“We are lost.”
The words hung in the air, heavy with fears which had hitherto remained unvoiced. They hung in the car like floating balloons sucking air out of the already enclosed space, stifling other thoughts that might have previously occupied the minds of the occupants of the car.
“We are not lost! And you have to quit fretting and pay better attention to the map,” Feyi spat the words angrily at Nkechi who sat in the front passenger seat. He was inwardly furious that he had allowed her to sit there with Bello. She was a distraction, even when miles away from him. Seated beside him, this was the result they got.
He seethed with rage at how Bello allows Nkechi so much latitude and access. He allowed her too much control over his life, his actions and his fucking mind. It was almost embarrassing for him, considering he never gave Jumoke as much as even a rat’s chance to pull any such stunts on him.
But, his friend had to be the lovey-dovey romantic. He has to be the avant-garde male contemporary lover who respects all the wishes of his female partner. The modern day Romeo, every girl’s delight. And how much Nkechi delights in twirling him around her fingers.
They sat in silence for a few more minutes, each contemplating if it was actually true that they are lost. They have been driving for about five minutes on an endlessly long and eerily empty road. They had not encountered any village or settlement, or even an oncoming vehicle in all that time.
“The signal is poor, I keep seeing our car jumping all over the map. Makes it difficult to make any good reading of where we are. But, I think we should turn back and head the way we came to the last settlement we saw and ask questions,” Nkechi looked sideways at Bello as she spoke, almost pleadingly.
But, before Bello could respond Feyi cut in, “we go back and we cannot hope to get to Irape today. Considering the time, we then might as well go back to Igide and stay for the night. After all, you were the one who wasted all the time there buying all those stuff no one wants.”
In the front seat, Bello winced but said nothing. Jumoke, on her own part, kept quiet and firmly pretended on watching the movie from her phone. She had learned very quickly that when Feyi was on a war-path like this, it is best to just stand aside.
“If it means us going back to Igide, I think we should. Rather than getting lost in this bush at night.”
“Why are you so convinced we are lost?”
“I don’t know. I just don’t know like how I feel. My mind isn’t settled.” Nkechi looked backwards, “Feyi, I don’t know where we are and the map is messing up on my phone. We we’re supposed to have been at Irape a while back. But, this endless road ….” She stopped short on seeing Feyi’s gesture for her to keep quiet.
“We should have been there long ago, if you had not insisted on buying all those junk at the market.”
Bello coughed, “we will keep going. We are probably closer to it. I am not even sure the fuel in this car will take us back to Igide.”
That brought another spell of silence, and even Jumoke looked up from the movie she was watching.
“I suggest you kill the AC then,” Feyi said. “We will save more fuel that way, just in case.”
Bello switched off the AC, and wound down the windows. The breeze rushed into the car, driving away the silence that had hung amongst them and replacing it with a myriad of other noises. They could hear distinctly, the whoosh sound as the car sped past the long banks of grass that bordered both sides of the road. The sounds of insects and birds chirping could also be heard. The sounds were natural enough, but something else was present. Something else was there, which at first was hard to distinguish.
It was interesting and somewhat unnatural that it was Jumoke who first picked up on it.
“Can you guys hear that?”
“You guys can’t hear the drums?”
“I hear it now,” Bello smiled.”It’s coming from ahead and it can only mean we are close to Irape.” He looked into the rear mirror at Feyi, “Bruh, you owe Nkechi an apology for all that kini o.”
Feyi scowled at him, making faces at him in the mirror. “Or she is the one who owes me an apology for predicting doomsday prematurely?”
“I won’t be too quick to celebrate. My heart is still thumping and I am not entirely sure about this. It doesn’t sound right to me.”
“Oh my God, here we go again!” Feyi burst out in mild anger. He was not as angry as he had been earlier. The drums could be heard louder at this point and he was somewhat placated that finally, they have arrived at Irape for Eniola’s wedding. It had been a long, exhausting 2-day trip from Abuja. A trip he would rather not have had, on hindsight. But, they had decided collectively on going by road, as it was a good opportunity for some sightseeing, and of course, it was cheaper.
“Okay. Okay. Everyone calm down,” Bello said. He switched on the radio, in an attempt to fill the car with something else for them to think about other than reasons to have petty bickerings. But, no signal came through. Even after he auto-scanned the frequencies. “This Eniola village na baba! I am really going to have fun teasing her, not even a radio station!”
The others burst out laughing, except for Nkechi who was staring out of the window with her hand outstretched towards a small sign.
“This is not Eniola’s town.”
That hushed everyone up. Once again, the silence was back. And it came with an unmistakable vengeance. It permeated everywhere, sinking into every pore and available space in the car. The silence was deafening.
When Bello was able to rise above its weight, his voice was a distant echo.
“What do you mean it’s not Eniola’s village?” In the same moment he asked the question, he hit the brakes. The force of his sudden stop throwing heads forward like choreographed mannequins been tossed around in a windstorm.
“What Tha fuck, mehn!” Feyi shrieked. Jumoke’s phone fell off her hand and dropped to the floor. She opened her mouth to speak but stopped short on seeing Nkechi’s face.
Her face was a mask and emotionless, it was like she was there and at the same time not. Her outstretched hands led all three pairs of eyes to a sign board on the side of the road, the words just barely readable in the weak moonlight. Her fingers were shaking, but none of them saw them shake. They were more taken by the words on the sign board –
Welcome to Igbehin Adun Village
The Land Of Eternal Bliss….
“I…I …I don’t …like this … I don’t …like…it at all.”
No one argued with her. They were reading the remaining words under the ones earlier –
Enter And Forget All Your Life’s Troubles
What exactly did those words mean?
What were they to do now? Go into the village? Head back the way they had come? Or keep going and hope to God the car doesn’t run out of gas before they get to Irupe?
As those thoughts crossed their minds, and just as if it could actually read their minds, the car’s engine coughed once, twice and then sputtered to a stop…
Read more short stories by the RebelKween here