover open and chide Lola: “stop this fainting game, you can float if you want!”
That night after they returned to their house, Edward went to the room and slept the instant his body touched the mattress. She couldn’t sleep because the memory was haunting her, she decided to distract her wandering heart so she went to the study, and picked up Danielle Steel’s Undercover when she felt her presence.
A hand brushed at her hair and she flinched.
“Who is there?” she asked fearfully, her fingers grasping the book tightly. Then she begun to doubt that what just happened. Perhaps it’s just me thinking, Funmi thought.
Krin-krin the plates on the dining table clanged. She stood from her chair and fixed her stare on the dining space, there seated on the chair were figures. They had red eyes that shone like danger lights. She took her desk lamp and shone it’s ray on the dining space and the figures disappeared. She ran straight out of the parlour towards the hallway and to her surprise none of the doors had knobs. She pinched herself to be sure she wasn’t hallucinating. She pounded her fist on the door and after a while it opened and it turned out to be the kitchen. From that day on, they kept visiting and tormenting her, till she could take it no more and told her husband.
Edward was stunned at her story, and he couldn’t dismiss the story as the wild imaginations of a grieving mother, because he had received the replies to emails he didn’t send. A friend had even accused him of trying to take his wife because his wife had received a love letter from him in her inbox.
They had babies after Lola, but none exceeded the age of two except Fred.
Edward walked to the baby and fixed his stare on him.
“He has the mark”, Funmi said.
“I know. Just want to check”, He replied. He pulled the blue pant.
The spiral was still wet with blood. “Mother said since we burned the doll we have nothing to fear,” Edward said.
“Do you need anything again?” she asked.
“No,” Edward replied.
“Anything for the baby?”, the Nurse asked.
“Nothing”, Funmi replied.
The Nurse turned to leave, then stopped. “You fed the baby?”
“Yes, I did after your Oga left, leave me alone!”
The Nurse cringed and almost loosed her balance and the baby woke and started to cry.
Fred was the eighth baby and when he turned one, his mother’s faith was restored. She went back to the diviner but met a log house razed to the ground. The couple decided to tell their parents.
“You children are wicked o,” Edward’s mother said after Funmi narrated their story.
“We are sorry,” Edward said and wiped his teary eyes.
“And you kept it all to yourself. Okay, why did you go there in the first place?
“I was ashamed, we were not growing younger…”
“Don’t tell me that, what happened to your prayers? Ah these children have killed me”
“Maami we are sorry. What can we do now”, Edward asked.
“I will talk to my priest, just pray that this Abiku thing ends o”
Days later they were informed to wait patiently and study the plaything he loved the most. And when they discover what it was, the object must be burnt.
Fred loved to play with a brown teddy which he named John. It was the smallest of the stuffed toys his parents bought for him. They noticed the teddy was always with him, in his room, playing with his friends, and at the creche. So a particular Saturday afternoon, Funmi served him lunch while he was watching sponge bob, after some minutes he fell asleep. Funmi reached for the doll and ran to the kitchen. She dropped the teddy into a big pot and poured gasoline on it.
She was about to drop the match when she heard knocks on the door. It was Fred.
“Mummy please!” Fred screamed with a voice that belonged to a teenager.
“Why?” Funmi asked and tears trickled down her cheeks. She lit the match quickly and dropped it into the bucket and watched the doll melt away in the roaring flames. Fred was still knocking and screaming till the doll was a hot puddle of brown liquid before he fell down and died.
The night before Fred was buried, Funmi came to the funeral home that was in charge of the funeral and visited the morgue where his body was there in the darkness of the room with her touch illuminating it, she drew the spiral with the point of her knife on the skin under his person.
Funmi stood from the bed and went to the crib, She reached for her baby. “Why is the spiral still on his skin?”
“They want us to be scared, but they can’t do anything now. The circle is broken already”, Edward said and hugged his wife.