THEY CALL ME A-ZED
EPISODE 4: DAYBREAK…
A long time ago, when I stilled lived in Ibadan and even before father left us, something happened that, till today, fills me with fear.
The shadows were lengthening as I walked towards my house that evening, the ball in my hand and my dusty clothes evidence of the football game I had just left. My feet dragged; today, “last goal wins” had not been favorable to us, and despite the fact that I had scored the most goals that afternoon, I had still ended up on the losing side. My dejection showed as I walked, and when I reached the block of flats I lived in, I sighed and began to climb up the stairs to the 5th floor where we lived.
A noise was coming from the stairwell. It sounded like a scuffle and was loud enough for me to pause and come back down the stairs. In the darkness, there were two shapes grappling at each other. From their grunts, I made out they were man and woman. The male voice was grunting heavily and huffing, the female was pleading and panting as if putting up a fight. I leaned over the stairs, stretching as I tried to make out who they were. I didn’t succeed, and the ball dropped from my hand into the stairwell, raising up a pile of dust and stilling the scuffling.
In the sudden quietness that followed, I froze in position on the stairs, wondering how I was going to retrieve the ball from the eerie darkness under the stairs. I didn’t have to wait long.
A shadow streaked past me. In the dim light, I couldn’t see her face, but I could make out her open blouse, her messed up hair and the heaving gasps that indicated she was crying. I felt sorry for her, but there was nothing I could do. My ball was still in the darkness, and my immediate concern was how I was going to get it. When the other occupant of the stairwell came out, I forgot about the ball and started worrying for my safety.
“I don know say na you,” Dominic said, my ball balanced in one giant hand. “Everybody else for don cut like say nothing dey happen, but na you go try see the one wey pass your power.”
He flipped out a knife from his pocket and sank it into the ball. My mouth dropped open and my eyes widened as the air rushed out from the ball. Dominic moved closer to me, wrapping me in a rough embrace and pressing and twisting the knife into the soft skin of my stomach, drawing blood.
“If you tell anybody say you see me for here, I go chook you dis knife come cut your papa and mama join. You dey hear me so?”
I nodded, my head moving up and down on my neck with vigour.
“Oya commot here. No make I see you dey disturb my paroles again.”
I had never told anyone about what I saw that day. When mother asked why there was blood on my shirt, I told her I had injured myself while playing football. As I stood in the doorway with the salt and ash in my hand, the grotesque, misshapen shadows cast by the lantern brought memories rushing back.
Austin’s trousers were around his ankles, and he was jerking his hips and torso like he were a marionette. Yemi was suspended like a naked human bridge between Austin and the door, with her arms still tied behind and above her head to the lintel and her legs spread out and clamped under his shoulders. She had been passed out when I went into the kitchen, but the pressure on her shoulders and Austin’s relentless thrusting had brought her back to consciousness, and she was groaning in pain and weakly kicking her legs in futile resistance. In the light of the lantern, it was a terrible scene, and as the wave of memory washed over me, my anger increased.
I threw the ash and salt to the ground. Mother’s face in my head was filled with pity and disappointment, and as I watched Austin continue his thrusting, the disappointment I felt with myself mirrored hers. Even if I ran away, I couldn’t bring myself to go home in these circumstances. I imagined her look of disapproval when I related the story of my escape to her, and it was not the way I wanted to meet her. I wanted her to be happy with me, be proud of me. She would be disappointed that I forgot all the training and instructions she taught me in my eagerness to go home and stood by and allowed Austin to do this.
My back stiffened as I walked into the room. Austin had gone too far, and I was going to end this.
There was a stool on the floor near the door, ejected from its place between the chairs in the earlier tumult. I catfooted into the living room, picking it up as I advanced. Austin was thrusting away, his head raised towards the ceiling and his mouth open and gasping in savage pleasure, and he wouldn’t have noticed my approach even if I was wearing rattles and cymbals, but Yemi did, and her eyes widened slightly. I signaled at her and her mother to keep quiet as I finished my approach. When I was close enough, I reached out a hand and tapped Austin, startling him. His head whipped round in surprise, colliding with the swinging stool and shattering it. His roar was as much from pain as surprise, and only the fact that he was holding Yemi prevented him from charging me. I swung again, catching him at the point where his neck joined his head, and then gave him a hearty tap with a T-shaped piece of the stool on the top of his head. His eyes rolled in his head and he slumped to the floor, dragging Yemi with him and eliciting a groan of pain that echoed through the room in spite of the gag in her mouth.
When I was sure he was unconscious and not faking, I retrieved a knife, and then cut Yemi down from the door, trussing him up with the rope. His trousers were still around his ankles and his penis was a shrunken, bloody mass on display to the world, but I ignored his indecency. Yemi’s groans of pain from the floor where she had fallen caught my attention. There were impact bruises on her breasts and stomach, and blood ran from between her thighs. I did the only thing I could do: I removed her gag and cut off the ropes that immobilized her limbs, whereupon she curled up and started weeping, heartrending sobs of shame and pain wracking her body from within. I cut her mother’s bonds too, and she ran to her daughter, covering her up with her wrapper and holding her tight.
Outside, day had broken. The world had come awake, and already, people were walking past the house, traders and farmers on their way to work. On the floor, Austin stirred. Yemi’s mother looked over at his stirring form and ran over from her daughter, grabbing the small center table as she did. The table disintegrated into blood-flecked fragments of wood and glass on his head and only my desperate lunge prevented her from smashing his head in with one of the iron rods used to bar the front door. She spun around towards me, her arm and face quivering in anger. I flinched a little but held on, resolute. I was not going to let this happen.
“Madam abeg no kill am. If you kill am dem go carry you go prison.”
She let go of the bar and made as if to charge at me, and then pulled up and stopped. She was looking at my hand. I followed her gaze and realized I was still holding Austin’s knife. I pocketed it, showing my bare hands to her.
“Madam I no go do you anything. No be wetin I wan do be this. I just wan go my mama house. I no be wicked person. I no know say Austin go do this kind thing. I no think say e go reach like this.”
A groan interrupted us. Yemi was still curled up on the floor, and had started shivering. The look on madam’s face combined disgust with respect and fear, but she left me and went over to where her daughter lay. Yemi winced as she was assisted unto her swollen ankle, leaning against her mother for support as she dragged herself to her room. Her wrapper fell off, and I ran behind them, handing it to her mother.
“Madam make I help you boil water for her make she fit baff if she want.”
A short nod was the only reply madam gave me. I turned towards the back door, pausing midway into my journey there and changing direction to the sitting room where Austin lay tied up. He was coming to, straining against his bonds. He was also making a valiant effort to force his left eye open, but it stubbornly remained swollen shut. His head was a spider web of blood and cuts, and his nose and mouth were misshapen and grotesque, a child’s lump of putty. His right eye blazed at me with hatred from beneath its rapidly swelling lid. I ignored him and leaned over, pulling his trousers up and covering his nakedness.
“You for comot when I tell you make we dey comot.”
I could feel his eyes shooting arrows at me as I cleaned up the sitting room, replacing the iron bars in their slots and sweeping up the glass and wood chippings. They followed me all the way as I walked away into the kitchen shed, burning coals of hate and anger.
When I came back out, madam was waiting for me. The headscarf on her head was askew and she was wearing mismatched slippers. When I came in, she directed her glare from Austin to me, mellowing it into something that was equal parts embarrassment and fear, her eyes flickering between an invisible spot behind me and the ground as she talked.”
“I no know weda you worth am, but Yemi say make I tell you thank you. Omo ale buruku yi fe pa mi ati omo mi (this bastard wanted to kill me and my daughter). Na you stop am. Ose.”
I swallowed, caught out. My surprise at her gratitude was plain on my face. In all the time I had lived with them, I had received neither compliment nor gratitude, and it took a hefty swallow of saliva for my mouth to be moist enough to form words in reply.
She cut me off before the words came out. “E remain one thing wey I go beg you. Everything wey happen today, jo ma so fun anybody (Don’t tell anybody). Ma je k’oju ti mi. Jo, mo fi olorun be e (Dont bring shame to my family, I beg you in the name of God). Na the only pikin wey I get be this. Anything wey you want, I go give you, but tori olorun, no tell anybody. Shey owo lo fe ni? Ma fun e. (Is it money you want? i will give you) Just tell me wetin you go want make I do.”
She was earnest, begging me with the fervency of a wrongly-condemned man before his executioner. This was my chance!
“Madam, I wan go my house back. Na wetin I want be that.”
“Iyen o kin se problem (That’s not a problem). You go go. I go even give you money make you dey go. If you wan go today sef, no be problem. Shey 50,000 ma to e? (Will 50,000 be enough?)”
My heart beat a tattoo. “Yes ma.”
“Go pack your load. When you ready, come meet me.”
When I left the house later that morning, it was with a spring in my step, my life possessions in a bag on my back and N60,000, split between my bag, my trouser pocket and the pocket of a pair of shorts I was wearing under my trousers. I walked on sunshine to the junction where the lorries passed by, waiting for one going my way. I didn’t have to wait long.
“Where you dey go?”
“You get luck. Na there I dey go. Enter make we dey go.”
I hopped in, a broad smile threatening to split my face. I was going home!
THEY CALL ME A-ZED
Written by @ToluBablo
Based on MY NAME IS A-ZED by @thetoolsman
READ ALL OF A-ZED’s ADVENTURES BY CLICKING HERE
THEY CALL ME A-ZED Continues next week Thursday at 10:00 am