CHAPTER ONE Very early in the morning as I woke up, her image kept approaching, it won’t stop.
“Accursed!” she cried, “I died in your stead! Every night and every morning, the colour is red. I was gone in your mind, dead was I in your head but the lies you told, they’ll lead you to bed. The ropes, the thinnest of them, on them shall you thread”
It was Christmas Eve and it was said to only bring good tidings, but her pain I felt, never burning but ever ringing. I shut my eyes to dreamless dreams. I was in desperate need of a saviour, some hero; dreamless dreams. I could only cry out to the best of my ability but her voice was all I heard. She was deeply on my inside and her presence all I feared. The pains I felt was hers but I found comfort in her arms.
“You’d hearken to my cries!” She said, “That’s how you’d turn your wrongs to rights”
The say I had was null, ’twas a game of wits and might and I was badly languishing on the losing end.
“Do my will and my bidding, love for me is all you’d feel, every other is forbidden. The day shall hide its face and the shadows you shall chase, but you’d do all I ask, and my dead love you shall embrace!”
It felt so unreal, too wrong to be true. She was dead, gone, but I saw her, standing very close to me. My limbs shook as fear had gripped me. I was lifeless on the bed, barely could I move. I needed to get a hold of myself lest I deemed myself a coward. Finally I stood up, ran to the door, stumbling as I did, in a bid to lock it as I was in the habit of leaving my door open despite the warnings from neighbours. Perhaps the thieves were scared of me because nobody had ever invaded my home, not until this morning. The doors were already locked when I got there. I was so sure now, it was Anna, she never left the doors open, she had always locked the doors after she’d watched me sleep. She loved me that much. That was all in the past now, she was dead and had no place in my house. In a moment I thought, “Need I tremble? Need I falter while I ran?” Refusing to be defeated, I screamed in defiance,” You’re not welcome here, not anymore!” The speech sounded just as shaky as the speaker. Slowly I walked to the bathroom to freshen up, work was imminent and the occasion offered no exception.
Off to work I went, graceful as ever, smiling at nobody in particular. I walked as fast as possible in a bid to get there on time.
I gently looked at the lady who called and responded with a nod. I could remember hearing something that sounded like my name from the other people that I had already passed by but then it sounded like someone else’s. The only name I had on my mind was Anna’s and it felt as though it were mine.
It was a few minutes past 8 when I got to the workplace, I was a bit late but it was unnoticed, luckily. But there she was, in front of me, smiling gently at me, hands on her waist.
I snapped back to reality, it was Mel, the receptionist, and I felt so embarrassed.
“I’m sorry Mel, I wasn’t thinking straight, howdy?”
After our brief greetings, I walked into my office, determined to get Ann off my mind; a futile resolve.
Several weeks passed by and Ann kept making my life as miserable as possible. Little by little, I was getting totally consumed by her as I could barely think of something else. I caused it all, yet not me but my insatiable desires. Perhaps, nature was to blame for all these.
I couldn’t forget the day we met, on a bright Sunday morning. She was seated under an Iroko tree which stood mightily by the roadside as I walked by. She immediately had my attention and I had hers too. Our eyes remained fixed on each other, it was a match made in heaven, clearly written in the stars. One thing led to another and we ended up together. We were deeply in love and it was mutual, no? She loved me a bit more, but I made up for it in other ways.
I wouldn’t call myself a playboy but I sure had a thing or two for several ladies. I’d always wondered how a man could cling to a single woman. It was too much a herculean task for me. I knew what each of them loved and how they loved it, how desperate they were, how they craved it. I always had a way of getting them all they needed-attention, affection, money, the latter of which I had in very short supply but I always found a means of making sure of its availability, or at least tried to.
Anna was a lover of music. She made me sing melodious songs for her. No matter how horrible my voice sounded, she loved it that way. I admired her a lot, the ripest fruit in my orchard she was, not because I loved her the most but because she did. I clung to her more outta pity than love. I couldn’t stand her presence if I left her like I did the others, better to cheat than to break up. We were an enviable couple as I was perceived the perfect man by many, loving and true. I walked around the streets, my head high, but it was my jaw which pointed downwards that told the true story. Her love for me knew no bounds. She was head over heels in love with me, her head constantly trampled by my deceitful heels. If only she knew of my pretence before getting married to a knave like me, she might have had my head for it. Unluckily for me it didn’t happen, so I lived to pay for it.
I was out late at night having a few drinks with my friends and a few girls of course. It had rained a few hours before that and the weather was near perfect. My phone rang severally and I chose rather to ignore. I needed no joy killer at that moment. After a while I finally gave in, it was Anna, she was breathing very fast. She was being pursued by a man who had sworn to have me killed for my affairs with his wife, Rita. I never knew she was married, I told him that already but he was having none of it, obviously, all he had was my wife at his mercy and it was merely a matter of time until he’d caught up with her given he was not alone, he had two other men with him. I went cold as I imagined my lovely wife having to die for my crime, one which I was still committing because Rita was with me, her hands at my back and her head on my shoulder. Alas, nemesis had caught up with me!
With all the speed I could muster I ran, hoping to get there before the worst could happen, screaming all the way in order to get the attention of passers-by, thus, scare my wife’s assailants away.
It was medicine after death. There she lay beside the very tall Iroko tree where we first met, almost exanimate, lying in the pool of her own blood. I held her in my arms and stared intently into those lovely eyes. I was overcome by guilt as I watched her slowly depart. They had tortured her to death because she wouldn’t reveal to them the places I might’ve been. She chose rather to suffer. I broke down in tears as I could hold on no longer.
“Would you love me forever?” She asked, smiling at me and slowly caressing my face with her right palm. ”Could you?”
“Yes Anna” I said, mentioning her name for what seemed to be the last time as she shut her eyes to sleep. My Anna was gone, all thanks to me and I had to live with it yet she wouldn’t let me. Marriage, they said, was till death but not this one. She still did love me, only she had a funny way of showing it.
Things had gone from bad to worse. No matter what I did, I’d always find myself back in my house. Attempts to leave were vain as I felt her cold hands held me back. Strange as it was, I found comfort in her arms. Even I knew that my mind was gone. She’d put a rope around my neck and left me literally hanging on the ropes.
On one fateful night I took a bold step. I stepped outta my house into the darkness to a place I knew not. Again I was held back but it wasn’t Anna this time, it was my neighbours trying hard to remind me of the dangers that lay ahead. I was never one to be given to advice.
I walked with swagger, happy to finally be free. I once heard a preacher talk of a man named Samson, so mighty he was, there wasn’t anything he couldn’t do. I looked like him in several ways, he never cut his hair, mine too. I felt the winds scratch my ears as I kept moving, step after step, my heart knew no fear.
It happened, the inexorable, mean and scary they were, staring intently at my poor eyes.
“Alas!” I screamed, “My end was nigh”
I was in a fight or run situation.
“A well aimed blow would do” I thought as I clinched my fists as hard as I could. I was as wrong as my idea.
Thud! I fell on my back almost as quickly as I went up. My back was terribly hurt from the fall. I was a hound, not one to be held down. I could still feel the anguish burning on my inside. I was prepared to fight and let fate decide. Again, I lunged forward with all the strength I could muster. Twice I went in, twice I fell, a bloodied face and a whimper.
Alas! My strength had failed me and led me to a room of all but doors. The rest of the story I know not but I was lying on my bed quite strangely. A dream it might’ve been but the pains I felt, my bloodied face and the tears I couldn’t shed. I was battered, a lifeless ram with memories of disappointment as I’d given myself up for their merriment.
I lay speechless, there was no escaping Anna. She always had a way of bringing me home. I finally gave up fighting, ready to embrace the ineluctable. My mind was made meek, the more I tried to run, the closer I got. She was already too deep on my inside. My mind was her playground, literally danced to her tune. I was going insane, maybe a little paranoid too.
“There’s only a seeking and a finding for you and no hiding. We’re inseparable, in life and in death. In my dead arms alone shall you find rest and until you’re here on the other side, you’d know no rest. We’d walk the streets together, only then you’d be free!
I heard it, a knock on my door, a saviour, an escape route. In a flash I ran, en route to freedom, opening it gladly and quickly, a broad smile shared across my face, the last roll of the dice.
There she stood on the other side, smiling at me too!
Damilola is a content curator and creator, he writes for the passion and the thrill. He has been published on Tuck Magazine, SGNT, VivaNaija and also shares some of his stories on jonathanoladeji.com. He has an eye for juicy content and loves to make brand ideas sell.