11:48

“Sister, shey you fit tell us again how you come find yourself for here?” The officer said, placing the eleganza biro in between his cigarette stained lips, chewing absent-mindedly on the tip while he stares into oblivion. Another policeman studies me with sceptical eyes and a limp scowl and I no longer feel safe. I am cold, wet, and hungry, but mostly still in shock. I want to ask if the police officer has an impaired hearing but even those words stuck to my tongue in fear of the unknown and weighed me down. I suddenly feel exhausted.

The night had started off calmly and I can’t help but wonder how I ended up seated by the roadside at an odd hour before sunrise with the butchered body of a young girl, not older than 17, laying right in front of me. I close my eyes and I am reminded of the look on his face and the strong limp to his walk as he disappeared into the night. I try to make it go away by shutting my eyelids tight, but it seems like his bulgy eyes and the lightning shaped scar on the side of his lip are images bound to haunt me forever.

It happened at 11:48, I remembered glancing at my watch while walking home after a good night of sneaking around in the bushes with who could possibly be the love of my life. Half of me was overjoyed, giddy from all that young love bursting in my heart and the other half was weighed down with fear, not of the dangers of the night but rather, of being caught by my father. Surely he would be wide awake, seated on a bench with his radio on and an oil lamp set up in a short distance, close enough to illuminate the horror of a face made up of layers of layers of wrinkled skin and a slight gray stubble.

I was too preoccupied with those thoughts to be bothered by the sound of rustling leaves in the bushes. I kept on walking till I saw a figure jump in front of me and I screamed. The man turned to face me, his eyes were a fiery red and his skin glistened with beads of sweat on a cool full moon. He had a toothpick hanging loosely at the bridge of his lips and I remember seeing a flash of silver in his mouth. He had a poorly-stitched scar on the side of his lip and held onto what looked like a cutlass. The white vest he wore slacked and consisted of dark blood stains. However, it was the predatory look in his eyes that sent me running.

I ran down the dark path, driven by the sound of his slippers slapping the ground. I found myself at crossroads and without hesitating, I dove into the bushes, only to be greeted by the slaps of stems and thorns. He was oddly fast for a man with a limp. Crickets chirped in the background and wet grass brushed my feet while my slippers sank deeper into the mud slowly. I wondered if he was nearby but I decided not to wait around to find out.

I was running barefoot this time around. I saw a white flash come from the skies and a loud thunder clap followed. I felt the first drop of rain land on my shoulder – a big painful drop- and as I looked up, heaven’s tears poured down mightily with simultaneous roars. My visibility became impaired and I tripped.

I thought it was a log of wood but it felt softer and limp- almost alive. I tried to get up but my hand had somehow caught a hold of something. I brought it closer and saw it was a finger. I screamed. I looked down and in between the lightning flashes, I made out an arm, breast, and thigh. I watched fresh blood sip out from the corners and wash away with rain-beaten earth. I noticed the black bag not too far away from where I stood, beside it lay the head of a woman with nicely woven plaits and gouged out eye sockets. My heart beat quickened and my head spun. It then began to pound and I felt my dinner struggle to break free at the back of my throat. My legs went weak and my hands shook. East became west and the smell of rain-beaten earth nauseated me more. I tried to run but could only make it to a tree trunk nearby where I finally surrendered.

I was unable to move after- paralyzed by my discovery and uncertain as to whether I would be able to live again after this.  I waited for death but he never came. The rain stopped almost as suddenly as it had started, to announce that the worst was over. There was a sudden calmness and even the butchered head of the woman lying opposite me seemed animated. I mustered up a bit of strength and despite my numb feet, I ran till I found myself in the middle of a police checkpoint. A few of the policemen obliged me and went off to get the body pieces following my directions. They had returned with puzzled and horrified looks as they set the black bag before everyone at the checkpoint. It seemed that most had a lot to say and others had nothing to say at all. Most developed theories, my favourite, so far, is that I’m a witch or a decoy.

 

“Sister, I dey wait for you na.” The policeman’s whiny voice cuts through my thoughts and I grow irritated. I am about to reply but a glint of silver catches my eye from afar. My mouth is open but I am unable to speak because I can see the monster seated comfortably in the driver’s seat of a black Range Rover that just pulled up. The men lift their hands high up in air and chant ‘Tuale Baba!’ The man isn’t paying attention to them because his eyes are fixed on me.

I want to yell, I try to yell but under the gaze of his wicked eyes, my tongue feels knotted and my throat itches. It burns actually like acid is being heated down my trachea. I feel his gaze intensify and somehow it feels like I’m about to swallow my tongue. I find my hands wrapped around my neck,  in an effort to stop this feeling but I am no longer in control and I am choking. My grip tightens as my body fights back to survive. I see the policemen form a circle around me as the man approaches. They all begin to hum in unison as a mighty wind sends me crashing to the ground. I am suddenly pinned down by invisible hands, gasping for air. The man with the scar approaches and raises his cutlass to the skies. He offers a silent prayer.

My eyelids feel heavy and I am reminded of dismembered body parts, a father’s disappointed scowl and a wicked smile of a lover, as I feel the weight of the blanket of darkness envelope me as my heart rate slows.

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