13 Jul A Flash In The Pan
A bucket of water douses your feverish face, rinsing away your illusions and washing you out on the shores of reality. You try to crawl back into your dreams but a two-handed slap ends that possibility. Your brain is foggy so it takes some time to register your surroundings.
1. You’re in a dimly lit room, seated at a table.
2. There are handcuffs attaching you to your seat.
3. Somewhere in another room, someone is screaming. Or might be screaming, your ears are still ringing so you’re not completely sure.
4. Your eyes are aching. A dull pain that brings back faint memories of the last few hours. Hours? Days? Weeks? Months? It could very well be years for you’ve lost all concept of time.
5. You smell horrible. Your nose identifies a mix of sweat, blood, urine, grime and other disgusting things. It occurs to you that you haven’t had a bath since you got here.
6. Your tongue is covered in blood. Your lips are swollen and likely caked in the same thing. Your memories are coming back.
7. Forget your aching eyes. There’s pain everywhere. It’s like a fire’s been lit on every square inch of skin, muscle and organ. You can’t remember the last time you ate.
The full realization shakes you to your core. You’ve been kidnapped. Your kidnappers brought you to this room to torture you. You remember trying to tell your captors you had no money and your parents were too poor to pay out their ransom fee. They must have beaten you into unconsciousness, or your body might have just surrendered to the thick cloud of exhaustion hovering over you thisvery moment.
An image passes through your mind. A fleeting thought. A time before the pain and exhaustion. You had a life before your captors? Ah, yes. Your memories are returning slowly but surely, and your mind flashes back.
You didn’t like walking through Yaba at all, let alone at night.
So you begged and pleaded with your boss to extend your deadline by an extra day. It wasn’t as if it was your fault anyway, your printer refused to work at the office and your boss had demanded a hard copy. So you rushed home from work and printed out the research you’d poured the last thirty days into. You were about halfway through when the ink cartridge jammed and wouldn’t gel back into the process. So you ran around your block like a chicken dancing the dance of Christmas, seeking out your neighbours for their printers, meeting sympathetic/ dismissive no’s everywhere.
Out of desperation, you squeezed out some money from your spartan budget and ran to the cybercafé a few streets away. After waiting in line for far too long, you finally got to the front where the printer guy eyed you suspiciously and told you your cash was too little for the fifty-two pages left in your document. You begged and pleaded for a discount on the remaining twenty naira, only to meet a stubborn no. It was a sympathetic old woman who helped you balance the printer man, who looked a bit disappointed. Finally, your document was printed and you fled out of the café, only to see the sun waving goodbye as it rode into the darkness. Having overshot your budget and jeopardised your transport money for tomorrow, you decided called your boss in desperation, praying she would understand.
She agreed, such a nice woman. And you jejely arranged your document in a neat folder, in your neat bag, beside your neat clothes. And slept a Mosquito-infested sleep.
You didn’t like walking though Yaba at all, not even during the day. But you had no choice, having overshot your budget. So you left your self-con flat, caught the bus to Ojuelegba and began the trek to your office.
You had reached the Tejuosho market when you saw them. At first, you wondered why they were out so early. You remembered the stories you’d seen on Twitter for the last five months now and began to increase your pace. You hoped they would keep on standing by their van, keep on ignoring everyone. You couldn’t understand this irrational fear pumping through your arteries and tried to focus on getting to your office early. If you nailed this research project, the world was yours. Your boss had enough friends that would be impressed by your findings… if you ever got to the office. For they had seen you. And they were coming your way. You wondered what profile you fit to warrant a glance in your direction. You were young, yes, but you were dressed well enough to be set apart from the lazy Nigerian youths Supreme Leader Snoke had called out some weeks ago. So when they demanded you enter their van, you refused. And they made you enter the van amidst a hail of slaps, kicks and punches. You dropped your document on the sidewalk concrete during the scuffle but you didn’t notice until you were staring through the bars of a Black Maria.
Two of your captors are talking in a corner. They aren’t happy. You recognize one of them. He planted his boot in your face. That was after he gave you a phone to call someone to ransom you. You tried to call your parents and begged them to come save you. You tried to tell them you were locked up in some police station. Glo’s signal strength(or lack of) didn’t allow you reach them.
A police station… Ah. Your captors are police officers, no, they are the spectacular SARS. The Special Anti-Robbery Squad has kidnapped you and tortured you for money.
How long have you been here? You can’t remember, but it must have been long enough because while you can’t hear everything yourcaptors are saying, it’s pretty clear they’re talking about you. The words ‘waste of time’ float into your ears. It suddenly strikes you that you’re still wearing the clothes you were wearing when they kidnapped you. With a painful effort, you inspect them. Your best shirt is unrecognizably black, your trousers are torn and your shoes were lost during your first night so it’s your socks you’re looking at. Whatever thread is left on your feet is dripping god-knows-what and you’re not sure you want to know either.
Your captors are no longer in the corner, talking. Before you can wonder where they’ve gone, two pairs of hands roughly drag you up from your seat, wrenching your wrists against the handcuffs as you draw a breathless cry of pain. One of them forces you to your knees while the other leaves the room. You brace yourself for whatever new torture designs he would bring with him and wonder how much more you would take before death smiled on you. You hear footsteps and see the other captor stride into the room, his arms full of things that look nothing like instruments of torture. You hear him empty his burden on the table. Overcome by curiosity, you strain against your captor’s iron grip and sneak a glance at the table. He’s assembling a gun. A rifle by the looks of it. You don’t feel anything, it’s not the first time SARS officers have threatened to put you out of your misery. Then the captor who’s holding you down flings you against a wall, pulls out his own rifle and takes aim. The other one joins him. They say not a word.
Ah… It dawns on you at last.
That’s when your mind flashes forward.
There’s a knock on the door just when you think he’s about to fire. A man in uniform walks into the room and engages your captors in furious whispers. When he’s done, he leaves and your captors drop their guns and uncuff you. Apparently, someone had come looking for you and made a payment of 150k. So you would live to die another day. They warn you not to speak of anything you think you went through during your ‘extended visit’. A pleasure doing business with you, they said as they patted your back and ushered you into the reception area.
You see your mother and father first, pacing frantically. Then you see your boss. It’s funny how the first thing that came to your mind was an apology for losing your research. And how it very likely saved your life.
They see you, in all your glory. And they come running.
There’s no words, you’re too tired to scream or resist. You simply wait for the end to come and when it does, you embrace it joyously.
A few minutes after the bullets tear up what’s left of your body, your captors deck you out in charms, weapons and other paraphernalia fitting the profile of a cultist/armed robber.
You will be buried in an unmarked spot. To your family, friends and colleagues who are all desperately searching for you, it will be as though you stepped off the edge of the earth.
Another statistic of a job well done.