PAID IN FULL part 2

AKIN

Panting, I turn the corner and fling open the door to the house. There’s nothing much, just a jumble of clothes scattered all over the ground. The exact same way I left things. I practically tear off the shirt in my haste to get rid of the evidence. Squeeze and drop on the ground. I pick one of the shirts in the ground and pull it on.

I can hear the faint sounds of pursuit, quickly growing in volume as the mob from the bar incident approach my place. I take a deep breath and walk outside. 

My plan? I’ll simply find somewhere to hide and then join up with the mob. Together we’ll yell and scream and finding no one, eventually disperse.

Hopefully, no one would remember my face- the lighting in the bar was dim.
On the way out, I bump into Oluwadamilola, and I keep going.

OLUWADAMILOLA

On my way to a friend’s, I remembered I promised to give her a carved wooden bracelet, which happened to be at home at the time. So I had to turn back for it.

On my way in, I bump into my brother Akin. His eyes are wide with fear, his breaths quick and shallow. Without explanation, I know he’s in trouble. He won’t meet my eyes and mumbles something about being late. I can hear a crowd coming close, it sounds rowdy.

It sounds like they’re hunting someone. 

Now alone in the small one bedroom apartment that I share with the only family I have left, I can see the blood soaked shirt on the ground, proclaiming to all and sundry the truth of my brothers current situation.

I can hear the crowd now. Sounds like they’re in the street. Soon they’ll start bursting into rooms and searching. Surely someone must have seen my brother.

He’s most likely doomed. Unless someone does something. I move close and pick the shirt. I’m just buttoning the last button when someone forces his way into the room.

AKIN

It’s been six years now.

Oluwadamilola, my brother, took my crime on himself.he was beaten to an inch of his life by the mob. He said nothing in his defence.

They handed him over to the police. Driven by guilt, I ran from pillar to post​, trying to find a way to get him out of prison. I failed.

He was charged to court. He admitted to the murder, and got sentenced to death. I couldn’t take it and I shouted out that I was the guilty party. I did it. I was the man they wanted, I killed the victim.

The judge dismissed it as a nervous breakdown and I was bundled out of court.

With tears in my eyes I watched my brother die in my stead.

My life has changed. A lot.

I have a job now, a well paying job. I try to make my life have ​a meaning. I speak to juvenile delinquents warning them of the error of their ways. I volunteer for all the community service initiatives I can find. I’m now a respectable person, a ‘pillar of the community’.

To some people, I have it all. Money, respect, status in society.

It doesn’t matter. I would give it all up, my life even, just to have my brother back.

PAID IN FULL part 1

AKIN

Everyone calls me the village rascal. Me? I’m not bothered. I can’t care less what anyone thinks about me. Okay. Perhaps that statement isn’t completely true. There is one person whose opinion actually matters to me. That one person is my brother, Oluwadamilola.

It’s funny, seeing us together, you wouldn’t know he’s my brother. He’s a direct opposite of everything I am. While I’m short and muscular, he’s tall and lanky. I’m as black as the bottom of a clay pot used to the searing heat of a charcoal fire, he’s fair complexioned. I’m loud and aggressive. He’s quiet and peaceful. I can start an argument in an empty room, he detests raised voices.

Kpom! Kpom!!

Someone’s at the door. I lift my head up, listening to make sure it’s my door. The sound comes again, and this time, I’m sure. I move to open it. Standing there is Okon, childhood friend and fellow riff-raff.

“Akin, let’s go to madam Smooth’s bar.” His face splits in a wide grin. The thought of alcohol is the only thing that makes Okon smile. The only thing. I swear the boy is even more useless than I am. And that’s a terrible thing. But then, I also happen to have a deep seated respect for a cold, sweating bottle of ’33’ export lager and so I fetch my shirt and pull it on. Snagging the flip-flops from the backyard, I’m ready to go.

We make our merry way to madam Smooth’s, for a bottle or two and a pinch of trouble and excitement.

An hour and a half later…

Things are a bit blurry. Bottles litter the top of the table where I’m seated. Some of them are rolling about, spilling drops of alcohol on the dusty floor. There’s a small plate containing catfish bones which are all that’s remaining of the peppersoup we ordered a while back. At this point,I’ve had enough of stuffing myself. A bit of trouble would be nice, you know, I can use the exercise.

Something tickles my nostrils and I turn to see a lady swish her way past. She’s wearing a shimmering black gown that just calls me. And calls me. And calls me.

I take a deep breath, inhaling and enjoying the heady feminine perfume that follows her passage like froth in the wake of a fast ship. 

Suddenly someone steps in, rudely blocking my view of that nice-

“Keep your eyes in your head, filthy cow.”

What? Who is this one?

“Infact, I think you should apologise to my girl for staring at her like that.” The bar goes quiet, drunk and half-drunk patrons twisting and turning to get a view of the unfolding drama. But I want no part in it, so I ignore him and grab another bottle from the pile before me. I touch the cold, slender neck to my lips and suck-

WHAM!

The fool slapped me! He slapped me?! That’s unacceptable. Before I even know what I’m doing, my hand shoots​ out, grabs an empty bottle of lager and my fingers wrap around the neck. Then from there, it travels with its prize to the floor. It’s a hard cement floor, underneath all that dust, and the impact shatters the lower half of the bottle, leaving me with jagged, sharp edges. A weapon. I swing around to face the man, this idiot that dared to slap me.

I see the daring in his eyes, he’s daring me to go ahead. Despite trembling with rage, I finally get ahold of myself and start to turn, to settle so I can continue to drink the precious lager, and then the fool has the effontery to smile.

Without thought, I swing the broken bottle into an arc, one that ends in the soft flesh of his belly.

In some sort of demented slow motion, I watch the broken bottle tear through cloth and flesh, a wide crimson gap opening in it’s wake.

Blood spurts from his torn belly, all over me. All over my hands, my shirt. Marking me as his murderer.

While the heat of anger rapidly cooling, I hear Okon’s voice as though from far away…

“A-A-Akin. What have you done?”

The broken bottle, now soaked and dripping with blood falls from my limp fingers to fall to the ground…
To be continued…

FRIGHT NIGHT

On my way home, I decided to use the shortcut. Nobody sensible uses the shortcut. Just those who are either extremely brave or extremely moronic. The extremes. The shortcut is a dark alley, one so creepy it scared people off even during daytime. But it cuts my journey short by twenty-something minutes, which is the amount of time it takes to walk down the street and turn to continue the journey home. And there was a match I’d surely be late for if I took the long normal road. A really good football match.

I’ll leave you to judge which extreme I fall under. 

I took the shortcut. Halfway through I heard a rustle. I quickened my footsteps and soon was out in the open.

A sigh of sweet relief. I was so happy I made it out the alley safe and sound that it took me a full minute to calm down and notice I wasn’t alone. Someone was following me. Someone from the alley. I started walking faster. It kept up. I started jogging. It did the same, and of course I did the next sensible thing.

I ran like hell.

“Ahhhhhhh! Somebody help me!!!” I could hear a mad cackling sound as the creature chased me down the road, panting heavily and making wet, smacking sounds. I got to the big tipper garage. Bad luck, all the inhabitants had gone to pray. It was abandoned. I kept running. It kept chasing me.

I cut across the garage and came out under a streetlight, my house was just a few feet away. I could make it. I got to the door and pushed it. It was locked. I banged on the door, no one answered. “Where DID EVERYONE GO TO?”

It caught up with me. ‘It’ turned out to be a tall, thin haggard looking fellow with a week old beard and filthy prison clothes. He held a stick in one hand. And now that he had finally caught me, he stopped cackling and looked at me intently. Then licked his lips and took a step towards me.

Images and stories of prison rape flashed in my head and I let out a totally manly whimper.  He took the last few steps separating us with one giant stride and poked me in the chest with the stick. I might have wet myself at that moment. 

He said just one word. “Bloop.” And then he took off down the street, cackling and yelling like a madman.
The next morning, news spread around the neighborhood that the asylum not too far away had lost one of it’s inmates the night before. People were advised to lock their doors and keep their children close by. He did not have a history of violence, but when dealing with the insane, who could tell?

That afternoon, he was caught and the van passed the front of my house on its way back. He was sitting in the back, peeking out through iron bars set at face level when our eyes met. And then he winked.

IJAPA CHRONICLES; SIGIDI

In Yoruba folklore, the tortoise was a wily trickster. Lazy, always up to no good and especially fond of porridge, he often got himself into one  misadventure or the other. This is a story of one such misadventure.


A long, long time ago, when the world was young and animals walked on two feet, Ijapa the tortoise was terribly hungry. Really, really hungry.

He had severe hunger pangs. And this was entirely his fault. You see, during the farming period, while other animals went to the farms to plant crops, he lazed about, whistling tunes and chasing fireflies. He always had one excuse or the other for not working.

“The sun is too hot”

“The ground is as hard as iron.”

“My hands hurt, and handling farming implements are torture.”

Previously, he sold out portions of his farmland he inherited from his late parents, from time to time and from the proceeds, fed himself with food he purchased from the market. But eventually, the farmland was exhausted, leaving behind only a small, miserable plot that no one wanted to buy.

And these were the circumstances that led to the situation he found himself in. He had visited for a while, eating at friends’ places during mealtimes till they grew weary of him and began to avoid him.

He had run through his entire bag of tricks and come up dry. So he went wandering to the forest, perhaps he would be fortunate enough to discover some fruits and nuts to eat.

He walked the length and breadth of the forest and turned up just a few palm kernels and one ripe mango. He sat below a palm tree to eat them. As he was eating, he remembered a spell he had learnt during his travels ( he was well travelled and had gone to places on land and in the sea that no one else had) and decided to try it out. It was a spell to animate palm trees.

Weak with hunger, he began to sing-

“Dance, palm tree dance,

Round and round, let your trunk swirl,

Round and round, let your leaves go,

Dance, palm tree, dance.”

As he sang, the palm tree danced, moving from place to place, and when he stopped, it stood rooted in place, just another palm tree. 

Ijapa smiled. He had a plan. He got some leaves and branches, feathers and twigs, tied them around his palm tree to make it look scary and poured some chicken blood on it from the branches to the roots till it dripped. Satisfied with his craft, he hid himself among the topmost branches and sang the spell, leading it towards the marketplace. He was just in time for the evening market. 

Just as the market women settled down to begin to sell their wares, the palm tree came dancing into the market square. Everyone took to their heels. You must understand, it wasn’t like anything they had ever seen before. A palm tree twirling and spinning, dancing with its roots out of the soil, dripping blood and covered with feathers. 

It looked horrible. It was a sight to put fear into the hearts of even the bravest of men.

When the market square was clear, Ijapa stopped his spell, got down from the palm tree and ate to his heart’s content. Then he took some more food and hid it in the palm tree. Then he sang his spell and spun back to the forest.

He repeated this act, day after day, driving the villagers almost mad with fear and terrorising the the markets. Eventually, they ran to the palace to beg for help.

The king sent his bravest guards to stand by the entrance to the markets. Soon enough, the tortoise came spinning to the marketplace​. He saw the guards and let out a guttural roar that shook the earth and made straight for them. Their strength failed them, their courage shattered and they took to their heels. With the guards gone, the villagers followed quickly after and the tortoise was free to once again, plunder the marketplace.

Tired and desperate, the villagers went back to the king to tell the tale. And he dismissed them, promising to find a solution to the problem. He thought and thought and decided that since brute force had failed, perhaps it was time to try trickery. So he privately called for the best carver in the land and had him create a lifelike statute of a man seated and watching from the strongest iroko tree he could find. Then he made him cover it with sticky tape and set in the centre of the village square. This man he named ‘Sigidi’

Soon afterwards, the palm tree came dancing and everyone as usual, went running. Everyone except sigidi, who sat in the market square watching. The tortoise tried all he could but nothing scared sigidi. At this time, it was almost fully dark and he wanted to eat so he got down and accosted it.

“Why are you not afraid?” He roared. “Are you better than everyone else?”

Sigidi, of course, said nothing. Ijapa saw this as extremely arrogant and so landed it a huge slap. His hand stuck to it. 

“If you don’t release my hand, I’ll deal you an even heavier blow with the other hand.”

Sigidi said nothing.  So Ijapa made a fist with his other hand and struck. It also got stuck.

Now very angry, he kicked the statute. Again, he got stuck. Now beyond reason, he kicked with his other foot. It also got stuck.

“If you don’t let me go, I’ll headbutt you.” He threatened. “I’ll headbutt you so hard, you’d die.”

Sigidi again, gave no response, and so Ijapa headbutted the statute. He was stuck. At this point he realized he was entirely in his opponent’s hands and so he began to plead. He begged and begged, but nothing happened, he was still stuck and that was how he was when the next day arrived and the villagers found him. They went to report to the king who had Ijapa make a full confession. The remaining food items were recovered and returned to their rightful owners.

But Ijapa was left  in the marketplace day after day after day, till the rains began to fall, and eventually the tar softened enough for him to wriggle free.

THE RAINMAKER


It was a hot, dry afternoon. Grandpa was sitting outside, on the verandah, wearing  a white singlet and locally made shorts. It was printed of beautiful, brightly colored fabric with twisting patterns. With a newspaper folded neatly in half, spectacles on top of the newspapers, on a small stool bedside him, and an half empty glass cup containing a small amount of palmwine ’emu’ Grandpa was the very picture of contentment as he sat in the shade of the mango tree. He whistled a catchy tune, from the late Christy Essien Igbokwe, the song ‘Omo mi seun rere’ and pushed back the locally made adjustable chair so he could lie down for a while.

Meanwhile I kept sitting and wriggling and moving, were I sat on the rough cement floor, made restless by the heat. After much fuss and stress, I still wasn’t getting anywhere and had only succeeded in rubbing my buttocks raw through the thin fabric of my khaki shorts.
He sat up, looked at me and smiled. And with a crook of a finger, beckoned to me. Quickly I stood up, dusted my short bottoms and walked to him, where he lay in the fragrant shade of the mango tree.

“Ahmed, why are you restless?”

“It is hot, Grandpa. The heat is far too much for me.”

“Yes, it’s hot, but soon it will rain. It’s always hot just before it rains.”

“I wish it rained everyday so it wouldn’t have to be so hot. When will it rain Grandpa?”

“Soon child, soon. In the meantime, how would you like a story? Perhaps, it might make time pass faster. Plus it’s a story about a rainmaker.”

“What’s a rainmaker?”

“A person with the power to call down rain from the heavens.”

“Okay Grandpa, I’m all ears.”

And this is the story he told…

“Once upon a time, there was a prosperous little village surrounded by hills. It was a slow sleepy place, with farmland that was very arable and yielded fat crops. The people were happy and content- maybe too content? One cannot say just yet.

On a particular day, a day that started quite unremarkably, similar in its arrival and existence to the days that came before it, and the days to come after it had passed, an elderly woman made her way to the village square. She wore clothes that were tattered at the edges from long travelling, and had a small satchel of clothes and food. She didn’t look like anybody important.
She hoped to find a place to rest for she was making a long, ardous trek, she just wanted to rest. After looking around, she was unable to get a place to stay. People shut their doors in her face, some were particularly mean, insulting her before sending her away.

And so she went back to the village square and prepared to pass the night on the ground, in the open.

Just as she settled down to sleep, someone tapped her. She opened her eyes. There was a woman standing before her.
“Hello stranger,” she said “do you not have a place to sleep?”

“No,” replied the elderly woman “no one would let me into their house.”

“If that’s the case,then come with me. My hut is not so big, but surely it can contain both of us.”

And so the stranger found a place to stay for the night. The woman who rescued her was a widow named Abeke, a kind soul, and she prepared a meal of porridge with vegetables and smoked fish. The stranger ate till she was full. Then she was given a clean mat and several wrappers, and a corner of the hut was properly swept for her to lie down and sleep.
The widow lived alone, she had no children. The following morning, Abeke prepared breakfast for them to eat, and after they had eaten, she took her hoe and cutlass, ready to go to the farm. But the stranger asked her to pack up everything that was important to her instead and come with her. After much persuading, Abeke agreed. And together they left the hut. The stranger led Abeke to one of the hills and they began to climb. It was afternoon before they got to the summit. There Abeke set down the load she had been carrying and stretched her legs.
“I want to thank you for providing me with comfort, for having mercy on a stranger.”

 “It’s nothing,” said Abeke “I also could be a stranger in need of help someday.”

“True,” the elderly woman replied “and this act of kindness will prevent you from sharing in their fate.”

And she began to sing, softly, barely above a whisper.

Let it rain, let it rain, let it rain again and again,

Let the people give their thanks, let the rain fall down in sheets,

Let it rain, let it rain, let it rain again and again.”

 

As she sang, rain began to fall, on the village down below. But she kept on singing, and the rain kept on falling, and soon the words to the song took a different turn-

“Let it rain, let it rain, let it rain again and again,

Let the rain flood all the streets, let the people cry for help,

Let it rain, let it rain, let it rain again and again, 

Let the sheep and cattle drown,

Let the crops in farms be ruined.”

And as she sang, her voice rose to a higher volume, becoming louder with every line and so the rain intensified, lightning striking different huts in the village along with a few unfortunates who were unlucky to have been outside for one reason or the other, wind blowing off thatched roofs and the rainfall so heavy that the streets were soon flooded, the water coming up inch by inch until even the biggest huts were covered up. 

Abeke watched in horror as some little figures tried desperately to stay above the water, but eventually failed, slipping in and drowning. The rainmaker continued to sing until there was nothing left were the village once stood, but a large expanse of water, up to three quarters of the hills that surrounded the village. There were no survivors, except Abeke.

She turned and touched Abeke on the forehead. She felt like someone took  a hot branding iron to her forehead and as quickly as she felt it, she felt cold all over, and then all was as it was before.

“I have given you the power to also make rain. With it you can become a very important person. I wish you good luck in your travels, for you must find a new place to stay. But if you ever pass by Shomekun village, ask for the hut of old Ewatomi the rainmaker. You are always welcome in my house.”

And so she left. Abeke found her way to a neighboring village were she found out that the old woman had spoken true, and with her powers of rainmaking, soon became rich. 

She eventually remarried and bore children, and in all her prosperity she never forgot Ewatomi, the old rainmaker.

.
As Grandpa finished the story, I sang the first song, softly, the song for rain. And suddenly the sky was dark, and I felt something wet splash against my nose. A raindrop. It was followed by another and yet another and we quickly packed everything and moved inside the house. Grandpa pinched me on my cheek and said merrily

“Looks like we have our own little rainmaker after all.”

DELICIOUS MISADVENTURES

Sunlight plays in twisting patterns across the forest floor, twigs and leaves revealed and hidden in splotches of light and darkness. The air itself vibrates with birdsong, and the temperature is pleasantly warm. Perfect weather to chill a bit in the forest, especially if you want a little time alone. Just like Richie-boy and his current girlfriend, Funmi.

Richie-boy, obviously not his real name, is a terrible womanizer, a guy who loves to live life in the fast lane.
A fast talker and committed hedonist, he’s known for every vice you know and some you probably don’t. Alcohol, hard drugs, women, he has sampled them all and greed keeps him lusting for more.

Which brings us back to the moment. After a long chase, much cajoling and outright manipulation, his girl has finally agreed to sleep with him, and he intends to make it memorable. What better place than the little patch of forest everyone avoided and claimed was evil? The possibility of danger adds extra thrill.
The love birds are stumbling through the forest, not making a lot of noise- their aim is any concealed spot just in case the forest isn’t as empty of humanity as it seems.

Soon, they arrive at a spot that meets their requirements, a hollow in a huge tree and Richie-boy offloads his backpack. First, he produces the lightweight mattress and unrolls it. Poking this leaf out of the way, uprooting that shrub, the space is quickly made comfortable. He gets a bottle of alcohol out of the bag and they share it, first taking small sips, then huge gulps.
 Then they start giggling and clothes start coming off. Minutes later the deed is done, and the clothes are retrieved and worn, buttons unbuttoned and laces unlaced.
A pack of cigarettes comes out of the bag, followed by a lighter, and soon smoke drifts out of open mouths and nostrils in lazy clouds, floating upwards.

Time passes by, with no notice given to the hours slipping away or the gradual darkening when day fades into dusk. There’s a flashlight somewhere in the bag and no need to hurry anywhere. It’s the weekend, they’re university students free from the watchful eyes of home. They answer to no one but themselves.
At this time, three packs of cigarettes lie discarded on the forest floor, which is also littered with cigarette stubs, some of which are still smoking slightly. Funmi retrieves a medium-sized container of food from the bag and they dig in, first spooning rice and plantain into open mouths, and when that’s done, the fried chicken follows, and then they’re left with cracking bones and sucking out the marrow.

More time passes and dusk turns into night, and sleep claims the duo. Funmi is the first to wake up, a certain undescribable feeling of being watched nagging at her. She wakes Richie-boy up. 

“Let’s go home.”

“Hmm?” Still groggy with sleep, he’s not really getting what she’s saying.

“Richie-boy, let’s go home. Now.” She shakes him even harder. Now he wakes up, fully, but he’s still slow, having consumed the lion’s share of the cigarettes and alcohol.

“Okay. Pack our things.” He gets the flashlight out and they repack the lightweight mattress and the food container, leaving the bottle of alcohol and the cigarette stubs behind.

Just as they finish packing up, a twig snaps somewhere in the forest. They freeze. In the absolute silence blanketing the forest- all the birds are asleep or gone deeper into the forest or something- another twig snaps, ringing out as loud as any gunshot.

“What’s that?”

“I don’t know. Point the torch in that direction.” Funmi obeys and the light falls on something. She screams and the torch falls to the ground, still on, still illuminating the creature.
It’s huge. That’s the first thing that comes to mind. It’s huge, with green skin stretched taut over bunched muscles and ropy veins. It’s arms are long, finger tips almost touching the ground. A closer look would reveal that the fingers are not fingers at all, but claws, razor sharp and as hard as metal. It has a slender trunk in it’s hand and snaps it into two, flinging it casually into a heap behind. The dry snaps of breaking wood must have been part of what woke her up.  Funny enough, it’s smiling at her, grinning from ear to ear, showing sharp, needle-like teeth. 
Her eyes dart from place to place and then light up. She suddenly understands why it was gathering wood, for that’s what it was doing, gathering firewood, and scooping up the flashlight, she takes to her heels with Richie-boy following closely behind.
Panting heavily, heart pumping, legs moving so fast they almost blur, the couple flees the forest. 

At first she hears Richie-boy grunting as he tries to keep up, but after a while, she realizes she can’t hear him anymore. She risks a glance back, with the flashlight, and sees the creature still chasing after her on all fours. She screams and adds a burst of speed. Or attempts to.
 At that precise moment, still running, she’s not looking at where she’s running to and her foot gets caught on a tree root and she trips.She falls. Her ankle hurts but she’s not about to let that stop her.

Scrambling to her feet, she looks back to gauge the distance and yelps, the beast is almost on her. 

She’s about to run again when it catches up to her and taps her behind the head with a heavy claw. She blanks out.
When she comes to, she’s tied up. There’s a fire burning close by, and something on a stick being roasted. The air is full with the smell of cooked meat. The beast that caught her prods the animal softly and grunts. The meat is done. 

Something clicks into place and she recognizes the beast as a storybook creature, a troll. It lifts the stick from the spit, with it’s huge load and removes the meat, handing it to another troll holding a huge cleaver that comes seemingly out of nowhere. There’s more than one!

 It’s as the other troll takes the meat to carve it up that she recognizes a piece of fabric sticking to what was once a leg. Richie-boy.

Her mouth fills with bile and she vomits. Spitting profusely to get the taste of vomit out of her mouth, the soft thuds of someone approaching gets her attention and she looks up.

The troll lumbers up to her and as it grabs her, her screams rend the night.

But not for long.

The air is soon filled again with the smell of roasting meat…

BITTERSWEET part 4

Tied up in the dark like a pig prepared for slaughter, he nevertheless had a smile on his lips. 

A little one, the confident smirk of a man who knows something his friend does not. His hands chafed by the thick ropes that bound them, his whole body forced into an uncomfortable position, with no companion but absolute silence, he nevertheless kept smiling. He had just heard some of the villagers complain that they couldn’t find anyone else to add to the list of victims. That meant the rest of his family got away, and Aminat too. He would also escape, he was sure of this.

He heard a soft thud, magnified astoundingly in the oppressive silence inside the hut. Then the sound of footsteps approaching. Had his time come? 

Facing the possibility of death, Bello found that he was not afraid. Not really.

When you thought of it, everyone had to die someday, he mused, and although he would very much prefer later, it couldn’t be so bad to die earlier.

The door swing open and was shut quickly. Then there was soft panting as the person​ struggled to catch their breath…
A quick fizz as a match was struck, and the bright flame revealed Aminat, dressed in a boy’s clothes, hair tangled with leaves and twigs and other such refuse.

To say he was shocked was an understatement.

“What are you doing here?” He hissed.

“Rescuing you” she huffed and loosened his bonds. He rubbed his wrists to get the blood flowing again and sat up.

“You shouldn’t have bothered-”

“And stayed behind to let you die? How would I live with myself?”

Good question, he thought to himself. If it was her, he would do the exact same thing. At this point, they had finally found the door and after sneaking a peek, they determined the coast was clear and bolted like scared rabbits out of a rabbit hole.

The villagers were quite sure he couldn’t escape so the security was poor. It was embarrassingly easy for Bello and Aminat to slip out of the meager confinement and hightail it for the bushes.

Okonkwo wanted to make fun of Bello. All his life, the had secretly envied the quiet pretty ‘hausa’ boy who was everything he wanted to be but wasn’t. Tall, confident, rich, and to crown it all, Aminat obviously liked him. That was the worst. That he couldn’t forgive.

He had been at the front when they went to hunt for the strangers and had crowed with happiness when they found Bello cross-legged and peeling oranges. Quickly, he called the remaining miscreants and together they bundled him up.

And now, he had him, finally, his arch-nemesis was under his power. Feeling giddy, almost drunk with anticipation he kicked the door to the small hut open and was greeted with- nothing. No Bello.

He let loose a howl of pure frustration and ran off to gather the rest of the villagers. They had to sacrifice Bello, they had to.

Not too far away, the runaway duo heard the howl and quickened their steps.