Monday, 1 April 2019

It Ruins

Ibadan was enveloped in grey wetness that evening, the type that is gloomy to some, but comforting to others who are either in a warm bed or eating a plate of steaming amala and ewedu soup.

It had rained heavily in the afternoon and now died down to drops too weak to be called showers. The rain water sparkled on the stones of the tarmac and sidewalk where the lights of nearby fluorescent bulbs and oil lamps of street traders fell on them.

At a corner, away from sight, and away from the touch of the rain drops, a man lurked. He was completely naked with his slimly muscled ebony body slickened by rainwater. He was not hiding from sight because of his nakedness, though; he was hiding from IT. 

He was hoping this would work this time. He had tried everything to escape it; none had worked. But maybe if he remained concealed in the dark, it would not notice him and would leave him alone.

His hope was however dashed… again. It saw him, and it came. 

He felt its presence as it materialized beside him, separated by a space no thicker than the width of a hair strand.

He wanted to run, dash into the dropping rain and the busy night street, not caring who saw him in his naked state; not caring what they thought of him, but he could not move. He was rooted to the spot, paralyzed, the only things moving his wildly rolling eyes and quivering lips that ejected agonized gasps intermittently.

He saw it raise a hand and point at a child sitting beside her mother, a plantain seller, a short distance away. He saw the child look in their direction, get down from her seat, and begin to walk towards them, unnoticed by her mother who was busy with a customer. The child looked no older than eight.

As she walked towards them as though in a trance, he knew what was going to happen next, knew what it was going to do to her, and he tried to stop it. 

Go back, go back, little girl, go back to your mother. It ruins! But the words only formed in his head and died there, they refused to be issued as sounds.

She got to them and it started to do the same thing he had done to all the others; started to… to corrupt her. And he could do nothing; could not even call the attention of her mother or people around to come save her. He could only stand there, convulsing in horror.

It finished and disappeared as it had come. He stopped convulsing. The child dropped to the ground, into a puddle of water. And at the same moment, her mother noticed she was gone. She started to call out for her, mentioning her name, a Yoruba name, over and over as she looked around.

He prayed she wouldn’t come to where he hid, but she did and the moment she saw her child’s body on the ground and him standing not far away, naked, gave up a shout, “Werey ti pa mi lomo ooo.” (“This mad man has killed my child.”)

They always blamed him for it.

He fled. A few people, roused by the mother’s cry, gave him a hot chase. And they caught him. Blows, from all sorts of things; sticks, fists, iron rods, rained on him. He collapsed to the ground.

“What did you do to her, why did you kill her?” they demanded in Yoruba as they beat him.

She is not dead, just ruined,” he thought, but of course could not voice it. It would help nothing to say anything, he knew this from past experiences. Instead, he concentrated his thoughts on how to escape.

Cries of “tyre, petrol” rent the air. It was now or never. In the next few seconds, it would be too late for him to escape, he would become nothing but one big pile of sizzling, tyre-roasted black flesh.

He quickly got to his feet and dashed towards the expressway with a speed befitting the ‘mad man’ they had called him. They tried to chase and catch him back, but he was too quick for them. His strong limbs made across the road like a Kenyan 100-meters sprinter, deftly avoiding speeding cars, and he soon melded into the dark forest on the side.

He had escaped yet again, but no, it was not something for him to be happy about. It only meant he would witness it strike again… soon.

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