Isioma and Hauwa rounded a corner in the darkness, bumping into a chair. The sound it made cut through the silence of the halls, like a beacon to them, giving away their position.
Not that it really mattered.
She always seemed to find them.
No matter where they ran, no matter where they hid, no matter what they did, she always seemed to find them.
They’d tried to call out for help, but she’d either stolen their screams or cast some kind of powerful sleep juju on the entire school. Even the night owls had not so much as stirred.
They’d been running for what seemed like an eternity now, but in reality had been a little over twenty minutes. They didn’t know it, but they were in the JSS 1A classroom. They’d run out of their hostel after trying to get into their room, which had become locked mysteriously. They’d screamed for help, but no one had come. They’d thought it had been a prank or a joke, but now, they knew otherwise.
That slow sound of inexorability that said: run all you want, I will still find you. I will be in the corner you don’t check, in the room you where you hide. I am inevitable.
I am the night.
Hauwa had tried to run upstairs but Isioma dragged her back down, convinced that running upstairs would mean certain death. Together, they’d run for the other hostels.
Their front doors had all been locked. All four of them. Even when they’d run around them, beating on the windows hard enough to crack one of them, no one had gotten up.
In the morning everyone would wake up, wondering if they’d all collectively had the same dream, until they would see the cracks.
Until they would see the bodies.
In the end, it won’t matter where Isioma and Hauwa run.
Lady Koi-Koi was coming, and blood would flow.
The party is in full swing. The drinks are flowing, the music is heavy and heady. There is not a still body in sight, here, in the incomplete multi-purpose hall the school is building behind the hostels, in a bid to have an additional source of revenue.
Everyone in the SSS 3 class of St. Charles’ Grammar School, Ozubulu, is intent on having as much fun as they can possibly have. Tomorrow, they will be graduates. After six (seven or even eight for some of them) years of giving and taking shit from teachers, and giving and taking no shit from their juniors, they will become graduates. Yes there was a lot to do, plans to make for the future, things to be worried about like what and where to study for university (although a few already have a head start on their peers in this department), but damn anything that would attempt to deny them this one night of bliss.
The boys have ‘organized a babe’ to come and sing, and perhaps dance for them. She’s rumoured to be a dancer in some private gentlemen’s clubs too. The pictures she sent them definitely support that theory, she was wearing ‘stripper heels’ in them. Maybe they will get lucky tonight, the boys hope, either with their class girls, or the babe… or both. Of course everyone knows the guys who will likely get the chance, the ones who have the boldness, the ‘mind’ to do so. But nobody really cares too much. It is a fun night. A night of fun. And fun, they shall have.
Stroke of midnight.
The lights dim.
The DJ announces for everyone to give way on the dance floor, and then raise their cups or bottles to cheer the arrival of The Day. Their Day. A countdown.
10…. 9…. 8…. 7…
6… 5… 4…
HAPPY GRADUATION DAY!
A mighty cheer goes up, so loud it is a wonder the teachers do not come to break them up. But they know they will be left alone. It is their night. Their time. Every year, the graduating class is left alone to celebrate their achievement on the eve of their graduation ceremony. All that is required of them is that they show up the next morning at 11 a.m.
Most of them won’t be getting any sleep tonight though. Too wired.
For some, before the night is over, they will have blood on their hands.
The lights come on to reveal a lady in a red gown and long, black heels. She is so beautiful, she looks like a model. A lascivious cheer greets her appearance; a few whistles. Some girls bristle with jealousy as they cling on to their boyfriends. And when she starts to move to the beat, there is not a still heart in the room.
Ejike woke up with a start. Something had disturbed his sleep. He’d dreamt he was running from something, but it had been dark, and he couldn’t see. All he knew was that he’d felt like he would die if the thing that had been chasing him had caught him. He sat up in his bed, the blanket pooling around his thighs. There was no light, but the weather was still reasonably cool. For that he was grateful. He listened to the night. Everything was quiet.
He had the nagging notion that something was not quite right. He waited a bit longer, and then lay back down. Maybe just a bad dream. He needed to sleep. It had been a long da-
He waited again. Sounded like a girl. Was that coming from inside the school?
He got up from his bed and went to his window, looked out. From his first floor apartment he had a view of the assembly ground and the path leading to the hostels. The administrative block was on his left, and it obstructed his view of the classrooms, and hostels. The scream had sounded like it came from beyond there.
Was there a thief?
Nobody was up though. Not even the security guards were patrolling, as far as he could see. He would make sure the school principal had words with them in the morning. He walked to his sitting room, picked up the extension, and dialled the security post. It rang, but no one picked.
Angry now, he walked back to his room and dressed up. Forget making sure the principal talked to them in the morning; he was going to have words with them right now. Harsh words. By the time he was done with them, they would be begging to be reassigned.
Picking up his phone, he exited his apartment.
Isioma clamped her hand hard against Hauwa’s mouth, cutting off her scream.
“Are you stupid?” she asked. “Do you want to let her know where we are?”
“I… I’m sorry” Hauwa said, hyperventilating. “But I’m afraid!”
“Me too!” she whispered forcibly. “But we have to be quiet! We don’t want her to know where we are!”
Nodding, Hauwa said, “Okay.” Then, “Do you think anybody heard me? Apart from… you know?”
“After all the noise we’ve made, no one woke up. Shun talk. Its only us, her and God now.”
Hauwa closed her eyes, trying hard not to cry out again. “Oh God! Oh God! Oh God! Why now? Ehn? Why do I feel like peeing now? I usually don’t wake up at night to pee!” She tried to peek from their hiding place in the classroom, behind a desk in the corner.
“Please God, save us.” Hauwa whispered.
They waited with bated breath, straining their ears. Nothing. Maybe she had disappeared. Maybe God had answered them. Maybe it was ob-
The lady has danced through eight songs now. Some of the girls, in a bid to do her one better, have dragged their boyfriends off to different dark corners of the hall, some outside. Two in the corner are engaged in serious osculation. One is giving her boyfriend a lap dance while their friends cheer them both on, the boy looking like his head is going to explode any minute.
Four of them. Of course, it has to be four of them. They really like what they have seen, and want to take the party somewhere else. Somewhere private. Chekwube, Tolu, Stanley and Tami. Thick as thieves. They raise some money amongst themselves, and Stanley goes to whisper in her ear as she stops dancing and makes to leave. She halts, looks at him, a glint in her eyes. Her first thought is: these spoiled kids. But the money is attractive; almost half of what they have already paid her. Some extra money will not hurt, for what, half an hour of more dancing? She looks beyond him, sees his friends staring expectantly. Even in the dim light, she can see the hunger in their eyes, smell it coming off in waves off them, like feral steam. One of them is openly rubbing his crotch. Chuckling to herself, she nods. Stanley turns excitedly to his friends, gives them a double thumbs up.
They lead her across the field, towards another unfinished part of school, a classroom block. Chekwube has a portable cassette player, and he carries it with him. Once they get to their chosen venue, they set up, and turn it on. Tolu stands on lookout duty, but once she starts dancing, he forgets that and turns to watch. She doesn’t dance so much as glide, flitting from boy to boy, teasing. When they try to hold her, she dances out of reach. She sees the familiar change in the way they look at her; two of them are openly caressing the bulges in front of their trousers now. She ignores them, thinking, these are just secondary school boys. She ignores them, thinking, I can handle them.
But she is wrong.
Very, very wrong.
Ejike knocked at the security post. Nothing. He pounded on the door with his fist. Still, nothing. Anger gave way to surprise, then curiosity. This was beyond strange. He tried the handle. Locked. He tried to look in through the glass, but it was too dark.
And then the realization that no one had shouted at him to stop the ruckus hit him.
Now he turned in the direction of the scream. Something was very, very wrong. He felt the cold hand of dread climbing up his spine. His legs were rooted on the spot, and he began to question why he was out here in the first place. What was he doing? What was he going to do?
He took out his phone from his pocket, dialled the Emergency number for the police. Reported that he’d heard a scream. They asked him what kind of scream.
“I don’t know, sounded like a girl.”
“Where are you now?”
“The school. I am a teacher here.”
“What of your security?”
“I don’t know.” He looked at the security post again. “They are… sleeping? I tried to wake them, call them. Nothing.”
“Okay. Stay there.”
“Okay.” He ended the call, and then sat down on the step. It felt too cold, so he stood back up. He felt like he was being pulled in two different directions. He was a teacher, not a security guard. He hated fights, and he had no weapons anyway.
Could be thieves. Could be worse.
How would he look at himself in the mirror if something happened to one of the students while he stood here? The least he could do was to go and try to take a look at what was happening there; maybe he would scare off the thieves, if there was one, or maybe two. More than that?
Or it could just be the kids, off on one of their late-night shenanigans. That would get them a flogging of almighty proportions, and before the assembly too, but at least then he would know.
That was better than not knowing. Anything was better than not knowing.
His heart started pounding in his chest.
He didn’t know when he started running.
She bats away his hand, putting on her dress. The music still plays in the background, but she has had enough. She wants no more of this. She promised them a dance, that was all. Against her better judgement, because she’d been lost in the moment and they’d offered her more money, she’d stripped to her undies. That had really set them off. The grinding, she could stomach. But the pawing, the sloppy attempts at kissing her; that was where she drew the line, and she’d told them earlier, a stipulation of hers that they’d agreed to. Now, they are breaking it.
“Baby come on,” Chekwube says, trying to hold her. He is obviously the leader of this group. She’s seen boys like him. “Make we just do am small na.” The look in his eyes is hunger, like a barely-caged animal.
“Hapu m aka biko! I told you, no kissing. Dancing was as far as I was willing to go, and I told you. I told you. And now you want to do what?”
“You know na,” Tolu says. He is fondling himself now, not caring about the look of disgust on her face. “You no fit come carry us play like this, come leave us go. Make we do am. We go pay.”
She whirls on him, her fury palpable. “Are you mad? Ara o n’agba gi? Chai! A taala m ahuhu n’uwa!” I have suffered in this world. She shakes her head in disgust.
“Omo wetin dey worry dis one sef!” Stanley shouts, attempting to grab her from behind. “O boy make we do this ting comot from here jor. This girl dey craze!”
She swings her arm back, catching him on the nose. As he cries out in pain, she pushes past Tami who has been silent all through this, knocking him to the floor. Purse in hand, she runs out of the class.
The night is lit brightly by the moon, and the grass is slick with rain from the evening. Across from them, on the other side of the field, is the incomplete building that houses the party. A safe bet; halfway across the field and even in this poor visibility, someone is bound to see her, and the danger will be averted.
But she panics, and turns left, hoping to lose them in the bushes. She knows this school; its fence doesn’t go all the way around. She knows how to get out, if only-
She slips on the slick grass, her purse flying out of her hand as she goes crashing to the ground, the fall knocking her breath out of her. She cries out as a hand grips her ankle, pulling her backwards, and then someone is sitting on her back, pulling her head back and slamming it into the ground.
She blacks out.
They pounded up the stairs, not thinking of stealth now, but of survival. Those heels, beating a steady cadence on the concrete floors.
Slow. Inexorable. Like death.
Hauwa tried to take the stairs to the next floor, but Isioma pulled her back to one of the classrooms. “We have to jump!”
“Jump?” Hauwa asked. “Are you mad?”
“It’s the only way! How will we escape her from there?” she asked, pointing upwards.
Seeing the logic, Hauwa followed her into the classroom.
Someone shouted from downstairs “Hey! Who’s there?”
“HELP US!” Hauwa shouted back, running outside and peering down the staircase. “IT’S HAUWA AND-” she saw the billow of a dress. A flash of black heels. “ISIOMA SHE’S COMING!”
“Who’s coming?” the voice asked from downstairs. “Hauwa?”
Isioma was already opening the windows, pushing them out. The night air rushed in. They climbed the window sill. The ground stared unforgiving at them.
“Just jump Hauwa, don’t worry. Jus-”
The sound was in the room now. They stared at each other; their breaths caught in their throats. They heard a pounding sound as someone ran up the stairs.
So distant, so useless. No one could help them now. Slowly, their heads turned as one. And at last, they saw her by the cold, merciless light of the moon.
She wore a decaying dress that looked like it could have once been red. The left strap was torn and the dress sagged there, exposing her left breast. Her skin was pale.
Her shoes were shiny, black high heels.
She was beautiful even in death. Her eyes were cold, filled with a dark, vengeful knowledge, a terrible knowing. The air around her seemed to freeze.
Isioma and Hauwa turned to look at themselves. Both knew what the other was thinking; better to jump than to be caught by her. Nodding to themselves, they both launched themselves into the night.
A hand gripped their necks, halting their flight mid-air.
First she feels the pain, like a sawing motion on her insides. Up, down? No, forwards, backwards, and then radiating outwards from there. Now, it feels like a hot bar of iron is being used to tear her apart from within. She feels a weight on her. Someone is breathing on her face. Murmurs. Sweat. Cold, cold back. Someone is pinching her left nipple; it hurts, oh it hurts.
She opens her eyes.
Tolu is on her, in her, above her. Sawing, sawing. Panting. His eyes are shut in ecstasy.
His eyes snap open. Hands grip her tighter as Tolu says, “Abeg make una hold am well make I chop my own jor. I don dey finish.”
The back of her head is pounding where they slammed it against the ground. She feels like it is bleeding but she does not know for certain. All she knows is that she feels herself getting weaker and weaker. The edges of the world are blurring.
She starts to cry. She wants to struggle, but she is too weak, too drained. Powerless.
Her powerlessness turns to internal rage. Rage at the injustice of what they are doing to her. Her anger distils itself, becoming pure and potent, calling unto an ancient thing. She looks at the boys, one after the other. Marking them. Engraving their faces in her memory.
Chekwube, the leering leader.
Stanley, the dealer, the haggler.
Tolu, finishing now.
Tami, who looks like he doesn’t want to be here but has no choice.
She marks them with her hate, marks them for their sin. Marks them as God marked Cain. The ancient entity that calls the bush home finds her anger. It comforts her in her pain and in her bliss, she smiles, so small they can’t see it.
As the darkness claims her, she carries their names, and their faces, into the passageways between life and death.
The pain was unlike anything they had ever felt before, and it was not just the pain of being held aloft by an impossibly strong hand.
There was something else, a different kind of underlying pain, at once distant and pervasive, growing, spreading, until it overwhelmed them. This pain was cold and hot at the same time, blooming, in their minds. It cut through to their bones, and even though they wanted to cry out, the vice-like grip around their necks was too tight; they could hardly breathe.
There was a sawing pain emanating from their private places; like they were being raped.
Slowly, the hand pulled them back into the building. Their knees, then their shins bumped and scraped across the window sill, drawing blood; not that they noticed. Hauwa’s left shoe fell off to the ground below, and then they were hanging in the dim light of the moon in the classroom. The hand turned them until they could see who… what held them.
Those cold eyes, empty, unforgiving.
Their hands clawed at the grip on their throats; they might as well have been clawing at the wall.
Those eyes bore into them both, one at a time, as though it was searching their souls, reading the words written on the walls of their hearts.
To Hauwa, she said “You, I don’t need.” Her voice was grating, like a hacksaw cutting through zinc.
She tossed Hauwa out of the window, her screams cutting off when she slammed face-first onto the wall of the adjacent building, and then fell to the ground.
The lady changed her grip on Isioma’s throat, holding her in her right hand now and pulling her close just as Ejike shouted “NO!” and slammed into her. A pain bloomed in his left shoulder and in his head as he fell down, scraping his palm on the floor. Later, he would find out he had cracked his shoulder blade. His eyes wide, he stared as the woman turned and stared at him.
In the darkness, they held their own terrible light. She looked like a corpse, but her eyes were not dead; no. They held a dark, ancient knowledge that Ejike knew if he knew would make him claw his own eyes out.
He pissed himself.
She turned fully now, carrying Isioma in her hand like a piece of luggage, her grip on her neck just loose enough to let her breathe, but nothing more. Ejike heard a whimpering sound; it took him a moment to realize he was the one making it. He tried to clamp down on it, but only succeeded in making himself croak, like he’d forgotten how to talk. Slowly, she walked towards him.
She closed the distance between them and stood over him, staring.
She bent down, took his left, outstretched arm, and snapped it like a twig.
The pain hit him like a truck, obliterating everything in its wake. His vocal chords opened and he sang his pain in an incoherent monosyllabic word.
When she broke his left leg in two, he blacked out.
Isioma lay on the floor, struggling to keep her eyes open. She didn’t believe what had happened to Hauwa; the woman had just tossed her out of the window as if she had been a doll, and then she’d broken this teacher’s bones like they were a minor inconvenience.
She was tired, and she couldn’t move, even if she tried. The woman had done something to her so that she could not feel her legs, but she could feel every scratch, every pain, and every bleed. Had she broken her back?
Isioma didn’t know, and was surprised to find out that she didn’t particularly care. The hope she’d held on to was fast dissipating with each passing second. She strained her ears to hear; there.
The sound of her heels, and a sound like a rod being dragged. When she turned, she saw her in the doorway, the moon behind her. She held the rod at her side; an avenging demon. Then, she walked forward until she stood over Isioma, the rod in her hand like a spear pointed down.
“Why?” Isioma asked, her voice hoarse and cracked. She was beyond begging now.
Her eyes stared, impassive. “Your father,” she said.
The dead lady in red drove the rod through Isioma’s stomach, into the concrete as she tried to process what she had just heard. She thought she’d felt pain before but she was wrong.
She was very wrong.
And as the dead lady in red bent the rod until the other end was touching her sternum, she said “Chekwube. You will see him soon.”
Then she pressed down until the other end touched the concrete.
The last sounds Isioma heard were the her own gurgling as she drowned in her blood and the sound those shiny black high heels made as the dead lady walked out of the classroom and into the darkness.
You may have heard about her. You may have heard her. Walking down your hostel hallway in the dead of the night, when the day is done and the undead cavort. No one knows her name, though some call her Lady Koi-Koi.
No matter what you call her, just don’t leave your bed if you hear her at night.
Not even to pee.
Raymond Elenwoke is a writer who currently resides in Port Harcourt, Nigeria, working (moonlighting) as an auditor and a financial consultant. He is a Horror/Thriller/Sci-Fi/Speculative Fiction storyteller. His work has featured in previous editions of the Lights Out series – Lights Out: Monsters and Lights Out: Twisted Fairytales. He tweets with the handle @lewokes, he is on Facebook too, with his name (at least he thinks so). He loves to listen to Heavy Metal, and he thinks you should too.