The room was unnaturally still.
Of course, any room uninhabited would be that still except for the constant back and forth of rodents and wall crawlers, but this was different – hence the use of the qualifier ‘unnaturally’.
First of all it was dark; which is what made all the explanation necessary. But if it was illuminated and you could see inside for yourself, you would be as confused as I was at first.
The second first thing about it was the fact that it was not abandoned. No; neither was it one of those rooms that littered the town, those rooms that had their windows and doors left wide open most of the day, with a little handwritten sign propped by the door – a sign which more than likely read ‘Vacancy’. It was not.
Now, as to why I said if it was illuminated and you could see inside for yourself you would be confused, it was simply because the room was fully furnished. Yes; I mean fully – complete with tables, chairs, wardrobe, TV, DVD player, sound system – the works. To add to the ‘lived in’ feel sef, there were dirty plates in the kitchen sink; there were dirty clothes in one corner of the room. On the table were several magazines, a couple of cds and a gun.
And to complete the picture, a still figure was seated at the table staring at the gun.
The figure was so still, you would probably remember that folk tale told when you were young; that one about the ‘Tortoise and the sigidi’.
You remember, don’t you? The story about how the tortoise was a constant thief at a neighboring farm and how the farmer, tired after a while arranged for a ‘sigidi’ that looked like a human being be placed in a strategic location in the farm. And the tortoise, not knowing the sigidi was not human; nor that it was covered in gum challenged it. And then, receiving no response punched the sigidi only to be stuck. He did the same with his second hand and both feet – till he was quite stuck.
You remember now. Good – that’s how still this figure was. So still, you would be about to start betting that it was a sigidi – and then you notice the perspiration running down the figure’s bearded face in rivulets; rivulets that ran into the black t-shirt staining it into an even darker black. And then you notice the eyes as they dart left, right and then back to the gun; lips as they mutter a silent prayer. You notice the nicotine-stained fingers of the left hand (still assuming the room is illuminated) as they drum a soundless pattern on the jean-clad thigh of said figure.
Having watched enough Hollywood movies, you draw a parallel. This character brings to mind several others in several action movies – the drug dealer who runs away with his boss’s money and then is hunted down. The girl who knows too much about a hidden clan of ninja assassins and is being hunted down to be silenced. The man who worked his way into a high up position in the mafia – and then reveals himself as a FBI agent.
This character reminds you of all these other characters because they all share one major thing in common.
Your mouth opens to laugh at the analogy – and then you freeze as, at the same time the character you’re watching opens his mouth to laugh too. His face assumes a confused look, and the sudden loud pounding in his chest is echoed by the pounding in yours. You lift your left hand and stare in sudden shock at nicotine-stained fingers…and everything comes crashing in.
The character is you.
You/he accepts this reality as he has accepted everything that has occurred in the last 48hours – even though none of it makes any kind of sense. He had gone on a mission with the capo…something really simple; teaching a girl how unwise it was to turn down advances from the ‘number one’ of the most feared cult on the campus – The Black Cats.
Somehow, they had gotten carried away and the whole thing had turned bad.
The capo had lost his cool and brutally raped the girl, and then commanded the soldiers to do same. As consigliore; or second in command, he had been next, and because he did not relish eating the boss’ vomit he had simply raped her in the butt. Honestly, he had liked it at first…but then he remember his kid sister; and all the alcohol and weed he had consumed earlier had come surging up and he had thrown up all over the poor girl.
Feeling ashamed, he had ordered the other guys to hasten, execute and then bury her properly. The boss waited calmly till they were all done before handing the newest member of the cult his handgun, with an order to kill her. They had all watched him put two bullets in her head, scattering brain matter in all directions. The boss had left then and he followed suit; going home to take a hot shower and then sleep like a corpse, a sleep completely devoid of dreams.
He had woken up the following afternoon to the loud shrieking of his iPhone 4 – and the nightmare had begun. It was the capo calling to tell him two of the boys they had left with the girl the previous day had not shown up – they had simply disappeared. He had calmed the boss down and promised to track them down, and then hung up to take a shower. He was in the bath when his phone started shrieking again.
Hurriedly, he had jumped out of the bathroom without a stitch of clothing on and picked the call. It was the boss again, but there was something in his voice – something cold and frightening.
It was simple; the boys had been found and the boss wanted him immediately.
Packing his arsenal (which were just a .45 Desert Eagle and two throwing knives actually); he left for the capo’s place without finishing his bath. As he left the house he ran into his neighbor’s daughter Nma; an eight year old girl he called his area sweetheart. He usually stopped to play with her but this time he just kissed her sweaty forehead as she giggled up at him and hurried away.
If looks could kill…
He arrived the boss’ house to meet him and two other guys seated at a table laden with guns and weed. The fumes in the house were enough to choke a horse on, and the sweaty, nervous faces did nothing to lighten the mood. As he seated himself, the capo had told him in terse sentences that the two guys left behind to bury the girl had turned up dead.
But it was not that they were just dead; the capo continued, and proceeded to share the gruesome details with him – details that had him gagging. If not for the fact that he had not had anything to eat since that day began he would have thrown up.
It seemed as though the guys had been stabbed over and over; wounds deep enough to bleed like water faucets but shallow enough to keep them alive. Then their privates had been cut off and shoved deeply in their mouths. They had asphyxiated on their own balls.
The boss was wondering if it was some rival cult suddenly trying to wrest power from the Cats – power they had surrendered when they had experienced the brutality of the capo. He did not think so.
Suddenly, he had made a joke about the movie I Spit On Your Grave; in which a woman who had been raped had exacted bloody revenge on all her attackers. He thought that was hilarious, and was actually laughing when the capo had struck him on the left cheek. He registered the shock on the faces of the other guys before he looked at his boss and saw something that made him forget his indignation.
On his boss’ face was a look of rage – sick, trembling rage. But beneath that, deep in his boss’ eyes…he could see fear. His unwitting mention of that movie had reminded them of the girl’s last words before a bullet had put an end to her life –
You are all dead; she had said, the venom in her voice chilling the blood of even the coldest of them; you’ll wish you had never been born.
The capo had gathered himself together with a visible shudder. She’s dead; he had said. This is Nigeria – real life; not some 1979 movie. They had been ordered to lay low for a while and await further word from him.
That was yesterday.
Nine hours ago, he had received a couple more calls from the capo; calls that informed him that he and the capo were the only surviving members of the Black Cats as far as that campus was concerned…the other two had been killed in way more gruesome fashion. One had been fed with wet cement and the other one had had a live wire passed into his butt.
Both their privates were missing…
He is jerked from his reverie by a frantic knocking at his door. He grabs the Desert Eagle off the table and stands up, trying to control his shaking limbs. He darts to the window behind him, gently raises a corner of the curtain and looks out, taking the gun’s safety off. The compound behind his apartment is still; as illuminated in the 11 o’clock moonlight. The knocking continues and then he asks, trying to control the quaver in his voice; “Who – who is it?”
A little girl’s voice answers, “It’s me uncle. Nma.”
He nearly gasps in relief – and then it occurs to him. What is she doing at his door at this hour? Could she be…a hostage?
He carefully creeps to the front of the house and raises a corner of the twin of the curtain he raised earlier. The yard out in front is as abandoned as the one behind – there isn’t a car in sight. He allows his gaze wander over to the front of his door – and nearly gives a cry of horror. It is the little girl Nma indeed, but her dress is torn and covered in blood. As though she can feel his eyes on her, she begins crying, loud sobs that shake her tiny frame. He quickly puts the gun in his waistband after putting the safety back on and opens the door, looking over the little girl’s head into the yard as he beckons to her. She comes walking slowly, and as she moves past him into the house he quickly locks the door again.
“What happened, Nma?” he asks her as he slides the door’s upper and lower bolts back in place. “Who did this to you?”
A voice completely unlike the one that spoke moments earlier; an all too familiar voice – the voice of an adult answers him.
“You did. You and your friends. But don’t worry; I’m here to fix it.”
He turns around and finds that ‘Nma’ has disappeared, and standing in her place is the girl they had brutalized and killed two days before, smiling at him like some long lost relative. She is wearing the exact same torn and bloodied gown ‘Nma’ was wearing, blood all over her face, arms torso and running down her exquisite thighs in sluggish rivulets.
He/you begin to scream.