Knocking on Heaven’s Door

— Scary stories to tell in the dark —

Dear David,

It has been a long time. Do you remember that after the day you threw the empty bottle of Fanta at me and missed, we’ve not seen each other again? You’d left the room hurriedly, taking only a few things, you’d even refused to talk to me. Now, I smile and wish that it had never happened. That I hadn’t accused you of being a cheat, that I should have trusted you well enough.

It has been a year since we’ve last seen each other, and a lot has happened since then. When I first saw Death come to me, draped in a colorful long sleeved shirt and a pair of jeans trousers, I’d have written to you. I should have written to you and described how peaceful his eyes were and how calm his smile was. That was seven months ago when the pangs of headache began.

I was alone in my room, my eyes fixed at the ceiling, a book in my hands when he came. He looked like a young man in his early twenties; he was muscular and tall. He looked like a wrestler. When I saw him, I almost jumped, because I knew that I had bolted my door. “Hello,” he said, smiling. I looked at him and turned around a couple of times. “I’ve come,” he said.

“Who are you? How did you get into my room?” I shifted on my bed.

“Calm down,” he said. He walked closer, his approach made me retreat further. “You don’t have be scared of me. I’m part of the earth. I’ll always be.”

“What are you saying?” I asked. I had assumed the young man was a physical being like me, and that he’d come in through the window to steal. “You come into my room through the wrong way and you talk to me in parables …”

— Scary stories to tell in the dark —

“Shhhh.” He pressed his finger against his thin lips. He walked closer and stood. He stared at me, turned to look at the opened slide window and the flower vase beside it. He looked at me. “I am Death.”

“What! You must be crazy!”

“Shhhh.” He pressed his finger against his lips. “I’ve only come to meet you so that you can prepare and get ready for me. I’m inevitable. I like you, and this is the reason why I’ve come to inform you.” My door knob turned and this made him look at the door, but he turned to look at me immediately. “Bear it in mind.”

“Go away. Get out of here. You’re a thief!”

There was a loud knock on my door. “Ebuka, who’s in there with you? Are you talking in your sleep again?” my mother asked.

— Scary stories to tell in the dark —

“Go away. Get out of here!” I shouted.

He began to laugh, a loud thunderous laugh that reverberated in the room. I stared at him, amazed. He continued to laugh, placing his arms on his waist as he did. He laughed for a short time. “Bear it in mind,” he said, and he vanished.

Mother knocked again. “Ebuka, open this door!”

I stared at the empty space where death had once occupied. I stared, and the loud knocks of mother on my door seemed distant. I was fixed at that spot for a while, for a longer time even, because my mother knocked for a long time before she walked away and returned to my door with my father. My father’s louder knock and his angry voice didn’t shake me out of it. I stared at the empty space until my father knocked for a long time and left with my mother.

— Scary stories to tell in the dark —

It was at night that I wobbled out of the room to the kitchen outside the house. My younger brother was there, sitting on a stool, eating from a bowl. He looked up at me; he was surprised to see me. I seldom stayed up to that time. My brother, who was a free individual, didn’t need my tale. I walked to him, watched him eat for a while, before I walked back to my room.

The next day, I told my mother about it and she said it must have been a dream, that I was talking in my sleep when she knocked on my door. When I persisted that what I saw was real, she gave me a stern look and kept quiet. I still persisted, and it made her shout at me, “Ebuka, don’t kill me in this house oh! Which one is that Death visited you? I shouldn’t hear that rubbish from you again!” She put on her slippers and left the sitting room where we had been sitting together.

It was five days after the first visit that Death came again. He appeared in my room. He’d rashes all over him and he’d a stern look. I screamed. He stood there, looking at my eyes in his calm manner. I wasn’t ready to listen to him, so I continued screaming. I noticed that my mother turned the door knob, but I didn’t stop screaming. When my mother turned the door knob, it vanished. . My mother came in, saying, “What is the problem?” Her presence didn’t relieve me of my fears, I still screamed. I didn’t know I was pointing at the empty space where Death had stood until my mother said, “What are you pointing at? What did you see?” I didn’t reply any of her questions, and I was silent until I slept between my mother and father on their wide bed in their room.

The day after Death’s second visit, I’d a headache. It started as a normal one, with little pain that weighed me down for some time, but it refused to stop. It wasn’t as painful as it would be in the following days. After some days, my mother and I visited the hospital. The doctor examined me and told my mother, “It’s malaria, there is no need to panic.” The hospital gave us some drugs that I took, but the headache didn’t go away.

— Scary stories to tell in the dark —

Death visited for the third time when I was alone at home on a Sunday morning. My parents and my brother had gone to church that morning. He appeared in the sitting room where I was lying on a long sofa. He fixed a stern look on me, crossed his arms around his chest and stood with legs and hands akimbo. I sat up and watched him; he watched me. I stood up calmly and began to  walk out of the house gently . He began his loud and thunderous laugh. When I turned to look at him, he still stared at me, but he was laughing. I ran. He laughed more, and the laughter was no longer the laughter of a single individual. It sounded like the laughter of thirty wicked men who laughed in the same tone at the misfortune of another man. I ran and got to the door. I turned the knob of the door, but it was stuck. I tried the keys on it, but it didn’t open. I turned the door knob rapidly now, and when it refused to open, I began to bang on the door.

“Run as fast as you can, but you can never outrun me,” he said. He continued to laugh. The ho ho ho ho sound of his laughter growling in his stomach.

I banged on the door. “Somebody help me, please!”

— Scary stories to tell in the dark —

He walked closer to me and stood beside me. He mimicked my voice and said, “Somebody help me, please.” He laughed more and more. The sound of his laughter almost burst my eardrums. I covered my ears and leaned on the metal door. He looked at me and began to talk in a fast way. “You’ll die, you’ll die, accept this. Prepare for me. You’ll die.” He laughed and shook at that spot. I began to slip down to the floor with my hands on my ears.

When my parents came home, they found the door unlocked, and  I was sprawled on the floor, half-conscious. They took me to a sofa. My mother said, “Devil, leave my son alone. The evil one shall not prevail.” She brought a small container of the blessed olive oil and began to rub it all over my body.

The following days, I began to feel dizzy and nausea. The headache worsened, and it seemed as if a truckload of cement was placed on my head. This made my parents to take me back to the hospital. The doctor, who was our family doctor, gave us some drugs and told my parents that I’d be well. Three weeks after that, I developed fever, I lost appetite and a lump began to grow on my head.

Death visited again. He looked emaciated. He was thinner, the hair on his head was few and his skin was dry and cracked. He appeared in my room and sat on my bed. He wore a mournful look. I didn’t scream, I didn’t say a word, I just watched him. He sat for a long time before he began to rub my bed with his hand. I was getting weak, I didn’t have enough strength to do anything. After a long time, he said, “Get ready. Be prepared.” He vanished.

— Scary stories to tell in the dark —

The third time we went to our family doctor, he gave me a surprised look. “Has your son been feeding well, madam?” the doctor asked.

“No,” mother said. Mother was disheveled, and she was still in her night gown and an old wrapper. Her hairnet covered her hair. She stared tiredly at the doctor.

The doctor had eyeglasses that sparkled. He pushed it down his nose as he looked at me and my mother. After some minutes, he looked at my mother. “Madam, you’ve not been feeding well, too.”

“But, doctor, how can I feed well when my son is dying?”

“Has he been taking his drugs …?”

“Doctor, those drugs aren’t working,” my mother said in a stern and reprimanding tone. It was as if she was accusing the doctor of something. “We need help, my son is dying. He doesn’t eat, every day he shouts of pain and headache, he has even stopped going to school ….”

“Calm down, madam,” he said. He looked at me, at the lump on my head. “Tell me how you feel, boy?”

I sat up and tried to sit well on the cushioned seat. I wanted to forget for sometime the pain I’d been going through all those days, but it came there at the hospital, in my head. “I’ve a headache,” I said.

“Yes.”

— Scary stories to tell in the dark —

“I feel like I want to vomit every morning and evening. My body is hot.” I paused, and I glanced at the white ceiling and the colorful posters of different drugs posted on the white walls of the doctor’s consulting room. “I see Death,” I said calmly.

“Death?” the doctor said. He fixed a startled look on  me.

“Ebuka, this nonsense should stop oh. Which one is that you see death, eh?” Mother placed a dangerous look on me. I looked at her and looked away, I fixed my eyes on the poster that had the drawing of a doctor placing his stethoscope on the bony chest of a man.

— Scary stories to tell in the dark —

“I see,” the doctor said. He wrote on a piece of paper and gave it to my mother. “You should go to the Center of Neurology, meet Dr Moses.”

My mother grumbled as she collected the paper. When we were leaving the hospital environment, she was saying something about the ineffectiveness of our doctors. We got into a bus that took us to the Center of Neurology. That was my first time there. It was an old hospital with falling unpainted walls and old buildings with cracks and peeling paints. Dr Moses was easily traced by a male nurse in smart-fitting white shirt and trousers.

When we got to Dr Moses’ consulting room, he told us to sit. My mother gave him the paper our family doctor had given to her, and then she told him all that had happened. He listened to my mother. When my mother finished speaking, he wrote something on the paper. He told us to wait as he left the consulting room. When he came back, he used a syringe and took some of my blood. He went out again. He came back and sat on his large office chair. He looked at my mother and said, “You need to do an x-ray. You should go to the brown building, not far from here. You pay and they’d do the x-ray on your son. In a week’s time, you check back for the results.”

“Thank you, doctor,” my mother said. She stood and I stood. We left the consulting room.

— Scary stories to tell in the dark —

I didn’t go back to the Center of Neurology with my mother; she had gone alone, and when she came back, she was wailing. She wailed and threw herself on the sofa. “I’m doomed oh! I’m doomed!” she said. My father was at home that day, he consoled his wife and held her arms. I lay quietly on the longest sofa and watched the tears stream down mother’s cheek like a mighty flowing river. She sniffled sometimes. “What have I done to deserve this? What have I done to deserve this?” she cried. My brother, who seemed to know what was wrong, sat on the carpeted floor quietly , his thin arms placed on his knees and his face bowed down.

They acted that way throughout that day, none of them told me what was wrong. It was at night when Death came again that I knew what was wrong. I refused to eat the food my brother brought with tears still in his eyes to me. I’d left the food uncovered on the floor and slept. Death woke me up. He looked thinner now, more like a skeleton, and he had no hair on his head. He wore a white long robe stained with too much blood, the robe looked as if it was used to clean up the blood of a massive accident scene.

He sat on the arm of the sofa and remained silent. The lit kerosene lamp placed on the table didn’t cast his shadow on the wall, he didn’t have shadow. “How are you?” he said.

I wanted to kick him, kick him and make him fall if I could. “Fine,” I said.

“You’re not fine,” he said sharply. He began to rub his hand on the stained robe. “A tumor is in your brain. There is nothing your parents can do about it, so they have refused to tell you that. You’ll die.”

“I’ll not die!”

“You’ll.”

“I’ll not.”

He stood up. He walked away. He walked like someone who had little or no strength in him. He found it difficult to lift his legs. When he got to the torn sofa, he collapsed. “My robe is stained because of you,” he said weakly, grasping for air on the floor. “Please make it clean. You have few days left.”. He vanished afterwards. I’ve not seen him since then.

Remember, dear friend, how we used to come out to your parents’ veranda and make jest of people who hurried to church every Sunday? We’d hold ourselves close, our lips almost touching and mimic the pastors we watched on TV. We didn’t go to church and I enjoyed it, because I felt that was what I wanted, and because your parents weren’t religious. Since the last visit of Death, I’ve changed, I’ve become a saint even, because that was what the pastor called me when  I announced to the church that I was giving my life to Christ.

— Scary stories to tell in the dark —

The doctor said I don’t have much time left. I’ve little time, the smallest time. I’d to find the strength to write this letter to you. Although I’ve changed, I knock on heaven’s door daily for deliverance, spiritually and physically. I’m sure of the spiritual deliverance, because a Negroid angel had come to me with a golden spoon filled with the liquid of salvation. I drank the liquid. It was bitter, but it uplifted my soul.

Please I beg you, you shouldn’t forget me. You should also forgive me. I’m sorry that I hadn’t written this letter to you earlier, and you won’t see me alive again, but don’t forget me. When you forget me sometimes, use our fight to remember and how I packed out of your father’s house since you’d packed out for me. You’ll always remain my friend. Forgive me also that I let my anger eat me up that I didn’t inquire if you returned home. You should look up to any god, it will be wise to dedicate your life to one.

I knock on heaven’s door daily, but I know I’ll be fulfilled, because I’d end up in a land where honey flows and the sand dances forever. I’ll love and remember you, always.

                                                                                            Yours affectionately,

                                                                                             Ebuka

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