“Last card!” Chibuike voice betrayed his excitement.
“Last card my foot. Everybody, go general market joor…” Chima smirked as he played a card with the number fourteen.
Chima watched as the four picked up a single card from the inverted stack of Whot cards that slept idly on the ground. The room was illuminated by a faint ray of candlelight. The paint on the wall was a confused intermediate of blue and green. Nothing else occupied the room except the huge black hunchbacked television, the yellow and blue mat upon which they sat and three plastic chairs for visitors.
“Emma, pick two,” Gideon said.
“Arrr…” Emmanuel stretched out to pick two cards, “Gideon, I will have my revenge o…”
Their chorus laughter could be heard from outside the small bungalow.
It was Chibuike’s turn and neither of the two cards on his hands had a ten or a rectangle shape to continue the game; he had to do the needful.
“I was this close to winning,” Chibuike pinched his thumb to his index finger and then picked a card from the general market.
“Deji, you are next to play na.” Gideon said, “What are still analysing?”
“Abi you need to go to the market too?” Chima asked, installing laughter on the lips of everyone playing the game.
“Market? Abeg o…” Deji brought out a Whot card from the stack of cards on his left hand. It had the number twenty on it.
“I need a triangle.”
Chima who was next didn’t find one and so he had to pick from the general market to add to the five cards his hands already imprisoned. This wasn’t going as planned for Chima. Although he succeeded in preventing his younger brother, Chubuike, from winning, he didn’t seem to have a chance to win, too.
“I am coming,” Emmanuel stabbed his cards into his pocket. He doesn’t trust peeping eyes falling ‘accidentally’ on his cards. “I wanna pee.”
Every slouched back relapsed to relaxation.
“Be fast o…” Deji cried.
Emmanuel opened the door admitting the cool night breeze, which strayed aimlessly outside, into the sitting room.
The flame on the candle which illuminated the sitting room flickered passionately.
“Please close the door; mosquitoes o…” Chima said.
The door was shut. Noisily.
The sound of a continuous stream of urine falling on a stone could be heard. Liberty Road, Amule, Ayobo side of Lagos State was surprisingly quiet by 11:37 pm that day. Yes, there was no single generator turned on by then.
“Guys, come and see,” Emmanuel shouted from outside spurring everyone inside to rush out to feed their curiosity.
There were two manly figures in mummy Judith’s room. Their shadows betrayed their presence. They seemed to be arguing on where to search and what to carry. The duo knew that Judith and her mum, the only two occupants of the brown bungalow, were not home. It was the last Friday of the month and they, just like Chima and Chibuike’s mum, were busy praying hard in the vigil their Church organized.
They crept closer to get a clearer view of the burglars.
“That’s Kunle’s shoe outside na” Deji’s whisper wasn’t so soft. The burglars suddenly faced the window. They were busted. Not the burglars, the boys. The boys dispersed. Chima and Chibuike’s house were too close and obvious to get to and so, holding Chibuike by the hand, Chima dashed towards a different direction. The other boys, who were distant neighbours, ran until their feet landed in their various homes. Just four minutes to midnight and the boys were not even thinking about a mat to lie down on. The only thought in their mind was how not to get caught. They jumped rocks, gutters, stones and broken walls until they found themselves between death in motion and death asleep.
The-12-year-old Chima stopped at the sight before them. Rectangular concrete containers of dead people aligned side by side. Chima’s skin became filled with small pebble-like elevations that covered him from his forehead to his legs. His body quivered with fear. Chibuike, who was only 9 years old didn’t seem as scared at the sight of the cemetery. The air was getting cold and somewhat violent. Chima turned to check out if their pursuers had given up.
He was wrong. The robbers wouldn’t let any witnesses go scot-free. Chima knew both he and his younger brother would be sliced into sizable chunks if they were caught. He was sure because they could not be carrying a cutlass and a rifle if they only wanted a friendly discussion. Chibuike was a fast runner and it pleased Chima that he didn’t lag or drag him back. They jumped from tombstone to tombstones. The bass-like roar of their feet against the cold cement that hid the dead was loud enough to give the robbers a clue of where they were running towards.
It was a hot pursuit. Chima and Chibuike could hardly breathe as the cold air splashed over their face by force. They can’t afford to be caught. Chibuike was losing energy and was now behind Chima in the race.
“Hurry!” Chima’s voice echoed in the silence. He wasn’t looking until he stepped on something that felt like the moist skin of a catfish. He had landed on the abdominal cavity of an exposed corpse and all the rottenness of the decay swallowed his right foot sending sleeping flies and a dark stench into the air. The shock and irritation made Chima pass out.
“Chima, where are you?” Chibuike cried out.
He stopped running and just sat by a white tombstone. He was dizzy. His eyes were nearly dried up. His breath noisier and faster than normal. He threw himself to the white gravels that pitted a small rectangular depression on an old grave. He folded himself into a curled ball. He was exhausted.
An owl hooted. Chibuike could hear it. He feared being eaten by strange animals but his weakness surpassed his freight. He saw touch lights dancing up and down from afar. His mind willed that he waved his hand so he would be spotted, but his weak body couldn’t carry out the command. His weak eyes began to shut effortlessly until he wasn’t even aware of what crawled across his legs.
People from Legacy road and Wonderland Estate, Amule, Ayobo, Lagos woke up before the sun. Those who dared to walk into the Ayobo cemetery did. Others lingered around the broken short fence that partly surrounded the wide land of the dead. Some vigilante had caught the burglars and returned the stolen items to the house it originally rested. Chima’s mum was back from the vigil and without undressing searched for her sons. She was aided by the residents of the Amule area.
“I see two lifeless bodies over here,” a man in his early thirties said, “Oh… Just one lifeless decaying body.”
Chima opened his eyes to the shadow frame of a stranger who backed the early morning sun. The sun rays shot him in the eyes so much that he had to squint to see the man’s face.
Chima woke up to meet Tombstones around him. He was not dreaming; what happened actually took place. He spotted his legs; the sight of it was gruesome. Dried intestines and some other decaying visceral coated his legs. If he had a sword beside him, he would have, out of impulse, cut off the leg and run away. He plucked off his shirt from his body and, as a napkin, wiped off what could be wiped off.
He saw his mum run to him. The fair-complexioned woman was as tall as their parlour door. As she ran to him, the scarf she was still wearing from the vigil followed the wind and her all-back hairdo was publicized. She didn’t care about her look; she was glad Chima was not without life. She hugged him so tightly that she seemed to have ignored that he was in a mess. Even the petrifying stench had no repelling power over the strong bond of motherhood. Emmanuel, Gideon and Deji were present too. Chima was glad that neither of them was injured.
“Where is your younger brother?” His mother asked him.
“I passed out while he was still running,” his fingers paraded the thick black hairy forest on his head, “that’s all I can recall, mum.”
“I’ve seen him!” Chima’s eye brightened at the sight of the wearer of the red T-shirt that contrasted the white grave he slept on some meters away.
They both ran up to meet him.
It was about eleven minutes past seven. The sun was out but its rays were still soft and unripe.
“Chibuike,” Chima tapped him repeatedly, “wake up.”
“Did I win the Whot card game?” Chibuike stirred his body to face Chima. His voice was heavy.
“You will,” he pulled him from the grave, “as soon as we get back home.”
Ebube Ezeadum, a lover of creative writing wrote via email@example.com