James sighed deeply as he took a quick glance around him, bathed in the wan orange glow of the only functioning streetlight on the long winding street. He felt like a man with a target on his head.
“I shouldn’t be here. What is this man’s problem, ehn wetin?”, he said out loud in frustration.
It’s been over an hour since he arrived at the meeting place. The client was late again. Chief, as he was popularly called, was one of the biggest clients at the construction company James worked for.
They had had to reschedule the first appointment due to Chief’s absence. He had called the company to make some excuses and so arranged for another appointment. He was conducting business all day and could only make out time by 9pm. The next day he was going on a week-long trip to China.
It was a sign of how desperately his boss wanted the multi-million-naira construction job, that he accepted the ridiculous appointment and requested that James showed up and get them the contract.
James picked up his folder with all the important documents and the address for the rendezvous as he rushed out of the office. He did not know the place and it took him a long while to locate it.
Arriving, there he was unable to make out his surroundings in the dark. He had to pay the keke man extra to take him this far out of the main-road.
“The greedy man. I should have convinced him to wait a while, but e no gree make I comment before e move.”
Remembering what the keke man said made his face twist in anger, “I no know wetin you come do for this area by this time. But Oga no vex becos I no go fit follow you wait. I get wife and small-small pikin dem for house wey dey wait me. Abeg give me my money make I commot from here.”
James shook his head bitterly, “I suspected this was going to happen. Who sets up an appointment in the dead of the night, at a godforsaken place, when no be say he plan to use me do money ritual?”
He felt exposed standing all alone on the deserted street, where even the sound of traffic could not be heard. When the moon scurried behind the clouds, the night was darker and sinister beyond the fringes of the streetlight. He wondered how long he would have to wait before he could head off home to bed. Oh, what sweet-sweet sleep he would have.
A while later his stomach rumbled loudly and to his ears it was like thunder. The anxiety of the meeting had plagued him the whole day leaving him without an appetite. And now the thought of home triggered the need to eat, if only to stop the painful cramps that was tearing at him as he swayed unsteadily on his feet.
He checked his phone again for any missed calls or messages. His battery was low. He dialed Chief’s number again and like the previous times he called; it rang but no one answered. He considered calling his boss but he didn’t want to be told to stick around much longer.
“Haba!” James cried softly, “Where is this man now? Why did he refuse to conduct this business during the day and insisted that we meet at this ungodly hour?”
A little while and he checked the time on his mobile phone, muttered obscenities under his breath as he realized that it had turned off. James noted that the time should be close to midnight, almost two hours since he arrived at the meeting point.
“Why me?” he muttered quietly to himself. “The boss could have sent Segun o, but no, I had to be the one to take this particular job. The prick! He will get what is coming that’s for sure.”
For a few moments the sound of James labored breathing accompanied the night critters.
Suddenly the streetlight flickered; the light coming on and going off rapidly. This continued for some time, until the frenzied struggle seized. The light gave up the fight and stayed off, plunging the night as far as his eyes could see in eerie darkness.
“Fantastic!”, James cried, “Ah, if this man no show in the next ten minutes ehn, I go commot for here. What sort of rubbish is this?” he exclaimed.
He tensed again as the fine hairs at the nape of his neck stood. He had sensed the presence of someone or something watching him. Quickly his mind raced through all the possibilities of what was going on but squinting in the dark and watching intently did not give him the answers he sought.
“All these big men and their wahala sef”, James said as his gaze settled in the distance where he last saw the keke’s taillights. The urge to get out of there fast was more than welcomed at that moment.
A loud screeching noise towards his left startled him and set his heart racing. The sound came from somewhere close by, and he stared wide eyed to see who or what had made it. It had to be an animal he kept telling himself. It would make sense that it was the same animal which he suspected had been watching him earlier that startled him.
Thump, thump, thump, James heart beat furiously in his chest, almost drowning out his frenzied thoughts as he continued to peer intently into the dark. It occurred to him in the corner of his mind that he could barely see his hands in front of his face and it seemed that the night grew darker and ominous with each passing minute. This realization did not help to calm his racing heart.
Suddenly he heard footfalls but could see no one. “Chief is that you?” he asked but no reply came as he listened on, his legs shaking. He was not aware that he was trembling all over until his phone clattered to the ground and he jumped in fright.
This time he felt rather than saw the air shift all around him as the temperature dropped and the shadows moved sinisterly. This was too much, what was happening he wondered, his eyes strained to see in the gloom.
“Oh my God!”, James cried out, “Whoever is out there show yourself? Which kain rough play be this?”.
His thoughts scattered like birds as a terrifying growl deafened him. The tremors shook the ground and sent the little creatures scuttling into hidey holes.
Hot liquid pooled at his feet and the strong smell of urine assaulted his olfactory senses.
“E gba mi o!”, James shouted and started wailing, “Somebody please, help me!” repeatedly.
Where is the African man’s resolve when he needed it? He turned his head sharply and saw glowing red eye that radiated evil staring right at him with murderous intent.
At first, he thought his eyes were playing tricks on him. However, the glowing eyes drew near and without any visible body attached to it seemed to float in the air, moving on its own accord. Still he was unable to move as if rooted to the spot by a spell.
Ah! Please help me, save me!
He couldn’t fully comprehend what he was seeing, his vision swam. the glowing eyes reached him, he felt a sharp pain in his gut which rattled every fiber in his being. What he saw as he looked down caused his face to twist into pure undiluted horror. His mouth opened to speak but no sound came out.
There was a fist sized hole in his stomach that opened to his back, his innards were out and blood flowed like a river from the wound which he tried unsuccessfully to staunch.
Slowly his body pitched forward as his legs failed to hold up his quivering form. Moments before his face hit the floor he heard a scream like the wail of a dying animal and this joined the cacophony of the maniac laughter and the sound of his blood rushing in his ear, it could destroy the will of any man that heard it.
As his eyes closed and he welcomed the new form of darkness as an escape from the horror that he just faced, his body shook violently while the voice in his head grew louder, drowning out all other sounds. It sounded a lot like somebody was calling out his name.
That was when he felt the hot slap on his face.
“James! James! You don finally wake up!”, shouted Emeka, as he scrambled off the bed.
Slightly disoriented, James stared into the face of his roommate Emeka whom he also shared a bed with. The naked bulb stung as his wild eyes adjusted to his surrounding and his mind tried to make sense of what was going on. He understood at that moment that Emeka was shouting at him but he was confused about what happened. He thought he was dying or it felt like it. How did he get back to the room?
“Big man like you still dey bed-wet, you no get shame? You chop winch for dream?” Emeka hollered, looking at James like he sprouted two heads.
“One minute I was sleeping, the next thing I know, water don full everywhere for bed” he lamented as he pointed at the bed where evidently there was a spreading dark stain that was not there before they went to sleep.
James marveled at the sight. With a rush everything came back to him; the darkness, the deserted street, the crippling wait, the glowing eyes, the fear, and the blood. He thought truly that he had died. He quickly looked down at his stomach and was relieved that everything seemed to be in order, there was no fist sized hole.
Never ever had he been so terrified in his life.
He started laughing, and Emeka thought he sounded like a crazy person.
“Why are you laughing? Abi you dey mad?” Emeka asked, looking at James like he had grown a third head. “This no be joke o” he added, “Guy why you piss on top bed like that, shay na the beans and pap wey you chop for night cause am?”
“Ah” James exclaimed as his laughter left him with tears in his eyes. He placed his hands on his head gravely, “It was only a dream. Chai! Na ordinary dream but why did it feel so real?”
Emeka paid him no attention as he made the sign of the cross to ward off evil while he addressed the issue of witchcraft and demon possession. Which pastor should he call to help James before things got out of hand? Tomorrow night he may be attacked or worse, initiated into a coven. How much is anointing oil these days and where did he keep his bible because he hadn’t seen it in months? He should call his mother to inform her so that she would pray for him in her weekly prayer fellowship.
Photo credits: Rigozo