Emeka’s hands trembled on the steering as the Toyota Corolla sped along the tacky tar of the third mainland bridge at a brutal speed. He swerved to the left and right, overtaking vehicles in the way, conjuring curses and angry blare of horns from other drivers startled by his diabolic cruising. He prayed hard not to meet up with any hold-up on the road.
Seyi, his girlfriend, was seated next to him in the front passenger seat shifting anxiously on her seat, whimpering and shaking her hands hysterically – the manner in which she’d shake them when she was in deep trouble.
In the back seat sat George, his friend and Amara, his girlfriend. George was frantically throwing all manner of suggestions at Emeka on what they could do to get themselves out of the mess. He was trying hard to play brave but his demeanor showed he was failing at it. Amara, just fretted about in fear beside him, looking up and down the car as if she might locate some way out while at the same time condemning herself for joining them on this ill-fated trip.
Emeka felt his palms becoming sweaty despite the cool air wafting through the air conditioner vents. His palms always sweated anytime he got nervous. He cursed and tried to wipe one hand on his jeans. The car misaligned and swerved dangerously; his passengers screamed and he quickly grabbed the steering again. At the speed he was going, both hands needed to stay firmly on the wheel. He swallowed hard and fought with the confusion in his mind as he tried to calm himself and think a way out of this dilemma. His confidence was ebbing out with every passing minute.
How the hell had they gotten themselves into this mess?
His uncle was stinking rich; a politician who had garnered wealth by questionable means as a senator. The man knew how spoil people, and Emeka was not an exception, especially when he happened to be one of his favorite nephews.
Senator had a big garage which housed 15 cars of different makes and he gave Emeka the license to cruise anyone he felt like out of 6 of them. The other 9 were no go areas.
That did not deter Emeka. The 5 he was allowed to touch were good enough – a 2007 Nissan Maxima, a 2008 Honda Accord, a 2007 Skoda Octavia, a Peugeot 307, a Toyota Yaris and 2009 Toyota Corolla.
He loved cruising the Maxima and Accord but had wanted a change of ride. That’s how he went for the Toyota.
He had arranged a date with his Seyi, his latest catch. When you look good and spend good money and ride good cars on campus, becoming a ‘chick magnet’ was inevitable. His adventures with the wheels bore testimonies to this.
Obiora fell flat for him, thanks to the Octavia and a treat to choice restaurants.
Hauwa cooed obsessively after him, thanks to the Accord and a party outing.
Gbemi, Tara and Nkem had fought each other to have him, thanks to the Maxima and a trip to shopping malls and a renown swimming resort.
Seyi was the next on line now and the Corolla was his joker for the gameplay. His close buddy, George came along with Amara, his own catch; the dividends of being what students on campus called a ‘scrub’ – a guy who thrives on the wealth display of his rich buddy to get with the ladies.
They had taken off from the Victoria Island residence of the Senator whom Emeka was staying with and were headed for a party on the mainland.
Emeka loved to display his driving prowess and had pedaled the car to the speed of 90 kmph, while darting in between cars he overtook. The girls chattered about his skills – more of sycophantic flattery than admirable compliment. Besides that, they were enjoying the thrill of the ride.
It was when Emeka decided to slow down that he discovered that the car refused to do so. Each time he tried to apply the brake it gave a harsh grinding sound almost sending the car into a dangerous skid. He tapped the accelerator a bit hoping it would disengage from whatever got it hooked but that pushed the speed up the more and the dial climbed dangerously to 100 kmph.
Normally one’s life would have flashed before him on noticing such impending doom but the images that rattled through Emeka’s mind was that of what he had seen on the news a few weeks back – the recall by Toyota of some of its models which had developed accelerating speed problems in different countries. These faulty models as a result were dubbed ‘Runaway Toyotas’ by some international news stations. Emeka had myopically thought it could only happen to the white man unfortunately this fateful outing was proving him wrong.
‘Mekus, easy on the speed, abi you wan fly?’
Emeka looked through the rearview mirror at George who was getting a little shifty about the gathering speed. He said nothing but shook his head rapidly as he quickly took his eyes off the mirror and swerved the car in between a pick-up and a taxi and shot out in front of them all in bid not to keep any car that might slow down ahead of him.
‘Guys…I think we’re screwed oh…this car is mescaforming…’ He eventually managed to let out with as much confidence as he could muster.
‘Eh, stop the car now, make we find mechanic fix am,’ said Seyi snapping on the bubblegum she was chewing.
‘Yeah…if only we could stop the car first.’ It sounded like a joke but the tremor in Emeka’s voice sent signals of the seriousness of the situation.
‘What do you mean if we can stop the car?’
‘Mekus if na Joke stop am oh!’
‘Shebi the car get brake!’
‘Is this one of your tripping tricks?’
Fusillades of queries hit Emeka from different angles which did nothing but further deteriorate his confidence. He sighed heavily and recounted the news of the runaway Toyotas to them.
That alone was enough to reduce everyone to a chicken version of their confident selves; the girls panicking and becrying their woe, George offering stupid suggestions which he couldn’t be blamed for; he was so scared shitless he was just talking without thinking.
By now they were speeding towards the former Lagos-Ibadan expressway toll gate. The car swerved to and fro as Emeka dodged dangerous potholes in the road. Fortunately for them the traffic was light and not many cars were on the road. But for how long would they be that fortunate?
‘Oh crap!’ Emeka suddenly snapped between his teeth.
‘What?’ George asked fearing the worst.
‘We’re approaching a police checkpoint!’