The entrance of the church led into a rectangular structured area with an upper deck from which the worshippers could look down on the upraised stage that dominated the opposite end of the entrance. The church was teeming with people that had sought it out for sanctuary. Most of the plastic white chairs were occupied and gathered around one laptop that had been set upon the stage floor.
“Find somewhere to sit, I’ll send someone to get you children something to eat.” Sara’s mother said to us before finding her way up the stairwell that led to the upper deck. Sara and her father walked after her arm in arm.
“It’s the news they are watching over there.” Craig said as he pulled a plastic white chair to join the crowd around the laptop that was placed on the floor of the upraised stage. I grabbed a chair and pulled it next to his.
“It’s chaos here at the Asaba Airport as you can see from the background. These people are in a frenzied state, tearing at each other…” A blond, blue-eyed female reporter was saying. “We’ve received unconfirmed reports that the infection is through saliva and when bitten it could take from an hour to three hours to die and resurrect as one of the undead. But if the bitten victim dies before he the infection fully spreads, the victim resurrects in a matter of minutes or seconds. The world has not witnessed anything like this before. The rate and speed of infection is so alarming that CDC estimates that not less that 2 million people would have been infected before the day ends. We’ve also received reports that a team from the CDC are on their way down here to find the cause and possible cure of this infe-“ a flesh eater launched itself at the beautiful blond haired reporter from where she stood at the entrance to the airport. It sunk its teeth into her neck and blood splattered on the camera. The camera angle turned upside down and the sound of the cameraman shouting “Oh my God! Oh my God!” echoed through out the suddenly quiet church.
I looked away from the now blank screen.
“Blood of Jesus. Blood of Jesus. Blood of Jesus.” Someone kept on whispering into the deafening silence while snapping his or her fingers.
Somehow, my palms that on my lap began to tremble. Fine tremors rippled through me as if my body had finally had enough carnage for one day. A warm, soft palm cupped my right hand and held on tightly. I looked up in surprise into Craig’s handsome face that was marred with splotches of blood.
“It’s going to be ok.” He said softly. “It’s going to be ok.” He repeated with more strength in his voice.
“How can you be so sure?” I asked, my voice coming out as nothing better than a croak.
“Because after every night, there’s always day. At the end of every tunnel there’s always light. My little sister used to tell me that good things might not last forever, but neither do bad things. ” A little smile curled his lips and I felt my heart lift up and brighten. A tingle shot through my nerves, bolstering me up with energy until I felt I was floating and soaring high up in the sky. A sense of weightlessness took hold of me until I felt I would suffocate without the breath his smile had stolen from me.
“Mimi, are you okay?” He asked. His brows were drawn together in concern.
I shook my head and blinked a few times to reorient myself. How could one little smile have so much effect on me? “I’m alright. I just felt a bit dizzy…” I lied.
“You’re probably hungry.”
“Then I am right on time.” A rumbling bass voice said. I looked back expecting to see a man, only to see a woman with a tray of food in her hand. She was tall and huge and dressed up in an Ankara gown. “You kids are Sara’s friends right? Big Mama sent me to give you people food. It’s not much, so manage it, o?”
She held out the tray with plates of jellof rice on it to us. When Craig turned back to look at her, his eyes widened and he shot up to his feet.
“Miss Olatunde!” He said.
“Craig, you’re here!” The woman dropped the tray on my lap and wrapped Craig up in a hug. “Thank God you’re ok.”
“Yes o, thank God. Miss Olatunde, is this your church?” Craig asked.
“Yes, I’m actually the chief usher here.” Miss Olatunde of the bazz voice released him from the hug
“No wonder you’re rarely in the compound, the church must keep you busy.”
“Yes it does.”
“Did you see my dad and sister? Did they come to this church with you?” Craig asked, his eyes shining with hope. Miss Olatunde took a step back from him. Tears filled up her eyes as she shook her head and looked away from Craig.
“Miss Olatunde, what does that mean?” Craig’s voice had gone hoarse.
“I’m so sorry Craig, I’m so sorry. All the neigbours that were around ran out of the compound at the same time when the creatures got to our street. I saw your sister and father enter his car but the car refused to start. I shouted for him to enter my car but it was already too late. The windows of his car were wound down and it was easy for those creatures to get in.”
“No…no…no….” Craig took two steps back but then stilled, his body frozen in place like a beautiful but tragic painting. I would forever remember the look on his face when he learnt his family was dead; the way the light in his eyes dimmed; the way he stood almost lifeless like a broken doll.
And then he fell to his knees. When I tried to reach out to him, to comfort him, he brushed off my hand and got up unsteadily to his feet. He began to stagger out of the church in a daze.
“Craig.” I called out to him, but he ignored me. I placed the tray on tiled floor of the church and was about to go out after Craig when someone grabbed my left hand. I turned and met Franks midnight black eyes. He’d been sitting next to me this whole time and I hadn’t even noticed him until now. I tried to pull out of his grip but he held on tighter.
“Let go. I have to go after Craig. With the state he’s in he shouldn’t be left alone.” I told Frank.
“He needs to be alone right now.”
“Did you see the look on his face just now? I doubt he’s aware of his surroundings. He just might walk out into the street.”
“He is in grief, Mimi, but that wouldn’t make him stupid.”
“But people in grief do stupid things.” I whispered hoarsly. I clenched my fist tightly and fought the tears that threatened to fall out. The tremors returned to my body and I began to shake. Images flashed through my mind, nearly knocking me to the floor. My mother dangling from the ceiling fan with a rope tied around her neck. Spittle dribbling down her chin. Her body rotating…rotating…
“Mimi! Mimi are you alright?” Frank asked. His arms were around my shoulder, steadying me.
“I’m fine…I’m fine.” I mumbled. I shrugged off his arms and took a step forward. “See? I’m fi-“
My knees grew weak and I blacked out.
………..To Be Continued………
By Ngozi Nmadu