It all started with the invasion…
This is maybe a true story, kinda. Any relations to a person living or dead will be denied with vehemence unadulterated. I repeat, if you feel like the story is talking about you; it’s not. That’s it.
Belene’s version of the portentous night.
What was different about that night? You want to know if we had any hint as to what was coming? Nothing. I came back from classes that evening, hailed the guys sitting outside around the old rusty well, goofing. Got inside, took a cold bath, instructed Tamuno to warm what was left of the okro soup we cooked the day before and went ahead to take a nap.
I woke up at about past 10pm, washed my face with cold water, took up my biochemistry textbook and began studying. I must have been at it for some 3 hours or so because by the time my brain started feeling like it was a duck I was pouring impenetrable water on, it was past 1am. I went back to bed, with some strength removed my sister’s splayed arm from my side of the thin mattress and went to sleep.
Tamuno snores some in her sleep so I had only just drifted to the world unconscious after spending some minutes blocking out the sound of her snoring when I started hearing some noises from downstairs. No there wasn’t a loud crash or bang at first. Just someone speaking some kind of code language loudly from outside the compound asking if they were in. The otherwise still night carried the sound of the voice to me as it said “O.C! Una don divide the zanga?”
I don’t know why – sheer animal instincts maybe – but goose bumps erupted about my flesh at that sound. I did not know the meaning of the words of the speaker, but there was something about the way he said it. His voice boomed with repressed wickedness and it was as cold as death. I laid still on the mattress as I heard the sound of heavy steps and a little while after, running feet, all echoing from downstairs. Fear had hands as it pressed me to the bed. I tried to call out to Tamuno but my mouth was dry and my throat squeezed painfully together.
Then I heard “Open the door you fool!” accompanied by the sound of wood breaking, granting entrance. The gossamer shield that was fear broke over me at that instant, as I sprang up from the bed and grabbed Tamuno by the shoulders, “wake up!” I said under my breath.
Tamuno is a deep sleeper so she didn’t budge. I shook her again, this time more violently and she was just fluttering her eyes open when I began hearing running footsteps on our floor and harried voices speaking in hushed, pleading tones. Then I knew they’d finally come. It was over. My body was shaking fiercely. I felt a sudden urge to pee and shit at the same time. Tamuno was asking what’s happening but I ignored her. I was thinking frantically where the hell I was to hide the chinco android I was managing and the two thousand naira that was left with me in the house.
Suddenly, two gunshots explode in quick succession, the sound ripping into the tense air, turning our worst nightmare into flagrant reality. Wobbling terribly at the knees, I rushed for my wallet as did Tamuno. We were chucking them underneath the mattress when again we heard heavy footsteps, this time more much closer to our room. I’d barely braced myself for what was to come when those boots connected with our frail door, breaking the hinges. I remember myself letting out an involuntary, totally out of my control scream as a man wearing a dark hoodie, sporting a pistol emerged in the room. It had begun.
“Shut up your mouth!” he hisses under his breath, wielding the gun in her face “You dey mad? Wetin make you dey shat you won make I blow your head comot?”
“No sir. Please sir. Sorry sir. Abeg no shoot me sir” she whimpers on her knees, hot tears and sweat forming a sheen of salty waters on her face.
“Oya make una bring out all una money, phones and laptops and jewelry come orside. Quick quick!” he waves the gun ominously in the air, driving home the urgency. They scamper around the room looking for their valuables. Belene grabs her wallet and hurriedly extricates the two thousand in it. She also seizes her dear chinco phone and presents these shakily to the intruder. “Oga sir my phone and my only money. I don’t have laptop or jewelry sir. Please no vex sir” her speech wobbles as she struggles to choke down sobs trying valiantly to escape.
In all of this Tamuno said nothing. Being the more reticent and stalwart of them both, she is less jittery as she coldly calculates how to hide her newly acquired Samsung s4 whilst surreptitiously studying the thief.
“You!” he exclaims as he catches Tamuno spying him from the corners of her eyes “wetin make you dey look me?” he walks towards her menacingly, his body taut with tension and something else that was fear. “you wan die this night?” he presses the cold, heavy muzzle of his handgun to her head. The reality of the night begins to ripple through Tamuno’s stout frame as the gun digs painfully into the soft flesh of her head. Cold sweat breaks out from her skin as her body betrays her and starts to tremble.
“Uncle no sah. I no look you please. I just won give you my phone” she hands him her phone quickly and returns to her servient position of kneeling as though in Muslim prayer; head touching the floor with arms as shield over her face.
“You sure say if I sarch dis haas I no go see laptops and gold shains?” his encased foot crosses the room threshold as he lifts the thin mattress up and half-heartedly rifles through their scanty closet.
“No sah!” they both exclaim at same moment. “we don’t have those sir truth to God” Belene finishes, tears and bile choking her words. The thief hurriedly throws his newly acquired possessions into his baggy shorts pocket and instructs them in his tobacco creased voice to hide themselves.
“As I dey look una, make una two run enter under that bed now now!” he thunders mutedly. “and I no won hear fiim from una if not somebody go chop bullet” Tamuno rushes for the mattress, lifts it up and splays her frame underneath. Belene slides next to her, her belly on the cold carpet as she seeks shelter.
“Shift let me lay under the bed too!” she hisses under her breath, nudging her younger sister’s considerably bigger body, trying and failing to make her small frame shrink.
“No space!” her sister hisses back “go find another spot!”
“Shutup!” interjects the thief. “Una two dey mad? I say no noise!” Belene begins to whimper quietly, convinced he’d surely shoot her now as he can still her exposed body not hiding under the bed like he instructed. He takes one look at the girls shaking on the floor, one covered completely by their mattress, the other squeezing close, crying into her palms. A look of power and disgust fleets through his rough features as he opens the door quietly and closes it behind him.
The sisters remain in their prostrate positions, each too scared to move a limb. Just then, they hear the scratch of cutlass on the cemented floor and somebody say “this motherfucker don recognize you! Oya shoot am now!” The night was far from the end…
Stay tuned for Ep 2 Next Friday…
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