“Hmm. That’s deep.”
Deep. That’s all Thomas could say after I had spent the last two hours telling him about my life and the dramatic events that went with it.
I told him of the rapes.
I told him of the fights and flights in my life
For some reason, I even spoke about my mother. A sacred subject by all standards.
I told him all that and more, and all he could say was that’s deep.
“You seem dissatisfied, Clara.”
I looked up at him. Thomas was a strange man. I had felt strangely drawn to him while we waited for our flight, which was eventually delayed by three hours. He had gently called out to me while I was blowing a fuse and for some reason, I felt obliged to listen. He was calm, soft spoken, never got up once, and kept drilling me with those intense eyes of his.
I wasn’t attracted to him.
I was attracted to him.
A conundrum of sorts because the attraction was nothing physical, and then again it was. But still, it wasn’t. You get my drift, right?
I snapped out of my thoughts and focused my eyes on his.
“Not exactly. I just expected something different from what everyone else would have said.”
“And you say this because?”, he smiled as he asked.
“Because you’re weird. Different. Different in a weird way.”
He just smiled again. “So what would you have me say?”
If I was any fairer, I’d have been red surely. “You know what, never mind. It felt good to talk anyway, so I’m fine with that.”
With that I looked away from him, searching for something else to help burn the hour I had left to wait. I looked back at him and there he was, still smiling. That was it.
I got up, took my handbag and walked away without a backward glance. The man must have some sort of spell about him… he was strangely compelling and I knew I had to get out of there. Fast.
So I walked to a snack bar, purchased a bag of chips and soda and found a seat. I had honestly thought Thomas would walk after me and apologize and tell me something else. What a jerk: a jerk who knew half of my life.
I sighed to myself as I dug into the bag and crammed my mouth with spicy potato chips. I didn’t know how hungry I had gotten after all that talk. Come to think about it, I had done all the talking. Thomas had just sat there nodding, ‘oohing’ and ‘ahhing’ like a shrink.
I took a gulp of my drink and glanced at the clock on the wall. Forty minutes to go. This would be a long wait.
A few seconds later, a group of men walked into the bar, quickly filling up the place. As soon as I had a good look at them, I knew what next to expect. I sighed.
“Well hello there. Want me to buy you a drink?”
I didn’t look up but waved my half empty can to show that I was good.
“Some food then?”
I raised my almost-finished bag of chips nonchalantly.
“Some more food then?”
“DO I LOOK HUNGRY TO YOU?”
The man was caught off guard as he clearly hadn’t expected me to shout like that.
I packed my stuff and stormed out of there, as his friends bust out laughing at him. Not me. Him.
This was the fourth time he had tried to hit on me in the few hours I had been in this airport.
I walked back to the waiting area and realized to my disdain that it was filled with people. More flights had been delayed and all the seats were taken.
My old seat, right beside Thomas.
I moved my eyes from the empty seat to him and caught him watching me. He smiled sheepishly and patted the seat.
He had me. There was no way I was going to stand, not in these heels and not in this short-ish dress I had one.
I summoned what was left of my dignity and walked over, and quietly I sat.
“No thank you?”
I rolled my eyes. “Thanks.”
“Clara”. He called ever so gently.
His spell began its work again because I felt the overwhelming urge to look at him. An urge I gave into.
“Your problem is that you are too full of yourself.”
I dropped the can in shock
“Excuse me? How dare…”
“Listen, before you freak out. Clara you are beautiful, gracious and such a wonderful person. You can be a lot more. You have been through a lot yes, but that does not make you a victim. You believe the whole world owes you because of your experiences, and you use your beauty to manipulate your way into getting anything you want. With that, you intimidate everyone you feel is beneath you and not worth your time. Just who do you think you are?
“Who do YOU think you are?” I was almost livid and tried not to raise my voice so as not to cause a scene.
“I’m the guy you just met and told your life story”
“Half! And I’m glad I didn’t say more.”
He smiled again
“Please wipe that smirk of your face.”
He still smiled.
“Clara, I have met your type and I meet them every day. The good news is that you’re not so different from everyone else” he gestured towards the open lounge. “At least most of them. I sit, watch and observe. And I see how selfish everyone has become. The man too selfish to help the old lady pick up her purse. His wife, who selfishly refused to help with the kids on this trip, thereby distracting him from helping the lady. The young man at the counter who purposely kept her waiting longer than usual for the tickets, while he scrolled through his chat. His friend whose promise of a much-needed loan, but has refused to pay up, and kept him waiting anxiously. It’s just endless.”
I had nothing to say, so I just looked on.
“It’s what we are becoming… have become. Pretty messed up.”
I still had nothing to say.
“Clara you can be a lot more. Don’t be the victim of your past, be the Victor. Be the person to begin the roll of a good chain of events and not the other way around. You have the freedom to do as you please, but always remember that you have the responsibility to do good in this world. You and everyone else.”
He stopped talking then. I felt like I had been schooled.
It wasn’t about the words he said, but the way he said them.
I still didn’t have anything to say and remained deep in thought. He had me spot on.
I lost track of the minutes and was surprised when the flight was announced.
I cleared my throat and packed my things, standing up. Thomas didn’t attempt to move but just watched on as everyone got up and moved away.
“Aren’t you coming?”
He smiled again. “Nah. Not till much later. I can’t go anywhere right now. Not yet anyway”
“Cos I’m paralyzed from waist down Clara.”
I froze. My mind froze. My heart froze.
“Accident a few months ago while working for this airport. Fortunately, I’ve been kept on the payroll and left to do whatever I want. My colleagues will come and get me at the close of work.”
It just dawned on me that I was so busy talking about me that I failed to ask him a single question about him. Oh, the shame!
“And this is what you want to do?”
I smiled, a deep contrast from how I felt and I walked over to him to shake his hands.
I turned quickly to hide my tears and walked away.
I knew behind me, Thomas was smiling.
And he was.
Missed the earlier parts? Click the links below:
As the shadows approached him, Nedu covered his face with his hands. If he was going to get out of this, he needed his face intact.
Oh, God, how did I get here??
Then the blows landed. He had received four heavy blows to different parts of his body when a thought struck him.
“MONEY! MONEY! I HAVE MONEY!”
He backed himself towards where he felt the gate should be and continued yelling as loud as he could.
“I HAVE MONEY. ABEG ABEG, I HAVE MONEY.”
“Ehnn, oya oya make una wait.” A deep voice called out.
One last slap hit him as everyone backed off. The lights came on and he saw a short heavily bearded and muscled man standing by the switch. Truth be told, if he saw this man roaming the streets outside, he would lose all sense of safety. There was no doubt in his mind that this was the King of this Palace.
“Oya come here.”
He straightened up and winced from a pain on his side. He then looked around the cell for a better view. These guys were hard core; some were probably killers.
“Are you deaf? I said come here fast fast.”
Nedu almost jumped and briskly walked towards King.
“How much you hold for there?”
Nedu reached for his pocket for the cash the policewoman had slid back in his hands earlier and handed everything over to King.
King frowned as he started counting the notes.
Oh, God, let it be enough. I can’t come and die in this place tonight.
Suddenly King smiled, showing three missing teeth.
“Ehen, wetin be your name?”
“Nedu? From where?”
“Ahn ahn, you be my brother sef. You for talk that one since nah!”
“Oya una come take una share. Leave this boy o, na my person.”
A few minutes later, he was seated in a corner with King and some other guys. They had shared the spoils and the room had settled. It was then they asked him what he was doing there.
He told his story through their laughter and side comments, feeling strangely at peace.
“Jay Jay Cee… why did you choose the palace? Don’t you know this is where they keep baddos?” A black skinned guy with a large forehead asked.
“Bros, how could I have known? I thought I was coming here to lounge.”
They all bust out laughing and soon they were all trading stories. Of all he heard, three of them were in for armed robbery, out of which one claimed he was wrongfully accused. Two of them were there for public fighting, and another for running a scam. One guy quietly said he shot someone dead. Nedu made a mental note to avoid him throughout his stay there.
King had stabbed someone…for cheating him.
What was he cheated of? Proceeds from a successful robbery.
It felt strange to Nedu, how seemingly normal they all were. Yes, they were criminals, but still just normal (well almost normal) people.
They gisted through the night…he lost track of time.
“Don’t worry, them go come release you for morning. You no suppose dey hia, na just because the officers don high finish. You go just settle them small thing commot” King reassured.
Then an idea struck Nedu
“Bros, abeg I need your help.”
King eyed him wryly. “E go cost you o.”
A few minutes later, he was speaking in a quiet tone to the policewoman who had processed him earlier. After which he went back to sit down.
CLANG! CLANG!! CLANG!!!
The sound of the loud metal door stirred everyone to their feet. Nedu couldn’t hide the smile on his face when his fellow hengineers were pushed in and the door slammed shut behind them.
He kept smiling as he watched their confused expression
He kept smiling, and waited as he saw them try to toughen up as they took in the room
He kept smiling, and waited till they seemed to get their confidence and move towards a corner of the large cell.
And then just when he felt they felt somewhat safe, he reached for the switch and called out.
“OYA. LIGHTS OUT”
Missed Part 1… just click HERE
Nedu could hardly believe the predicament he currently found himself in.
He had worked late and decided to leave his laptop and some other gadgets at the office, since there was zero chance of him doing any work at home. He hadn’t thought anything would go amiss when he drove off and started his twenty-or-so minutes journey home.
Eleven minutes and two flat tires later, he locked dup the car, said a silent prayer for its safety and made his way on foot, hoping to catch a ride, bus, keke, bike…just anyway to get home. Instead he had run into his fellow engineers and now, here he was on the ground with his life at the mercy of four drunk policemen
“INNER LIGHT ALLOFYHU”
“Sah, we don’t have inner light sah,” Mr. water engineer said
Why did he have to shout?
The short policeman walked closer to his colleague and whispered something in his ears
Mr. ShortCop then came forward and asked them to slowly stand up and make their way to the police van.
This isn’t happening
He got to his feet. “Officer see, there’s been a big mistake here.”
ShortCop walked up to him and looked up at his face. “You said?”
“Sir, I said there’s been a big mistake sir. I’m not a thief. These men were trying to steal from me.
“It’s like you want another slap abi?” He raised his gun to Nedu’s face. “You know I can shoot you now and nothing will happen. You know right?”
Nedu swallowed hard and shut his mouth. Cement engineer sniggered as he walked past. He promptly made his way to the vehicle without much ado, his head scrambling for a way out of this mess.
He noticed that the touts were being loaded to the back of the truck.
“You, enter the back seat”
He turned. “Enter? I should seat at the back you mean?”
With one look at ShortCop’s face, he scurried into the vehicle and shut the door behind him. He noticed a policeman sitting quietly at the wheel. With one glance at him, Nedu realized that he was sober and probably the youngest in rank, given the single stripe on his sleeve
“Bros I hail o, well done.”
He turned his head to look back at him for some seconds, probably sizing him up
“Good evening.” After a beat. “What are you doing at this time with these guys? You don’t look like a tout.”
Hope flooded Nedu’s heart. He leaned forward eagerly.
“That’s what I’ve been trying to tell Mr. Loud…errr, the other policeman there. He refused to listen to me. Those guys were trying to rob me when you caught us.”
The policeman nodded slowly and then said the words everyone dreads the most from the police
“Don’t worry, you can explain at the station.”
The ray of hope that had managed to come on in his heart went off instantly.
He rested back in the seat and almost hissed. The night was turning out to be worse than expected
“Any chance of me leaving that station tonight?”
“Nope. My ogas are even too drunk to answer you tonight. It’s till tomorrow they’ll talk to you. They’re coming.” He straightened up as two of the policemen entered the vehicle, on either side of him.
“OYA, TO THE STATION!”
Nedu sighed again. He would probably go deaf before the journey ended.
ShortCop just stared at him for a few seconds and then turned to look outside.
The journey to the police station lasted about ten minutes and was relatively quiet save for the periodic static sounds from the police radio. Nedu racked his brain thinking of who he could call to get him out of this predicament. He had only moved to Lagos two months ago and had very few friends, none, an important figure in the society unfortunately.
Once they got to the station, they were lined up like sheep to the slaughter and headed inside. He kept his eyes to the ground and tried to avoid eye contact.
The station was a bit quiet. Two men and one lady sat behind a long counter where they processed the men in.
Processing was stripping them of their shirts, belts, shoes, mobile phones, wristwatches, wallets and any cash and then whispering something to each person. After which each person was put into the cell right behind the counter or taken through a door to some unknown destination
When it was his turn, the blank faced policewoman asked him to strip and drop all his valuables. He did so, also handing her a small wad of cash he had in his pocket. Her eyes opened in mild surprise. While she started to put away his things, he glanced behind her into the cell and saw no less than twenty faces staring back at him, his fellow engineers inclusive.
“Reception or palace?”
What was that?
“I said reception or palace?”. He turned to face the policewoman asking him. So, this was what the whisper was about
“Please where is the reception?”
She pointed behind her
“Please send me to the palace”
She looked at him. “Are you sure?”
Anywhere but where these guys were. “Yes ma”
She kept her eyes on him and with amazing stealth, slid some of his own cash into his hands.
He was quickly taken away by another policeman, away from the reception and the cell behind it. It was a lot darker inside and he struggled to keep up. They eventually got to a large metal door that had only a slit for an eyehole on it.
This is the palace?
The door opened and he was shoved inside. Before the door slammed shut behind him, with the help of the faint light from a bare bulb hanging at the center of the room, he took in his surrounding and his new ‘roommates’
He knew he had made a terrible mistake.
He jumped at the sound of the door behind him.
He just stood there watching them… everyone else, the angriest scariest looking bunch he had seen in a long long time, watched him back. Some, with smiles. Wicked smiles
From somewhere in the room, a deep gruff voice called out.
“Oya. Lights out!”
The lights suddenly went out. He knew, there and there, that he was in trouble.
As he staggered backwards at the force of the slap to the side of his head, he could make out shapes making their way towards him. He doubted they were approaching to give a cheerful welcome.
The scenery passed by in the stifling darkness as Nedu ran. At first he ran with a steady fast pace, left, right, left, right, left… but that lasted only half a minute. Now it was more like left, right left, left, right, almost trip, reft! He was terribly unfit and would have collapsed a few seconds ago the only thing that fueled him was his sheer will, which in turn was fueled by the breathing and threats coming from the group of five chasing him.
What was he thinking of even? He should have just handed over his phone like they requested and counted his losses. But instead, he thought it was the best time to practice some self-defense skills he had learnt at karate training four years ago. He had stretched out his hand as though handing the phone over, and when the leader of the gang came close and reached out to take it, he quickly pulled him with his free hand, and smashed his knee straight into his upper arm. As it became limp, in a split second he sent his fist to the guy’s waist, stomach and then face in quick succession.
Master Kanen would have been proud. His half Indian-half Chinese teacher of those years probably was a fraud, but no one could deny his talent in copying fighting moves off movies.
Once he had temporarily incapacitated the leader and high on the euphoria thereof, he turned to the two other cohorts, who were momentarily rooted to a spot in shock. As he was about to launch into an all-out attack, he felt a sharp blow to his head. He had completely failed to notice the three other guys who appeared behind him.
So he FLED.
From the corner of his eyes, he saw that the leader was still in pain on the floor. Could he take on five of them? He heard Master Kanen’s voice quite clearly then…
“If one, you fight. If two or three, you defend and run. If four or five, get the hell out of there as fast as you can…you are not Bruce Lee”
However, master Kanen failed to teach him what to do when your chasers refused to back down from a chase.
“Yeey.” he tripped completely over a sack of something on the road and fell flat on the ground.
He glanced back and saw two of them close in on him. He instinctively grabbed the bag (the stench from it led him to believe that it was a waste bag) and flung it at them, momentarily disrupting them. He jumped up and continued his run, but he knew he would not last much longer. Unfortunately for him, his pursuers were either seasoned athletes or were hell bent on killing him
“I go kill you I swear!”
That clarified things a bit.
Just as he felt he was about to pass out, suddenly lights from a packed van up ahead came on and blinded him.
As he put his hands up to shield his face from the glare, he felt hands on his back. I am truly going to die today
“HEEEEY. HOLLLIT THERE ALL OF YOU! HEEEEEY!!!!”
Next thing he knew, four policemen stood before them rifles stretched out, torchlights in place…standard Police issue (pun intended).
Thank you Jesus! I am saved
“Officer, these men…”
“WILL YOU SHUT UP THERE!”
“But officer, I…”
“I SAID SHUT UP!!!” The shortest of them pointed his gun recklessly at him.
He went mute.
The touts mumbled quietly among themselves behind him and before he could catch what they said, the policemen walked closer towards them. He could smell the alcohol now.
“OYA HEXPLAIN WHAT YA HALL DOING HERE AT THIS TIME. YOU’RE THEIVES ABI? WHERE ARE YOU RUNNING FROM? WETIN UNA STEAL?”
“Officer, I’m not a thief. I’m an engineer” he blurted out quickly.
“Ehen… engineer. ALL OF YOU AT THE BACK NKO?”
Why did he have to shout though? Anyway, they’ll catch these touts now
He and Officer LoudMouth asked at the same time
“We’re halso hengineers sir. All hof hus”
“What are you saying? You people chased me here.” Turning back to LoudMouth. “Officer I’m an engineer with Joleseen Construction. These men are touts.”
“Sir we’re hengineers too at Joleseen sah. Hi andle cement, this wan (pointing to one of his comrades) na sand he dey hengineer. This wan na water hengineer, this other guy here na stone he dey andle.”
Officer LoudMouth blinked a few times, trying to digest this information while fighting the urge to throw up
“THE LAST MAN NKO?”
“That wan… na hengineer too sah. All hof hus na hengineer sah.”
The other touts nodded their heads rigorously. Mr. Sand Hengineer actually bent down, gathered some sand in his hand and made a show of studying it.
Oh my God!
“OYA ALLOFYHU…LIE DOWN. NOWWW!”
He snapped back to the present.
“Officer thank you jare, don’t mind these men…”
“YOU DEY MAD? WE GO SHOOT YOU O! LIE DOWN!!!”
He really didn’t see the slap coming, but as he felt it, he dropped to the ground in an instant.
“OYA…ALL OF YOU, ON YA INNER LIGHT!!!”
Inner what? Oh God. I’m screwed!
Demarkwrites is BACK
And he has his mean face on… totally ‘Schwarzeneggering’ it!
I just had to put it out there. No long story…first post shall be out in a few hours
“Mummy, mummy… see, the buildings are getting bigger.”
If the passengers hadn’t panicked before now, after hearing the innocent naïve-of-what’s-really-happening voice of that little girl, everyone freaked out.
Yinka dared to look out the window to realize that the little girl was spot on. OH MY GOD!
Beside him, Cassandra still, held his hand, eyes tightly shut, a streak of tears coming down her face.
Is this how I’m going to die? Just like this? GOD have mercy.
His life virtually flashed before his eyes.
He should have called when he had the chance. Now his cheating fiancée would never know that he knew that she was a worthless cow. He could imagine the tears at the funeral and all that.
Am I really going to die?
I’ve not been perfect, but I’ve been faithful in my own little way. Forgive me my shortcomings LORD, if I do have to meet you today, then I will do it with a bang.
He freed his hand from Cassandra’s grip and struggled to reach beneath his seat. He pulled out his laptop bag, yanked his laptop out and powered up.
Cassandra looked at him like he’d lost his mind, but he didn’t care.
This would be the last article by Yinka Bado.
CASSANDRA was at a loss at why Yinka suddenly felt that writing an article was so important in probably his last moments on earth.
He looks at peace, my goodness!
She turned from him and tried to ignore the smashing of her heart within her chest. #fail
She tried to see the possibility of them surviving… I mean there’ve been plane survivors in the past. She tried to see … #fail
GOD, is this how I’m going to die?
She thought of everything that had led to this and the tears resumed their voyage down her eyes.
At least I’m glad I could bring some element of comfort to another human being in my final hours. That gives me some joy. But still…
I don’t want to die.
“Can I have your attention please?”
The voice of the captain over the sound system brought the mayhem to a temporary and quick halt. Everyone was expecting some good news…ANY good news.
“We have a serious problem with our engines and we are trying to manage the situation the best way possible.” Pause. “This isn’t professional but I have to be real with you. If you can pray, pray. GOD help us all.”
It seemed like someone pressed the resume button, because the mayhem continued in full swing.
Bolanle stared at Alhaji, who seemed at a shock.
“Sah, before we die, pls no vex for wetin I do today. You vex me but still ehn…”
Alhaji was speechless. A side of his head was slightly swollen from when he had banged it earlier.
He looked like he had aged ten years in the past few minutes.
“You don’t have to apologize my dear. It’s…” He blanked out, both in thoughts and words.
Bolanle turned to look out the window.
My first time to enter this thing and see wetin happen. Shey later now dem go dey talk say I be bush. Choi, later no go come dey cos e be like say na kpai get us for here today.
E no fair. BABA, e no fair at all.
Then, the plane gradually steadied and began to gain altitude. Everyone seemed to hold their breath, not entirely sure that it was for real.
But sure enough, the buildings began to grow smaller and smaller again. The plane rose up and maintained a stable altitude.
The sigh of relief was deafening. People were crying, singing, some had their hands lifted up.
Cassandra hugged Yinka in relief, Alhaji buried his head in his hands while Bolanle held him, crying and laughing at the same time… it was all fanfare in the plane.
Yinka smiled and kept on typing. He would send it so whenever the plane was within network range, his story would go out.
All of a sudden, the sound of the engine died.
A few people noticed and instinctively looked around. Other were still busy rejoicing.
What everyone did notice however, was that the plane had started dropping again.
In a nosedive.
The screams resumed.
“Oh GOD” Cassandra screamed.
Yinka pressed ‘send’, threw the laptop aside, leaned over and held her.
4 Months & 23 Days Later
People walked into the hall, chattering in low tones, all dressed in dark colours.
Clear in sight was a sculpture of a plane in its prime. Quite beautiful to look at actually.
People spoke in hushed tones while the event went on. There were a couple of teary eyes. A lot of people held hands.
Finally YINKA rolled up to the podium in his wheelchair and was given a mic. The hall quieted.
He gave his version of the event. As a writer, reporter and speaker, he knew how to move his audience.
And he did. He spoke of that day for a few minutes.
“… I shall be out of this wheelchair in a few months, and I count myself blessed to be graced with life. I dedicate this book to the few we lost. To the brave pilot whose brilliance and braveness saved most of us. And to GOD, to who we owe all our thanks. Thank you.”
A few people clapped, most were sober. He rolled himself off the stage, thinking a thought that had plagued him since that day.
Alhaji and Bolanle, amongst others walked up to him and asked him to sign a copy of the book.
He looked at the title a on the cover page. ENROUTE. What a journey it had been.
When he returned the books, they walked away without a word. He watched them share a few words before walking their separate ways. Soon he was surrounded by other people who wanted their copies signed.
Somewhere quite far away, she watched the event from her hospital bed and smiled.
Well done dude. You have really spoken for us all.
I’ll see you soon.