Sibbyl cursed as her Toyota Camry sputtered and went into a fit of jerks and jacking thrusts.
No no no no! Please don’t do this to me…we’re almost there…Oh crap…damn you Mufu!
Mufu was the arrogant creep of a mechanic who regularly worked on her car. Sibbyl couldn’t understand why she still used him. Was he using ‘jazz’ on her? Every time he worked on the car, it seemed to get worse than before. Each time she went into a spat over some rubbish job he recently did which backfired, he would go into a volley of technical explanations of how the car’s mechanism failed due to one careless act of hers and thus end up turning the tables against her.
She would end up looking and feeling stupid, his superior knowledge of automobile technicalities making a mince meat out of her ignorance and pained outburst. She would look at his face to try and decipher whether he was telling the truth or just masquerading another bluff to siphon cash from her.
Mufu had serviced the Camry yesterday and given her a thumbs up that it was okay, so what’s with this sudden jerking?
She edged the faltering vehicle off the service lane on the expressway onto a bypass for vehicles to stop along the way. As if to acknowledge the move, the car gave one final spurt and stalled.
Sibbyl felt betrayed.
‘Mufu! God punish you wherever you are!’ She groaned slamming a fist on top of the dashboard.
She looked at the toll gate miles ahead down the straight unwinding expressway. She was supposed to branch off the road at a turning just beside the toll gate.
A small hold-up had built before the turning – consequences of paying toll for plying the road.
Sibbyl pouted in despair. She was going to be delayed for the reading session she was hurrying to attend.
If only I had made it up to that turnpike, if only the car had decided to break down at that point, I’d dump the car and get a cab from the junction. If only…
There was no way she’d get a cab from the point where she was parked. She would have to embark on a long trek.
Mufu, you will pay for this…I promise!
Two cars sped past and she watched them in envy as they approached the toll hold-up in the distance. She was lost for what to do. She picked up her phone and looked at the screen, her mind racing on whom to call.
A loud startling sound of heavy scratching metal suddenly broke her concentration.
She raised her head sharply just in time to see a trailer transporting fuel zoom past her. Underneath the long vehicle, her eye caught sight of a long rod that had somewhat disconnected between the tyres and was dragging against the asphalt creating ominous sparks and a terrible scraping sound.
Sibbyl felt her heartbeat quicken. It was that peculiar kind of heart rhythm she usually got when she had the intuition that something terrible was about to happen.
The trailer suddenly lurched, probably in an attempt to stop. It went into a drift which buckled between the connection of the driver’s cabin and the adjoining long tank containing fuel. The lurch caused the tank to scrape hard against the road divider causing some sections to rupture and burst.
Escaped fuel splashed across the express mapping itself along with the coming destruction.
The trailer toppled and fell heavily with a loud crash to its side, sliding brutally along road. Bits of metal, glass and debris scattered in directions on impact of the fall. Its brutal friction on the fuel-wet tar gave birth to a blinding and deafening explosion.
B-l-o-o-d of J-e-s-u-s!
Sibbly gasped in utmost shock, almost fainting in the process as she watched balls of fire mushroom across the expressway consuming space, pedestrians, vegetation and the cars lined up at the toll gate. Its deafening sound drowned the screams of horror coming from victims caught in the blaze. The mushroom explosion bellowed further consuming more oxygen and every other thing in its path.
Sibbyl screamed as she felt her car shudder and rattle from the explosion. The heat was intense and the whole atmosphere smelt of petrol. Debris hit the Camry like elements from a vicious weather, shrapnel flew in directions like missiles launched by hordes within the core of the flaming disaster. A small piece of metal smashed into her windscreen leaving a webbed out crack at the right hand corner.
Sibbyl crouched into the leg space underneath the Camry’s steering and dashboard, totally numbed by fear and too scared to look any further or get out and run.
More explosions rocked the area. The lined up cars were now exploding as flames from the previous explosion caught up with inflammable matter within them.
Her life suddenly flashed before her eyes; the last time she saw her family, her friends, her best work that she’d put up on the Naija Stories Website but hadn’t gotten to see published, her plans, her dreams, the prayer she had uttered that morning for journey mercies…
She had never envisioned she’d die like this…in an explosion on an expressway in the prime of her life. Nobody wants to die like this – barbecued to death by flames and premium motor spirit.
Tears stung her eyes, more for those she would leave behind than for herself. She closed her eyes to stop the tears and wait dreading the magnitude at which the raging inferno would encapsulate her.
She whimpered each time she heard an explosion and cowered lower.
Then the explosions stopped.
All she could hear were the flickering of flames. The stench of burned fuel and smoke hung so thickly in the air and filled the car she felt she was going get asphyxiated to death.
Time seemed to drift pass.
Then she heard the shouting voices
Next she heard wailing sirens.
A heavy gust of breeze blew causing the smoke to clear away from the Camry. Inside the car, the carbon monoxide reduced as fresh air blew through.
She crawled out hastily onto the driver’s seat. Her head partially heavy from the brief smoke she had inhaled.
Cars had stopped all over the unaffected parts of the expressway.
People, a mix of neighboring residents and motorists, had gathered watching the burning carnage. Some were crying, others put hands on their heads to express their horror at the magnitude of the ghastly sight. Some ran to and fro doing whatever they could to salvage any soul that might have survived.
Sibbyl closed her eyes and exhaled a long sigh of relief.
The joy of still being alive was so overwhelming.
Heartfelt words of gratitude to the Almighty escaped her lips before she even realized it.
Then a dreadful thought zoomed through her mind.
What if her car had not broken down? She would have been on that toll gate queue with the other cars that perished in the blaze.
Her hands trembled as realization made her heartbeat drum a sequence again.
She made to remove the keys from the ignition and accidentally turned it.
The Camry started…without difficulty.
A bewildered Sibbyl sat back looking all over the car, blinking her eyes and fingering her ears to be sure she wasn’t hallucinating or hearing things.
She placed her foot on the gas pedal and raised the engine.
The car purred smoothly; no spurts, no jerks.
A miracle? The car had stopped for a reason?
She looked again at the accident scene.
Reflections went through her in a tirade. Something she couldn’t explain sort of affirmed what she was thinking.
It was a miracle…divine intervention…
Her breathing became labored with sobs as a strong and undeniable truth weighed on her conscience.
Then she broke down and cried.