Bello and the bells of the chapel (a short story)

bell tower of a chapel in a hilly town
Bello’s bell tower

The bells of the chapel began to ring. Lately, they had become so loud they deafened everyone. Everyone complained about it, but still they did nothing to fix it.

Bello was already awake before the bells rang. He had to be, if he did not want to get a whooping from Pa. Pa was very fastidious. He wanted every surface clean and polish and he would do anything to keep his house clean.

Apart from cleaning it himself.

So every morning, Bello had to clean the whole house as quietly as he could, to avoid waking Pa up. He would then make breakfast for himself and Pa. Pa would wake up to the sound of bells of the chapel and a set table, and sometimes, he would even give Bello a quarter of a nod in approval. This had been their morning routine since Bello was six. By eleven, Bello had gotten it down to pat.

It was the least Bello could do, since Bello had killed his mother during childbirth. Pa had told him repeatedly that if not for him, Ma would still be alive. And if Ma was still alive, he would not need to wake up before the bells to clean. He would not have to go to his mother’s grave every Friday with his Pa to ask her to forgive his murdering heart. Sometimes Bello imagined her, as she looked in the black and white pictures. In his imagination, he too was in monochrome and he was huging her, while she stroked his hair. But he knew she would never forgive him that easily. She would be as bitter as Pa was about Bello separating them.

Today was no different. Pa grunted his way through the meal, and then set off to work. Bello set off to school. School was a twenty minute- walk from his house. The roads were constantly filled with puddles during rainy weather. Bello would then find smooth pebbles on the road. He collected the pebbles in a quiet rebellion against Pa’s cleanliness. So when Bello first saw the glint of the lamp, he had assumed it was a particularly shiny rock. He tried pulling out of the puddle where it sat. A dull lamp in the middle of the road. He looked around to see who could have thrown it. There was no one. He took a corner of his trousers to rub it clean.

A bright light appeared and Bello had to look away for a moment. He then looked at his lamp and the huge creature that had appeared out of it. Bello gasped. It was a jinn, like in the stories.

The Jinn told Bello he had one wish, not three, even if the stories claimed otherwise. All he had to do to claim his wish was rub the lamp and wish his wish.

Bello held on to his lamp throughout school. He hid it in his room, unable to stop thinking about it. Bello didn’t even cry when Pa hit him for burning dinner. Instead, he went to bed and brought out the lamp.

“I wish my mother were alive to take care of Pa and I.” Bello said, rubbing the lamp. Bello half-expected his mother to show up immediately with a warm embrace and a kind smile. She would be so happy to reunite with Pa, and Pa would, well…maybe Pa would finally be happy.

Bello closed his eyes and opened them to an empty room. He opened and closed his eyes a few more times, till his flickering eyes began to fill with tears. He took the lamp in his arms and cried himself to sleep.

It was 1am- the dead of the night, or morning, depending on how annoyingly specific the reader is. All that matters is that it was very dead.

Long before the bells of the chapel began to ring, there was a stir in the chapel’s graveyard. The graveyard guard had heard some noises in the graveyard.

“One of those cursed anatomy students. Filthy grave robbers.” He grumbled, determined to teach them a lesson.

Instead, his flashlight beam saw a woman staring at him. Her clothes were raggedy and her flesh was long decomposed. However, it seemed to have come together to form some sickly semblance of human flesh. A knife wound on her head was beginning to come together in a imitation of healing.

The guard fainted clean away. But that did not bother Bello’s Ma. She had places to be and things to take care of.

Bello woke up an hour before the bells of the chapel to the smell of jollof rice. He tried to shake off whatever smell was lingering from his dreams. But the smell of jollof rice still filled the air. He went to the kitchen and found his Ma dicing plantain for the jollof rice she was making.

“Are you,” Bello asked unsurely. “My ma?”

“Yes,” said the cadeveresque figure. She had cleaned up and gotten a yellow sundress from the washing lines of some poor woman. But her pallid skin was still dull, and her flesh more like jerky than living tissue. Bello noticed none of that and ran straight into her arms.

He regalled her with stories about his childhood, telling her about Pa and how happy Pa would be that he had unkilled her.

Ma gave him a tight smile. “I’m here to take care of you now.” She smoothed his hair in the exact way he had imagined. “Both of you.”

Pa came out a little earlier than usual today. He came into the kitchen and saw Ma. His face went pale. Pa stared and stared until Bello spoke.

“Ma’s here to take care of us now.” He smiled through a spoonful of rice.

Pa suddenly seemed to find his voice. “Mide, please.” He stretched out his hands to her

Bello’s Ma, Mide smiled. “Why, I’m here to take care of you. Just like you took care of me.”

“Mide, please.” Pa was a broken record.

“Just like you took care of our son.” She had grabbed the knife she just used to cut plaintains.

“Mide…” He trailed off, unable to beg.

“I think I’ll take it from here.” Mide smiled.

Pa’s scream was blood curdling as the knife pierced through his ribcage. He hoped the neighbors would hear and come to his rescue. Just then the bells of the chapel began to ring. Lately, they had become so loud they deafened everyone. Everyone complained about it, but still they did nothing to fix it.

For more short stories like this, click here.

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