The howls behind him didn’t make him budge one bit, but the posse at his tail were determined more than ever to keep up with the chase. Despite being plump, Dinobi was surprisingly too fast, giving his pursuers a couple of centimeters to cover.
“Dinobi!” the lanky youth, who was closest to him, called out between labored breaths. “Please stop!”
But Dinobi didn’t stop, he took a quick turn down an alleyway, and made for the main road. His pursuers became more uncertain. Dinobi took the leap out of the pedestrian, and with a careless abandon, he dashed across, stopping on the median for less than a split second before he continued past the other motorway, cars squealing to a stop as he made such a reckless cross. His pursuers had stopped, quaking in their boots as they watched Dinobi cross the road hastily, thinking at one moment that a car would run him over. When he had crossed over without getting hurt, they cheered.
Dinobi continued his race up the stairway of a flat, taking the steps three at a time. It was a three-floor high flat, with ledges projecting from the roof. The residents of this flat were all indoors, unaware of Dinobi who was reaching for their roof. He got to the top of the building in a matter of seconds, and shut the door. He got to the edge of the roof, dropped on one lege, and looked over at his gathered neighbors who had been pursuing him since. Gasps floated around the posse. They were so terrified. Dinobi stood so close to the edge of the roof that his feet were half outside.
“Dinobi, what are you doing?” His aunt, Efuru, asked in a voice high enough that it travelled up to the roof where Dinobi stood. She was not truly his aunt, but she was kind enough to him, giving him gifts of hand-painted ties, cookies, and chocolate bars from time to time, and if you have given Dinobi gifts before, you naturally become his aunt or uncle.
Dinobi was a rare sort. He was diagnosed with Down’s Syndrome at the age of four, and he had been backward ever since. Once in a while, he did have these seizures that made him behave abnormally. At school, he did very poorly and kept repeating classes until he was sure that he had grown bigger than every other kid in school. So, he told his father that he didn’t want to go to school anymore, but he had learnt to read and loved to read fiction. His father made sure to get him a new book every new week. Dinobi didn’t know his mother as she died while giving birth to him, but he never lacked the love of a mother in that everyone tried their best to make him happy. But sometimes, it was hard to tell what was behind everyone’s kindness to him and the love which he so often got. It all seemed like pity, sometimes.
“Aunty, I am about to do suicide,” Dinobi said, his voice throaty. In addition to his Down’s Syndrome, Dinobi also had a lisp such that when he said “suicide”, his neighbors heard “thwithide”. He also had a harelip, but there were many that loved him just the way he was. His father was chief of those lovers, and for twenty-eight years he had loved this son of his, the last gift his wife gave him, her parting gift.
“What do you mean by “do suicide”?” Efuru went on to ask, looking up with desperate eyes at Dinobi. At that moment, a youth from the group began to walk towards the stairway, but Dinobi had seen him.
“None of you should come up here!” Dinobi growled, extending a foot forward. “If you do that, I will jump.”
“Come back!” Efuru said to the youth. She knew that one of their neighbors had already began the climb to that roof. He had done so immediately they had crossed the road, just before Dinobi got to the edge of the roof. She only hoped that Dinobi hadn’t been smart enough to lock the door. At this point, residents of the three-floor high were beginning to come out of their apartments, and going down to where Dinobi’s neighbors had gathered at the foot of the building. They were all astonished to see Dinobi on their roof. Passersby had also gathered, and because the three-floor high flat faced the main road, cyclists were also attracted. Dinobi had caused a spectacle. Chike, the youth that had managed to get through the stairway without Dinobi knowing, had reached the roof and found that the door was locked, and because he had a small build, he couldn’t smash the door in.
“We won’t do any such thing, Dinobi,” Efuru said. “We will do whatever you want.”
“That is very good. What I want to do is suicide,” Dinobi said.
“You don’t say it that way,” Efuru pointed out. “You don’t do suicide. You commit sui–“
“I know!” Dinobi shouted. The violence in his voice was the kind his neighbors had heard during the many incidents of seizure he had encountered before. However, this was the first time he was talking about suicide. The seizures only made him shout and cry and curse everyone around him, but suicide had never been a word he used.
He continued, “Who made suicide a crime?”
“It is a bad thing, Dinobi,” said Efuru. “Dinobi, I prepared your favourite soup, ora. Won’t you like to come down and eat?”
Immediately, a fat smile split Dinobi’s face into two happy halves. “Yes aunty!”
“Then, come down,” Efuru said, her voice holding a little note of urgency.
“No. It will be after I do my suicide, I will come down and eat your soup,” Dinobi returned, defiantly. At this point, his father joined the posse, yelling his head out. He had been at work when he got the disturbing phone call about Dinobi’s behaviour. He was a civil servant working at the Nigerian Railway Corporation. The head of his department was compassionate to let him attend to the trouble at home. Once, he made it to the scene, Dinobi’s father was livid.
“Dinobi, if you come down here, I will kill you myself!” He yelled. Dinobi flinched, melding his hands in a helpless gesture, his lips pouting. Everyone at the scene growled at Dinobi’s father for being insensitive. The poor man threw himself to the muddy ground, rented his shirt, and began to sob bitterly. During this slight distraction, two young men who were hefty enough to break down the door to the roof made their stealthy walk to the stairway without being noticed by Dinobi.
“I am a disturbance to everyone. That is why I want to do suicide,” Dinobi said, his voice weepy. A garbage truck arrived, and the gathered people made way for it to nose to the dumpsters that stood at the foot of the three-floor high flat.
Dinobi continued, paying no attention to the garbage truck or its driver who had climbed out from under the driving wheel, and had begun to stare up at Dinobi with pleading eyes just like everyone else. In their eyes, Dinobi could see the words they didn’t say: “Don’t do it!”
“I am told that we will all be in the same place when we die. Is that right, aunty?” Dinobi asked.
“Maybe. I am not sure,” Efuru said. Her eyes were now a pool of tears. She found that now that Dinobi stood just a leap from death, she loved him like that was the only thing she could do correctly.
“Then, I will find out. My mother says I should come. Dinobi wants to meet mother. Dinobi–“ A bang at the door to the roof, cut him short and frightened him to the bones. The men had overpowered the steel door finally. Dinobi turned, and saw the three men coming up to him slowly, their eyes pleading, their hands melded together like they were about to say a prayer. Maybe Dinobi thought they were blood-sucking wraiths because he gasped, his black eyes glimmering with fright, and maybe he forgot he was standing at the edge of the roof of a three-floor high flat because he took a hurried step backwards and fell off the roof. Maybe it was his plan after all, to do suicide like he called it.
However, if at all the end of his doing suicide was death, then his plans didn’t work. He fell into the open trash truck that had arrived earlier. He fell on bags of soft garbage and went unconscious instantly. A yell had come from the gathered people when they watched him fall off the roof. They hurried to the truck afterwards, hoping and praying he had survived. He did survive.
Johnson Onyedikachi is a teenage Nigerian creative writer who has unpublished manuscripts of poetry and plays. He recently picked interest in crime fiction and in August 2019, enrolled in an online course where he gained proficiency in article/journal writing including the use of referencing formats (MLA and APA style). He wrote in via firstname.lastname@example.org