THE UNFINISHED BUSINESS
Wisdom was the only one in the room. He lay on his bed with his thoughts, the darkness and a mournful silence for company. Close to the bed, his phone lay on the reading table, as dead as a temporary occupant of a mortuary. Beside the phone, a Hp laptop sat open with a dark screen that announced the flatness of its battery. The reason for the flatness of the battery was revealed by the lone gaming pad that was on its keyboard.
Wisdom had been playing a computer game on the system when the dormitory lights went off. A warning appeared on the screen almost immediately. Then barely five minutes later the battery gave out, starved of the electricity supply that had kept it alive.
The lights were not supposed to be out by now. It was still nine pm. Hostel lights were supposed to stay on till one am. Yet for one hour now the whole dormitory had been cloaked in darkness. Here and there different rooms were lit by different rechargeable lamps. But not Wisdom’s room. He chose to lie on his bunk in the dark and brood on his bad luck.
This was a night he had been looking forward to. He had just finished his two hundred level exams three hours ago, at six pm. Thankfully, his roommate Ogbeche, who was still writing his own exams had graciously allowed him to borrow his laptop to play games.
Then just when he was in the second match of a world cup tournament he was playing the room was plunged into darkness. He cursed and cursed and when the curses did not have any effect on the light bulb, he reverted to prayers. Unfortunately, God probably had other more important matters to attend to, or simply didn’t deem his gaming important enough for a miracle, so the room remained dark.
After waiting for fifteen minutes he climbed up the bunk and lay down with a sigh. It was going to be a long night. That was what he thought until she entered the room.
“Who is it?” he asked when he noticed the silhouette of a person hesitating in the doorway.
“A Human being” a feminine voice answered.
He recognized the voice at once. Yet it was difficult to believe that it was really her.
What was she doing in the male dormitory by this time when it was dark?
Wisdom came down from the bunk and began to grope around the table for his rechargeable lamp.
“Why is the room in darkness?” Stella asked.
“Because I like darkness” he replied.
“Agent of darkness”
“I agree. You initiated me into the agency”
“I think you are taking me for another person”
“No o. I know the person that took me for their midnight meeting last week”
He found the lamp.
“Think well, it’s not me”
Before switching it on he made sure it was facing away from him so that when its light illuminated the room, it beams fell directly on her long frame. She was close to six feet, tall for a girl and very tomboyish. Now she was dressed in black jeans and a checkered red and blue shirt. At her neck, she wore a necklace whose centerpieces were a cowrie and a miniature tusk. Wisdom knew who gave her that, but he didn’t want to think about that one now.
“What are you doing here by this time?” he asked her shifting forward his chair for her to sit down.
“I’m looking for sex”
She locked eyes with him and then winked.
Wisdom opened his mouth, then closed it and swallowed hard.
“It seems your roommates are all out,” she said “And there is no light in the dormitory”
“Please let us start,” Wisdom said and started to pull off his t-shirt.
“You are not well,” Stella said laughing.
“What do you mean?”
“My friend put on that shirt. Damaris is waiting downstairs for you. She wants to see you”
The t-shirt was already halfway up. The moment he heard the name she uttered, his hands left it and fell back at his sides. “What is she looking for?”
“You. I thought I said so” the reply was coupled with a grin. “She sent me to call you”
Stella gazed at him for a moment. She walked up to where he stood and slowly covered the space between them, bringing her face to within inches of his own, her breasts close enough to brush against if he moved just a bit.
Her mouth hovered just below his, tilted up in the manner of one seeking a kiss. Then she withdrew suddenly and walked out of the room.
“She is downstairs in the common lounge waiting for you,” she said walking away.
Wisdom realized that he was holding his breath and released it with a curse “Bitch” he spat. “Try that thing again and you will see”
Why did the girl have that kind of hold on him for god’s sakes? She wasn’t the only tall girl he knew, was she? Besides she didn’t even have much flesh behind and in front. Yet when she whenever she wanted, she messed with his head easily.
Wisdom shook his head vigorously as if to get rid of the webs of her enchantment. He felt like a bewitched person.
“Evil girl” he muttered and bent to get a sachet of water. There were about fifteen of them in the bag of Spring Pure water that stood, under his table, leaning against the wall. While he stood drinking he wondered why Damaris wanted to see him by this time. He hoped it wasn’t to bother him with one of her troubles again. The girl was trouble itself. Unfortunately, it seemed she had made him the sole recipient of her troubles.
Of all our course mates Wisdom thought bitterly. Out of one hundred and thirty something people, why me?
If Damaris didn’t understand a concept, she would come to him. When a guy she didn’t like was trying to woo her she would come to him and complain. If she was quarreling with her roommate she would ask him to help make peace between them. When she couldn’t sleep at night she would ring him up, even if it was at one am.
The day Wisdom decided to ignore her calls and activated the silent mode of his phone he recorded twenty-five missed calls before he decided to activate the flight mode and save his battery from being drained by her repeated calls. He complained to her roommate the following day and she smacked his head and asked if he was so thick that he could not discern when a girl was in love with him. Stella, that mad girl Stella.
Now Damaris was here again. Wisdom wondered what had happened again this time. He lifted the laptop and the phone and put them in his wardrobe. The gamepads joined them before the wardrobe was locked. This was the dormitory, leaving things on his table amounted to begging thieves to come and steal them. These semester alone Wisdom had lost a trousers, his favorite trousers, a brown, pencil mouth trousers made from a high quality material, four of his white singlet which seemed to have developed wings and flown away from the clothes line downstairs where he had hung them to dry after washing them on a Sunday morning, and his two thousand naira on which he had hung his hopes for feeding for the week.
He locked the wardrobe with his big Lions Lock padlock and turned to go. But at the door, he stopped. His phone was ringing. He could hear the ringtone from where he stood. It was Eminem’s Not Afraid. In the darkness of the room, it sounded ominous, like the bleating of an obstinate little goat defying the terrors of the night, moments before he turns and finds himself look into the luminous eyes of the wolf.
Wisdom stood for a moment, with ears cocked. He was puzzled. That phone had been off for over an hour now. How was it now ringing?
Curious, he rushed back to his corner of the room and quickly inserted his key in the padlock. By the time he turned it and the lock sprang open the phone had stopped ringing. He picked it from the low shelf where he had placed it and looked at the screen. It was dark. He pressed the power button and waited but the screen still remained dark.
“What the hell” he swore and pressed the power button again. The screen remained dark. He held down the button this time to see if he could switch it on, but the phone did not vibrate as it always did whenever it was booting. The battery was, obviously, flat. Bamboozled Wisdom kept back the phone and straightened up. It began to ring again at that moment. The screen lit up like Christmas lights, showing his dead aunt’s phone number on the caller ID.
Wisdom had deleted the woman’s number from his phone on the day she died. It was in a ghastly motor accident. Her Toyota Camry had been crushed by a trailer whose brakes had failed. It was the darkest day in Wisdom’s life for the woman had been close to him.
He stood staring at the phone screen as if mesmerized by it. Eminem’s voice rang in his ears shattering the silence of the room. He bent down and picked the phone gingerly. After a brief moment of hesitation, he swiped the green icon for ‘Pick’ to the left and put the phone to his ears.
It was her voice, calling him the same way she used to when she was alive.
Wisdom opened his mouth to answer. Something he had heard about not answering calls from unknown persons in the night flew into his mind and he shut his mouth.
The voice was thick with desperation.
As a kid Wisdom had been plagued with the problem of hearing his name when there was no one actually calling him.
“Wizzy answer me nau”
When his grandmother noticed it she forbade him from answering such calls. She advised him instead to ask who was calling. If he heard nothing in reply then he would know that it was them. Who this ‘them’ was, she did not explain.
The voice was breaking, like the owner was crying.
The darkness in the room became oppressive. It seemed to be taking on substance gradually.
“Aunty is that you?” Wisdom asked.
His insides felt like liquid and he felt his heart sliding down his chest cavity. It sank ever slowly, towards the hot liquid that was his gut.
The darkness of the room was slowly attaining a certain thickness. He could feel it pressing against his skin, lightly at first.
“Your uncle Oti just left us,” the voice from the phone said. It sounded hysterical, panic-stricken. “He wants to go and start his harvest on earth”
The phone felt warm in his hands; like something that was getting overheated.
“He has to be stopped otherwise, your brothers, your sisters…oh no, not now, don’t-”
Her voice broke off suddenly.
Wisdom held the phone away from his ear and looked at the screen. It was dark. He could even barely see it in the darkness of the room. He brought it back to his ears and called her again:
To be continued…
Samuel Ifeanyi is a massive lover of words. He runs a mind that is addicted to words and is run by a really wild imagination.
He is presently a student of the University of Calabar where he is pursuing a degree in Sociology.