The surest way to overcome your fears is to face them. How timely, Tonye thought, retrieving the dust-laden, dog-eared little pamphlet from a stack of moldy paper: Plus, the Magazine of Positive Thinking. He slapped it clean and, stretching out on a lumpy sofa, began to read the article by the Rev Norman Vincent Pearle.
Don’t run away from your fears, it read, they’ll always wait for you. And, on your return, you’ll be certain to meet them bigger, stronger and more difficult to overcome. Don’t just believe; act like you really do believe. Exhibit no sign of fear; don’t let Satan intimidate you. The lion roars to paralyze its quarry with fright; the lion’s meal doesn’t begin with the first bite, it begins with the first roar. Resist the Devil and he just have to go—he hasn’t got a choice. The roaches will always scurry for cover when you turn on the light!
“Easier said than done”, he muttered under his breath. What hadn’t he tried
? However, he proceeded to devour the article in minutes. He wouldn’t run and he wouldn’t show any fear. He settled well into the sofa and continued with Festus Iyayi’s Violence. The Nino quartz clock on the unpainted wall said 10:23 pm.
He woke up with a start. The light was out and the ceiling fan had stopped whirring; he had anticipated it. Thankfully, he had filled the lantern with kerosene. He’d noticed that on dark nights the attacks were much more severe and scarier. He wasn’t the one to give those demons an easy fight. He lit the lantern, trimmed almost all the wick and placed it on the awfully scarred table. The light from the lantern made his face glow a sickly yellow. It was hot and the sweat hung on his forehead and ran under his shirt. He took off the shirt, heaved a sigh and waited for them. He was ready to keep vigil till dawn.
Sometime later—he couldn’t say whether it was an hour our two—he heard the only Alsatian in Graeme Ama, probably the entire Island, a huge black-and-brown beast, barking. The short sharp barks metamorphosed into deep long growls and finally diminished into pathetic whimpers, then silence. Presently he felt chilly air swirling about his feet and, alarmed, turned to look in the direction from where it was coming. To his horror, the single door which opened outside was slightly ajar with its threadbare curtain swaying softly. A moment later, he heard a loud bang as a suffocating stench invaded the room and a disembodied tiny hand parted the curtain and Tonye was staring at the smirking visage of a child no more than eight. The face was dirty and a tawny yellow in the light of the lantern, with thick fat dreadlocks reaching down to its shoulders. The air bristled across Tonye’s face and he felt the skin on his back begin to crawl. He made to rise, but it was too late: a powerful invisible force had him pinned to the sofa in which he’d fallen asleep.
When he glanced at the door, it was shut and the mysterious face was gone. He tried to pray but could hardly move his articulators to do his bidding. Turn on the light and the roaches will scurry for the shadows .Where was the switch? He struggled some more, strained with all his might, but not a strand of muscle could he stir. He was mad with anger and chagrin; if he could, he would have wept at his utter powerlessness and frustration.
He let what he thought was a few minutes tick by, and then he opened his eyes and found himself staring at the ceiling fan! What was he doing prostrate on the floor? He attempted to rise and then he remembered. He heard what sounded like the patter of tiny feet. It came and went past him several times and then came to a still just by his left ear. Since he was lying spread-eagled, with his left ear pressed to the floor, he could make out only a pair of small cloven feet, or rather hooves. Although he very much wanted to take a look at the form that towered above over him, he was unable to move. Some distance above, mirthless giggle floated down towards him. It went on for a while, and then it stopped suddenly. He could hardly breathe. The noxious reek of putrefying garbage poured into his nostrils in unending waves. Next, he felt something cold and clammy—a finger?– touching his upturn ear, then forcing its way into it.
Tonye’s initial fright had taken flight; what had now taken hold of him was anger at his helplessness and bitter hatred for his tormentors. He ceased struggling, conserving all his energy for one quick sudden heave; knowing that tonight was the turning point. Things would either get worse or better.
The mocking snigger resume soon after, as the invading finger dug dipper into his brain. Tonye felt pain and winced in his paralysis. But he became horrified when his legs were thrown apart and something big, strong, and moist started pushing its way, forcefully, through his anal orifice.
You’re finished, tonight! There’s no way you can escape us.
The voice sounded so close to his ears. It was as if it had been spoken in his head. And then that giggle, and a sudden chill enveloped his entire being. Suddenly, he heard sounds like someone was banging at the door. He listened.
Tonye! Tonye! Tonye!
He summoned all his strength and heaved and he was free. He opened his eyes and looked around: the lantern still burned and he was still seated in the sofa. The book had fallen out of his hand, though. He heard fading footfalls then everywhere was quiet, except for his laboured breathing. Jesus! Jesus! Jesus!
Wave after wave of dizziness washed over him. Bitter saliva collected in his mouth and he had an overwhelming urge to throw up. Then that familiar chill about his feet and he sprang to his feet, flailing his limbs furiously, punching at invisible foes and yelling incessantly, Jesus! Jesus! Jesus!
He kept at it for over thirty minutes, not caring what his neighbours—mainly members of his extended family–might think; shouting himself hoarse, with sweat running down his entire frame, like a blacksmith’s who was hard at his forge. Jesus! Jesus! Jesus! The night paused to listen to the struggle that carried on till the wee hours of the morning.
* * * *
“Hey, Sir Tee!” hailed Siki, swaggering up to Tonye. He was short and broad and jovial. He stretch forth a meaty hand and their palms smacked loudly as they shook hands.
“What’s up, man?” Tonye smiled, slowing down.
“You no longer come to crash with us anymore?”
“Paul’s fine. Would you come today? We’re having a little party?”
“What maybe? There’ll be babes, too.”
“Who cares? I’ve other important things to worry about!”
“OK. But you’ll come?”
They parted ways at the Market Square, Siki taking the left turn that led to his biri, while Tonye strode on towards St. Peter’s Quarters. He might go to spend some time with his friends that evening, but he’d come back to sleep in his house. He enjoyed sleeping in his own bed. Not that the nightmares had entirely stopped, but they had reduced in their frequency and intensity. It was now two weeks since he suffered an attack .Nevertheless, he wanted to show those bastards of the night that they no longer scared him. He would come back, no matter how late it was, to pass the night in his own house.
Maybe he should go over and loosen himself up with his buddies, even if he was to pretend he was using it to celebrate the end of his SSCE. That’s what he was going to do.