THE DEVIL ON THE ALTAR 21
Written by: Grace Olayemi
It was another Sunday morning, a time to join other worshippers across the globe to worship God in spirit and in truth. Celestina and Patricia were always thrilled about Sunday mornings as it was a time where they could have an uninterrupted fellowship with God in the company of other students. They both got ready in a sprint in order to be part of the early arrivers. Patricia was gradually getting over the ugly incidence and she was grateful to God for sending Celestina into her life to help her find her way back to the cross. She now had untold peace and the joy of the Holy Ghost but she had her regrets which sometimes overcame her, making her to cry uncontrollably.
The service went on as other services and everyone was engulfed in the presence of God. Pastor Raphael was also present in the church which was something he normally did but when he mounted the podium to minister instead of Paul, Patricia began to suspect that something was wrong. Pastor Raphael only ministered to them during special programs.
He apologized to the students for not paying enough attention to them and allowing the devil to use one of them. He said many other things that most of the students could not piece together. But when he called Patricia Adams to come to the front, it was then Patricia’s greatest fear came to pass. She had had that strange feeling that Pastor Raphael was not done with her and that he had more things to do but she had never thought he would call her out in the presence of thousands of students.
She bent her head to avoid people seeing her since she was determined not to answer the call but an usher came to her to tap her and everyone turned their attention to her till she had no choice but to move forward with every eyes trailing her like a condemned criminal. She was hoping that Paul would also be called so she wouldn’t bear the shame alone but what was coming her way was more than what she bargained for.
“This sister here came to me on Tuesday and said some shocking things that I would implore her to say once again to the hearing of everyone,” Pastor Raphael said and Patricia began to shiver and panic. The microphone was offered to her but she just bowed her head while facing the congregation without taking it.
“If she is not willing to say it again then I would have to play the recorder but I want to implore you all to be calm and listen to the end,” he said again and it was like every time he talked, he sent shiver down Patricia’s spine.
“Recorder? Did he record my voice?” Patricia thought to herself and wished it was not true but when she began to hear herself over the speaker, she wanted to run away and hide but her legs suddenly became so heavy that they could not carry her.
“What! Hmm! Really! Jesus! Impossible!” Were remarks coming from the students intermittently as they listened to Patricia’s confession. Patricia could tell that it was the second time she narrated it when Pastor Raphael summoned Paul that he had her voice recorded.
When the recorded voice stopped, he spoke again and asked if any of the students ever suspected that Paul and Patricia were close enough to be having an affair but they all said no. He played the tape again and that time it was Paul when he was explaining that Patricia wanted to seduce him and when he refused she cooked up a lie against him.
“Haaah!” All the students chorused and other comments started rolling in. But Patricia could no longer hold it, she had cried her eyes out but she needed to do more than that. She took to her heels and ran far away until her leg gave way and she sat there on the road weeping.
“What kind of a pastor is this? Can’t he even discern that I was telling the truth? He has been bewitched by Paul. I was condemned while the real criminal was arrayed like a saint. I’m a big fool!” Patricia thought to herself as she wept on.
THE DEVIL ON THE ALTAR 22
Written by: Grace Olayemi
She waited for Patricia in the church and when she didn’t see her, she left for the hostel with her things hoping that she would be in the hostel. Patricia did not return until dark and when she did she was looking like she just had a nap at the refuse dump. Celestina prepared her meal and had to force her to eat after a thorough bath. Patricia didn’t say a word to Celestina and was just looking like a zombie while the latter tried everything she could to make Patricia smile or at least say something but none of her efforts yielded any result.
Patricia didn’t know the gravity of what happened in church on Sunday until she got to her department the next morning and everyone had the gist. They were all passing one comment or another and she had to leave the class before the end of the day’s lectures.
“These SUs sef their own pass our level o!”
“Who would have thought that this calm looking girl was capable of hooking her pregnancy and bad luck on another man!”
“I wonder if she is telling the truth and really doesn’t have a womb!”
“All her ‘give your life to Jesus to live a meaningful life’ is this how a meaningful life looks like?”
“Now that she no longer has a womb, she can go back into prostitution. Slut!”
The comments from her coursemates kept coming back to her mind and soon they became voices in her head and she had to scream while holding her head.
She slept and had a dream where people were insulting her and calling her names and woke up with a pounding headache.
“I think you need to see a doctor,” Celestina said to her after she woke up from another dream with a loud scream. “I think you are being traumatized and it would be best to take care of it before it becomes worse.”
“I’m fine, dear. I would just use paracetamol.”
“Thanks, Celestina but I don’t need any doctor.”
Patricia continued to hear voices in her head and she became violent and irrational. She attacked and insulted anyone staring at her.
“What are you looking at? Can’t you ask me directly if it is true or not before concluding?” She would scream at people and then start to weep.
Celestina was getting confused and the church was not helping matters. She had been disciplined and asked to come and publicly apologise to Paul and the entire students the next Sunday and if she refused, she was never to step foot in that church again. Patricia had refused when Celestina told her and they had both gone to another church where it seemed like the news had gotten to and Patricia had to leave the church mid-way through the service and she had since then stopped going to any church and Celestina could not blame her. But she was always reminding her that going to church or not should not affect her relationship with God and she should make sure she remained strong through the trying time but Patricia’s strength was fading.
Celestina had to force Patricia into a hospital where she was referred to a psychiatrist.
“I’m not mad, Celestina,” she protested
“No!” Patricia screamed and ran out of the hospital.
Celestina went to the hostel with the mind that Patricia had gone there but she was not there. She didn’t return for three days and Celestina was worried. She filed a missing person report and looked for her passionately. She was found in another town after a week and judging with her looks, one could conclude that she trekked there.
She was admitted into the hospital and her condition became worse. She attacked every man she saw while calling them Paul who had destroyed her life. She would attack two women talking and claim that they were talking about her. She would attack anyone staring at her saying that they were looking at her like she was lying. She would want to cuddle and play with any child she saw calling them hers.
Celestina had to contact her parents and they rushed down to see their daughter. They cried inconsolably when they saw her condition and it was like she could not recognize anyone any more. The doctor said it was post-abortion trauma and her parents were dumbfounded as they could never believe their daughter was not a virgin, let alone had aborted a pregnancy. Celestina had to tell them everything that had happened and her father broke down in tears when he learnt that it was the same Paul that helped them a while ago that was responsible for their misery.
The doctor suggested that Paul should come and apologise to her and maybe she would start forgiving him and herself and that way she would get better. Patricia’s father volunteered to speak to Paul himself and Celestina took him to him. Paul received them warmly like a saint he had always paraded himself to be. Mr Adams, Patricia’s father spoke to Paul at length and he denied the accusation but the man begged him to just come and pretend like he was truly guilty and have Patricia recover. He promised to come and when he didn’t come after 2 weeks, Mr Adams visited him again but he walked him out of his hostel claiming that he was a child of God and cannot take responsibility for what he did not do.
Patricia’s condition continued to deteriorate and her parents were running out of funds to foot the hospital expenses. Celestina had to burden her parents to pay some of the bills.
Patricia ran out of the hospital one day, an act she often did whenever she was not properly chained to the bed. She ran into an oncoming vehicle and was hit. She was brought back to the hospital by passersby and was declared dead after a few hours. Her mother collapsed on the spot and was taken into the I.C.U. She died after a few days from several complications. Her father refused to be consoled and in his rage left for the village where he placed a curse on Paul that he would never be happy in life, everything he laboured for would crumble before his eyes and he would never have a child no matter how hard he tried. He sealed the covenant with his blood and killed himself.
Celestina cried till she ran out of tears. She blamed Paul and even Pastor Raphael for everything and sent a heartrending message to the both of them to express her utmost disappointment in what they had done. Pastor Raphael was sorry to hear about what happened to Patricia and he began to wonder if she was telling the truth and he had misjudged the situation. He blamed himself for turning away the sheep that came to him for covering and allowing the wolf to destroy her. He prayed and prayed but his conscience was not clear and he knew something was not right. He called Celestina but she refused to see him and when he asked Paul again, the latter maintained his stance that he had nothing to do with Patricia.
To be continued…