“That’ll be fifty nine dollars.”
The male cashier, a handsome muscular man whose name tag read Kemar said as he bagged the items Gbemi put on the counter at Forever 21. It had been the perfect day, in every way and she wanted to end it by treating herself to some new outfits. She found a blouse that took her breath away, calling her best friend Abike to brag about how the store must have known she was coming and put their best stuff out. She spent some time flirting with Kemar, paying little mind to the long line behind her. After writing her number on his hand with a sharpie she kept in her purse she left, ignoring the scowl from the older wrinkled woman behind her.
Gbemi stopped at the food court, buying a veggie wrap from Subway, careful to count every calorie to keep her slim figure. She felt something strange in the pit of her stomach that caused her to feel queasy but ignored it, figuring the food just wasn’t settling well with her.
That’s what I get for eating Galleria food. She thought to herself making her way to the make-up store to buy a new foundation, eyeliner and highlighter. Taking the elevator back down to the first level she commended herself for not buying any more jewelry at the kiosk and exited with her purchases. She walked a few feet from the exit when something heavy dropped right in front of her, splattering something warm on her face.
It took a few moments for her to fully process what had just happened, rubbing her finger across her face to see the blood. When she looked at the body and it dawned on her that it was a dead body and that body was none other than Kemar - her cashier, she screamed. Gbemi’s scream was quickly punctuated by another thud, followed by several more as men’s bodies rained down one after another onto the pavement in front of her from the roof.
Tola had been home for 10 days, she prepared her basement for the ritual she was about to perform which would be the riskiest spell she had ever cast and it could cost her everything to do so. She looked disheveled, muttering to herself and repeating the steps of the ritual over and over. She went to her backyard and fed the chickens before making her way to the kitchen where she carefully made a turkey sandwich taking great care to select the very best ingredients, fresh lettuce, tomatoes, premium turkey slices, cheddar cheese, spicy mayo and whole grain bread. She crushed up one more ingredient, adding it to the mustard and taking the sandwich down to the basement. She slid it under the cage to the man in the corner but when he slid it back out of skepticism she took a bite, chewed and swallowed and slid it once again.
The starving man could not help himself from devouring it after Tola took the first bite. It did not take long for the benzodiazepines to kick in, causing him to fall drowsy and eventually a deep sleep.
What an idiot.
Tola thought to herself as she dragged his body to the middle of the circle she drew earlier with her blood where she bound his hands and feet. Once she made the final preparations she took a seat cross legged just outside the circle and began the Yoruba chant that would change the rest of the world, forever.
Gbemi drove straight home not waiting to see what became of the mall, weaving in and out of accidents as cars crashed into each other and plumes of fire could be seen all around the city. People ran in disarray as gunshots and explosions could be heard coming from every conceivable direction, and she wasn’t entirely sure but she could have sworn she saw a plane plummeting downwards far off in the distance. By the time Gbemi made it home one of her neighbors' homes had caught on fire but there were no fire trucks in sight. She drove onto her grass, exiting her car quickly and running inside her home to deadbolt her door shut. She ran to the living room, flinging her shopping bags over the couch and turning on the tv.
“What the fuck is going on?” she said, turning the volume up.
We don’t understand what has caused this nationwide phenomenon, the female News Anchor continued, but as of two o’clock this afternoon men around the United States have been observed committing some kind of mass suicide...
Gbemi could barely focus on the words as the news showed graphic images and videos of bodies lining the streets, car accidents, men jumping off of buildings and male police officers shooting themselves with their own guns. Some videos even had male family members bound as they writhed for freedom to murder themselves with their respective female members crying and pleading for them to stop. They thrashed about like senseless animals, unable to respond to any kind of communication.
Gbemi was shocked, trying to comprehend how any of this could be real. She dialed her father, worried about what she had just heard but the phone went to voicemail and so she called her mother instead.
“Mom...are you there?” Gbemi blurted into the phone, the concern palpable in her voice as her mother responded crying uncontrollably, struggling to get the words out.
“Your father is…”, she broke down again crying but Gbemi didn’t need to hear the rest of it, she already knew. She dropped her hand, letting the phone fall to the ground as the tears rolled down her face.
This spell would change everything and Tola knew she was messing with very powerful and very dark powers but she had spent the last two years researching and gathering all the materials she needed for the spell. She even made it to Cotonou, West Africa where she got the final piece - a feather pulled from a black cock indigenous to the region.
As she chanted, calling on forces she never had before and pulling on the nether she felt the pushback as they refused her call nearly knocking her on her back as she struggled to catch her breath. Luckily, she was prepared for this scenario. She picked up the black feather, wrapped it around a tiny heart and ate it whole. She felt a surge and crouched at the lightning rod of pain that surged through her body, closing her eyes. When she opened them again they turned a dark void of black as the temporary surge of power vibrated through her entire body.
She took a seat outside the circle once more, hoping to commence the ritual before the drugs wore off and the man awoke again. Not that he was any kind of threat but she didn’t want to waste her magic on him, she needed every once of it to do what she was about to do. Tola chanted and this time she forcefully grabbed the forces tightly and pulled it towards her and into her. When she was confident she had enough to summon the Orisa Egungun she began phase two of the ritual, calling upon the divine mother.
“What do you want?” Orisa Egungun said standing over Tola. A sight to behold she wore a long flowing red dress with blue markings all over her body, her black hair tight and curly touching the floor behind her.
“Death.” Tola responded.
There was a tangible blanket of sadness and dread that loomed over the city and Gbemi was sure that other cities were experiencing something similar.
News stations - all now exclusively women, reported on the state of events which was even more grim than previously thought. The sudden absence of men around the United States had caused a cascade of catastrophic scenarios all across the globe. Gbemi wanted to travel to Virginia to see her mother but the state of things had become so precarious, highways and roads were unsafe and flights were understandably all grounded for the time being as the Federal Aviation Administration dealt with their own share of issues. Many stores and businesses had been raided by factions of young girls and women taking advantage of the chaos and so for the time being Gbemi decided to shelter in place.
She called her mom daily, who grieved inconsolably. Sometimes they cried together and other times they talked about innocuous things like films or food to avoid the elephant in the room. Today they talked about Gbemi’s work as a lucrative Youtube influencer and beauty blogger but when they began to speak about colleagues Gbemi couldn’t help but think of all the gay male influencers she followed that died during what the media was now referring to as ‘The Culling’. When they hung up, Gbemi made herself something to eat before falling asleep.
"How did you find everything?" Kemar asked as Gbemi plopped her items on the counter.
“Even better now that I’m here, handsome.” she chipperly responded, batting her eyes flirtatiously at him.
“I’m glad to hear that.” Kemar said with a smile that nearly made her wet.
“I bet you are. I know you’re at work but here’s my number if you’re not doing anything later, I live alone.”
As Gbemi wrote her name on his wrist something felt wrong, when she looked up again she was met with his mangled and bloody face.
“Is everything okay?” Kemar’s bashed in head said.
Gbemi woke up screaming, then sobbed quietly in her bed as a distant scream could be heard far off in the distance.
“Death?” Orisa Egungun questioned, raising an eyebrow.
“Correct, I want death and the souls of every male born in the United States. A small feat I’m sure for such a powerful being like you.” Tola said bowing.
“Powerful as I may be, placations are insufficient. Such a request would require a blood and soul sacrifice. I hope you are aware of this.”
“Of course, I did my homework.” Tola affirmed to the powerful spirit. “I brought a soul sacrifice and he’s lying there behind you.”
Orisa Egungun turned around, giving the man a once over, looking unimpressed. “I’m afraid his soul will not suffice. The sacrifice I seek is your own, child.”
“What?” Tola responded, sounding startled at this. “Nowhere in the books did it say I had to sacrifice my own.”
“Is it so unsurprising that books written by man would have...errors? The truth is this spell will cause an imbalance in both this world and the nether. Such a shift would require commensurate payment, the soul of the witch powerful enough to summon me to cast it.”
Tola seemed to ponder at this for a moment before closing her eyes and steeling herself for what was to come.
“Fine. You can have my soul but on one condition.”
“Anything child.” Orisa Egungun who was excited at the prospects of devouring a strong soul responded back.
“Can you answer this question? If you are in fact the mother of spirits, then who is your mother?”
Orisa Egungun was taken aback by such a ridiculous question. “Of course I have a mother, it’s...it’s…” the great spirit’s face creased, unable to understand why she could not think of her own mother. Tola saw her moment to strike, taking advantage of the great spirit’s brief moment of confusion and tugging on the forces of the nether once more.
For months Tola had consulted with many spirits and discovered something fascinating, there was only one way to overwhelm a spirit that was undoubtedly stronger than you. Once it was in your spirit circle if you could manage to cause it to be confused there was a brief window in which you could overwhelm it if you knew what you were doing, and Tola knew what she was doing.
She pulled on the forces, enveloping and pulling on Orisa Egungun within the circle. The great spirit tried resisting the overwhelming force of Tola’s will but it was already too late and in a flash she was pulled into Tola’s body. Tola’s eyes turned from black to a luminous blood red and with the second phase completed she now had all the power she needed to cast the spell herself. It was time.
She began to chant again in Yoruba, floating off the ground as a swirling wind blew around her and the basement. First she used the man in the circle as a conduit to connect to every male born, from baby to old man across the country. Then she pulled out his soul, a difficult task but once it was done as if by command the souls of everyone she connected to were instantly ripped out of their bodies.
Once a soul left the body the pain of existing was too much to bear and it would simply find a way to perish. Tola knew this but continued to focus on the spell and soon every soul flowed into the sky in one singular direction, towards its caster. Tola began to absorb every single soul, a feat that put great strain on her body and took three days to complete. This process would undoubtedly make her the strongest witch in the western hemisphere, if absorbing Orisa Egungun made her power equivalent to the Tsar bomba - the most powerful nuclear bomb ever built then absorbing this many souls would be like becoming the sun itself. No one would be able to stop her now, but as she chanted she jerked her head towards the north, feeling the emergence of another powerful presence, one with power that rivaled even the sun.
Gbemi spent much of the day thinking of her father, moments when he would sing to her as a young child and tuck her in. She thought of how proud he was when she told him she wanted to go to beauty school instead of joining the family business.
“I want for you whatever you want for yourself.” he had said back then, even helping her to seal her own innate abilities so she could live a relatively normal life and teaching her how to unlock them again should she ever need. She could not believe that he was gone and found herself angry that he was taken away from her so brutally and carelessly. Gbemi did something she told herself she would never do, climbing into her attic and lighting the single black candle that had collected years of dust in the middle of the room.
She never liked to channel the forces because of the way she watched them slowly turn her own grandmother into something she could not recognize, obsessed with power. Gbemi focused on her internal being, gently opening up the doors that she had taken great care to keep locked. She didn’t have to do much as each obeyed her call, filling her with the raw power she was born with. Gbemi felt a shift even before opening the last door, a wide spanning absence in the fabric of the nether and everything felt so wrong. Someone or something would have to be incredibly powerful to impose their will over the forces of nature in such a profound way and she would find out who or what it was.
By the time she opened the last door she glowed brightly, covered in a purple and blue cloak as she floated a few feet off the ground. An eye emerged in the middle of her forehead and once it opened her consciousness was spread far and wide across the entire earth. It took some work but she focused her consciousness to just the western hemisphere and then even further to envelop just the United States and some of Canada. Bewildered to see a great flowing stream of souls high in the sky headed east and Gbemi followed them with her consciousness to their destination, gasping when she caught sight of the caster.
“Grandmother?” Gbemi said.
“Gbemisola, well I wasn’t expecting to see you.” Tola responded back, absorbing the last soul.