Caught in a Web

Submitted into Contest #55 in response to: Write a story about a meeting of a secret society.... view prompt



This taxi driver’s voice reminds me of Esosa. They look alike, too. I’m looking through the window, reminiscing how I met The Brethren and whether they would come to get me, again. I’ll keep to Ojo's order – I wouldn’t talk to anyone about it. I'd rather write it. Since I already knew The Brethren, I hope to see Ojo again. Staying with him is like drinking beer. I also hope he brings me business as promised. He’s still my guy. 

In Nigeria, when there’s power outage for long, the freezer spoils, the foods get defrosted, one warms the foods at least, twice daily, they loose their taste and spoil, one manages to consume them, consequently gets sick, the person spends money in health care and puts one's life at risk. If I were given the opportunity to come into this world again, I would decline it because I might mess up again; this world is all about pressure and it gets worse when you begin judging yourself. 

I had been struggling with my footwear business for a year before I became Ojo's guy. My work gave me pressure. I am still the Head, Marketing Department, where prerequisites for mobility weren’t provided. The trainees I hired left the firm because of her mode of operation. Marketing for my firm was like dishing food in a thousand plates with a table spoon. I had tried in dividing my attention between my tender business and marketing. If my business flourished well, I'd have resigned. My secretary, Judith was lovely and smart. She knew about the footwear business, how hard I worked and she covered up for me anytime I was away from work. I didn’t even know how we got so close. I was also scared of the rage I put into work because I might have developed high blood pressure. Unfortunately, I am now hypertensive. Hypertensive? I can’t feel my senses. I’m scared.

If I had agreed with Isa to bring his brothers from Sokoto, I wouldn’t have attended The Brethren's meeting. If I were more focused on being an entrepreneur, I wouldn’t have met them. The Brethren seemed holy. Of course, they were sacred, just that it sounded biblical. I wish I was consistent like Isa. How possible? Where probably, I'd make millions through Ojo. At least, even if I didn’t get the millions, I could still continue nursing my fragile entrepreneurial spirit, but now, I can’t focus on my own business because they’ve stolen my sanity. 

Ojo waltzed into my office very early in the morning when I was eating bean cake and ginger-flavoured pap my wife had packaged for me. I had forgotten to send a mail the previous day and I arrived early that day at 7 am. I wasn’t even expecting anyone by then, except Mmachi, the cleaner. He wore an expensive perfume and was well dressed. I looked in oblivion until he introduced himself and his purpose of being in my tiny office. He looked very much like me. I had never seen anyone with such resemblance as me before. He was taller than I and it implied that he was very tall.

“Welcome, bro, ” I said as I reached out my clenched fist to jam his; my fingertips were oily. I was a bit uneasy that he had seen me eating that morning. I liked being very official whenever I was about meeting a client and this time, I was drinking pap contained in a big food-flask, not even tea. As he had expected, I said, “join me.”

He collected my bean cakes wrapped in a black nylon and began eating “Hmm, thanks. You no go feel dizzy if you drink this pap finish?”

“My brother” I chuckled. I didn’t even know how to respond to his question or what to say. I scooped the pap a few times and, covered the food flask. I was sure that I had wasted the pap; I couldn’t take it warm or cold. I preferred it hot. Very hot. And I fetched water from the dispenser for him. 

Ojo was the first person who gave me a business which I received a commission of over one million Naira, a bit less than my salary per annum. It was Esosa, my landlord who was in his mid-fifties, but looked fifteen years younger introduced him to me. It was after Ojo had left that morning that I remembered him. The first time I saw him, he looked like a paralegal or an intern. It wasn’t really a formal introduction. We met in the process of signing an agreement. Ojo promised to refer me to his friends who might need to buy a policy from me if I behaved well. “Behaved well” had a deep meaning. I wondered what he meant. All I wanted was to get more referrals and I began sending him New Month texts and wished him blissful New Week ahead. 

The next day after I had turned down Esosa's invite to the Bini mall partner's biennial gathering for the second time, my secretary called my phone to tell me how important the gathering was, perhaps, my landlord would’ve linked me to potential clients. It struck me when she told me that she had barely come back home that morning. From her tone, I knew she was a bit high. What she forgot to tell me was who she slept together with the previous night. I had always suspected my landlord of having unusual powers from the very first month he leased his space to us. He had offered to lend me money at no interest when I was in dire need of capital to start a recycling business, but I switched to locally-made footwears. Then, he came a month later to give me a link on how we could partner and import Italian shoes. He had also invited me to a hotel where he and his cousin would meet and discuss a new factory his cousin might want to insure. It seemed my life was completely visible to him. 

Two days ago, Ojo waited for me at my secretary's cubicle. Judith, as expected discussed with him. I met them laughing together, not noisily though. Ojo turned and said, “bro, welcome.” he smiled. He shook my hand and it wasn’t sloppy like I expected. The way he called me “bro” was sincere. Ojo was always full of excitement. He discussed about giving me three businesses from his partners' clients and I would give him fourty percent of the commission I would earn from it. Even if he bargained till receiving seventy percent, I would have still agreed.

“They are in the office. It’s best you explain to them, just briefly. We started meeting at 9 am and I’m already fifteen minutes late” He said looking at the my wall clock.

“Today is Friday, if you had told me I would have dressed more corporate. I just hope this goes well.” I was dressed in a black jean and a dark blue customised polo with a black and white sneakers – my usual Friday dressing.

“You're my guy, no problem.”

 He had insisted that we rode in the same car – his Black Toyota Spider. It was there the meeting began. He and the man I taught was his driver discussed recruits of their association. Their words were vague, but it seemed that the man told Ojo that I had kept others waiting and the others were waiting for me. This time, I looked at the driver well from the mirror, he was light-skinned, fresh and more handsome than Ojo. As I studied him physically, he turned and said, “This our bro looks like your twin. Oga, una be twin?” He asked me. I chuckled at first, but didn’t want to bore the empty chat..

“Em na my guy o” I had even forgotten Ojo's name. I wished I had said “Ojo na my guy”. Ikem Okolie Itohan occupied the second floor of their building. Esosa was their landlord, too. He had sculpted golden falcon on the roof of his building and he painted them, white and lemon colour. It was there I remembered that Ojo's firm was where my younger brother had done his internship, then, it was Ikem Okolie and Associates. The conference room 2 was the only room demarcated by a concrete wall which led to the long passage. Others were bounded with thick glass walls. Ojo opened the wooden door, directed me to sit. Esosa was the first person I noticed there, he was the oldest and was at the centre. The others were young. The two other men who sat beside me looked naïve and jejune. I thought earlier, that the ash cat was a doll until it ran towards me, and looked me straight in the eye, and the other two men and disappeared. The room became dark, very dark and the blinds didn’t let sunrays pass through. I screamed, “Ojo!, “Ojo!” The other two men shivered in panic.

Ojo came to me and said, “bro, calm down. It’s part of the process.” The way he still called me “bro” pacified me a little. Now, he held my shoulders before he collected a thin file from Esosa and handed it over to me. I was asked to make sure no one else, but any of The Brethren saw the file. Late in the morning today, Ojo came to my house upon I never gave him my address.

“Have you made a decision yet?” I didn’t respond. He took a quick glimpse around my sitting room and saw the file on the centre table. “Hope you are the only one here?” I nodded. “Don’t feel bad about this. We’ve been following you for a long time now. I was trapped, but I’m fine, now. You’ll be fine, too. Which option would you go with?

“What do you mean?” 

“I’ll stay here with till the meeting begins at 4 pm, just for the new members. I'll just take you there. He perused through the file, came close to me where I sat in a sofa and said, “If you don’t want to become a murderer, divorce your wife, never get married again and become a vegetarian.” My wife was pregnant with our twins and had barely traveled to Nsukka to defend her thesis before I joined The Brethren. Really, it was the best option amongst remaining celibate forever or cutting my lifespan by twenty years or to kill my both parents the same day. I loved animal products and I loved my wife, too. I might legally divorce her and still be her lover. I felt relieved a bit, but was still apprehensive of where I had sold my soul. I didn’t know when Ojo and I started discussing till afternoon. I didn’t know that I could even have lunch with him. He was just good at making people overlook their anxieties. He took me to The Brethrens. We met in that same conference room. We were four: Esosa, the two other men and I. The two men, but I noticed they were now naked. My clothes were still on, others, too, but the two men covered their penises with their palms. Esosa screamed at me, but I didn’t understand what he said to me. Ojo dashed in, lay flat and muttered words to Esosa, perhaps, he implored on my behalf. I wondered what it was. Now, I felt my scrawny bones and my teeth jam repeatedly. Ojo took me by the arms and forced me outside the room. 

“Don’t ever discuss this with anyone. You weren’t accepted.” He said to me in exasperation and it seemed he had been possessed; it was like he borrowed his voice. As I waited for a taxi to take me home, Esosa patted my shoulder from behind, I was startled. “You’re still my friend. I’ll bring you more jobs. Nothing attached.” Now, he sounded like himself again, but more real – not “bro” anymore, but “friend.”

August 20, 2020 23:28

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02:07 Aug 30, 2020

Your story was chilling. I had to read this over several times before I felt I could comment on it. The elusive references kept me going back to find a way to connect them. How terrible to be caught in a web because of an unwise decision, How awful to have one's sanity stolen. And, how very fortunate that he was NOT accepted into the Brethren.


Dozzy Nika
22:32 Aug 30, 2020

A good synopsis for this - Upon he wasn't accepted into the Brethren, they stole his sanity. Thanks


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