THE CHRONICLES OF PHILLIP JOE PART 7
By Damilola Akintobi
Philip creased his brow trying to absorb the different shades of white that made up the hospital room.
“Where am I?” he asked drawing himself up from the bed
“And what’s going on here?”.
“Haa, thank God you’re conscious Mr Philip.” Bradwell cleared the sleep from his eyes; he’d been there all night.” I was waiting outside to give you the money yesterday but you did not come out. So I got worried and I started looking for you. You gave me a big scare Mr Philip, even the doctors here are confused as to how you could have been drenched in sweat in such a cold room.”
“Get me out, I can’t be here Bradwell” Philip was up. He removed all the needles in his body and looked around for his clothes. “I don’t think you should leave just yet Mr Philip, please let me get the doctor at least.” Bradwell disappeared in search of the doctor. The first nurse he came across promised to help him call the doctor in charge of Philip’s case; when he returned, Philip was gone.
Reuben visited every day. He wanted to ask Phillip about his health and how he was faring, but Philip had returned from the hospital a changed man.
“Can I tell you something Reuben?” He asked one day after a long spell of awkward silence. Reuben nodded.
“Promise me that if I tell you, you won’t leave me?“ Philip continued. Reuben turned to face the older man. “We’re friends Mr Philip, you can tell me anything.” Philip shifted uneasily in his seat, his gaze shifted from object to object as though he were a visitor in his own living room.
“I am a mortician” he announced.
Reuben continued to watch him, with a blank expression.
“I mean I keep a mortuary; I keep dead bodies.” Philip expatiated assuming he did not understand what his profession meant. “Every time I’m not at home Phillip, I’m with dead people.”
Reuben was somewhat confused by the look on Philip’s face. He felt Philip expected a different reaction from him but he wasn’t sure so he simply smiled.
“How can you be smiling?” Philip asked now more confused than ever. “I told you that I stay with dead people all the time and you laugh…?”
“But I already knew” Reuben cut in. “Everyone knows what you do for a living Mr Philip, you’re more popular than you realize” he continued with some spirit. “Someone has to take care of dead bodies before they are buried right?” Philip nodded. “It takes a lot of courage to do what you do, I thin you’re a hero” remarked Reuben.
Phillip couldn’t help laughing. He’d thought Reuben would never talk to him again but the young lad was calling him hero. “What’s heroic about being with dead people Rueben?” Philip’s relief was evident.
“People have all sorts of fears and imaginations about dead bodies having evil powers and I think anyone who does what people are too afraid to do is a hero” Reuben answered him. “So when are you taking me there? I would like to see. Are dead people really evil, is one of them the reason you died in your office?” Reuben continued but Philip did not hear him. He thought about the question; ‘Are dead people really evil?’ The dead slaverein was evil enough.
Philip remembered the darkness in the man’s eyes in those minutes of horror when he delivered the message that had become the bane of his life. He was in his cold room again; he could see the lifeless eyes and hear the cold words. ‘Hades is screaming your name.’
“Philip! Philip! Philip!” he heard from a distance and made to run away, but he couldn’t move, he felt death breathe over him.
“Mr Philip! Mr Philip! Mr Philip!” Reuben’s heart jumped to his mouth. He raced in and out of the kitchen and emptied a basin of water on the limp body on the chair. The liquid found its way into Philip’s nostrils and into his wind pipe causing him to cough his way back to life.
“Jesus!” Reuben screamed, “What happened to you? Are you sure you don’t need to get back to the hospital? You just…” Reuben didn’t know how to describe the horror his eyes had just witnessed.
“I’m afraid, Rueben” Philip replied amidst tears. “They’re coming for me…”
The dead man brought to Phillip’s morgue was the fourth Slavarines.
The rank of Slaverine was an order reserved for long standing faithfuls in the Holiest of Souls sect. Seventeen years, the departed had stayed away from sin, sinners and all pleasure. Men of his standing were second only to the man in the pulpit, and the man in the pulpit was second only to God.
“Pascal, what is this nonsense your wife keeps telling me about your staying away from her?” His mother would query him when he was still young in the faith. “Mum, you have to understand I have a higher calling now, I wish I found out the truth before I made the mistake of getting married, things would have been much easier” he said to her on one occasion; it was the last time he visited home. He would stay in his room all day, his friends stopped visiting, his wife would stay in her room and cry all night while Pascal studied his spirit book.
That night, she added the substance her friend gave her to his drink. She didn’t want to, but she had reached the point where she could take no more. “Are you sure this is safe?” she’d asked the younger woman who was mildly offended at her skepticism. “Would I give you something that would hurt your husband?” She promptly apologized and went home hoping to feel the warmth of her husband after so long. The following morning when Pascal woke up and saw his wife looking over him with a satisfied smile, he thought he was having a bad dream. “Why is she in my room, on my bed?” he wondered. “Good morning Pascal” she greeted. She kissed his forehead and left the room to get him his morning coffee. Completely naked, she whistled a tune whilst she prepared the drink. “Surely things would return to the way they were when they just got married” she thought to herself, she was surprised at how passionate he was when they made love. Pascal remembered, he remembered every single moment of the night before. Though he couldn’t fathom how he let his guard down and allow himself become so vulnerable; he remembered all that transpired the night before.
“This is wrong” he said looking away when she came in. “What is wrong?” she asked defensively. “Put your clothes on and get out” he ordered still not looking her way. “No, I won’t.” She was angry, she couldn’t go back to acting ‘the loyal wife of the man with a higher calling’, not after what happened between them. “What have you done woman? Seventeen years I have kept myself, and you threw all of it down the drain.” There were tears in his eyes as he spoke, a Slaverine could not commit sin, it was unforgivable.
“But what is the point of this needless torture you’ve put me through all these years Pascal? What’s the point of torturing yourself so bad?” she began with tears in her eyes too.
“Leave” he commanded before she could say another word, she went into her room and wept like never before. After hours of tears, she decided it was time to make that call, her phone was in Pascal’s room, she wondered what he would say when she walked in again. Standing at his door, she said a silent prayer before turning the knob. to be greeted by the lifeless body of her husband and the note he addressed to the man in the pulpit.
Phillip opened the door and ushered them in reluctantly. He hadn’t sat down with them when Reuben also opened the door. He came in and greeted the visitors who ignored him completely.
“How are you today Mr Philip?” he asked looking Philip over the way Anne would inspect him whenever he was recovering from an illness. “You need fresh air”, he moved to the windows and pulled up the curtains allowing air and more light into the room, the men winced as the sunlight assaulted their eyes. When they observed Reuben was in no hurry to leave, they murmured some indistinct gibberish amongst themselves and then one of them spoke up. “Slaverie Philip, could you ask your companion to excuse us for a moment please?”.
Philip was going to protest but Reuben told him not to worry, he was getting uncomfortable with the three dumb men already and the tone with which their speaker addressed Philip made him angry. “I’ll come back later Mr Philip” he said and left quickly.
The one with the oblong face and long jaw cleared his throat.
“We noticed that you have not been coming to church and we decided to check on you, Slaverie Philip. Please assure me that you may have not been distracted by these wicked sinners whose desire is to steal the truth away from you. That kid, who just left?” he paused and looked in the direction of the door as if reliving Reuben’s entrance and exit.
He shook his head and continued. “Do not sin like slavarie Pascal, you are distracted now, but distractions can be managed. You have to stop treading this part, distractions always lead to sin. If not that slavarie Pascal was distracted by that Jezebel, he would not have sinned. You need to repent and be a Jehovah’s slave again. The man in the pulpit has named the price for your redemption, 90 days fasting and prayer will make up for the lost weeks. You need to gain the kingdom of God. There’s nothing in this world. Those that seem to be your friends are really the worst enemies of your soul. Everybody you see apart from us is against you…”
“Stop’ Philip said coolly. “I think your name is Job? Yes, there were four of you before that idiot took his life; I’ve had enough of your epistle. Let me tell you, it is you people that killed Pascal and if you think that you and your man in the pulpit can sit on your moral high horse and handpick those who are going to hell and those who are not, then you must be more sick in the head than you know. You’re all just being myopic. Christianity is the best thing that can ever happen to anyone. Look at me, I am happy and I have peace. If you are so sure you have found the truth, why can’t you tell other people out there that you feel are blinded with the world? The man you idolize to get across to God also sins too; everyone is a sinner! But if you recognize that you’ve sinned and you beg for forgiveness like I have done, and you don’t go back to it, that’s all.” Philip was surprised himself, he had never imagined he could speak to these men about his new found faith with such bravery; perhaps he had received the Holy Spirit.
The three brethren looked at each other and stood up in unison. “Moses, you may speak now” Job instructed and the shortest of the three began to address Philip. “You have been appointed by the father of lights to join the order of Slaverines, you are to replace Slaverie Pascal. You were selected for a good life here and in the world beyond Philip, but it seems you are content to throw it all away. By the manner of your speech, I can say that you are no more a brethren of the spirits. Why have you allowed Satan to stroll into your life and steal your salvation away? What do you hope to gain by selling your soul to the demons for a penny; do you think you can ever buy it back? There is still a chance for you to accept this honor and redeem yourself, no one who looked back has ever had a good testimony Philip; you know this.” Moses concluded with fire in his eyes, his speech was delivered passionately.
Peter, the third and youngest of the order reached into his bag and produced a book. He dropped it on the table and the three marched to Philip’s door. They turned again and were about to say something when Philip gestured with his hand and said with a sarcastic smile: “I think you’ve all said enough already; just help me tell the man in the pulpit I waved you all goodbye forever.”
The Chronicles of Phillip Joe continues