“Welcome Ladies & Gentlemen,” the Master of Ceremonies boomed impressively into the microphone, followed by a barely perceptible whisper it would fail to pick, “…though I use the term very lightly.” His stare fell on the Nigerian AJẸ delegation as he did – luckily, they didn’t appear to have noticed the veiled slight.
The first Worldwide Awards Ceremony for the Practitioners of the Alternate Arts (as it was billed at the lobby of the 5-star hotel, welcoming delegates to the exclusive event ) was finally on and attendance was impressive. Registered delegates were from over 95 countries by the last count, with the sizes of each delegation ranging from a minimum of 3 to about 12 – of course, the largest were from African countries mostly (this international gathering would be just like most mainstream ones in that regard, it appeared).
The Swedish HaXa Chapter had been finally chosen to host the programme and they couldn’t be more impressed with themselves…in that stoic, silent, Swedish way of course.
The South African Mchawi faction was already huddled at the open bar and it seemed they all had a perpetual look of distaste on their faces this evening. They had made a strong case for hosting this maiden event from the inception of the idea but alas, it had not come to fruition. Unbeknownst to them at the time, the Nigerian and American Chapters had gone behind their backs to make a strong case to the Organising Committee (which incidentally had just a single Swahili chieftain in attendance that night, so naturally he was outvoted when the Nigerians presented their bribes, and the Americans their ‘persuasions’). They kept casting looks that spoke daggers towards both guilty parties and you could be sure that were it not for the explicitly stated rules banning open conflict for the night amongst delegates, those daggers would have most certainly materialized into reality and a bloodbath would have ensued!
Not to be outdone, the Ghanaian Chapter ABRƆ (Association of Bayie for the Ruination of Ɔyaa – yes, it was quite a stretch making that acronym work, but the local Chapter was hell-bent on using it so…) was present 10-strong in fanciful kente that belied their true identities, just like everyone else present.
The last of the attendees filed into the large auditorium shortly before midnight, followed by closure of the great ornate doors which were then barred by two large men with spears in full black war paint tattoos and matching scowls from the Nigerian delegation (apparently this was the trade-off duty of honour they had also managed to secure with the Americans’ support). No one would be interfering with this gathering for sure.
The Haitian delegation was sparking off the event with a ritual Loa dance and gradually they built the atmosphere up into a frenzied pitch, charging the atmosphere spiritually to a point where even underlying tensions faded away.
Taking in the impressive start the programme had finally taken off to, one would find it hard to believe that so grave an upset was threatening the whole event behind the scenes as the Organising Committee conducted an emergency meeting in a small room adjoining the large auditorium.
The look on Shango Shango’s face was hovering equidistantly from anger, shock and confusion at the news the General Secretary was presenting to the Committee at the moment. The meeting had been going on for a full 2 hours so far. They had apparently made no headway despite all the deliberation and this frustrated the Head of the Committee to no end by now! The air had started to heat up a few times in the air-conditioned room as he momentarily would lose his temper and fight vainly to bring it under control.
The sweat trickling down Mr. Jon Smith’s neck revealed he was fully aware of the unfavourable position the news he bore was placing him in as he delivered it to the Committee. The International Council President was still sitting motionless at the bottom of the table, her fingers steepled together on the table, not uttering a single word as Smith stammered on.
“Wait, wait, wait! So what are you saying now?! I don’t seem to get you properly. Come again, Smith, and be very, very clear this time!” He delivered the end of his query in a low, dangerous tone and a chill ran down Smith’s back as he remembered what Shango Shango was alleged to have done to his predecessor when he failed to make his quota to the International Council for 2 months in a row. Gathering his wits about him, he attempted to make the same report he’d made not less than 5 times before to the Council.
“Ve-venerable masters,” he started haltingly. “I decided to go over the details of the award winners and their exact involvement in the award categories they were supposed to be being honoured from –“
“Which I explicitly told you was not necessary!” interjected Papa Papa, the head of the Haitian delegation, irritatedly.
Shango waved the interjection away with one hand as he massaged his temple with the other before motioning for Smith to continue.
“Erm, well, I found a few inconsistencies I decided to bring before the House for advice as to the Way Forward…”
“And these inconsistencies were?”
Grateful to break eye contact with Shango, Smith shuffled through the sheaf of papers he held before reading from one.
“Erm, for example, our Award Category for “Most Christians Singlehandedly Made to Backslide in One Night” – 47, by the way – to be given to Ms ******** seems to be a total falsehood. It turned out that she barely had to do anything in particular in more than 2/3rd of those cases because the people were already well on their way to backsliding due to the ‘small’ vices they just didn’t see the need to kick out of their lives after becoming – ugh – ‘Christians’.”
Their eyes bored into him for a second before the Chinese Wu present, Qin Shin Qin, spoke.
Some of the other members rolled their eyes at his horrible accent. His maintained stubbornness in not using the power afforded him to speak in the proper language of the day, but instead insisting on the ‘old ways’ was an annoyance to the less accommodating members of the Committee almost constantly. In fact, were it not for his spiritual standing, he would have probably been forcibly retired for someone more accommodating and abreast with the times to take his seat on the Council, but he kept up to date on his bloody tributes and so it appeared he would be there to stay until called by the Master Below.
“W-well, erm, these other categories ‘Best Male & Best Female Marriage Arranger & Dissolver’ exhibited similar findings. Now, this category was designed to recognize the Man and Woman responsible for the matching up of people for the worst reasons, and the dissolution of those and all other marriages in the most efficient and timely manners possible. On further interrogation, it turned out that quite a significant number of the unions they put together actually survived – interference by the Enemy for sure when even they called upon Him for help – , and those they reported as dissolved through their efforts were actually well on their way to disaster without their particular interference in most cases! Once more, their attitudes towards their partners and their God were much greater determinants of their marriage failures than out operatives. Our recipients of these awards would be receiving them, taking credit for situations they would not be responsible for!”
The headache in Shango Shango’s head was pulsating now and he hated the fact that his sorcery couldn’t suppress it – that meant only one of 2 possibilities: either it was directly from the Master Below, or from the Other One’s faction! Was there a church programme close by?
“Okay, fine, fine!” He snapped at Smith. “What of your third example? Is there any more evidence to corroborate your report?”
“Erm, yes sir. I know we were particularly proud of this one, so it weighed probably most heavily on me at my findings. Our most anticipated category, ‘Fire for Fire Champion’, to recognize the skill of one of our Operatives who dealt a decisive blow against the Other Side over the past year was supposed to go to the Chapter responsible for engineering the deaths of Pastor ******** and his family in the car crash that brought our power into the limelight so all would fear us and our Master Below. In fact, the demoralizing fallout from that incident alone was so gratifying – many Christians stopped going to church, losing faith in the ability of You-Know-Who to protect them and choosing instead to seek protection and support elsewhere.
“To be honest, that incident sparked a revival in our operations in the sub-Saharan region for a solid 3 months! Upon my further investigations, however, it turned out that though the Chapter did indeed mount an Operation that evening which resulted in that magnificent coup, it appears that we were played in a devious manner by the Old Man Upstairs! Apparently, the death of Pastor ******* and his family had not been a surprise to him for he had written a number of books entrusted into the care of one of his under-pastors to be published upon their demise. I got my hands on copies of them and with great difficulty – too many mentions of the Enemy in it, you see – I discovered that he’d detailed his family’s last hours and the Plan of the Other One in using their deaths to spread a ‘Truth’ about life being more than this mortal coil, or some such rubbish. Anyway, though the Church lost some members, those who stayed became even more committed to their walk with the Enemy and managed to win a 5-fold increase in new followers to the Enemy’s cause with the spreading of those books and more extensive evangelism efforts!”
Shango Shango lost his temper again and the ceiling started to smoke slightly. “So, what do you want us to do with all this information now, Mr Smith?” He spoke this through gritted teeth after acknowledging the President’s crooked finger motioning him to keep his calm.
“Are you proposing that we call off this event or what now?”
“Erm, er…” the stammer had deepened now and Smith mas mentally cursing himself for starting this inquiry in the first place. “I, I don’t know sir.”
“Well I don’t know either!” Shango threw his hands up in despair. He honestly could still not make head nor tail of the whole matter, and it further frustrated him no end!
Madam Kyeiwaa, the President, suddenly made a grabbing motion towards the centre of the table and for a second something seemed to writhe within her grasp, which then faded away in the next second with a little giggle.
The others in attendance looked intently at one another, as if to identify who had invoked the presence of that spirit in their midst. Confusion was no stranger to them in their Operations, but to have it used against their assembly called for a death sentence for the overreaching saboteur medium present.
“Not from any of you snakes, luckily for you”, she continued, smacking her palms together as if to dust off imaginary traces of the spirit.
“I believe there’s a Gathering set up in opposition to our meeting together today and they sent the spirit of Confusion into our midst to frustrate our efforts – that is the real reason why we’ve made no headway for the past 2 hours!”
The looks of outrage and enraged murmurs amongst them in response told of exactly how much they appreciated the interference, but they knew that was the full extent of their reaction to it. No retribution would be permitted. They knew that even with all the ‘power’ afforded them by their mortgaged souls, they could as easily touch any of the Christians praying against their efforts as well as one could fetch a bucket of water from the sun! So they just murmured.
Standing up, Kyeiwaa addressed the Committee.
“I have a few moments of clarity so let me make what I have managed to figure out clear to you.
“Firstly, yes. Our people have lied to all of us in order to get their awards – what did you expect from any of us anyway – honesty??? We cannot call off the programme just based on that – it will be too demoralising and embarrassing for us all. Let them have their awards this night – tomorrow we shall deal with them and their families.
“Secondly, It is obvious that our influence has been vastly overestimated in the lives of men. They keep blaming us for everything when the truth is that our sphere of influence is oh-so-small even amongst the general populace that do not give themselves wilfully over to our control – forget those distasteful Christians. But that is not our concern – as long as they don’t know that, we will still continue taking credit for all the matters of men that go wrong! They will either fear our power because they believe we are indeed responsible for all that – which is fortunate for us because Fear is an old ally of ours – or they will flock to us in droves to solve their problems and swell our ranks as they abandon the sure protection the Enemy might provide. We will continue claiming responsibility, and downplaying the Enemy’s influence in robbing us of even our bona fide wins by turning them into losses for our Father Below. Let them focus on our version of events – they must believe in our report!
“Finally, we have new initiates her who are not aware of these fine details of our Operation. Anyone here who leaks these findings shall have myself and our Father Below to answer to with the lives of their family and their own! We have a reputation to protect, and our lives will be forfeit otherwise! It has been demonstrated that it is much easier to get a man to do Our Father Below’s will when he himself breaks the hedge surrounding him, and that is much easily done when he believes the locus for his control of said event is out of his control. We will gladly bear that false supposition in the fulfillment of our duties! ‘It was the Devil’, ‘I don’t know what came over me’, “I couldn’t help myself’, ‘It was the witches in my family’ – all of these statements are our friends now and forever. We will take the blame for as long as it makes the Fall of Men that much easier.
With a snap of her fingers and a swirling of her long cloth, she was gone – ever the deadly sensationalist.
Shango Shango stared angrily at Smith who was timidly seated at the table now, idly shuffling the sheaf of papers in front of him for no particular reason but to avoid returning any of the angry stares directed at him from around the table.
Sophocles was right, he thought – no one loves the messenger who brings bad news.
Closer to dawn than midnight, 3 hours later, the auditorium was abuzz with excitement as the attendees had mixed up in groups and were now engaging in several unspeakable acts under the direction of the MC.
Smith had only just begun to relax with a stiff drink in his hand when his smartphone beeped. It was a message from Shango: Meet me outside – we’ve got some unfinished business to sort out…
PS: Don’t keep! Share…& then subscribe, okay :-)?