That evening, we heard some cars driving in, Linda, who was close to the window quickly peeped through the crack and shouted “it’s the police; they’re coming to rescue us”. Everyone in the room quickly rushed to the window to have a glance. When Linda managed to slip out of the rush, she told Alice and I that she saw two black cars with government plate numbers, according to her, the occupants of the first car were all plain clothed men, wearing police vests and carrying guns, she said one of the men from the second car opened the door for a well dressed man to step out.
As she finished talking, we heard the door being opened. Every girl stood at attention, expecting freedom at last. The door opened and the man Linda talked about stepped in, wearing an immaculate white Caftan, with a strong scenting perfume. From his looks, attire and poise, he appeared to be a highly influential society man. I later learnt from Alice that he was a prominent politician. The big man, as Terror called him afterwards looked at us with seeming compassion, he asked one of the girls why she looked sad, she replied that she was hungry and she wanted to go back to her parents.
The man shook his head and promised to order for more bread. The girl smiled and thanked the man as he turned to go. “Excuse me sir” I shouted, he turned to face me, “what about her second request?” I asked, “we all want to go home”. He looked at me long and hard, he turned and looked at the rest of the girls, then he said “we’ll look into that”. A true politician, I thought; I shook my head in disappointment as he turned to leave.
Well I was disappointed, but not surprised. The visit of this politician increased my worst fears, but I pushed aside the fearful thoughts of our captor’s intentions. I prayed silently, asking God for help, but as the night approached and light gave way to darkness, I realized fearfully that time was fast running out. I was not sure of what would befall us the next day. That night had to be the night that would determine our escape or continued captivity. I knew I needed all the co-operation possible. Alice and Linda were trustworthy and available, Kate, on the other hand was available but not trustworthy. I called Alice and Linda, Kate was lying down, resting, so I didn’t bother her. I let the two girls know my fears, letting them know that we were not sure of the events of the next day, and so we had to work at expanding the hole in the wall and making our escape quickly. When Alice checked her watch it was 10:30pm, yet all the other girls were fully awake, we could not start yet, we waited for another 30 minutes, yet they were all still fully awake and discussing. I peeped from one of the windows, I saw three men sleeping, surrounded with the usual empty bottles and cans of beer.
I went back to Alice and Linda and told them we had to start, but we had to get everyone involved in the planned escape. So, I called for everyones attention with a weak clap, when I got their attention, I quickly told them the plan as discreetly as possible. I called Kate and told her I still trusted her, and I needed her support too, I went over to where she stood and hugged her. I could see from the look on her face that she never expected it, impulsively; the other girls started hugging each other. I could now see a strong bond of solidarity form between us.
We got to work expanding the hole and digging out the mud. The wooden frames within the mud structure had gotten weak, so it wasn’t difficult to break them. After breaking the wood, everyone heaved a sigh of relief. I looked at everyone; we had not taken a bath for two days now, and we were all looking haggard and unkempt. I called for everyones attention and asked that we prayed for God’s protection. We held hands and prayed. After we had prayed, I quietly stepped out of the hole, the freshness of the air was a delight, but I could not fully appreciate it at that moment. I went on to survey the compound, I could see the three men sleeping, the other rooms in the compound had no lights on. I was faced with the large expanse of bushy land we were to venture in. The compound had no fence, so we were free to escape.
I stepped back into the room and reminded the girls that we had to be as silent as possible, as any noise could jeopardize our escape. As we were about to file out into the bush, Kate called our attention, everyone turned to face her, she stood still where she was, and told us she could not go with us. I was stunned like every other girl in the room. I asked her why, she said she was a street girl, and she had no place to run to, she went on to say that Terror had promised her a huge sum of money after the operation. I could not understand her hopes, but nothing we said was able to bring her to change her mind. At this point, I knew we just had to do it, so I asked Linda to help me tie her up, and gag her mouth. She cried silently, and at a point everyone began to sob, but we still tied her up even as she offered no resistance whatsoever, then we lay her down gently.
We filed out into the bush, eleven girls, free at last, or so we thought. As we got into the bush, we walked quietly for about five minutes, and then we started running. We made sure to stay together as we ran, when we got tired from running, we started walking. After we had walked and walked till we could go no further, we decided to take a rest before continuing. As we sat down to rest, one of the girls started crying, others tried to console her, but I was lost in thought to pay much attention. I was thinking of how far we had to go before we got to a safe place; if I still had my phone, it would have been so useful at the moment, I thought. Suddenly, everywhere became very quiet, I looked to see every other person sleeping, I yawned, as I became aware of how tired I was. Soon, I slept off…
The nauseating smell of Indian hemp woke me up. I opened my eyes, in the daylight to see six men with guns surrounding all of us. I almost fainted; cries filled the air, as the men angrily roused us all up. “Who is responsible for this?” Terror roared at us, his eyes red with rage and from constant Indian hemp smoking. When nobody talked, he threatened to have all of us stripped naked in the bush, and raped at random when we got back to the hideout, as he called it. Yet, nobody talked. “Tear off their clothes” he shouted to other the men. “It was me sir”, I confessed, to avoid manhandling the other girls. Terror gave me a hard slap that made me dizzy for sometime. By the time I recovered, from the slap, I heard him saying he would use me as the scapegoat, and then they led all of us back to the room.
Tied to four stakes pinned to the ground, I lay stretched out on the floor, someone loosed the blindfold over my eyes, it was Terror, dressed every bit like an occult man. It would have been a very dark night but for the robust full-moon that was shinning so brightly. The politician that came earlier joined Terror; he was dressed in flowing red, with a red and black cap. Terror, looked at me and said, “Your punishment would be to see your death coming”. He collected a machete hanging over a fireplace; it was very red from the fire. He lifted it up over my head, I was too shocked and scared to cry or scream, it was like I was transfixed on the spot. The politician made some incantations, and then he nodded as a sign to Terror, who immediately swung the machete straight towards my neck.
I could hear my name gently from a distance; as I eventually shouted “Jesus” with all the strength I could muster. I saw the machete coming down, but I did not feel any pain.
Chika’s hands moved on the floor, as if she was searching for something, but all she touched, felt so cold. She knew she was in an unfamiliar territory, and then the lights came on.
After the narration, Oluchi felt pity for her friend, Chika. Earlier, Oluchi had woken up forcefully when she heard her friend Chika, scream and cry in her sleep. She watched her friend, for the first few seconds, lying motionless on the mattress, except for her right hand, which was moving on the floor, as if in search of something. At that point, Oluchi shook her friend gently, calling her name, as she tried to wake her up.
She switched on her rechargeable lamp, as Chika got up, looking around the room, and panting so forcefully that Oluchi got scared. “It’s only a dream, Chika, it’s only a dream”, Oluchi reassured her friend, who was still visibly shaking. Gradually, Chika returned to the present, and remembered that she had gone straight to her friend’s house, which was close to the church, when she saw it was too late to go to her own house.
Chika cried freely, hugging her friend tightly as she did so. It was after she had cried enough, that she told the dream to her friend, Oluchi.
Two days after, Chika saw someone walking in front of her. From behind, the person looked very much like Linda.
“Linda”, she called softly, Linda turned around and faced her…