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.
I love my wife. Don’t ever get that confused.
Now that’s out of the way – there are a couple of other things you need to know. They say marriage is like night market – you never actually know what you bought – till it’s the morning after. Or better still; they also say marriage is like a race in which you close one eye before you get in – and close both once you’re in.
I agree. To have a peaceful home, you have to master the art of looking the other way.
But there are some things you cannot just look away for. No sir.
Like this one instance.
Due to the nature of our jobs we leave the house as early five – latest six am. She drives off, I drive after. She works on the island, I work on the mainland. No kids yet – maybe not ever; so it’s pretty much work and us. Sometimes we cook dinner together; sometimes we eat out. It’s been a little over a year; and we’ve pretty much settled in. We still love each other very much – so we’re happy.
One morning however; everything changed.
I was wearing my shirt and waiting for her to come knot my tie as she does when suddenly; “Hey darling! take off your shirt – you’re not going to work yet.”
“I’m not? It’s Thursday o,” I said.
“When then? Take off that shirt and come here jo!”
It didn’t occur to me that she wanted sex; she would have asked me to take off more than my shirt. But I was curious so I did as she asked and walked to where her voice was coming from. When I arrived the living room, there was a spread of breakfast – the likes I haven’t seen in a while. It was eba and efo riro – steaming efo with ponmo, shaki and panla pieces that seemed to be winking at me.
I forgot all my protestations. I forgot about the traffic – forgot everything except the rumbling in my stomach. Kissing her quickly and briefly I washed my hands in the bowl she held out and dug in. Ol’ boy, my tummy worms did a perfect rendition of Handel’s Messiah, segued into Tu Face’s E Be Like Say and finished with Fela’s Basketmouth. I was exultant.
Topped the whole thing with fresh, cold water – and I was on fire.
“Baby,” I began, standing up, the day I married you is the day I made a choice to come alive. I will love you till I die – I will never leave you. Iyawo mi, ah – what do you want? Anything – just say it and it is yours.”
She smiled – and when she smiles the skies acknowledge that indeed; this is a smile. “I am pleased to do for you, my love.”
I swear if she told me to bring her Zuma rock I would have boarded the next flight to Abuja and dug in with both hands rather than tell her I couldn’t. I kissed her and she helped me with my shirt and tie – and was knotting the tie when I realized she was still in her negligee. “Baby, what’s with the outfit? No work?”
She dimpled again. “No honey. Leave begins today.”
“Lucky you,” I said and bolted through the door.
I made it to work in time and the day; of course having started well was looking quite rosy. My world was perfect – until I suddenly started to feel sleepy.
That was unusual.
I actually never fell asleep at work – if you understand my job you’ll understand that it’s a luxury I cannot afford. So it was worrisome. I went to wash my face in the restroom – and that made me feel better. I went to my desk and continued to work.
Next thing I knew, I was woken up by the noise of my own snoring.
You know how you wake up – maybe in church, and you’re awake but you’ll still hide your face away because you’re embarrassed to have fallen asleep in the first place, so you maintain that same posture as though you intentionally sat like that?
Yeah. That was me that day at work. I thought and thought about how I could have fallen asleep – and then it occurred to me that my wife drugged me.
Not ‘drugged’ as in slipped me a mickey – but ‘drugged’ as in gave me eba in the morning intentionally. Right then and there I started plotting my revenge.
“Hello baby,” she said sweetly – a bit too sweetly. “Shey you didn’t sleep at work today?”
“At all,” I answered. “The eba was energizer – I couldn’t stop working. In fact, I’m on fire now sef.” To emphasize my words, I lifted her and raced into the bedroom. She was happy, I was happier.
But I had decided to get my own back.
On the day she was going to resume, I spent half the night pounding yam and cooking efo elegunsi with shaki and obokun fish. I was tired – but when I woke her up to wash that morning, I was happy. Oh, I was the gentleman! I carried her to the bathroom, washed her tenderly from head to toe – never mind what that did to me. Washed her, toweled her and rubbed cream for her. After then, I put her underwear on her and carried her to the table.
“A ‘welcome back to work’ something,” I said.
She ate with gusto – and I was happy watching her eat; despite the mischief behind it. My wife is a beautiful woman and I can watch her for hours.
Sha, we finished and left for work.
It was almost noon when a number I didn’t know called. “Hello?” I said.
“Yes please, is this Mr – ?”
I said it was.
“This is your wife’s boss. Could you please come to the office right away?”
I said I would and hung up.
I was a bit worried but I figured whatever it was, I’d know once I got there. I drove quickly – and when I arrived the place I was shown into one office like that. The man who called me stood from behind the desk, introduced himself and shook my hand.
“Mrs. – is my best staff, I must admit even though I’ve never told her. Therefore you can imagine my consternation when I got to work today and saw her sleeping.”
I wanted to burst into laughter for two reasons. That was the first time I’ve heard that word used in a conversation and I told him so.
Second reason was my revenge was now complete – but I didn’t tell him that.
“Where is she?” I asked, injecting the right balance of worry into my voice.
“Right this way,” he said and preceded me out of the office. “I even though maybe she is…you know…” I know what he meant but I wasn’t going to make it easy for him. “Sick?” I asked.
He shook his head. “Been having sex?”
The man waved his hands in front of him – as though he impregnated his wife by speaking the word. “No…ah…I mean I was wondering maybe she’s expecting…” his voice disappeared even though his mouth was still moving.
“Ah – if she is then God is a wonderful God. You see, I’m like the reverse Caitlyn – I used to be a woman.” I patted his back familiarly – and walked past him into my wife’s office while he stood in the passage trying not to have a heart attack. My wife was wiping sleep from her eyes, looking very sweet and innocent.
“Darling,” she started when she saw me. “What are you doing here?”
I kissed her – and then kissed her again, somewhat firmer the second time. “Well, you’re sick – due to your pregnancy so you’re taking the rest of the day off.” I smiled into her shocked eyes. “Let’s go.”
I half-carried her out of the office while she blinked sleep from her eyes and said goodbyes to her colleagues. The way they all followed us to the car made me marvel – and I told myself again how lucky I am to be married to her. They waited while I let her into the car – waited for me to start the engine and only then did they go back into the office.
“I’m so sleepy,” she mumbling, head against the seat, eyes on me. “I wonder why.”
I couldn’t resist. Laughter tumbled out of my belly – like lightning from heaven. Surprise lightened her features – and then it became a frown – and then the clouds cleared. The frown receded.
“You’re evil!” she yelled, pushing me against the side of the car. “Evil!” she said again, struggling with trying not to laugh.
“I learned from the best,” I said.
Silence from her side of the car made me search her out. Her eyes were still on mine, eyes that had a look in them that made me wish I was home with her. I floored the accelerator.
Shebi marriage no sweet?
So I’m about as knowledgeable about women as a rat is about massages. Forgive me.
First thing I do that Monday is to look her up on Facebook. Sure enough, there are enough pictures of her there to make for an art exhibition. Nothing sleazy or dirty though. Just…pictures.
I ‘steal’ the most detailed ones and have a small confab with my secretary – the same one who looks at me like I’m Dominoes Ice-Cream. Meh.
Next move? Konga for some quick shopping.
I buy some expensive lingerie…the most expensive I can find. And for an embarrassing moment I lose myself in the sights of delightful intimate female bits.
I sigh and shake my head, pulling myself together. It’s been a while.
I have a moment of misgivings. Is this the best thing I can come up with? What’s the worst that can happen?
I laugh. It’s too late for cold feet now.
Placing the order for three overtly-sensual pieces, I fill in the address and name and then pay via MasterCard. The package is scheduled.
I also ask my secretary; who is turning out to be quite the asset where I can order roses. She blushes, flutters her eyes and scribbles a number for me. I order half-a-dozen white roses and schedule them for delivery after three working days. I assume if everything goes right with Konga she should be getting it around that time.
Grinning happily, I begin the day’s work. We have a meeting with said client Friday.
I won’t be surprised if she does not show up. I hope my boss isn’t.
Staring at the ceiling at one in the morning gives so much clarity.
It seems there’s always some new discovery waiting for me every time I try this exercise. I mean – I’m seeing some lines and clefts in the cold asbestos eying me dispassionately; coldly.
You and me both; old guy.
My thoughts rail themselves back to this woman who is a pariah of my existing. I wonder why I’m so angry at her – or is it women I’m angry with?
Who cares? Bottom line is – I don’t want the attention. I don’t need it. There’s things for me to focus on; like getting on with my life.
I sit up. Something suddenly occurs to me.
I feel the corners of my lips stretch in an expression usually described as a smile.
Unfortunately; if my thoughts are anything to go by, I have nothing to smile about.
I’d like to kill my boss.
I don’t care what the jail term is. I’d really like a chance to hurt her in the worst way possible – and then kill her like a chicken for Christmas.
Remind me to tell you the story of a Christmas-chicken-killing gone awry. But this is not about that.
I mean, one of the most important tricks of matchmaking is the subtlety of the match-maker, right?
Suddenly my boss is all over me asking how ‘so-and-so’ is doing. Setting up meetings; four meetings a week with ‘so-and-so’. I mean, we have other business and clients, right?
My colleagues aren’t any help either. Haranguing and harassing me at every opportunity. I have become the killjoy at work – me; who used to be the life of the party.
I cannot continue like this. There must be something I can do – a move I can make to get this undeserved monkey off my back.
They say ‘hell hath no fury like a woman scorned’.
Trust me, the only thing more unsafe than an emotionally crippled man…
…is an emotionally crippled man mad at a woman.
Let the scheming begin.