The Last Baptism

by Anne Bidemi Akinnagbe

It was 7pm on Saturday night. I sat in the hotel room, facing the mirror, to behold a face that had become so strange: big black eyes, black turtleneck, black pants and a black scarf. I smiled at the thought of the conservative gathering I was going to be in the next hour – the jokers. I would be lucky if I didn’t get bundled out before carrying out my mission, but it wouldn’t matter. That would only hasten the judgement. I sat still for two minutes and whispered to myself, “I either do this now or I die trying. Either way, all ways lead to death. I have children to save”.

I picked up my candle and headed out. It was a cold night and the sky was lit beautifully. It was also a good night to take a stroll before the final call. I walked the few metres to the church, cold hands in my pockets, reflecting as I took the gentle stroll. This was the night – the night that had kept me sleepless for years. I needed to get this done once and for all, out of my system and guts.

“Dear brethren, on this most sacred night, in which our Lord Jesus Christ passed over from death to life, the church calls upon her sons and daughters, scattered throughout the world, to come together to watch and pray…”

I recognised that voice even from a distance – the voice that had kept me awake all night. The voice that crept into my dreams and made me restless. That same voice that had tormented my life from childhood till now.

I approached the small crowd in the darkness, barely visible by the illumination from the burning wood, smiled at the closest person and mouthed ‘Glory to Jesus’ as I lit my candle. I peeked into the church and saw darkness, same as what my heart bore. The dry burning wood sparked as faithfuls responded to the priest’s calls.

Soon I found myself at the entrance of the church as the Paschal vigil commenced. Same old handsome face, same old sweet fluid voice that was charming and exciting, the voice that soothed me that night as I trembled.

“Lumen Christi… Deo Gratias”

I sat still and reminisced. That same night I had been here, at this same spot, white-clothed and pure in heart, innocent and undefiled, before it happened.

“This is the night that even now, throughout the world, sets Christian believers apart from worldly vices and from the gloom of sin, leading them to grace and joining them to his holy ones. Our birth would have been no gain, had we not been redeemed.” That same voice.

That night I had sat quietly at the front of the church, anticipating when I would receive my first holy communion. I had grinned from ear to ear even as nothing was funny. I needed the Priest to hurry up so I could march forward and receive the Blessed Sacrament and become holy once and for all, how innocent I was.

Again his voice cut in as I opened my eyes to behold the Catechumens, all lovely in white outfits.

“Do you renounce Satan and all his works, and all his empty show? Do you renounce sin, so as to live in the freedom of the children of God?”

That night, I renounced Satan, I renounced sin and all evil, only to bring them upon myself in a thousand fold after the ceremony.

The sponsors and godparents stood proudly at the altar, supporting their excited children and wards. Same way my godmother stood beside me that night without knowing the evil that would befall me after the event.

“The body of Christ… Amen.” I responded innocently as I received the Holy Communion for the first time, and then he winked.

After mass I went to the sacristy to look for my neighbour, the altar boy who was supposed to take me home after the vigil. Mum couldn’t come with me as she had a nasty fight with Dad that night. He had come home drunk, as usual, asking questions about why she had to spend her money buying me a dress for the first Holy Communion, money that should have been spent making soup for him. He beat her till she bled and couldn’t attend the mass, She handed me over to Francis, the altar boy who lived next door to take me to church and bring me back after the vigil.

The sacristy was deserted and only Father was there when I got in. Francis had gone home. Father offered to take me home in his car. Oh, how happy and relieved I was. It was a smooth ride until we got halfway and the touches started, gentle at first before it became aggressive. It was rough, painful and killing. My white dress was lifted up from my bum and I got cleaned after the act. I was sworn to secrecy. I had become like Christ and had a special grace, just like the Priests of God. The act continued well into my late teenage years until I left town, and before I realized the damage that had been done to my life.

Befriending a smart man had its own benefits – it was easy learning the tricks of timing devices and fireworks, the girls had to be saved.

“Accept, we ask O Lord, the prayers of your people with the sacrificial offerings, that what has begun in the paschal mysteries may, by the working of your power, bring us to the healing of eternity, through Christ our Lord…”

The girls had to be saved. I could see the fire in his eyes. He was going to do the same thing to those innocent children. I saw myself in their eyes. They would become the same dark soul I had become. I should end this once and for all. What prayers do I say at this crucial time?

“Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee, blessed art thou amongst women, and blessed…”

I reached down and lifted my turtleneck, touched the wires and ended it. 

The world had to be saved.

Easy to rest in Christ than to die in the sins of this world. We were all faithful; he had promised us eternal life and he would not fail. We should rest from the evils of this world, from the evils of Father and his kind. 

The church went down in blazes as the explosion rocked the foundation of the building, no single soul was spared. The little children were all safe in Christ.

I knew I would not live to tell the story, but my mangled flesh and spilled blood would tell it all. I made an impact. The children were safe now.

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