By: Aremu Lukmon Umor
It was a night like no other that I had ever witnessed in my entire life, PHCN had struck that night as if trying to live up to their infamous name. I was taken aback to two days ago when they left us light from morning until late in the evening when I got back from work: I did not see the light, although, but one of my neighbours who did not go to work gave me a lowdown as he cursed bitterly.
I sat upright on my bed and lowered my head to the left as if trying to remember something, for some moment, I thought PHCN had restored power, but it was my eyes trying to adjust to the darkness. I rose and shuffled lazily toward my kerosene lamp, it took me a few minute before I could place a handle on the box of matches – I struck a stick on the box and the darkness slowly disappeared as the fire gained pace.
Sleep had gotten the better of me, I was far removed from this world that if a fire alarm should ring at that moment I would not wake. My father had always hated me for that.
“Olo’run iya ni e,” he would say in his crooked Ilorin dialect, who was I to talk back at him?
If I had had my life sucked away from me by this leech, who would have known about it? My father would “Leave him, let him sleep, he sleeps like a dead man,” could he not tell the difference between the dead and living? Days after, they would take my putrefied body, bathe it to negate the fresh smell of death, shroud it in white cloak, dump it in a wooden coffin that would have been built impromptu and still oozed fetid scent of dead trees, and they would tip me in the back of that Urvan with an apprehensive driver orchestrating the rickety wheels.
I could hear footsteps play in my head, even the dainty street-thief that always walked around the neighbourhood searching the next victim to prance on would not break into my room; I felt so safe, but yet I could not feel myself.
The chirps of these crickets could numb the ears, I could see them marvelling in the cloud of white smoke that cloaked everywhere here. I tried to cover my mouth with my hands, but I could not move it, I tried to run, but it felt as though my legs had been tied with giant manacles that could only be seen on slaves in the 1800s; only that these were bigger. I felt something depart my body with a force that was out of this world, something was chasing me. I tried to run, but my heavy body and numb parts could not help me further. A hand that I could not see hovered above my head and squashed me to the harsh soils, I was sweating, but I could not wipe it. The giant hand made a swivelling wave in the foggy oblivion, as images of what looked like my deeds on earth manifested in the looming rectangle that had formed just a few inches beneath it. I felt waves of amazement, surprise, and befuddlement soak me: a few faces that I could not tell who owned them were crying, I saw Laide, my beloved, expressionless, a few of my friends were drinking while the news of my death arrived; they doubted at first and then they drank away and blurted stuffs they would never say to my face.
My heart sank, my stomach lurched, and I felt as though I were trapped; trapped in a box that was gradually closing down on me. I sensed something cold depart the inside of me: all the numbness in my hands and feet gone, I swallowed my saliva, and batted my eyes – I am alive. The day was just recovering its sight from the blindness the night had caused, I heard a rapt on my day, it was a familiar sound, and I knew it was my friend – one of those friends that had laughed at me scornfully during my short pause away from earth. He said his good morning, but somehow, I had forgotten how things were done here – I did not return his greetings.