The morning was cold, the leaves were wet, it wasn’t a pleasant time to run. The city was still asleep and it did not look like it would wake up anytime soon. Sweat ran down his face as he ran, his muscles ached, his heart raced but he kept on running.
Nicholas wasn’t an athlete but he ran like he was. If he was an athlete, he probably would have stopped running. No athlete needed to run this hard, no athlete needed to run at this time.
“Just get home” he said to himself. Home was an old room with rusted roofing sheets. It did not have the clean toilet, the cozy kitchen with the gas cooker and the always cold refrigerator he was used to. It was home nonetheless. And it was the place Nicholas had to get to.
As he ran he looked at his now familiar race track. It wasn’t a race track until this morning but it was familiar. It was a bush path, a narrow bush path, rarely used by people. It was one of the reasons he chose the path. The path looked especially lonely that morning but it wasn’t going to set him back, he had to get home.
A light shining in the distance caught his attention, judging by the distance it had to be coming from his house. That was strange. He lived alone. He had no friends and he definitely wasn’t expecting anybody. He reduced his pace. A lot of thoughts crowded his mind. He still had to run, but it was not right, a light?
He moved closer. There was no doubt, the light was coming his house. In the dark his house looked nice. The old structure had a beautiful silhouette. He had been thinking of putting up window curtains but he had not gotten around to it. So now he could see inside his room. There was nobody inside as far as he could see. He decided it was better to solve the puzzle of how the light got to his room than to stay out in the cold early morning.
He was now very close to his house. He slowed to a walk. Everywhere was quiet, no sound came from his room. He could hear his heart beating. He tried to calm himself, but no part of him understood what calm was anymore. His feet kept moving, but every other part of him seemed to be numb. He moved closer to his house, his eyes seemed to have snapped out of their numbness because now they darted in all directions looking for any sign of movement. As he approached his doorway, he noticed his door was open. Now everything was becoming weird. First he thought all he had to do was get home, now it looked like someone had been in his room.
He entered the room slowly and quietly, looked around, everything looked fine. The light he had seen came from a candle burning by his bed. It was good he came when he did, his house would have been burnt by morning.
He put down the candle and lay on the bed. He had lived a simple uneventful life but no one will describe his life as uneventful now. And he was sure it wasn’t going to be simple anymore either.
Then he saw it. It was getting closer. The hair on his neck stood, his palms were getting wet, what was happening to him. It was close now, but he could not move.
“Corper” he had a voice call out.
Then everything went dark.
Kate loved children, but this afternoon she was in no mood for her students. It was a hot afternoon. The sun seemed to be at war with the earth, and Arandun seemed to be its target at the moment. Arandun was a nice place and Kate loved living there. Its serene village environment suited her. She loved the simplicity of the villagers and their fascination with her vast knowledge.
She looked around her, the staff room where she was sitting was small and sparsely furnished. The room like every other room in the school was made with clay bricks.It was roofed with aluminium sheets but it might as well had been open roofed when it rained.
Kate rocked her phone with her fingers. It was a pleasant surprise to find a mobile network signal in Arandun. The surprise she received in the early hours of the morning though, wasn’t a pleasant one. It was pleasant at first. Nick never called her, she did not even know he had her number. Most would have thought they would be good friends but they were not.
“Kate, look, I’m in trouble. I don’t understand what happened but they might be after me.”
“They? Who is they?”
“I don’t know. Somebody. And i think Kemi is dead!”
“Wait! What?! Nicholas! Are you running? Just stop, i can’t hear you. Hello, hello…Nicholas?”
The conversation kept playing in her mind.Who was after him? How could Kemi be dead? What did it have to do with Nick? Why did he call her?So many questions, not a single answer.
“Kate, what are you… never mind. The LGI wants to see you.” She had not realised Emeka was standing in the room. He was her friend. At least that was what she believed. He was a good guy. But right now, not even him could take her mind off Nicholas.
“You heard me, right?”
“Yeah, i did. Sorry.”Why wasn’t there news of Kemi’s death yet? Maybe Nicholas was wrong. Maybe he was mistaken.
“Emeka, did you hear anything about Kemi?”
“Kemi? No. Why?” She could see he was surprised by her question. Kemi was not her favorite person. “Kate what is happening? You’ve been in this office alone for hours and you are clearly distracted by something.” He turned to face her, blocking the doorway.
“It’s nothing. I was just asking.” She wasn’t a good liar. He must have bought this lie though because he moved out of the way.
“Whatever you say. Just make sure you see the LGI”
“Ok Emeka. I’ll see you at the lodge”
She looked around her. It was only a few weeks that she had spent in the Arandun Community College but it was already a big part of her life. She could not imagine harm coming to anyone in Arandun. She was about to lock the door when her phone rang.
“Nicholas? I sent for you. Didn’t you get my message?” The LGI? Nicholas and the LGI calling her on the same day. Something was definitely happening.
“I’m on my way sir. I was just trying to round…” He dropped the call. Strange man. It wasn’t a surprise no one liked him. Her phone rang again.
What! She already said she was coming. “Hello sir, I’m on my way”
“Kate, don’t go near my house. Somebody is watching the place”Nicholas?
“Nicholas? Where are you?” She sounded more agitated than he did.
“Just don’t go to my place. Promise me you won’t.”
“What are you saying?”
“Shhh, someone is coming. Please don’t…” She had received two scary calls from a guy who a few hours ago was just a colleague. He wasn’t even a friend.The LGI. She had forgotten about him. She was not afraid of him right now. She was scared enough already. She had so many questions her head was almost bursting.
There was one thing she knew she had to do, one way to get some answers; check Nicholas’ house.
* * *
The phone by his bedside rang. It rarely did, but when it did he had to answer .
“What do you have for me son?”
“We have a problem sir. A girl sir.”
“Have you taken care of it, the problem?”
“No sir. Just wanted to give you the information first sir”
“Oh, thank you information officer.” He said with a scoff. “Take care of the problem.”
There was only one thing he hated more than unsolved problems, foolish people who had the nerve to tell him about them.
* * *
Darkness. It was one of the twelve plagues the Egyptians suffered as recorded in the bible. He had always wondered why darkness was considered punishment. Now he understood. It had a certain torture that pushed you to your wit’s end. Nicholas was definitely at his wit’s end. A few more hours in the darkness and he would lose his mind.
He wondered how he had not lost it already. Twelve hours ago he was a normal twenty four year old, living a normal life and staying out of trouble. Now, he had woken up on the same bed with a dead girl, put an innocent girl who wasn’t even his friend in trouble, been knocked out cold by something he didn’t still understand and now was in darkness so thick he saw better with his eyes closed.
How long was he knocked out for? He could have been out for hours or days, he had no idea. All he could think about was the blackness and darkness that surrounded him.
“God, I need light!” he screamed in frustration.
“There you go boy” He was momentarily blinded with the sudden light shining on his face. “I have to tell you, I am not God. I just answered your prayer on his behalf”
Nicholas couldn’t believe it. Had he been in the room all along? Then he must have heard his call to Kate.
“What’s going through your mind boy? You must think I’m a ghost passing through walls right? Well, you probably won’t believe that i opened the door and entered. See I’m very stealth. It’s one of my best qualities.”
Nicholas was still lost in thought not paying much attention to the man speaking.
“Okay boy, let’s go. The boss wants to speak with you.” Nicholas, still not speaking, stood up. “Are you dumb boy? You’ve got nothing to say to poor old Dele?”
He wasn’t a people person. At least that was what he was told. He was here, scared, and poor old Dele was complaining because he wasn’t exchanging Christmas stories with him?
“Mr Dele , I’ve got more on my mind right now. I’m really not interested in your qualities. Well except killing is one of them.” Dele chuckled. But he did not reply.”Something I’ll like to discuss with you Dele, is your boss. Who is he?”
“So now you wanna talk? Very funny. Well, I’ll let you form your own opinion about my boss. You’ll meet him soon.” And he did not say another word.
They walked through a corridor. The walls were painted white. There wasn’t much to see. ‘The boss’ obviously loved darkness. The light available was just enough to aid movement. He had been more relaxed than most would be in his situation but a certain feeling of dread fell on him as thy neared the end of the corridor. He could see three doors. As they moved closer to the doors he stared hearing voices. One of the voices sounded familiar but he could not place it.
Dele seemed to have grown very silent. He did not make any sound. Almost as if he was not breathing. He looked behind him and Dele was not there. The guy must really be stealth. It looked like he was supposed to enter through one of the three doors.
For some reason he started getting scared again.Just open one of the doorshe told himself. The voices were gone.Just open one of the doors. What door was he supposed to open?Just open a door, d–n it!
He moved towards the first door. The lock looked newly made.On to the next door, new lock? Obvious trouble.
The second door was slightly open.Move to the next door, slightly open is slightly fishy.
The third door was normal.This must be it. It is time to meet the boss.The sweaty palms were returning. He steadied his hand on the door handle. The last thing he wanted was to look weak. Slowly, he turned the lock. It didn’t open. Then he heard the voices again.Where were they coming from?
He turned suddenly. A sharp pain pierced through his neck. The pain eased and he felt really happy. A smile spread across his face as he dropped to his knees.Lovely! Oh I love you too Mom. His eyes wee closing. He felt like sleeping. As he went to sleep he saw a dark figure.
“He’s down sir” What did he mean by down? He just wanted to sleep
To be continued.