Let us get something out of the way upfront. I’m not the Good Samaritan kind. I don’t go around adopting orphan puppies and shit like that. So when I heard the thumps and screams coming from the only house in the vicinity, I smiled on behalf of whoever was getting laid, but I didn’t think much of it.
It was 10 pm and I was walking home from work, but when the thuds and groans sounded faster, I slowed down to enjoy the show. The whole time, I kept wondering why people use iron sheet for walls. Those things will amplify even the slightest sigh. One would rather use mud or something, you know? The house, I noticed, hadn’t been there the week before, but I only use that route when it is late and iron sheet shacks can be built faster than it takes sweat to trickle down a forehead.
The noises subsided for a second or three, which made me walk away, concluding that the performers were through and there was nothing else worth waiting for. I had just turned the corner when a scream tore through the air. It froze me and everything around instantly; the crickets went silent, the slight breeze that had been tugging at my jacket moments before stilled. Only the moon seemed to shine brighter. Way brighter. Too bright.
Now, I’m not an idiot either, but once in a while, parts of my body take turns in rebelling against my intelligence. That night it was my legs’ turn. They ignored all my other instincts and started tiptoeing towards the house. My heart wasn’t that much into the idea and was making its point known by trying its best to wrench itself out of my chest; unsuccessfully.
I walked towards the door, listening for another sound, wondering what had made the person inside scream that loud. None came. The door was ajar and the darkness that lay beyond it was thicker than hell’s soot. I figured that if I opened the door a little more, the moon would light up a big enough portion of the house to allow for a little vision. It did.
The house seemed empty. . Bare earthen floors – freshly leveled. I listened for a few moments and heard nothing. I was about to walk away in relief when someone’s whispering grew loud enough for my ear to capture… I listened again, to be sure enough to reach my ear.
“Wameenda… Wameenda… Oooi Ngai! Mungu nisaidie…”
I knew that voice. Even when interwoven with raw fear and desperate gasps of air, I could still recognize Aunt Gathoni’s voice. I swallowed and felt my heart slide down to huddle next to my left kidney. My adventurous legs lost their enthusiasm. I was ready to turn back.
But how could I? Aunt Gathoni raised me since I was seven months old. She lived near our home back then and had come early that morning to braid my mother’s hair. They told me it was so long it fell to her back. When she got into the gate, she first heard my hungry screams, which was unusual because I was one of those happy children who rarely cried. As she approached she noticed blood splattered all over the compound, it scared the Lord’s breath out of her, she didn’t even call my parents’ names, just ran out and returned with her husband and a few neighbours. They found me lying on my usual spot at the middle of the bed, but there was no sign of my father or mother – except for the blood spilt all over and small bits of flesh, skin and entrails scattered about the house.
She rarely told the story, but when she did, it always paused at the part where she tried to explain the stench that had filled the place. “It was like something had been dead and rotting in that place for months. The smell hadn’t been there the day before – and I had left late…” She would then struggle with words then skip to the part where they took me in, moved out of the neighbourhood, raised me and 22 years later look what a nice young man I had grown into – how (she thought) I made all the right decisions, apart from deciding to move back into my parents’. But it had felt like the only way to get close to them. To live where they conceived me.
Standing out there undecidedly, it suddenly hit me that since I was living around the corner, according to her narrations, this is exactly where Aunt Gathoni’s house had stood those years back. How come I hadn’t realized it before? She started whispering again; something inaudible this time and I gathered my guts and crept in… At that same moment a cloud conveniently decided to cover the moon, casting me into wool thick darkness.
“Auntie?” I whispered…
“Auntie Gathoni?!” louder this time…
“Uko wapi Auntie? Ni Methu…”
“Methu? Ngaaaaiii! Meethuuu wakwa!”
From where I stood, the voice seemed to come from my far right. I walked towards it with feet sinking in the fresh soil and hands stretched out to avoid hitting something. Or someone. Step by step. Foot by foot. I could hear her whimpers and sobs. Just when I went to call out to her, the door banged shut behind me and she screamed. I almost dropped dead from fright.
When I reached her, my feet felt like overripe avocados. I bent down to pick her, touching slightly to know her position on the floor. I touched her neck first. She recoiled and started thrashing about and shrieking. Something clanked.
“Auntie…Auntie ni mimi… Ni Methu, tulia…”
She calmed down after I identified myself again. The confused kind of calm – but it was enough to give me time to feel the warm liquid on the hand that had touched her neck. I didn’t need light to know it was blood, I felt rage churn hot in my belly.
“God!! Who did this to you?”
I tried to pick her up but failed, then I realized she was in chains. They had pinned her to the floor and bound her. She mumbled something under her breath. I leaned close to hear what she was saying.
“Get out of here Methu… It is you they want…”
“Who are they?”
“If they get you here you’ll never leave…”
“I can’t leave you here”
“Go! It is you they want! Go! Go! Go!”
“I need something for the chains.”
“If they find you here, you will never leave; it is a loop Methu, a trap!!”
As she finished saying the last sentence the door slammed open again, bringing with it an icy wind that filled the house like a flood. I felt all warmth rise from my body and disappear.
“Oh my God Methu, they are here!”
I tried to turn and see who she was on about, but at that instant, something metallic and cold got hold of my neck and held on tight. My hands shot up and I managed to feel the links of a chain before they too were caught at the wrists. The chain went round my body fast, then jerked upwards and pulled me.
Cold sharp objects punctured me at two points in the back and slid into my flesh. I was sure they were metal hooks. They slid farther in – the pain was overwhelming. I screamed till I my throat couldn’t let out another sound so I remained immobile, suspended, feeling blood leak out of my body as I spiraled in and out of consciousness.
Below me, the sound started again, thumps and groans, thumps and groans, sighs. When I heard them, I smiled on behalf of whoever was getting laid. It was 10 pm and I was walking home from work.
I like entertainment, so I slowed down to enjoy the show better, all the while wondering why people use iron sheet for walls. Those things will even amplify the slightest sigh. Use mud or something, you know? The house, I noticed, hadn’t been there the week before, but I only use that route when I’m late and iron sheet shacks can be built faster than it takes sweat to trickle down a forehead.
I had just turned the corner when a scream rent the air.