Drama Fiction

We have known Eugene as a struggling business man who sells carpentry tools, He moves into a new apartment, becomes a super distributor of cement, iron and steel few weeks after his wife is buried. Papa says that Eugene’s wife’s relatives almost fought him during his wife’s burial for his defiance in allowing them see his wife’s corpse when she was lying-in-state; how he guarded the coffin was unusual till she got laid down. Papa is always lively and creates stories from events that don’t have life in them – literally, not worth telling. He tells stories while in the restroom or in the market here one struggles to hear a word, but Papa comes back this time and summarizes the burial in a sentence “Eugene’s hands are not pure.” The day George tells Papa that he has seen Eugene’s new apartment, a mansion at the GRA behind his school, is when he reprimands us sternly not to visit his children, Emmanuel and Miriam, our childhood friends

“But, Papa, their house is in a cool environment and most of my school friends live around there.” George, my fifteen year old brother says. I feel excited that I could still meet Emmanuel and Miriam, Eugene’s twins, especially, the angelic-looking Miriam. “That won’t happen o,” he mutters. Out of exasperation, he increases the volume of the TV so as not to hear Papa give thousands of reasons why we should stay away from them.

Papa shakes his head and said, “You are a small child.” I see George roll his eyes his eyes at him. I think that George is actually a child, too. How would Papa ever know if I visited them? Now, they are living alone in their compound, I could even plan towards dating Miriam.

On my way to the restaurant to make reservation where my old secondary school friends could meet on Sunday – something close to reunion, I see Miriam, run out of the gate, holds my arms asking for help, after a few seconds, she realizes that it is me. 

“I don’t know what’s wrong with Emma. He is bleeding,” she says, panting heavily.

“Emma kwa? What’s he doing here?” I ask. George’s description of their apartment is wrong; they live in a cul-de-sac close to the GRA.

“We now live here.” It seems to her that I’m asking a thousand and one questions, she motions to drag my arm into the compound. We enter the compound; she leaves the gate unlocked and leads me into their building, through the verandah and sitting room, and to their lobby where Emmanuel is, crawling slowly towards the sitting room, still bleeding through his nostrils. 

“Let’s take him to the hospital,” I say to them.

“Have you called Daddy?” Emmanuel says and throws up blood. The sight of his own blood terrifies him, he sits down, shifts to the wall and rests his head on the wall backwards to pacify the bleeding. I am hopeful, at least, he speaks.

“Yes, I have called him. He said that we should go to any Pharmacy close by.” Miriam responds.

“Let’s take him to the hospital. I can drive.” I look at Miriam, “Do you know where the key to the house parked outside is?”

 “Call Daddy again, tell him that I opened the door underground. And, just listen to him.”

“Which underground?” Miriam asks. Obviously, she doesn’t know that there is an underground there. The door to the lobby is still opened. Pointing at the entrance of the lobby, she says, “lock the door, please.” I touch the door handle and perceived something that isn’t good, the odour emanating from the lobby is cool and bad. I’m trying to recall where I perceived the smell. The key is still on door knob. Emmanuel is now sitting on the floor, resting his head on the wall. Miriam picks her phone to call her father. I take a quick glance at the door and realize that the key is still on its knob. Initially, it seems the key is stuck in its knob and I’m trying to remove it forcefully, now, the odour isn’t vague. It’s Mama. I think she’s here again. I vividly remember the smell the morgue. I am now close to Emmanuel to assure myself that he is still alive. He is still breathing, with eyes shut. I am thinking that the smell of the morgue reveals death, but I don’t wish it for my friend, a good guy who helped me improve in academics, a smart fellow who has been awarded an undergraduate scholarship and will travel to England next month “He entered that lobby that I reprimanded no one to enter? And did he enter underground?” I hear Eugene’s voice over the phone.

“Yes.” Miriam answers.

“How did he even get the key? Don’t take him to the hospital. I’ll be coming immediately with a pastor.” He hangs up. Miriam stands akimbo and stares at Emmanuel. She sits on the floor beside him and uses her left arm to support his head that he was resting on the wall.

I move a few steps back, very close to the door and squat, my black trouser gets torn below, between my thighs. I’m resting my head towards the door knob to perceive the odour emanating from the lobby. I want to be sure, but it’s now coming out gently; the door is locked.   

* .    * .    *

There I was with George and Papa, two weeks after Mama died waiting for the embalmer to tell us that we could see Mama's corpse. He pulled the curtain over and signaled us to come in. The stench emanating from the dead bodies and the repulsive, pungent chemicals used in embalming them could make one uncomfortable and affects one’s eyes, but in a few seconds, our visions cleared. The dead bodies were packed in stacks like books in the library. It was impossible to tell their complexions, even some were difficult to tell if they died young or old; they were all embalmed. The hall looked bigger than it was from the exterior. We hadn’t reached where they had kept Mama's body. We walked side by side to make sure that we wouldn’t step on any dead body. George sneezed and stepped on the shoulder of a female dead body whose left breast was five times bigger than the right one, but they were all stiff. He almost fell and I held him. 

“Be careful!” Papa shouted from behind.

It was the dead man with a big scrotal sac that caught my attention; apparently, it was what sent him to his ancestors. We came out through the other entrance of the hall close to the first gate adjacent to the main entrance of the compound. I wondered why we didn’t follow there. Or it seemed that the embalmer wanted to pacify us after we had seen thousands of dead bodies which looked hard like logs of wood. She was covered with a blanket and it made her conspicuous amongst the other corpses. The shape of her head was still the same and she looked peaceful. Her face was still the same like it was when she breathed last. The ground we stood on, near the entrance was a steep slope; I supported myself with one arm and held my brother's arm with the other. I was just two years older than my brother, but I felt pathetic for him at what he had seen at fifteen. Tears rolled down my left cheek and I didn’t know why; I had mixed feelings, perhaps, it was because of my brother or my mother’s state. I couldn’t cover my nose with any palm at least to filter the contaminated air that I was breathing to some extent. I inhaled enough air in there and it seemed I had spent hours there for roughly two minutes we had been standing there. I turned back, but Papa had disappeared. George and I followed immediately and saw Papa spitting outside continuously, every five seconds. 

The embalmer came and demanded cash from Papa for having prepared Mama's body for us to see. Papa dipped his fingers in his back trouser pocket and gave him a wrapped note. I didn’t even see the currency. As we were driving, the smell of the hall became stronger, it seemed one of us had hugged a dead body. Even the car's air conditioner made the odour cool. We wound down the glass to let fresh air enter, but it seemed all the dead bodies were following us. When we got home and had our bath, we were refreshed.

Eugene comes back with a huge light-skinned man whose left eye is shut, dressed in a navy blue suit holding a bright red suit case. They just look at us, not even an utterance from them and dash in into the lobby. I hear sound like a hammered wood. After a few minutes, the man walks out of the building in exasperation and within a few seconds, Eugene comes out, inserts his middle finger into Emma’s mouth, it becomes smeared by blood, he licks it and Emma opens his eyes and they look well. Blood drips from his nose and stains his white shirt. He covers his nose with his palms, dashes into the lobby, bangs the door behind him, he runs down the stairs.

*     *     *

“Daddy has gone underground.” Emma says as he stands. Miriam rushes to enter the lobby but is stopped by Emmanuel. In the sitting room, Emma tells me to keep it a secret. Of course, what he meant is “we” – George, Papa and I. Yes, no one else will hear it. We really don’t relate with our neighbours in any way.

Eugene and Miriam are oblivious of what to do; Eugene is still underground after two weeks.

October 02, 2020 22:49

You must sign up or log in to submit a comment.