Never knew this day will come so soon when I will write about you. Wow…how time flies! It has been over a year ago you happened but today brought you back alive in prints of black & white. That unforgettable day was the last day of the month of January in the year 2013. Just like any other day it came, morning preceded by a cold night of jangling generator sets at my window. There had been a UEFA Champions’ league match Manchester United had played the previous night.
Madesola my neighbor, and I were together the previous evening before the match talking. Our talk was basically about showbiz but more often than not, crawled up to dirty poitics, GEJ, money etc. While Made was of a doer personality, I was a calculative talkative and more of an artist. I love to talk. It makes me grand. Whatever we were discussing that day lingered on into the evening. We even went on a recess and came back together but this time, his motive was for us to head to a pamy joint on the next street. We argued till we got there.
Illuminati or so was the controversial topic we heated on. Along the line, he infused African religion and exorcism, wizardry and their likes all wearing the cloak of African religion and mysticism. We argued back and forth as he poured us a glass of the liquor each.
The sweetness of the wine has turned sour and the colour was way off the white colour I was accustomed to. It tilted towards reddish brown. I barely could look at it. The smell although similar, was pungent. It was the oxidized ethanol. Oguro was what he called it. I called it what it was, which is ethanoic acid. Then another round of hot argument ensued. He argued about my name calling and I stated the obvious. I knew it right from secondary school under the tutelage of my then chemistry teacher-Mr. Pat.
Ethanol reduces to ethanal, partially oxidizes to ethanone and in full oxidation is ethanoic acid. All of this process has only to do with one of the oxygen ring as Prof. Ugoo, further buttressed the next year. Quietly our talk began to wane and he brought my knowledge to the full cup before me.
‘Just a sip’ I smiled and he nodded, ‘sha take something’.
There was this characteristic smirk that trailed his lips. With liquor in the mix, it turned deviant. His smirk stood out like a baby chewing at the mother’s nipple. One of his colleagues at the joint sauntered in with a female sidekick. We changed position and joined the new-comers on the wooden bench by the side of the wall.
The faint halogen bulb stood across in the opposite direction like half-current. The shambles had a characteristic odour of stale air. The music blaring from the speakers were gyration music reminiscent of kegites. The only thing I liked about the place was the mango tree that stood some feet away. Tall and thin, with branches spread out like chicken’s wings flapping. In no time he introduced us. While he introduced me to him as Pedro, a guy from his hood, he introduced his red-eyed colleague as Peter and Peter introduced his sidekick to us in that order.
We all settled down and started talking and subtly, the topic of discussion veered towards an area they both were more conversant with. To avoid the temptation of a contribution not needed, I changed my seat to the other bench and brought out my phone. I always have stuffs to read on, and on that day it was on numerology and graphology.
It was quite interesting, to find out how close it was able to match some people and for some it fitted like gloves, though it did not match others at all. The time slowly went by under the moonless sky. Gritty voices of gyration tunes travelled down the street from the blaring loudspeakers. Quietly we signaled to each other and it was time to go. The anticipation of what Manchester United would play hung over us and stretched out till the end of the match officiating.
The depression of playing UEFA league filled me like a rage. Going back home was back to my aloneness but as I tried talking to Made to spend the night with him, a creepy thought dissuaded my mind instantly. We bade each other good night and each man travelled, buried in his thoughts to his house. I cannot really remember what I did before finally hugging sleep in warm embrace.
What woke me up was the scream of auntie as she called ‘Jesus! Jesus!! Jesus!!!’ Her melodramatic voice displayed its full range in utter fear, I have never heard before since I got to their house. Footsteps chase ensued, a door slammed in the distance, and there was a lull. The whole scuffle died down to whispers or complete silence out of earshot.
‘What is going on here?’ The voice of my cousin Tade rang out from his room as he opened his door slicing through the silence. His voice got silenced out too with the same momentum with, which it built up. The numbness was deafening.
I paced up and down my room frantically lost in thought. The first line of thought that clicked through was to place a call to Uncle Toks, my friendly neighbor 2 houses away. Then a series of what-ifs filled my mind. What if this was just a wild dream or perhaps an imagination playing out? What if it was the neighbours at the barracks letting go of their lids to madness or a mere hallucination? What-if it was a domestic scuffle between my uncle and auntie?
Although it had never happened till that moment and even now, but nothing is unimaginable under pressure. I tried to sit, run, jump or just fly away but there I was stuck in the present. Pictures ran in parallel, mangled words, in different halves of a labyrinth. Putting all of these halves together formed a broken picture. Illusion and reality in a perfect mix raised panic attack.
I dropped on my knees to say a word of prayer and I started singing one of my favourite hymns – O God our help in ages past. The nerve to scream out the descant enveloped me at the third verse and I still cannot tell how my voice fizzled away into the whispering chorus of the still night. Quietly I ran to the door again trying to receive any signal from the other end of the house.
What I heard seemed a two way discussion breaking off from time to time at the hinges with a chorus of other voices in an uproar. My auntie’s voice danced to and fro lost, gently massaging her questioner’s ego.
‘Sir, what do you want sir…’ The repetition and the whimper shawl covering her lungs made her voice foreign from that distance. She begged, switching between calm and anxiety. From her voice I felt pains for her.
‘Where your room dey? Another voice lost in the previous chorus of uproar asked. Then another spell of silence followed. Back in my room, the tension was bursting at the seams. I ran back to my bed side where I had knelt earlier. My eyes fluttered. Indeed I was flustered.
‘What fate awaits me?’ Feet stomped to and from the staircase. Silent commands passed between tightly clenched teeth, and then another growl, then silence. The rustling of the Banana and plantain leaves outside my room brought me back to my seemingly hopeless condition. My fluorescent tube was on, an indication of someone’s presence was visible enough, and then coupled with the rotating fan. No matter how stealth I moved, it felt as if my footsteps thudded. Aside uncle’s room, my room was the only room with an escape route, the balcony.
Another series of what-ifs played again in my mind. What if I get shot in my bid to escape, what if my uncle and his family accuse me afterwards, which was practically inevitable considering how the after-effect of the incident affected everybody, including I. So I just stayed put and thought up fresh ideas, but nothing clicked. Silence swept over the house, not even the footsteps that travelled that space earlier. They were all in my uncle’s bedroom with his wife and only son. Trepidation has turned me ashen-white. My mouth was still tied in a knot when I heard auntie called out my name.
‘Pedro! Pedro!! Pedro!!!’ That moment I dreaded most finally came with a bang.
‘Ma! Ma!! Maa!!!’ I stuttered. Then I heard footsteps proceeding beyond the staircase. ‘Wow! Is this for real? Is this really happening?’ The walk from that point I had heard them talking, to my room was a dash.
Gba! Gba!! Gba!!! ‘Open your door’ the voice commanded. By then I had melted completely. The key got stuck while turning it in the hole. Gba! Gba!! Gba!!! He banged the door again like a mad man. ‘Open the door!’ He barked. Stealthily the door gave way and he entered, a young man my age with no mask. All he hand in hand was a nail pincher. He pushed me in and slammed the door gbao!
‘Where your phones and laptop?’ ‘Sir…sir’ I stuttered. I picked the Samsung phone and thrust it in his hand.
‘Sir, here is the laptop’. I said pointing it to him on the bed. He assembled the 2 objects and took a closer look at them. He walked closer towards me a feet to the flush door where my cupboard stood to the left. He picked my Rolex wrist watch and paused.
All the while he had been shouting ‘you go die today! You must die today! Na today you go die! Na today you must die!’ I watched him in silence.
‘Where your gold-chain?’
‘Me! Gold-chain! Bros I no get o’.
Another rain of the ‘dies’ played on like a rolling disc.
Gently I stepped back a bit when I felt his breath grazing my neck. He kept quiet for a second or two and asked for money.
‘How much you get for here now?’ The fate I had bemoaned beforehand came to the fore.
‘How much dey your hand?’ He asked again.
Sitting on my cupboard was a loosed change of 50naira and two 20naira notes. Sola and I had spent the money at the pamy joint. Double wahala for dead body. Ewww…I was in boiling soup. How would I tell him that was all I had, considering the pros and cons of not co-operating duly as expected?
‘Oga abeg, bros please’… the saliva in my mouth dried up.
‘Na today you go die! You must die today!!’ His voice was apt and cut through me like hot knife in butter. His eyes fixed on me solely. That was when it dawned on me, I was done for.
‘Oga…’ a minute silence or so passed. He paused too, although he kept looking around.
‘Where the money?’ He asked again, lifting the nail pincher up in the air.
‘Bros I be student’ I had said without even knowing it and I saw my folly right before my eyes.
‘You! You be student?’ The rage I saw in his eyes forced my tongue otherwise. Before he could go back to his die this time around, I quickly changed my words to ‘bros, I never get job o’. Instantly I felt the camaraderie. His eyes softened a bit. He picked the money and ordered me out to join the others.
Fear swallowed me wholly. I stood at a position that would gladly pass for his back, when he barked at me ‘go front’. I gently slipped in front at the exit.
‘Go join your people’. It was at that point I felt the bulging heat down low. My bladder was already giving way. I tried hard to steady my shaky feet as I walked the distance. It was the longest I walked in my life till that moment and even now. The numerous thoughts playing in my head were all about the blood. Finally, they came in view. Mother and son, before my eyes caught a panoramic view of my oyinbo-speaking uncle spread out on the floor. His big dangling tummy like mine was already in homage to the side of the floor he laid. Rumour has it he was stark naked.
‘Lie down!’ Another command went off. And I saw my auntie’s face. She just couldn’t keep still. Her head kept swaying left and right as her mouth moved non-stop.
‘Blood of Jesus!’ that would go on for a full minute, and then ‘God have mercy’ would continue from where the former stopped.
‘Shut up!’ another voice commanded. Her voice would die out in a minute or two and she would resume again. Not long after I lay down, head buried like it was in my secondary school days, then one of them asked, ‘una don tie am?’ Then I felt a strangely strong hand held my hands to the back and another put a piece of cloth round it.
It was after they had gone I realized the piece of cloth was actually a part of my uncle’s bed sheet. In a short while, about 3 of the men came into the room. One went straight for the fridge opposite the bed, where my head lay and another to my uncle’s side of the bed fumbling with his documents. The third just stood still at the door asking questions to which my uncle would answer, ‘you have taken all the money in the house’. It was a bit funny to see him so humbled by those men half his age.
‘Madam!’ The one fondling the things in the fridge called out.
‘Take us to your room’.
‘Yes sir’ was the succinct reply she gave.
Up on her feet, she led them in the opposite direction. They ransacked her room for close to 15minutes and brought her back to us.
‘Madam, we go rape you infront of your husband and pikin, if you no co-operate with us’, the one sitting on the bed chuckled at the remark made by the other of his colleague, leading what is actually the opposite of charade.
‘Please sir’, auntie said cowered in fear.
‘Where your daughter dey? Another voice altogether asked. Slowly the mental picture became clearer. These were not just thieves. They were informed thieves. They knew us just too well. The path their questions took was a thing to worry about. And another line of what-ifs pressed on play in my head. Different scenes of what could be started simulating in my head.
What-if someone got shot? What-if my head got smashed? What-if my auntie resists rape and got gagged till breath leaves her body? I was still trying to process all of this when I saw my parents- Father and Mother. I cringed. The tape of my life played before my very eyes and the inevitable struck me. This is the end. My face looked from my mother to father and back to my mother. Is this how I am going to exit this route called life?
All of my misdeeds flashed my eyes. I could not help the overwhelming rush of emotions. I tried to stay calm. I prayed in the best way I could. But the most important prayer was to make heaven in case the inevitable happened.
‘Madam!’ I heard the voice again and was jolted back to the now.
‘My daughter doesn’t stay here anymore sir’ she said. Her voice was a little steadied now.
‘Take us to her room’ was the defiant reply. ‘
What of her jewelries? Her gold?’ My pincher in hand friend had asked.
In all they were over half a dozen in the house. They walked off to Dami’s room. It was situated on the other divide after the staircase. It was actually the first room to come across then Tade’s room, which is adjacent, followed by mine then the baby of the house Tolu, a student of Columbia state University in the US before the toilet and bath.
Her plea for mercy got lost amidst the fat of half a dozen voices. Back to my uncle’s room, the silence palpitated. Three grown assed men tied down, face buried in the floor. Aside the chiming wall clock and humming fridge, the room was dead. Nothing, not even the sound of a dropping pin would have gone unnoticed.
The spell of silence was so long, I wonder what father and son were thinking about now as I write. I was glad my cousin was home. He would have made light the whole issue. Had it been the whole drama, and what have you had happened in his absence. His presence and helplessness was more comfort to beguile my lips, as they patted at the edge, even when we were covered in the garment of uncertainty. The smile swelled and blossomed. It came to an abrupt end when a younger man than my pincher wielding friend came in. He smiled and clapped. ‘Perfect silence’ the echo of his words lingered with the plastered grin on his face as he sipped on the content of the Guinness Can he had in his hand.
Back from Dami’s room, the questioner asked of Doris’ room. What a green light pointing at an insider but unfortunately, their informant did not feed them the latest news. Doris had gone to her baby father’s house over 6 months ago and Dami now stayed with auntie Bola at Lekki.
‘Doris don comot for here, she no dey stay here again’ my poor auntie had said laying emphasis on Doris’ absence.
‘We go rape you in front of your husband and pikin now’ one of them fired back.
‘Please….’ Then a lull followed. The silence hitched, when one of them asked who was occupying Doris’s room and auntie replied my new girl. Off they went downstairs to Ejire’s quarters and the poor girl recounted her story after their departure. How they slapped them both, and pushed auntie to the bed. After awhile they brought them upstairs.
Now the whole occupants of the house were bound and tied, head buried in a room. One of them held Kehinde’s hand and the other probably fondled her and she started crying. A little argument ensued between them and she was pushed back to the floor beside Uncle ‘loyinbo.
Time to divide the spoils, and a big argument arose. How the content of each man’s room should be shared. The quiet guy with his hand on his body said something that resulted in catastrophe. And they all faced each other in what could have resulted in more than kicking and shoving. It was then my heartbeat raced again. What if they got angry and fired bullets into the room? Tade and I stood the greatest risk. We were in the open. They name-called each other and that was I knew the big-mouthed ‘perfect silence’ boy was going on operation for the very first time.
Soon the argument subsided and I heard their footsteps down the stairs to the Kitchen and after awhile, the whole place was silent again. Auntie was the first to speak, then Uncle ‘loyinbo, their son, then Kenny. I was too lost in my thought to say a word. After awhile Ejire was able to free her hands from the loose bounds around her hands and feet, and in turn she released each and every one of us. Calls were made and soon our house was a Mecca of sympathizers.