Wednesday, 29 June 2016

THE INITIATION (a short story) By Ugwu Lawrence Enenche

Michael and Alfred were kneeling down before Katakata at the assembly of the High Souls confraternity in a bush behind the university campus. Michael was a fine looking young guy but his small physique denied him the look of a man that would make a successful cultist.

Fear runs through his mind but yielding to it was to lose his most cherished girlfriend, Blessing. He thought in his mind he had crossed the Rubicon and any attempt to withdraw would attract death from the people he was seeking their support and protection.

Alfred cut the picture of a boxer by his height and size. He was not looking fearful as Michael but his body shook often. All eyes of the confraternity members were on them.

‘Why do you want to be our members?’ Katakata asked.
‘Because I want to be protected, I have on occasions without numbers been embarrassed and humiliated by people and cannot fight back,’ Michael said.

‘My friend told me you would protect me from every attack; physically and spiritually,’ Alfred said.

‘All you desire in life is what we give. We give wealth, women, fame, protection and all that go with it. You will undergo stages of initiation and if you are successful, all your desires shall be yours. We don’t treat mercifully with weaklings and there is no going back,’ Katakata said and looked into the air.

Soon afterwards, there was a sound of a moving object. Michael and Alfred turned towards the direction and saw a black casket. On each of its four edges was a black candle burning sorrowfully. Alfred and Michael turned immediately and looked at Katakata. ‘It is important to let you know that only your being men in it true sense can see you through this first stage. Many could not withstand our treatment and their bodies were buried in this initiation ground and forgotten thereafter. You will therefore be doing yourself a great deal of good if you determine to survive. Now, let’s see how courageous and enduring you could be,’ Katakata said.

Katakata made a whistling sound and eight vicious looking men darted towards Michael and Alfred. Wondering what would happen next, Michael watch every move with jitters and was surprise when he failed to see the heavy fist that eventually opened his trial. A second blow landed safely on his neck with the same velocity, flattening him to the ground.

Michael picked to his heels but he got nowhere. A sliding kick from one of the eight men ended his attempt to escape. Before he could get to his feet again, several hands clasped him and yanked his arm straight out from his body. A thick heavy blow landed on the left side of his body, almost immediately. He jerked and screamed in pain. Another fist landed on the other side.

Still lacking the freedom of his hands, his head sank forward, his mouth hanging wide and loose. He was about to take responsibility for his survival when a hammer-like blow penetrated his stomach and crush everything within. He sank to his knees, blood gushing out of his mouth.  He whimpered a little and collapsed into a lifeless heap when they let go his hands.

Alfred groped for support but two hands immediately imprisoned his two hands from behind. They hit and kicked him with their boots. One of them bundled him up, suspended him in the air and let him down on his stomach. He writhed, puffed and huffed but couldn’t attempt running away. He wasn’t all that brave and enduring but wouldn’t want to miss the opportunity of joining the High Souls. In the end, they left him with bruised body and swollen eyes. He coughed out blood with pathetic moan.

A short muscular lady rose and went over to where an earthen pot was placed; she got hold of the pot in both hands enchanting and calling different names of animals and human beings. He emptied it content on Alfred and unconscious Michael.

‘Now, the first stage is over. Do you have girlfriends? Katakata asked.
‘Yes,’ Alfred answered. Michael was unable to respond.
‘Fine, later in the morning today, you will invite her to your room and four of your comrades here will be there with you. In their presence, you will make love to her brutally,’ Katakata commanded.

‘But she wouldn’t like that. She may break up. . . ,’ Alfred complained.
Katakata looked angrily at him. He knows that Katakata wanted to say something but what he didn’t know was that Katakata was going to say it with his leg. He booted his stomach and Alfred tumbled over and gave a squeal as Katakata’s leg cut through his chest. ‘We don’t contest order here! Do it as commanded. Tomorrow, at about this time, we shall be here to get the feedback.’

Two of the cultists motioned Michael and Alfred to their feet. The congregation chanted a song and dispersed. Two of the High Souls men took Michael from the initiation ground and dumped him by a roadside. They were unsympathetic at his groaning. They looked at his bloody mouth and hissed pitilessly. They walked away swiftly.
Michael was on the roadside writhing in pain and gasping for breaths when good Samaritans who were passing early in the morning took him to the hospital. It was the culture of the High Souls not to spare any weakling nor show sympathy.
At the break of the day after the initiation, Michael stood in his room with his hands akimbo and his swollen eyes darting across the floor. In the room with him were four High Souls members. All of them stood against the wall, their hands folded around their chest. They looked horrible and dangerous with their fetish silence and red eyes.
Alfred had been calling Mary through her mobile phones, telling her that he was not well and needed to see her urgently. Mary promised to be with him as soon as possible but her delay in arriving was making him and the High Souls guys running out of patience.
He stared one after another at the four guys and he could swear none had moved a part of his body nor blinked his eyes. For a moment, he wondered if he wasn’t really dealing with the devil himself. Worried, impatient and frightened, he lurked himself to the threshold and just as he made to lean on the door frame, he sighted Mary!
He strode swiftly back to the room and from the excitement that flashed continuously in his restive eyes, his comrades knew of the lady’s arrival. Yet, neither their posture nor their countenance change.
Mary walked into the room and Alfred locked the door immediately. Mary was shocked and her eyes flamed with disbelief at the sight that was Alfred’s swollen face. She turned her eyes quickly to the four comrades. Just a look at them, she felt a chill run down her spine.
She immediately knew she wasn’t in a safe hands but she saw no reason why it should be so in Alfred’s room and presence. She turned and faced Alfred and the sheer look of helplessness, fear and plea that emerged from her eyes almost weakened Alfred’s resolve to rape her before his comrades; a pre-requisite for membership of the dreaded High Souls confraternity. How could he rape Mary he loved so much before the fierce looking guys? He wondered but an absurd part of him vehemently warned against any failure.   “We don’t treat mercifully with weaklings,” Katakata’s words rang on his ears and immediately, he frown his face. Mary became a stranger to him.
 ‘What is going on here?’ Mary asked, physically shaking.
 Nobody answered her and Alfred advanced towards her. She moved backwards until her back hit the door. Alfred gripped her and both of them crushed to the ground. For a long time, he struggled to subdue her while his comrades kept to their positions.
He finally succeeded when she became weak and reached for her skirt but she wouldn’t give up without a fight. She pushed, kicked and slapped him. Yet, he ripped off her skirt and helplessly, she dipped her teeth into his right hand. Alfred screamed and began a ruthless and barbaric pummelling of her face. ‘Alfred please, please Alfred. Why are you doing this to me?’ she bawled helplessly.
He stopped suddenly as if he heeded to her plea. Standing up, he quickly jumped out of his shorts and lowered himself upon her. Brutally, he raped her before the comrades.
He stood up from her numb body and felt engulfed by overwhelming feelings of guilt and remorse but a devilish comforting thought urged him to rejoice for the bright prospect of joining the High Souls and becoming more relevant in the university community.
‘Now, listen,’ one of the comrades said to Mary. ‘A still tongue makes a wise head. You would be doing yourself a great deal of good if you don’t spit out a word of this. If you let this out, you only succeeded in digging your grave. We don’t waste our words,’ he concluded and they stormed out of the room.
Mary was still lying down wetting the floor with tears. Alfred stood speechless looking at her sympathetically. He broke down on his knee. ‘Darling, I’m very sorry. You won’t understand why I did this to you but I will explain to you in days to come. Please my love,’ he begged on his knee. Mary stood up without a word and dusted her clothes. She walked out of the room and Alfred followed her pleading but she didn’t say a word. She waved down a  commercial motorcyclist and he took her off.

Ugwu Lawrence Enenche
07032769241, 08176050494
Ugwu Lawrence Enenche is a prolific writer and reputable researcher on African literature and folklore. He is a celebrated public speaker with a distinguished, ineffable, modest and pro-active personality from Owukpa community in Ogbadibo local government area of Benue State. He has written many published and unpublished articles and essays. His recent novels are Gone With Love, A Talking Dream and Just After Dawn

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