The staccato sound of fireworks jarred me out of my sleep. When my eyes opened and I found myself still in that small clearing and in Frank’s arm, I knew that could not be right. Christmas had past.
My heart was pounding so hard that it momentarily made me dizzy. I got up from Frank’s lap and he got up to his feet. The five of us were standing and on alert. The flesh eaters began to stir. Shrieks tore out of their throat, almost like the sound a goat makes when its throat is being slit. They rushed down the street, their bodies clustered together as they hurtled towards the direction of the sound. The abandoned cars on the street were no hindrance to their fitful rush.
The sound got louder in volume. A big blue truck turned a corner and came into view of the street. It was one of those big, massive trucks with a large metal container behind that transport goods. In the passenger side of the truck, a bearded man held a gun with which he sprayed rounds of bullets into the crowd of flesh eaters. I did not know anything about guns but I was sure I have seen this type of gun in the movies.
The truck did not slow down its pace as it drove into the sea of moving creatures. Black blood sprayed on the truck as it crushed bodies beneath its six heavy wheels. Cars that blocked its way were rammed to the side. It was a miracle that the truck did not turn over and crash into any of the nearby buildings.
“Hurry! That’s my uncle’s truck. We have to show them where we are!” Sara said.
I did not get the chance to ask her how she planned to get their attention since the whole street from beginning to end was crawling with those creatures. Sara immediately pushed aside the long blades of grass and came out of our hiding spot. There was a Toyota Rav 4 jeep close to the side of the street near our hiding spot. She began making her way towards it, slashing at the flesh eater that came too close to her with her chisel. Before they could overwhelm her, Frank rushed out after her and the rest of us followed. We hammered or cut down any of the creatures that came close to us until we reached the jeep and climbed its roof.
The sea of creatures swept by us, still rushing towards the sound of the truck and gun fire, but when Sara started to wave her arms and shout for her uncle to notice us, a few of the zombies turned their attention to us. Their arms sneaked up the side of the vehicle, trying to grab our foots and drag us down. We had to be careful, as the roof was too small for all five of us.
I slammed my hammer down on the frail hand of a woman who held on tightly to my ankle. She still did not let go. I continued slamming down on her hand until I heard bones crack and saw flashes of white beneath her torn and rendered skin. Despite all these, she held on tightly to me.
“Mimi, stand still.” Frank ordered. I did as he asked and his broad axe came swinging down to severe the woman’s hand from my ankle. Getting off her fingers that were still tightly wrapped around my ankle was taking too much time, so I left it there like a bizarre anklet. The axe got lodged into the roof of the car and Frank had to struggle to get it out. When he got it out, he turned his attention to the flesh eater that had gripped both ankles of Craig. Only a little more and Craig would have been pulled into the mass of flesh eaters that surrounded us. But Frank got busy with his axe.
One of the creatures climbed up the bonnet of the jeep and began its way up to its roof, but Wole shoved his metal rod with the jagged end into the creature’s neck. He forcefully pulled the rod back out and black blood sprayed in the process. He sent the flesh eater flying into the crowd with a well-aimed kick to the head. He nearly lost his balance with the kick, but fortunately, Sara caught him by the sleeves.
The truck made its way towards us. Its pace had slowed down. Bullets flew into the crowd of flesh eaters around us. The shots went straight to the heads and their bodies fell limply to the ground. The back of the truck swung open and a woman waved her arms for us to run into the metal container.
“Run in, I’ll cover all of you.” The bearded man with the gun yelled.
“You heard him, get moving!” Sara said when we all stared at him like he was crazy. Once we set our foot on the ground, we would be torn from limb to limb.
Luckily, it was only about five feet separating us from the truck, but the thought of running so close to the zombies made me ill. Sara got down from the jeep and Wole quickly followed suit. Once they began running to the truck, any zombie that got close to them was shot down. The tall and skinny young woman helped Wole and Sara climb into the metal container.
“Our turn.” Frank said. I nodded and the remaining three of us ran to the back of the truck, narrowly brushing past the fingertips of the flesh eaters that sought to eat us. As soon as we climbed into the back of the truck, its metal doors were closed shut by the tall and skinny woman.
There was no other opening in the metal container to let light in, so the place was dim. There were several cartons piled up in a corner. I sat on one of them.
Sara jumped into the arms of the tall and skinny woman, almost sending them both to the floor of the truck. The young woman laughed and patted Sara’s head.
“I’m so happy to see you, I thought I’d never see you again” Sara said
“Me too, kiddo.” The young woman replied softly. The truck took a sudden swerve to the right and we all lost our balance with the sudden move. The truck drove over bumps that I suspected were bodies of those creatures.
I picked myself up from the wet floor of the truck. The contents of the cartons must have spilled. The sharp smell of alcohol filled the truck and I wondered if it was wine that was loaded in the truck.
“Sister Grace, what about daddy and mummy?” Sara asked. She and Grace sat on one of the fallen cartons opposite us.
Grace exhaled, the sound abnormally loud in the confined space of the container. “Mum and Dad are fine. They couldn’t leave the parishioners alone in the church. Or more correctly, the parishioners didn’t want their General overseer and his wife out on the street with those things.”
So, Sara’s Father was a pastor? That was news to me, but it certainly explained a lot about her. Not everyone could afford to be as self righteous and uptight as Sara.
The two sisters talked some more about the parishioners and which of them had survived and were hiding out in their church. Their discussion made me impatient because there were many things I wanted to ask Sara’s sister. “Sorry for interrupting,” I began, “From what you’ve been saying, none of those zombies have entered your church. Does that mean it is safe to be in a church? Those zombies can’t enter a church?” Hope flared up in me.
Grace turned her eyes to me lazily; she brushed back the red locks of weave-on hair falling into her eyes with her lean, long fingers. “Those things haven’t entered our church, but I’m not so sure about other churches. One of the parishioners said that the church on the next street to ours got over run by them.”
“So what you’re saying is that even your church might not be a hundred percent safe.” My voice held the bitter tone of disappointment.
“Something like that.” She struggled for something in her jeans pocket and brought out a small flask. She opened it and took a swipe of its content. Her face compressed into a frown but then she sighed and screwed back the cap on the flask.
“You promised to stop drinking!” Sara whispered fiercely. She should not have bothered trying to whisper because we all heard her clearly. “You’re not setting a good example for the parishioners.”
“Oh please, don’t preach to me. I get enough of that from mum and dad.” a mischievous smile grew on her lips, “Say; don’t you think a girl deserves a drink or two in this apocalyptic situation?” She asked loudly. No one replied.
We stayed quiet for a few minutes; the only interruption to the artificial quiet was the rumbling sound of the truck and the occasional bumps and swerves the truck made. Over that was the distant sound of sirens and I wondered what the police were doing.
“So, what exactly happened? What started all this? What’s the news saying about this situation?” I asked.
“There was an emergency broadcast, but the cause of the dead rising back to life and infecting others wasn’t made clear. What was reported on TV earlier this morning was the sudden outburst of violence that started out in Ogbogonogo market but hours later there were reports that the violence had spread out and that those who died rose up from the dead.”
“Is this only happening in Asaba?” Craig asked.
Grace closed her eyes and shook her head. “So far, Asaba and the towns surrounding it have been affected, but other states don’t yet have this probem.”
“What about the government? What are they doing about this?” I asked.
“The fucking government put the whole of Delta under a state of emergency. I don’t really think they understand what’s going on. They see the dead rising back to life and people eating each other on the streets yet they tell us to stay calm and not leave our houses. The assholes in power are probably already on their way out of the state in their private jets.”
“So, we’re on our own?” Sara asked, her voice tinged with fear.
“Who knows?” Grace said. A burst of laughter escaped from her lips, surprising me for a moment. “It’s only shit like this that will put Nigeria under the spot light. Nigeria’s the number one search on yahoo and CNN has been on our case all day.”
We settle back into silence, each of us sunken deep into memories of the last few hours. I busied myself with removing the hand of the woman that still clung to my ankle. Sometime later, the brakes shrieked as the truck was brought to a stop. The doors swung open and the dying light of the day crept in on us. I got down from the metal container, grateful for the cool evening air that swept across my skin.
The truck was parked directly in front of the entrance of the church and as I climbed up the four staircases that led up to the entrance, I looked up to the sky. The sun was already sinking below the clouds to its place of rest, but the beautiful visual of the sun was not what held my attention.
Asaba was a peaceful and calm town when compared to the hustle and bustle Lagos was known for. There was always a certain quaintness to the place. The most disturbance the town suffered from on a daily basis was the traffic congestions on the road, and even then such traffic jams mostly occurred around Ogbogonogo market, which was the central market of Asaba.
Now as I stared across what little part of Asaba I could see from the stairs of the church, I could not reconcile this devastated and wrecked place with the peaceful town where I grew up. Smoke creased the darkening sky in several places, signals of disasters gone unchecked and lives lost. Some cars had crashed into houses and abandoned cars on the streets were splattered with blood and gore as if a giant red pimple had burst open.
The church stood afar back from the road, surrounded by a low fenced wall. Some flesh eaters roamed the street but strangely, none came within the vicinity of the church. They loitered outside the church walls with eyes as black as sin. The beating blades of a helicopter caught my attention and I squinted up to the sky and watched the helicopter fly past above up. Whoever was in that helicopter was lucky. They would be safe from this town.
“Sara!” I heard a woman yell. I turned back to the entrance of the church to see a plump middle-aged woman shuffle forward to strangle Sara in a hug. “Oh, baby! Baby! You’re ok! Thank the Lord you’re ok!”
Sara put her arms around the plump woman and hugged her back just as tightly. “Mummy! I was so scared…they were eating each other! It was horrible!” Sara wailed and a stream of tears came gushing out her eyes.
I saw Grace roll her eyes at the dramatic duo before swaggering into the church. A tall, lean but sturdy elderly man in his sixties limped out the church. He joined the mother and daughter in a hug and wiped the tears from Sara’s eyes.
“Sara, it’s alright now. We’re in the house of God and the Lord God would protect us.” The man said in a gravelly voice. Sara nodded and disentangled herself from her parents. She turned to face Craig, Wole, Frank and I who stood awkwardly in a corner as we witnessed the family reunion.
“Daddy, mummy, these are my classmates. I think we’re the only one’s that survived the attack on our school.” Sara said.
“Good evening.” We greeted Sara’s parents.
“Oh, bless your souls. It must have been horrible for you children. God’s favor was upon you and that’s why you survived.” Sara’s mother said. I was very much tempted to roll my eyes at that, but I held myself back out of respect. If we had God’s favor, this kind of madness would not happen in the first place. “Come inside the church, you must be tired and hungry. Come in, come in.” Sara’s mother shooed us into the church.
………..TO BE CONTINUED………………
By Ngozi Nmadu