Three days of torture, merciless beatings, starvation and unending trials weakened me to pulp. I became bony and pale beyond recognition, adding to the bruises and wounds around my skin. I suddenly became a nightmare to behold in just three days.
• • •
I felt a wave of water wash down through my body, bringing me up to life.
“Wake up, idiot,” a voice echoed fiercely beside me. I slowly opened my eyes to see Big Tiny as the figure, holding a bucket in his hands.
I was still in my sitting position, with my hands and legs tied, and my mouth sealed. I looked around and noticed we were alone in the room, with the other guys gone.
“Wetin you dey look!” he yelled out aloud. I tried to say something, but my voice croaked up.
“You wan talk?” He asked. I nodded.
He slowly moved towards me and stood behind, unveiling the wrap off of my mouth. I breathed in air and gasped.
“Water, please,” I begged weakly.
“You wan drink water?” He asked harshly. I nodded again.
“Take water!” he said and, swiftly raising the bucket over the top of my head, I felt the cold water wash down through my body. He had poured it on me.
“Idiot!” He cursed and raised a hand to hit me, and then he stopped. I noticed him looking in-between my thighs in disgust.
“Wetin be that?” he asked, pointing there. I looked down at my thighs and saw blood trickling down slowly. I was on my period.
He waited for an answer, still staring at me in disgust as I looked back at him too. Then all of a sudden, he spat out saliva and acted like he was about to vomit, and he then ran out of the room, locking the door behind.
Shortly after, the door creaked open and a figure walked in. The figure held a tray containing a stainless plate, bottled water, an handkerchief and a tissue paper.
He pulled an empty chair close to me and sat, placing the tray on his lap. He then rolled out a piece of tissue and advanced closer to my thighs with it.
“Stop it!” I shouted.
He paid no attention to me and stretched his hand further.
“I said stop it!” I shouted again, tightening my legs shut.
“Aunty, behave yourself.” he simply said.
I watched him scrub the chair with the tissue, directly below my thighs where the blood stained. He wasn’t the same person I knew anymore. He wasn’t the same kid I knew some days back. He wasn’t the same innocent, helpless boy I thought he was.
He was something else now! Something different entirely; with a stone-cold face that depicted no emotions. I wondered what made him choose this path.
“What’s your name?” I silently whispered to him. He ignored me.
“Do you have parents?” I asked again.
“What of your mother?” I pushed on. This time, he raised his head up with an expressionless face, staring coldly at me.
“Aunty, shut up! Don’t put me in trouble.” he warned silently, almost in a whisper.
I ignored his remark and continued, “Were you forced to do this? To live this life?”
At that, he angrily turned to face me.
“What is your business with my life?” he whisper-shouted at me.
“I want to help you…” I whispered calmly.
He laughed silently to himself, peering at me as he did.
“Look at you! Your hands are tied, your legs are tied, your body is bruised, your skin is pale, and you look terribly sick to death. Yet, you want to help me? Why not help yourself first,” he taunted mockingly.
“I can help you,” I persisted.
“What possible help can you render to me?”
“Do you have a family?” I asked, neglecting his mockery.
Immediately I said that, his countenance changed.
“Don’t ever mention my family again!” He raved, “I don’t have a family! I hate them!”
I was shocked at his words.
“Why? Why do you hate them?” I tried to maintain my calmness, in order not to provoke him.
“I lost my father…” he said.
“Go on?!” I urged him on.
“I lost my father, and…” he continued, “I became an orphan overnight! He was the only one who cared for me; who fended well for me. And he just died…” he stopped, and continued, “I hated my step-mother with passion. I never liked her. Sheʼs the reason I turned out this way. She poisoned my father and killed him, and I would have been next if I didn’t think wise to run away.”
“I understand how you feel,” I tried to comfort him, “but this is not the way forward.”
“Do you know how much I suffered before these people picked me up?” he questioned. “Do you know how much I begged?”
“I understand you, but…”
“You don’t understand anything!” he cut me off angrily.
“I truly understand you,” I assured him, “I know what it feels like to lose someone you love. I also lost my mother too, and right now as we speak, my father lies on a hospital bed, probably dying inside with the thought of his daughter gone missing for three straight days now,” I halted, feeling my eyes becoming teary.
“You need to help me, please.” I begged.
“So that when I do, you would finally come back with a tonfold of police forces to arrest us, isn’t it?”
“No! Never! I swear on my life, I don’t harbor such thoughts for revenge. If you help me, we could both escape together. We could leave this place – you could start afresh; start a new phase of your life again. Think about it!” I tried convincing him.
He looked at me like he was about to say something, when we heard footsteps outside coming towards the door, and then it opened, with Big Tiny and some guys walking in. Big Tiny stood at a distance with a frown on his face, observing me and the boy who already pretended to be on his errand, while I bowed my head too.
“I heard voices now! Na who dey talk, Emeka?” his voice rose fiercely.
I was wondering who he referred to until the boy beside me turned to him. I realized the boyʼs name was Emeka.
“Nobody at all o, Bros T!” Emeka countered in defence.
“You mean say I deaf?” Big Tiny yelled again.
“Bros I swear, nobody talk…” he countered back.
The next thing we knew, a heavy, unexpected slap landed on the boyʼs face.
“Na me you dey raise voice for?” Big Tiny fumed, holding onto the boy’s collar. He clenched his fist and raised it up, about to punch him hard when a colleague stopped him.
“Guy leave am!” his colleague pleaded and withdrew the boy from Big Tiny’s grasp. He rough-handled the boy outside and pushed him out.
Then, after that, they turned to face me.
“You still dey bleed?” Big Tiny asked. It sounded rhetorically stupid. I didn’t have to answer that.
“You deaf?” he asked again, clenching his fist and moving closer to me. His colleague quickly intervened and pulled him back.
“Guy calm down na,” his colleague pleaded, “This girl is bleeding, she doesn’t need this. Make we just leave am until Senator go land tomorrow, then we go see wetin go happen,” he reasoned. Big Tiny concurred with him and slowly unclenched his fist.
“I’ll make sure you die here. You think say you stubborn!” he threatened and moved behind me to re-tie the wrap on my mouth. Thereafter, he left with his guys, locking the door from behind.
• • • • •
Seconds ticked to minutes, minutes ticked to hours, hours turned to night time. The day slowly passed and time flew.
I gave up hope of ever leaving this hell hole I found myself into. It was unfortunate that I had to leave this way; to die a cold, wasteful death all alone.
I accepted my fate and prepared myself for the worst. I thought about my family. I thought about my sister. I remembered my father. I remembered Boma.
What was he doing now? I wondered! Perhaps, drinking himself to stupor, thinking about me? I thought. Or probably living his life like we never happened; like I never existed? I gave that a thought too.
In the midst of these thoughts, I heard footsteps approaching the door. I quickly pretended to be asleep, while the door silently creaked open and a figure walked in, tip-toeing towards me.
“Aunty?” The figure whispered, pointing a torch to my face. I instantly raised my head, having recognized his voice.
“Emeka?” I whispered back, surprised.
“I thought about what you said, aunty. You were right. Let’s get out of here!”
I couldn’t believe my ears.
I watched as he got behind me and loosened the ropes on my hands and legs, and then unsealed the wrap from my mouth.
“Aunty we have to be very careful,” he warned silently. I nodded.
“I will lead the way and you would follow behind me. When we get outside thereʼs a guy sleeping on duty who was supposed to keep watch, I already drugged his drink so we have to tip-toe across him,” he explained. I nodded.
“Now let’s go!” Emeka said. He held my hand and led me to the door, and we came out.
Just as instructed, there was a guy sleeping just beside the door with a machete in his hands. We top-toed past him and proceeded towards a corner, where we took another corner leading to the exit door.
“Stop there!” a voice screamed at us from nowhere.
Immediately, Emeka tightened his grip on my hand and dragged me with force towards the door. He kicked it open and we started running in the dead of the night.
We ran as fast as our legs could take us. We ran without looking back…
Suddenly, there was a gunshot…
Suddenly, Emeka screamed…
Almost immediately, I turned back and saw him fall right to the ground, panting heavily. He had been shot at the neck, bleeding profusely.
I screamed out loud and continued running as fast as my legs could carry me…
I woke up to find myself in a white coloured room. I felt my head bandaged, and my hand was raised up to a platform connected to a medical drip that flowed into it.
I observed the room and noticed that almost everything was white, including a woman’s dress who stood opposite me at a far end of the room. She seemed too busy and engrossed in what she was doing that she hadn’t noticed I coughed.
I coughed again, loudly.
Almost immediately, she turned to face me with a shocked expression.
“You are awake!” she exclaimed and ran out of the room screaming, “Doctor! Doctor!”
To say I was confused would be an understatement. I was literally busted in the head!
Shortly after, the woman barged in again with another lady following behind.
“My goodness! Sheʼs awake!” the other lady exclaimed, scrambling towards me with haste.
She placed a stethoscope on my chest and put her palm on my head, soothing it gently. Then, she took it off and hung it back to her neck.
“Where am I?” I asked, in a bid to get up.
“No, no! Relax dear,” the lady and the nurse held me back, “You are safe here.”
“How did I get here?” I persisted.
“Itʼs a long story.” The doctor said.
“Just tell me!”
“Well, you were rushed here in the middle of the night by a car owner who claimed to have knocked you down. She said she spotted you running and tried to honk at you, but before she could, it turned out too late,” the doctor explained, “What baffles us the most is that, with the impact of the hit you sustained, you have no fractured bones whatsoever. It’s unbelievable!”
I sighed and shrugged, about to say something when an elderly woman barged in, fair in complexion and looked like an halfcaste; who should be in her late 50s’. She hurriedly sat on the bed next to me and began touching me all over, particularly at my legs.
“Oh God! Iʼm so sorry my dear! How are you feeling? How is your body? How is your leg? Do you feel pains?” she asked all at once, leaving me confused as to which to answer first.
“Can I have a cup of water, please?” I asked.
“Sure!” the nurse replied and opened a fridge near the bed. She took out a bottled water and a glass cup and filled up the cup, then handed it to me. I gulped it down within seconds.
“I was very scared that I had lost you that night,” the elderly woman said as she collected the cup from me. “You can’t imagine how happy I am to see you back to life. Oh sweet Jesus! I’m so grateful,” she gestured with her hands in the air.
“Would you like something to eat?” the doctor asked.
“Yes, please.” I nodded. “I haven’t eaten in days.”
“In days?” The elderly woman beside me repeated, clearly shocked. I nodded.
“But why?” she asked.
Meanwhile, the nurse had already walked out of the ward room with a plastic tray, probably to fetch the food.
“I can’t tell,” I answered. “I’m not safe here! I need to leave soon before…”
“Please calm down,” the doctor interrupted me, “Iʼve told you you are safe here, you don’t need to get bothered unnecessarily.”
“I’m telling you, my life is in danger. You don’t have any idea of what I’ve passed through,” I tried to explain.
“Please calm down,” the doctor urged me on.
I heaved a sigh and folded my hands together, to give her the impression that I was calm. Just then, the nurse entered back in with a tray containing the food. She placed it on a small table beside the bed and kept a glass of water close to it.
“Iʼve lost my appetite,” I suddenly said to their surprise. They all exchanged glances to each other and faced back at me.
“Please my daughter, you need to eat. You don’t look too good the way you are… I can spoon-feed you if you don’t mind,” the elderly woman pleaded with me.
“I’m sorry ma, but I am the only one that understands my situation as at now. I really need to leave here now,” I persisted.
“Fine!” the doctor agreed, “But would you at least eat something for your healthʼs sake?”
“Doctor, my problem is bigger than this food. Donʼt you understand?” I exclaimed again, almost yelling out.
“Itʼs okay, itʼs okay,” the elderly woman interrupted, “I’ve settled the bills already, you are free to leave at any desired time you wish to. But before then, is there anything you would like us to help you with?”
“Yes,” I answered. “I would like to make some calls…”
“Is that all?”
Right then, the elderly woman brought out a phone from her purse and handed it to me. I was well familiar with Bomaʼs number off-head, so I dialled his line first.
First ring, busy. Second ring, unavailable. Third ring, still busy.
I got frustrated and almost lost hope when the fourth ring clicked.
“Hello,” I quickly spoke out.
“Hello?” his voice echoed from the other end, very mild. He sounded dull.
“Hello Boma, itʼs me Fifi…”
“Fifi?” he spoke out clearly now, obviously shocked.
“Yes itʼs me… I really need your help… I need you to…”
“Fifi where have you been? Where are you now?” he interrupted, curiosity and eagerness obvious from his voice.
I quickly tapped the doctor next to me and asked her for the name of the hospital.
“Havillah hospital,” she whispered back to me.
“Havillah hospital,” I spoke into the phone, “thatʼs where I am at the moment, you need to help me out very fast.”
“You know what? Don’t leave where you are,” Boma cautioned, “Iʼm coming there to pick you up with the other guys. Just don’t leave where you are! I’m coming, okay?”
“Okay,” I agreed. “Please be fast.”
“I’m on my way, don’t worry.” he said and then hung up.
Immediately after the call, I scrolled through the contacts and deleted Bomaʼs number from the list, then I handed the phone back to the woman.
“Thank you ma,” I gestured to her.
“Youʼre welcome, my dear. I suppose that was a close relative you just called, right?”
“Yes ma, my brother.” I lied.
“Thatʼs good. When is he coming?”
“Very soon ma,” I answered.
“Okay, so while we wait for him, would you at least consider eating a bit from your food now, please my daughter?” she pleaded.
I considered the elderly woman’s age and, without arguing further, I picked up the plate and opened it.
• • • • •
One hour went by and yet, no sign of Bomaʼs arrival showed forth. I was alone with the elderly woman as at now, and I was terribly getting tired of staying in the same ward room with her, due to her endless questions.
I was still contemplating on placing another call through to Boma when, all of a sudden, the ward roomʼs door opened up… and there he was. Behind him were his friends, Kingsley, Simon, Bauchi, Eagle and some other guys I wasnʼt familiar with.
I instantly stood up and ran towards him as he did the same too, and we then wrapped each other in a tight hug. It took a while for us to let go of each other.
“Who did this to you?” Boma asked as he surveyed my body from head to toe, particularly at the bruises and wounds around my skin.
“Itʼs a long story,” I exclaimed.
Bomaʼs stare suddenly went to the elderly woman sitting beside the bed, and then returned to me.
“Who is she?”
I was about to respond when he interrupted me again.
“Did she do this to you?”
“No, of course not.” I answered, “Sheʼs a very nice woman, let me introduce you to her.”
“Fifi, we have to leave here.” He suggested plainly.
“But I haven’t introduced you to her yet. I lied to her that you are my brother,” I whispered to him.
“I donʼt care. Letʼs leave here, now!”