- Third Prize winner 2015 Teecoks writing competition; VICTORIA OLAYINKA from SONMORI SENIOR COMPREHENSIVE HIGH SCHOOL, LAGOS
Taaah! Another slap landed on my face. I could feel my eyes water and tears stream down my face to form a confluence at my jaw. I would not give up! They would not see my fear. A kick to my head and I saw stars rove round my head as if completing a cycle. I looked up and felt my head ring like the clash of cymbals during worship service on Sundays in my mother’s church. Hands pushed me down and I tried to stifle the sob that was bent on escaping.
I raised my head and it was straight into the eyes of one of my captors. It took me straight into the bottomless pit. Revered Bernard always preached against. I shuddered at his red pointed eyes that were linked to a nose that blared as he spoke.
“Get this straight, you would do as we say or you will die!”
He flung me away and I hit my head against the wooden door of the cell I shared with Ngozi, another captive. Initially we were three but Bemiwo had died during child birth. Her young body ravaged by the rigours of child birth, could not survive it. I quickly scurried to a corner as he crossed to the door and let himself out. The sound of the key sealed our fate again.
When I was sure he was not coming back, I managed to stand on shaky legs and tried to negotiate my path to the mattress that was at the corner, adjacent the door. It reeked of urine and was also the same level with the floor but I had no choice. Ngozi, my cell-mate peered at me from her corner and whispered:
“Bolanle, I am sorry!”
She had been quiet all through my ordeal out of fear, I stared at her for a long time and could see only her eyes, her gown covered her from head to toe, reminding me of our neighbour in Lagos, Alhaja Nofisat. I treaded gingerly like a woman in labour and managed to sit on the bed. My stomach ached and my ribs felt broken. I tried to open my mouth to reassure Nneka that I was okay but my lips were swollen.
I looked down at my legs that bore my oppression and tried to clean the blood oozing from where he hit me. It stung making me swallow my tears to avoid attracting my captor’s attention. If mother was here, she would know what to do.
I allowed my gaze settle on where I marked the days we had spent in this horrible hell-hole. After thirty days here, one would have thought I would have adjusted. I let my mind trail memory land to where I had been jumping around in our self-contain apartment. The excitement in the air was heavy and visible, as my father was coming home after spending a month far away. I allowed my eyes rest on the picture frame of the family, hanging precariously on the wall above our black and white television. My parents looked so young with the children around them.
We had moved to Kaduna, the Northern part of Nigeria when my father lost his job in the bank. He was sacked along his colleagues due to a merger made by the bank. One of my father’s numerous customers, Mr Sanusi offered him an apartment in one of his many houses in Zaria, Kaduna State. Parking the few things we had left, we had moved to Zaria. My father got recruited as a driver for Alhaji Sanusi’s company to transport building materials inter-state. My two brothers and I were put in a public secondary school close to our home.
On this red-letter day, we had not gone to school because of reports of incessant riots that had broken out in some parts of the town. This, had begun after the presidential elections which saw, President Goodluck Jonathan defeating General Muhammadu Buhari (rtd). This was one of the reasons father was coming home early. We would be moving after Christmas.
I did not allow this dampen my spirit. Christmas was upon us in fact, it was knocking on the door. The knock sounded so real and loud then I heard my mother’s voice.
“Bolanle, check who is at the door! It must be your father” I ran as fast as my excited short legs could carry me and pulled the door open.
I was confronted by six men wielding machetes and daggers. I screamed loudly as one pulled me roughly down. They were all screaming: “Sai Buhari! Sai Buhari!”
I recognised the voice of Musa, our neighbour. I pleaded with him with my eyes, he did not care. My mother rushed from the room with her wrapper trailing behind her. She fell on her knees, pleading with them.
“Please, do not kill us! Musa, please”
She was cut down by a machete strike by Musa, our neighbour. I heard myself let out a loud screech as I watched blood flow from my mother’s neck. She suddenly, kept quiet. Why was she still? Why was she not still begging? These questions roved around my head. Her face reminded me of the mannequins in Emeka’s shop. I ran to her and pleaded, shaking her.
“Mummy, please wake up! Daddy would soon be here”.
My screams must have alerted my brothers, who were coming from the market. They rushed inside and I watched helplessly as they were stabled repeatedly by these men that have come to lead me to the deepest part of hell.
“Bolanle! Bolanle! They have come again”.
I heard Nneka’s whisper, ushering me back to reality. I was too numb to confront the fear. They would only break what they see, my soul; they would not have. I lay painfully still, hoping for respite but expecting the worst. My heart missed a beat as I saw the door pushed open and six men stepped in. I saw their menacing silhouettes first, before I saw them. Their faces wore angry and determined masks. They were all holding whips and I knew the end had come. Two of them came straight to my corner, holding me down. I screamed, kicked and closed my eyes as one of them laid on me his strong stench, filling my nostrils and cutting off my oxygen. He reached down, pulled my gown up. I could feel his hot breath on my neck. I was choking!
“Motheeeerrr!” I screamed loudly enough to wake the dead.
“Bolanle! Bolanle! Stop it!”
My friend, Temitayo slapped me awake. Disoriented, I looked around and could see all eyes on me. Hot tears washed down my eyes as I saw disdain in the eyes of my Chemistry teacher, Mrs Jemegbe. Again, I had screamed out in her class and it was obvious she was fed up. There, I was, surrounded by friends in my new school, Sonmori Senior Comprehensive High School, Lagos. My father had brought me here after I was rescued by the military men who killed our captors and some of my friends in a face-off. I quietly apologized and ran out of the class, taking my war and its aftermath.
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