Place the truth before you;
Wear a cloak of lie and hide behind it.
THE GOD IS IN ME, and I can’t help it. Because I gave it all to him.
To whomever you submit yourselves, you are slaves.
But I don’t feel that way. I rather feel like the god I’ve submitted to.
For I am in the God and the God is in me.
Today, I stand on the mountaintop, looking down on the children of men. The ones beneath this Olumọ Rock are tourists like me—only that I haven’t come to enjoy the scenery and the wonders and the thrill. I’ve only come to see into those ones. The best way to see through the hearts of men is by placing them under you. You’re above them in every way and can see what they really look like. A man standing before a sea cannot understand the sea as would a man standing on a mountain, taking in the entire view. He can measure the widths to a good extent and capture the many details hidden from the seaside observer.
When you study the children of men, you don’t look into their faces—looks can be deceptive. You only place them underneath as I do. This way, you can see them without them knowing or hiding from you. They don’t take you seriously and they act like their real selves. Just like how they behave towards the God.
The God lives there in the heights, out of the reach of men, so they care less about him—as they do to me now. They chatter and giggle and prance on and call out. All carefree folks. But I observe them from this mountaintop watching their every move, scanning their inner minds. Just like the God does.
There’s a man. He isn’t like them. I fix my gaze down on him and he returns it hard. He doesn’t go the ways of the others, chattering and prancing about, without a care for what is above. He stands apart from them, his lanky arms drooped beside him like one who’s surrendered all. His eyes are lifted to the one who’s above—above the hills, above the heavens.
He braces a step forward as if saying, Lord, I have found you; Now I will meet you. He takes another step further, strengthening his resolve to meet the God. A burning singes my chest, and I grind down on my teeth. Something washes over me like a wave of awareness; you know the feeling better when you’ve locked yourself in a temple, on your knees, pulling at the beads, reading through the book, only to finally come out and realise that the world will never change. The man climbs up with slow, precise steps. The distant pat-tap of his footsteps drift up along the carved stairs. Beside me, a huge tree quivers as the wind swirls about. I dig a foot forward to hold my ground, my eyes squinting down the landscape, watching the wind rage across the smaller rocks and trees.
A strong presence wraps about me, the echo of a selfless soul. You know it when you feel it.
I pull back the foot I stuck out and turn to meet his cold gaze. His eyes are a couple of tiny black balls squeezed deep in a couple almond hollows. Unlike the biblical Thomas, he seems capable of rivalling Saint Paul in his prime. Fierce and godful. His palms are still open against his legs. “I’ve surrendered all,” he says in a deep tone, turning to his side, walking to the edge of the rock, “so, I always leave my palms open and bare.”
I squint and nod and clasp my hands behind me, trudging also to the rock’s edge. I’ll be straightforward. “Kareem is my name… And I defend the God.”
Thomas whips a glance at me. The darkness in his eyes recedes for a glimmer to spread through and settle over his caramel face. Glance turns to gaze; he doesn’t withdraw it. “When you defend, you attack; when you attack, you fight. You mean to say you fight for God.”
“Not everyone would do what I do. They think the God should be standing at the forefront rather than humans. They call us terrorists in fact when all we do is to bring everything back in obedience to the God.” I puff a sigh. “But aren’t we servants who should relieve the master of his worries and make all men yield to him? Aren’t we—”
“We call ourselves sons and heirs, Kareem. But we— No, they… They are sons and heirs who treat Yahweh with contempt.” He stretches an arm over the scenery. “Look at those rocks. Look at those plants,” he says while pointing at a throng of tourists huddled up beneath the mountain stairs, my eyes following his every movement. “And look at those people… Nature is the world’s greatest gift. They don’t have a mind of their own; they remain what they are—nature—ever ready to satisfy their masters, the humans God has made to rule them.” He turns away, clenching his fist, darkness creeping back out of those almond hollows. “But humans? They forget they have a master. They live only for themselves. They grieve God!”
“I’ve thought about that all day, Thomas. But it’s fascinating we both share the same view of the men below.”
“I remember the zeal of Eleazer, the high priest. How he killed the sinners in the temple to stop God’s anger.” The passion in Thomas’ voice brings him closer to what I’ve read of that man, Saint Paul. He really is bigger than what I’d thought of him earlier. While he admires the one called Eleazer…
“Mohammed must have been like him, Thomas— No, Mohammed was greater.” My eyelids twitch; a thought creeps into my head, pulling along the delight of a hope of fulfilment. “Do you know my goal?”
The darkness drifts away again. And that glimmer returns to his eyes. “Our goal you mean. You have to count me in.”
“You know it already?”
“You fight for God, and you are not the first person to. There are many others way back into the past and there are thousands of them right now, and many more to come. Genuine ones like us who will snap our necks to defend the one above.” He edges close, pats my shoulder, and stares into my face, a faint smirk on his lips. “You want to surpass them all, Kareem. You want a bigger name.”
I resist the urge to smirk. He sees through me easily. “It’s your goal as well, Thomas. You said it.”
“The son has to relieve his father of many worries. The father sees his good works and grants him great rewards, if not in this world, then in the one to come.”
“I bear the same belief.”
He smirks. “And that’s why we make the best partners.” He turns away. “When I saw you from down there the other time, I was thinking: how’s it like up there? The man on the rock, how does he feel? What’s he thinking about? Is he hatching a plot? It was rather unusual so I knew you must be thinking out of the ordinary.” He turns back and shrugs. “I was right after all,” he says, “you’ve been thinking deep.”
Thomas paces about again, his eyes gazing upwards. I follow this gesture and bore into him from all sides. No matter how much I think of it, he must be a problem for me. If I can’t read into a partner as they can me, then isn’t it more pathetic? How could we be partners? He strides back towards me and grabs my hands, such that he finally has something in his palms. “Osun State, Ogun State, Akwa-Ibom, Lagos, Anambra… People are too cold over there. Let’s begin from those regions, Kareem. Even from here, on Olumo Rock.”
I’d like him to return to that edge, but would he? His eyes are a mix of passion and thirst. Thirst for blood. Thirst for a name. Thirst for the mountain top. He’s never what I had conjured up in my head. He’s another sick person like me. No. I’m never sick. But he, he’s going to shed blood because it makes him feel like the God, not because he wants to fight for the God. And me… Me… I’m—
When you’re on the mountaintop, you can understand the sea better than a seaside observer would. It’s all in your hands. Especially if you’re alone.
Thomas pulls a wry smile and takes a step back. He walks over to the edge, facing the landscape, arms stretched wide. I shut my eyes. Snap it open. Inside my jean pocket is a jagged pocketknife. I fish it out and grab it by the hilt.
And I take a step forward.