Philip stood in front of the dressing mirror in his room combing his hair when he heard an uproar. When he peeped down through the window of his apartment, he saw a crowd of angry students in pursuit of a young man, who probably was a thief. He sighed and continued combing his hair. His room was painted orange and cream with a brown centre rug. His curtains were cream with orange flowers. A reading table and a chair were by the other window. His room was not too big. He always made sure that he washed the plates he used for breakfast before going to school.
He picked up his bag pack and climbed down the stairs slowly. He greeted an old woman who was sweeping, who lived downstairs.
“Good morning Ma” he greeted warmly
“Ehen! Morning my son, how your night?” she replied
“Fine Ma. How was yours?”
“Fine. You don dey go?” she asked
“Yes ma. Goodbye” He said as he hurried away avoiding more discussions. He went out of the gate and boarded a tricycle; usually known as “keke” to the University of Jos permanent site. He kept glancing at his wristwatch and his new shoe because his neighbour had called his shoe “pop’s boot”. He thought about many things, as he sat in the keke. There was traffic just few meters before the gate of the University. Impatient drivers blew annoying horns. Philip waited for two minutes hoping that the road will be clear and then decided to alight and trek the little distance remaining.
When he entered the school, he looked at his wrist watch and he got angry but he didn’t know whether to get angry at the keke driver, or himself or the driver whose car broke down in the middle of the road because it was five minutes to eight o’clock and his lecture was to start by 8:00am and he had a short distance to cover before reaching his faculty. The Faculty of Arts was the last Faculty before the University’s Hostels.
“Philip! Philip!!” someone called him behind, he turned around and saw Nathan his Thespian” friend. Nathan was in the Department of English Language.
“Hello Thespian” he said as they shook hands with Nathan “Tupac how are you doing? How was your break? What did you bring for me from Langtang?” Nathan rapped out to Philip.
“Bros, one question at a time now” Philip said and pulled Nathan by the arm so that they will continue the journey to the Faculty. They chatted happily as they walked to the Faculty.
Philip met with some of his friends in front of the Faculty and stopped to greet him. Nathan passed immediately after shaking hand with them because he did not like them. The carried deadlocks and one among the four dyed his hair brown. They wore trousers that we ripped from the thigh down to the knees which was known as “crazy jeans” and the main reason why Nathan did not like them was that they were smokers.
“How far now, why Prof. Nerd pass now?” one of them known as “Colonel D” asked Philip referring to Nathan.
“We get lectures now and e no wan dey late na why him pass” Philip replied.
Sango answered” unto, na him serious pass abi?”
“abeg make una leave person pikkin” P-Jay said to them.
“Guys, I’ll see you later goodbye” Philip said as he shook them all and headed for the Faculty.
When Philip got to the lecture hall, he realised that the lecturer had entered so, he contemplated whether to go in or not for one minute and then he decided to go in. he entered and was about to take the fifth step when the lecturer shouted “Hey! Stop there”. Philip stopped.
“are you supposed to be here?” the lecturer asked.
“Yes sir” Philip replied.
“and you are just coming? My friend get out of my class” then Philip turned around and went out of the lecture hall.
Two hours later, the lecture terminated and the students rushed out of the lecture hall to other various classes. Philip was tapped behind and he turned and saw Binta then, he smiled at her.
“Good morning Ma” he greeted.
“Good morning Phil. Please don’t tag me as “Ma” she replied.
“Ok Ma! I mean, I get you” he said as they both laughed.
Phil, wait!” Nathan called from behind and Philip waited for him.
“Hey! Binta good morning you look like a vegetable goddess with the leafy crown you are wearing” he said to Binta and they both laughed “Phil, I want you to help me go through this little thing here” he said giving Philip folded paper.
Nathan climbed upstairs to lecture room 7 for his poetry lecture. Binta held Philip by his hands as they walked into lecture room 4 for their next lecture. Philip unfolded the paper Nathan gave and went through the write-up.
“Title: The First Sin
In a beautiful forest stood a fine tree
In the central glade
Where it carried a danger label
Then then HE went away to swim
Then it came and offered HER
SHE collected and it proceeded
From the glade to the forest
SHE then gave him
He bit it and it gashed his throat Then it swoll up.
A dark cloud covered the forest
The wind sent them both away
To the sea surrounding the forest
But, a lamb served as a god-send
And they both had hope once again
To be in the beautiful forest again…”
“Wow! That’s a nice piece Phil” Binta said to Philip as she collected the poem to go through it again.
“Whoa! It’s not me. That is one of Nathan’s Poems” He said.
“Really? He has a very creative mind and brain. I mean… this is beautiful” she said.
“yes not only that, he also paints and is into portrait drawing, fashion design and so on” Philip said collecting the poem back.
“Wow! He’s multi-talented and that is not found everywhere” Binta replied.
By 4pm, they were done with lectures and were about to go when Binta asked Philip to accompany her to the canteen beside the Faculty so she could buy supper. Nathan agreed to wait for them under the Neem tree in front of the Faculty.
“Can I see your poetry book? Nathan asked as Philip and Binta turned to go.
“Yep! It’s in my bag”. Philip replied without turning back. Nathan unzipped Philips clear bag and dipped his hands inside to carry the book. His hands touched something that felt like sticks wrapped in a brown paper. He wanted to close the bag but something told to him to check what it was and he checked and behold! He saw paper sticks 9cm long that were contorted at both ends. He removed it from his bag and waited for Binta and Philip.
When Philip came back with Binta following him a few meters behind, Nathan stood up and looked at Philip straight into the eyes and barked” Philip what is this? He asked showing him the paper sticks.
“Where did you get that from?” Philip asked trying to collect it.
“I found it in your bag. Philip I thought we were done with these. Yeah its them again. Your ganja planter friends passed it to you today” Nathan said. “well I am not giving you this” he said as he three sticks into the drainage in front of the Faculty.
“What did you just do?” Philip said opening his eyes wide as he dipped his hand in his right pocket. He brought out Nathan’s poem and tore it into shreds and threw it everywhere “deal with your addiction to masturbation before you think of my own problems” Philip shouted few students who were in small groups gisting turned around to look. They had heard what he said.
Nathan grabbed his bag pack and hurried away to the gate. Binta ran up to Philip and asked what had happened but Philip only took his bag pack and wiped a tear that rolled down his left eye and walked away leaving Binta standing under the Neem tree holding her supper in her hand.
Nathan threw his bag pack on the ground and locked the door when he got home. He played Conqueror by Estelle and Jamal – empire and laid on his back on the ground looking at the white ceiling above. His vision was blurred as tears filled his eyes. How could he? Nathan thought as he closed his eyes for the tears to roll freely. He remained on the floor for almost an hour and then got into his small kitchen to put water on fire so he could take his bath. He ate four packets of biscuits while he waited for the water to boil, and he mourned his poem, the masterpiece.
When Nathan took his bath, it was already 6pm. He sat at his blue plastic reading table to start doing his assignment.” Write extensively on Michael Chekov’s acting technique” he read aloud and repeated it five times then his phone rang. He did not want to reach out for the phone but he later changed his mind and pick up the phone. It was Philip’s mother.
“Hello ma! Good evening” he greeted and put the call on loud speaker.
“Evening Nathan, how was school today?” she replied. “I hope you guys are not broke you know it’s been just two weeks since you resumed” she said and they both laughed.
Philip’s mother Mrs.Ann was a very loving woman. She treated Nathan like her own son because he was the only one among Philip’s friends she approved of. She called the rest “area boys” because of their hairstyles, dressing etc.
After the call, Nathan’s phone rang again. When he picked up the phone, he dropped it back again. Philip was calling him. He picked the call when the phone rang for the third time. Philip apologized to Nathan and Nathan told him all was well and that he is not holding anything against him. So, Philip asked Nathan to come to his house the next day since they both had lectures by 10AM
Philip opened his eyes in the dark room, he was sweating. He sat upright with his head in his right palm. He had a dream and the dream was real. He looked at the wall clock and sighed then he lay back on the bed. “What does this dream mean?” he asked himself. He had dreamt about his vacation in the village and that an old woman stabbed him on the chest and pointed her breasts at him.
Philip got up from the bed and took his bath and took custard and biscuits. He had not recovered from the shock of the dream when he heard a knock on his door. He looked at the wall clock and sighed, it was 7:28am. He went to the door and asked who was at the door and the person replied then, he opened the door.
“Bros, are you scared in broad daylight?” Nathan asked Philip with a half-smile on his face.
“You won’t understand. How was your night? “Philip said.
“Sorry! Good morning, my night was peaceful and yours?”
“Fine” Philip replied “come and get yourself something to eat!”.
“Don’t you think it is too early to eat?” Nathan asked” by the way, where are you going to this early?”
“And you’ve already taken your bath?”
“Yes, I just wanted to take my bath” Philip replied.
“Bros, something’s bothering you. What is it? Do you mind telling me?” Nathan asked.
“it’s nothing… it’s just that I had a dream that shock my whole being that’s why”
“And the dream?” Nathan asked.
“I dreamt about an old woman I had an encounter with in the village” Philip said as and narrated the dream.
“Ok, what happened between the two of you?”
“Take this and eat while I tell you” Philip said giving Nathan a cup of tea and biscuits in a saucer.
I arrived my village on the 20th August, a week after we vacated from school. My mother wanted me to spend some time with her mother, my grandmother and the main reason was that she wanted to keep me away from my “area boys” friends. My uncle, her younger brother picked me up at the park. My grandmother was super-excited. She sang a lot of songs in our tribe, hugged me and made sure her neighbours came to ask what the problem was. She introduced me with pride as her grandson from “Jod”. Her pronunciation of Jos made me laugh, I later got to realise that it was not only her that pronounced “Jos” as “Jod”.
A chicken was killed for me that night and I felt like a king. Many other children came to see that “grandson from Jod”. Grandma told us stories that night. She stopped when most of the children started sleeping and sent them home to sleep. I didn’t sleep well that night and dawn seemed to come slowly.
The next day, uncle Cletus took me to visit my uncles, Aunties and relations. We almost entered every house in the village and I kept wondering whether everyone in the village was our relation. It was already 10 O’clock when we came and grandma had prepared breakfast of tea and bread for only me.
“My grandson, go and eat breakfast” she said to me and I replied “thank you very much Kaka”.
I went into the sitting room and there was my breakfast on a stainless tray. I sat down and started to eat without brushing my teeth. The tea was very light and hot, the bread was like foam, it was not soft like the one in Jos, the yeast that was put inside was too much.
Life continued, I met new people and discovered how furniture was made from cane and how grass is woven into hats and ropes.
On the fourth day, I went to the river with Hush and Matthew the friends I had made to explore the river. We went to where some young girls were fetching water and I was amazed. They fetch drinking water from a hole dug in the cream coloured sand what amazed me was how clean the water was. You could see the sand and stones under it. I asked one of the girls to give me some so that I will drink and three girls rushed to get me the water, and they ended up falling into the water I turned back to leave with my new friends and they started fighting.
“O boy! You na oga o” Mathew said.
“Mathew, ogana understatement. Him na boss!” Hush said.
I laughed at his pronunciation of Matthew, he omitted the // sound and replaced it with the /ts/ sound.
“You see as him dey laugh?” Hush said.
“Guys no bi wetin una think oo. I no get time for them” Philip said with a bossy air.
“Bros, e beta you now, dem dey fall for you and you just dey form” Matthew said biting his finger.
We climbed up to the shore and played tag. We played happily and wildly. Hush was in hot pursuit of me and I ran with the whole of my heart. He didn’t stop running after me and I was already tired but I dint want to give up. An old woman was carrying firewood on her head and she was descending into the river when I ran by. I pushed her away, it was not intentional. The old woman fell and her firewood scattered all around. We hid behind a tree and peeped at the old woman as she struggled to stand with a bruised elbow and knee. I was scared and didn’t want to go to apologize or help her up.
The old woman brought out one of her breast and raised it up towards the sky as she murmured.
“What is she doing?” I asked hush.
“she is mad I think” Hush replied
“Oh my God! Philip lets go and tell your grandma” Matthew said.
“No!, I don’t want her to know” I said.
I insisted that we don’t tell my grandmother and we left. I later got to know that she was the mother of the man that was said to have murdered my grandfather. Rumours has it that he was a member of a secret society and that he jazzed my grandfather’s meat when he came to eat meat at his suya joint. I went home that day with my spirit in pieces. My grandmother observed and tried to inquire but I told her all was well. I called my mother that night and informed her that I would like to come back to Jos the next day and she agreed. My mother sent me to the village to avoid P-Jay, Sango, Captain Jack and Colonel D because she felt if I was with them, I might consider smoking again and I had committed a crime.
I saw that same old woman in my dream today. She was wearing that same clothes and she stabbed me with a knife with skulls on it.
Nathan sighed and looked at Philip in the eye and asked “why didn’t you tell anyone, your uncle, grandma or mother?
“I didn’t want them to see me as a naughty boy and apart from that, her son was lynched because of my grandfather’s death. So the enmity there is very strong” Philip said.
“Ok I get you. Did you try going to any Pastor for help?” Nathan asked.
“No I didn’t” Philip replied.
“But do you know you were cursed?”
“Yes I know but…”
“There is no justification for your silence about the matter my friend” Nathan said.
“I don’t know who would have helped me” said Philip.
“God in heaven would have helped you, if you have sought his help, you would have been cleansed by the blood of Jesus” Nathan said. “I guess it’s almost time to school. Let me take my bath”.
As he stood up to go the bathroom his phone rang. He picked it up and answered. Kate, their assistant class rep called to inform him that there was no school that day because the town was not safe, a crisis had started. Nathan could not go to the bathroom again. He sat on a stool facing the window staring at the mountains in Ring Road as he told Philip the news he had received.
He saw some objects moving on the mountain. When he looked closely, he saw young children of 14 or 15 years running down the mountains with machetes in the hands to the settlements at the foot of the mountains. Nathan watched speechlessly. After a minute, he saw people running out of the houses and machetes flying up and landing, then he heard people’s shout. Philip came to the window to see what was happening. “This is it!” he exclaimed.
“This is what?” Nathan asked with a fearful face.
“It has begun. My own crisis and the general crisis has begun. Nate, if anything happens, tell my mum that I love her” Philip said with a tear falling from one eye.
“What do you mean?”
“You won’t understand bro. face your crisis and I’ll face mine”. Said
Nathan replied “you are beginning to confuse, scare and annoy me
Philip. What is it?
“Today is the day I become the Dark Child. The old woman’s curse is coming to fulfilment”. Said Philip
“I thought you said she only raised her breast towards the sky and murmured. What are you not telling me?” Nathan asked.
“she told me in my dream that the day the river rises up against itself, my being will rise up against itself. So I guess this is it” Philip said.
Binta ran into the room and looked at their faces one after another “what is going on here?” she aksed.
“Binta, join me in prayers” Nathan said getting up from the stool.
“Oh yeah! For the crisis right?” she asked
“Yes and then for Philip he’s been cursed” Nathan said. Binta opened her eyes wide and replied “you’re joking right?” “No I’m not! Nathan shouted.
They started praying and Philip sat on the bed. With tears tolling down his eyes, he looked at his friends and prayed for them. They could hear the sound of siren as if it was coming from the next room. They could hear people’s shouts and cries and the helicopter above. The gunshots were so loud. Houses were already on fire. The terrorists had entered legislative quarters. They banged the gate and exchanged bullets with the military. The two parties lost men. The atmosphere was clouded with smoke and panic. Philip opened his eyes, looked at his friends and smiled. Everywhere was quite then bullets penetrated the room scattering books and breaking the glass windows.
Nathan saw himself on the floor. He looked around and everything seemed to be silent and in slow motion. A piece of paper fell before him and he looked at it.
“we mourn our own
With fears unknown
With bowed heads,
We raise the black flag.
What was to come
His departure deposited pain
In our hearts full of stain…”
Nathan stopped reading and looked around. Binta was lying on the ground. Her body was not moving. He looked at Philip and saw a slight smile on his face. The angry sounds of guns became audible again and he crawled on his knees to Binta and rolled her over. She was breathing and not wounded. He crawled to Philip and saw blood on his chest. Nathan’s vision was blurred with tears “No!” he shouted tapping Philip “Philip, Philip! Man, you can’t do this, wake up” he said in tears. Philip opened his eyes and smiled at Nathan and said “ she stabbed me on the chest” then he closed his eyes again and his head fell slowly to the right.
“No! No! No!” Nathan cried with bitterness in his heart. He sat beside Philip on the bed and cried as memories of him, Philip and their friends flooded into his mind. He crawled to where Binta was and used his hands to clean the dust from her face when a bullet pierced him on the left side of his shoulder. He fell facing the door and everything went silent again. The door was opened and military men jogged into the room, one knelt by Binta, one by Philip and one by him. The soldier placed two fingers on the veins on his neck trying to feel the pulse. Nathan could hear indistinct chatter, everything turning upside down slowly, Nathan smiled and there was black out.
Written by: MR PONYAK
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