Dele’s scream echoed from wall to wall as each strike of the hammer drove the dull iron nail through his wrist. Sweat mixed with tears rolled down his cheeks as blood pumped from the wound.
“W-why are you doing this?” His question came as a plea, voice scratchy from all his screaming.
“Why am I doing this?” The tall hooded man rested the hammer on the bloody surface of the wooden table. “I thought you’d figure that out by now.”
“Figure what out?” Dele’s eyes followed the man as he strolled to a steel table at the left side of the white-walled room.
“You are a man of faith, yes?”
“I do not understand.” Dele gritted his teeth, his gaze fixed on his nailed wrist. The ache had reduced to a throb, but the slightest movement caused renewed pain to zing up his arm like flaming bolts of electricity.
“You will answer every question I ask or I would lose it. And trust me, you don’t want me to do that.” The hooded man smoothly pulled off his surgical gloves and slapped it on the table surface.
Gulping, Dele nodded. “Yes. I consider myself a man of faith.”
“Ah, consider. You’re smart to pick that word because I do not consider you to be one. In fact, I know you’re a vile, vile human and the God you pretend to serve has sent me to heal you. Yes.” The man turned, facing his direction once more. “He sent me to satisfy justice.”
“Please. There must be a mistake somewhere.” Dele wheezed as fresh pain licked up his arm. He gritted his teeth again. “I am a pastor. I serve the people in love and honesty.”
“Love and honesty?” The man scoffed. “You are a liar, and I have sufficient reasons to bring you here.”
Panic rose within him again. Who is this man? Suspicion crept in. Does he know what I do?
Pulling another pair of gloves on, the man began to hum a tune. It was upbeat and merry like he was enjoying himself. “The Bible says we should crucify the flesh.”
The pounding of Dele’s heart throbbed in his ears as the man’s fingers danced over an array of tools. He picked another nail, much bigger than the one pinning his other hand down.
“Jesus! No. Please, I beg you. There must be a mistake. I am a man of God. Don’t do this.”
“I am an infallible judge. Relax; I know what I am doing.” He approached him with measured steps. “Allow me clear every doubt. After all, one needs faith in order to be truly pure in the sight of God.”
“Y-you are mad.”
“You shouldn’t rile your tormentor up by insulting him. I am a man of high learning, a physician. Even if you’re correct and I am indeed mad, my malady is…” He paused as though in deep thought then placed a gloved hand on Dele’s shoulder, squeezing hard. “My malady is different.” He let his hand drop and leaned against the table’s edge.
“I had a sister.” The man folded his arms as he stared straight ahead. “She was killed by a man of faith just like you.”
“But I’m not–”
“Shut up and listen!” He shouted, not turning to face him.
Dele gulped his words and heart down his throat.
“She was ten, he was a priest. No one believed he did it but I knew. I knew who he was, I knew his revolting inclination. When I was young, I was weak. I could do nothing as other little ones suffered the same. The priest left. Maybe he was transferred to another state or the church found out about his proclivity towards little girls and boys. I never bothered to find out.”
The man turned back to him and pushed his hood back. Dele sucked in a breath, eyes going round.
“I know you.”
“You do?” Dr Gabe smiled but the action did nothing in whipping off the cold glint of dark promise in his eyes. “I’m surprised you did not recognise my voice. The wonders fear does to the mind.” The doctor shook his head and chuckled.
He was the paediatrician in charge of his three daughters. The man had visited his home on a few occasions. He even came to his church once. “How dare you do this to me?” Dele saw red. “My family has been good to you.”
Dr Gabe merely laughed. “Priceless.” He pushed himself off the table and leaned forward till they were at eye level. “Your daughter, Eve, she told me she wished you were dead. She also spoke of the unspeakable things you do to her young body. How old is she again?”
Dele stared in shock at the man’s revelation. He knows. “I…I…”
“Oh, spare me the explanation. You’ve molested her since she was six. She’s eleven. And what made me certain that you deserve cleansing was the sad discovery that you had already started with Sonia. She is six.” Dr Gabe patted his cheek with three sharp slaps. “You will die tonight. I will preach to you a holy message with the same words you spew at your congregation. And I will pray for your soul as it leaves your body. I will pray that hell be real, and that you burn for every child you’ve destroyed. I will send you to the very pits I sent that priest who killed my sister when I was a boy–a boy too helpless to do anything about it. These boys and girls that worms like you trample, these flowers you pluck and grind in the mud, they are my sisters and brothers. And I will avenge them all until the guilt of the loss of my sister is washed away.”
Dele stared, terror causing his jaws to go slack. “P-please, I beg you. You of all people should know children lie some times. Eve is an incredibly foolish girl. She-”
“And you keep making things worse for yourself. I’d advise you to be quiet. Nothing you say would change your fate.”
Dr Gabe bent and untied his second arm. “I have realised that man’s problem is singular.” He tugged at the rope, bruising Dele’s wrist with the harsh action. His arm felt heavy and useless as the rope fell away. “The body is our undoing. It makes us do things-things that make us ashamed to look in the mirror. I will liberate you. Look to the heavens and thank your God for me. I am your healer.”
“No, no. Please, I am begging you! Don’t.” Dele’s chest rose and fell as fear ate him alive, reducing him to a sweating, snivelling mess.
“I’m sure Eve begged. What about young Sonia? But no, your body is your lord. You have to satisfy the beast, feed your sickness.” Dr Gabe slammed Dele’s palm to the table, facing it up. “I would crucify this lord of yours-this flesh that is your undoing, your drawback to perfect living. I am your deliverer.”
The nail was sharp, and the force of the hammer driving it in made Dele yell. He flexed his fingers involuntarily as the pain ripped through. “PLEASE.”
“Matthew 18:6: But if anyone causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin…” Bang! He drove the nail in with a precise hit of the hammer.
“…it would be better for him to have a large millstone hung around his neck…” Bang! The nail sank deeper. Agonized screams filled the room.
“PLEASE, I BEG YOU.”
“…and to be drowned in the depths of the sea.” The doctor flung the hammer aside and stepped back, heaving like a maniac.
“I am doing the will of your God.” He jabbed a finger in his direction. “Remember the one you so passionately preach about?”
Harsh pants were all Dele could give in response. He stared at both hands nailed to the table, bleeding. Dread nearly stopped his breathing. He suspected the doctor planned to do more.
“Do not worry your self-righteous head.” Doctor Gabe quieted his breath, suddenly seeming relaxed. “Your cleansing has already begun. I have studied the bible with razor-sharp concentration and dedication over your matter. I take my job seriously.” The doctor made his way to the table once more.
“I would do anything; just let me go… please.”
“I bet your daughters begged.”
“What is it to you?!” Dele shouted, frustration leaking into his voice. “They are my daughters. If I did not sleep with their mother, they wouldn’t even exist. I think I have the right to treat them as I please.” Dele’s chest rose and fell from exhaustion and a newfound rage.
“You’re unrepentant.,” Dr Gabe stated simply as he continued with whatever he was doing at the table. “That’s a shame. I would have taken it easy on you.”
Dele whimpered when the doctor lifted a handy saw. “W-what is that for?”
“Oh, this?” Dr Gabe waved the tool. “It’s a saw. Very convenient and efficient.”
“Whatever you want to use that for, I beg you, don’t.”
“Do you know that feeling? When someone begs with all that is in them but you know–you know you would never have mercy.”
“You can’t be serious.” He trembled, breath pouring in short gasps.
“Believe me; I’m as serious as Matthew 5v30.”
Dele stared. “Matthew 5 what? I-I don’t understand.”
“You will understand soon.”
Fear bloom in his chest and spread its cold fingers down to the sole of his feet. Sweat slid into his eye causing it to burn. He blinked and dared to pray for the first time. “God please help me. Jesus, please.”
The doctor’s steps drew nearer but Dele kept his eyes shut, imploring for supernatural help.
“Your prayer is useless. Don’t you understand? God allowed this punishment. He wouldn’t interfere.”
“I swear to you; I would never ever touch those girls. I’d change.”
“I can’t offer you mercy. I rather give them a permanent answer to their prayers. Don’t you think that’s fair? A permanent answer is the best answer.”
Dele struggled and howled when his nailed wrists shifted. He wheezed, trembling as Dr Gabe leisurely walked in his direction.
“And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go into hell.” The doctor gripped his arm, tugging it a bit. Dele screamed again, voice hoarse and throat on fire.
“Do you see how apt that scripture is? Whether you believe me or not, I am helping you.”
“No, please.” Dele implored, his voice rough. He would have sunk to his knees if he wasn’t tied to a chair.
“That wasn’t the answer I was expecting.” Dr Gabe pulled out a white elastic band. “Since I am a considerate judge and executioner, I’d use this.” He waved the object. “Wouldn’t want you bleeding out and missing your own trial.”
“What do you want me to say?” Dele asked, desperation clawing at his sanity. He would do anything-say anything. “I’d say it. I’d do anything. Please, just have mercy.”
“There’s nothing you can do or say to undo what you’ve done to your daughters.” He tightened the elastic band around his bicep, pulling it hard. “It is time.”
“No…no…please. I beg you, I’d do anything. I swear.” Dele wailed like a child.
Dr Gabe laughed. He lifted the saw then placed it at the point where his forearm met his elbow. Too shocked to act, Dele watched as the jagged tool tore through his flesh, blood pouring as the doctor pushed the saw back and forth.
And the pain; it sliced up his arm, consuming his senses in a type of agony he had never experienced in all his life. Minutes dragged on and he drowned in his torment. It was too much.
When the saw reached his bone, Dele realised too late that the doctor was intentionally taking his time. In between the yawning pain and shock of his ordeal, the sight of his arm detaching from his body summed it up. He lost it, screaming and twisting where he sat.
“Jesus!” Dele’s arm fell away from his decapitated forearm. Blood dripped from the red meaty surface and down his thigh but his eyes remained fixed on his nailed hand. He threw up, vomit sliding down his chin and staining his shirt.
“Please…” Dele was dizzy with pain, the loss of an arm still fresh in his mind. “Kill me…end this, I beg you.” Death was certainly better than this torture.
“What’s the gain in that? After all, your bible says to live is Christ. I do not want to give you the gain of death… yet.”
Dele couldn’t look away from his stump of a hand. The blood was beginning to clot. He could even see the white of his bone sticking out of the gore.
“If your right eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away… I’m sure you know the rest. Your eyes have made you sin, pastor. Without it, how would you see little girls and lust after them? I am freeing you.” He made his way to the dreaded table once more. “Your eyes would have to go, too. But I wouldn’t go about this like a doctor. This would be messy-very messy and crude. In fact, you’d hate it very much.”
When Dr Gabe turned to face him, he was holding a steel pronged fork in his right hand. “This is not a surgical instrument, I’m afraid. Bear with me.”
Dele cried, sorrow and horror pushing him to the brink of insanity. Only yesterday he had gone to sleep on his bed, in his house. He had no idea how the man got him tied to a chair in a windowless room that reeked of disinfectant, blood, and his own urine. He would die and nobody would even know where his body was.
Dr Gabe had a spring in his steps as he drew nearer. Dele attempted to struggle when the man gripped his head. The movement only made his suffering worse. His nailed wrist burned and his decapitated arm throbbed with a heavy kind of pain. He finally stilled, shutting his eyes and accepting his fate when the pronged fork came into view. When the doctor stabbed his eye and pulled viciously, white dots appeared before darkness consumed his right sight. It was like his skin was being torn off by the pull of a rope. He wept shamelessly, unable to find a single fighting bone in him.
The doctor discarded the fork on the table. His bloody, stringy eyeball bounced off the surface and rolled to the ground. At the sight, Dele passed out.
The pain woke him. It spread from his head like a migraine and raced down his torso. Groaning, Dele blinked an eye open.
“Welcome back. That took a while.”
The doctor was seated in front of Dele, a threaded needle in his left hand. Fresh horror cleared his cloudy mind. What now?
The doctor looked from the needle to his face. “You’re scared I’m going to hurt you again? No. I’m done with that.”
“Yes. I decided to let you go while you were out. This–” He lifted the needle. “–is to stitch your arm. Your eye socket is already patched up.”
The doctor gripped his arm that was now rid of the elastic band. After placing it on the table, he began stitching the gash with steady hands. “I am a medical practitioner; I took an oath to tend to the sick. I’d extend that courtesy to you.”
Hope swelled in Dele’s heart. Once he was freed, he’d do well to head to the nearest police station first.
“When I was younger, I’d take my sister to church. It was a big cathedral and I loved the stained glass masquerades the most. There was this window that had a picture of the messiah crucified and bleeding, but his face was perfect and beautiful. I hated that image. Its beauty was a lie. Humans love to hide the ugly. Sure, they show a few shortcomings but what truly lies hidden would make you vomit. Take me for example. Would you have guessed I could kill a man?”
With his gaze still fixed on the needlework the doctor was doing, Dele shook his head. “No.”
The man had an innocent face and a persona that spoke of compassion.
“That’s beside the point though. After my sister died, I visited that cathedral on every anniversary of her death. I would stare at the image of the crucified Christ and stew with rage. With each anniversary that passed, my anger grew strong and my determination even stronger. I finally met the priest who raped and killed her. He was transferred back to the same church. I took it as a sign from the universe. My moment had finally come.”
Dr Gabe leaned back, admiring his finished work. When he lifted his gaze, he smiled, the corner of his lips lifting and causing his eyes to shine. “I went for confession on the very night before I killed him; he was on call that day. I told him I had a driving urge to take the life of a man who did me a great wrong. I nearly laughed when he fed me some crappy lines about forgiveness. The worm. Who gave him the right?”
Rising to his feet, the doctor stretched and pulled a kidney tray across the table. “He was the very first I killed. The moment of his death was my finest hour. He begged much more than you did. Such a talker. At a point, I served him communion with his own blood. I doubt it cleansed his sins.” The doctor barked with laughter. Dele could only stare, shocked at his depravity.
“Satisfaction and closure came for a while then poof–it was gone.” He pulled at a roll of the bandage as he continued speaking. “I thought of other innocent children that suffer. I thought of those who use the cloak of religion to hide their sins and at that moment–at that cathedral on my sister’s anniversary–I had an epiphany. It was like she spoke to me from the great beyond. I decided to be a saviour–a true brother to the weak. My job as a paediatrician only made it easier to fish out scums like you.”
At last, he was done with dressing his wound. “There. I gave you an antibiotic shot while you were out.”
“What about my wrist? Wouldn’t you pull off the nail?” The dried blood around his arm had made it stiff, he couldn’t even shift it. The man’s sudden kindness was almost unbelievable.
“I’d take that off once I pump this into your blood steam.” He retrieved a syringe from the kidney tray, holding it up and flicking out the trapped air bubbles with a finger.
“Wha-what is that?” His hope was replaced by cold fear. Something wasn’t right.
Removing the protective cap off the needle, Dr Gabe smiled, it was the tight type that spoke of dark promise. “This is a little liquid insurance. I wouldn’t want you wagging your tongue once you’re released. I would make that mind of yours soundly unsound. Whoever would want to listen to an imbecilic cripple of a pastor?” The doctor’s smile widened as he drew nearer. “Don’t worry. You wouldn’t even feel the prick of the needle.” Dr Gabe patted his shoulder as though comforting him.
“No, no. I beg you… ARGH!”
The doctor lied. The pain was excruciating.
Eve stared at the face of her father as drool slid down his chin. His eye was fixed ahead. She had shed a tear for the show on the night they found him. But when she hugged her sister, she’d smiled and told her their nightmare was over.
Mother made them visit the psychiatric hospital once a month, but he remained the same–a hallow man staring into space and whispering:
“The doctor is the brother.”