Nina (17)

The bike man took me to an old estate a few kilometers away.
He chatted endlessly on the vices and virtues of women as we
went along, arguing for and against why I should keep Nina as
my girlfriend. I nodded automatically and “oh-ed” and “ah-ed”
in the right places to make him think I was interested in the
conversation and to keep him happy. When we finally arrived
at the place I was laughing and grinning along with him like we
were old friends. He seemed to appreciate the time spent and
refused the fare I handed him. We had already stopped at a
filling station earlier to fill up his tank so I felt his generosity
was a little late but I didn’t point this out. He collected my
number and said if I needed anything I should let him know.
The estate was divided into two rows of buildings, one on the
right and one on the left. He pointed to the third building on the
left and smiled.
“Na that one be her house. E be like say she dey stay there
with her ‘Uncle’ o.” He stressed the word uncle mischievously
and grinned. I thanked him and told him I’d be in touch and he
nodded and rode off.
Was this really the place? It seemed so quiet. There were no
security guards at the entrance to the estate and I presumed
the place would be protected by vigilantes at night. Some cars
were parked outside the apartments but they were not many
and given that the time was around noon, I supposed it was
because people were still at work. There was an old tarred
road that ran down the middle of the estate and all the
apartments were fenced, some higher than the others and
barricaded by huge gates. I cautiously approached the house
the bike man had pointed out, wondering how I would react if
Nina suddenly came out of the gate but nothing like that
happened. On getting to the gate I hesitated for a moment
then pushed the pedestrian gate a bit. It swung open with a
slight creak and I was able to look inside. It was a fairly large
apartment, painted yellow on the outside with green stripes at
the base of the building. Some sordid looking plants served as
meager representations of a once glorious hedge. There was
no vehicle in sight and no noise coming from inside the house.
I paused for a moment then took a stone and flung it against
the door. It bounced off the protective bars of the front door
with a clang and I waited patiently, listening for the sound of a
guard dog or someone coming to the door. Nothing. Finally I
took a deep breath and ventured inside.
All the while I had been outside the compound I had sensed
nothing, but the moment I entered I was assaulted by a variety
of sensations. The walls of the building emanated strange
vibrations that made me feel uncomfortable. There was an old
dead looking broom that had been lying by the corner that I
had seen before I entered but now I saw the old, dead looking
broom had a gold chain attached to it. The chain was pointing
straight upwards, defying gravity and waiting for an unlucky
person to pick up the broom and start sweeping. I avoided it
and moved towards the door where I heard a cacophony of
noises from above. I looked up and sure enough, those Bat-
like creatures I had seen the day I was abducted were
hovering just above the roof with a few perched at odd angles
in some places. They screeched when they saw me but made
no move to attack. I ignored them as well and went to the front
door where a sheet of white cold flame barricaded the inside
from unwanted intruders. This place had charms all over it. I
was sure I would see more when I moved inside. A flicker of
fear crossed my mind but I (chuks the stronger) stifled it. I
honestly believed there was nothing here that I could not
handle. With that I passed my hand through the cold white
flame and knocked on the door.
The sound seemed to reverberate through the whole house and
I waited for a while for the echoes to die down. I knocked
again and received no answer. I felt around the protector and
saw that there was a padlock which had been put in place but
not locked. I turned and removed the padlock, opened the
protector and then twisted the door knob. The door swung
This was it. Anything else I did right now would be regarded as
breaking and entering by the law. I paused again only for a
second before walking through the door. Normally this is
where a thief would have stopped. The white flame would have
prevented him from opening the door and even if he somehow
succeeded the broom would have called to him and he would
have had no choice but to answer that call. As soon as he got
to the broom the gold chain would wrap around his wrist. The
thief would have swept that compound till the owner came
back. However I entered unharmed and instead when I turned
back I saw that the white flame had disappeared and the gold
chain attached to the broom now lay lifeless on the floor. I
entered into a short and narrow corridor that led into the parlor.
The whole house seemed empty, there were some pieces of
furniture around but they were mostly old and outdated stuff.
The television that rested on a stand must have been about
twenty years old and the floor was cemented with an archaic
rug at the centre. All in all, a shabby old place. Two windows
provided ventilation to this room and without thinking I went
over and opened them. At least while I was here, let small
fresh air enter the place.
I entered into another room, a bedroom filled with better luxury
items unlike in the parlor. Obviously whoever lived here stayed
in this room most of the time. The room had a singular foam
mattress which was placed on the floor. Around it, books and
magazines littered the place and there was a mirror with a
small shelf for placing accessories. I left that room and went
on to the next door which opened into the kitchen. The dirty
pots and pans in the sink coupled with fungus growing on the
chopping board indicated a person with poor hygienic taste.
There were some tubers of yam and potatoes on the floor and
a small working fridge with fruits and sachets of drinking water
inside. The walls of the kitchen had been blackened by years
of cooking with a kerosene stove. It gave off the feeling of a
makeshift place for me. Whoever was staying here wasn’t
planning on staying long.
So far I had not encountered anything out of the ordinary since
I stepped into the house, much to my surprise. Whatever
paranormal activity that was in the vicinity seemed to be
outside the house. I had just made up my mind that the house
was totally empty and was about leaving when I heard a slight
cough. I stiffened and held my breath. I heard it again, more
like someone clearing their throat this time. I looked cautiously
around the corridor to see if I had missed a door. Sure enough,
there were three other doors at the end of the corridor. I had
not spotted them at first because a large clothes hanger had
been placed across the corridor, making it look like the
corridor had ended midway. I gently placed the clothes hanger
sideways and moved down towards the three doors. Two of
them were obviously the toilet and bathroom; they had
symbols indicating this on their pedestals. The third appeared
to be a store room and it was here the coughing had emanated
from. As I got closer I noticed a glowing light from under the
door, coming from inside the room. The person coughed
again. It was a dry, throaty cough, like someone in need of
medical attention. I tried peeking through the keyhole to see
who was there but try as I might I couldn’t get the person in
my line of vision. I tried my best to pick out anything at all that
could clue me in on what was happening in the room, what
was giving off that faint light, and finally I saw it.
Lying at the far end of the room, pulsating in its own
effervescent light, was a single white feather. A feather so
large it could have only come from one place. I closed my
eyes and braced myself for a showdown. And then I pushed
hard on the lock. It opened easily enough, it wasn’t locked
either, and I almost fell as I rushed in.
Sitting on a chair, looking thin and sickly was Nina. Her wings
still shone as bright as the day I saw her but now the gold
chain binding them was emanating a bright red fiery glow. And
even though from what I could see it appeared to be causing
her great pain, her features were blank, expressionless. She
barely blinked when I rushed towards her and held her in my
arms. Her body was cold and clammy, as if she hadn’t been
out in the sun for a while.
“Nina! Nina!!” what’s the matter? Say something!” I shouted
but she remained mute. I looked around to see if she had been
bound somehow to
the chair but I couldn’t see any restraints. I lifted her up from
the chair but then she made the first voluntary movement
since I had met her in this condition. She forcefully sat back
down again. I carried her up and she struggled away from me
and sat down again. And then I saw what the problem was. A
thin stringy substance like steel cobwebs was attached to her
head and some of then ran down her head to the chair. She
had been hypnotized. I had seen it on some other people when
I was younger. Someone else was in control of her thoughts
and didn’t want her to get up from that chair either till he
returned or he gave the order for her to do something else. I
went behind the chair and saw the intricate network of wires
and I closed my eyes. How would I get her out of this? What
did I have to do?
“You can see them can’t you? Then remove them! Don’t think too
much.” said chuks the stronger.
I waved my hands over the steel webs and they burnt away as
soon as they made contact with my skin. I continued until I
had burnt away every last string. Then I carried Nina up. This
time she remained in my arms.
I carried her out of the store and into the other more
comfortable room and lay her down on the bed. she appeared
to have regained consciousness and was crying. I told her
everything would be alright and rushed to the kitchen to get
some water. I found a clean bowl and fetched some water into
it from the tap. I also looked in the fridge and took a sachet of
water for drinking and rushed back to the room with Nina in it.
She had sat up in bed now and was looking at me bewildered. I
gave her the water to wash her face and the sachet water to
She did this and soon enough was looking more relaxed. She
held my hand as if I would suddenly bolt from the place and
leave her alone again. I assured her that we were alone and
that nobody was around at the moment.
“But what happened?” she asked, “Weren’t you at the
psychiatric hospital?”
I explained the whole story to her, how I had been abducted by
her father in law, how he had set me up to appear mad and
thus my incarceration in the hospital, and how I had finally
freed myself from his creature.
She listened wide eyed and trembled occasionally. Obviously
she had been through some experiences of her own and I
asked her what she was doing here.
“I don’t know chuks, really!” She said, still looking bewildered.
“The last thing I remember was coming back to your
apartment to bring your clothes for you. I got to the hospital
and my father- in- law took the clothes and told me to wait in
the car. I said, no I wanted to see how you were doing. The
rest was like a dream. Like I wasn’t myself. I’ve been
dreaming a lot lately, but the most scary is that once in a while
it is as if I wake up and my father- in- law is there, asking me,
almost pleading with me to do something, something that I
can’t remember right now. And each time I refuse. Then he
takes me to a small room, that small room we were in, and I
sit there for hours and hours! Wait…did I quit my job, or was
that a dream as well?
I told her she had been hypnotized and yes she had quit her
job but that could all be sorted out once we escaped from this
place. Right now I felt we were in the belly of the beast, this
was Mr A****’s hideout, where he came to do his shady deals
while in lagos. We needed to leave here as soon as possible.
She agreed and I stood her up from the bed.
“One thing,” I said, “Why do you keep calling him father- in-
law? Have you agreed to marry his son now?”
She shuddered. “Are you crazy? After all this? Never! It’s just
force of habit I guess. I have never been comfortable calling
him M r A****.”
“Okay then, just to be sure.” I said although my heart had
missed a few beats just then
She eyed me mischievously. “What, you wouldn’t have come
to save me if I had agreed to marry his son?”
“What? No!!! I mean Yes, of course I would have come to save
you even if you…”
She kissed me then, a sudden, full mouthed kiss that left me
breathless. I now understood why American movies depicted
kissing in the direst of situations. Even now, as we faced
unknown danger, that kiss drew us away from our
predicament and into a wondrous sphere of peace and calm.
Stars exploded in my head, imaginary stars, not spiritual, and I
could sense chuks the stronger savoring the kiss as well.
When she finally let me go it took all my willpower not to drag
her back in my arms for another one.
“I was just teasing you, you know.” she said smiling, “I knew
you would come to rescue me. Let’s go.” And she went ahead
of me.
I savored the kiss a little while longer and made to go when I
felt a gentle tug in my mind. I held my hand to my mouth and
pretended to be
coughing. “What is it?” I whispered under my breath.
This girl…that kiss…wow. This girl is something else, said chuks
the stronger.
“Now? Really? You want to analyze a kiss now?” I thought
“The taste of her, the aroma of her breath, the softness of her skin,
even her spirit went into that kiss.”
I moved forward and tried to ignore chuks commentary in my
brain. This was not the time to be behaving like a schoolboy
having his first kiss.
We were through the corridor and were almost out the door
when I heard the sound of a vehicle approaching. We both
froze at the door, hoping the car would pas but it didn’t. it
remained purring at the front gate and then somebody came
down and opened the gate from the outside. We ran back
inside and watched from the windows as the car drove in. It
parked across the front door and the driver went back to close
the gate. We waited in anticipated breath, hoping he was
alone, maybe he came to collect something but we were
having no such luck. The driver went to the back of the car and
opened the doors and out stepped Mr A*****. Nina let out a
small scream and I closed her mouth with my hands and led
her to the kitchen. We hid behind the kitchen door with the
hope that when he entered and went to check on her we would
be able to make our escape. We heard the parlor door open
and Mr A****’s calm voice, telling the driver he could go. He
obviously handed him something of value because the driver
started to thank him profusely and finally we heard the car
come to life again and drive out of the compound. Mr A***
seemed to settle down in the parlor and for a while everything
was silent.
Nina’s body trembled beside mine as we stayed behind the
kitchen door, waiting for a chance, for him to make a move.
After about what seemed like an eternity although in reality it
couldn’t have been more than ten minutes, we heard Mr A****
yawn and say to himself, “I’m tired of all this.” There was a
little more silence then he shouted.
“Mr Chukwudi, will you please stop hiding and come out where
I can see you!”
Nina almost fainted. I felt her knees buckle and held her up as
she trebled even more uncontrollably. We were still silent then
I heard his voice again:
“Surely you remember what I told you before about my pet
bats, or wasn’t that what you called them? They are my
lookouts, my sentries. I have been alerted of your visit ever
since you entered this compound. Please come out.”
In my mind I felt Chukwudi the stronger giggle. “That’s more
like it. Let’s have this over and done with!” Then he became
quiet again. I stood up and decided I might as well come out,
but Nina could stay behind, he had no way of knowing I had
freed her from his spell. If he did I would find out soon
enough. I motioned for her to stay hidden and came out. Tears
were streaming down her eyes and she looked terrified. I
smiled at her and whispered there was nothing to worry about,
we’d be fine and then I walked out of the kitchen into the
corridor. As I approached I felt Chuks the stronger in my mind
pushing, straining to say something. I stopped.
“What is it?” I asked.
“The girl…that kiss”
“Honestly Chuks, now is not the time! We are about to face Mr
A***! The one who put us in a psychiatric hospital! Goodness
knows what
arsenal he has at his disposal and you are here going gaga
over a kiss!”
“Well, yes.” Chukwudi the stronger said. I could feel him
becoming uncomfortable, like he was about to admit
something that was very unpalatable to him.
“ What is it?! ” I asked out loud.
“Good, you finally decided to show, Chukwudi.” Mr A**** said.
“Come out, come out, I won’t hurt you”
“Are you happy now? He has heard us!” I said angrily.
“You were going to meet him before anyway, weren’t you?”
Chuks said. “Relax. Besides, from what I have seen I don’t
think he is the one you
should be worrying about.”
I stopped short.
“What do you mean?”
“Well, I’ve been trying to tell you…” he said with a jovial voice,
“The kiss… the girl we left in the kitchen. She is stronger than
both of you.”
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