Death

Kojo sat alone in the dimly lit dining room. Calling it a dining room was rather misleading. It was a room. He ate in it. That was all. In it stood an old cheap wooden table that rocked when he rested on it, two old chairs that he took from his father’s house and a pair of white-turned-brown curtains that let the sun rays in during the day as easily as if they were not there at all. The light bulb in the center of the room was bare and hung down on its white wire, adding to the meager ambiance of the room.

“This is where it all ends”, Kojo said to himself, flipping through pages of the Bible that was in front of him. The Bible was tattered and dusty. Kojo coughed a few times as dirt entered his nostrils.

Kojo, 42, found the page he was looking for. 1 Kings 17: 9 – 12. He read it out loud: 9 “Go at once to Zarephath of Sidon and stay there. I have commanded a widow in that place to supply you with food.” 10 So he went to Zarephath. When he came to the town gate, a widow was there gathering sticks. He called to her and asked, “Would you bring me a little water in a jar so I may have a drink?” 11 As she was going to get it, he called, “And bring me, please, a piece of bread.” 12 “As surely as the LORD your God lives,” she replied, “I don’t have any bread–only a handful of flour in a jar and a little oil in a jug. I am gathering a few sticks to take home and make a meal for myself and my son, that we may eat it–and die.”

He repeated the last phrase, this time personalizing it: “That I may eat and die. That I, Kojo Krabehwe, may eat and die. Amen”. He made the sign of the cross and said the corresponding names of the Trinity, kissing his thumb in the end like soccer players did on TV.

Then he heard his door squeal open. Kojo felt an eerie wind blow into the room. Different sounds from the compound house he lived came after the wind. On a normal day, he would have listened, separated the sounds and played a guessing game of who in the house was saying or doing what. But this day was not a normal day. It was Good Friday. The day it all ended for Jesus Christ. And the day it will all end for Kojo Krabehwe. There was not time to waste on unnecessary things.

It took a minute before the person who opened the door came through it. Kojo’s friend. Kojo called him Onua.

“So, this is it?” Onua asked, looking at Kojo who only peered into nothingness. There was nothing in the room for his eyes to settle on save the light blue walls, dappled with mildew. Only a picture of his late wife remained in his possession. With the eyes that did not shed a tear after her demise, he recalled the occasion on which he took that picture of her. He could hear her cackles as he instructed her on which poses to make. The laughter reverberating through his ears reminded him that his light had gone out. He looked down at the old photograph and longed to join her. What was the point in continuing to draw breath?

Kojo lifted his head to look at Onua. He knew his friend understood how he felt. Onua knew the emptiness in him very well. It was an endless dark void that consumed everything, so he was left feeling nothing. Empty. There was nothing to subside his hollow soul that crept in the shadows. Albeit slowly, he had drifted away from any other human life because the emptiness was so overwhelming, he could not bear to pretend that everything was okay. Nothing was okay! People walked around the earth each day and pretend that everything is okay, and it always will be. Why couldn’t they all just admit that they were just empty plastic dolls with a painted happy face revealing no true emotion? Kojo was bushed.

“And, you didn’t think to lock the door?” Onua asked another question.

This time, Kojo answered. “How else will they find me after three days and realize that it is finished means it is finished? There’s no coming back to this life again”.

“You’re such an interesting man, my friend. Is that why these are in front of you?” Onua pointed at the other items on Kojo’s dining table – a glass of red wine and three slices of bread in a porcelain plate. Both items were on the right and left of the Bible respectively.

Kojo flipped through the pages of the Bible again. His nerves had the better of him this time around. He paused, touched his tongue with two fingers and continued to turn the pages slowly.

He paused again. It looked like he found what he was looking for. He read, ”1 Corinthians 11:23-29: 23 For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you: The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread, 24 and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, ‘This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me.’ 25 In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.’ 26 For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes. 27 So then, whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord. 28 Everyone ought to examine themselves before they eat of the bread and drink from the cup. 29 For those who eat and drink without discerning the body of Christ eat and drink judgment on themselves.”

Onua opened his palms to ask his friend the point of the reading.

“It’s symbolic.”

“Is it?”

Kojo shrugged.

“Are you not afraid? Don’t you think you will regret this?”

“Nope” Kojo responded. He lifted the glass of wine from the table and turned it in circles, ostensibly to get a good mix of its contents. “They say a man who lives fully is not afraid of death”.

“You haven’t lived fully, my friend. Not since after Adobea died”.

“Yes, I have not lived fully. What’s there to live for? I looked forward to living for four decades of my life. ‘Life begins at forty’, they said but mine ended there. Everything I worked for went up in flames in one day. I was promised beauty but all I got was ashes. So, I am not afraid of death. In fact, I find it fascinating”.

He paused.

“When I die, where will I go? Will I meet the grim reaper? Will I be a ghost, or will I sleep forever? Will I go to Heaven or Hell? Valhalla? Reincarnation? Do I become one with the stars? Aren’t you intrigued?”

“These uncertainties should scare you”.

“Interestingly, they don’t”. Kojo got up from his seat and paced up and down. “Death is a mystery, and I have come to love mysteries.  My other friends say I suffer from depression when I tell them these things. What if I am? Whether I am happy or depressed, death remains a mystery. It’s hard to find people who get what I mean but I know you get it”.

Kojo walked towards Adobea’s picture. “Very soon, my love. Very soon”, he said to the image of his late wife. “Let me ask you, Onua”, Kojo turned to look at his friend but he was not there. Air occupied the space where he was hitherto standing. Onua was like that – quick on his feet. Usually, when he pulled that stunt, he appeared behind Kojo. As predicted, Onua was right behind his friend when the latter turned.

“So, let me ask you”, Kojo repeated. “Why did you come?”

“To show you that death is a foggy road. And when one goes through that fog called life to finally see the clearing, he appreciates it better and stays away from the road”.

“Mmmm…”

“Life is the beginning, they said – which is true. But what they did not know is that death is yet another path to walk. It is not our last. I think it is the middle of the story. You have to read through where I am now to get to the place beyond death. Is there a place beyond death? Even I don’t know”.

“Intriguing! Even more intriguing!”.

“No, it’s not. But you won’t understand”.

***

Kojo opened his eyes. He scanned his surroundings and realized he was still in his room. He moved his limbs to check whether there were any signs of weakness in them. No, they were as strong as an iron chain. He touched his stomach; nothing was wrong there. His temperature was fine. Then, he pinched himself. He felt it. He slapped himself a couple of times too till his cheeks became red and hot.

“I’m alive”, he said. “Fuck!” He swore. punching the cushion in the couch he had fallen asleep in.

“Why!!!”, he screamed although no one was there to answer him.

Onua had left. His absence reminded of the fact that he did it. He drank the wine and ate the bread. The moment he took his first sip of the wine was when Onua said his goodbye, “The time I dreaded has come. I have to say goodbye but for a brief moment because, at terminal points like this, goodbye actually means see you later”.

It’s been three hours since then. How was he still body and flesh? He got up from the couch and went back to the dining table. Everything was as he last saw them. The wine glass was empty. The plate only had bread crumbs. And yes, they both had the envenomed substance he bought from the market in them. It did not make any sense that he was still on two feet.

Did it not mean anything that he felt a shadow over his shoulders after he had finished his last meal? He dared not look at the being that cast the shadow but he could swear he had figured it out by taking glimpses of its shadows. There were magnificent wings, huge and bird-like, extending from its back. It had glowing eyes in the shadow. It had to be the angel of death. Wasn’t it about the same time that he blacked out? How in God’s name was he still alive?

Still standing, Kojo looked at the Bible on the table. It was turned the book of John, the 19th Chapter. He read the highlighted portion: 28 After this, Jesus, knowing that all things were now accomplished, that the Scripture might be fulfilled, said, “I thirst!” 29 Now a vessel full of sour wine was sitting there; and they filled a sponge with sour wine, put it on hyssop, and put it to His mouth. 30 So when Jesus had received the sour wine, He said, “It is finished!” And bowing His head, He gave up His spirit”. He did not recall reading this but he was upset that even if he did, why was it not finished for him?

He was frustrated. The emptiness in him grew bigger. He felt bloated by it; he could see himself float on the air in his room. He felt suffocated yet he breathed fine. He was in pain yet he felt no hurt. He felt dead but no – he was so very alive! He clenched his teeth and punched the table so hard; he had to hold it and readjust it to prevent it from crumbling down.

“Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?!” Kojo screamed hitting the table another time. This time, he cared less that it broke. And it did break, causing the wine glass and the plate to break as well. He slumped unto the floor together with his table and the items that fell with it.

For the first time since his wife died, Kojo cried. His tears burst forth like water from a broken dam, spilling down his face. He felt the muscles of his chin tremble like a small child and he looked toward up toward the hanging light bulb, as if the light could soothe him. There was stillness in his head for the first time; a deviation from the constant frustration and stress he had lived with for two years. He heard his own sounds, like a distressed child, raw from the inside. It took anything that was left in him out of him.

After a few minutes, Kojo tried to get onto his feet but his body weighed him down. In another attempt, he moved his hands to a more comfortable position so he uses it as a lever to lift his heavy body up. He fell back on his butt but his hand landed on a broken piece of the porcelain plate. It cut him right at the wrist. He saw his blood ooze in torrents.

“Ah, death. Here’s thy sting”, Kojo said as he lay in a pool of his own blood. Onua appeared to him again but there was hardly time to say anything to his friend. His vision of him blurred by the second… And he was out.

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