They take me to the front of the house where everybody is waiting. They tie me to a big stick. They start praying. Everybody says amen. The prayer and the ‘amen’ sound like music that they all enjoy.
I don’t enjoy it. It is what took place before Onome was burnt. Now, I am afraid of it. I am afraid of being burnt. The coming closer of the two men adds to the fear. They bring out two arrows. The arrows are sharp and shiny. They push them toward me in prayer. I close my eyes in fear. The arrows don’t touch me. But a force whose touch I don’t feel pushes me a little bit. It leaves me when they pray pass me.
They come back again. The same thing happens. I open my eyes when they come the third time. When their arrows nearly touch me, the force pushes me back again. It also pushes them away. I see surprise and fear in the eyes of the men. These were not there when they first took me out. I begin to think my witch craft does not allow anything to hurt me. That is likely to be true. The doctor of the town used to tell me jokingly that my skin saves me from injection by pushing away the needle. May be it is my skin that made Mummy to slip and Daddy to get knocked down. It may be my skin that pushed The Mathematics teacher’s cable in to live wire.
But the fear is still approaching. The two men come slowly toward me. One of them is with what looks like a can. Aaaa, a kerosene can! The other is with something of shiny head. That t is .. is a lighter. My end is here. Yeeeee! Yeeeeeee! Heeeelp! Heeeelp! Nobody hears me. The shout of the happy crowd will not allow my voice to be heard. The men are close to me now. The people shout louder. They jump higher and quicker.
One of them tries to pour the kerosene on me. My body moves back a little. His hand moves back the can too. The kerosene misses me. The man quickly takes three steps back looking at me and the other one in fear. The other one takes two steps toward me. He lights the lighter. He pushes the flame toward me. My body moves backward. His hand takes the lighter away.
He goes back to the first man in terror. He tells him something. He nods and responds. They talk for a moment. They smile. They pick stones and throw them at me. One of the stones hits me on the forehead. The forehead bleeds. They both nod and smile with satisfaction. My witch craft does not protect me from stones. I feel sadder. Death by stoning is slower than death by fire.
Just then, something extraordinary happens. A large dust envelops the whole place. A big car causes it. The car pushes me and the stick I am tied to away without coming close enough to touch me. As soldiers come out of the car, people around run away. The soldiers come and take me to their big car. They want to drag me in to the car. A force holds me back. Three of them use all their power to snatch me from the force. My limbs that come in to the car last are painful.
“Who are you?” I ask the soldiers.
“We are the special team set up by the Government to save children wrongly accused of witch craft like you,” says the one that appears to be their leader. “We got a tip off that you are going to be murdered today. Don’t worry we are here for your safety.”
As the car starts moving, one of them brings out a box with a red cross. From the first aid box he brings out a pair of scissors with curved tip. He uses the tip to pick some cotton. He dips the cotton in liquid that looks like a spirit. He moves the wet cotton toward the bleeding spot on my forehead. I am afraid it will hurt. He sees the fear in my eyes. His hand seems pushed away by that force. He is surprised. He tries it again. The same thing happens. He exchanges glances with his colleagues.
“This boy is either a witch or his body is anti-magnetic,” he says. “Remember there was this American lady with a body that attracts metallic objects in the news last week. This boy may well be her opposite.”
“In that case we have made it,” says another.
“Made it as how?” another asks.
“This boy will bring us recognition whether he is a witch or an anti-metallic boy.”
I still don’t know if my witch craft is true. How I wish Daddy and Mummy are here to hear the new way these people see the witch craft. How I wish they see the opportunity these people see.
“Boy, are you a witch? If not, why is your body rejecting iron?” asks the man with the pair of scissors. I tell him about the needle, about the car that knocked down Daddy, how Mummy slipped, the kerosene can, the lighter and how their big car pushed me away without touching me.
“Forget about the superstitious witchcraft.” the Leader says “This boy need urgent help to stop the bleeding of his forehead. Try your hand if the scissors will not do.”
The soldier removes the cotton from the curved lips of the scissors. He holds it between his thumb and first finger. He moves it toward my forehead. I am surprised. Some of the soldiers are surprised. The force doesn’t push it away. I am afraid. I close my eyes thinking it will hurt. It doesn’t hurt. It feels cold.
After dressing the wound, he gives me some drugs to take. He says they will make the pain go away from my body. I take them. I sleep.
I am awake in what feels like an hour. The pain remains a little on my body. I open my eye. I am lying down on a naked bed. Two reassuring eyes meet mine. They are very close to me. They look like human eyes. They are not human eyes. They are the eyes of an owl. It is on my chest. I am not afraid of an owl. My class teacher that always says the truth told our class that the evils associated with the bird are not true. She used that word used by the Leader of the soldiers: “superstitious”. She said that superstition had turned a friend of man in to an enemy. Owl helps keep the environment clean by killing rats and their likes. I feel it is here to keep my environment safe.
My environment looks like a hospital room. I am on a bed. The bed doesn’t have mattress. It is very cold in the room. I am covered with a thick, white cloth up to my neck. There is a bandage around my head like a turban. There is a needle in my left arm. It is not just a needle. I am “on a drip”. The last time the doctor put me “on a drip” was when I fainted two years ago. The hospital room is like the ones in Uja. It smells. Its ceiling is bad. The owl will take care of any rat that falls from the holes of the ceiling.
I say “Tell me, good owl, for how long have I been here?”
It moves its wings slowly.
“Please don’t go.” I say. “I won’t catch you.”
“There is nothing magnetically-repellant about this boy. Witch or wi..” says a man that opens the door. He has on a doctor’s cloth and earpiece. He stands unable to come in or go back. His eyes look at the bird on my chest. He points at it and moves his lips without producing any sound in fear.
“Ah, doctor, are you also afraid of an Owl? It is my friend, your friend and all mankind’s friend” I say.
I think it will take away his fear. The fear increases. He goes to a corner of the room and bows. The owl looks at me and the Doctor. The Doctor is shaking. He looks down, away from the owl. He looks like somebody that is about to be flogged.
“Doctor, come. It will not do anything. It is only good to keep this kind of dirty environment clean of rats and cockroaches” I say again.
“Don’t let me come, great one” says the Doctor. “I am alright here.”
I am surprised. I am happy. This is the first time an adult will call me “great one”. I want to know why he is treating me like an old man.
“But why, why are you doing like this?”
“Great one, forgive me please. It is not my fault. Please, have mercy. It is those soldiers that brought you here that say you are anti-magnetic or a witch. I am not one of them. I ..”
The door opens. Mummy comes in. She wears anger on her face. I think Daddy is dead, and she wants to beat me. Fear rushes through me.
“It was not intentional. I can..” I say.
The fear increases as she comes closer. The needle flies out of my arm. The iron stand holding the drip falls. The owl flies out through the window behind my head. That increases my fear. The bed shakes. I am lifted above the bed, not away from it. Mummy shouts. The soldier that dressed my forehead comes in. He fixes his eyes at the gap between my back and the bed. I think he wants to show me something there. With difficulty, I slightly move my right arm in the gap. He runs out. Mummy follows him.
Doctor looks up. He also runs out. I want to run out with them. The power holds me up. My fear increases. I am, lifted up more.
The Doctor doesn’t leave the room completely. He is by the other window of the room. He sees me struggling to leave. My eyes meet his.
“Doctor, please come and help me! Save me, please!” I say. He goes away. My fear increases. The force lifts me up more. I remain like that for a while, struggling to break free.
The Doctor comes in dragging the soldier and Mummy with him. He shouts “Eureka” as he comes in. I don’t know what it means. He follows it with “ ‘ve found it! ‘ve found it! ‘ve found it!”
Mummy and the soldier move to a corner of the room. The Doctor himself maintains a distance from me.
“Magnetically-repellant people like this boy are very rare,” says the Doctor “They are one in five hundred million. That is why the case seem strange to us. So, there is nothing supernatural about him.”
“Why don’t you go closer to him if your claim is true?” says Mummy.
“He is still scared” says the Doctor. “When they are scared, their bodies repel iron. That confirms the information I got from the soldiers. I cannot go close to him with my stethoscope.”
“Let me hold it for you then,” says Mummy.
“No need.” He turns to me. “Bomboy, calm down. Nobody is here to hurt you. Your mother only came here to convey your father’s greeting to you. So, there is no cause for fear.”
“But she was angry when she came.” I say.
“It was this soldier that provoked me” she says.
The soldier nods.
I feel they just want to appease me again.
“Even if she had something negative on her mind,” says the Doctor “my explanation has neutralized it. I repeat, there is nothing supernatural about you.”
I turn my eyes to Mummy for confirmation. She nods moving forward her hands. She bows slightly. She begs silently. I feel assured. Gradually my body goes down, back to the bed. They come closer. None of them touches the bed or me. Whether it is for fear or to reassure me I don’t know.