THE INTERVIEW - Episode 2

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Nigeria's leading fictional story blog - witchdoctor, blood, victims, The red-hot bullet, earth, The shrine, woman.



The woman in front of Ogadi appeared unperturbed by the unfolding events; she was so indifferent that it didn't take much for Ogadi to realize she was with them…that she'd probably been on the bus to abate the suspicion in skeptical commuters who tended to let down their guards at the sight of a harmless woman. Ever since the increase in bus transport crimes, commuters had become even more picky when they chose what buses to ride in.

Ogadi's world was spinning fast, whirling, as though he suffered a vertigo attack. The men still hadn't asked for the passengers' personal belongings, and as the bus sped along the now quiet road with the long, forlorn grass on either side that unfurled as the wind hit them, Ogadi pondered about this. He silently prayed for some miracle; perhaps a police intervention or a mild crash. He wondered why they were plying this lonely route whose silence and inactivity made it all the more eerie. A new thought was beginning to form in his head; one more unsettling than what he'd previously assumed. He shook his head to disrupt it, to form waves and ripples that would crash and disturb the tranquility of the ominous thoughts that were collecting in his head. And then, he hoped the bus wouldn't come to a stop anytime soon; that way he could keep death at bay; postpone the inevitable. Images began to flood his head, faces he would never see again: his mother's, his father's, Chinenye's, his best friend, Nnamdi.

When, eventually, the bus veered off the road and into the bushes, jouncing along the rocky, brown dirt-road that was really a footpath, he was panic-stricken. Grass and stalks beat against the side of the bus that was a little too large for the narrow pathway, and its underside was continually assailed with sand and stone pellets so that there was a constant grating noise. Ogadi wondered why they were being conveyed deep into the forest. He'd expected that they'd be dispossessed by the side of the road. Unless the thought he'd dispelled had been accurate.

The danfo hurtled along for a while, with its occupants careening and bouncing as it did. Heads bobbed uncontrollably and perhaps, this vigorous movement of body parts was what propelled a woman in the first row to wail. Or perhaps it was the inexplicable precognition that they had neared their destination. Or maybe it was simply that the truth about their predicament had finally begun to sink in, just as it was beginning to with Ogadi. The driver, who until now had remained mute, brought the bus to an abrupt stop so that its occupants were thrown forward and almost off balance.

"Oya (Okay) all of you, come down," he commanded. The conductor slid open the door that was rust-brown on the inside and as they alighted, one after the other with slow, unsure steps, like convicts headed towards the gallows, Ogadi found it hard to breathe. He sucked in mouthfuls of air in large gasps to calm his tensed up nerves. Outside the bus, Ogadi found that the bush didn't smell of nature; it reeked of agony and death.

The conductor and the dark-skinned man pointed their pistols at the passengers and made them walk in a single file, with their hands on their heads, through an even narrower path ahead that could not have accommodated the width of the bus. As they trudged along beneath the dense, overlapping evergreens, occasionally doubling over whilst rustling and crunching dry leaves and twigs with heavy feet, Ogadi saw that the unperturbed woman did not walk in line with the rest of them. She walked far ahead of the group until soon, she was completely out of sight.  The dark-skinned man walked behind, his pistol at the ready, in the event that someone attempted an escape. The conductor walked on the side, calling out occasional instructions to the man at the lead: "Follow here. There. Yes."

Soon, they arrived at a small enclosure on which sat a shrine that was built out of dried thatch and bamboo. The shrine was littered with tiny pieces of red cloth and effigies and dirty-brown skulls. The morbid skulls looked to be human and they drilled more panic into the hearts of the eleven victims and their frightened murmurs and pleas increased in pitch. Inside the shrine, Ogadi saw that the woman who'd gone ahead of them was now wrapped in a red cloth and was helping a man mix something in a large cauldron. The man was clothed in a red skirt and one half of his face was covered in white chalk. He ignored the newcomers and stared instead into the cauldron and chanted incomprehensibly as the woman stirred the mixture with a ladle.

"On your knees!" the dark-skinned man thundered and everyone immediately did as he'd commanded. He stood aside to let the conductor and driver arrange them in a semi-circle. Afterward, the woman backed out of the shrine, bearing old ropes that had probably been used time and again. She gave some to the conductor and driver, and together, they tied the victims' hands firmly behind their backs. Ogadi felt the rope bite into his flesh as the conductor bound his hands securely. He wanted to cry, not from the pain, but from the thought of an imminent death. He managed to fight back the tears but his eyes remained misty.

When the last of them had been bound by the wrist, the witchdoctor came out into the full glare of the sunlight bearing a staff. Now that Ogadi saw him clearly, he looked even more terrifying: his bald head bound in a red band with a large feather sticking out at the top, his eyes bloodshot and his face devoid of emotion, as though he was death incarnated, as though he snuffed out lives on a whim.

He chanted incantation after incantation, dashing forward toward the center of the semicircle and then pirouetting and dancing his way back toward the shrine. Some people had lost their composure and were heaving and sniffing as they sobbed uncontrollably. The woman went in to retrieve the cauldron and set it down at the middle of the semicircle. Then, she began to ululate as she joined the witchdoctor in the frenzied dance. With a raised arm, the witchdoctor soon signaled that it was time. From behind the semicircle, the driver emerged, now shirtless, with a club and stood by the pot. The woman joined him, sharp knife in hand. The dark-skinned man and the conductor still stood at the ready behind the circle, their guns cocked.

"First person," the witchdoctor called, and there was tumult as the man and woman on either end of the line struggled to their feet in blind fury and desperation, uncertain about what end the conductor would begin from. The woman was screaming frantically for help but the men laughed at her. "Kneel down!" the dark-skinned man commanded but in their frenzy, they didn't seem to hear him. A moment later, the man broke out into a run that was lopsided because his shackled arms wouldn't sway. The woman saw him take off and followed his lead. The next minute, there was a deafening explosion as the dark-skinned man's gun went off. A plume of smoke arose from the muzzle of the rusty gun. The gun-toting man strode in the direction that the fugitives had run, his face tight with annoyance. He grabbed the woman roughly by the arm and dragged her back toward the semicircle to rejoin the rest.

She'd been startled by the gunshot and had fallen to the ground in confused panic. The red-hot bullet had whistled past her and hit the escaping man in the back and he was now a bloody mass sprawled across the matted floor of the bushes. The woman was screaming hysterically, flailing her arms wildly and beating against the matted earth as she was pulled toward the pot. Once there, the witchdoctor held his staff against her head in a kind of examination, and then, he nodded to the driver. In a flash, the driver had bashed the woman's head from behind with his club, spattering warm blood across his chest and face. The woman tottered for a moment and then keeled over. Crimson blood poured freely from the gaping wound in the back of her head and her eyeballs rolled until the pupils were gone from them and all that remained was a ghostly white. Once again, the driver raised the club that was now dripping with blood and in one fell swoop, the club had pounded the woman's head again so that the skull was shattered. And then, he went into a frenzy and clubbed what remained of the woman's head until it was a pulverized blob of bones, creamy brain fluids and bloodied flesh.

Suddenly there was mayhem. The other victims began to scream "Jesus!!!" at the top of their lungs until the women lost their voices and the men began to sound like the women. Ogadi lost his reserve and began to cry. The dark-skinned man had returned to his former position behind them now, his gun at the ready. The driver turned the corpse over and quickly, their female cohort set to work with the knife. She cut open the cadaver's belly and inserted her arm in the warm trunk to retrieve the bloodied heart. Afterward, she took it into the shrine and emerged emptyhanded.

"Make una no try that again (Don’t you dare try anything)," the witchdoctor said, addressing the captives. "You try it, you die bad death like this woman." The other kidnappers laughed and he called out for the next victim. A struggling man was brought forward but his struggle was weak, half-hearted as though he had already lost the will to live; as though he knew there was no escape for him. He was made to kneel before the pot and again, the witchdoctor held his staff against the man's head. He nodded his permission to the driver and in the time that it took Ogadi to blink, the man had been clubbed behind the head, so that he was now still on the earth. The driver raised the man's unconscious body to its knees once again and balanced his head forward, over the top of the open pot, supporting his back with a hand so that he wouldn't crumple back to the earth.


Story Continues...
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Alex Kadiri

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Moofyme.com: An African Literary Blog: THE INTERVIEW - Episode 2
THE INTERVIEW - Episode 2
Nigeria's leading fictional story blog - witchdoctor, blood, victims, The red-hot bullet, earth, The shrine, woman.
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Moofyme.com: An African Literary Blog
http://www.moofyme.com/2016/08/the-interview-episode-2.html
http://www.moofyme.com/
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