I didn’t want to do an intro of any sort but for what it’s worth, I really wanna support my brethren:
Afro says to me (best collaboration category)
The toolsman’s blog (5 nominations),
Chronicles of Dania (2 nominations),
Thoughts from a maverick’s perspective (best student blog),
My Scroll… You Scroll (Most humorous blog)
These are some of my favourite bloggers and I’d like you to please vote for them in the Nigerian Blog Awards here. You might find one or two others you’re interested in as well. So go on and cast your votes if you haven’t already. Oh, and while I’m campaigning, I might as well add that you can follow me on twitter: @OlaToxic 😉
Now, to tonight’s post.
It is a dark night by all standards. The sky is cloudy, no moon, no twinkles in the swirling canopy far above which I can still somehow see. Strange. The branches of the trees outside my window, some bare, others heavy laden, are silhouetted against the same dark sky from which no light emanates. The same trees and branches that in the cheerful daylight are familiar and endearing as I play in them now seem malevolent and sinister as I watch them keep eerily still in the very audible wind that is moving the clouds in a strange, uniform pattern. Not across the sky, in one direction as we are accustomed to in our subconscious, but in slow concentric circles. Much like uncle Kelvin’s green and white american wonder umbrella when he opens it and spins it to the delightful squeals of the younger children. The heavy darkness outside seems to be pressing in on our small house and somehow sips in through the small, high window above my mat and even underneath the room door.
The power-holders have struck, as always, and so the once-comforting lone bulb that hangs in the centre of the ceiling above me is unavoidably dark tonight. I glance at it and long for it’s stark brilliance but it is not to be. Granma has blown out and put away the kerosene lanterns. Candles are not allowed in granma’s house. She says they’re dangerous around youngsters like us.
I glance over at my eight year old twin sisters who share the big mat across the room to see if they’re also awake and perhaps aware of the ‘oppresion’ I feel about us but they’re both in a blissful state of unawareness. Ada’s right leg is thrown over both of Betty’s in a silent show of superiority but even as I watch them, Betty rolls over, elbowing Ada in the forehead which makes her promptly adjust as well, whimpering in her sleep and relinquishing her ‘victory stance’. They both thrash out a bit, limbs everywhere and somehow end up in each others arms, the strong bond they share in awakedness, evident even in their sleep. In all of this, neither has roused.
I can hear granma’s snores down the corridor and as my mind begins to get accustomed to the steady rhythm of the guttural emissions, they stop. Abruptly. Any other night, that would be reason for inward rejoicing, but not this night. Tonight, it is cause for concern. For hitherto, besides the eerie whispers of the winds outside, they had been the only sounds I could hear, the only sounds that, in their familiarity, comforted my heightened and jangling nerves. And now they had stopped. No, not stopped, they have been ‘put out’. Silenced. Extinguished. Those sounds have stopped too suddenly to be caused by some casual turning over unto her ample bosom or by her head magically finding the pillow which had inadvertently ended up on the floor immediately her ever-busy mind nestled into the deep of sleep. I had attempted many a night past to return that pillow to its rightful place under her head in a quest for the sleep which comes with the natural silence of the night. It always ended up right back on the floor, followed by the rhythmic rumbling from her throat that I was now used to. It seems all the women in my life are thrashers.
As I contemplate arising and going to investigate granma’s sudden silence, my decision is made on my behalf. I hear the creak in the bottom hinge of granma’s door as it slowly swings open, and I know I shall not leave this room to find the answers I seek. I know the answer is coming to me.
I know he is here. He has come for me. Again.
As our door, made from quilted planks of wood scavenged from construction sites slowly, ever so slowly swings open, I take up the defensive stance I saw Bruce Lee take last sunday on Vick Lemon Plus’ small black and white tv as Femi, Tula and I crouched in the bushes behind his window to catch a glimpse of the other american wonder in our little village. My mind wanders briefly and I wonder which would be more scary, answering to corper teacher Victor’s bulala when he finds out our nickname for him or the encounter I was about to have right now. I can’t make up my mind. I glance at the twins and at the 11 year old figure lying on my mat. This is undeniably more dreadful. I glance back at the door in preparation for the showdown.
Pitch blackness hangs from the door beam like a curtain of death and as I look into it a little longer, I see him materialise out of that same blackness. He is but a shadow shifting around on itself in the doorframe. As he comes into the room, the temperature drops steeply and I sense rather than see my sisters hug each other closer. Ada even let’s out another little whimper, Betty shivers a bit in Ada’s arms and settles back into sleep. Thankfully, he doesn’t take notice of them, his attention seems to be on me. No. Through me. His attention is on the figure on the mat behind me. I crouch deeper into my stance, hardening my countenance and flexing my puny bunched up fists in front of me. Ha! Like that would make the least difference. He steps a little closer. ‘Floats’ would better describe his movements… he floats a little closer and I hear the wind I thought was outside all along come from where his mouth would have been. But it’s not the wind. It is his breaths. Breath with a ‘S’. It’s the sound of a million breaths. And they all seem to pour out of his blackness of a mouth. I can even make out grandma’s snores which stand out in that cacophony like the town-criers gong from the night from which he calls.
I am now rooted to the spot. I can’t move a muscle and he no longer acknowledges my presence. Doesn’t even seem to see me any longer. His formlessness pours forward, straight at me… straight through me. Without turning around, without moving an inch, my awareness follows him and I can still see him as he bends over my small frame on the mat beneath the small, high window. I will myself to move towards him and do something, anything but as always on nights like this before, my awareness is at this point floating on its own in the centre of the room like that lone bulb hanging from the ceiling. He seems to have taken a shade more of a tangible form, very likely when he went through me, still largely shadow but slightly more discernible and I know the time is near, the time of the taking. He takes one last glance at me and entirely dismissing me, lowers his face to mine and takes the gentle sleep I have been immersed in all along from my nostril and mouth into his. As the last of the sleep drains out of my suspended awareness, a short, blood-curdling scream follows the now sleepless breath out from my lungs even as I rapidly push myself up from my reclining position on the mat to a sitting position. I breathe short, ragged breaths as my startled wide-open eyes take in the square of dark sky in the wall high in front of me and I know it has happened once again. The taking has occured once more and I was powerless to stop it.
It shall be another long, lonely night, for he has come and robbed me of my sleep once again. Insomnia has struck once more.
Sleep tight… if you can. 😉