Published on May 31st, 2012 | by The Alchemist15
Good evening Ladies and Gentlemen, welcome to the Alchemists corner.
The experiment continues…
EPISODE 2: Pandora’s Box
Baba feeds me greetings in his raspy, bass voice, heavily garnished with his Northern Ibadan accent.
“It was fine, sir. The Pastor is dead but we shouldn’t buy delicate hardware from Dastan, Nonso, Yuri and the rest of that Russian outfit anymore. The rifle jammed.”
“Ah! …. rara o, eyi un o wa da o!” (No o, that’s terrible!)
Baba’s face is briefly contorted with worry as he queries me about this unfortunate development.
“You went inside with leg? Did anybody see your face?”
“No one that will remember” I assure him.
”Kare. Sugbon ise mii ti de le. Nomba ati iwe wa ninu moto nita – ninu BMW” (Well done but there is another job on ground. There is another job for you. The number and the file are in the grey car outside – the BMW.)
“No problem, Baba”
”Amoo ti e duro naa, se o o ni simi ni? O o rawon temi, won n ba ti Lifapoo je. A n lu won selese.” (But wait, won’t you rest? Come and watch my boys, they are destroying Liverpool.)
“It’s ok Baba, Let me go inside and rest for a bit. I am tired.”
He waves his reluctant approval and turns his head back to continue watching his football match. Football is one of those things that do not interest me in the least even though I understand why it fascinates other people. I enter my room and it is just as I left it. Bare.
It is said that much sake, self-pride and luxury are to be avoided by a samurai, There is no cause for anxiety when you are unhappy, but when you become a little elated, these three things become dangerous.
I quickly remove the over-sized suit I have on and empty the pockets onto my work table before I lie on the Raffia mat in the corner and stretch my body across it looking up at the ceiling. I tell myself over and over that I need to sleep. Sleep will soon come for it is necessary, just as death is necessary but dreaded.
At first it is an oppressive thing to run until one is breathless. But it is an extraordinarily good feeling when one is standing around after the running. More than that, it is even better to sit down. More than that, it is even better to lie down. And more than that, to put down a pillow and sleep soundly is even better.
In my sleep I am vaguely aware that I am standing in black nothingness and that I am a child. As I become more aware of my surroundings, I am convinced that I am in a familiar place even though all around me is darkness. I take a step forward and nothing happens. I keep walking and then start running until suddenly; I burst through a screen of darkness that feels like it was woven from cobwebs and into the bright light and loud noise of the day time Oja (market). I am in a familiar place. I start walking towards my mother’s vegetable shop and as I do a sense of foreboding overwhelms me. I know what happens next but I am powerless to change it because this dream is not a true dream but is woven from memories. I begin to sweat on the mat.
I reach my mother’s wood shack that serves as her vegetable shop and leap through the entrance. She turns from her customer, pausing to adjust the wrapper that is knotted just above her bosom and drapes down to her ankles covering her protruding belly where my sibling-to-be currently resides. She turns towards me.
“Iwo omo yii sha! Ibo lo tun lo, ehn? Abi o tun wo inu gbo lo ma so oko lu eye ni? Ibo ni o fi kini ti o ma fi n ta oko yen si ki n gba lowo e? Mo ti so fun e pe ki o da iwa radarada yen duro!” (You this my child! Where did you go ehn? You went to hunt for birds again abi? Where is that your catapult let me seize it. I have told you to stop that rubbish)
My mother’s voice is loud and melodious and even through the dream, it penetrates through the armour of my subconscious and soothes me. I can feel the muscles in my face smile even as my child-dream-self smiles in tandem. She is smiling as she speaks to me even though her voice is raised. I give her the catapult, bend my head to show remorse and walk to the corner of the shop to help her peel the efirin leaves from their stalks.
The sky turns dark suddenly and the sound of heavy rain drops is all around us even though there is no rain visible. The sense of foreboding becomes a choking sensation as I begin to realize what will happen in this dream. I put down the knife and stand up to look at the shop entrance and then I see them.
They are men from the Ife highland and the sound of their feet on the ground is what I mistook for rain earlier. They are running from stall to stall brandishing machetes and using them to hack the market women to pieces. I cannot hear any sound except that of their feet on the ground. I can see the screams of the victims and I see them pleading for mercy but I cannot hear them. Suddenly, I am jerked violently to my side by a vice-like grip on my wrist. I cannot see the person dragging me away but I know it is my mother and I know she is afraid. I can sense myself wish for my catapult.
I am now being dragged into the bush where I usually hunt with Gboyega and Debo and there is barely any light. I try to orient myself properly to see what is happening behind me but I cannot and then I hear the loud, wet sound of a rigid object meeting flesh and breaking it. Mother stops moving and so do I. She pulls me close to her face which is now covered in blood and screams at me in a voice which I know I have never heard her use before.
“****, omo mi, oya gbese n le ko maa sa lo. Ma weyin wo. Ma sa lo odo Baba Dolapo!” (Run, my son, run and don’t look back. Run to Dolapo’s daddy’s house!)
I hesitate for a second but a second is all she needs to slap me and repeat herself
“Mo ni ki o sa lo sile aburo baba e!!!” (Run to your uncle’s house!!!)
I get up, turn away and start running, I can feel the tears streaking down my face and being carried behind me by the wind as they complete their journeys to the bottom of my cheek. I am overcome by a sense of sadness and loss and there is a sharp pain in my chest. I can feel myself roll on the mat even as I run in this dream. I can hear the sound of the rainfall following me and I keep running until my legs feel like they will spontaneously combust.
I stop running.
Even if it seems certain that you will lose, retaliate. Neither wisdom nor technique has a place in this. A real man does not think of victory or defeat. He plunges recklessly towards an irrational death. By doing this, you will awaken from your dreams.
I steel my dream-self and I turn back to see five shadows with machetes staring at me. I cannot see any faces or features; just the outlines of their bodies. I pick up a stick from the wet forest floor and begin to walk towards my pursuers, preparing to take vengeance for my mother just as the ground opens up under me and swallows me into a bottomless darkness.
I open my eyes suddenly and I am aware of the sweat that bonds my shirt to my chest and back. It is the same dream I have always had since I first arrived at the Akaishi temple as a young man and that Master had told me was a burden I would bear forever because it is not really a dream. It is always the same dream but the ending is different every time. I know I can change the end now but the reality is long past and of that, I can do nothing. There are worse things than death, much worse.
I turn to look at my watch on the floor; the time is 9:43 pm. I have been sleeping restlessly for almost seven hours. That should be more than enough sleep. I stand up and head for the bathroom. When I am done, it is 10:25pm. I pull on my standard attire of blue jeans and a black T-shirt with black plimsoles. My clean shaven head feels smooth and I decide not to wear a hat today. I grab the car keys from the drawer and head out of the red mud house without announcing my exit to Baba. He would not expect me to anyway.
There is dignity in Paucity of words
Getting into the grey BMW, I open the glove compartment and retrieve the sealed brown envelope that is waiting for me. I open it and peruse its contents. There is a picture of a man who looks to be in his early fifties attached to some documents containing his personal details, approximate schedule for the next three weeks and other general information about him. His name is Olatunji Adejuwon and he is actually forty-seven years old. Something else in the envelope catches my eye. A military record. I look in more detail and realize that this man is a brigadier general in the Nigerian army. This could be troublesome. He will have a lot of professional war-mongers for body guards but even that is a minor consideration. I have a strange feeling about this seemingly simple job. Something is not quite right. I resolve to call the person who made the request and if I hear anything that increases my unease, I will refuse to do the job. I dial the number.
“Hello?” A woman’s voice responds after the second ring. It is soft and melodious, not unlike my mothers’.
“Baba gave me your message.”
“Ah yes, you are the one that will do the job abi?” She asks
“Yes, but I need to know why you want him killed.”
“Oh? Does it really matter?”
“Yes, to me.”
“Yes.“ I insist.
“I thought you were a professional…”
“So mo yooba ni e?” (Are you Yoruba?)
“Lolade Adejuwon lo n ba soro” She started (You are talking to Lolade Adejuwon.)
“Oko mi ni Tunji. Amo toko ba ti n luyan eranko ni gbogbo gba, tokotaya ti pari ni yen, Eran inu ile gaan wa se ju yan lo. Abi?” (Tunji is my husband, but when your husband beats you like a goat, you know that the marriage is over and you are little better than a pet. Isn’t it?)
“Go on…” I encourage her
She takes a deep breath and reverts back to English.
“I want to leave him and go to America. But he has said he will kill me and my children if I try to leave…” she pauses briefly before continuing.
“… So I have decided to kill him first.”
Next Week on FIST:
EPISODE 3: The Taste of Death
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