“It is a ghost!” “No it is a demon, an evil spirit from hell!” “The two of you are wrong! Papa Ebuka said it is the spirit of our ancestors. It comes to watch over us by night,” Nneka said, meaning to put her two brothers right. “If it was truly the spirit of our ancestors why then does it scare us when it visits and tries to kill us?” Arinze asked. “Ariy (short for Arinze) I don’t know. Maybe when next it comes, we will ask it,” said Nneka thoughtfully. “Mama, where do spirits come from?” Azubuike asked. “Shhhh! Speak not about spirits in my house. It is dark already,” Nneoma, their mother cautioned, her eyes darting about the little room which served as their sitting room. She stood to her feet, ran to the window and checked if it was securely locked. Though it was locked, she unlocked it and locked it again. Such was her paranoia and fear of the night. She had seen stuffs; stuffs she would not speak of to her four little children. “Mama, you have locked that window three times tonight. Stop locking it, it is already locked,” said Nneka, her nine-year-old daughter. “Oh! Have I locked it that many times?” Nneoma asked. “Yes you have!” echoed her children.
She walked over to the door and checked if it was locked. “Mama please stop. You are killing us with fear. The door is locked. You locked it yourself,” Nneka berated her mother. She ignored Nneka and checked the door nonetheless. “Nneka did you bring in your brothers’ foot wears?” “Look at them, they are next to your feet,” replied a frustrated Nneka. “Good. Always make sure you leave nothing we wear outside by night.” “I already know that mama.” “Okay,” said Nneoma as she returned to her seat. “Mama, are you going to tell us any tales before we pray and go to bed?” asked Arinze. “Ariy, there will be no tales tonight. Mama is not feeling very ne. We will pray and go to bed. When I return from the market by tomorrow evening, I will tell you lots of stories, okay?” “Okay mama,” responded Arinze.
There was one amongst them, Nneoma’s last born. His name was Onyeka. He was the one who had seen the ghost more than every other person. The night his father died, he had seen things. The ghost had come by their window three times and left. Each time it appeared, it threw white stones at his father’s chest, and left. Before they retired to bed that night, his father began to complain of chest pain. Nneoma had thought it was mere chest pain which put down to her husband working too hard in their farm. She was wrong.
Onyeka as little as he was made note of the ghost’s ugly, monstrous look. It made him cry so much. He had his eyes wide open when the spirit came back the fourth time that night and pulled his father’s heart out of his chest. By morning, Nwaraka, the native doctor told the elders that Eloka, Nneoma’s husband had died of ‘lock chest’. Onyeka knew better. In fact, he knew more than everyone else. The nightly ghost visitor had taken his father’s heart and walked away. Sadly, not even Nwaraka could see that. “Mama, did you say you are not feeling ne?” Onyeka asked with the look of worry on his face. “Onyiy (short for Onyeka), it is nothing to worry about. Mama will be ne by morning.” Onyeka was not convinced by his mother’s reply. This was how it began before his father died. The ghost had hung around their house for days. Hovering and loitering like a hawk looking for chickens to carry away, until it began to throw white stones and eventually left with his father’s heart. “Mama, the ghost has been coming to our house for a week now…” Onyeka began.
“Shut up child! It is night time! Do not mention ghosts!” Nneoma yelled at her little boy. Onyeka was going to tell her what he had seen before his father died. Sadly, his mother would not have them speak of ghosts by night. The boy was afraid, he feared that his mother might not live through the night. “Arrrgh!!!” his sharp, high pitched cry rent the night. “I am sorry my son, please stop crying,” Nneoma said as she ambled toward him and put her arms around him. Onyeka stopped crying suddenly, but it was not because of his mother’s comforting arms. He could feel that same ominous presence which filled their house whenever the ghost was around. His eyes darted about in fear and widened in shock. “What is it Onyeka? What is it?” Nneoma asked, sensing something wasn’t right. Onyeka said no word. His eyes kept darting about in search of the ghost. Then he spotted it standing by the window with white stones in its hands. It was going to throw the stones at his mother! It was going to take another soul from their family! Onyeka kicked and tore at his mother as he began to cry again. Nneoma pulled away from him angrily. “What is wrong with this boy?” she wondered aloud.