His legs, as they would say, touched his head in full flight. He wished they could go farther. The Malo guys were fast on his trail and he had to put some distance between them. At this rate he could have won any Olympic race. He leapt over an upturned drum. He reeked of fuel. In a different situation, someone seeing him might have thought it was the fuel that gave him his speed. (So much for thinking only vehicles used it!) Despite his full adrenaline, drench and fear, a flash smile appeared:
“Fuel for his speed. Only vehicles, abi?” He looked to his eyes’ limit and noticed a deserted road. When would he get to anyone? He looked to the trees and buildings. Even they looked menacing and so, he continued farther. He looked forward and backward severally in order to be sure no one was following him. Though they were a distance from his sight he could hear their voices. A few days ago he had laughed at the story of a man whose buttocks had been slashed in full flight. It had seemed funny, then. A man in full flight, then, swoosh! No butt again.
“Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! O boy, you sabi lie o!” He had said. In the battlefield, the story seemed so real to him now. But which evil spirit had prompted him out? A million curses and more! If he had known he would meet those Malo guys… He had run, actually walked into them:
“Stop there!” the obvious leader had commanded, “Where I de go?” he asked, referring to Bem. Fear had seized the laughter that would have greeted this blunder.
“I de try reach school”
It was either the leader didn’t hear him or thought Bem meant he was a staff member in school. The order was given and tua!! A slap cut across his face.
“Aôndo!!” he cried, calling God.
Gbuum!! Kpaa!! Gbua!! The several slaps, blows and other forms of brutality not recorded in any written vocabulary kept flying at Bem:
“I am a student! I am a student! Wan ye makanta! Eh!! Yaron makaranta!! Dalibi… I be student! I be… ahhh! Ayoooo!! Aondo!!” English, Tiv, Hausa, Pidgin and the unmistakable language of pain! He kept the varying chant which now acted as some sort of background music to the men who increased their pace with each ‘drop.’
“M kpe ver o!! I am dead! Na mutu! I be student na!!” He kept on crying as he continued in cycles, in words and movement while the Malos changed their brutalities. A big plank with nails on it appeared from nowhere. A cutlass followed in quick succession. The wielders were swift and seemed professionals. From accounts, it took three seconds. Two in the air and swoosh!! You were… Bem knew this and despite his pains now, prayed all the recitals he had learnt from Youth. Up and…
“Stop!” It was the leader. Bem heaved a sigh of relief,
“I promise to go to mass each day and never miss tithes and offertory. No more girls and…” He kept making more fear instant promises.
“Student!” Finally, it seemed someone had heard him. The leader looked at him and smiled. He responded with blood stained teeth. The leader said something Bem didn’t understand. But then, the message wasn’t his though it seemed he was the subject. He caught a breather at his attackers’ break. He sat down on the ground, still continuing his promises. Voop!! A tire fell on his neck. The men shouted in glee as fuel was poured on him. Such a show was definitely to be enjoyed. The plan had been to weaken him, then in that state, burn him.
Thump! Someone fell with a loud crash and with it, the attention of the remaining eight. The jet took off without any ceremony and shot into full flight. Adrenaline was an amazing human component and at the moment Bem praised God for it. He now knew why their goat had disappeared last Christmas after seeing a knife. Danger sure made man and other animals alike.
“Heyaaaa! Ayaaaaa!” Bem heard the sounds in the distance as his thoughts darted back to the present. He ran with renewed vigur and ‘blissfully’ into the arms of another Malo group.
“Stop here!” He tried to run but at that instant, a weakened and fearful heart coupled with tired legs, emptied him of all his strength, and adrenaline. The group seized him as he readied himself for death, the promises still on the tongue of his heart.
“I will never cheat in my exams…nor lie, ever… I will love you more…”
“Release him!” The Leader barked as Bem fell to the floor. His tone became softer “You are a student, ko?” Bem affirmed with a nod of the head. “In that case, I would let…”
The first attacking group arrived at this moment, and asked for their prisoner. There were some negotiations and the second leader with a resigned look on his face gave way to the verdict. It was three seconds. The cutlass was raised. With tears and a combination of sweat, fuel and urine, Bem perfectly understood the smell of a he-goat, especially a dead one. He passed out.
Su’eddie Vershima AGEMA is a poet, short story writer and publisher. He is the Chairman of the Association of Nigerian Authors (ANA Benue Chapter) and author of Bring our casket home: tales one shouldn’t tell. He blogs at http://suddie.wordpress.com, @sueddieagema on Twitter and can be reached at eddieagema@yahoo.com
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