Chapter 5 Adilah

“Come, I have something to show you.” Jesus led Adilah out of the back door, round a corner and through a small garden. He held a gate open, and they entered a field with grass greener than Adilah had ever seen. There on the grass was a winged creature; Adilah felt a rising sense of panic as it lifted its head and looked at her.

Jesus approached the creature and put a hand on its head.

“Adilah, meet Cynthia. She’s a seraph,” he said with a smile.

Adilah tentatively approached the creature and, mimicking Jesus’ action, stroked Cynthia’s head.

“Hello Adilah.” The seraph spoke with a deep but clear voice.

Taken aback but no longer afraid, Adilah laughed and looked at Jesus. He nodded, acknowledging Adilah’s surprise at hearing a non-human creature speak.

“Are we to leave now?” asked Cynthia.

“Yes, let’s go!” exclaimed Jesus with excitement.

Cynthia lowered herself to the ground and Jesus climbed onto her back, shuffling himself up to the base of her neck.

“Come on up,” he invited Adilah, offering her his hand.

As Adilah climbed up, she noticed a large scar running up from Jesus’ palm to his wrist. She couldn’t stop herself from flinching. Where she came from, it was not unusual for people to have scars. Years of civil war had left many permanent reminders on the skin of her people.

“What happened to you?” she asked matter-of-factly.

Jesus looked at his scars as Adilah shuffled up behind him on Cynthia’s back. He held up both arms, clearly displaying a mirror-image scar on the other arm.

“I was killed by the leaders of the country in which I lived.”

“Killed? Why?” asked Adilah.

“They didn’t like what I said and what I did. They saw me as a threat to the peace.”

“Oh, I see. Did you lead an army?”

“No, I never spoke against the government. My followers were few and we were never violent.”

“So why did they kill you?”

“The religious leaders thought I was disrespectful to God. They said I was a blasphemer and in league with demons.”

“So, you were … rebellious?”

“No, I always said that we should love God and love each other. I followed the laws, but I said that the laws were about love and that all people were equally loved by God. They didn’t like that.”

“How did they kill you?”

“They nailed me to a wooden frame. I hung by my hands. The weight of my body tore my flesh. I bled a lot, and it was hard to breathe as I had to pull on my hands and push up on my nailed feet to get air. Eventually I lost the strength to breathe and I died.”

Adilah had witnessed many horrors but had never heard of such a cruel death. The thought of it moved her deeply.

“I am sorry!” she exclaimed. “I am so sorry they did that to you.”

Jesus turned around and smiled at Adilah with genuine thanks.

“Thank you. But you know, they didn’t understand what they were doing. Very few people in the Previous Age understood the hurt they were causing. I had to die to show everyone that death is not the end. I had to die so I could come back to life.”

“What do you mean?” asked Adilah.

“Well, I was given a special job to do. I had to go through death and all its horror to demonstrate that God overcomes death. Because so many did not believe that Papa would raise them up after death, I was made alive again to show them that he would.”

Adilah was both awestruck and confused by what Jesus was saying.

“I heard that such suffering is a sign that God is not with you,” she said.

“Yes, many have thought that way. We needed to show that God is with victims, not against. Hey, we are going to fly now! Let’s go!” said Jesus in a loud voice, and Cynthia’s wings began to beat, creating ripples in the grass. Gently they began to ascend.

Adilah looked around at the lush landscape that filled her vision. Trees, hills, lakes, distant mountains and all sorts of living creatures made up a patchwork quilt of beauty pulsating with life. It made the West African bushland she had known as a little girl seem like an arid desert in comparison.

Adilah felt safe even though she was high above the ground with a stranger and on the back of a talking winged beast. She was not used to being this close to a man without feeling threatened. Jesus was like no one she had ever previously encountered.

Adilah realised that Cynthia was descending and soon they were on the soft grass of a spacious woodland clearing.

Two people approached.

“Adilah, let me introduce you to my friends, Anne and Harmony.”

“Hello Adilah. Welcome to the region of Beulah,” said Anne.  

Adilah smiled shyly. Meeting so many new people in one day was exciting but there had been a lot to take in. Anne had welcoming eyes, like Jesus – and Adilah felt immediately that she could be herself around her.

“Anne and Harmony will show you to your new community,” said Jesus. “I must go now, but we will meet again.”

Adilah was sad to see Jesus go and felt apprehensive about meeting more new people.

Harmony could see she was feeling uneasy. Motioning to Anne, Harmony sat down on the grass.

“We can just sit here for a while,” she suggested in an accent Adilah recognised as American. “Let’s just talk for a bit, if you want.”

Adilah sat on the grass, legs crossed. Her hand found its way to her forehead again. Adilah was still getting used to not having scars. She smiled shyly at Harmony and Harmony smiled back, her curly blonde hair falling over her shoulders. Adilah liked Harmony immediately. She’d never met a white person before and had always been told to fear them, but this one felt safe – with the same peace about her as Anne and Jesus. Adilah was not afraid of silence, so the three women sat watching the birds feeding on the fruit high up in the trees around them.


Squatting in the darkest corner of the hut, Adilah strained to hear what the men were saying the other side of the wall. They spoke in a different dialect, but she had been around them for years now and could follow most of what they said. It was nearly midnight and the men’s voices could just be heard over the cicadas. Embers were now dying in the fireplace, and Adilah wished for more wood so she and her sister could keep warm. She looked at her sleeping sister. The West African nights could be so cold and Adilah had given them the only available blanket. She shuffled on her haunches closer to the fire, but then felt Friend draw her attention to a large log under a table near the doorway to the hut. Without hesitating, Adilah retrieved it. She had become used to Friend’s gentle guidance in her most desperate situations. Thanking Friend, she placed the log in the fireplace and blew gently, hoping it would catch the dying embers.

“Help me, please,” she whispered and blew again. Her breath was enough to make the sparks leap into flame and catch the rough outer bark. Before long the log was burning and Adilah was warmed by its heat.

Stirring, her sister peeked over the blanket and smiled at Adilah. Adilah smiled back, grateful not to be alone. She and her sister had been the property of the militia since the day armed men had burnt their home village, killing their parents in another devastating episode of a long tribal war. Forced into slavery, every day they cooked food, cleaned weapons and sometimes had to give their bodies to the higher-ranking men. Adilah was the oldest and she had become the mother figure. Her younger sister was called ‘Mama’ by the men as she had lost two babies to miscarriages. Her real name was Eshe and she was the one they usually chose for forced sex.

Eshe had gone back to sleep in the glow of the fire. She looked so peaceful there in the orange light, but the moment of quiet calm was shattered when one of the militia men approached. Reaching down, he grabbed Eshe by the hair and pulled her up. Her eyes were full of terror at being so violently awoken, and before Adilah had a chance to think, she had flung her arms around Eshe to try to protect her and prevent her from being raped. The man pushed Adilah to the ground.

“You should know better! You should know!” he raged, kicking Adilah in the ribs. “How dare you!”

The man grasped Adilah’s shirt and lifted her, dropping her on to the open fire, his boot on the back of her skull. Adilah screamed as the searing pain coursed through her body. Eshe cried out in horror as Adilah’s hair caught fire.

Adilah didn’t know how long she was in the flames. When the man eventually released his foot, she pushed herself away from the fire, clawing at her face and head. She fell back onto the floor of the hut and passed out.


Adilah couldn’t find words to explain the peace and joy that settled upon her. She sat in silence – a golden silence that seemed to work its way through her skin and into her bones. Her new friends sat with her, no one needing to force conversation. Eventually Adilah noticed that the colours of the sky were changing. She wanted to ask where they would sleep but felt it would be rude to ask. Harmony pre-empted the question.

“You must be wondering where you’ll be staying, honey?” she said gently.

Adilah nodded.

“Come with me and I will show you.”

“You go with Harmony,” said Anne. “I have to leave but I’ll see you soon, ok?”

Adilah waved a hand and followed Harmony along a path that led down a slight incline into a woodland. After a few minutes they emerged into a large clearing with eight round log cabins equally spaced around its circumference.

“This is a safe place. It’s only for women,” said Harmony.

Adilah nodded, feeling relieved that there would be no men here.

“This is where I stay,” continued Harmony, touching the outside wall of the cabin to her left.

“And this one is just for you.” Harmony touched the cabin immediately to her right.

Adilah was relieved that her new friend would be so close. She followed as Harmony came round to the front door of the cabin.

“This place has been prepared for you. It is yours alone.”

Adilah was overcome with the realisation that everything was so different now. For the first time, she had her own living space.

“You have clothing in the bedroom, food and drink in the kitchen. Anything else you need, ask me and we will see what can be done.”

Adilah swayed her body in a dance of pure delight. She reached out, took Harmony’s right hand in both of hers and raised it to her forehead as she bowed.

“Oh sweetie, please don’t thank me. All of this is a gift. Now you must come and meet your other neighbour.”

Harmony knocked on the door of a cabin to the right of Adilah’s. She turned to Adilah and formed an ‘o’ shape with her mouth. Adilah looked back at her, puzzled.

As the door to the cabin opened, Adilah gasped and cried out with surprise.

Eshe came flying out of the door and into Adilah’s arms. The two sisters began to leap about, laughing and crying.

“You both enjoy some time together! I’m going to cook some food for us all.” Harmony called out as she headed into her cabin.

Their shared meal bubbled over with the joy of reunion, but soon it was time for Harmony to take her leave. Emerging from the woods she found Anne standing with a small herd of deer, stroking one on its nose.

“Meeting time!” she called out to her.