BEFORE THE DARKNESS : CHAPTER TWO

The men in front of him looked on with sullen faces; it looked like a death had just been announced.
“Mr. President, we need to move on this as soon as possible. The price of oil is not getting better anytime soon. If we don’t move fast, Libya takes the lead.” The petroleum minister announced. He was a short and slender man who spoke with a lot more force than his stature suggested was possible. He was the latest to deliver gloomy news to the sitting cabinet.
“Thank you Professor Otabor.” President Lange said, trying hard to muster a smile. “We will discuss this next week, it is too late into the meeting to begin a discussion on petroleum. Let’s close this meeting now, we’ll pick it up from here later.”
President Lange moved through the closing parts of the meeting like he was on a trance. He had been president for less than four months but the strain of the office was already showing on him.
Like many predicted, petroleum could no longer sustain the nation. Despite advice and sometimes threats from political bigwigs not to, he had put only technocrats rather than politicians in his cabinet. He was doing the best he could but the people wanted results faster than he was delivering them. The opposition was cruel and even though he had not been president for long, they had already declared him a failure.
He stood, left the table and walked to the window. Looking out the window had become a favourite pastime for him. Windows represented a way of escape, an opportunity to get away from the restrictions of the room.
He turned away from the window and looked at his wristwatch. It was a few minutes to seven.
He sighed and sat. He was going to see Bola at nine. She was his one weakness, but she was also the one person who could help him forget all the stress of the office.
He picked his phone and dialed her number, she picked at first ring.
“Good evening, Mr. President.” Her husky voice came over the phone.
“Good evening to you too, Mrs. President.”
“Mrs. President? She is in the presidential villa. I’m just Bola, a humble citizen of Nigeria.” She said with a slight chuckle.
He paused for a few seconds, then shook the thoughts of his wife off his mind.
“I just finished a meeting with the ministers and you know how that always ends.”
“Yes dear, I know. We will do something about that when you get here by nine; you’re still coming, right?”
“Yes I am. I was wondering if I could come earlier, maybe come now?”
“Now? Come on Jim She said laughing. “You are not getting into my house one minute before nine.”
“Is that a challenge? I have a whole army at my command you know.”
“I will wait for them.”
“Bola…”
“I’ll still be here by nine. I’ll be waiting, okay bye.” She said and ended the call.
He sighed and set the phone on the table. On the table was a picture of his wife and children. He looked away from the picture as an overwhelming sense of guilt swept over him. He loved his wife, he knew he did but Bola was different. She was not better than his wife, just different.
She had been his girlfriend for three years when he was in the University. After graduation he travelled to the United Kingdom for his Master degree and the relationship had not survived the distance. It certainly was not helped by his new Indian girlfriend. He lost contact with Bola, came back to Nigeria, met his wife and married her.
He had been a faithful husband, even after he became a popular politician-until he met Bola again at an event in Spain. His wife had not gone on the trip with him and he had spent time with Bola catching up. He was just trying to be a friend to her, but three months after their renewed friendship and two weeks after he entered the presidential race, he started sleeping with her.
He was not proud of the affair and he knew that it would be the end of him.
He stood, walked to his refrigerator and took out a bottle of water. He turned on the TV and sat on a couch. He rarely watched the TV, he preferred to read newspapers, they had a tendency to be more candid.
“Doctors are still confused about this, it is nothing like they have seen.” The lady on the TV was saying. “The patients have been isolated and are being monitored carefully, the cause of this sickness is yet to be determined and it is not known if it is transmittable.”
President Lange sat closer to the edge of his seat as the camera zoomed on some of the patients. The camera did not pick up the faces of the patients but he had a feeling he would be hearing more about whatever the sickness was.
His phone rang, it was his wife. He knew why she called; she wanted to know when he would be home. He put off the TV and shook his head. He would have to lie to her, again.
***
Eric walked across the room and sat at the head of the table. All attention was on him and rightly so, he was their boss. After the success of his first movie, investors were lined up for the next. Money had not been his reason for making European but the money had come in, a lot of it. Investing in his movie was a no-brainer, European was not luck, and everybody knew it. With the money had come a lot of responsibility and with the responsibilities came a lot of meetings.
“Good morning ladies and gentlemen. Shall we begin?” Eric said and looked at Pearl, his assistant.
Eric tried his best to listen but all the talk about figures and projections did not interest him. His accountants and lawyers were in the room to make sure he could afford to not listen. He looked out through the window and jumped back in his chair.
“Are you okay sir?” Pearl asked. Eric looked up and saw all eyes on him.
“Yes, I am. I might have to step out for a few minutes but please continue.” He said and stood.
He looked through the window again and there he was; the odd-looking man he had seen in the parking lot the previous day was standing in the hallway.
He hurried out of the conference room, and towards the place the man had been standing. The man had been standing still with eyes fixed on him. He slowed his walk, no other person seemed to notice the man, they all walked past him. Maybe the man was not really there.  Maybe he was just hallucinating, like he did when he saw his hand disappear. But that had been so real to him, he could not believe that was an hallucination. There was only one way to find out if he was hallucinating. He walked faster towards the man.
“Eric?” He heard a voice call behind him.
He walked on, ignoring the voice.
“Eric, are you alright?” It was Pearl. He stopped and turned around.
“I’ll be in in two minutes, I just need to deal with something.” He said and turned back to face the man.
He was gone!
Eric looked around, the man was nowhere in sight. He could not have gone so far so soon, maybe he was imagining things after all.
He turned back and followed Pearl into the meeting room. The man had looked so real, he could not believe that he had imagined it all. With the imagined disappearing hand, he obviously was losing his mind.
“I’m sorry for the delay, ladies and gentlemen. Can we continue please?” He said as he sat.
“Yes sir, before we continue I think you should know that Morayo Adebisi is having another surgery.” One of the men seated, a lawyer, said.
“I thought the last one was successful.” Eric replied, raising his brows. Morayo Adebisi was an actress who had been injured on the set of European. She had been cut from the movie and regrettably had received no official compensation.
“We thought so too.” The lawyer answered.
“I don’t pay you to think so, you should have found out for sure. We need to do something for her. I want you to get right on that immediately after this meeting.” Eric said.
“Yes sir. More importantly, there are few a foreign investors who are looking to partner with us for GENESIS.”
“Okay, who are they and what do they want apart from the money?”
“How do you mean sir?” One of the accountants asked surprised.
“You know perfectly what I mean…” Eric started and stopped.
He gasped and jumped up. The old man was standing at the other end of the table. He had come in without opening the door.
“What’s happening Eric?” He heard a whisper beside him, it was Pearl
Eric looked around, all eyes were on him. The old man stood still at the end of the table, his eyes on Eric like he was the only one in the room. If it was a hallucination, it was too strong. He had to find out.
“Can you all leave the room for a few minutes, please?” Eric said. “I need some time alone.”
“Eric?” Pearl looked at him, worry clearly written on her face.
“I’m fine Pearl and I promise I’ll see you in thirty minutes. I need to be alone for now, okay?”
“Are you sure?”
“Yes, I am.” Eric said and tried his best to smile.
Eric watched Pearl out of the room all the while keeping his eye on the strange man that was invading his mind. He left his chair as soon as the door closed behind Pearl. He walked towards the man, he had not moved. The closer he got to him the more he felt like the man was real, like he was a person he had met before.
“Before you think you are mad, I want you to know I am real.” The man spoke and left his standing position for the first time. While Eric contemplated his reply, the man continued. “No other human can see me, because I do not walk in their realm.”
Eric shook his head, he definitely was going mad. “If you do not walk in the realm of humans, how come I can see you?”
“You can because you can see into this realm, you are not human.”
“I am not human?” Eric asked with a smile. “What am I then? A dog?”
“On the contrary, you are a god.”
“A god?” Eric said and burst out in laughter. “I don’t know what this is or why my mind is playing such vivid games on me but this is ridiculous.”
“You mock, but for every night you have slept wondering who you are, for every day you have looked upon yourself in confusion, I beg you to listen to me.” The Strange man pleaded.
“What are you going to tell me now? I am Hercules, son of Zeus, half-man and half-god? Or am I Zeus himself? Or wait, I am Thor?”
“You mock again but as I must deliver the message of Edumare, I will pardon you and not leave, not yet. Those names you mentioned are all fabrications, adaptations, ridiculous imaginations of the narrow human mind.”
“I can’t believe I’m having an argument with something my own mind fabricated.” Eric said, shaking his head.
“Now, I must and I will deliver my message.”
“Go on please, what other insane thing do you have to say? Whoever you are.”
“There is trouble coming, prepare yourself or this world where you now belong will be lost.”
Eric wanted to laugh but he could not. The words came in a certain way that made him afraid. How could something produced by his own mind scare him so much?
“Who are you? Why are you here?” He asked, more interested in what the man had to say now.
“I am Orunmila, Priest of Edumare. I am here to make you know and accept who you are. It looks like it will be tougher than I expected.”
“Orunmila…I have heard that name before somewhere in a story. But it’s all myth, a fairy tale.”
“Your enemies are almost here, prepare!” The man said.
Just as he finished talking there was a knock on the door. Eric looked at the door and Pearl walked in.
“Who were you talking to?” She asked.
Eric looked back at where the man stood, he was gone!
He looked back at Pearl and said. “Whoever or whatever I was talking to, I hope he doesn’t come back.”
***
Anne looked out through the window as the car moved along. The road was surprisingly free; there were very few cars on her lane. She hated driving because of the heavy traffic that was the norm on her route to work, so she always had Damola drive her. She had been hoping for heavy traffic that morning, she had a lot on her mind.
It was not a lot, just one thing; the words of the odd man.
She was not able to sleep when he left. What he had told her was plain madness, foolishness, but somehow a part of her believed him. She felt ashamed for even thinking about what the man had said, there was no way it was true. But what if it was?  She had been so confused she had actually googled the goddess he talked about. While she understood it was all myth, she found herself looking for similarities between herself and the goddess. She found many. Wouldn’t you know if you were a goddess and had super powers? She shook the thought off her mind, she had given it enough time, it was time she moved on from whatever foolishness the man had planted in her heart.
“How was your night Damola? I’m sorry I didn’t ask before, had a lot on my mind.” She said, trying her best to be cheerful.
“It was fine ma’am.” He answered in his usual detached manner.
“You know I never asked, do you live alone or with family?”
“I live alone.”
“Oh really, that’s great.” She said a little more excitedly than she had hoped to. What was great about him living alone? It’ll be great on the day he decides to take you home. She caught him glance at her through the rearview mirror. She looked away and stared through the window again.
She knew her crush on Damola was worthless. He respected her as his boss but he scarcely spared her a glance when it was not demanded. And she was a goddess, what business did she have with mere men? She bit her lip to stop herself from laughing.
“Are you okay?” His voice caught her off-guard. He was looking at her through the rearview mirror again.
“Yeah, I am. Why did you ask?”
“Nothing, it’s just the look you’ve have had in your eyes since I picked you up this morning. It looks like something is wrong.”
“Can I ask you something?”
“Yes.”
“Do you believe in gods and goddesses, Nigerian mythology?” She asked and held her breath hoping he would not make fun of her.
“Yes, I do ma’am.”
“What?!” She exclaimed, eyes wide.  “You do?”
“Yes I do. I don’t mean I worship them, but I believe they were powerful people who lived many years ago.”
“Wow, I was not expecting that. I could not have guessed that about you.”
“There’s a lot you wouldn’t guess about me.”
“Really? Tell me some of them.” Anne said, turning in her seat to face him.
“Now? No, not while I’m driving. We can stop at the Pizza Place right before the office and I’ll tell you all about myself.” He said keeping his straight face.
“Are you asking me out?” She said very excitedly then slapped her palm across her mouth. She had not meant to voice the thought. He looked at her through the rearview mirror and her heart pounded as she waited for his answer.
He did not reply.
She cursed herself under her breath and looked away from him. She was so embarrassed by the way she had jumped at his innocent offer. He saw she was having a tough day and was only trying to help his boss. She really wished she was a goddess and could make him like her, she really wished the odd man could somehow give her some super power, even if it was for a day.
The car slowed and pulled over. Damola had stopped the car at the Pizza place. He was not angry at her question after all. She sighed as he walked around the car to open her door. She stepped out of the car avoiding his gaze, she had never felt more nervous. She started walking towards the building without waiting for him, hoping she could buy the pizza and leave without having to sit with him.
“Anne.” She heard him call from behind, she stopped and he walked up to her. “The answer to your question is yes.”
What did he just say? What question was he talking about? She stood still as he walked ahead into the building. Did he just say he was asking her out?
The smile started from her mouth and spread all over her face as he bounded into the building. Who needs to be a goddess, when Damola just asked you out?
***

The lines were deeply etched on Orunmila’s face as he approached the throne. Things were not going the way he expected. He had stood by Edumare’s throne for a whole year watching the gods live as men. They had not struggled to find their feet, they easily made a success in whatever they decided to do. He was not surprised, they after all were gods who had the wisdom of centuries. What bothered him was their ignorance and they did not even know they were ignorant. For the whole year, they had all thrown their lives into their work and tried their best to ignore their past.
“Orunmila, I can see you are still worried.” Edumare said as Orunmila bowed before the throne.
“My Lord, I am worried. Even when confronted with the truth, they yet deny who they are.”
“Who they are? They have no memory of those people. Surely you did not expect this to be easy.” Edumare answered with a smile.
“No, but I expected them to be more reasonable.”
“Then you must reason harder with them, because soon they must rise from their slumber and take up their positions. The enemy is closer than you think and as we speak his forces take hold on earth.”
“What must I do now?”
“This is a test for you too, my dear priest as it is for them. If they fail, they perish with the darkness, if you fail, you carry their destruction on your conscience.”
“That is a burden I will not be able to bear, my Lord.” Orunmila said, clasping his shivering hands together.
“Then you must do what you must to save them.”
Orunmila walked a few steps away from the throne and looked into the distance. The day Edumare had driven Ibilis into the abyss instead of completing destroying him, he had known this day would come.
“You know the future my Lord, surely you know how this ends.” Orunmila said, hoping Edumare will ease his worry.
“The future is whatever they choose for it to be. A green earth or one consumed by darkness, those are their options and nobody, not even I can choose for them.”

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