It was my final year in medical school, so I had to put in extra hours to study. As the final lap of the race that started six years earlier, I needed to be better, swifter and end well. Due to this, I developed a new habit.
Usually, before my final year, I get to my room on fourth floor of the ten storey hostel late in the evening, and then get my stomach filled as I prepared to fill my brain too. I always studied for about five hours before finally going to bed around 12am only to rise at 6am.
When the concluding year came, things changed. Instead of studying till 12am, I decided to carry on till 4am. This went on smoothly for about twenty days until another sub-habit surfaced; eating at midnight.
The hunger would start around 1am. I endured it for few days until I could no more. Then I decided to start cooking at midnight since I had little time to myself during the day. There were nights I did not have to cook, I just warmed the already cooked ones in the refrigerator and given that I lacked a microwave oven, I would go to a friend’s room on the 5th floor to make use of his.
One midnight after my reading session, I set out on my usual journey to the 5th floor. That midnight, the long and narrow passage that led to the 5th floor was unusually quiet and cold. I looked up and noticed one of the two fluorescence lamps had gone out, so the corridor was a little bit dim. Getting to the end of the passage, I turned left with my bowl of rice and chicken. The stairs came into view. I climbed quietly as I shook my head to an inaudible song that played on my mind. After ascending ten steps, I rested for a while on the spacious flat pavement that followed. Then the climbing continued after I made another left turn.
Ten climbing steps were all I gave again and I was on the 5th floor. My breathing pace had somewhat increased. But my stomach needed to be satisfied first before attending to the lungs.
Taking some seven more gaits forward, I got to room 529 where Victor lived. Fortunately for me, I needed not to knock as the door was unlocked. I guessed victor knew I was coming. That was the usual thing and he wouldn’t tolerate any break in sleep that night.
I pushed the door quietly with my right index finger, careful enough not to make a sound and entered. A stranger could have taken me for a thief. The precious bowl sat comfortably on my left palm.
Moving quickly, I got to the microwave, opened its door, and placed my meal inside making sure it was properly closed because I once heard that food substances directly exposed to the emissions inside a microwave could be harmful to the human body. I then closed the oven gently. I went ahead to plug its cable to an electric socket just behind it after which its timer was set to three minutes. I watched as the ceramic bowl rotated under a yellow light in the microwave.
The food’s aroma gradually activated the sounding system of my stomach as it produced rumbling noises. I silently prayed Victor’s waking system remained inactivated because I was not ready to share the little food with him again that night knowing greatly well what glutton he was. I shot a stern glance at him and noticed his noses were already moving. My crooked prayer intensified.
The ping sound of the microwave which indicated end of three minutes brought me back from the mood of prayer. Quickly, I retrieved my food and disconnected the machine.
I strode out of the room briskly as the door closed behind me. God answered my prayer.
The journey to my room on 4th floor started again, this time faster; because of the hotness of the ceramic bowl I was carrying. I slightly juggled the bowl between my two palms as I descended hurriedly. After the twentieth step, I turned again to be welcomed by the long hallway.
An unexplainable compressing sensation gripped me as I meandered along. I raised my fatigued head faintly and noticed the second lamp had started functioning. No wonder the corridor looked brighter. With the bowl on my right palm, I inserted the other hand inside my pajamas pocket to retrieve an iphone. The time read 3am.
The more steps I took, the more compressed I felt. Getting to the middle of the corridor, the two lamps suddenly went off, and then they came on again, and again went off. The lights were flickering. The two of them took slow turns in coming on and off as if in a competition. The tempo then increased as I took three more steps further.
Suddenly the flickering stopped and everywhere became dark. I praised myself for bringing a phone along. The bowl had shifted to my left palm. I then went ahead with the right hand and retrieved the phone to produce illumination for the rest of the journey …that was when I heard
“Thank you Johnson, now give me the food, I have been waiting for it.” I froze
My mind raced as I stood there in the dark, a little bit afraid to look behind me. Thoughts flew crazily into my now swelling head. Victor came first to my mind. But I left him sleeping and snoring loudly, or could it be Ajibola? …another troublesome friend that stayed on the 2nd floor.
I couldn’t place the gender of the voice or age range. Its accent was neither male nor female. The sound was really tampering with my head. Then it occurred to me; nobody in this school knows me as Johnson, only my father calls me by that name. This revelation terrified me.
I initiated to quicken my gaits and get out of the corridor but to my utmost bewilderment, my body refused to move. I couldn’t budge. It felt as if a great force just pinned me on the spot, permitting just the knocking of my knees against themselves.
The voice then said “turn and face me while you handover that bowl” I felt my head was going explode any moment as my heart kept thumping seriously.
No, I wasn’t ready to turn. I kept struggling to break loose while I made small uncomfortable jerks. I tried shutting my eyes, but I only succeeded blinking them rapidly and forcefully. They were unclosable. The voice owner guessed I wasn’t going to turn, so he turned me without touching me. I rotated 180 degrees robotically against my will, facing the side I formally backed.
Lights started flickering again. As they flickered, I caught sporadic glimpses of the figure in front of me. The lamps finally stabilized and I saw it.
It was about 15 feet tall and lanky, some meters shorter than a standard electric pole. The robe it had on wasn’t just black, it also radiated darkness. Its whole body faced me apart from the head that turned the opposite direction. I slowly descended my eyeballs on it, taking a scan from its head to toe. That was when I noticed the webbed feet. Each foot contained about seven flattened toes and just like the head, the right foot was turned backwards too. I then screamed but I was unable to hear the sound of my voice.
Its two hands lingered towards me in a floating manner as if they lacked bones. It then glided closer, still with head facing backwards.
“Give me food …every midnight I watched as you walked this passage with food, now you are carrying my favorite, chicken! Hand it over”
I wanted to faint, but I remained as conscious as ever. I felt my bones crushing as it glided nearer. Then two smaller versions of it appeared behind. They were about half feet tall, almost the height of a coke bottle. They cried by turns in the strangest ways known to me, changing cry sound, tone and velocity every five seconds.
I had an urge to shout Jesus! …the name I never for once believed in, but I just stood there, unable shift my lips.
It reached me and then slided the bowl of food away from my palm, it again glided backwards to the other two without turning. My knees kept banging together. I felt weak yet strong as ever. The force acting on me was doing a really immense job.
The trio scrambled over my food. I watched as the two little ones rose up into the air to match the height of the taller. Whatever they did to my rice and chicken, I never knew. Whether they ate it or drank it, the ceramic bowl just returned to my hands void and shinning.
Then slowly, the force acting on me started plummeting. I could now move my body freely. I immediately dropped to the ground as soon as the whole grip left me. Watery saliva dribbled down my mouth corners. The final words I heard were
“We will be waiting for you tomorrow, and if you refuse to show up, expect a room visit”