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THE CHRONICLES OF PHILLIP JOE PART 3
By Damilola Akintobi
The new convert watched the congregation file out of the church building. There was a funny feeling in his stomach; he wasn’t sure he’d come to the right place. The man in the pulpit held him back briefly to explain the ideals of his new family to him.
“We are not Christians, our mandate is to do the bidding of Jehovah. They have it wrong, this is Jehovah’s way. We are happy, we are content to be his slaves. He takes care of us, and he punishes anyone who forsakes the truth. Luke 9:62- No man,having put his hand to the plough, and looking back…” he supplied expecting the newcomer to finish the scripture.
“Ahhhh”, he continued in a voice a little above a whisper. “You don’t know. No man, having put his hand to the plough, and looking back is fit for the kingdom of God. You’ll learn” he said with a blank expression.
“Forget your doubts brother, doubting is evil and Jehovah is very intolerant of deserters” he concluded in a cold voice.
The new man felt a chill down his spine as they walked out of the church and into the tiny parking lot. There were only two cars, the pulpit man’s car, and Philip’s.
Philip turned the key in the ignition the umpteenth time. He was so focused on getting his jalopy to start that he was oblivious of the duo who settled into the pulpit man’s white sedan and left almost immediately. Finally, the engine stuttered to life. The clatter of bonnet against hood made rhythmic sounds as he maneuvered through the streets to his home.
The Physics teacher in Reuben’s new school used the flashes of light resulting from the copulation of Philip’s almost disengaged silencer and the tarred floor as a case-study to explain how friction could generate heat and start a fire.
It was a Sunday, and like Philip, the Johnsons had also gone to church. It was the same routine every week; they would pray together when they arrived and Anne would call Natasha into the kitchen to assist her in making toasts. After the light lunch, everyone would retire to their room for a nap before the sound of Philip’s car would wake Natasha and Reuben whose rooms overlooked his yard.
The clock struck 12:00pm and Philip was still not back, Reuben continued to watch from his window. On another day, his sister’s snoring would have irritated him but today, he was grateful for it. He stood up and said a silent prayer before sneaking out of the house.
His heart pounded faster with every step he took. He walked briskly towards Philip’s main gate without a plan on how to go past it. The gate was overgrown with thickets but Reuben’s mind was made up. He adopted the stance of a detective and inspected the perimeter.
The gate was the only way in, so he decided to climb and jump over. As he cleared a portion of the dense bush surrounding the metal rods in search of something to grip, he was surprised to note that the gate was really not locked. He pushed the gate open and stood transfixed for a moment expecting the stone of Aeolus to roll over and crush him for desecrating his neighbour’s sanctum but there was nothing, so he quietly proceeded to the entrance.
There were three steps before the front door. As he stepped on the first stair, the plank creaked slightly under his petite frame. The second stair broke into two as soon as his leg touched it. He let out a cry as he felt a piece of wood against his thigh. He managed to get his leg out uncut when he recovered from his initial shock but he had a dislocated ankle.
Undeterred, he limped towards the door and tried to imitate Philip in opening it. The pain in his ankle intensified as he pulled and jabbed at the door from awkward angles. Suddenly, it flung open hitting his nose and forehead. Reuben fell off the platform unconscious for a fraction of seconds. When he came to, the door was dangling from the last hinge threatening to fall completely off its frame.
Reuben dusted his body and forcefully adjusted the door. As he turned to the preview the living room, he let out a slight scream at the horror that greeted his sight. The foul smell of decayed foods oozing from the kitchen made his stomach churn uncontrollably. If he had not seen Philip enter the house previously, he would have sworn the place had been deserted for a decade.
The archaic furniture had rats and cockroaches roaming every piece. There were magazines and newspapers from several years back. He folded some sheets and kept in his pocket for later, then he climbed the stairs and proceeded to the bedroom. He walked in and was beyond astonished to see scattered dirty clothes flung all over. Like the other rooms in the house, it was unkempt and in complete disarray.
Reuben turned to look at the table and chair hiding in a corner. He moved closer and saw Phillip’s spirit book-packaged like a bible-and The Fall of man magazine sitting quietly beside it. He tried to see which version of the Bible the book was but couldn’t pin down any version.
What really caught his attention as he flipped through was that he found books in it that he never came across in the normal Bible. There was “the book of hatred”, “the book of sad endings”, “the book of hell “, and many other terrifying titles.
When he got tired of reading what he couldn’t comprehend, he made for The Fall of Man. On the first page of the book was written: “Some man bound for hell.” Reuben wondered why everything their neighbour read was about hell. He drew out the chair and buried his head in the pages to read.
Phillip’s car stopped moving as he rounded the bend to enter his own street. He parked properly and opened the bonnet but he could not figure out what to do. He looked around, not trying to seek help but thinking about how safe the spot was for his car pending the time he could get it repaired. No one would steal his car, he almost smiled as he started trekking home in his rat-eaten shoes.
Everyone he came across avoided him. He felt a little bothered but did well in masking his concern. Phillip was always in his car, he knew they avoided him because they knew he was a saint and they were all sinners. Light and darkness can never meet; we are parallels, we can’t be joined, he concluded.
He kept walking and finally got to his house. He stood by the gate and frowned at the gate. He knew instinctively that something was wrong. He had never left the gate open. He shrugged his shoulders and walked to the stairs not paying attention to the broken one, then he saw that the door had been displaced and his centre table had been tampered.
Reuben heard his footsteps in the living room and jumped out of his seat. He hurriedly put all the papers in his hands on the table and waited for Phillip to enter the kitchen before he tiptoed to the door and tried to open up.
With sweaty palms and his heart in his mouth, he clutched at the knob and yanked the door completely off the hinges.