The silence was deafening. He knew everything was not alright, not at all. He moved on the balls of his feet despite the pain from the sharp stones on the floor. There were a lot of trees and tall grasses and one or more of them had somebody lurking behind them. His head told him to turn around and run but somehow his legs kept going forward.
He paused and listened, nothing! He wondered where they were hiding. He had followed the shadow, or shadows, he could not tell if there were two. When it or they entered the densely wooded area, he wanted to turn back but felt compelled to follow. He did not see anything scary but still, his heart pounded and suddenly he wanted to be out of the place.
He turned around and ran. Stones pierced his feet as he ran but he did not notice , he just wanted to be out of the woods. He could see the clear field not too far and he increased his speed. Then he saw him! He stopped so fast he fell on his face.
“You look like you have seen a ghost.” The tall shadow said. His face was hidden behind veils; Ibilis?
The shadow stepped into the light and he saw him. It was Sarkin Aljan.
“Sarkin Aljan, what are you doing covered up like Ibilis?” He asked, standing to his feet. His fear was gone now that he knew who the shadow was but still he felt uneasy.
“You recognized me? Esu, nothing could ever go past you, not even now.” Sarkin Aljan said with a laugh that made Esu even less comfortable.
“What is this? Why are we here?” Esu demanded
“I’m here to warn you and you are here to heed my warning.” Sarkin Aljan said, his voice getting cold.
“What are you talking about? Warn me about what?” Esu asked, his heart was racing again.
“The battle is not yours to fight, forget anything the old fool says to you, stay away from this and you will survive.”
“I don’t know what you are talking about, but I hate being threatened.”
“This is not a threat, it’s a warning. Stay away!” Sarkin Aljan said.
Esu was about to reply when out of the shadows stepped a huge dog. He stepped back quickly. It was Manzo! He had heard tales about the Dog that troubled the heavens and ravaged the souls of men. Rumours had linked Manzo to Sarkin Aljan but nobody ever saw them together.
“I see you recognize Manzo. If you did not take me serious before, I’m sure you do now. Stay away Esu!” Sarkin Aljan said and before he could reply, Sarkin Aljan and the huge dog had vanished into the night.
He looked around him, he was alone, the perfect silence was back.
“Wake up!” He heard a voice call from the skies.
He looked up, there was nobody.
“Wake up Eric!” The voice came again, this time he felt somebody hit his arm. “Wake up!”
He opened his eyes and the forest was gone. Maureen, his soon to be ex-girlfriend was standing by him. He looked past her, he was in his room. Who was the man in the veil and why did he recognize him? Why had he called him Esu? Why had he been so scared of the huge dog?
“Eric, I need to go to the mall with Dami and Kunbi. I need some money.”
What was Sarkin Aljan talking about? He was a god, a good one, what was he doing with Manzo? How do I know all of these?
“I’m talking to you Eric!”
He looked up at the girl shouting at him.
“How much do you need Maureen?” he said standing from his bed.
“Fifty thousand should be okay.”
“Are you sure that is enough?”
“What?” She could not hide her surprise.
“I’ll give you double that, in fact, I’ll double the double. But before you leave, pick everything that belongs to you in this house and please don’t come back! Don’t come to my office, don’t call my phone, just go far away from me. Understand?”
He opened his safe, brought out some wads of cash and handed them to her. He locked the safe and walked out of the room. She stood with her mouth open staring after him.
He ignored her and walked to the balcony outside his room. He was confused. First, there was the man who told him he was a god, now he was having dreams. He was either losing his mind or there was more to the past he did not remember than he ever thought. Either way, his life was surely never going to remain the same.
“Good morning Mr. President.”
The greeting echoed as he walked into his office. As a politician, he had learned how to make eye contact and wave at people in a way that made them feel special. He had also learned to look past their smiling faces, every one of them had an agenda. That was what confused him about his first appointment for the day. What was his agenda?
He had seen Doctor Suleiman Aweda on television a few days after the victims of the strange sickness had died. The death of the villagers had gotten international publicity. It had to, it was not every day that over four hundred villagers died from an unknown sickness. He spoke to the press, assuring the nation that the government was on top of the situation. The truth was, he did not even know what the situation was.
Doctor Aweda had an interesting opinion about the sickness that had made many dismiss him as a crazy man. The Press had started to give him attention when he predicted the manner in which the patients will die and his prediction turned out to be spot on. Some still dismissed him as an attention-seeking lunatic but he had gotten their attention. Chukwudi, his minister for Health, himself a well renowned doctor who had advised against giving Aweda any attention was going to sit in the meeting, so the president “would not be fed crap”, as he bluntly put it.
The President walked into his office and sat. It had been his habit to spend the first thirty minutes of his day at the office to pray but that was a long time ago, before the guilt of his adulterous affair with Bola sank too deep. Now he just dived straight into work, God knew he did not have a shortage of work.
Adama his secretary had followed him into the office, wondering if he would truly be seeing the doctor so early.
“Send them in Adama.” He said.
She stepped out of the office and almost immediately the two men entered. The first was Professor Chukwudi Adigwe, the minister of health. He had known Adigwe since they were friends in his secondary. The fact that he was a famous successful doctor made it even easier to appoint him as a minister.
Following him closely behind was Dr. Aweda. He entered clutching a brown bag that had some files sticking out of it. His shirt was loosely tucked into his oversized trousers which somehow did not compensate for his undersized jacket. His big-sized glasses gave him a clichéd look of an over-studious doctor.
“Good Morning Mr. President.” Professor Adigwe said. He never called him Mr. President except when other people were around.
“Good Morning Mr. President.” Dr. Aweda echoed the greeting.
“Good Morning gentlemen, you are welcome, please take your seats.” He said, shaking their hands.
He spent ten minutes discussing nothing in particular. Dr. Aweda did not seem to like small talk as he kept rummaging through his files.
“Let’s get down to business then.” Lange said. “Dr. Aweda, I want to know all you know about this sickness.”
“Okay Sir. It was first diagnosed in Egypt in 270 BC.” Aweda started.
“270 BC?” Lange asked, surprised. Adigwe sighed, he obviously had a problem with what Aweda had said.
“Yes sir, two seventy years before Christ. I don’t understand why our dates are recorded in reference to Christ, but they are, hence the BC.”
“I know what BC is Doctor, I was wondering how this could have been in existence for so long and nobody seems to know about it.”
“I know about it sir.” Aweda said.
“Yes, I mean it’s not common knowledge. Please continue what you were saying.”
“The reason why a lot of people don’t know about the Black death disease or BDD- that’s what it was called then – is because it has struck only three times in history. After the Egyptian incidence, it happened again in the Gold Coast four hundred and thirty years ago.”
“Where did you get all this information from Aweda?” Professor Adigwe spoke for the first time.
“I have been out of this country for many years researching diseases of the past millennium and I stumbled upon the black death disease. I was shocked when I heard news that some people in my home country were showing symptoms that looked like BDD, I had to come back quickly and lend a hand. Of course, my help was thrown back in my face,” he said, casting a mean glance at Adigwe.
“Are you saying you could have stopped the victims from dying?” Lange asked.
“Maybe I could have, but we will never know now.”
“Prof, could he have saved the victims?” Lange asked turning to Adigwe who was not looking impressed at all by Aweda’s words.
“He had no concrete solution when he came to us. We could not risk the lives of Nigerians just because a man thought he had a solution. We had other solutions we were trying.” Adigwe said.
“Well, how did that work out for you?” Aweda asked with a sneer.
“Before we can find a solution to a problem, I believe we need to find the cause. Do we know the cause of this BDD?” Lange asked, he was not sure whether to direct the question to his Minister or this man who claimed to know more than every other person.
“Yes sir, we know the cause of BDD” It was Adigwe who answered. “It is not physical, it is nothing medicine can prevent. It is the curse of Apophis”
“The curse of what?” Lange asked, eyebrows raised.
“That is why we did not listen to him.” Adigwe said , shaking his head. “Mr. President, I’m sure the good doctor here wants to help but I think we need to focus on finding a more reasonable cause for this awful disease.”
“See how he dismissed my theory without even hearing me out. You don’t think curses can cause sicknesses?”
“I know people get sick all the time and none of them were caused by any dead Egyptian king or any other mythical deity.”
“They are called Pharaohs and they are more powerful dead than alive. Haven’t you seen ‘The Mummy’?”
“Now you base your medical theories on a movie? Of course you do since everything you do is nothing but fiction anyway.”
“Do you know that 56.7% of what you know today, you learnt from one form of video or the other?”
“Where did you get that statistic? The Half-wit’s magazine?”
“Stop it, gentlemen!” Lange said. “We need to find a solution to this disease in case it strikes again.”
“Oh, it will. It will kill thousands and thousands before it stops. It’ll spread from one village to another, increasing the number of people who die in each incident until people get tired of counting.”
Adigwe shook his head and said. “We don’t know all of these Mr. President, I will like that we continue our research with the CDC; instead of wasting time on a single man’s theories.”
“What is the solution you propose Dr. Aweda?” Lange asked despite Adigwe’s subtle request for a dismissal.
“The Egyptians sacrificed the Pharaoh’s only daughter. In the Gold Coast, they sacrificed twelve virgin girls. But…”
“Jim, can you please see the problem with this man? Can we please end the meeting so I can go do some real work?” Adigwe asked, he was already getting agitated.
“Dr. Aweda, we will not be killing anybody. I hope this would be the last occurrence of whatever this BDD is.”
“Oh, I can assure you there will be more occurrences. Believe me, I am never wrong.”
Lange sighed and said. “Well, we can only hope you are wrong this time. We can only hope.”
“I cannot believe I am studying mythology with you.” Anne said.
The day was perfect. She was lying down on the rug in her living room, resting her head on Damola’s broad chest. The open windows let in just enough air to keep the room cool. Soft music filtered through the room as she sipped from a tumbler.
She hoped the intensity of her joy at being with him was not showing on her face. It was ridiculous! It was only four days since their first date and she was madly in love with him. She had tried her best to hide it and she was failing miserably. She had spent almost every minute of her day and some nights with him. Despite the stares she got from her employees and comments from her friends, she had made sure he was with her everywhere she went.
“Studying mythology is way better than that boring karaoke thing I had to go to and I did not complain.” Damola said, nudging her playful.
“You complained, a lot!”
“That was because I had to sing. But you can’t deny that you have been educated studying the gods of your motherland.”
“Hmm, true. Since you like reading so much, I’ll get us something fun to read.” She said standing.
“Yeah? What would that be? One of your fashion magazines? I don’t see how that is better than the karaoke.”
“I was interviewed in this one, I’m sure you’ll love it. Don’t ask me why it’s in the bathroom though, that is one question I’m not willing to answer.”
She heard him laugh as she walked to her room. She wished her life could just pause so she could live forever with Damola. He made her happy, more happy she than she thought she could be. She opened the door to her bathroom and frowned; she could have sworn the magazine was on her dresser, maybe she had taken it back to the bookshelf then. She turned around and headed for the door.
Her hand was on the doorknob when the light flickered. She paused, that rarely happened, not with her generator which kicked in when power failed. She turned the doorknob and the light went off. The bathroom went dark except for light sifting in through the window. She shook her head, the stupid generator was malfunctioning again. She shook her head and opened the door.
She stopped and staggered back! Standing in front of her was the biggest fiercest dog she had ever seen. It was as tall as she was and its eyes seemed to ooze darkness. It stood there looking at her, its giant tongue hanging out. She tried to scream but her mouth was too dry. She staggered back into the bathroom and tripped over a bucket. The dog kind of took that as a cue to attack. It strode towards her slowly, each measured step adding to the fear that now threatened to burst her head.
She stumbled to her feet and felt around the bathroom for something to hold. She stumbled against the tap and turned it on. The water touched her hand and suddenly the dog stopped. As the water flowed off her hand she felt a sensation run through her hand and into her body. She withdrew her hand from beneath the tap and waved it around as the sensation moved through her body. She felt a strong wind begin to blow in the room, the dog seeming to have recovered from whatever made it stop began to move towards her again.
She heard things fall and break as the wind grew stronger. The dog unruffled by the wind got closer and she moved backwards away from it. She wanted to run but her feet only shuffled, very slowly. She moved one more step and felt something solid against her back, she had reached the wall.
“Daaaa…aaa…” She tried to scream at the top of her lungs.
The dog stopped in front of her and bared its teeth. It looked like he was smiling. She felt her eyes start to close.
He picked up the remote and reduced the volume of the music playing. He thought he heard something coming from the bedroom. Anne had been gone for close to ten minutes. He had not noticed at first because he had dozed off for a while but now he was getting worried.
He stood from his chair and moved towards the bedroom. He got to the door and the light flickered. He paused, then he heard the sound of things falling. He hurriedly opened the door and ran into the bedroom, the light was back on. He looked around the room, Anne was not in the room. She had mentioned going to the bathroom. He rushed to the bathroom door, he grabbed the door, turned it and pushed it in. It did not give way. She locked the door?
“Anne?” He called as he knocked on the door.
There was a total silence. He had just turned around when he heard a sound. It was a whimper, but he knew who it was; Anne. He turned back to the door and pushed it as hard as he could, it did not give way. He moved backwards, and hit the door with more force. It did not budge. He moved further backwards and ran towards the door but stopped before he hit it; the key was in the lock. His hands were shaking as he fumbled for the key. He turned it twice and pushed the door, still it did not open.
He stepped back from the door, there was no other lock holding it. What was happening inside the bathroom? He moved backwards again, this time moving farther from the door then he ran to the door. He closed his eyes as he got close to the door and braced his body for the hit. Just when he expected his body to hit the door, it swung open. He crashed through the doorway and into the bathroom.
He scrambled to his feet quickly and looked around. The room looked like a tornado had gone through it. There was water all over the floor, buckets, bowls and bottles were scattered around the room.
Then he saw it; the clothes Anne had worn all day, it was lying in a corner of the room. She definitely had been in the bathroom. Why would she remove her clothes? His heart beat faster as he opened and searched each closet. He stopped and looked around again, he held his head between his palms and let out a small cry.
“Anne?” He screamed.
She was gone!