“I don’t know. I’m no mortal man”
Mortal Man – Kendrick Lamar
I took out my earphones and I could hear the sound of rain falling outside. I had been waiting for the rains for a while; the post-harmattan period was and probably will always be my worst season in the year. The rains brought with them hope, maize, and mangoes. I liked to bathe in the rain, too. I liked to feel the water on my skin as I ran around, singing and dancing. There was nothing, is nothing and there always will be nothing I love more than the rain.
I had been waiting for the rains this year because there was no water in the well and I was tired of stealing water from my neighbours. I was surprised they never caught on; perhaps they did but for some reason refused to talk about it, who knows? It had been a few months since the last rains and I longed to bathe in them once again.
The rain came down on a Friday. I remember because I had just finished designing a feature image for my friend Ezim’s blog, Deltan in the West. Ezim always posted his weekly memoirs on Friday and since I liked my images to speak as well, I always did a joint post with him.
Lucy, my girlfriend, came around that day. We watched August Rush on my laptop for the umpteenth time, made spaghetti and cuddled in bed for most of the morning. Great thing about my faculty at the University of Ibadan was that we never had lectures on Fridays. We had been in bed for a couple of hours and frankly, we were bored. While I loved the rain, the sounds and the smell, Lucy couldn’t stand it. We attempted playing a card game but we soon quit it as I always won. We attempted playing chess but soon got tired of it too- Lucy was too bad a player to present a challenge. Exasperated, Lucy had gone outside to watch the rain, of all ironic things. I remained in the room, listening to The Broken Speaker Symphony.
After a couple of minutes, I felt a nudge; it was Lucy. I took out my earphones and I could hear the sound of rain falling outside.
“Babe where are your neighbours?” She asked
“Work, I think. They shouldn’t be back until evening, but I don’t know… this rain might make them change plans. Why?”
“Oh, nothing,” she said and stared off into space.
My girlfriend was not exactly dumb, but thinking wasn’t her strong suit. I did the thinking for both of us, except when it came to dinner plans. It wasn’t another couple of hours until dinner and seeing her think before then was a quite unusual occurrence. I knew something was up, so I asked her what it was.
“Lucy? What are you thinking?”
She hesitated for a few seconds, and looking up at me with those beautiful brown eyes, she said,
“Why does your landlord freak anytime we cook in front of the other room?”
Indeed, it was weird. The old man seemed to have a sixth sense when it came to that room; whenever I took out my camp gas and cooked in front of the room across the corridor from mine, he was sure to show up after a few hours and give me lip. Several times when I left my garbage bag in front of that room so I could take it out at night, he would come huffing and puffing along.
“Ta le leyi? What is this?” he would ask rhetorically. I would apologize and take the garbage bag to the front of the house, and after giving me a lecture about how I would feel if someone was dumping refuse in front of my room, he would be pacified. I always found it weird because the corridor was so narrow and one didn’t have so much space to do much else when drums occupied your own side, and considering the room was untenanted, I didn’t see anything wrong. Still, I felt it was one of those old man quirks which all men who survived the civil war seem to have.
“Maybe he just doesn’t like it.” I replied Lucy, reaching out and caressing her cheek. She playfully bit my finger and snuggled into my arms. I still feel a tingle anytime I think about it, that playful snuggle.
“Do you know what’s in the room?” She asked
“Aren’t you curious about what it could be? I mean, the windows are tinted black outside too.”
“It’s ‘painted black’ or just ‘tinted’,” I said
“What?” She asked
“You said ‘tinted black;’ it’s either ‘painted black’ or ‘tinted,’”
“Who cares? I swear you’re annoying sometimes.”
I smiled as I watched her pout. I thought about what she said; I had never actually checked outside the room to take a look at the windows, but if Lucy had, then she had been thinking about it for a while. Disturbing.
“I never noticed that. But it’s his room, maybe there is something he doesn’t want people to see,” I replied.
Frowning, she replied “Have you ever seen him enter the room?”
“Now that you mention it, no I haven’t.” I replied.
“Let’s go check it out,” She said
“Why should we? And didn’t you see the hefty padlock on the door?”
“Eh, I did. But you could open it like you opened your door that time when you forgot your keys in Lagos. Nobody would know.”
“Even if I could, that’s illegal. He can kick me out for that.”
“Come on, aren’t you even a little bit curious?”
“No, Lucy. When did this curious streak start sef? Are you okay?”
She sighed and kept quiet for a while. I plugged my earphones and was about to continue with my music when I felt her unzipping my jeans. I looked down at her, caressed her head and smiled as the dark knight began to rise. I felt her caress him and I let out a soft moan.
“If you do this for me, I’ll go all the way with you. Not just BJs.” She said, turning to me.
“Nicely done, Lucy,” I said as I zipped my jeans and got to my feet. It was a no brainer for me. I was 19 years old and was technically a virgin (self-medication doesn’t count right?), I loved Lucy and going all the way with her was a dream I had had almost every night for the past five months we had been dating.
I grabbed my screwdriver from my work kit (those stupid phone repairer trainings had to be good for something) and went outside, across the corridor and stood in front of the door. I felt a slight chill run through me and I cringed in alarm when Lucy touched me. The rain had drowned the sound of her footsteps.
The trick about breaking in wasn’t to open the padlock except you had a master key. All I simply needed to do was to unscrew the nails fastening the latch or, as we called it , ‘catcher’ to the wood of the door. It was easy-peasy for me; I was done in fifteen minutes. I turned to Lucy, smiling.
“Can we go back now?” I asked?
“No jor, we have to check inside or this would have been for nothing,” She said, as she brushed past me and stepped inside the room. Sighing, I stepped in with her and what we saw or didn’t see, took our breath away. The room was totally dark. Switching on my flashlight on my Nokia phone, I could see into the room and it was totally empty. No cobwebs, no dust, nothing. It didn’t have that stale smell that rooms locked for a long time usually have, it didn’t even smell of ‘wall.’
“Lucy?” I called. The room was the same size as mine so she shouldn’t have been more than an arm stretch away. When she didn’t respond, I called again, thinking she must have been gawking at something. But I rejected that as soon as it came to mind; even if there was something to gawk at, there was no light to see it with.
I called again, thinking she might have gone outside the door. The rain had muffled her footsteps before, after all. I subconsciously knew that wasn’t true, I was too near the door for anyone to pass beside me without my knowledge. I wanted to believe it, though, and so I tried to open the door that I couldn’t even remember locking but instead of a door, can you guess what I saw? Nothing. A fucking smooth wall.
I began to panic slightly, thinking I must have been disoriented; I shone the flashlight around the room and it was all the same, a smooth wall. I laughed a little; Stephen King novel. I couldn’t hear the rain anymore and a chill ran through my spine again. I decided I was dreaming and pinched myself like those actors in American movies. I felt the pain but I was still there; it never worked for them anyway. I closed my eyes and counted to thirty and opened it, shining the light around me. Still in the room, I was. I felt the hysteria creeping in when, in a light bulb moment, I had an idea! I half-laughed at myself for not thinking of it sooner. I was holding a Nokia phone in my hand and I could simply call for help.
I dialed my friend Ezim’s number and breathed a sigh of relief when I heard his lilting voice over the line
“Guy, how far?” He said
“I dey chilling. A-
“Bro? Bro? Can you hear me?”
“I can h-“
“If you can hear me, call me back, I think network is bad at your end!”
I cursed out loud and I’m sure my pastor would have been very shocked if he had heard me then. I dialed Ezim’s number again and nearly cried when I heard that annoying female voice say, “Your call credit has been exhausted and your call terminated. You can borrow airtime from MTN with MTN Xtratime, dial star six zero six hash to check if you can use this service, or load a recharge card, thank you.”
I tried sending Please, Call Me messages to everyone I could but the network was busy. I did cry; I cried when my battery that was totally full beeped three times and announced ‘battery empty’ and then went off. I lay there, sobbing in the darkness until I fell asleep.
I don’t know how I fell asleep but when I came to, my phone was on and I distinctly knew someone was standing over me. I quickly picked up the phone, scrambling into a corner and switching on the flashlight.
Bare feet…beautiful, yellow legs….black leggings…a camisole….black hair…full cheeks…
“Lucy!” I screamed as I hugged her. She uttered a low moan and I pulled back, shining the light in her face. She didn’t cringe of course; because inside her eye-sockets were- can you guess what? Nothing. Blood ran from them like little red streams, caking on her face. I screamed and pulled back in fear, thumping my back against something soft and warm. A chill ran down my spine as I turned and saw- can you guess what? Oh, it wasn’t ‘nothing’. It was my veritable friend and colleague, Ezim, a slack red pipe was hanging from his mouth, covering his jaw in red. I looked down and in his hand I saw it, the confirmation that I was going crazy. In his hand, hanging by another ‘pipe’ he had Lucy’s eyeball.
“How nice of you to join me” He said in that lilting voice of his.
I fell to the ground. I saw nothing.
17. 03. 2015
Hello Dear Reader,
How body? I’ve been reading a lot of Poe and this is my attempt at what Tolu dubbed as ‘Romantic Horror.’ I take responsibility for all mistakes here-in and hope you forgive me, mans dey try small small.
See y’all later, I hope.
Oh, I blog at www.deltaninthewest.wordpress.com