Nigeria's leading fictional story blog - the man, bed bugs, left the bathroom, the girls, Europe, The immigration official, Nigerian authorities, love, Italian Coast Guard, Italy.
She took the wad of notes and dropped in on the side of the bed. Like a log of wood, she lay on her back as the man mounted her again. Soon, a procession of bed bugs was devouring her skin – on her legs, hands, neck and back. She pleaded with him that she wanted to get up, but he would not respond. He thought she was enjoying herself. He continued to pound away like a man on drug while bed bugs carted away a sizeable chunk of blood from her. Soon, he rolled over. She quickly got up and began to attack the bed bugs. They seemed to know the man; at least he did not show any sign that he too was being attacked. Perhaps, his old rough skin had grown accustomed to the bite of bed bugs or the bugs no longer found his blood tasty.
When she returned home that night, she went straight to the bathroom and showered. She would not leave the tub. She sat there, soaping and rinsing her body in a frantic effort to wash away the residues of her act. Tears descended heavily down her face. “Gbam! Gbam! Gbam!” A loud bang came on the door. “When are you going to come out?” Vivian asked. “I wish I never have to leave this place,” Ifeoma answered. “I need to wash up. Please, Ify, could you kindly come out. You have stayed there long enough,” she pleaded. She too had returned from a similar experience. Knowing that she had been through the same thing, Ifeoma reluctantly got out of the tub, dried herself and left the bathroom. Vivian jumped in and began to brush, soap and sponge herself. Soon, it was Cynthia and then Nneka. None of the girls said anything to the other girls. In the small room that all eight of them shared, each girl laid on a mattress facing the wall, refusing to utter a word.
“I want to return home,” Nneka said to Segun in the morning. “How do you mean you want to return home? How are you going to do that? You don’t even have a visa how much more flight ticket. Do you want to go back through that desert again?” Segun asked her. They were both trying to keep their voices down, but Ifeoma who was in the kitchen heard them. “If I don’t leave this place soon, I am going to commit suicide,” she said from the kitchen. “I thought I was the only one thinking that,” added Vivian. “I can’t believe I did it…or I let a man who is nearly sixty years of age do it to me,” Cynthia chipped in. The eight of them circled in the tiny guest room and debated their options. All the girls wanted to return home but the thought of going through the desert again was scarier than prostituting for money. “We have to soldier on,” Chikere urged them on.
“That is easy for you to say Chikere because you are not the one sleeping with someone old enough to be your grandparent,” Cynthia shot back at him. “Yes, what are you guys doing to raise the money for the trip across the Mediterranean Sea?” Vivian asked the boys. “Who is going to negotiate with the captain on whose ship we are going to travel to Europe? Who is going to risk their lives talking to smugglers that are so suspicious that they can shoot you without batting an eyelid? Whose job is it to find a place for us to stay as soon as we land in Italy? I am working hard to make things happen for us, so please don’t delude yourself that you are the only one working hard,” Chikere barked at her. “Let me ask you Chikere; do you really love me?” Vivian asked. Her eyes were fixated on his as she sought to see if he had any feelings for her at all. “I have been thinking the same thing,” said Ifeoma. “Please tell me, Okechukwu. Do you truly love me? How do you feel about me knowing that I slept with a sixty or late fifty something-year-old last night for money? Does that not bother you? Are you after my interest or am I a tool for you to get to Europe? Would ever marry me? Or have you lined up a well-raised girl to marry after you make your money in Europe?”
Ifeoma hurled a barrage of questions at Okechukwu who seemed to have choked. He could not answer any of her questions. He hung his head down, unable to look her in the eye. “I hate this whole idea,” John answered somberly to end the eerie silence. “I cannot believe that I let you go through that last night, Cynthia,” he continued. “I am ashamed of myself and I think all of us guys here should feel the same way. I am going to the police tomorrow to tell them that we are illegally in this country. That is the only way out. They will repatriate us to Nigeria, and for me, that is better than another frightening and excruciating journey through the desert…how much more putting the girls through that.” No one uttered a word for a while after John had spoken. “They will beat you until you stop breathing,” Chikere said disturbingly. “Then, so be it. I am not going to let Cynthia go through this again unless she wants to, in which case, she can carry on by herself. I am out of here,” John replied confidently.
Despite Chikere’s warning and that of their hosts, John turned himself in to the police with Cynthia. Chikere convinced Vivian to go into hiding with him at nearby city where some other Nigerians he knew lived. The rest of the group was at home when the police arrived. Chikere did not tell them that he was running away with Vivian. They were arrested and tortured by Libyan authorities. John regretted ever going to them when the tortures went beyond his imagination. He wondered how the girls were coping.
The girls were placed in separate cells. Ifeoma was crying when an immigration official unlocked the cell and walked in. He turned off the light and sat beside her. “You want to go home?” He asked. She nodded frighteningly. “Good. I can help you.” Her eyes got bigger. She looked at him pleadingly, hoping he would make it faster. “Please, I would like to go home,” she begged. “I help you, you help me,” the man said smiling maliciously. Again!!! She thought to herself. She began to cry. “Don’t cry, I will be gentle,” he said coldly, without emotions. The man inched closer and placed a hand on her shoulder, but she pushed him away. He tried again and she pushed him away. “Go away!!!” She shouted. The immigration official rose to his feet and left. “When you want to go home, you let me know,” he said sadistically as he locked the cell.
After one week, the torture intensified. “Why are you torturing us?” Segun asked them. “Just send us to our country. We are happy to be repatriated,” he begged as a man hit her with a metal wire. “After this, you will never come back. Some of you come several times because you want to go to Europe. And, you will tell others about this to stop them from coming,” the man with the metal cable answered as he hit his naked skin with the cable. He yelled out loud as excruciating pain rippled through his body…and soul. He could hear the cries of John and Okechukwu nearby.
Nneka, Ifeoma and Cynthia were gathered in an area that looked like a conference room. About ten men circled around them. “Now, we take it by force,” their leader said. He wore a khaki green uniform, a pair of heavy black boots and a pair of dark goggles. “When we finish, you go home,” the man said. “Yes!!!” His men shouted. “Undress them!” he ordered. Cynthia kicked and fought, but she was no match for the men who descended on her with lustful appetite. The men watched as they made the two other girls watch too while their leader raped Cynthia. She cried and begged God to take her life. When he was through, he passed her to the next officer in command who took over while Ifeoma was undressed and passed to him. Soon, a throng of men was all over the girls, who cried from deep within their hearts for help that was not available on the day.
When the plane touched down in Lagos, they all broke down in tears. The Nigerian authorities took them from their Libyan counterparts. A few days later, the Nigerian officials were demanding a bribe from their families before releasing them. One of John’s uncles, a lawyer stepped in and got them all released in no time. Ifeoma and Nneka broke up with Okechukwu and Olusegun respectively, while Cynthia and John remained together. Slowly, they tried to reintegrate back into life. Each girl carried with her, scars…emotional scars that haunted them night and day.
Ten Months Later
The ship dangled as the waves of the Mediterranean Sea pummeled it. “We’ll soon be in Italy,” Chikere assured Vivian. “It is a beautiful place. I have friends in Sicily who are willing to take us in for some time. We will make it Viivii…we’ll make it,” he said with excitement. His eyes sparkled in the dark with expectation and glee. Vivian had prostituted for months to raise the money for their trip. Chikere was already planning to dump her as soon as they arrived in Italy to make his way towards France and then England. Her use to him would end as soon as they arrived in Europe. She had served the purpose for which he convinced her to travel with him – in case of any eventuality, to sleep with men for money to raise extra cash to fund their trip across the ocean. “You will never leave me, right?” She asked him. A part of her wondered whether he cared for her at all, but she had learned to quieten that part. Somehow, she had chosen to believe that they were in this together.
“Why would I ever leave you my love? You are the most important thing that has ever happened to me,” he lied through his teeth. “I love you Chikere,” she said. “I love you too,” he replied even though in his heart, he was saying, “Mumu!!! (Fool!!!)” She reached for his lips to kiss him and he responded with feigned passion. He hated kissing her. He wondered how many men…old and young had kissed her and slept with her. He managed to plant his lips on hers momentarily before finding an excuse to end the kiss. This time, he had a very important excuse. The ship was rocking frighteningly. They were in a chamber in the ship, stacked in a manner that smacked of the packing of slaves in ship bowls for the trip to Europe, North and South America. Several other people lay on bare floor, waiting for a life on the other side. The rocking intensified and soon, the ship was tilting far too worryingly. Commotion ensued.
People ran in all directions and there was little light in the chamber. The captain had turned off the light to keep from being spotted by the Italian Coast Guard. “We are in danger of capsizing!!!” The captain announced over the radio, increasing the melee in the chamber. “Everyone go to the deck and board the lifeboats!!!” The captain added. Before they could get to the lifeboats, a massive wave hit the ship on one side, forcing it to tilt over and water filled the deck. Bodies tumbled over and the force of the wind tossed them into the ocean. All but twenty, out of the one hundred and eleven passengers were rescued by the Italian Coast Guard. The rest perished at sea.
Chikere did not make it. Vivian lay in her hospital bed covered with blankets two days later. She cried bitterly when she found out that Chikere had died. His body was never found. Months later, she was granted asylum by Italian authorities. She went on to become a nurse, working in the South of Italy with a not-for-profit organization that helped illegal immigrants arriving in Southern Italy in their numbers. She too, still bore scars of the journey but her work helped her to channel it towards helping others. She still talks to Ifeoma, Nneka and Cynthia having managed to reconnect with them via Facebook years later. Each girl warns their friends and family never to embark on the same journey…no matter the promises that are flashed at them.
(Based on real life accounts. Names have been changed to protect the individuals mentioned in this story).
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