My eyelids tried to flip open as the rays of the sun pierced through to disturb the tranquility of cells in my retina. I tried to no avail and it was as though someone had used Superglue to stick them together. I ran my fingers over my eyes only to realize I had been blindfolded. I struggled to untwine the knot behind to free my eyes. They really hurt from the pressure of the white but rough fabric.
Everything around me looked strange as my eyes scanned this weird milieu. I was stunned to find myself in a dingy, oily and swampy shoreline redolent with the stench of rotten fish. I was stripped to the bare save for my torn boxers and my body was stained with mire, and I saw incision marks which hurt badly. I managed to wriggle myself up, but I was short of strength and energy. “Where am I and how did I get here?” I asked but no answer was in sight. I only heard the echo of my bemused mind amidst the eerie silence punctuated by the chirps of insects, and thick shrubs hounded and hedged me into a state of frenzied fear. I tried to scream but my jaws gapped with no audible sound. My mouth had been gagged and stuffed with a rag. Truly I was afraid!
I wasn’t sure of the time, but I surmised it was past dawn. With my mind blank with ideas of what to do, all I could think of doing was run away. Run I did but to no known destination. With weary legs, I pushed through the spiky shrubs and herbs not minding if they cut my skin or not. All I wanted was to escape from this weird place as much as my legs and willpower could carry me. Despite the falls, I soon made it to a small settlement of bamboo houses with thatched roofs where the people spoke in a strange language which I later realized was Ijaw. Smoke billowed from their rooftops and it was obvious they were a small fishing community, with nets lodged in the belly of the boats that berthed by the coastline.
My heart palpitated as my cadence took me closer to their abodes. I didn’t know what to expect; and feared they may be a savage clan. They encircled about me as I reached a bamboo shed where the men sat on stones and wooden chairs to drink local gin and sour palm wine from gourds. Their unusual friendly disposition helped to calm my frayed for they offered me wine, while casting suspicious looks at the strange man that I had come to depict. To my relief, they spoke Pidgin English like most tribes in Niger-Delta area of Nigeria and listened with keen attention as I narrated my ordeal to them. After I cleaned up, one of them carried me on a bicycle to another village from where I boarded a passenger boat to the Port Harcourt. They had given me enough money for my trip back to the city. Save for their magnanimity, I would have been marooned in one of those dangerous creeks of the tributaries of River Niger.
I reached Port Harcourt when it was already dark, and there were no okadas to take me home for Governor Peter Odili had banned bikes from operating after 7pm for security reasons. When I got home around 10pm the neighbourhood at Artillery area had been thrown-into total blackout by NEPA. My brother, Efe and his wife, Cynthia had slept. After several thumps on the gate, the “maiguard” opened after he was sure that I was the “lost but found” Nosakhare. The elation and joyful noise from my brother and his wife attracted the neighbours. “Wonders shall not end” they chorused as they listened raptly to my story, which will make a good script for “Nollywood” movie producers and their money-driven marketers at Idumota! My true life story when showed on screen should end with “To God be the Glory!” unlike most Naija films that never deserved such closing signature.
My brother’s wife, who had lost her lucrative job with Lion Bank following the acquisition by Diamond Bank, had long mooted the idea of running a supermarket cum boutique in PH. She had already made contacts with some notable Nigerian designers and had secured a big office space at the highbrow GRA phase II. Since I had no jobs after my NYSC, he convinced me to join his wife Cynthia in running the business. That fateful Friday morning, he gave me a cheque to withdraw N100, 000.00 needed for refurbishing the supermarket.
It was a day that dawned like every other. The sun was shrouded by the grey clouds that released drizzles all over Port Harcourt. I joined a cab from artillery junction to First Bank Plc along Aba Road to cash the money. I stood at the overhead pedestrian bridge to flag down a taxi back home. Seated comfortably at the back seat was a young lady whose beauty was sublime. She wore a black embroidered flowing gown and beamed a flashy, sunny smile that enraptured me. I thanked heavens for meeting this mermaid of a woman and soon dug deep into my archives for the best way to woo and court her love.
She was carried away by my honey-dripping words and exaggerations. I had lied to her that I am a contractor to Shell, and had won the bid to supply some deep oil dredging equipment for one of the oil fields recently allocated by the NNPC. That my trip to the bank was to process the bank papers and sundries, related to the contract. I couldn’t believe it when she agreed pronto to be my girlfriend. The driver seemed oblivious of this romantic melodrama scripted and acted out by this pretty goddess of a woman and me. My heart got bloated with pride as I drew the lady close, with no resistance from her. My hands got busy and began to rove round her body, till our lips locked up like two earthworms in copulation. For me, it was like a blissful ride to paradise or so I had thought!
It was already dark when I regained consciousness after ten hours of spell cast upon me by the lady I kissed in the cab. I was still speechless but could hear sounds and see clearly. And in the large warehouse-like hall was a horde of naked young men and woman with only a strip of white loincloths over their pubic regions. The men had their heads shaven and none spoke to each other. The women’s hair were disheveled and had no covering over their bosom .The inmates’ eyes were sunken and had a fixed glare, with pursed lips that looked sealed up with a strong adhesive.
The lady I had kissed walked in with two fierce looking, heavily built and broad-chested men, with an Atlas-like anatomy, into the dimly-lit and stuffy hall. Her eyes scanned around the hall until she spotted where I lay motionless at the eastern corner.
“He must be sacrificed tonight” she said with an air of authority. She had no more smiles. That beautiful face and charm that electrified me h
ours ago have turned to a fiendish mien. The two men nodded in response as she waltzed back like Jezebel to her forte. She must have old them about my escapades with her.
They dragged me up to my feet and hurled me up to their shoulders as they entered the outer court of the temple were the inmates are decapitated 6-hourly for ritual sacrifices. We were over 20 men and women in that section and were made to encircle an occultic symbol with a vicious looking eyeball that peered deep into us. A pen was used to give us tag numbers which the two men recorded in a register.
One after the other, each of us was stripped to the bare with no resistance. No one raised a voice nor created any scenes. Like the toothless lamb, we were hypnotized and had lost our will, and our minds and the ability to fight. We had lost the power to determine our fate in this kingdom controlled by this goddess of a woman.
As the two guys pulled my jean trousers out, I remembered the stories of men who slept with “mammy water” and lost their lives. My intuition had cautioned me when I first spotted her at Aba Road, but my libido found a willing accomplish in her. I had thought of how to gloat about the fling with her before my buddies in the neighbourhood. But now, gloom, despair and imminent death had become my lot. My quest for transient pleasure had landed me in a chasm of death. With head bowed low, I bemoaned my misfortune.
As they shook my trousers and frisked me for any valuables, my international passport fell off and one of them picked it up. For what seemed like endless minutes, the bigger guy with a tuft of locked hair on his shiny skull stared at my passport, and his spooky eyeballs peered at me thereafter. Fear gripped me all the more as my heart dropped into my empty stomach. He motioned that I be kept at his left hand side while the rest were bundled into the next chamber. Later he dragged me into a room adjoining the outer court for questioning. It was a hurried and business-like quiz since the bell of evening sacrifice has chimed.