Someone pointed to a car that looked exactly like Tabatha’s. It was parked about sixty metres from the spot I thought I had seen the house. Everyone ran to the car, except me. I couldn’t bring myself to move, I was rooted to the spot because I knew without any shadow of doubt that the house Tabatha brought me to three days ago stood right here. I looked up and saw that curious street lamp, the crooked one – I remember thinking to myself that day “what an odd design for a street lamp”. I also remember giving a delightful squeal when I set my eyes on the mansion. It was a white-marble duplex, surrounded by well tended flowers of varying colours and shapes. I had never seen anything like it before that day. It looked like a piece from one of those foreign architectural magazines. Tabatha simply laughed at my childish excitement and proceeded to lead me into the compound through a gate carved like an eagle.
All I could see now was an expanse of untended, barren land. There was no sign of the house. ‘How possible is it that a house would just disappear into thin air?’ Already, everyone thinks I lost directions to the place, they had concluded I had the wrong place and arguing further will certainly certify me a lunatic. But I am as sure of this barren land being the place Tabatha and I visited three days ago as I am sure my name is ‘Angela’. Yes, my name is Angela it says so on all important documents – but everyone calls me ‘Angie’. I am sure you will be wondering why I am so sure, very simple…
I also recall bursting out in laughter as my eyes alighted on the metal plate bearing the name of the street, ‘Taboo Close’; ‘whoever names a place that?’ There it was now, staring at me mockingly. The nameplate of the close was daring me to convince the world that a white exquisite house stood exactly where I now stand, three days before. Even If it was demolished after I left, at least there will be some rubble to show for it, some indication of structural existence, anything! But there was none, all I could see was untended, unmarked land. Surprisingly the close was empty, not one soul could be seen walking around even though it was only 10.00am.
A blood curdling scream shook me out of my reverie; it came from the direction my friends went. I broke into a run in that direction. What I witnessed at the scene made me freeze in one spot. They were all in varying postures of grief and the person screaming looked like Chioma. She was rolling on the floor beside the car, covered in dust and grime from the road. I didn’t want to go close for fear of what I will see.
Chioma, Tabatha and I met at the NYSC orientation camp in Kano. Thankfully, we were all posted to places in the state capital, so we decided to share a flat. We were three very different people bonded by service to our nation at least that was what we were made to believe. Tabatha had other ideas though. She had always depended on lustful, old money bags for her livelihood. We learnt that was how she made it through University. She is the fifth child in a family of six. According to her, her family was on the lower rungs of the middle class belt; not poor, but also not rich. Her desire for the finer things in life made her ‘use what she had to get what she needed’. Those were her very words. I understand why those men will spend so much on her. She is a looker. At 5ft 8inches, she had legs that went for days. She was curvy in all the right places – a classic example of black beauty.
Sometimes I caught myself wishing I looked half as good as she did. She relished serving in Kano, because she believed that she will have an array of wealthy Alhajis to pick from. Chioma on the other hand is one of those highly moral and religious people and because of that we affectionately dubbed her ‘Sis Chioma’. She is really fun to be with but a real pest whose only mission in Kano was to get Tabatha and me born again. She was forever inviting us to church for one meeting or the other. Despite her religious fanaticism, we all lived in relative peace. Then, there is me. I am neither religious nor a trader in lustful, rich and aging men. I am what you can call the balance. I balance Chioma and Tabatha out. Don’t get me wrong though, I am very far from being an Atheist; I daresay I even love God, but the only relationship I want with Him is one from a distance. All I wanted to do was finish my service year as quickly as possible with as little incidents as possible.
Tabatha and Chioma made Kano a lot bearable for me. One came home every day with one religious publication or the other, while the other came home every other weekend with tales of her conquests and wads of naira bills. It was one of such tales that made me embark on that trip with Tabatha three days ago. She came home one Monday with the story of a weird guy she met. He didn’t fall within the age demographic she was used to. Was very soft spoken and handsome. He also didn’t touch her or demand for sex, yet he sent her home with a cheque of one million naira. At that amount of money my eyes almost popped out of my head. I recall Chioma snickering and singing in her annoying voice that ‘all that glitters is not gold’.
We didn’t care, Tabatha and I. I accompanied her to cash the money and transfer it straight into her account. The cheque didn’t bounce; nobody chased us to snatch it. It was all so clean and easy. Curiosity made me ask to meet him. I needed to see for myself the dumb rich guy. Each time I asked Tabatha about a convenient time to meet him. She came up with excuses. She had been dating him and only him for three months before she agreed to our meeting. In all the three months they had dated he never once asked her for sex, but he changed her car, and gave her money running into millions.
We got to the house that day, and I saw the most handsome and polished northerner I had ever met up until that day. He offered us suya and red wine, and while I indulged myself, Tabatha and Mahmud excused themselves. After a few hours they came out again, and Tabatha all smiles, informed me that they had an engagement to attend. I felt I will just be a third wheel so I declined going with them. She whispered “chicken” into my ears as we walked out of the house. They both got into Mahmud’s shiny Volkswagen Courage and zoomed off, I didn’t mind because she had given me more than enough money to get me back to the flat. That was the last I will see of her in three days. The first night came and went without me and Chioma giving it much thought, but by the third night we knew something was wrong. Tabatha was carefree but not careless; by day two she would have called to inform either of us of her whereabouts.
After informing the principal of the school she was supposed to be teaching chemistry and the Zonal Inspector, I and some of the other corp. members around, including Chioma decided to go look for her where I last left her.
When I finally got to the car, the scene before my eyes was beyond the imaginable, I saw a shrivelled up body behind the wheels, dried up hands still held on to the steering, where the eyeballs used to be was replaced with dark orbs that seemed squeamish, on closer examination the movement was caused by a swarm of green bottle flies. The foul stench of rotting flesh hit me as I moved even closer, then I caught a gleam that made me gasp for breath, it was Tabatha’s gold necklace with the pendant “TB” confirming my fears…The corpse was Tabatha’s, beautiful Tabatha reduced to a shrivelled up corpse that was the last thought on my mind as I passed out.