The third time Obi had the dream was five days after the last.
He had a hard time falling asleep. He tossed about for about two hours, got up twice to visit the fridge and returned without eating anything. He always found it easy to fall asleep so he was worried about his newly acquired insomnia. He eventually fell asleep.
Cold breeze blew on his face, coming in little puffs like breaths. Cold, clammy flesh pressed on his cheek. A drop fell on his face, icy cold and vaporous like alcohol. There was a warm wet feeling on his stomach. There was a smell of something citric and soapy. He opened his eyes and her face swam into view; big round eyes, tear-streaked cheeks, lopsided smile on her glossy lips. She held his gaze for a moment, turned and crawled away, retreated as much as she dissolved, becoming little more than a ghostly form and vanishing entirely.
Obi cracked then. He screamed himself up from sleep, and he screamed for ten more seconds. He got himself under control, but only barely. He still felt as jumpy and tense as a set mouse trap. Trembling, he got up, scrambled to the switch and turned on the light.
There was no one there. His trembling legs couldn’t support him anymore. He slumped and sat on the floor with his back to the wall. He clutched his legs to get himself under control but all he did was hurt himself by digging his nails into his legs.
Eventually he calmed down. He got up, switched on his laptop and began to watch the seventh Smallville season on DVD. He had had enough sleep for that night.
The next day he went to visit Nonso, his pastor friend. Nonso was what he called ‘an enterprising man of God’, which includes every pastor who managed his church very well and very profitably.
Nonso was a man of God by profession and an entertainer at heart. He was small, good-looking (almost beautiful) and a glib talker. He was also an incurable dandy. Nonso had once invited him to his church service and Obi had gone. Nonso gave the most entertaining church service ever; it was pure theatre. Obi hadn’t attended his service since then; he felt meeting God should be a sober experience and Nonso’s way was all but.
However, he knew that his friend was the one to talk to about the disturbing dreams he had. Nonso, despite evidence to the contrary, was spiritual in his own way and Obi trusted that. Nonso had a reputation as a visionary and a Joseph-like perception of dreams too. Obi called him and arranged to meet him at Mickey’s Bar, a small, upscale beer parlor close to Nonso’s house.
Hair in a perm, glistening with oil, and dressed in a stylish sleek suit, Nonso sauntered in twenty minutes late. Typical, Obi thought. He walked in like he owned the place, said hello to a waiter and came over to Obi’s table. They shook hands over the table and he sat.
“Obi, what’s up?”
“All’s well. Haba, Nonso. You must have spilled the hair oil bottle over your head. You should learn to be more careful,” he said, smiling. Nonso burst out into hearty laughter, exposing perfect teeth.
“Of course. I don’t see you around anymore. Why don’t you come to my church?”
“Which church? Ha! That’s cinema. You do entertainment on Sundays, brother.”
“What can I say? God loves a cheerful giver. I try to make my members cheerful. If they give to God’s servant, I’ve made them His Beloved.” He winked at Obi who couldn’t help smiling.
They ordered drinks, two bottles of Guinness, and settled in.
“What troubles you, brother?” Nonso asked, pouring himself a frothy glass of stout. “You called me saying you need my help.”
Obi took a deep breath and exhaled. He felt that was theatrical but it eased him up a bit. He paused for a moment and then began;
“I’ve been having some weird dreams…”
“Uh-huh. What kinds?”
Obi frowned at Nonso. He hated his friend’s uncontrollable tendency to interrupt and it irked him all the more now.
“Wait first. Let me finish.” Nonso nodded in what would have being a sagely gesture but looked like a caricature on him. Obi continued;
“There’s this girl I keep seeing in my dream. I mean, three times now…”
Nonso burst out laughing. “Brother, don’t tell me you still dream that kind of dream.”
Obi stopped short. He stared at Nonso, barely controlling the urge to reach across the seat and grab his oily head and twist it around at the neck.
“Okay, okay. Tell me more,” Nonso said, still chuckling, “did you starch your pant? Tell me everything, Obi.”
He could see himself reaching out and slapping this idiot to the ground, see the glass of beer flying out of Nonso’s hand as he sprawled to the floor. He took another deep breath.
“Nonso, je rijuo nsi onu!” Fuming, he pushed back his seat and stood up. He rooted in his wallet, got some money out and placed it on the table. Nonso stood up too and grabbed his arm.
“Bia, Obi, calm down na.”
Obi turned to stare at Nonso looking sober now with concern on his face, but his anger at Nonso still jammed in his throat like an intractable bone.
“Nonso, I said you should go eat a mouthful of shit. Free me, abeg.”
He jerked his arm out of Nonso’s grip and stormed out.
He got to the motor park and walked up to the Abuja ticket stall. He had picked up his ticket and ducked into the Toyota Hiace mini-bus. He found that the only available seat was in the middle at the back and he sighed; he would have preferred a window seat. He shuffled inside and slid into his seat.
He looked out of the window on the left, across a petite girl. He noticed she was staring at him and he caught her eye.
“Do you want to seat by the window?” she asked.
He was surprised. Almost everyone wanted a seat by the window and here she was giving away her prized possession.
“I get cold easily and I can’t take the breeze from an open window”, she said. She had small delicate features and looked attractive but not really pretty.
“Okay. Of course. Thanks.” He got up and they switched places. She smiled at him and he smiled back.
He didn’t get much sleep the night before and he was drowsy. He dozed off, woke briefly when the bus agent collected their tickets and slept off immediately their bus drove off. He slept fitfully though, always waking up when the bus lurched in and out of the more challenging potholes. The road was very bad and soon he got fed up with trying to sleep with the bus pitching and rolling across the uneven road.
He woke up fully and looked around, taking in his fellow passengers for the first time. He observed the girl sitting next to him. She turned to him and gave him a lovely smile. He smiled back, but a little troubled. She looked familiar, he thought. Where have I met her? He scanned through his memory’s database of faces and cross-indexed it with their names and he came up blank.
He stared out the window, at the rolling hills and the lush greenery beside the road. He watched the sky as they went by. He saw a few rural people walking besides the road, going about their rural business. He was bored and he turned around to find himself watching her again. He felt they must have met in secondary school, but he wasn’t sure. He was guessing judging from how little he could remember of her, putting her no later than that, and how familiar she was, putting her no earlier either. He was pretty sure he had met her before.
She cut her eyes at him and he turned away sharply embarrassed he’d been caught staring at her. He turned back and smiled at her, but she didn’t return it. She examined at him warily now. He decided to swallow his pride and admit he’d forgotten where he met her and ask her to help him refresh his memory. He opened his mouth to speak.
He was thrown upwards, backwards…he felt himself sailing up and she flew up to meet him. He steeled himself for impact….
Something hit the back of his head and the world dissolved into murky darkness.
He woke up as arms, strong arms, insistent arms tugged at him. He felt a bolt of pain course through his body like an electric surge and he cried out.
He opened his eyes, staring blindly, not understanding. He was in a dark metal cave, feeling disoriented. He heard voices; shouts, groans and moans. He perceived smells, strange at first, and then his harassed brain struggled to place them; burning metal, plastic….flesh? The pungent smell of blood…
Then he remembered the crash, but there was nothing to remember. He was just talking to her, what’s her name? Did he know her name? Did she tell him? And where was she?
The hands have left him in the darkness, which was not so dark anymore. He could make out shapes. A little to the left, a moaning voice said “I am coming, Chima” over and over. He could hear a slight thumping sound. He could hear sharp regular metallic ticks, like a kicking engine. He could hear voices and activity outside….outside where? All his attempts to think straight were abortive; his mind scrambled at every dawn of perception.
The smell of oily smoke, acrid and stifling, choked him. He coughed and was engulfed in a fiery stream of pain, bright pain that had him tethering on the brink of consciousness and vivid sensitivity.
The screech of twisting metal bit into his eardrums and he screamed, only cutting it off when the exertion racked him with another dose of pain. A rift of light appeared with the noise which exploded in his head. The light expanded and bathed this cave in torturous brightness. He squinted as much from the light’s painful intensity as from the act of steeling himself from screaming. A loud crash followed.
Figures appeared talking excitedly, approached him and formed a shifting shade, blotting out and exposing the light alternatively. His breaths came in harsh sharp gasps. He felt himself grabbed again under the armpits, the pains returning like vipers striking at a vulnerable prey.
“No, please no. No, no. Oooohhhhhhhhhh!”
He was tilted forward, his head brought into an upright position. Even in his delirious pain-racked state, he was able to see his surroundings better. Bright red and wet colors splashed inside the crumpled car interior, mashed matter in form of metal, textile and flesh, and the girl….
She was lying on top of him, when they pulled him out, her face turned up towards him; her eyes open, unseeing, a trail of tears running down her right eye; her lips lopsided, in what could have been a smile or a grimace; the lower part of her body was wedged between former parts of the vehicle that had morphed into twin jaws of steel that ate her up. He felt warm goo on his stomach and as he was pulled away, her guts splayed out. He could swear he did perceive, in the midst of surrounding morbid smell, the fragrance of something citric and soapy…