Tuesday, March 17, 2009

The Nightwalker

Category: Issue 16

“Sometimes I think the only thing stopping people from committing a crime is the consequence of it.  The world is full of arse-holes afraid to fart for fear of it being sniffed… and what a stink it would make if you took away that fear - brutal, nasty and savage.”
Everyone took a few seconds to mull over what Jack had said.
“You guys have smoked too much of that crap today.  I’m going to bed,” said Rebecca.  “And don’t forget to put the candles out when you’re done.  We don’t have many left.”
“Well at least you have a bed.  Us boys will be sleeping on the concrete with the ants and geckos again, as per usual,” said Angus. 
“Yeah, thanks for that – AGAIN.  Chivalry is alive and kicking.  See you in the morning.  Lisa.  You coming?”
“Err— I think I’ll stay up a bit longer actually.”
“Okay.  Goodnight then.”
Rebecca went inside the humble lodgings that their hosts had kindly offered to let them stay in.  It was basic and largely unfurnished but it was probably the most modern building in the entire village.  Bricks and mortar were something of a luxury in Unwana; and they were grateful for the kindness.
“Quiet out here isn’t it?” said Jack, passing a joint on to Angus and exhaling at the same time.  “What were we talking about?”
“Consequences,” said Lisa.
“Right.  It’s just that, out here, in the middle of nowhere in this place, it’s like there’s no law.  I mean, I know there is – but it’s not like at home.  And life is so cheap here.  Makes you think that’s all.”
“Yeah.  No CSI team out here all right,” said Angus, coughing on the weed.  “I bet if you did something in this place, nobody would ever know.  And who would dare to accuse the great white man who came to help them out?  They already treat us like royalty.  You know some kid offered to carry me home today?  Said they didn’t want us to suffer.  I told them – ‘I like walking’.  But they wouldn’t have it.  I’m feeling some weird inverted racism thing going on since we arrived, I have to tell you.”
“Me too,” said Lisa.  “I casually mentioned I was hungry a few days ago in front of the headmaster of the secondary school and he rode to Abakaliki on his clapped-out old bicycle to get some western food.  Took him two days!  When he came back he said that word again – suffering.  He didn’t want us to suffer.  Probably spent the school’s budget for an entire year.  I felt really bad, kind of guilty you know?”
Angus started to have a coughing fit— Jack waited while it passed before continuing the conversation…
“That’s my point exactly.  If we did something bad, we’d be the last people on their list of suspects.  And my question is; what would you do if there weren’t any repercussions?”
“This kind of reminds me of that Lord of the Flies,” said Lisa.  “Being stuck out here, away from everything – away from norms and conventions.  Group dynamics are fascinating.”
“I think Rebecca is starting to get pissed off with us.  Ever since she accidentally pulled the tail off that lizard and we started calling her a witch.  I think we’ve been winding her up too much today,” said Jack.
“Or not enough.  I’ve got an idea.  How about we tell her that we killed someone out here tonight – just for the fun of it?”
“Oh shut up – stoner!” said Lisa.  “I’m going to bed too.  You boys are getting too radial for even me.”
“Oh come on,” protested Angus.
“No really, I’m tired.”
There were a few seconds of silent resignation from the boys.  An orchestra of noise from exotic insects and creatures of the night suddenly came alive in the warm air before Jack spoke again—
“Okay then, goodnight.”
Lisa went inside, taking a half-melted candle with her.
“She’s cool eh?”
Jack started gently strumming on his acoustic guitar while Angus tried to ward off some of the mosquitoes by lighting a coil.
“So what would you do Gus?”
“I’ll kill someone if you will.”
Both of them let out a snort of laugher and got a fit of the giggles.  It took a few minutes for them to calm down.
And then they heard something—
“Hey, what’s that?”
It was the only time they’d heard anything at night other than from those vibrations emitted from the natural habitat; and they were glad of the distraction.  There was nothing much to do in the evenings in Unwana other than have a few beers at ‘Mike’s bar’, and they’d already done that.
“I don’t know.  Let’s go and find out.”
Away from the candlelight, barring the sporadic glitter of fireflies, it was pitch-black and extremely disorienting.  In rural Nigeria, when the sun goes down, the moon is the main source of light and this was a particularly cloudy night.  Jack switched on his flashlight for a few seconds until he got his bearings and then walked out onto the rustic dirt track, which served as the main artery of the small village of Unwana.  He flicked the torch on at five-second intervals as he walked to ration the power from the already half-drained batteries.
“It’s definitely coming from this direction,” said Jack.
“Yeah, you’re right.  It’s getting louder.”
They walked for about ten minutes.  The village was dead.
“Slow down,” said Angus.  “I think we’re getting close.” 
Jack flicked on the torch and noticed the tips of Angus’ fingers rubbing together as he walked.  He’d noticed this nervous idiosyncrasy on more than one occasion since they’d met.  Angus was a funny one all right – all bug eyed and ungraceful; moving around like gravity itself was his arch-nemesis.
“It sounds like drumming,” Angus whispered.  “Could be a party,” he said getting excited, his eyes rolling back in his head after he spoke.  “Lisa’s gonna’ be sorry she went to bed when we tell her about this!  I think it’s this way, through these trees,” he said and began to clamber his way through.
“Slow down.  Gus! Wait up.”
Just as Jack caught up with him, Angus jumped back and they collided with a bump— 
“Shit, what are you…”
“Jesus, flick your torch back on man. There’s something crawling up my leg!” said Angus.
“Sorry. You okay?”
“Yeah – you?”
They started to laugh again—
“Come on.  I think I can see some people dancing.”
They walked through the trees into a clearing to find some fifty or more locals dancing, playing traditional hand drums and singing in their native tongue.  The boys were delighted to finally find some life in the village after dark, but despite these feelings of joy, they entered sheepishly - with the utmost caution, in case they were not welcome. 
“I hope they don’t mind,” said Angus.  “Please, please…”
To their glee, everyone seemed reasonably happy to see them and a couple of glasses of palm wine were promptly thrust into their hands.  A plump middle-aged woman with bright clothes showed them somewhere to sit down on some conveniently placed tree stumps; and then she left them alone to enjoy the ceremony. 
“Sweet,” said Angus.
“Happy now?”
Angus made a sour face as he swallowed the first sip of his wine.
The yeasty free drink was something of an acquired local taste.  One of the volunteers had remarked that it tasted like his own vomit when they’d first tried some at Mike’s.  It had that ‘fermentation in progress’ smell about it.
“Well, I guess you can’t have everything?”
“Yeah – but I still want the moon on a stick.”
“And maybe someday you’ll get it.”
The singing and dancing continued unabated and they watched for a while, enjoying the atmosphere.  The only downer was that they were being eaten alive by the mosquitoes.
“Shit, we should have brought a coil,” said Jack, scratching at his ankle.  Angus didn’t seem to be paying much attention; he had other things on his mind.
“What’s that guy looking at?” 
Jack looked to where Angus’ eyes had fleetingly pointed and there was a huge muscular man, thirty-something, who was sternly watching them from the shadows.
“Don’t know.  Maybe we’re on his stump” 
“Yeah,” said Angus, tentatively sipping his wine and seeming to enjoy it a little more.  “You could be right”.
After a while they dismissed their observation as mere paranoia and enjoyed watching the celebrations once more.  They had a few more drinks and the wine seemed to improve with each glass, while contrarily, their eyesight seemed to diminish.  It was strong stuff—
“I can’t focus anymore,” said Jack.  “Everything’s blurry.”
“Lightweight.  Don’t let anyone take my stump,” said Angus.  “I gotta’ strut my funky stuff.”  The constant energy stoking rhythm of the bongos had proven too much for him and he joined the ‘dance floor’, bouncing around with a cigarette in one hand and his palm wine in the other. 
The dancers abruptly parted as Angus spun and whirled around and the atmosphere became increasingly subdued.  However, Angus was completely unaware of this and he continued his un-choreographed mayhem— 
“Oh no”, said Jack to himself.  “This looks bad.”
Suddenly, the big man who they’d noticed earlier began to usher Angus to one side.  Then he summoned Jack too with one single, authoritative, meaty finger; and he led them both to the shadows - his white eyes gleaming and intense.
“You must go,” the man said.  He looked like he could bounce a heavyweight-boxing champion, but for some reason, maybe it was the yeasty alcohol or a lack of vitamin intake during the past few days, but instead of just finding their way back to the main road and returning to base camp; they tried to smooth things over.
“We don’t mean any trouble. We just want to have some fun,” Jack said, looking up at the looming figure standing before him, impressed by his own confidence.
“You should not be here,” the man said again, this time more sternly and commanding, like a huge sentinel guarding the now sparsely attended dance floor.
“But why? What’s the problem?” chipped in Angus, suddenly plucky and blowing smoke in the man’s abdomen.  The man remained emotionless and continued his speech in a deep, guttural monotone. 
“Someone die,” he said. 
They froze — anxiously awaiting his next words. They could barely see his expression in the shadows, just his bright white scrutinising eyes. All the fight had gone out of them now. The man seemed to be chewing on something and abruptly spat in the foliage.
“A man died.  Three day, on street, we remember.  You should go now.”  Insight hit Jack much like the big man’s fist might have if they’d continued their argument.
It was a funeral.
“We’re sorry,” said Jack.
“Yeah, very sorry about that.  We didn’t mean any… disrespect.  We had no idea, really.”
“Understood.  You can go now,” said the man, taking a few paces back.
“Scoot!” whispered Jack.
Angus snatched the torch from Jack’s hand and began to lead the way: back to the mosquitoes and the darkness.  The foliage was thick and the floor was littered with sticks and stones of various shapes and sizes.  Angus was going back a slightly different way from which they came, but nevertheless it was in the same general direction back to the main road so Jack never said anything.  It wasn’t far.
“I can’t believe that just happened,” said Angus.
“We’re idiots.  We just insulted an entire culture,” said Jack.
“Oh come on, how were we supposed to know that it was a bloody funeral?”
“You were ready to start slam dancing at a wake!  I thought that guy was going to kill us.”
As he was fighting his way through the trees and the bushes, Angus suddenly stopped in his tracks.  “Hey… what’s this?”  He turned the torch on Jack.
“What?  Why’d you stop?  You got another creepy crawly attack again?”
“There’s something on the floor.”
“Stop being such a pussy.”
“I’m serious.  It looked like a… oh fuck, Jesus, take it, here, have a look for yourself.”  Angus handed the torch to Jack and started hyperventilating— 
Jack stepped forward and shone the torch on the ground.  There, on the floor in front of him, covered in bugs, was a boy doused in blood.  They knew he was dead immediately.  They knew this because he had a hole in his head the size of a pool ball where there shouldn’t have been.  And by the look of it, he’d not been dead for too long either—


When Jack woke up, he felt more tired than when he’d gone to sleep.  It had been an exhausting night.
“Damn it,” he said to himself as he drained the last drips of water from a plastic bottle.  He couldn’t get the image of the dead boy out of his head and he was glad to be starting a new day.  He put on some dirty shorts and a t-shirt and went outside.  The light was blinding and a pain shot through his head.
“Hey Jack, how you doing?”
Most of the other volunteers were already up and about: some were washing clothes in plastic bowls and others passed the time by playing cards or kicking a ball around.  There was a community of sixteen volunteers in all.  Most of them nodded to Jack or casually asked how he was.  They’d obviously heard what had happened.  All of them except for Gordon that is, who had just come outside too and was still yawning.
“Morning Jack, you fetid little monkey.  What did you boys get up to last night?  I heard you coming in pretty late there.”  Gordon was one of the Scottish volunteers who, on his first day upon arrival had shaved his head completely bald to help acclimatise to the heat.  He looked like a happy cancer patient and wore sandals and khaki-combat shorts that clashed with the top half of a creased, cream suit.
“Went to a funeral,” said Jack.
“Yeah.  Who’d ya’ kill?”  Some of the other volunteers tut-tutted or groaned when they heard his comment but Gordon didn’t even notice.  He began stretching with a big grin on his face as he looked into the clear blue sky.
Rebecca walked in with Angus, each holding a big bottle of water.
“Well, I found out what happened,” said Angus.  “It was a fight between two students.  Apparently, they’d been at it for weeks and they ended it by scrapping it out with machetes.  Can you believe that?  Bloody machetes!  And there’s more.  The grieving father went to the accused boy’s mother this morning and cut off her arm with something similar to get revenge.  After that he went to the nearest town and turned himself in to the police.”
“That’s brutal,” said Jack.
“Fuckin’ aye.  No way,” said Gordon.  “I agree with monkey boy here.  That is horrendous.  I’ve seen em’ all carrying those machetes around but I never thought…”
“It’s just horrible.  I’m going for a wash,” said Rebecca, heading off around the back.
There was a respectful silence while they all considered what had happened.
“Brutal,” said Gordon again while offering a banana to Jack.  Jack accepted and started to peel it.  It was the only breakfast they had.
After re-hydrating and hanging out for a while, Jack and Angus went out to the street to find some transport to take them to their allocated village. Both of them were feeling a little better because they’d been stuck in Unwana doing nothing for over a week and they were finally going to move on.  It was supposed to have been a cultural orientation, but now they just wanted to get to work and get their minds off what had happened. 
They were heading to a small rural village called Nwofe, which was around a one-hour drive away.  Lisa and Rebecca, the other two of their allocated group of four, agreed to follow them there in a couple of days as they agreed to do some voluntary teaching at the elementary school in Unwana.  They had all been recruited by a volunteer agency offering to organise ‘memorable and unforgettable travel experiences’.  Their main job was to implement a student-tutoring scheme to help alleviate the shortages of teachers in the region, many of whom were on strike because of the obscenely low wages.  They would teach students to mentor their juniors in small groups.  The pilot scheme in Unwana had already been a big success.
“You got everything?” asked Jack.
They passed a woman carrying half a bowl of water on her head.  The other half had evidently spilled on the floor as she carried it because there was a damp trail left behind in the red-tinted dirt.
“Jockwa,” said Angus.
“Jockwa,” the woman replied.
During their stay in the village of Unwana, they’d learned several basic expressions that they tried to use as often as possible.  Jack had been keeping notes inside his diary whenever they’d learned something new.
“I slept like a log,” said Angus.  “Must have been the shock.  You?”
“I guess so but… still tired.  I still can’t believe it.  Being out here is surreal.  It’s almost like a dream, but… well, you know, real.”
“I know what you mean.”
They passed some children who were playing in some grass by the side of the road and the youngsters pointed and shouted to them; “Onacha!”
“What are they saying?” asked Angus.
“Onacha.  It means ‘white man’.”
“So what does ‘black man’ mean then?”
“Oneeba,” said Jack.
“ONNEBA!” shouted Angus to the kids.  They all laughed and Jack and Angus smiled and waved.  Jack felt like a celebrity and the friendly exchange lifted his spirits.
“So, how do we get there then?” asked Angus.
“Haven’t seen any buses around here.  We’ll have to find someone to drive us there I guess.”
“Right then.  Let’s start asking around.  How about we go down to the market and start there?  We could pick up some boiled eggs and nuts first.  I’m getting hungry.”
“Yeah, I am a bit too.  Let’s go.”

It took most of the morning just for them to find some transport to take them to Nwofe.  The best they could do was a hybrid scooter-motorcycle, which was referred to by locals as an ocada.  The problem was they could only find one ocada to take both them and their luggage. However, the driver assured them that he could fit them both on.  Jack thought he would have assured them that the moon is square if it meant getting his hands on their money.  After bargaining the price, they agreed to pay him fifty naira.
“Don’t worry.  It okay,” said the driver.  He hung their suitcases, one from each handlebar, and put the backpacks between his legs.  Jack and Angus squeezed on the back of the ocada and Jack began to wonder if they would even make it out of the village.
“I have to tell you - I’m not very comfortable squeezed in between you and the driver like this, if you know what I mean,” said Jack.
“You’re right.  This is a homoerotic moment.  Let’s never speak of this again.”
Angus put his last cigarette behind his ear and the driver signalled that he was ready.
“Agreed,” said Jack.
And off they went—
  Over hilly, brown-red dirt tracks they drove for more than an hour.  When they finally arrived, dishevelled and weary, Angus got off the back of the bike and reached for the cigarette that he’d put there earlier.  It was not there.  He rubbed his face, jaded and hungry, and some white finger marks on his face revealed that they had not got bronzed suntans after all. 
They both badly needed a bath.


The boy lay in a ditch; covered in dirt and leaves, and blood that looked as black as tar in the pure luminescence of the moonlight.  A man stood over him, a knife in hand - the tip dripping with the dark stuff.  Suddenly, it started raining, hard and fast: as ferocious a downpour as Mawu had ever unleashed—
The man breathed heavily and looked up at the sky - his mouth wide open.  He drank from the sky and voiced a primal scream…

Jack woke up sweating—
He looked at the clock.  It was 9:30 am.  They were late for work…


People gathered around a straw roof in the very centre of the village of Nwofe.  Middle-aged women sat on the red-tinted dirt and skillfully wove verdant palm tree leaves as they prepared to listen, some weathered old men nibbled on some blacken-charred fried plantain while they chatted; and children, tired of playing, began to grow restless in the glowing midday sun.
“Quick, they’re waiting for us,” said Jack.
“I know.  It was you who got up late.”
Jack and Angus finally arrived, out of breath, and took a seat.  After a restless night sleeping on another concrete floor, Jack was not in the best condition and they were twenty minutes behind schedule.  It seemed like the vast majority of the population of the village had turned up to observe the meeting and everyone waited for them to address the elders.  The meeting had been arranged for them because, before beginning the project, they first had to gain access to the school by getting the village elders and PTA members to agree to the scheme.
Angus stood up first—
“Jockwa”.  There was no reply so he sat down again, confused and bewildered by the lack of response.  He looked at Jack, searching for help – so Jack too stood up and gave it a try.
“Jockwa,” he said, standing up and looking at the village elders in turn.
“Jockwa, Jockwa,” he said to each and every one of the eight elders at the meeting.  There was still no reply, only muffled whispers and confused tones that didn’t even sound like words. 
Then Jack had an excruciating flashback – something that was glossed over in their training back in London.
‘There are over five hundred different living dialects in Nigeria, with English being the official second and binding language’
“Shit, it’s the wrong bloody dialect,” Jack whispered to Angus.  He stood up again and continued – his face now washed clean, but still as red as the dirt.
“Hello, nice to meet you all.  I am Jack and this is Angus.  We are here to help you…”


“Use,” said Celestina.  Celestina was the designated cook for the group on the farm that they were staying at.  They had been given a choice of three accommodations to choose from in Nwofe – a pink ex-government representative’s house that was now deserted, an old surgery building, and a farmhouse.  Jack and Angus had chosen the farmhouse because the other two buildings had somehow seemed too sterile and lifeless. 
The farm owner was the ninety-something year old father of the Minister for Transportation and a very esteemed individual in the village.  He had two wives and a six-year-old son.  Jack was surprised to find that polygamy is not uncommon in rural Nigeria. 
“Use,” she said again, demonstrating some kind of prodding action.
“Why?” asked Angus.
“Mad dog.  Mad dog kill people.  You must hit with this,” she said, doing the prodding thing again.
“Right, thank you very much Celestina,” said Jack, humouring her.  They didn’t take her too seriously because only last night they’d spent an hour trying to convince her that the Earth is not flat.  Angus had drawn several spherical diagrams in the dirt before finally giving up.
“Dinner is 6,” she said.  “Chicken.”
“Okay.  Thanks.”
Celestina went inside a hut where she lived and did the cooking.  There was already some smoke billowing out of the chimney.
“What the hell was that all about?” asked Angus.  Jack shrugged and put the stick to one side.
“Here they are!”
Lisa and Rebecca turned up on the back of a dirty white pick-up truck covered in the red dust.  They thanked the driver and got off with their stuff before he drove away.
“It’s nice here boys.  Good choice.  So, what have you been up to?” asked Rebecca.
“Oh not much.  Had a meeting the other day to set things up.  Went okay.  And we just got given this stick to fend off some mad dog,” said Jack.
“Hey – mad dog.  If you say that backwards it spells ‘dam god’.  Damn God!  I knew we shouldn’t have skinned up with that page from Revelations at the hotel in Abakaliki when we’d first arrived.  Shit.  We did some sacrilegious shit there man.  And everything has gone pear-shaped since…”
“Oh shut up,” said Jack.  “It was your idea anyway.”
“He’s right, it was,” said Lisa while Angus drifted off in thought.
“Well anyway, let’s get these bags inside,” said Rebecca.  “It’s been a long day.”
“Yeah,” said Lisa.  “Finally.  What a ride…”


The dog growled— it was not the rabid growl of a dog gone mad but rather a defensive one, born of fear.  A man was crouched down over a body, ripping and tearing at the flesh – consuming it.  He took his time and chewed each piece thoroughly.  After he was done, he licked each finger and wiped his mouth on his sleeve before slowly walking away into the night.  With him gone, the dog cautiously approached and licked at the carcass on the floor, whimpering and crying in grief.
“Bloody hell!” said Jack as he woke up.  Angus woke up too—
“What’s wrong?”
“Bad dream again.  What the hell is wrong with me?”
“Go back to sleep man.”
It was mere seconds before Angus started snoring while Jack just lay there – wide-awake, thinking about his dreams: thinking about how real they were.


“You’re not going to believe this.  It’s happened again,” said Lisa.  “Celestina said they found another body.  She said to be really careful of any dogs we see.  It looks like she was right after all.”
“What?  This is getting scary now,” said Rebecca.  “I hope they catch it soon.”
“Maybe this kind of thing happens all the time out here,” said Angus dismissively.  “Probably.  We’ll be alright as long as we’re careful.”
Jack seemed to have other things on his mind.  He was pegging some clothes out on a makeshift line, which he’d just washed by hand in cold water from the pump.
“So come on, own up.  Who’s been in my stuff?” asked Jack.
“What?” said Angus.  “What you talking about?”
“My diary.  Someone wrote in it last night.”
“Well it wasn’t me.  How about you girls?  Have you been writing in Jack’s precious diary?”
“Of course not.  We wouldn’t touch your stuff.”
“See,” said Angus.  “You probably wrote in it yourself and forgot.  What’s it say anyway?”
“Nothing,” said Jack.  “Forget it.”
“Come on…”
“Forget it!”
Jack finished up the last of his clothes and took the washing bowl inside.  Then he got out his diary and flicked through to the last entry again…
Have you wondered why all the dirt out here is red?  It’s the blood Jack.  It’s the blood… 
That was all it said.  It was similar to Jack’s handwriting, but slightly different – like a bad copy.  He couldn’t trust the others anymore.  Something was wrong.
“This can’t be happening,” he said to himself.  In the corner of the page, there was a red smear.
It looked like blood.


The day had passed quickly doing chores and cleaning up.  It was hot and tiring work but they’d started to make the place comfortable at least.  Jack had spent most of the day preoccupied with his dreams and the mystery of his diary.  Although he didn’t want to sleep because he was afraid, Jack eventually dozed off into a fitful sleep.  He was mentally and physically exhausted.  After only a couple of hours he woke up, and to his surprise, he was stood in the girls’ bedroom—
“Jesus Jack, what are you doing?  You scared the crap out of us,” said Lisa, all bleary eyed; her hair tousled and tangled.
“I’m sorry, I…”
“Well?” asked Rebecca impatiently.  She was more lucid than Lisa and her appearance was immaculate with her hair neatly tied back in a braid.  Angus walked in, rubbing his eyes, wondering what the hell was going on.
“Hey.  Are you kids getting dirty without me?” he said, smiling.
“This pervert was watching us sleep,” said Rebecca.
“No I wasn’t, I… just woke up.  I guess I was sleepwalking.  I haven’t been sleepwalking since I was a kid.”
There was an uncomfortable silence; ended by Angus laughing— “Let’s all go back to bed and talk about this in the morning,” he suggested.  “Sleepwalking…”
“Agreed,” said Lisa, rolling over and going back to sleep.
“I’m sorry,” said Jack.  “Goodnight.”

The next morning, Jack got up and walked into the dining area with a hangdog look on his face.  Everyone was already up and tucking into some boiled yam and pepper sauce with canned tuna.
“There he is, the nightwalker,” said Angus.
“Shut up.”
“Don’t you mean good morning?”
“Look guys, I’m sorry about last night.  That was weird, I know.”
“It’s okay.  I used to sleepwalk,” said Lisa.  “It’s scary waking up like that.”
Jack looked embarrassed.
“Don’t worry about it Jack,” said Rebecca.  “We believe you.  The question is, with all that nonsense about your diary, do you believe us?”
Jack thought about it for a second…  It seemed he had been hasty in suspecting them.
“Yeah, I do now.  I guess I wrote in it during one of my nocturnal adventures.  It’s the only rational explanation.  It all makes sense now.”
Lisa handed Jack a clean bowl and he sat down.
“I think the real question is… what else are you capable of doing when you’re sleepwalking?”
“Angus!” said Rebecca.
“I’m serious.  I remember reading about this guy in the paper once, some guy from Manchester I think.  He killed his father while he was sleepwalking and the courts found him not guilty on the grounds of diminished responsibility or something.  He walked free.  Isn’t that mad?”
“That’s not funny,” said Lisa.
Jack gave Angus a black look.  It really wasn’t funny after what had happened in the past week or so.
“Come on guys.  Jack hasn’t killed anybody.  Let’s get back to reality,” said Rebecca.  “We have more important things to think about.  We’re not here on holiday - remember?  We have things to do.”
“Yeah, good idea.  Thanks for that Gus,” said Jack.  “And don’t forget, you are the one sharing a room with me so if I do become a sleepwalking homicidal maniac, then you’ll be the first to know.”
“Good point, taken,” said Angus.  “I was only joking.”
The possibilities scared the hell out of Jack so he decided not to think about it any more, at least for a while.  The food smelled too good.  He was ravenous. 


It was a hard, sweltering day working on the project.  Trying to implement a student-tutoring scheme in a place with so few resources was proving to be a project stacked with obstacles.  There weren’t even enough textbooks.  But if they were successful, the scheme would go state-wise and it would all be worthwhile.  With so many teachers being on strike, they were getting sidetracked into teaching classes themselves instead of focussing on the task in hand – that of training the students to tutor their juniors and setting up the logistics of the scheme to continue after they were gone.  It was harder than they expected.  Everyone was beat and decided to call it an early night.  There was not much to do after dark anyway.
“I’ve got an idea,” said Angus.  He and Jack were doing their best to clean their teeth in a bowl of cold water by candlelight.  In the dark, it felt like there were creepy crawlies everywhere. 
“About what?”
“Your thing.  The night walks.”
“Gus, can we just forget…”
“No, hear me out on this one.  I’ll tie a piece of string to your wrist and the other end to mine when we sleep; and if you leave the room it will wake me up.  Genius eh?  You know what they say – the best ideas are always simple.”
They finished their dental hygiene and shouted ‘goodnight’ to the girls, who had already gone to their room.
“So, what do you think?”
“Fine.  Do it.  Just be careful how you wake me up if I start wandering again.”
When they got to their room, Angus cut a piece of string that they’d bought to tie up their mosquito nets and started to tie one end onto his wrist.
“Hey, does Lisa have a boyfriend back home?” asked Angus.
“Yeah.  Tough luck stud.”
“Bummer.  Here, tie this to yourself.”
Jack tied the string to his wrist.
“Night Gus.”

Shapes morphed and twisted as he came back to full consciousness.  Everything was fuzzy and fluid; and then the haze cleared.
“Shit.  What happened?” asked Jack.  He’d just woken up and was stood in the middle of the jungle with Angus, who was breathing heavily like he’d been running.  Angus signalled to Jack that he needed to catch his breath first—
“Well?” Jack urged.
“The string woke me up and I followed you.  I thought you was winding me up at first, but you came out here into these trees…”
Jack was stood over the carcass of a dog.
“Jesus.  What the hell is this?”
“Well… it’s a dog Jack.  A dead one.”
“I can fucking see that.  What happened?”
“The string came off your wrist and it got hooked up in a bush when I was following you.  It was really knotted and it’s strong you know, I couldn’t break it.  Anyway, by the time I caught up with you, you were stood over this, just staring at it.  It really freaked me out.  Your eyes were just… dead.”
Did I do this? Jack thought.
“Jack, show me your hands.”  It was just starting to get light and it was clear that there was blood on Jack’s hands. 
“Oh shit.  Oh my god,” said Jack, freaking out.  Angus remained calm, more interested in finding out what had happened.
“Well, it looks like its head was bashed in with this rock,” said Angus, picking up a rock next to the dog’s head.  “But maybe you just touched the rock or the dog when you got here.  Maybe it was already dead.  That is more likely.  I wasn’t that far behind you.”
“Gus, do you see anybody else around?  We’re in the middle of fucking nowhere here.  It’s still night and I walked straight to it.  It must have been me.”
“Come on mate.  Let’s go back to camp and talk about it there, just in case.”
“Just in case what?”
“Nothing.  Come on.  Let’s go.”


When Jack and Angus went back in the house, the girls were sitting in the living room with angry looks on their faces.
“What’s up?  Did we wake you?” asked Angus.
“A man was here.  He said he was looking for you two.  What’s going on?” asked Rebecca.
“A man.  What man?” asked Jack.  “It’s the middle of the night.”
“Exactly,” said Rebecca.
“Where did you go?” asked Lisa. “We were scared.  You should have been here.”
“I’m sorry.  I had another episode of sleepwalking,” said Jack, still shaken by what had just happened.  “Who was this man?”
“He said his name was Solomon.  And he said he was looking for ‘Mr. Jack’ and ‘Mr. Angus’.  When Lisa looked in your room and you weren’t there, she told him that you were not home and that he’d better come back in the morning.  I immediately thought that was a bit stupid, that we might be in danger, but luckily he apologized for waking us and went away,” said Rebecca.
“Sorry,” said Lisa.  “I wasn’t thinking.”
“It’s okay,” said Rebecca and patted her on the arm.
“Who the hell is this guy?” asked Angus.  “And why is he looking for us in the middle of the night?”
“Maybe he’s out for revenge.  Maybe I killed his dog,” said Jack.  “Or worse.”
“What’s he talking about?” asked Rebecca. 
“Oh nothing.  He just thinks he’s a serial sleepwalking homicidal maniac,” said Angus.  “That’s all.  He’s completely lost it.”
“Thanks,” said Jack.  “That really helps.”
“You’re not serious,” said Lisa.
“No he’s not,” said Jack.  “Never mind.  Let’s just all calm down.”
Nobody quite knew what to say next.
“Well, it’s starting to get light anyway.  We might as well get up now and do a few chores before work,” said Rebecca.
Everyone made an unspoken consensus about it and went about their business.  Jack started by going to wash his hands - he still had blood on them.  He wondered if he would always have blood on them, so to speak.

At about eight in the morning, just as they were getting ready to leave for work, there was an unexpected knock on the door—
“I’ll get it,” said Jack.  Outside was a Nigerian man, thirty something, dressed smart with an orange shirt, blue trousers and sandals.
“Hello.  Mr. Jack?”
“Yes.  Are you Solomon?”
“No, I am Victor Egwu, the son of Ochereome Egwu, one of the village elders you recently met with.”
“Oh, hello.”
“You are welcome – very welcome here in Nwofe Mr. Jack sir.  Err— we have had some trouble recently as you know.  Some people have been, how can I say, mutilated.  Is that right?  Cut up and killed.  I’m very sorry.  We thought it was a wild dog doing it at first but it seems that, now, the dog has also turned up dead.  It has many people very afraid Mr. Jack.  You should know this and be very careful for a few days.  Okay?  Don’t go out at night, and certainly, don’t go out alone.”
“Well, thank you Victor.  We’ll be very careful.  Do you have any idea… who might be doing such horrible things?”
“Our only lead as yet is a young boy.  He is about five years old.  But it is trouble.  You see, he is not from our village of Nwofe.  He is either a nomad or from another place, another village.  He doesn’t speak any English and his dialect is not one we are familiar with, so we have no way to talk with him.  But when we found him, he was covered in blood and he keeps trying to tell us something – the same word over and over: and he keeps on drawing a line across his neck with his index finger.  It dignifies death – do you know?”
“Right.  What was the word?” asked Jack.
“The word?”
“Yeah – you said he kept repeating a word.  What was it?”
“Onacha.  The word was onacha Mr. Jack.  Do you know it?”
Onacha.  White man.
“No.  I don’t know, I’m sorry.”
“Of course you don’t.  I don’t even know and I am Nigerian!”  The man laughed.  “Take care now, okay.  And do be careful.  If you need help for any reason, just call the owner of this farm or people from one of the houses nearby.”
“Yeah – we will.  Thank you.”
“Goodbye Mr, Jack.  Have a good day now.”
Jack went back inside carrying a concerned look on his face and closed the door.
“Who was it?” asked Lisa.
“A conscientious neighbour.  He told us to be extra careful because of the killings.  They found the mad dog dead last night.  Apparently, it wasn’t so mad.  They think there might be a murderer on the loose,” said Jack, shaking his head in disbelief about the whole thing.
“A murderer!” said Lisa. 
“You know what.  I don’t need this,” said Rebecca.  “I’m leaving, right now.  If anyone wants to join me I’ll be ready to go in an hour.  I think it’s time to go home.  I miss my fiancé… I miss my family.  And this is just too scary now.”
“Oh come on,” said Angus.  “It’s probably just malaria or something.  What happened to; ‘we have a job to do’?  These people live off rumours and fear.  Have you forgotten how religious they are?  Some woman told me to drink the blood of Jesus Christ the other day.  They’re fanatics.”
“It’s not just this,” said Rebecca.  “I’ve been ready to go for a while.  I really miss home.  I’m tired.  I need a proper bath, and shampoo, and clean sheets.  And now I also need to sleep without being scared.”
There were a few seconds of quiet reflection from the group.
“Fair enough,” said Angus.  “But I think some of us should stay here and finish the project.  We can’t just all disappear because of this rumour.  Besides, it’s just getting interesting…”
“You think this is interesting?” said Rebecca.  “Whatever.  I’m out of here.  Lisa, Jack, you coming?”
“I think I should stay a few more days, just until we finish the work,” said Lisa.  “Angus is right.  It’s just a rumour at the moment.  We should finish what we came here to do or it’s all been for nothing.  I don’t want to but I think we should.  How about I meet up with you in Abakaliki in say, 3 days time?  Will you still be there?”
“Okay.  I’ll wait for you there and then we’ll take a bus to Lagos together.  How about that?”
As afraid as he was, Jack couldn’t go yet.  He needed some answers.  He needed to know what the hell was going on.  He had to know if he was a killer, no matter how far fetched that might have seemed only a few weeks ago.
“I’ll stay too.  They need all the help they can get.”
“Okay then, fine.  Good luck.  And be careful.  Please be careful.  Are you sure I can’t persuade you to come Lisa?”
“I’m sure.  I have to try to do this.”
With that, Rebecca went to her room to pack her bags.
“I’m going to change my pants.  These are dirty,” said Lisa, also leaving the room, following the same way as Rebecca.
Angus waited until Lisa was completely gone before speaking.  “There’s more isn’t there?” he said.  “You’re as white as a ghost.”
Jack started to gnaw on his bottom lip.  “A kid was found covered in blood.  He kept repeating something over and over.  I guess he must be from Unwana.”
“What?  Why?”
“He kept saying… onacha.”

“You must leave now.  It is a very serious situation.  If I could leave, I would, believe me.  It is not safe here now.  You must go.”
It was Victor Egwu again.  He was more assertive than the last time, insistent.
“Do you understand what I said Mr. Jack?  Two more people have been mutilated.  You must get out of here - especially the girl.  I cannot understand why she did not leave with the other one.”
“Okay Mr. Egwu, I understand.  We will all go very soon, I promise.  Don’t worry about us.”
“Well… please do that.  And call me Victor.  Are we not friends by now Mr. Jack?” 
“Yes.  Thank-you Victor.  Maybe we will see you again before we leave.”  Victor flashed a genuine smile before turning to leave.
“Goodbye Mr. Jack.”
Jack closed the door and didn’t need to explain what had been said to the others this time as they’d been stood behind him just out of sight of Victor, listening to his every word.
“I think you should leave right now Lisa,” said Jack.  “We’ll see you to the bus stop.  Hopefully there will be one along soon.”
“Thanks,” said Lisa.  “But aren’t you coming with me?”
“I think Angus and I should stay on for just one more night.  We’re just so close to finishing the work here now that it would be ridiculous to leave.  We have to get this folder together and hand it in tomorrow morning to the vice-principal and then we’re done – that’s it.  They’ll have all the information they need to continue the scheme without us.  We should be okay until then.  There are two of us and we have sticks to defend ourselves and some neighbours close by.  What do you think Gus?”
“Well, if we don’t finish and draw up some instructions, I suppose they won’t know how to continue this after we’re gone.  It would be a mess.”
“It would all be for nothing,” Jack confirmed.
“Right.  I think we can survive for one more night.  We made it this far.”
Lisa shook her head but seemed to accept what had been said, and with some admiration.  “I’ll get my stuff together then,” she said, and headed for her bedroom.

After seeing Lisa off on a bus heading to Abakaliki, Jack and Angus returned to the farmhouse.  It was beginning to get dark and they were grateful for the security of their lodgings.  The old man who owned the farm was there when they arrived, stooped over, feeding some chickens.  He raised a crooked stick to acknowledge their arrival.  The boys both said “hi” to him and went inside.
“Let’s get to it then,” said Jack.  So they did—
For the next few hours, they quietly worked on putting together two folders containing everything they had done, with handwritten instructions on how to continue after they left.  There would be three juniors allocated to one senior, and the seniors would each tutor in their strongest subject.  The seniors would have to revise their junior work every week before teaching, thus reinforcing what they had learned, while the juniors would benefit from the extra tuition.  It was hardly educational reform, but it was the best that could be done until the teacher strikes stopped. 
They didn’t talk much while they worked and they stopped and listened nervously every time they heard a noise coming from outside.  They guessed that the ninety-something year old man would not offer much protection if something did happen.
“Well, I suppose since I’ve been tied to your arm every night and you’ve not been sleepwalking, that more or less rules you out of the list of suspects,” said Angus.
“I guess so.  Unless I untied it while you were sleeping and re-tied it when I returned.”
“That’s unlikely.”
“But possible.”
There were two sticks on the table, similar in size and shape to baseball bats.  If there were any trouble, they would use the sticks to defend themselves.
“If that’s the case, then I am just as much a suspect as you are,” said Angus.
“I never said that you weren’t.”  Jack dropped a folder onto the table.  “Done,” he said.
“I’m almost there too.”  Angus stuffed some pieces of A4 paper into a transparent plastic folder and clipped it into the file.  “Do you trust me Jack?”
“I haven’t known you for that long.”
“That doesn’t answer my question.”
“Almost completely.”
Angus pushed the file to one side and swigged some rum, labelled ‘rhum’, from a glass bottle.  He handed it to Jack.  “Well, I don’t think you are capable of killing those people, even on some altered level of consciousness, if that means anything…”
Jack took a deep mouthful from the bottle.  “Thanks, but I disagree.  I think anyone is capable of murder, given the right concoction of elements and circumstance.”
“Once again, you may have a point.  Objection overruled.”
“I’m still bothered by what that kid kept saying.  Why would he be saying ‘white man’?” 
“Who knows – maybe he’s a retard and he saw us around.  Forget about it.  What do you say we take turns sleeping tonight, just in case someone is out there?” suggested Angus.
“Good idea.”
“I’ll sit up first.  You go for it if you’re tired.”
“Thanks.  This rum is making me a bit sleepy.  Wake me up in say, 2 hours, yeah?  And then we’ll swap?’
“I will.  You can bank of it.  Goodnight Jack.”


“Wake up! Jack, Wake up!” 
“What?  What’s wrong?”
“I heard something.  Outside.”
Jack sat up and listened.
“I don’t hear anything.”
“I’m telling you, someone is out there doing something.”
“Maybe it’s one of those sheep-goat things…”
“This wasn’t the sound of an animal.”
Jack got up, put his trousers on and slipped on some sandals.  Without talking about it, they both went to the living quarters and started peering out of the corners of the windows.
“I don’t see anything,” said Jack.  “It’s too dark.  Wait… what’s that?”  Angus came over and took a look at what Jack was point at.  “That wasn’t there before was it?”  There was something hanging on the veranda outside the house – it looked like some kind of decorative accessory, adorned with beads, feathers, and shells on it.
“Maybe the old man put it there,” said Angus, “to ward off evil spirits or something.  You know they do that voodoo shit out here.”
“There,” said Jack and his face lightened.  “It’s just a kid.”  Jack grabbed his stick and unbolted the door.  The child, about five years old, was now on the shoulders of a man, trying to tie another of the decorative things to the house.  It took Jack by surprise and he took a step back.
“Do not be afraid,” said the man.  “Easy…”
“Who are you?” asked Jack, as calmly as he could.  He tried to look cool but his legs had gone to jelly and his mind raced.  Angus came to his side, also holding a stick.
“I am Solomon.  I am here to help you.  Both of you.”
Solomon.  That had been the name of the mysterious visitor in the night that Lisa and Rebecca had told them about.  Jack thought if Solomon meant to do them harm; he would have done so that night when the girls were alone.  He calmed down a bit and his legs started to get a little stronger.
“What are you doing here?” asked Angus.
“These are for your protection Mr. Angus.  They will help you?”
He knows our names.  How does he know our names? Jack thought.
“They are juju objects.  They are good.”
“Wait, I know you,” said Angus.  “You worked in that small store in Unwana.  We got cigarettes there.  What are you doing out here?”
“I told you, we are here to help.  This boy, Jo, is a very special little boy.  May we come inside and talk?  It is not safe out here.”
“We will talk here,” said Jack.
“As you wish.”  Solomon lifted the boy from his shoulders and put him on the ground and held his hand.  “As I was saying, Jo has a gift.  He can see into the future.  He travels there on the air and is invisible to all those living there.  It is difficult to explain, but Jo can see what is going to happen before it does happen.”
“That’s great,” said Angus.  “Amazing.  But what does that have to do with us?”
“Everything,” said Solomon.  “It has everything to do with you.”
“Excuse us a moment,” said Jack.  He withdrew, a little deeper into the house to talk privately with Angus.
“Let’s ask him in.  I don’t think he’s dangerous, especially with the boy.  I’d like to hear what he has to say.”
Angus thought about it, feeling the strength of the stick that he was holding, albeit unconsciously.  “Okay,” he said.  “Fine.”
Jack went back to the door.  “Please, come in.  Let’s talk.”
“Thank you Mr. Jack.  You are very kind.”

Jack and Angus both sat on chairs with their sticks next to them while Solomon and the boy sat on the sofa, sandwiched between them.
“Would you like some water?” asked Jack.
“No, we’re fine.”
“So, what did the boy… see, about us?” asked Angus.
“He saw you die.  But don’t worry – we are here to save you.”
Jack looked across to Angus and raised his eyebrows.  His face was white with dark circles around his eyes.  It had been a while since he’d gotten a really decent sleep and he’d simply gotten used to the fact as a norm.  Things were beginning to catch up with him, but this sudden adrenaline spurred him on. 
“What did he see?  What did you see Jo?” asked Jack.  The boy squirmed around on the sofa, trying to elude the question.  “What did you see?”
“Bibblibob.  Bibblibob.  Onacha.”
“What did he say?” asked Angus.
“He is just a boy.  He is tired now.  But he told me that he saw a man standing over your lifeless bodies, the two of you, his face bathed in moonlight.  He had some charms hanging around his neck; and he had a scar on his right cheek.  That is all I know I’m afraid.  But at least we got to you ahead of him this time.”
“What do you mean ‘this time’,” asked Jack.
“We have been trying to stop this man for some time.  Jo sees everything.  He is a very special little boy.”
“Yes, you said.”
“Every time this… this animal has killed, we have been just a few steps behind him.  Until now that is.”
Angus started to massage his own head.  It was too much to take in.
“So, that boy that was killed in Nwofe – he wasn’t killed by another boy in a fight was he?”
“No he was not.  We saw you stumble across the body.  We were so close behind him that night.  We must have missed him by minutes.  Maybe he saw you too.  Maybe that is why he is after you.”
The boy started to fall asleep on the sofa.
“So what do you suggest we do?” asked Angus.
“I suggest that you return to your country, as soon as you can, before this man finds you… and kills you.”

After finishing up with the business of the project, Jack and Angus packed their bags and headed off to find some transportation at the marketplace in Nwofe.  It was quite a walk along the uneven dirt tracks so Jack carried his over-packed suitcase on his head like the locals do when they are carrying something heavy.  He found the technique of great help; but even so, the heat made him weary and his sandals were beginning to make calluses and angry blisters on his feet.
“You gonna’ make it?” asked Angus.  Jack didn’t reply.  Not because he didn’t want to but because he simply didn’t have the breath. 
They finally arrive at the typically crowded marketplace and luckily a bus was already parked and waiting to be loaded up.  Jack dropped his bag in the dirt, letting gravity do its thing— The bag was already filthy anyway.  Angus travelled light and only had a backpack.  He took off the bag, rubbing his shoulders where it had chafed him, and placed the bag carefully on top of Jack’s.
“Do you think I’ve got time to get some water?” asked Angus.
Jack caught his breath.  “You know how things run around here,” he said.  Things usually ran slowly.  They’d be lucky if the bus left within the next hour.
“Right, be back in a minute then,” said Angus, striding out to one of the market stalls. 
Someone was touting tickets so Jack bought a couple and watched a gaggle of workers load up their bags in the bus’s undercarriage.  Angus promptly returned with some water and a few snacks.
“I got the tickets and they loaded our stuff.  Wanna’ just sit on the bus and wait?  I could do with a sit down,” said Jack.  Angus nodded, took a swig from the water and handed it to Jack.
They got on the bus and sat on the back seat.  It was a rickety old vehicle that had obviously been well used.  There would be no air-conditioning on this trip.  It was an A to B kind of thing – no frills.
“You ready for this?” asked Angus.
“I suppose so.  I just want to be back home now.  I’ve had enough.”
“Well, at least we can say we finished what we came to do.  We’ve done a pretty good job I think, under the circumstances.”
A few people got on the bus.  It looked like it might be leaving sooner than they expected.
“Hey, there’s Solomon and Jo,” said Jack, pointing outside. 
Solomon walked past the bus holding the boy’s hand.  He gave them a nod as he went by, signalling that he’d seen them and giving a non-verbal kind of ‘goodbye’.  They disappeared into the crowd and then a driver got on the bus and closed the door.
“Looks like we’re off,” said Angus.  The driver started the engine and let it warm up for a few seconds—
There were four other passengers on the bus - three men and one woman, who was sat right in front of them.  The bus started and slowly pulled out of the market.
“Here we go,” said Jack.  “Bloody hell.  I can see the road through the side here—” The shell of the dilapidated old bus was loose and there was a large gap down the side where Jack was sat.  It looked quite dangerous as it shook and rattled while the bus trundled forwards.
“Don’t fall out,” said Angus. 
“I’ll try my best – but I have lost weight.”
The woman sat in front of them started praying loudly.
“Drink from the blood of Jesus Christ ladies and gentlemen.  He died for us… for all of us… drink his blood and sing with me now.” 
And then she started singing—

She sang for the next thirty minutes or so before finally stopping.  Jack rolled his eyes and shook his head a little after the eardrum-bursting climax.  Angus just grinned.
“It’s getting dark,” said Jack anxiously.  The project co-ordinators had warned them not to travel at night as it was common for armed criminals to do their work on barren stretches of rural roadways.
“Don’t worry so much,” said Angus, settling down in his seat.  But just as he was getting comfortable and looking like he might nod off, the bus abruptly stopped—  “What’s happening?”  The bus driver was wrestling with the bus’s controls but it seemed to be dead.  Then the driver stood up and turned around to address everyone.
“No gas,” he said, very simply, and without any further explanation, he got off the bus and walked away into the murky darkness.
“What the…” said Jack.
“Shit,” said Angus.  “Now what are we supposed to do?  Hey, excuse me,” he said to the woman in front.  “Where’s the driver going?”
“He go to get gas,” she said.  “Pray to Jesus he might find some soon.”
“Great,” said Jack under his breath. 
“Hey mister,” Angus said to one of the guys up front who was looking back at them.  “How are we supposed to get out of here if the driver doesn’t come back?”
The man mulled it over for an inordinate amount of time— and finally, and very slowly and deliberately, he delivered his well-analysed response.
“In a miraculous way,” he replied, with all sincerity.
Angus made a hysterical short-lived laugh and his widening eyes revealed his rising panic. 
“Great,” said Jack again, apparently out of fresh adjectives to describe their predicament.  Like sheep, they came to an unspoken understanding to stay on the bus with the other passengers. Safety in numbers – yeah right, thought Jack.
“Well, it’s certainly nice to get out into the country,” Angus said, trying to make light of the situation.  Jack bobbed his head in agreement and looked at his watch.  There was nothing more to say.
Thirty minutes passed in silence, waiting for the driver to return.
“Hey what’s that?”
“There.  Some lights.”
It was a vehicle approaching with headlights on full, lighting up the bus as if a UFO’s unearthly beam had snared them.  Jack and Angus were alarmed.  They’d heard about armed ‘highway men’ who preyed on broken down buses like the one they were on.  They were even more alarmed because a scar-faced psycho was apparently hunting them down - their deaths having been foretold by a five year old.  When Jack thought about it, it all seemed so ridiculous.
“It’s getting closer.” 
Trapped at the back of the bus, it had come down to this: the lights either originated from a Nigerian Dick Turpin, a saucer from outer space, a serial killer or… and this was their preferred choice, the bus driver coming back with some fuel.
“Let’s hope this is the driver,” said Angus.
“Yeah,” said Jack.
“Prey be to Jesus,” said the woman in front.  “Drink his blood!”

A car pulled up behind the bus with its headlights still on full beam; shining right at Jack and Angus, who looked back with trepidation.  They couldn’t see who was inside the car because of the luminosity of the lights, and the car just stayed there with nobody getting out, waiting… but for what?  In the glow of the headlights, they were actors on a stage but they didn’t have the script yet.
“That’s not our driver is it?” said Angus.
“Wait, someone’s getting out.  A man, he’s coming in.”
“Praise be to Jesus,” said the woman.
The man came in and stood at the front, looking down the aisle right at Jack and Angus.  He had a scar on his face, he wore a necklace of beads and feathers and bones; and he was holding a machete.  There was no mistaking who this man was and there was nowhere to run.  It was terrifying.
“You,” he pointed at Jack.  “The Nightwalker— I am Emmanuel,” he said, presenting himself.  “I have come to collect your soul.”  The people on the bus were now frantic, shouting in their native tongue – except for the woman, who was screaming for Jesus’ help.
Before anyone could do anything, Emmanuel started his walk of death.  Like a guide chopping his way through the jungle, he hacked through the people on the bus.  The three men went first, the first two without much resistance, the third like a stubborn branch that just wouldn’t break.  The woman screamed at him, “Drink his blood… demon! Lêgba demon!” before he put her down with clinical ease.
“I will drink your blood, you foolish woman,” he said, before turning his attention to Jack and Angus.  “So… you are the Nightwalker.  Tell me, are you my nemesis, Nightwalker?” he asked but it was rhetorical.  “I don’t think so.”  He was spattered in blood and some ran down the windows of the bus too.  The man breathed heavily, like an addict on his high.  “I was afraid of you at first, with your dead zombie eyes.  I was even more fearful when you kept turning up while I was… working.  I thought you were Xêvioso himself.  But now I see you, in your human form, I am not so afraid – Mr. Nightwalker.”
They were not dreams.  It was real.  It was him.
In the midst of it all, Jack noticed, far back in his frantic mind, that some more lights were heading their way.  He realised that they had to stall him somehow.  It was their only chance to survive.
“I am the Nightwalker.  And I have a message for you…”
“Oh, and what is that?  What knowledge could you possibly have that I don’t already have?  I am the great Soul Collector.”  And then he shouted manically— “I am a god!”
Jack took a moment to get himself together.
“The thing I have to tell you Emmanuel, the thing you should know is… the souls you have captured, are about to be set free.”
“What are you talking about?  Mad man.  You are crazy, no?”
Solomon had planned to tail them just to see them off safely – he’d insisted.  He must have fallen behind though because they hadn’t seen his car since they’d left.  Jack prayed that it was him.  It was.
While Jack had stalled, Solomon had already crept on the bus and was stood behind Emmanuel with an axe.  He made no hesitation about lodging the axe in his back—
      Emmanuel shouted an animal-like cry of pain and then let out his last few breaths before silently falling to his knees and slumping over – lifeless.  His mouth gaped open and for a moment, Jack thought he saw tens, maybe hundreds of small neon blue lights coming out of his gullet.  Was it the souls he had taken finally being set free?  Maybe it had just all been too much for him and he was hallucinating.  He would never know. 
Sometime during the event, Angus must have passed out because he was slumped over with his head between his knees.  Solomon dropped the axe, wiped down his face and held out his hand.
      “What kept you?” asked Jack.
“A little car trouble ,” said Solomon.  “Come on.  Let’s go.”


“He’s stopping us.  Oh shit.  What do we do?  What do we do?” asked Angus.  A police car had signalled for them to pull over as they entered Lagos.   
“Let me do the talking,” said Solomon as he rolled down the window.  They spoke in Pidgin English and after a heated discussion; they seemed to come to some sort of agreement.
“He wants money, said Solomon.  “One-hundred Naira.” Bribery was a matter of routine in Nigeria.  Jack handed over some cash from the back seat where he sat with the boy; and they were waved onwards without any further delay towards the International Airport in Lagos.
“That was a close one,” said Angus.  “I thought we were done for.”
“You worry too much Mr. Angus.  Do you think the police are that quick to find people in Nigeria?”
“He’s got a point,” said Jack, laughing at the irony.  It would probably take them months just to process the paperwork of Emmanuel’s butchery.
Finally, after more than ten hours of driving and a stopover in a dilapidated hotel with unbearably itchy mattresses, Solomon pulled up outside the airport and helped them with their bags.
“I don’t know how we can ever repay you,” said Jack.  “You saved our lives.”
“Thank you,” said Angus, patting Solomon on the shoulder.  The boy hugged Angus’ leg.
“You are very welcome,” said Solomon.  “Very welcome in Nigeria.  I am sorry…”
“You have nothing to be sorry about,” said Jack.
With that, Jack and Angus said their final goodbyes and went into the airport, waving as they went.
Before long they were relieved to be on the plane.  Outside, in the night’s darkling sky, light twinkled and shimmered, like souls whispering in the wind—  ‘Thank-you.  Thank-you for setting us free…’ Jack imagined they might say if they could speak. 
And just like the souls, they too, were finally going home.

Posted by Jay76 on 03/17 at 11:51 AM | Permalink
(4) Discuss • (1) Comments

« The Inscrutable Other      Three Legends on the Origin of the Moon »