Ifenna always experienced a twitchy nose whenever something bad is about to happen. It comes in form of short, rapid, involuntary movement of the muscles of his nostrils which occurred at intervals over a long period of time. As long as an hour before the incident.
The twitchy nose business started when he was just twelve years old. He was having his lunch at home when it started. Since it wasn’t painful, he took no notice of it and after a few minutes it passed but just as soon as it stopped, his elder sister Ugonma screamed out of pain from the kitchen. She’d mistakenly splashed hot oil from the frying pan on her laps. She was rushed to the hospital but the damage had already been done. Ugonma healed but the scars remained for a very long time.
The next incident occurred when he was sixteen years and this one took place in school. They were in a bus, on their way home, having an argument in school about their final paper, it was their mock examination. Ifenna felt so sure that the questions were simple because he’d studied very well for the paper but his friends thought otherwise. They were busy arguing over that when his nose started twitching. Ifenna felt that sense of foreboding that could only mean one thing but of course, he couldn’t quite put his finger on what was about to happen. He scratched his nose from time to time just to make it go away but it continued twitching as if it somehow, it had a life of its own. After some time, the nose twitching stopped but immediately they got down from the bus, all three of them, another bus from nowhere hit his friend Chikosolu and he lost consciousness immediately. Chikosolu recovered from the accident but he had to live with a broken leg for the rest of his life.
After that incident and series of other incidents, Ifenna became wary of the twitchy nose. Every time it happened, something bad ensued so as far as Ifenna was concerned twitchy nose equals bad news.
Just two weeks ago, as he celebrated his twenty-eighth birthday, Ifenna realised that the twitchy nose hadn’t occurred for quite some time. In fact, it had not occurred for over five years. The last incident had been his grandmother’s death. She slipped and fell inside their bathtub when she came to visit. Twitchy nose had started an hour before the fall and had stopped shortly after the fall.
Today, in church, as the sermon dragged on, the ominous twitching started. Ifenna decided to engage in his favourite pastime…studying the members of the congregation, to distract himself from the dark cloak of fear that suddenly came upon him. He noticed the man dressed in a grey, conservative suit because he was quite fidgety. It was almost as if he couldn’t sit steady for more than a minute. He kept checking his watch from time to time as if he was somehow in a hurry to get somewhere and the sermon was just delaying him. He also kept checking the black suitcase close to his seat. Probably some papers from the office, this man most certainly is a workaholic, Ifenna concluded.
‘Ouch!’ Ifenna almost screamed in pain as a little girl in white frocks with red polka dots stepped on his shoe. She giggled loudly when she looked up to see his face which was twisted in pain.
‘Obianuju!’ a voice whispered sharply in reproach behind Ifenna. ‘Come here at once!’
The little girl instead of showing some kind of remorse giggled even more and rushed off even further towards the altar.
‘Sorry for that.’ The lady apologised profusely rushing after her daughter. She was in such a hurry that she almost bumped into ‘conservative suit’ as he got up to leave the church still staring at his watch.
‘Oh I’m sorry…’ she started to apologise to the man but he just rushed past her. Ifenna noticed that the man was sweating profusely as he made for the door like he had ten devils on his heels.
Ifenna saw the little girl stop at the seat the man just vacated and dragging the man’s suitcase which he had obviously forgotten, fiddling with it as if she wanted to open it. Ifenna started to call out to the man and that was the last thing he remembered before he heard the blast and all went black.
When Ifenna regained consciousness, everywhere was in a mess. He tried to get up but discovered he could not. There was something heavy on his chest and he could hardly breath. The air was filled with dust and debris of what remained of the church. Everywhere around him, people were moaning in agony, coughing and screaming in pain. Somehow, his brain registered that his nose had stopped twitching. He tried to turn his head and barely succeeded only to start the blessed slip into oblivion again.
The last thing he saw before his eyes closed forever was the battered piece of a blood soaked white gown. A white gown with red polka dots.