You clench your fists so tightly that your fingernails bruise the soft centre of your palms as you shout AMEN!
“Yes, with God all things are possible,” the immaculately dressed man on the podium says. “But watch out: The devil is a liar. He will seek to sow doubts in your mind and rob you of your deliverance. Resist him! Just believe and receive your healing: Cancer, I cast you out! Barrenness, I banish you! Deafness, I decimate you! HIV, I unhinge you...”
The AMEN you scream as HIV is unhinged is so forceful that your throat burns. You gasp afterwards and fill your lungs with air charged with hope and desperation.
You open your eyes and look: the born-blind is blinking and reading from posters that adorn the arena; the diabetic is dancing and rejoicing before the cheering crowd, the lame is laying aside rusty crutches to walk with hyena-gait before the white banner proclaiming deliverance from all yokes of the devil: poverty, AIDS, HIV, stroke, drug addiction, alcoholism, and a host of other such afflictions.
A feeling of lightness grips you and your body tingles. This could only have one meaning: you too have been delivered!
But don’t you need a test to confirm this?
You are quick to recognise the enemy’s attempt to sow doubts in your mind and rob you of your deliverance. “The devil is a liar,” you mutter, and jump up to proclaim your healing.
Your feet glide over the road as you make your way to the Lagos Bus Station, smiling through the early harmattan fog. You sit between two passengers whose bodies poke and press upon you like a vice. Had you not abandoned your old ways, you would have cursed and sworn that they had half-eaten chicken bones hidden away in their side pockets. You smile at them instead and call out, “Let us pray,” before the bus begins the twelve-hour journey back to your home.
Your wife opens the door and runs into your arms. You bury your face in her hair, revelling in her familiar smells. You move your hand to her tummy.
“It’s not yet visible,” she says with a chuckle, and assures you that your first child is growing well.
She serves your favourite food, white rice with chicken stew, and sits opposite you, full of questions about your fourteen-week border patrol posting. You know she is staring with surprise as you close your eyes to bless the food. In between mouthfuls, you tell her how much you missed her but do not mention how you touched yourself during the long nights while dreaming about her shapely hips; you tell her about the drinking parties but do not mention how you had ended up in the arms of a prostitute after one such party, or how she died a few weeks later from the dreaded big disease with a little name. All that is in the past and you are now a new creature.
Finally you tell her about the crusade but not what had driven you there, and you invite her to share in your new life.
Dutifully, she agrees; anything to please you. She turns up the light of the kerosene lamp and notices you have lost weight. You tell her you have been fasting for the crusade but do not mention that, before that, you had been in an involuntary fast, induced by your test results.
You spread out on your bed after dinner. Your body trembles with longing as you listen to the splash of her bathing. She joins you in bed, clad only in a wrapper which she casts off as she falls into your arms.
“The devil is a liar,” you mutter, as your bodies become one.
© Kachi A. Ozumba, 2008
The Devil's Lies by Kachi A. Ozumba was read by Steve Wedd at the Liars' League Saints & Sinners event on 8 July 2008