I knew it would be stupid of me not to join the crowd at that moment. The adage “don’t follow the crowd” was not applicable in this situation. I mean, whatever could cause people to be running while I walked in the opposite direction had to be that dangerous. With a quick turn, I took to my heels while wondering what was the cause of the chaos. My inquisitive side got hold of me as I asked my partner in the race if he knew what we were running from. I was not disappointed; he also did not know. He joined the crowd like me. I asked another beside me and got the same answer. I looked up and asked God for mercy as we were all running a rat race and none knew why.
Some seconds after, we stopped and turned back to watch. Others had stopped too and I felt it was high time I knew what made me do an unnecessary exercise in a hot afternoon. I pushed my way between the still panting runners straight to meet anyone who had an idea of what was pursuing us. However, my sudden boldness was short-lived as we all heard the words “excuse me” and everyone started running again. Before I joined the host of many others, I caught a glimpse of a man totally in tattered clothes, holding a stick and coming at us. Well, I got my answer. We were being chased by a mad man ready to instill injuries on us. I ran with all my might but it seemed the mad man was a better runner. He was getting closer. It had been long a mad man had displayed such height of madness in our community and I began to wonder whether my mother’s dream was coming to reality.
My mother had called me earlier that week that I should be careful in my going out and coming in. With various verses of the scriptures, she prayed till her airtime got exhausted. I didn’t bother calling her back because I didn’t want to be disturbed by her scary dream. Now it seemed it was finally coming to reality. Coming back to the present, I realized the mad man had stopped to rest and people had stopped too. I was getting angry. I had places to go but this was a one-way street and the only way was the mad man’s way. People had started going back home to come out whenever the man had passed. Others were entering people’s shop for cover while children saw this as a time to test the strength of their limbs as they moved close to him and then ran away again. I could not go back home and so I looked around for a shop that I could quickly seek refuge.
Sadly, the mad man did not let me make my decision as he started walking right to me. People began running again but I stood transfixed. I think I was paralyzed with fear already as he came closer. Mothers were shouting and praying and men began looking for whatever they could use to tie him down. I just stood recalling my mother’s prayers and asking for her forgiveness. I must have almost wet my trousers when I heard his clear voice. I think he must have said “excuse me Sir” thrice before I realized it was coming from the mad man. My fear turned to laughter immediately. I was sure onlookers would have thought he had transferred the madness to me as he came close. Once he saw he had my attention, he sighed out of relief. He pleaded with me not to run that he was not chasing me. Explaining further, he said he did not have an extra iota of strength to chase and could barely walk hence the use of the stick. My question of who exactly he was made him sigh again. At this time, people began coming closer. Maybe to watch two madmen interact, who knows. Seeing my back up around, I demanded in all authority to know who he was and why he was chasing the community. He explained that he was a business man kidnapped a month ago who escaped his captors and had been wandering around the bush hence his appearance. He was simply trying to get someone to explain his predicament but his look made people think he a mad man and his hurried steps towards them made them think he was pursuing them. He simply made the whole community exercise their limbs today. Thankfully, we were able to provide better clothes and lead him to the police station.
One leaving, one of the men said he now believed one should not judge a book by its cover. The madman was not a madman after all. Well, I disagree. Everyone has a way of dressing for easy recognition before their first speech. A banker, a doctor, a carpenter, a prostitute and even a madman. The madman’s appearance denied him any opportunity to speak. He was already addressed as a mad man though he was a business man.
Osanyinro Oluwaseun, a graduate of Microbiology and currently a master student of Public Health at the University of Ibadan runs a blog on WordPress deejemima.wordpress.com