Boy meets ànjònú and the rest, like they always say, is history.
Shola hesitated in front of the steps outside the main church building for a moment to consider how absurd his situation was. He was—in his own words—a lukewarm Christian, content with his Sundays only appearance at church and the occasional showing at Youth fellowship on those days when he didn’t get out after service fast enough before being cornered by the overzealous choir master. Churchgoing was a ritual that soothed him but here he was, on a Thursday morning, about to enter CAC Òkè Àánú that wasn’t even his regular church. Not that he was a fan of all their weekly vigils or their fall-down-and-die prayers but his problem was huge, and he needed a quick solution. It was ridiculous really and no one would believe him, even if he told them what the problem was. He couldn’t tell anyone that an ànjònú—not quite a demon, not really a ghost, but definitely an apparition on the supernatural spectra—was haunting him. Surely, they would think he was mad.
It had all started a month ago, on a Tuesday that was etched in his memory forever. He had gone to see Funke after work that day. Funke was his girlfriend, and while he wouldn’t consider himself to be a lovey-dovey type, he had noticed a chill creep into their relationship. He wasn’t asking for hand holding at every outing but something just seemed off, and he couldn’t put his fingers on what exactly it was. He had asked Chuks in accounting what to do, and Chuks—being a self-proclaimed Mr. Lover Lover, in all caps—had told him to be more romantic.
“Surprise her. Let her know you care. Bring out the HEAT!”
Shola wasn’t exactly sure what bringing out the heat meant. He was also a big respecter of personal boundaries and not into surprises but, given his limited options and despite his misgivings, he had given in to Chuks’s prompts and showed up at her doorstep unannounced with a bottle of Eva in hand.
The sounds he heard as he stood outside her door were unmistakable, but he didn’t want to believe what he heard. Surely that was Funke’s voice in the throes of what could only be described as a vigorous thwacking and with an accompanying oomph in her moans that he had never heard before. He should have turned back and gone home at this point. This was an open and shut case of 014 0224 01K, but—and this was probably the devil’s doing—he stayed. Perhaps she was watching a porno and in the middle of a solo show. There was the fact that there was no electricity, as evidenced by the open windows all around, but she could be using her phone. There was also the little matter of the occasional grunts in a lower register that was decidedly that of a man accompanying Funke’s moans, but there was some explanation for that too. He had to know for sure. He waited for what felt like an eternity after he knocked on the door. The scramble of feet inside the room stretched the wait further past infinity. Finally, Funke was at the door, a wrapper tied around her torso, hair disheveled, and a tale about an uncle that was visiting from the village on her lips. He knew, she knew that he knew, and the world continued rotating on a slightly skewed axis.
He couldn’t explain how he got home that day. It had all been a blur. One moment he was at Òpópógboro, trying to take a taxi home, but the driver had told him the fare was N100 and while that was the correct amount, Shola felt that was an unfair amount to pay for a ride in a beaten-up jalopy. On a whim, and feeling the weight of the world nestled on his left shoulder, he walked home, from Òpópógboro to Maria Assumpta. Everything seemed to happen in a haze, and- somehow- he had made it home after midnight. He sort of remembered walking past EKSUTH, trudging past Èwí’s palace, and he might have tripped over a bowl of food placed on the road to his apartment, but that had barely registered. What was certain was that he had gotten into bed and was soon in an uneasy nightmare.
He woke up the next day tired and still depressed, but he had to get to work. A breakup, however mind-numbing and jarring, wasn’t an adequate excuse for his boss who believed the only reason to miss work was the death of a close relative or oneself. As he sat in bed to take a brief stock of his miserable existence, he noticed a man sitting on the chair by the only mirror in the room. He could see through this man on the chair, but the man was also there. Shola had heard all kinds of things being attributed to heartbreak, but he wasn’t sure hallucinations were one of them and certainly not of a total stranger. The man, dressed in a white garb, just sat there with his head in his hands. Shola, unsure of his own mental state, cleared his throat. The man looked up and introduced himself.
“Finally. My name is Taiye; I’ll be your ànjònú from now on. Nice to meet you.”
“That’s the worst introduction I’ve ever heard. Obviously, you’re not pleased to be here.”
“Of course I’m not! Who would? One moment I’m in the afterlife- which really isn’t all 72 virgins and disco balls mind you- and the next thing I’m back in this reality against my wishes. Who would ever want to be back on this planet as an ànjònú?”
“I don’t want an ànjònú either!”
“Wait, you didn’t place that sacrifice last night?”
“The one placed at the junction where 3 roads intersect and a fourth snakes beneath them?”
“The calabash with food, right in the middle of the road that leads here!”
“I didn’t do that. I might’ve stumbled on it on my way home yesterday but that was unintentional.”
“Ohhhhh. I might have to let HR know but, in any case, I’m here. Lucky you! So, what do you want?”
“Wait, isn’t there some repercussion for making a wish? Sort of like making a deal with the devil? You get something but lose something of greater value in the long run?”
“Well, I’m not the devil, but you’re right. The person who initiated this procedure will lose his- it’s almost always a guy- first-born child in a ghastly accident right on the cusp of a major life event. It’s usually an accident on their wedding day, but I’ve heard of drowning on graduation day as well. Also, his penis will shrivel in a series of drastic drop in inches, from 4 to 3, to 2, to 1, and 0! All the money in the world and completely without a penis! There are other ghastly things besides the aforementioned as well, but I won’t try to scare you.”
“You get the picture but, in this case, since you weren’t the one who placed the sacrifice, you get all the benefits and none of the ills. What fun!”
“Can I time travel?”
“Sure, but there are limits. I can’t take you past the day you were born and even that will be pushing it. Also, no finding the winning lottery ticket number and going back to buy…oh wait, nah Naija be this. Never mind. So where do you want to go?”
“Take me back to yesterday.”
“Ok, but what time? Doesn’t have to be exact, though.”
“Let’s do 5pm yesterday. Wait, maybe 8am will be better.”
“No, can’t do on that one.”
“I didn’t tell you this but I can read your mind, and that’s a terrible idea.”
“You think going back to a time before you found out Funke was cheating on you with that kokomaster matters?”
“Yes, I do. At least I won’t know.”
“I’m saying this in the nicest way possible, but òdè ni è! Absolute fool. First off, you’ll still remember. That memory doesn’t go away, despite going back in time. That’s a basic assumption with time travel. Didn’t you just hear me talk about lottery tickets? In any case, do you think that was her first time? Now I’m no genius- forget that part, I am a genius actually- but I’ll bet that babe has been playing away matches steady without your knowledge.”
There was a moment of silence.
“Alright, make me a billionaire then.”
“Now we’re talking. It’s always money, money, money! Do you want to be Dangote rich or Jeff rich?
“Does it matter?”
“One’s assets are primarily in Naija and the other’s assets are in Yankee. What do you think?”
“Ok, Jeff then.”
“Alright but sorry can’t do that.”
“I was testing you actually. Ànjònú no fit supply that kain money now.”
“I can’t do that either. I mean I can do it, but I can’t do it.
“What does that even mean?”
“It’s really a logistics problem for the most parts. What do you think would happen if your account balance that was previously at four thousand, two hundred, and fifty-five Naira only suddenly became five hundred and sixty-three billion Naira? I’m using black market rates here for the exchange rate, but you get the idea.”
“Even if we skip over the heart attack your accounting officer and bank manager will have, you’ll never get that money. You probably don’t know this but the modern banking system operates on fractional reserve banking and, in layman’s terms, it means they only have a small percentage of the money banked with them at one time. Even if that wasn’t the case, your bank- GCB Òkè Yìmì- certainly doesn’t have that kind of cash so you’re back to square one.”
“How about if it wasn’t in a bank?”
“Like put the money in a hole in the ground? Or in this your dingy room?”
“Yes, and my room isn’t dingy.”
“I disagree, but in any case, this room is not big enough. Do you know how much five hundred and sixty-three billion Naira weighs? Even if it’s all in N1000 notes, that’s closer to about 120 African elephants. Can you fit those into this room?”
“So you’re basically useless!”
“Would you say that to someone with a First class, distinction in Economics from Unilag and a PhD in advanced game theory from MIT useless?”
“Wait, you were human?”
“Yes, once upon a time. Whoever is in charge of the universe is into recycling now. The great transmutation of souls it’s called. I still think it’s a shitty plan, but we weren’t consulted on the matter. Just got handed the brochure and- puff- Alexander the Great is selling suya at Bariga as we speak. He got reincarnated as a me-suya which is still better than Abacha who is an eel. Kinda funny though; he was a heel and now he is an eel. Get it?”
“So still useless!”
The relationship between Shola and Taiye- if you can call it that at all- only went downhill from that first encounter. For Taiye it didn’t really matter, being back on earth as a spirit tethered to a whiny, pre-pubescent dolt was the nadir of his existence and nothing could top that, not in a month anyways. For Shola, every day was worse than the preceding one. Having Taiye as his ànjònú was like having a genie that was out of the bottle, all the time, offering unsolicited advice on everything while steadfastly refusing to produce anything related to material wealth.
“Money is artificial. It’s a man-made construct that’s all in your mind” was one of his favorite mantras.
He wouldn’t even square Shola ordinary N5K that he asked for last week to tide him over till he collected his salary, which hopefully would be next week, but the government wasn’t paying salaries in a timely fashion. It could be next month or the one after that before he got paid. To Shola, it was like being haunted by his paternal grandfather, stingy old man, who wouldn’t even give him 50kobo to buy sweets when he was growing up because sweets were bad for kids. As if!
Anyways, the prayer session for that Thursday’s hour of deliverance was intense, and it was full of fire and brimstone being called on all the various agents of darkness that were roadblocks on the path to everlasting victory. It was a full body workout, complete with strenuous dancing and shadow boxing of invisible enemies for cardio. Shola kept up as much as he could since he was used to a different and more genteel type of worship, but he was elated when- 20mins into the program- he opened his eyes to find Taiye was no longer by his side. That discovery was a jolt that intensified his prayers. He even stayed an extra 30mins afterwards to consult with the pastor after the program was over. It was truly done. He was free and free indeed. He strolled out of the church with a spring in his step and a song bubbling in his heart.
That song died abruptly when he stepped outside the church and there was Taiye, sitting by the stairs, and in conversation with a celestial being. You could tell this being was an angel by the huge wings on his back.
“How was it? I had to leave after a while…it was getting a bit repetitive and all that fall-down-and-die isn’t exactly Christ-like if you ask me. Anyways, meet Gabriel. I was really surprised to run into him here.”
“You know…angel Gabriel. Leader of the host of heaven and all that. Apparently, he’s being punished which is why he’s here. Go figure. What did you do sef?”
“I didn’t do anything. Nothing that bad anyways.”
“That’s what they all say. So, are you ready to go?”
“Wait, I thought I was already delivered from you. Get behind me Satan!”
“What? No! First off, I’m not Satan, and what do you think this is? That you’ll just run into a church and all your problems will disappear? This isn’t some mid 90s Nollywood movie my guy. Cue the ‘to God be the glory.’ The end.”
Taiye and Gabriel ended up on the floor in a laughing fit. It was at this point that Shola knew his problems were just starting.
Shola Olubunmi's personal motto- ever since he turned 18 and realized adulthood is a scam- is, "I cannot come and go and kill myself!" He can be found at his desk daydreaming about the soft life instead of writing.