Michael found himself in another world; the place was dark and he was surrounded by a mob all dressed in black yet none amongst the mob uttered a word to him, their numbers felt like sand spread around him while their eyes all fixated at him. He studied his new environment and realised that it was some sort of an underground world, he had never seen a place like it in his life and could not recognise anyone, he then felt something mysterious slowly making its way behind him through the mob from the back and paving its way like a snake through thick shrubs in the dark. Michael did not turn back to see what was coming and neither did the mob that surrounded him but they gave way for it to pass and as it got closer to where Michael was standing, Michael felt its presence and tried to stand his ground. It occurred to Michael that even though he had no eyes behind his head, he was aware of what was going on behind him and around him, he was totally conscious of the world he found himself in. It was so surreal he could not fathom whether it was a dream or real. Michael then heard a voice whisper his name, he turned around but could not see anyone.
‘I’m here!’ said the voice again but this time, it sounded very close and behind him, Michael turned quickly and was simultaneously levitated. Below him was a man in thick-decorated dark red robe holding his finger as though controlling Michael’s flight in the air; Michael’s body defied the gravity of that world and he floated in the air and while up, he got a clear view of the great number of population of the people that surrounded him all dressed in black, the man in robe drew Michael closer to him until they were face to face. ‘Oh, Michael, and I thought you’d be hard to find! Now, I’ve got many worlds to seize therefore, have got little or no time. Something special is planted in men like you and I want it!’ said the man, Michael felt as if his body was trapped under the sea but he could breathe, he begun to get angry but was helpless. ‘Join us, Michael, and I shall open your eyes to much greater things and place in thy hands much precious things than the ones the worlds have seen and would give you a portion of the worlds I shall own to rule to eternity, don’t you want to see her again, Michael?’ added the man, as he turned and evoked saying, ‘come forth!’ Michael was about to speak when he saw someone that looked like Jana stepped out from the mob that surrounded him and she stood next to the man in robe with her head bent, the man in robe with his left hand controlling Michael’s levitation used his other hand and touched her chin then lifted her face up a bit for Michael to see, but her eyes were like that of a serpent—it looked dark and she seemed sad, the man turned to Michael saying, ‘Gillian is here too, want to see her? Join us! I’ve got many secrets to reveal to you! Secrets that would blow your mind and turn you into the god that you are Michael, after that you, your wife, and daughter would be worshipped and not be slaves to the one you and your kind called God!’ The man spat on the ground.
Something told Michael that who he saw was not Jana, but all he wanted was to be out of that world at that time and wanted nothing to do with it. The man understood that Michael did not have any interest in the woman he summoned so he got mad and cast a spell on Michael, releasing him from the air to fall down to the ground. The man ordered the woman to leave, she walked back and disappeared into the mob as they murmured, he then turned away from Michael and yelled, ‘Can’t you see? Don’t you understand that this world and its people are mine? If you stand with us, Michael, I’ll give you the world to own and everything in it!’
Michael realised he was too weak to stand up, his body was becoming one with the ground and was sinking, the man stood still with the entire mob staring at him, Michael struggled but his entire body sank into the ground leaving his head which was also slowly sinking. The man in robe stretched his left hand toward Michael and said, ‘Hold my hand, Michael!’
Michael got terrified, his head sank underneath the ground and could no longer breathe but he could see the mob and the man in robe standing above him looking at him, his eyes could see through the ground like glass, Michael tried so hard to breathe but there was no air, he felt his lungs squeezing in and expanding at the same time as if they would explode, the man in robe bent down a bit stretching his hand further; Michael tried to scream God’s name but his tongue was stuck to the roof of his mouth, his entire lips were glued and so were his nostrils, in his mind he cried out God’s name but all he could hear was a big bang that shattered his ears.
Michael woke up to the sound of the electrocardiograph machine, his eyes popped open and he was sweating, he got up ripping the syringe off him; he fell off the hospital bed and was trying hard to breathe. An old man lying on another bed next to him who was shocked, groaned as his heart almost leaped out in fear but Michael ignored him as he moved out of the room in his hospital gown with a bandage wrapped round his head, he pushed his way through the hospital passage—pushing the stretchers and an empty wheelchair on his way, scaring some of the patients. A nurse rushed towards him to stop him, while some other workers didn’t mind about Michael, they set their eyes on the television at the reception with the news channel broadcasting breaking news of numerous attacks around different states in the country. Michael ignored the nurse, pushed aside the security man by the entrance and hurriedly entered a cab that was standing by.
Michael got to his home hoping that what he thought he had seen earlier that night was just a dream but what awaited his arrival was nothing short of a nightmare—a cold shattered burnt house. Right after he got out of the taxi, he knelt down and fell to the ground, his lips touched the soil as his nose blew up some dust and ashes on the ground. With the dust in his mouth, tears in his swollen eyes, he got up and walked through the house as if his family were still in there. In his imagination the house was still standing there, he could see Gillian’s school bag hung on the wall with her bicycle right next to it, the family photo at the entrance and their favourite sofa facing the television. The cabman didn’t ask for his fare, he silently entered his car and drove off feeling sorry for the stranger he took from the hospital.
The neighbours gathered looking at Michael as the siren wailed in, some officers approached Michael and introduced themselves to him, the men told him they needed to talk to him down at the station, and Michael followed them without saying a word to neither the officers nor his neighbours.
On their arrival at the police station, one of the officers directed him to a room where they asked him questions but he remained silent.
‘We want to help you, Mr Henning, we need your cooperation on this case,’ said one of the officers who introduced himself as Detective Samuel, with his left hand in his left pocket, the detective threw some pictures on the table. He asked Michael to have a look, the pictures had the bodies of Jana and Gillian lying on the ground at the backyard of his house on the night of the attack. Michael’s attention went to the pictures. He quickly went through them and realised that his wife and daughter didn’t burn in the fire. ‘Where are they?’ He cried out. ‘Where’s my wife and daughter!’ He exclaimed standing up his seat, he pushed the detective to the wall yelling, ‘Please, where’s my family!’ The men carefully subdued him then asked him to please be calm and follow them.
They took Michael to the very hospital he ran from and into the morgue, where the coroner opened the refrigerator, and there laid Jana, looking cold and without life. Michael was soaked in tears as he hugged her crying, calling her name. The men walked away quietly, leaving him alone with her corpse. Michael took the time that he needed with his wife and the officers could hear him sob heavily from where they stood. He knelt down, prayed, then pushed the fridge back in. Quite enervated, he went back to the room where the men were standing and asked about his daughter, they kept silent. Gillian’s voice broke the silence. ‘Daddy?’ she said, standing by the door behind him accompanied by a female officer in police uniform, Michael turned and ran to her as she ran to him, the two cried so hard and no one could console them, he kissed her like he was seeing her for the first time and hugged her, she embraced him but the consciousness of Jana’s absence broke them down both to their knees.
Minutes later, Michael learned that while he was unconscious that night, the perpetrators dragged him outside the house and set it ablaze, hoping the fire would kill his wife and daughter but Gillian hid in her room until she was sure they were out of the house, she then dragged her mother’s body out from the bedroom through the kitchen and to the backyard but she was almost suffocated by the smoke. She passed out after she dragged her mother away from the voracious flames. Michael held his daughter firmly and he thanked her for being strong, brave, and courageous.
Back at the station, Michael began to open up and started to talk calmly but he could not give the policemen the evidence they sought, they asked if he had a grudge with anybody and he answered negatively, they also asked if he was aware of any enemies his wife might have had, and still his answers were negative. It was a cold case—no proof, no name, no evidence, no suspects, and so no lead. Could it be that Junior ordered the hit on him or that some random guy just picked out his family, Michael thought. The officer felt that it was a deliberate attempt to torture him by dragging him out of the house in order to survive and live without his wife and daughter as a form of punishment over a failed deal or business that went wrong, and it was the only thing that made sense to Michael at that time but who could have done that? The authority could not dig any dirt on Michael as well and his records were squeaky clean because he never had any problem with the law.
Michael wanted to mention Junior’s name, yet something held his tongue back from wagging Cannon Johnson Jr.’s name. While the men were chatting, another officer rushed in and told the men that two other banks have been hit and there were lots of casualties, few of the officers ran out of the room to respond to the incident, it occurred to Michael that the town he left before the weekend had entirely changed into something rather dark and evil, he realised that there were different problems erupting ever since they arrived back from their trip.
The detective gave Michael his complimentary card and said he would keep in touch regarding the case and they promised him a thorough investigation into the matter. So Michael and his daughter, Gillian, left the police station. The detective offered to give them a lift but Michael refused.
They took a cab to the church where they normally worshipped and on their arrival, the pastor’s wife welcomed them and paid the cabman his fare after Michael asked if she had some change. Michael and Gillian sat in the church as the pastor’s wife called the preacher, they were sympathized and were given a room to stay but Michael begged the family to help look after his daughter for a while, that he needed to get to the office and get something. The preacher’s wife offered some food to them and he was given some clothes to wear. Michael ate but Gillian only took water. Minutes later, he hugged Gillian and told her he would be back. As he walked out of the church the preacher followed him, asking if he needed some cash, Michael shook his head but the preacher insisted. Michael then turned, looked at the preacher and said, ‘Pastor James! I’ve been paying my tithes in full, I sow seeds, I prayed every day for the world and my family, I gave to the needy and was concerned about others just like He said, just like He asked, Jana didn’t deserve this. If there’s anything you should do before I come back to get my daughter, ask . . . your God what I did to deserve this and if He got nothing to say, tell him . . .’ He paused, sighed, and walked down the steps away from the preacher.
‘The good Lord shall strengthen you my brother,’ said the preacher as he watched Michael leave.
Michael walked into the office with the entire staff on their feet watching him. Some approached him and sympathized with him, others were busy packing their stuff from their desks and somehow panicked. He sighted Clara from afar, in tears, talking to another staff but she didn’t notice him. He then went straight into his office and picked two of his ATM cards from his office drawer, got some documents, a spare cell phone, and some cash out of his office safe.
While he was at it, Cannon Johnson Sr. walked into the office looking pale and worried, the old man called out to Michael, he stood up and looked at Cannon Johnson Sr. ‘I am so sorry for your loss, we looked all over for you when the news got to me about the house and . . . oh, Jana! By the time we got to the hospital this morning, we were told you’ve left and no one knew where you were headed. I am so sorry, oh my poor little angel, Gillian,’ said the old man as he grabbed hold of a chair and sat down with his hands shaking. Michael could not say a word. ‘Please let me know how I can help in any way, where is Gillian? Is she okay? Where is she, Michael?’ the old man added.
‘She’s fine, she’s okay!’ said Michael, as he, too, sat down on his chair bending his head, resting his arms to the table, the two men were speechless.
‘The world has changed Michael, your world has changed, sorry to say but this generation is cursed. We stamp our thumbs for the wicked and yet point our fingers at them when things go wrong, truth is only darkness accommodates darkness. If we had the light in us, we would be able to sieve and read through the hearts of these men and know their aim . . . look at my grandson, William, he emptied the home safe in my bedroom and ran away. ..again! Hey, um, he just disappeared, young people!’ the old man said as he shrugged, ‘he is my next of kin, it’s his money. I wonder why he was such in a hurry and I thought he was like his late mother, Helen . . . she was just different, unlike Junior,’ added the old man as he paused, looked at his hands saying, ‘money? Men never satisfied with it, evil their hearts it turned. You know Rosy, my wife, before she passed away God bless her soul, she told me something I will never forget, Michael, she looked at me one day in the eyes and said “dear, you have accomplished and achieved a lot more than you hoped for as a man, I only pray that God uses you for the very purpose He created you because I know even after getting married to me and having all these things you always dreamed of, I can tell you don’t feel fulfilled” and she was right. Rosy was right, she spoke the truth that hid in my heart for long. I am old, people look at me as a very successful man but . . .there’s a part of me that’s unfed and I don’t know what or where. I feel . . . empty. I feel like an empty shell. Forgive me, Michael, for bugging you with my nonsense, after Rosy’s soul departed from this . . . dirt, you’re the only one that listens, you’re the only one who understands. God will expose your foes, son, they can’t hide forever! Live for your daughter. Please, is there any lead on the case?’
Michael said, ‘no!’ With his head still bent.
‘Take some time off, you will need it! Stay away as long as you want until things begin to settle, I know how heavy it is for you at these trying dark moments. It will be all right, it happened for a reason but I am glad I saw you today for your presence have made my heart light, your strength and hard work strengthens my weak heart, you’ve always been someone I wished I had as a son, not that . . . fool! You’re different; brave, patient, unsullied, and strong willed. But the world can be cruel to good men, Michael, oh, poor Gillian. This will wreck her, she will need you now more than ever. When you walked the earth to be my age, you’ll find out that the creator is the only good that ever existed,’ said the old man who stayed quiet for a while and then laughed uneasily, tapping his fingers on his knee saying, ‘just imagine Junior left to run this company? I’d rather be the one to die than the company! A lot of good hard working men and women need these jobs and if Junior takes over, even the devil will be unemployed.’ Michael smiled at the old man and the two men gave a short laugh.
‘If I lost two of the greatest gifts God has ever given me and still survive the pain to this age, you’ll get through it fine, just be strong son and follow your heart. May God forgive us all,’ the old man said.
Michael had no grudge against Cannon Johnson Jr. even though everybody knew how much Michael was hated by him. Michael sat down like he always did to listen to the old man talk and after a long conversation, Michael felt the old man’s concern for Gillian heightened and Michael was pleased within himself. The two men stayed silent for a while and stepped out of the office together. Michael left and promised to check on Cannon Johnson Sr. in days to come without saying a word to anybody in the office. Cannon Johnson Sr. wiped the tears from his eyes and watched as Clara approached Michael in tears, she comforted him, he hugged her and walked away.