The whole thing started out as a joke.
It was Toun’s birthday, right? So the gang came together, and they decided on a plan: Ignore her when she wakes up. Keep that up till everyone goes to “work”, sneak back home and arrange a miniature “House of Horrors”; screaming ghouls, walking skeletons and bleeding zombies. Frighten her out her wits, then put the lights back on and scream “Happy Birthday”, if she’s still conscious, that is. Easy street. No harm done.
Thing was, as Judy reflected afterwards; staring at the holes in the wall, Toun was easily assumed to be the most timid of them all. She worked a desk job, had no boyfriends, didn’t go clubbing, or even church for that matter. She was pretty straight-laced. She was also nice and pretty, and was willing to go to any lengths for her friends. But Judy thought she was too uptight.
Sam was the one who set the whole thing up. He knew this guy, who used to run the house of horrors at an amusement park that had shut down a year ago, and the guy still had the props and everything needed. A price was negotiated and agreed on; some on-the-low wiring had been going on secretly, and everything was set. Almost.
Toun’s birthday dawned, and she was up before everyone as usual. Kunle came downstairs to find her wrapped in a bath towel, making some herbal tea. They talked for some time before Eva and Sam met them there. The usual “good mornings” went round, then Eva went to have her bath while Sam, Kunle and Judy who woke up just then proceeded to the sitting room to watch some breakfast TV and gossip some more about the plan. Toun had gone upstairs to get dressed.
At exactly 6:15 am, Toun, Eva and Kunle were at the junction waiting for their respective staff buses. Toun’s arrived three minutes later and picked her up for work, some private finance house. She waved as she got on the bus. They waved back. They hadn’t mentioned what day it was, and she hadn’t either.
It was a simple matter for Eva and Sam to walk back into the house, bring out the house-of-horrors guy who had been secreted in Sam’s room the night before, and start work. They had all taken leaves of absence, so it was an all-hands-on-deck thing, although Eva was the electricity geek. And despite the fact that everyone else pitched in, it was almost 4pm before everything was in working order.
The test runs went smoothly, it was all so real, that Judy found herself clutching to Kunle’s arm as they went thru the plywood maze which had been erected all over the place, encountering ghoul after terrifying ghoul. They put the lights back on, congratulated themselves and sat down to wait. They had placed a very large order with the local TFC, and would be getting it around 7pm. Toun wouldn’t be back till 8:30.
At exactly 6:58, the doorbell rang. They all started; she shouldn’t be back this early! Then Eva remembered the order and went to get the door. Almost immediately the rich aroma of fried rice, chicken and all sorts of pastries filled the sitting room. She signed for it and carried as much of the bags she could carry. Judy got the rest and Sam got the cake. Stowing the food away in coolers and out of sight, they locked the doors and went upstairs to wait and watch thru the miniature CCTV the man had set up for them. Unfortunately, there was only one camera available, and this had been fixed at the end of the main corridor, so at least they’d see her from the moment she stepped into the house, till she made it thru the first bunch of mazes. After that, the screams would guide them.
It was 8:32pm when they heard the click-clack of the heavy duty locks of the main doors. Instantly Eva cut the lights. Toun came in and groped around to find the light switch, but instead of the florescent tube along the corridor coming on, it was a low flickering light that did. Then the sound came on as with a low whine, the speakers they had run along the whole house began to emit what sounded like wolf howls, but in reality was some generated sound effects recorded on a tape the man had also given them. Kunle punched Sam on the arm excitedly; this was going to be good; but then Eva pointed out a contingency they had not thought of; what was to stop Toun from simply turning around and bailing away, screaming for help? That stopped them cold.
But they need not have worried. Either from fear or something else, Toun was doing nothing of the sort. She still had her briefcase clutched in her fist, and instead of the screaming, fainting Toun they expected to see, it was one that looked unruffled, calmly and stealthily walking thru the maze, as the lights were flickering and she wore glasses. Then the first scream came over the speakers, and they saw her hunch her shoulders, as she passed from their sight.
Toun had first had an adrenaline surge when the lights didn’t come on, but she had relaxed, hey, she went thru situations like this for breakfast! In the flickering lights she thought she could see shapes but wasn’t sure, then she felt something reach for her. Without thinking she grabbed the offered wrist, twisted it and it broke with a brittle sound. Then she pulled the perp towards her and met his body mass with her stiff shoulder. She felt his ribs break and she let the wrist go. He dropped without a sound. What was this, she was thinking; a hit? Somebody’s warning? It didn’t feel right, or had she been compromised? Call HQ? No, it was looking too easy.
But when the screams began, she knew things had taken a worse turn. That didn’t sound like any of her roommates, but you couldn’t be sure, so she gently let go of her suitcase and reached inside her jacket. Withdrawing her standard issue revolver, she dropped into a gun fighter’s crouch, took off her glasses and threw it from her. She hoped none of her roommates had come home from work and blinked carefully, trying to adjust to the changing lights. A figure suddenly leaped at her from the right, and immediately she spun and blasted two shots into its chest at close range. The figure dropped.
Smoke started issuing from the walls, and she could see a lot of some shadowy figures ahead. Besides the screams were still coming, increasing in frequency and volume. She thought there was something funny about the way the approaching figures walked, and until they came closer before she realised: zombies! This must be some kind of nightmare, she thought as she shot the first one in the heart. Zombies?! In Lagos, or Nigeria for that matter??!
Incredible. She shot another one.
It was Kunle who heard the first shot. At first, he thought maybe it was some of the sound effects they were using. He gave it a few more minutes, then thought no more of it till he heard several more. And this time, everyone heard it. Sam jumped up, cut the whole program and ran for the stairs, calling Toun’s name over and over. The rest of the gang scrambled after him, praying under their breath for their roommate to be alright. Bursting into the passageway, Sam ducked as a bullet whined past his head and a terrifying voice said “Freeze!” in no uncertain terms.
Hands raised, he turned but what he saw made his arms fall to his sides: Toun, glasses gone, hair in disarray holding a smoking gun in her fist. The rest of the gang bumped into him and the gun came up fast, and then went back down slowly. She asked if someone could tell her; what was going on?
“Happy Birthday.” Sam said.
Toun looked shocked, and then rolled her eyes. There was a thump behind Sam and they all turned to see a body lying on the floor.
Eva had fainted.