PRAYER WARRIOR – LAB COAT LOOKS GOOD ON YOU

Ope met Maya on the walkway outside the cadaver room and gave her a lab coat.

“Aha, Ope, you even brought a lab coat!” Maya exclaimed. “It’s not like I will stay.”

“You won’t be allowed to go inside without one. Wear it.”

Maya took it from him reluctantly and sniffed it. “Hhnn! It smells funny.”

Ope laughed. “It’s my roommate’s. See just wear and ignore the smell. Not like the cadaver you’re going to visit smells any better.”

“Huh! How encouraging.” Maya wore it over her striped shirt and straight black skirt.

“Looks good on you, babe,” Ope said in a singsong. “This time next year, you’ll be rocking one of your own daily.”

“I’m not going to allow you to scare me.” Maya squared her shoulders and started on the walk to see the cadaver.

Her curiosity got her here, after telling Ope she would be studying medicine like him. Being a year ahead, she trusted he would show her everything it entailed. But it had been his idea to take her to see the dead bodies she’d be working with, in another year.

Ope fell into step with her. “Don’t scream if you see a fresh one with its eyes open.”

Maya shrugged, stifling the urge to turn back. Her love for saving lives was the reason she wanted to study medicine and accepting her initial offer to study microbiology was with the intent to return for medicine, so getting in was her dream come true.

Ope scoffed. “I know you’re shaking in your shoes.”

Maya sucked on her teeth. “Because that annoying Ben Bruce followed you when you were coming and he’s been standing just over to your right, glaring at you.”

The smirk on Ope’s face froze. His head shot to his right side, and truly, Ben stood on the grass by the sidewalk, his gaze fixed on the approaching duo.

Ope rolled his eyes and turned back on his path. “He’s a mad man. Ignore him.”

“He looks like one of your cadavers.” Maya smiled. “Mr. Ben!” She waved. “Hello.”

“Maya! Why would you–”

Ben beamed and walked closer. Before neither student could stop it, he hugged Maya tightly. “My darling, Maya. Where have you been? It’s been ages.”

Ope shoved him. “Don’t touch her.”

Ben stepped back and glared at him. “Are you sleeping with her, you idiot?”

“Maya, let’s go.”

“Of course,” Maya smiled at him. “The cadaver awaits!”

“I’ll see you tomorrow,” Ben called after them.

Under his breath, Maya heard Ope curse with a very bad word.

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PRAYER WARRIOR – POWER TUSSLE

Ben stared at the naked body of Maya on his bed for several seconds and blinked. This wasn’t Maya at all, but Peace, the girl he just finished with. Maya continued to elude him, and he had no clue why.

He slapped Peace on the side of her thick butt. “Stand up! Get out of my house.”

Peace moaned. “Please, it’s not yet morning. How will I get home?”

“Why should I care?”

He slapped her harder, so hard the pressure pushed her off the edge of his king-size bed. She screamed and started to sob. The sound irritated him to no end. Maybe she was the reason Maya wasn’t coming through. He was done with her, but she wasn’t going away. He had to get rid of her. She had nothing left inside her. Just an unwanted pregnancy. Whether she kept it or not, her life was ruined. Her star was the dimmest he had ever seen in his life since the first day he got the diabolic powers to use women.

“If you don’t stand up and leave, I’ll throw you out as naked as you are. The choice is yours.” He folded his arm across his chest. “Leave!”

She went on all fours, and then stood. “Ah! Blood!”

He arched an eyebrow and followed her gaze to where she just rolled off on his bed. It was stained red. Ben hit his head once as waves of fury filled his body.

“See how you have stained my new bedsheet?”

He moved closer and gave her a punch on her face. It dropped her to one knee. Two more punches had her flat on her back. She did not even try to protect herself. A sure sign she was finished. He contemplated killing her. No one would ever know. Her family hated her now more than anything. They probably wished her dead. But how would he dispose of her body? And also, a taboo of the curse he placed on the women was death. He couldn’t kill them after destroying their destiny.

Ben kicked Peace on the face, but she made no sound. Quickly, he glanced at her chest and saw she still breathed. He found her clothes and shoved her limp body into them. He had to be rid of her. Do something that would shock her into accepting it was finally over. He carried her over his shoulder and took her into his beat-up 2001 Audi A4. Then drove for an hour to the outskirts of town. Dawn would soon break, and she would be lucky if a kind motorist found her where he dropped her by the side of the road. However, if a car hit her and she died, he would not have broken his covenant. Abebi had died unexpectedly during an abortion-gone-wrong and his oracle had not blamed him.

Peace should never be a part of his problem again. He needed fresh blood. He had to focus his energy on getting Maya. Her star was too bright. He needed this girl more than any other he had ever gone after.

“If you get this girl,” his oracle had said. “You may not need another one for ten years.”

Ten years of living in wealth and affluence seemed ridiculous, without having to do any rituals or meeting anyone. It was too good to be true. But seeing the number of sacrifices he had made to get her, it was worth all the while if true.

Daylight was nigh when Ben pulled up in front of his mid-income neighbourhood house in Agege area of Lagos. He hurried into his bedroom and pulled the bedsheet off the bed. His mattress was stained too. He cursed aloud. For the next fifteen minutes, he washed the bedsheet and tried to get the stain off the mattress. He had little success as the scrubbed patches now had a different colour from the remaining mattress cover.

“Useless girl!” He swore. “Meanwhile her star just got me one supply contract.”

He walked into the other room, his shrine, where his oracle, a wooden image of himself, sat on a full-length mirror, set flat on the floor like a mat. He marked each success story with an X in red ink on the face of the oracle. Now, he had nine. Peace had been marked.

After several incantations, he called Maya’s name three times and as usual expected her face to show up on the mirror beneath his wooden image, but the oracle fell face down. Ben jumped back. This had never happened. He tripped over his own footing and fell on his behind.

“What is this? What is the meaning of this?”

It seemed as though the building vibrated or maybe he was too dizzy to think straight. His heart thudded so hard he lay his palm on the left side of his chest and closed his eyes.

“If she is not possible, I will find another girl.” He rambled. “You don’t have to be angry like that. Please don’t strike me if I touch you. Is it not for our benefit? Please, calm down. Calm down.”

He crawled to the image and slowly lifted it up back to its position. He mumbled his incantations but did not call Maya’s name. Maybe she was an oracle herself. He would find another unfortunate girl. With his hands still shaking, he stood to his feet, looked around his shrine to be sure everything was as he left it, and back-walked out of the room.

 

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PRAYER WARRIOR – WINNING DREAMS

“Maya!”

Aduke ran into her daughter’s room. “Maya!”

Maya startled awake. “Yes, Mummy!”

“Maya! Sorry to wake you.” Aduke walked over to the queen-size bed. “Are you okay? Sleeping at this time of the day.” She pressed Maya’s forehead with her cold palm and sat on the edge of the bed.

Maya sat up. “I was reading, and I dozed off. What’s the time?” Simultaneously, she checked her phone. “Ah, not even 6!”

“Since you’re fine. See. Your post-JAMB is out.”

Maya jumped up. “Where is it? Did you get it?”

“Yes.” Aduke laughed. “You passed. Too well.” She hugged her. “And I saw Professor Imabong. She is so excited.”

Maya shrieked. “So, I’m going to med school!” She danced around. “I have to tell Ope.” She grabbed her phone.

Aduke laughed. “I am so happy for you. God is faithful. Professor Imabong wants you to come to her office tomorrow.”

“I will. Hello! Ope! My post-JAMB is out. I passed!”

Aduke stood. “You didn’t even look at it.” She placed an envelope on the dresser where Maya’s personal items were neatly arranged as was the rest of the room. “Food will be ready in thirty minutes.”

Maya shook her head. “I cooked.”

“Thanks, my dear.” Aduke walked to the door. “Greet Ope for me.” She left with Maya’s excited chatter trailing her.

She found some vegetable soup in the kitchen and smiled. Her daughter did not like doing chores or cooking and as long as she did well in school, Aduke indulged her.

“Hmm, thank you, my father. I give you all the praise.” She took one wrap of “eba” she found in a small food warmer, dished a healthy portion of the soup, and walked into the parlour with her food on a plastic tray.

Aduke turned on the television to listen to news and ate. She could still hear Maya’s phone babble with the occasional shrieks and giggles. She had peace in her heart. Though she had only one, this child gave her so much joy. When she was done eating, she picked her phone and called Aunty Ranti, her prayer partner. Usually, she would have gone to her house first, but she was too excited to share her news with Maya.

“Glory to God, Aunty mi. Testimonies everywhere!”

Aunty Ranti chuckled. “When you sound like this, it’s something super. Is it the dream again?”

“Ah, the dream now is real and it’s a winner-dream.” Aduke smiled. “Ah, this our God is too much.”

“Will you tell me or not?”

“Aunty mi, God has done it again! He has conquered the enemy.”

“I will drop this phone and order you to my house if you don’t talk.”

Aduke laughed. “It’s the post-JAMB result. Maya passed. In fact–”

“Praisssse the Looord!” Ranti screamed.

“Halleluyah!” Aduke responded with her reciprocal scream. “You see now?”

“The devil has been defeated. You know I told you those horrible dreams had something to do with the devil trying to do some harm to Maya.” Ranti sighed heavily on the other side. “I knew it! We have conquered. Ehn, it’s now to ensure her space is not compromised and given to someone who will bribe them o!”

“You know me, now, Aunty mi. I hurried to Professor Imabong’s office and told her. Immediately, she checked the list. Maya’s name is number 2! She said nobody dares tamper with the first five names on the list!”

“Ah, glory to God. Praise God. At least, now she can focus on what she really wanted to do.”

“Yes ma. You’re right.”

“Hmm, Aduke, but listen and I am very serious. Since you were having those bad dreams, and we’ve been praying, the Holy Spirit has been speaking to me about you.”

“Yes, ma.”

“Aduke! You have to minister salvation to your daughter. She needs to be able to pray for herself!” Aduke could visualize Ranti pulling her ear. “Do you hear me?”

“But Aunty Ranti, Maya is saved.”

“Huh, but you know what I am talking about, don’t you? She’s saved but does she pray for herself? The only time she attended prayer meetings was when you were having those dreams and we started forcing her to join us.”

“No o! She even attended once in her school during that period.”

“Hmm, only once! Okay, I have told you my own.”

“I will tell her.” Aduke scratched the back of her ear. “She will be serious.”

“Even those of us who are very prayerful face the toughest challenges how much more someone playing with destiny.” Ranti paused. “I told you I saw this your daughter with a very bright star! In fact, the impression I got is that she will become the first female president of Nigeria.”

“Amen!”

“But you need to protect her and train her to fight her own battles too.” Ranti sucked on her teeth. “So that we will not lose her!”

Aduke snapped her fingers and turned it over her head. “God forbid!”

“Well, we will continue to pray, we will never grow tired.”

“Amen. Thank you, ma.”

“I will come over later in the evening and see Maya to congratulate her.”

“Thank you, Aunty mi. See you later, ma.”

Aduke smiled. Aunty Ranti always seemed to lace her joy with dooms-telling. She kept her phone aside after the older woman hung up.

Maya walked in. “Ope wants us to hang out. To celebrate my result.”

“There’s prayer meeting tonight. Will you be back in time.”

Maya rolled her eyes. “Ahhh, it’s every day. I want to hang out with my friends.”

“Huh, no problem, now. Don’t stay too late o!”

“Thanks, Mummy.” She walked to the door. “Bye.”

“Bye.” Aduke shook her head. “God, please keep her for me.”

 

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PRAYER WARRIOR – BEN IN THE BUILDING

“Maya!”

She turned and came face to face with Ben Carson or Ben Bruce, whatever. A soft smile tilted her lip slightly as the man hurried to her. He looked different from yesterday when he needed change. Then he wore jeans and snickers like a student. Today, he had on the regalia of one who was coming from or going to a ceremony. A red cap on his head lay skewed like the style of a man learning how to wear the head gear.

“I said I will see you today.” He took her hand as soon as he could. “I always keep my word.”

Maya tugged at her hand and he released it. “What are you doing here?” It crossed her mind she didn’t give him her name yesterday, so how did he know it, but she let it pass.

He snickered. “On a university campus? That’s a funny question.”

As though to buttress her point, she hugged her file folder closer to her chest. “You don’t look like a student.”

He looked at himself. “Perhaps, dressed like this.” Then chuckled. “But there is no other way to know a student. Definitely not by age.”

Maya shrugged. She didn’t care if he was a student or not. She had a prayer meeting to attend and didn’t want to be late.

“I need to run. Bye.”

She didn’t wait for him to respond. Her mother always warned her about stupid old men.

 

****

 

Ben turned and watched her go until he couldn’t see her anymore. What in the earth just happened? He touched his cap, tilted to the right angle. She saw it, so why wasn’t she immediately inclined to him? He touched her and felt the current, but she didn’t yield. By now, he expected to be having a drink with her. By night, she would be in his bed, and then she would never be free until he was done with her. He’d be happy to discard her living carcass.

He rubbed the face of his watch as should, and his image appeared where the face of the watch had been.

“What happened?”

The image shook its head. “You need to do more. She’s a strong one.”

Ben gasped. “Then why didn’t you tell me? Are you trying to make me a fool? Or do you not know you will live longer if this works?”

“Get angry if you like, it doesn’t change anything. Go and do the needful.” The image disappeared.

Ben exclaimed. He caught himself when he realized he was standing in the middle of a faculty. People moved around him. He leaned against the wall. Anyone seeing him would think he had a smartwatch and was probably checking his email or something. Instead, Ben was trying to reconjure the image.

“Come back, what’s wrong with you?”

After several attempts, he picked himself and returned to his house where his shrine was. He would do the extra rituals and hopefully, Maya would be conquered.

She had to be conquered.

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PRAYER WARRIOR – PHILOSOPHY OF FRIENDSHIP

Maya giggled until she couldn’t breathe normally and gasped. “You’ll kill me today, Ope. What kind of human being are you?”

Ope smirked. “The kind that gets you throwing up your food because of my librarian.”

This statement stopped Maya. She grimaced. “What do you mean?”

“Precisely, I make no sense.” The boy sighed. “Do you think I will be a good comedian?”

Maya clasped her hand over her mouth. “Are you serious? You will drop out of med school for comedy?”

“Do you have a clue how much Basket Mouth makes at a gig?”

She rolled her eyes. “Basket Mouth is funny. You’re not.”

Ope threw up his hands in the air. “But you laugh at everything I say.”

“Because I’m your friend.”

A man walked to the table where the two sat with drinks, in the library cafeteria. He had a smile on his face and directed his gaze at Ope. “Do you have change, please? I had a bottle of drink and they didn’t tell me I should be prepared to pay in cash. I have just one-thousand naira bills.”

Ope shook his head. “I’m sorry, we don’t have.”

“Can I pay for you then, it makes more sense. The salesgirl wasn’t ready to pack all her change for just a hundred naira drink.”

Maya arched an eyebrow. Hmm, how generous!

“Well, our bill is three hundred. I would give you back but–”

Maya reached out for her purse. “I have the three hundred.”

The man looked at her as though he just noticed she was there. “Thank you, my dear.”

She removed the money and gave him. “Here.”

“Can you go and pay, please?” He gave one thousand naira to Ope. “Thank you.”

Ope smirked, hesitated, then took the money and stood. The man took his seat and he strolled off to pay for the drinks.

“My name is Ben. Ben Carson.” He winked. “Not the famous one, of course.”

“Oh, I don’t know the famous Ben Carson, sir.”

“Ben Bruce, then. At least, you know him.”

Maya laughed. “Ah, I know him.”

“You’re very pretty. The boy,” Ben gestured toward where Ope left for. “Your boyfriend?”

“My friend. We grew up together. He’s helping me to get my registration done. I’m a year one student, B.Phil.” Maya stopped. Why was she talking to a complete stranger about her life? She smiled. “His name is Ope.”

“Opeodun, opeayo, opeire?”

Maya chuckled. “Opeoluwa.”

“Oh!” Ben smiled. “How could I have missed that.”

Ope returned with six-hundred-naira change. “There was no queue, which is strange.” He gave the money to Ben.

“Thank you.” Ben stood. “I’ll get your number the next time we meet.” He winked again and walked off in the direction he came.

“Who on earth?” Ope took his seat. “Feeling like a goat. So sure he will meet you again. And you will give him your number.”

Maya laughed. “He’s not your mate!”

“Now now? You better beware of all these campus predators looking for fresh meat.”

Maya sneered. “I’d say that man is old enough to be my father. He looks more like a lecturer than a student.”

“And who says only students are predators?” He took a drink. “He makes my skin crawl.”

“Tah!” Maya laughed. “Stop sounding like my mother!”

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PRAYER WARRIOR – DREAMING AGAIN!

The waiter placed the food in front of the young woman. Aduke reached for the plate but the man’s hand shot out in front of hers.

“No, eat your own, and she eats her own,” he snarled.

Aduke retained her hold on the plate. “No, I want it!”

An effigy moaned. “Everyone eats from their own plate.”

The man slapped her hand, hard.

Aduke woke with a start. “Aha?”

She blinked several times, her breath squeezed out via her mouth. She stared at her right hand, which was slapped in the dream. It was as normal as ever, and there was no pain or discomfort from it. She picked her phone. Though the time showed a quarter after three, she speed-dialled Aunty Ranti’s number.

“Aduke!”

“Aunty Ranti. It’s me. Eh!”

“Come to my room,” Aunty Ranti said.

 

The doors along the corridor opened to two- and three-bed apartments in the three-story building. The landlord knew how to maximize space and at least achieve an average of ten tenants per floor. Aunty Ranti lived on the first floor in a three-bedroom house with her two sons, aged mother and invalid husband. She was at the door when Aduke knocked.

“It’s the dream again.” Aduke panted though she had climbed just a flight of stairs. “The same one.”

“Come in,” Aunty Ranti retied her wrapper about her chest. “Mami and I just turned in to sleep.”

“Aunty Ranti, what does it mean? We need to pray, aunty mi.”

“Did you see the faces this time?”

Aduke shook her head. “No. The voice is the same. And this time, he slapped my hand.”

“Something changes in each dream. He never hit you before.” Ranti sighed. “Did the young woman say anything this time?”

“No.” Aduke heaved. “But the effigy.”

Ranti leaned forward. “What did it say?”

“That everyone eats their own plate of food.” Aduke moaned. “The fear…the way my body shakes when I wake up. This is a lot of evil, and I don’t know what it means.”

“I remember when my Ola was going to have that accident that left him an invalid till tomorrow…this is how I was having these dreams I could not understand but I would be so afraid. The devil wanted to kill him!”

“Ah!” Aduke clasped her hands over her head. “This is the fourth time in how many weeks. What does it mean, my God?”

“We just have to pray. That is the only thing we know how to do. Hmm.” Ranti paused. “Let me get my olive oil and tell Mami. Then we go to your house and anoint it.”

“Maya was asleep, hope we will not disturb her.”

Ranti scoffed. “It is part of the disadvantage of a mother who is a prayer warrior. She either joins us or stays awake until we finish.”

Aduke shrugged half-heartedly. “This dream should just go away.”

She cherished her daughter. Praying the way they did, Maya would not be happy but what can a prayer warrior do in such a time as this?

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TUESDAY ROSE BUSHES – THE THIRD CAPTAIN

Captain Raziel, a captain of fifty, walked into the inner chambers of his home and looked around at the beautiful silk draperies and gold pillars. He lived well. As a young man serving in the king’s army, his family was proud of his achievement in battle. He clutched his sword and felt the slipperiness of his sweat on the metal. He should be headed out, but his heart thudded in his chest. Would this be the last time in his home? What manner of assignment was this? He could face off the meanest Philistine, but a prophet seated on top of a hill.

Shira walked up behind him and he stiffened. She was the last person he wanted to see, not when he was covered in trepidation and sweat.

“I heard the news in the vineyard.” She pressed herself to his back. “Two captains with their fifties already gone without returning.”

He groaned. “Yes.”

“A young shepherd boy–”

He turned into her arms, her warmth. He would die with a sword in his hand, fighting for his king and his kingdom, not burned up like a sacrificial lamb!

“Saw everything. The burned bodies of mighty men, strewn across the valley with the evil birds feasting already.” He heaved a heavy sigh. “I know, Shira my love.”

“No one knows what the prophet has done to them.”

“I have been asked on the king’s errand, Shira, wife. To bring the prophet on the hill to the king.” He cupped her face. “I am the third captain to be sent.”

Shira screeched. “No, you must refuse. You cannot…the king cannot risk you like that!”

He stepped away from her. “You know that is not possible. If I refuse, I will be beheaded immediately!”

She ran to him, her face wet with tears. “I cannot lose you. Our son cannot lose you!”

“I am a soldier and my life is pledged to the cause of the king.” He pressed a kiss on her forehead. “I must leave now.”

Raziel did not want to look into her eyes, but he did. “Be strong, my love. Take care and the Lord be with you.”

He tore away from her and marched on, her voice in tears and prayers trailing him.

“The Lord bless you! And keep you! And make His face shine upon you. And be gracious on to you, Raziel, son of Asher! The Lord lift up His countenance upon you. And give you peace…”

He said the “Amen” to her every prayer until he heard no more. His men waited, and he saw the fear on their faces and prayed they drew strength from him. He did not have any comfort for them however, they were all obeying the command of the king.

They marched on to the foot of the hill, fresh scent of burned flesh, with some of the smoke arose. Raziel motioned to his men to stop and be quiet. Then he climbed on to the side of the hill, his arms raised above his head. It made him look weak, but he knew he heard the word of wisdom in his spirit on how to proceed. He was not about to let ego or disobedience to the voice destroy him and his fifty.

Elijah sat with his face turned to the ground, a hairy man who wore a leather belt around his waist. Raziel had no idea what to expect, but not this bundle of vulnerability.

He fell on his knees though, the prophet did not acknowledge his presence. “O man of God, please spare my life and the lives of these, your fifty servants.”  When the prophet still did not respond, he continued. “See how the fire from heaven came down and destroyed the first two groups. But now please spare my life!”

No movement, no words. The prophet continued to stare at the ground, and he remained on his knees, his head bowed. Then, he felt rather than heard or saw movement. Prophet Elijah stood. He took a few steps forward and Raziel raised his head. The look on the prophet’s face drained energy from his bones but also sent a silent message, “I will go with you.”

Under his breath, Raziel moaned. “Jehovah be praised.”

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