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Enroute by Peace Habila.



As soon as the bus came to a stop at the Maza-maza park in Lagos, I gave a sigh that was more of a fine blend of disgust and gratitude. A glance at my swollen feet forced me to rain curses beneath my breath on all those who contributed to making my first trip from Jos to Lagos awful. Somehow, I was grateful for surviving the last episode at Ojodu Berger.

The bus drove into a park at Ojudu to allow some passengers alight. It was also a good opportunity for us to stretch our fatigued legs, catch some fresh air and relieved our souls of the episodes of strange events that took place in bus. The walkway was crowded with passengers struggling to make it out of the bus. I dragged my soured soul and feet without saying a word to any soul. Soon, we were in a stampede and there was no justifiable reason for that. The atmosphere became heated once more. I found myself inhaling different flavours of body and mouth odour. I was still thinking of how to escape this horrific experience when he engineered the episode. At first, I thought it was someone’s phone vibrating close to me but something about its intensity barged my mind.  That forced me to stand still for a minute or less with my attention wrapped around the sensors beneath my skin. Then the vibration felt like automated spasm. At that moment, I became restless; I held my breath to create a contraction of my starved intestines. The contraction gave me little air space to turn, maybe, at 15degrees or less, just to see the boiling hell behind me. My drowsy and sleep- denied- eyes fell on this young lad. He should be 20years but nothing less than that, my instincts assured me. He was having his seizure or crisis. The ungodly heat and the ungodly shades of odour, in company   of all the other things wrong with the bus that had defiantly denied us fresh air throughout the night journey, must have contributed and ignited his triggers.  Apparently, he has been battling epilepsy.  In a twinkling of an eye, the lad was down and at that moment he was convulsing vehemently. As soon as he reached the ground, all passengers were flung to several directions. Our prayer warrior didn’t hesitate to start making demands on heaven. ‘Father, we have had enough for one night’, she thundered. Demons, we command you to leave, she continued. Without sparing a thought we unanimously chorused ‘amen’. We were advised to allow him to express the drama attached to the convulsion in peace. It saw him flexing his muscles as well as hitting his body parts forcefully against the metal base of the seats. Soon, he was wrapped in his own blood and decorated by thick, creamy, and slimy sputum from his now broken and thick lips. He was relieved after few minutes and we all heaved sighs of relief at intervals. Deep within us, we knew this wasn’t close and can never be compared to the previous episode we had witnessed at Akure.

We knew we had reached Akure because the not- so- bright rays of light splitting the dark sky afforded us the opportunity to catch glances at the plantain plantations arranged along the road. 90 percent of the passengers were deep asleep. They were not to blame; it was the perfect time to answer nature’s call.  The dull bedroom kind of light that hung carelessly next to the television that was just for decoration in the bus didn’t have much impact on the sleeping passengers. For the first time since we started the journey, the bus was as quiet as a graveyard. I enjoyed the silence because it stole my preoccupied mind away into the land of the daydreamers. I was really enjoying the cruise until I was interrupted by a loud shout. ‘They are coming o! Run! Na ce ku gudu! He yelled. The sleeping passengers were immediately recalled from the cloudland. His voice thundered like the tsunami. He impulsively made his way to the door. The strange thing about this ‘drama’ was that his eyes were closed so his movements were not very coordinated. This saw him crashing into other passengers who just returned from the dreamland. No one knew what was wrong. As the chaos laced in confusion grew, tongues began to wag. Some called it a demonic attack, others tagged it a terrorist decoy to create a detour that would facilitate our adoption. It took an extremely sound mind seated at the back to chant, ‘he is sleepwalking’. By then the chubby lady was already raising prayer altars. We didn’t know what to think because our woes grew many wings because the driver didn’t bother to stop. He continued the trip as he gave an unvoiced permission for tongues to continue to wag. Tales of horror about night journey reigned the air until we were choked by the fears created by our illusion. We were comforted by the fact that the air was reigned by an invisible force. It wasn’t as bad as the previous episode at Lokoja.

We knew we had gone halfway into the journey when we got to Lokoja. The driver pulled over at a fuel station and ordered us in his cranky voice to dislodge our bladders. ‘Make wuna come down piss o. I no wan hear I wan piss later’, he said. For obvious reasons, the fuel station was alive with vendors selling food, drinks, papers, and other odd items. Other luxurious buses, whose drivers had gone to exchange Igbo pleasantries with other drivers, were parked there as well. As soon as those who had gone out came in, the driver started the bus. We had driven for just about five minutes when the highly irritable event happened. A lady, who should be in her forties, grabbed the genital of the teenage boy seated next to her.  As odd as that may appear, the lady pretended not to see the light flashed on her face. Maybe, she was going through mid-life crises but that was taken too far. A young man, who was livid of the unwholesome act, landed a slap on the lady’s face. By then, the excruciating pains had forced the lad to puke as he groaned and grasped for air.  In Pain, he pushed a basket of onion that was left carelessly close to his leg. The onions dispersed into several directions; no one bothered about the onions. The slap forced her to release the lad. Tongues started wagging and the curses rained on this lady almost brought the skies down. I kept wondering what had pushed this lady to such a disgraceful act. Moments later the heat in the bus fermented the vomit and the onions that were already drenched  in the vomit began to emit suicidal venom.  The now sour vomit in company of smelly onions released a stench that clouded the bus. It was near impossible to breathe. Each dosage of  the ‘sick air’ taken in found a space to leech around our throats thereby causing us to long for fresh air. It left a blank taste in our mouths as no one desired food or water.

From the onset of the journey, I knew I needed a second life to survive this particular  night journey. The obvious reason was because the guy next to me in the bus wore a   perfume with an offensive  fragrance.  It  was strong enough to cause a miscarriage. He must have emptied an entire bottle on himself, probably, to hide the fact that he needed a thorough body wash. When I couldn’t bear it anymore, I prayed beneath my breath: ‘Lord, let thy will be done’. Little did I know that what was ahead was far more dramatic that an overdose of perfume.


Peace Habila, a resident of Jos, Plateau state is passionate about creative writing. She wrote in via peacehaila2017@gmail.com

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