By Chijioke Emeh
The store keeper did not make any further comment. He did his best to stop the bleeding, but his best could not save the victim who later died while they were conveying him to a neighbouring town. The doctor later ascertained, “He has lost too much blood.”
Dr. Ben Sele began to wonder over the scenario of death in the previous week. He asked questions, but there were no answers.
The Paramount Ruler could not give any answer. The chiefs could not tell him precisely why the people feared the hospital. The ward maids knew nothing, either. The only one who could have the answer was the eighty nine years old retired morgue attendant who worked there ten years before when the hospital was newly built.
One night in the hospital while the doctor and his two assistants were chatting in the hall, a cool breeze blew across. The two lamps placed on the table went off immediately, as silent overwhelmed them. The generator was not on for it’s only reserved to be used in an emergency case. Darkness covered them; goose bumps ran over their bodies. Nurse Eliza lit a match to light the two lamps again.
“My children!” A voice said, sounding like a music which echoed endlessly in their ears. The owner of the voice stood at the entrance of the hall, as Eliza lit the lantern.
“Jesus!” Nurse Agatha screamed when she saw the old woman, and clung on Dr. Sele.
Nurse Eliza jumped on Dr. Sele, too. Three of them glued together, frightened. The doctor pretended he was not frightened, as the man of a house. The voice was like the voice of ten years old girl, but the owner of the melodious voice was perhaps the oldest woman they had ever seen. She might be about one hundred and fifty years old, they reasoned. Her hair was scanty and gray. She was so lean without much flesh, almost like skeleton, and her teeth were scanty and coloured. She had a walking stick to support herself, as she was bended due to senility. The old woman dressed in transparent white gown, and was barefooted.
“Who are you? What do you want?” Agatha asked, with voice shaking.
“I have come to see my new neighbours. I am Mama Asari.” She said, stepping into the hall to block the door.
“Who are your neighbours?” Nurse Eliza asked, holding the physician tight on one side.
“You will come to understand in due time. Besides, we find no corruption in the doctor.” She spoke totally in pidgin English, the popular dialect in the Niger Delta. “Una welcome!” She said finally, as she turned around and walked into the dark and open compound, disappearing.
The trio dislodged, they went outside to check where the old woman had gone to. They could not trace her whereabouts.
“She looked like a witch. She is scary.”Agatha said, still panting.
The doctor had been speechless until now. “I have been thinking all this while. I believe she is a ghost.”
“No, chief! Do you mean I have spoken to a dead woman now?” Agatha said, and crossed herself, “Oh, God save my soul!”
“Don’t worry! I will get to the root of this matter.” He said to calm the women down, and he locked the door.
In the morning, Dr. Sele called his staff for a meeting. He narrated what happened the previous night to the ward-maids, gate man and the morgue attendant who were not there. And they said nothing, but were indifferent to hear the story. They acted as if it was normal phenomena. The doctor sensed it in their bodies’ signs. So he dismissed them.
Later, he was alone with the morgue attendant, an elderly man about sixty six years old. “Barry, I know you have so many things to tell me. I want you to tell me who was the old woman. Is she a ghost or a witch?”
“Chief, I am afraid I cannot help you. The only one who can help you is Pa Jerome.”
“Who is Pa Jerome?”
“He is the oldest man in Krama. He was the first morgue attendant of this hospital. Krama believes he saw tomorrow and knew the mind of the dead. He laid the foundation of this mortuary. I believe he’ll give you the answers to your questions.”
“Where can I find this Pa Jerome of a sort?”
“Don’t worry! I will take you to his house.”
The two went to Pa Jerome’s hut later in the day. The old man offered them kola nut and pleaded with them to relax as he told them the story of the haunted hospital.
“Mama Asari was believed to be the head of witches in Krama. She caused many havoc in the land; she tied the wombs of many women on an evil tree, and blocked destinies of many a young man. She cast spell on anyone who dared to challenge her, and openly confessed to these atrocities. Even the Paramount Ruler and the Chiefs of Krama could do nothing to stop her, until nemesis caught up with her.
“One fateful night she slept and did not wake up for three days, her bedroom door was also locked. Then her children raised alarm that made the neighbours to gather to the scene. They called her to open the door, but she did not answer. So they broke her door and saw her laying lifeless on the bed. The chiefs heard the story, and the Paramount Ruler sensed that she had embarked on spiritual journey ordered her to be taken to the Krama General Hospital.
“The Ruler told the doctor who was at the hospital then that the woman had died three days ago. He asked the hospital to embalm her at once. I knew the woman was not dead, but because of the terror she had inflicted on the community, I embalmed her at once, and prepared her for burial. The following night the hospital came under a ghost attack. The morgue was broken, and the corpses were thrown upside down.
“An invisible being with an invisible cane flogged the doctor and the nurses until they ran out of the hospital and out of the community, never to return. Fortunately, I was lucky not to be in the hospital that night. Since then, she came every night to flog and chase out everyone in the hospital. Sometime, she would be crying aloud all throughout the night in nearby bush in the hospital. When we consulted a seer, he told us that she vowed to make the hospital a no-go-area in the night.”
The doctor took a deep breath, and asked, “What do we do now? Where is her corpse?”
“She was buried in the hospital.” Pa Jerome replied.
“No! We will bury her in her compound and give her a befitting burial. That way, I believe we will appease her spirit.”
“Are you sure it will work?” chorused Pa Jerome and Barry.
“I believe it will work.”
The three met the Paramount Ruler and the chiefs of Krama. The rulers supported the idea of the physician. “No one has thought about this. It is wonderful! I hope it will be the lasting solution.” The Ruler said.
They planned a befitting funeral for Mama Asari and her family accepted the idea, too. The sages of the land were consulted, and they bought the idea. They warned that the reburial and the funeral should not be done in the night.
The d-day came; and undertakers dug up the corpse. The coffin was already decomposed; everything was gathered together. Mama Asari was reburied in her husband’s compound with elaborate funeral which attracted the great masquerades of the land and various dancing troupes. The people were entertained with food and drinks to their fill.
After that day, the terror that was covering the Krama General Hospital was uncovered. No old woman visited the hospital in the night again. But the community came to trust the hospital wholly after it saved a dying child who was brought to it in a certain night. The hospital treated the land of the cholera as well, and the story of the ‘haunted hospital’ came to an end.Follow us