Strange Man at Iri – Chapter 14

For months, members of the Obara household lived in fear, anticipating Ese’s evil attack, not even the servants were left out. And everyday, Rodah never failed to wear the necklace with the mirror pendant, given to her by the Chief Priest.

When her pregnancy began to show, Rodah’s fear doubled. She feared that Ese had terrible plans in place for her unborn son. Yes, she was sure it was a boy. Mrs. Eugene had said so.

Sensing her uneasiness and how it was affecting her life, Aaron became really worried. He was sure if Rodah continued down the path she was going, fear of the unknown would kill her and the child, faster than Ese would.

“You have to try to put the fear away”, Aaron said to her one windy night, as they lay, on their matrimonial bed, cuddling her close.

“And how do I do that?”, Ese asked, “Our son is in danger”.

“Worrying about Ese and her plans will only affect your health negatively. The baby’s too”, Aaron’s said

“Do you think it is wise to not protect ourselves from her?” Rodah’s eyes glittered in the dark, as she looked into her husband’s.

“Yes”, he patted her hair backwards, then planted a firm kiss, “Don’t forget Ese is possessed. And her mother is only trying to help her too”.

***************

A year and ten months rolled by peacefully. Tiny feet ran around the mansion, laughing, playing and trying out different mischievous activities.

Little Aaron, was already a year and nine months old – a healthy, lively and handsome child that brought joy to his parents and grandparents.

He was their world, and they knew, their lives would never be the same.

Ms. Helen was particular about little Aaron, as he constantly reminded her of his father, in his early years.

Her once dull and strict self, faded away, into a happy, ever smiling Angel that was glad to always attend to the little child’s needs.

But again, in all their hearts, they were scared little Aaron was not safe.

************

The months continued to roll by steadily. And it was soon their second marriage anniversary. Rodah kicked against having a celebration. And Aaron saw reasons with her. Afterall, Mrs. Eugene had told them Ese’s plans would be carried out during their second anniversary.

Rodah stayed in-doors with little Aaron. Day in, day out. And Ms. Helen stayed with them too. Their work at the office suffered due to their absence.

Aaron, however, refused to do same. He needed to be up and about, so as to keep his business afloat and meet his family’s needs.

In fact, a secret part of him wanted Ese to find them quickly, so they could be done with her threats, once and for all.

But his wishes didn’t come to pass. Ese did not surface.

Three more months went by, peacefully. And the Obaras decided, it was best to stop leaving in anticipation of evil, and move in with their lives. Perhaps, Ese had forgotten about them and picked on a new interest to torment.

And although it was now three months after their anniversary, they decided to hold a small celebration to mark it. Ms. Helen though, didn’t like the idea. But Aaron and Rodah had minds of their own.

“You really want to celebrate the anniversary?” Mrs. Akiri, Rodah’s mom, asked, when the duo paid them a visit as regards plans for the up-coming anniversary.

“Yes. I don’t see why not. It is well past our anniversary now, and Ese didn’t show up. What we want to do is just a celebration. It is not the actual anniversary”, Rodah defended.

“I don’t like the idea”, Chief said, scratching his beards. He was deep in thoughts, before he spoke again, “but since you two insist, then I insist we do this back home. At Iri. That way, we are close to Ese’s mother and her Priest husband, in case of trouble”.

“Priest husband?” Rodah frowned. Aaron’s brows shot up.

“Yes”, Mrs. Akiri confirmed, “since Mrs. Eugene is in a young body, the Priest couldn’t keep his eyes and hands to himself. Besides, she has a little boy now. About same age as little Aaron. Only, he might be a few months older.

“Interesting”, Aaron chuckled.

“Well, if she loves him, who I’m I to complain?” Rodah said, minding her tongue.

“So, do you agree that we do this celebration at home?” Chief asked. Rodah turned to Aaron for confirmation.

Aaron had no issues with having his anniversary in the same place he first met his lovely wife. “Yes”, he agreed, “after all, it is for our own safety”.

“Good”, Chief sighed in relief, “so we do it at home”.

***************************

Preparations were made. And the day fixed for the anniversary, came, bearing good weather.

Canopies placed outside the Akiri mansion were beautifully decorated.

Some servants cooked at the back of the house, while the others prepared to serve the already cooked food.

The villagers invited themselves to the occasion, except for the Ovie and senior chiefs, who were given invitations by Chief Akiri. It was after all, a once in a lifetime party for some of them. What’s more? Family, friends and colleagues from far and near also graced the occasion. One of the popular bands in Lagos was invited to perform.

The anniversary celebrations started promptly at 12:00 pm. Aaron was dressed in his ceremonial navy uniform. And Rodah, dressed in a white gown that reached below her ankle. Her hair was packed up as she went around with her husband, to welcome their guests.

Music and laughter rented the air, as the navy men jubilated with their senior colleague, and teased him occasionally, for doing his anniversary in the village.

Aaron laughed at their teases. Only he and his family, understood the danger they were trying to prevent. So he didn’t blame them for their careless talks.

Rodah kept her eyes fixed on every lady present. She couldn’t help her suspicion, not even when some invited guest came over to congratulate the couple, and introduce their spouses.

Rodah was alert. She knew Ese could be any one of the guest. If her one time friend could swap body with her own mom, and almost did same with her, then she can do that with anyone. She only needed to know the face of Ese’s new host.

Aaron wasn’t left out. He was also on the lookout, and only he knew, why his wife’s eyes seemed to dart around suspiciously.

Taking her hand, he led Rodah away from the guests, to the open space to dance. Perhaps a few dance steps would ease her anxiety. But Rodah’s eyes kept scanning the crowd. Aaron chuckled.

“What’s funny?”, she asked, still looking around.

“If you keep staring at every lady, suspiciously, the way you’re doing now, you’re going to make our guests very unhappy”.

“Oh, who cares? One of them is Ese”.

“You can’t be so sure”.

“I am. She wants to harm me and steal you away”.

“You and I know that’s never going to happen”.

“Don’t underestimate that girl, darling. Please”, Rodah looked into his eyes now.

“I’m not underestimating her. I’m only asking that you relax. Please”, he pecked her cheeks lightly.

Rodah agreed to relax. Her husband was right. In as much as they were on the lookout for Ese, she had to stop making their guests feel like suspects under her gaze.

She placed her head on Aaron’s shoulders, dancing slowly to the fast beat from the band, when her eyes fell on two new arrivals, a very senior navy officer and his wife

No, she didn’t care about the officer. She cared about the smiling lady, whose hand wrapped around his, as they approached.

She was a raving beauty. The men present, even the women, could not take their eyes off her. Her gown, maroon red, was definitely an European design.

“Ese”, Rodah whispered. Aaron heard the whisper and looked up to see his superior approaching with a gorgeous lady.

He had always heard how beautiful his superior’s new wife was. But he had never seen her with his own eyes until his anniversary.

Aaron disengaged from Rodah and moved to greet the navy officer. Not to seem rude, Rodah followed suit.

They spent time exchanging pleasantries, and then the officer introduced his wife. Like an English gentleman, Aaron took her outstretched hand and planted a light kiss on it.

As for Rodah, she only shook hands with the beauty.

Aaron signaled one of the waiters to take the officer and his wife into the house, and take care of all their needs.

While the servant led the couple into the sitting room to join other top officers, Aaron turned to Rodah,

“Must you make it obvious?” he accused.

“I’m sorry”, she apologised, “I couldn’t help it”.

“You have to try, Rodah. That’s my superior and his wife. You’re going to start making people think something is wrong. Besides, if she was Ese, she’d have struck. Don’t you think?”

Rodah was reluctant, but she gave in to his reasoning, just so peace would reign.

The rest of the ceremony was a blast, and the major topic of discussion among the villagers many days after. Aaron, along with Rodah and the rest of the family, returned to Lagos the following week, after paying a short visit to Mrs. Eugene, at the Priest’s shrine. She had a child in her arms. And looking at him, they were sure he was about same age as little Aaron.

Mrs. Eugene introduced him to them as her son – a son who helped to ease the pain she felt, because of Ese’s evil doings.

However, they spent their time together chatting away happily. For Ese did not show up and they were happy to be rid of her. Even though temporarily.

Before leaving though, Mrs. Eugene gave Rodah another gift. A small mirror that could reveal the true form of a person.

“Hold it close to you always”, she said, “a time will come when you will need it”.

*********

Upon returning to Lagos, Rodah returned to her husband’s business, along with Ms. Helen, working round the clock to meet up with the backlogs.

In fact, the were too preoccupied to think about Ese again.

Little Aaron always went with them to the office, as Rodah didn’t feel comfortable leaving him alone with the servants. She had heard too many bad stories about what servants do to little children placed under their care.

Her son was not going to suffer same fate.

**********

Life returned to normal. And one year later, it was still normal, with no fear of Ese and her evil plans.

Aaron and Rodah didn’t think it was necessary to hold a big party for their third anniversary, and so they agreed on a low-key celebration.

Only very close friends and family members were invited.

The sitting room was large enough, and so Rodah instructed the servants to push the chairs aside. Afterwards, it was decorated.

Aaron didn’t want to put on his uniform, since it anniversary would see just family and friends. But on second thought, he decided to.

Rodah dressed in a simple white gown that could also pass for a simple wedding gown. And when anyone asked why she chose the outfit, she’d smile and say, she was marrying her husband all over again.

The party started at 3:00 pm dot. Soft music emanated from the gramophone. Food and drinks were passed around. The guests were merry, sharing tales that were mostly told under the moonlight.

“Well, the moon is out already”, Aaron replied, chuckling, when a friend asked why moonlight tales were being shared in an adult party – A wedding anniversary at that.

Little Aaron was all over the place, eating, drinking, and playing with objects he had no business with. He was a handful for Ms. Helen, but she tried to keep up with him.

Rodah busied herself with ensuring everyone was satisfied. It was only when the guests agreed they were satisfied, that she stopped bringing in more food. The rest of course we’re packaged in take away plastic plates for the guests.

Time moved fast. Evening came. 5:13 pm precisely. It met Aaron and Rodah dancing away to a tune from the Oriental Brothers. Friends cheered as they danced, trying to out do each other.

They were still at it, when Aaron’s superior and his wife, from their second anniversary, showed up.

It was an unexpected visit, as Aaron had not invited him for the celebration.

“I hope all is well sir?”, Aaron asked, after he and Rodah moved to welcome them.

“All is well, Aaron”, he smiled, “My wife heard you were celebrating your third anniversary. So she asked that we come over and say congratulations”.

“Oh. That’s nice of you”, Rodah smiled at the elderly man and woman, “please sit”, she offered them a sit as they exchanged pleasantries with the others, present.

“What can I get you?” Rodah asked, “we have starch and Ogwho soup, we have eba and egusi, or ogbono soup. We have rice and stew…”

“Anything the others are having will do?” The lady cut her short with a smile.

“Oh. Ok then”, Rodah was grateful for her simplicity, as she headed for the kitchen leaving the men to discuss.

However, when she returned, what she saw shook the core of her foundation. Little Aaron was not with Ms. Helen. He was in the arms of the senior officer’s wife, playing. She looked up Just in time to see Rodah approaching with a tray of Eba and Egusi soup. Then the unthinkable happened.

In a quick flash, her form changed. Rodah didn’t see the beautiful wife of the navy officer, she saw Mrs. Eugene, holding her child, instead of the beautiful woman who was the senior officer’s wife. She thought she was hallucinating. But Ese was right in front of her, playing with her son. It clicked then, what was going on. And in shock, the tray with its entire content, dropped from her hands.

The loud crash startled everyone. Aaron was the first to jump to his feet. He was just getting to her side when Rodah, recovering from the shock, rushed forward and grabbed little Aaron from the woman and then landed a dirty slap on her face.

“Stay away from my son, Ese. Stay away from him”.

The woman frowned, got to her feet and landed an even hotter slap on Rodah’s face, Almost knocking her off-balance, “how dare you raise your hands to my face?” She questioned.

Rodah reached for her and a fight ensued. Ms. Helen hurried to Rodah’s side to take the boy out of harm’s way.

Aaron and his superior felt embarrassed. The person who felt it more was Aaron. Rodah was embarrassing his superior.

Calling on one of the servants to clean up the mess, Aaron started towards the women. He wanted to pull Rodah aside and talk some sense into her head. He succeeded in pulling her off the other woman, but she pushed him off.

“Open your eyes, darling!”, she said to him, “Ese is here”, she turned back to the woman, pointing at her.

“I don’t know what you’re talking about”, the woman really felt embarrassed now. And her husband was already on his feet, raining insults on Rodah for daring to assault his wife.

Aaron wasn’t having it. No man could come into his home and then insult his wife, “please desist from using such defamatory words on my wife”, he told his superior officer.

“Are you supposed to take her side, or my side?” He quarreled, “she is insulting my wife”.

“I’m on your side. But more insults wouldn’t solve the issue”, Aaron explained

“I don’t care. She should have been locked up by now for disrespect”.

Aaron ignored his superior. He turned to Rodah and tried to pull her aside. But she kept slapping him off.

As luck would have it, the mirror Mrs. Eugene gave to her during their second wedding anniversary at Iri, was tucked in the tiny pocket of her gown. She had kept it close to herself all through the year.

Rodah took it out and pointed the mirror at the lady.

Heart wrenching screams rented the air, accompanied by smoke that smelt of burning flesh.

Everyone moved back, including the senior navy officer. His eyes widened in horror as he watched the beautiful woman he called wife, become a very ugly creature – a monster in human form.

Ms. Helen turned little Aaron’s face away from the ugly scene, just as the officer recovered from his voice.

“What have you done to my wife, you witch!”, he charged at Rodah, “you used sorcery on my wife”.

Aaron stood between him and Rodah, asking him to see the truth before his eyes. There was no mistaking it. Rodah was right.

“You stupid girl!”, the monster roared, as it gradually changed form again. Before long, they were staring at Mrs. Eugene’s form, in Flesh. Now, her supposed husband was truly surprised. Almost speechless.

He moved to stand in front of her, “who are you?” His question came in a whisper.

Ese smiled, “your wife”, she stretched one hand, grabbed him by the neck and snapped it like it was nothing but brisket bone.

“Ahhhh!”, those present cried, randomly. Fear was evident in their expression, as they pulled closer to each other.

“Aaron, Rodah, little Aaron!” She clapped her hands, “I have watched both of you. Long enough, to know you’re cowards”, Ese said, looking up at the couple, “I’ve always thought death will be a very good gift to the both of you. But during your second anniversary, back home, I saw, that death was too easy. So I’m going to give both of you pain”, she pointed at Aaron, smiling “you saw the creature I was a while back. You’re that creature. For as long as you’ve seen it, you become it!”, she yelled. Incantations followed.

“No. Ese stop”, Rodah said, thinking of ways to protect her husband, as he cried out, then dropped to the floor, writhing in pain. Rodah rushed to his side. Smoke, with smell of burning flesh, rose from his body and filled the room.

“Aaron”, she called his name, trying to help him. Ms. Helen called to her to stay away from him.

“No”, she refused, “no”. But one of the men present, reached for her and pulled her away from him, just as his screams started to subside. His hands, face and feet had become large, and monster like, with sharp claws. He was scally too, burnt scales.

“Aaron. Aaron, my love”, Rodah was in tears as her husband, making terrible sounds, gradually got to his knees, inspecting his transformed self. Although, now looking like a monster, his eyes held nothing but sadness.

“You see, Rodah”, Ese laughed wickedly, “Aaron and I are alike. And people who are alike, should be the ones staying together. Don’t you think?”

“Please Ese”, Rodah’s cries doubled, “take back your curse. Please”.

“Take back? I’m not even done yet”, she looked up at Aaron, “get to your feet, my baby”. Aaron reluctantly obeyed. He got to his feet, grunting, “now kill her. Kill your wife!”

To Be Continued…

©Karo Oforofuo. August 2017. All rights reserved

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About Karo Oforofuo

Karo Oforofuo is an experienced freelance writer, self-published author, and blogger at pelleura.top. She's dedicated to helping women grow in self-confidence and self-love, through her articles and stories shared on the blog.

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