FICTION: COLOURS WASHED AWAY
You are on your way home where you’ll be spending the Christmas holiday. Your friend, who you paid a visit, sees you off to the park and waves goodbye as he watches the bus leave. You adjust properly on the seat where you are cushioned between a very fat woman who’s wearing cheap, tight bracelets and two other people; a young man and an elderly woman. The bus is in motion and the elderly woman who sits on your right starts to sing.
‘Praaaaaise the lord!’
She begins and other passengers except the two men who sit in front of you reply with a reluctant ‘hallelujah’.
“It is good to praise the lord. Praise the lord and shame Satan. Down by the river, we shall meet our Lord and only those who worship him shall he call his own”.
You wonder whether it ever occurred to her that some passengers might not be Christians. She sings familiar songs, one person sings along, then someone follows suit and soon everyone, including the driver and excluding the two men in front of you, begin to sing. Claps soon follow and music changes. You join in the singing, you’re a christian and you wouldn’t let yourself be guilt tripped simply because your visit to your friend was more a romantic rendezvous than a courtesy visit. Soon she switches to unfamiliar music, intercepting every sentence with Jesus! You smile but you go ahead, join in, you clap and smile and sing and worship with her.
Feeling encouraged, the woman pushes her luck, using the better part of one hour to sing and pray. She blackmails those who get bored and tired to ‘not forget that only the living can praise God’. The worship and prayer session is soon over and you start to read a book, music from your headphone deafening you to the reality of the real world. You get tired and decide to listen to the bus conversation.
You put down your book and remove your headphone and listen as a young man in the first row of the bus tells the story of an accident that occurred the week before. Apparently, everyone but you noticed remnants of an accident just along the road you had just passed. The man says the accident occurred when a trailer hit a bus carrying eighteen passengers. Ten people died. You watch as your travel companions express sympathy and regret. Shouts of ‘Eish’, ‘blood of Jesus!’ fill the air and some people snap their fingers.
The narrator continues, he’s glad people are listening to him.
“Ten people die”, he says ” eight in the hospital but the driver ran away”
“The driver of the trailer?”, one of the two men who refused to pray asks
” No o, the bus driver ran and the owner of the bus was held until last week when he was released. Those who died were buried yesterday”.
Your travel companions are exclaiming again.
“A pastor owned the bus and the people in the bus had just returned from a burial ceremony. The pastor is suspected to be having an affair with the church member who lost a relative. He asked for his church members to attend the burial”
“I smell ritual. This is December period”, a passenger comments
” Yes, that pastor has used the heads of his church member for rituals”. The driver supports. “Either the pastor or the driver”.
“The driver? How do you know, ehn? Wia you dia?”, another passenger asks in his strong Igbo accent.
“See this one oh, I’ve seen it happen!”, the driver says defensively.
” It is only God that will judge”.
“Buhari is to blame for these bad roads”, another passenger speaks.
“Abeg leave Buhari out of this. Every small thin, Buhari. Nigerians sef!”, someone angrily speaks.
The argument then slowly shifts to one of politics, disloyal women and back to praise and worship.
A teenage boy is noisily eating bambara nut cake behind you, you look back in anger at him but he doesn’t care. You turn your attention back to your book, cursing your phone battery under your breath for dying and wishing the boy’s meal to finish as soon as possible or for him to choke on his meal, you pray your travel companions sleep off too but you have no faith in your prayers as the driver is actively involved in the bus conversation.
You learn, from your travel companions, about the governor who killed his uncle for money, about how poor people have no rest of mind, about hunger, about how the government spends on ammunitions when the masses are hungry. And when you reach 9th mile in Enugu, there’s talk about the many lives that have been lost to the roads.
“These useless vehicles are to blame”, a passenger annoyingly says pointing at a heavy duty vehicle.
“I’ve lost an aunty on this road”. The driver narrates a sad event while you place your head on the seat in front of you for a short nap.
It seemed like you’d slept two minutes when you are jolted back to reality. You are in a bush and your head hurts bad, you adjust your eyes to the surroundings and find the teenager you were angry at, lying a few metres away from you, motionless. There’s chaos and you don’t know what to think. You crawl to the side of the teenage boy and are shocked to find contents from his stomach spilled everywhere, his arms are gone and the brown leaves now bear a strong red colour: the colour of blood.
You’ve seen this before. Déjà vu!
You can see the road but can’t move. Your head hurts again and you can’t see anymore. You lay there, beside the teenage boy, motionless but aware, of an existing oblivion. People are chattering, you feel hands lifting you, sense motion and hear people gossiping.
“That unfortunate driver has used these people’s heads for rituals”.
“Ten are dead o! Only these eight are alive”
“Where’s the stupid ambulance?”
“FRSC will just let these people die o”
“Redirect the vehicles, can’t they see there’s been an accident”
“Kai, see how the trailer scattered this small bus!”
“And Dangote isn’t doing anything about these his drivers”
You have enough time to dream about your romantic rendezvous, about hell. You are glad you made love that morning, passionate love. Somehow, you are scared you’ll make it to hell because fornication is a sin but the thought is quickly brushed aside as you dream of the morning when his penis found its way into your wet vagina, each thrust sending warm sensations through your body. You are glad you let yourself enjoy the whole hour of intense passion, glad you kissed him, glad you let him talk you into submission, glad your final morning on earth was spent making mind shattering love with a man you had come to love. There’s still time to dream of your funeral, social media condolences, tears from loved ones. Then there’s no more time and you slip into a deep slumber.