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Nigeria's leading fictional story blog - woman, thickened blood, The Christian woman, the bus, blindfolds, Our medicine man, witchdoctor.

The woman took her knife to his throat and slit it with a swiftness that spoke of experience and dexterity, and most of the blood gushed out into the pot. The scene reminded Ogadi of the chickens he had slaughtered in the past; how sharp metal had torn through flesh until the life therein began to ebb like the moribund flickers of a candlelight out in the open wind, and how, afterward, he'd seen their death throes - the unconscious flap of wings. Ogadi bent over, retched a few times and then vomited. One by one, the captives were taken out to be slaughtered. And then, it was Ogadi's turn. He walked listlessly toward the pot, his breathing quick and heavy, so that when he inhaled, he wheezed. He knelt before it and the witchdoctor held his staff to his head. In that moment, everything went blank as he waited for the club to descend upon his head from behind.

"Bad market. Carry this one away first," the witchdoctor said and Ogadi opened his eyes in utter bewilderment. He was made to kneel a few yards away from the pot and the witchdoctor called out for the next captive to be brought forth. The fat woman, the one who had sat beside him in the bus, was brought forward. Her eyes were still closed in fervent meditation. Her voice was hoarse now, not from screaming like the others, but from fierce praying. The witchdoctor held his staff against her neck and once again declared "bad market". The kidnappers murmured for a bit and then, she was made to kneel beside Ogadi.

Only one man remained now. The witchdoctor called for him and afterward, he held his staff against the man's head. Everyone held their breath as they waited for the witchdoctor's decision. He nodded and the next minute, the man's head had been bashed in. Ogadi looked around. The entire place was damp with thickened blood, as though the earth had bled for a long time. The pot had streaks of thick red that had congealed on its exterior and the mixture in it had increased by a great deal. All, except three hearts had been collected, and Ogadi's and the portly preaching woman’s were among the three. The last was the fugitive; they'd probably considered his heart useless since the bullet seemed to have exploded near his heart.

Ogadi wasn't certain what his fate was. He didn't know if he would yet be killed, and so fear still choked him. The Christian woman was still muttering prayers, her lips quivering as she did. "Carry these people from here," the witchdoctor said to no one in particular. The conductor and the dark-skinned man helped Ogadi and the woman to their feet and nudged them in the direction that they had come. Ogadi's heart was thumping loudly as they walked along the narrow path. Was this freedom? And then, they took a bend which he did not remember. They walked for some time until they arrived at a rather large expanse of sparse, scant grassland. Brown earth protruded some parts of the expanse, as though the land had been disturbed. The protrusions looked like ridges that had been cultivated for planting, but there were no shoots or sprouts or tendrils; just coarse brown earth. The conductor went into a nearby bush and emerged with two shovels. Afterward, he chose two spots close together and thrust the base of the shovels into each spot, so that the shovels stood firm. The other man cut loose their restraints.

"Go choose one," he said. "Then, dig. You see these ones here?" He gestured towards the many ridges that dotted the expanse. "Dig am like that (dig it like that)." Ogadi knew this was the end. As he and the woman approached their shovels, he considered fighting back with the tool. He felt a sudden surge of energy. He wanted to take one person down with him. But in the end, he reasoned that either of the men's guns would blast him open before he took two rebellious steps in their direction. The conductor rejoined the other man and together they watched them dig.

"You never dig before (have you never dug a hole before)?" the conductor barked. "Dig like human beings," he added sarcastically. He whispered something in his colleague's ear and the other man nodded. Soon, they were inspecting the work to see if it was ready. They made them dig a few more times, and then the graves were ready. "Oya (Okay), drop the shovel and kneel down," the dark-skinned man said. They did and the conductor returned the shovels. "How much una get (How much do you have)?" He asked when he rejoined them. "Bring everything out or we naked you here (bring out everything, else, we’ll strip you naked)." Ogadi handed over his wallet and the woman said that her bag was on the bus. The conductor rummaged through the wallet and held the three hundred naira up against the fading sunlight that was now of an orange color. "Only three hundred naira?" He slapped Ogadi behind the head. "Big man like you. And you get money to barb head (And you have the money to cut your hair). Anyway, congrats. This your head good for slap (Well, that makes your head a good slapping target)."

"Uncle, please," Ogadi stuttered. "That is all I have." He was speaking for the first time since his capture and his voice was trembling. "I was on my way to an interview before..." He left the rest of the sentence hanging, uncertain how wise it would be to say the kidnap had foiled his interview. The conductor went around to the other woman and kicked her. "Why you leave your bag for bus (Why did you leave your bag on the bus)?" The woman remained mute, perhaps for lack of what to say to the unreasonable young man. The conductor returned and fumbled again in the wallet, spilling most of its contents on the floor. They were mostly identity cards, each serving a different purpose. The conductor crouched and picked one up. At the top, it said: University of Nigeria (NSUKKA). The card was well past its duration but Ogadi still carried it around anyway. He never disposed of his identity cards, perhaps to make his empty wallet appear fat.

"You attend this school?" he asked. "Yes, I finished from there." The woman was no longer muttering and was now watching them. The dark-skinned man took a seat on a tree stump. He seemed fatigued from all the standing. "Which year you finish?" the conductor asked. "Two years ago. 2014." "Ah, I finish before you. I finish 2013." Ogadi's expression was puzzled. Although he found some comfort in their conversation which, for him, was strained, he found it hard to believe that this man was actually a graduate. As though he'd read Ogadi's thoughts, the conductor said: "You no believe me because I'm speaking pidgin? I fit speak English if I want. But when I dey school, na pidgin we dey speak. So I don master the thing." Ogadi managed a smile. He studied the man's face. Although the hostility was gone from it, there was no warmth - nothing to propel him toward optimism. At best, his face was expressionless and Ogadi couldn't tell if this little chit-chat would save his life. In the end, he decided to tread cautiously; he would play along and try to be extremely jovial. "Which department you finish from?" "Mass communication." "Ah. The same faculty. I finish from sociology. You remember Jatto?"

Ogadi remembered him. Mr. Jatto. The temperamental gray-haired lecturer in the department of sociology whom students liked because his classes were always effervescent. He'd taught a few general courses and so Ogadi knew him quite well. "Yes," he said. "That man too funny. One time, he choose course rep for my class. One oversabi (I know it all) boy come stand up say make he allow us choose our own rep by raffle draw because na our interest he go represent." He chuckled before he added: "The man vex. You know wetin he tell the boy?" Ogadi shook his head with curious attention, a false smile plastered to his face. "He tell the boy say when he wan marry, make he select him wife through raffle draw." Ogadi really wanted to laugh at this joke but his predicament wouldn't let the humour sink in, so he simply faked a laughter that was rather throaty; one that came off like a goat's bleat.

"You never finish with them?" The other man called out from where he was seated. "Make dem do quick enter that thing abeg (please)."

The conductor ambled over to the dark-skinned man and for a moment, they seemed to deliberate on some issue. The dark-skinned man was shaking his head violently and the conductor was gesturing that he should calm down. Ogadi looked at the woman and wondered if she had the same thought; it was time to flee. The kidnappers were lost in their argument and if they ran into the bushes behind them, they could get away from their captors. The woman didn't notice his gaze as she watched the kidnappers and Ogadi decided he would break loose on his own; with that bulk, she would slow him down anyway and probably give away their position. He made to rise up to his feet but at that very moment, the conductor turned and walked in their direction, and so he dusted his knee and placed it back on the ground.

"Make una stand up," the conductor said. "We go drop una for express." Ogadi quickly rose to his feet and began to chant "Thank you" in a singsong. He was elated and it felt like a bright light was shining on him, as though all along it had been dark and now the sun had risen in his world.

"Do quick make we drop you. Our medicine man no go like am if he know." The woman was having a hard time getting to her feet and the conductor added: "Madam, thank your God. I just free you because this grave you dig no go even contain you." A short while later, Ogadi and the woman were back on the bus, blindfolded and shackled as the bus sped towards the highway. Ogadi couldn't help but reflect on his life again, on the horrible experience and on the terrible things he'd witnessed - things that would leave an indelible mark on his person. He would forever be haunted by gory images of the things he'd seen. And somewhere in all that had happened, he knew there was an act of God - perhaps the woman's faith had saved him. He had seen the jaws of death and yet, was alive to tell the tale. And although he would have to board a bus to get there, he made up his mind to attend the crusade next week. He would simply heed his father's constant bidding that he only board buses from the motor park because those were registered with the Transport Union. He would never board one along the freeway again - never! He'd never been agnostic, had always known there was a higher being overseeing the affairs of mere mortals but he'd just never felt inclined to seek out this being. Now, he'd experienced His grace and he knew it was time to draw closer to Him and experience more of his power.

The bus pulled over on the side of the expressway and their restraints and blindfolds were removed. And as the bus drove off into the distance, slowly Ogadi saw his freedom materialize and solidify so that he could almost touch it, almost embrace it - a freedom he knew he would always cherish.


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Written by:
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Nigeria's leading fictional story blog - woman, thickened blood, The Christian woman, the bus, blindfolds, Our medicine man, witchdoctor. An African Literary Blog
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