The time is 9pm and I’m still on my way home after a long day at the office, my handbag slung over my left arm. As usual, PHCN(Power Holding Company of Nigeria) is living up to its name and ‘Holding’ their power very well. I sighed for the umpteenth time as I rounded another corner to be faced with yet another street in darkness, and I thought, how convenient it would really be for me if I had a car of my own. We live in the suburbs of my state away from the noisy traffic and the busy streets but unfortunately, our streets are always deserted at this time of the day and can get real creepy if you know what I mean. For someone like me with a very wonderful imagination, even the trees could come alive at this hour and turn into a big threat for me.
As I walked down the long street, I couldn’t help but notice how the cool breeze moved even the harmless objects like an empty can of juice lying on the tarred road, causing it to make an unusually loud grating sound that sent a chill down my spine.
‘Stay calm, stay calm, stay calm….it’s just a harmless old can’ I kept muttering to myself as I moved quickly, consoling myself with the fact that each step forward was a sure step towards my destination. The wind came again and with it, the loud crash behind me, which startled me. I turned quickly only to see a bag of waste kept on the streets for disposal, waiting innocently to be picked up by ESWAMA(Enugu State Waste Management Authority) early next day. I sighed out of relief. But my relief was short lived because that was when I noticed him crouched behind the mango tree, very close to the overturned waste bag.
The madman has been known to plague Emelugo street for ages. In fact, he’d been nicknamed “Shaba” by the mischievous kids of that street because of his long unkempt, lice-infested dread locks (a sorry version of the real person he was named after of course). And once I saw those locks, my heart literally jumped into my mouth. I turned away from him and quickened my pace. But it sure was not my lucky day, because after a few steps I noticed he was now following me steadily, matching my pace with his. I increased my pace and he also increased his. I increased mine yet again and he in turn, returned the favour. Ok, I was almost running now, but he didn’t seem to mind.
At this point I couldn’t take it anymore so I simply started running as fast as I could on my four-inch heels. Trust me, Shaba did exactly the same thing. It got to a point that I had to remove my shoes and fling them away while running (it’s quite hard to achieve but I guess you can do a lot of things under pressure, especially the pressure of being chased by a mad man). I rounded a sharp bend quickly, saw an unfinished building and decided to take cover there, hoping against hope that he’ll just run crazily past the building.
Now, Shaba did exactly the opposite. I never thought mad people could be so intelligent. He slowed down and stopped completely in front of the building, looked down the street and not seeing anybody running, guessed that I must have run into the building. With that, he slowly walked into the building. The darkness didn’t help matters at all. Here I was, a sitting duck in the dark, breathing hard and listening as his footsteps slowly but surely approached the house. I couldn’t see him but I could hear him clearly.
With my eyes tightly shut, I saw vivid images of what he could possibly do to me at that point in time, remembered the horrible stories people told of someone going mad from the bite of a mad man and my heartbeat increased even more. I didn’t realize it but I was shaking and sweating uncontrollably as I tried to remember all sorts of prayers that could come in handy at that moment.
Wait! Silence. I couldn’t hear his footsteps anymore. Could it be that he’d gone past the building? I couldn’t believe my luck. I started to rise up slowly from my crouch when suddenly two firm hands grabbed me from the back.
I screamed as loud as I could. I screamed again and I screamed some more. Now I don’t know what I was screaming but know for sure that I lost my voice after that incident. I kept screaming and struggling with every bit of strength in my body to free myself from the tight grip he had of me. My screams were stopped by his palm which suddenly came up in a rough clasp over my mouth. I tried to bite into his palm in fury, stubbornly refusing to go down without a good fight. The struggle went on for a few minutes but it felt like forever to me.
Then he spoke and I suddenly stopped struggling. The hand over my mouth went limp and the grip around me slackened. I pushed his hand away and shouted
‘Sister’ answered the small voice full of guilt.
‘What…….?, How…..?’, suddenly short of words as I pulled off the wig from his head revealing the charcoal smudged, familiar teenage face of my younger brother Chioke.
‘Today was rag day in school. Someone played a prank on me and stole my clothes. I couldn’t afford to come home in daylight looking like this’, he explained softly gesturing towards his haggard appearance.
Now, I did not know what to say, or what to do for that matter. Should I beat him senseless or should I just thank him for not being Shaba? Finally I just heaved a big sigh of relief and….suddenly searching frantically around me, I asked:
‘Did you see where I flung my handbag?’