Baby, my name is crazy. I really don’t mean to hurt you, but you see, I have no choice. This is who I am: a freak of nature.
At exactly twelve O’ clock, Collins Ogu looked at himself in the mirror, and what he saw was a monster. He didn’t like to use the word monster. That meant he was bad, evil. He preferred to use the word freak. Freak suggested he was not bad, evil; he was just unfortunate to be what he was. Sooner or later, someone would find the cure for his disease. He always wanted to believe that what he was was caused by some biological defect that could be treated by modern medicine. If it was biological, then it could be treated. Never for once did he let himself think that what he was could have been a spiritual curse. He didn’t believe in God. Didn’t want to.
But that night, as he stared into his own reflection, the word monster occurred to him more than once. He tried to shove it away and let freak dominate his thoughts, but all his efforts were squashed like an egg thrown against the wall with the speed of sound.
The mirror showed him who he was (it had always shown him who he was since he was five). The mirror reminded him that he was different from most men. He moved the mirror away from his face and put it back under his bed. He was lying on the upper bunk, and below, his room-mate snored on. The room was as quiet as a library (the only sound he could pick up was the swishing sound from the standing fan’s blades). And, of course, the room was dark.
After about two minutes of staring into blank darkness, he picked up the mirror again and put it before his face. It was still there. His reflection. It taunted him like the ghost of a loved one. This was him. Bad him. Evil him. This was the real him. Monster him.
No I am not a monster.
He said that in his mind. It was what he had always said. But did he really believe that he was not a monster? If you have the head of a sheep, are you not a monster? Yes, that was what he was seeing in the mirror as he looked into it. That was what he had always seen, since he was five.
How do you feel if you look into the mirror one wonderful morning, and on top of your beautiful body, instead of your beautiful face, what you see is the head of a sheep?
He tucked the mirror under his bed, for the second time that night.
“Pastor Rachael, me I don’t believe in all these evil spirits that you preached about in fellowship today oh!” Francesca said. “All those things are just to scare people and force them to keep going to church.”
“Really?” Rachael replied, as she stood in front of the mirror hung at the back of the door. She had just bought a new dress and she wanted to see how it fit her slim body.
“Yes oh! Pastor Rachael what are you even looking at sef? This is twelve O’ clock for Christ’s sake; I already told you the cloth is fine,” Francesca said.
“Abeg oh! Make I look am well.” After satisfying herself that the cloth was okay, she walked to where Francesca sat, at the edge of her bed. “So, what were you saying?”
“I said I don’t believe in evil spirits.”
“Really? Why?” Rachael was already taking off the new dress.
“I just don’t.”
“But you are a Christian na, and the bible acknowledges that evil spirits exists.”
“Abeg that one na ofege.”
“Are you saying the bible is incorrect?” Rachael paused and looked at her hundred-level roommate.
“No, that’s not what I am saying. I just don’t think such things really exist. And hey stop looking at me like that, it’s my opinion. I have a right to it.”
Rachael continued undressing. “Okay oh. Just know that the world is more than what we can see with our naked eyes.”
“Yeah.” Francesca yawned. “Please I need to sleep.”
“Ahan! Are you not trying out your clothes too?” Rachael said. She had already picked up a new dress from a nearby nylon bag.
“Please I am tired. I want to sleep. That one can wait till tomorrow.” Francesca said, and slid under her blanket.
Morning came. Collins Ogu jumped off his bed, brushed his teeth, took a shower, and left the hostel to attend his first class of the day. At the class, as the lecturer taught, a heavy rain started to fall. The rainfall made the class cold, and the lecturer made a joke about why most babies were conceived during the rainy season.
He noticed that the girl seating next to him was glancing sideways frequently, as the lecturer droned on. He felt she wasn’t looking at him, but when he turned sideways, her eyes locked straight into his. And immediately, he felt his heart rate quicken.
“My name is Collins Ogu,” he extended a hand to her immediately the lecture ended.
She looked puzzled. Her eyes appeared to be full of questions. But she took his hand. “My name is Francesca.”
“Thank you,” she smiled.
“I actually like your hair.” She had long hair that rested on her well-creamed shoulders. Collins felt like holding her at the shoulder.
“Thank you,” she giggled.
“And your eyes, I have not seen anything more beautiful.”
Her hand to her chest, she rocked with laughter. “Oh thank you.”
You know what happens to you when love hits you. You start to check yourself. You start to make sure that you meet the requirement of the one that has stolen your heart. You start wanting to deserve that love. Collins Ogu, knowing what he was, felt the same way. He wanted to change. He wanted to be good. He wanted salvation. But he didn’t know how to.
“I love you,” he said to Francesca, way deep into the first semester and their love affair. They were sitting on the sculptural piece of a naked woman lying down while reading a book. It was dark (they always met at night).
“I love you too.” Her eyes were dreamy, swimming with the tide of love’s beautiful stream. She took his hand in hers.
“I want to tell you something.”
She bent her head to look at him. The yellowish blur from the street-lights spread across her pimple-free cheek. “What’s it?”
“It’s actually something I’ve always wanted to tell you, but I have never been sure how you would react to it.”
“C’mon baby. You know you can tell me anything. You are making me nervous oh.”
He took her other free hand into his (they were now sitting, with their four hands locked together).
“I am a sheep, and I kill people to survive.”
Her gaze remained trained on him; unflinching. He knew in the next few seconds, she was going to free her hands and move away from him; terrified of what he had told her.
But instead of moving away and screaming blood of Jesus, she burst into laughter. She laughed so hard that tears reeled down her eyes.
“Why are you laughing? I’m serious.” He said.
“Of course I know you are?” She continued to laugh.
“And you are not scared?”
“Of course not. If you are a sheep, then I am a goat.” She hugged him tight. “I love you baby.”
His head resting on her shoulder, and his cheek brushing her hair, he thought again about what he was and wondered if Francesca understood the magnitude of what he had just shared with her; wondered whether his love for her could withstand his lust for horror.
Francesca Philips was walking from Theatre Hall towards Girls Hostel. The campus was quiet, deserted, and there was no moon in the sky. It was a dark night. She was coming from a group reading with some of her class-mates (her first exam paper was tomorrow). They had started to argue and fight over who was right and who was wrong, and she had left them to find some sleep. What she had already read should be enough to pass the paper.
Despite that there was no one in sight, on the road or in any of the buildings she passed, she wasn’t afraid. Ekehuan Campus was as safe as the White House. Cases of robbery or kidnapping or ambushing were non-existent here. Francesca always thought that was due to the communal nature of the campus. It was a small place, where most people knew one another.
She reached a T-junction, and Girls Hostel emerged in front of her. From afar, she could see that the gate had been locked (it was common practice to lock the gate after twelve AM). She would have to scale through the iron barrier. She didn’t like to scale the gate, but as it stood, she had no choice.
As she neared the gate, she started to hear footsteps behind her. When she looked back, she spotted a fat sheep marching towards her.
She didn’t run. She simply turned her head forward and continued to walk towards the gate. Though she was scared to death, she didn’t want to admit it. Running would mean she believed the sheep was coming after her. Where in the world does that happens. Sheep are known to be meek creatures, going about their business and doing their own thing.
The footsteps were sounding closer. She could hear it: the patter of feet. She could feel it; even smell it. She wanted to look back again but did not. Though the space between her and the gate was reducing, she feared she was not going to make it. She feared something bad was going to happen.
She reached the gate and wrapped her hand around one of its vertical metals. It was cold like ice. She was supposed to raise her feet and scale over it to the other side. Beyond the gate, the hostel blocks lined behind each other, fully lighted. The white fluorescents cast eerie shadows on the short grasses surrounding the blocks. And there was quiet and hollowness in the air, like rapture had taken place and the bad guys had gone with the good guys.
Behind her, she could hear the increasing sound of the sheep’s steps. She knew it was coming, but she didn’t know why. She should grip the metal bar and climb the gate, but she felt weak, almost paralysed at a spot. She didn’t know why. Maybe it was because what Collins had told her two days ago was now reverberating in her head.
“I am a Sheep and I kill People to Survive.”
Of course that was bullshit. He was just joking wasn’t he? How could he be a sheep? The animal coming behind her could definitely not be Collins. She couldn’t accept that. People don’t turn to animals, and animals don’t turn to people. It was all smoke and mirrors; myths from the depths of hell.
Francesca Philips didn’t believe in the unseen things of this earth. She didn’t believe, and right now, as one of the most horrifying spectacle of her life stood behind her back, she didn’t ‘want’ to believe.
It can’t just be possible. Yes, a sheep is coming from my back but it’s not Collins. It can’t be him. People don’t turn to animals. He was just joking when he said what he said the other day.
She heard bleating. The sound was so close she could swear it was just by her leg. She wanted to leave the ground like a spring, hop over the gate, and find herself on the other side. But she couldn’t move; so damn scared that she couldn’t imagine lifting a foot. She held tight to the gate.
She felt something touch her leg, and adrenaline took over. Madly, she turned around swiftly and pushed her back against the gate. Before her was a huge sheep – white-haired but with smudges of black all over its body. Its countenance was the definition of monster: open mouth that revealed large teeth and eyes that completely had the colouration of black blood. It appeared to charge towards her but withdrew before taking a step; like a wrestler trying to scare his opponent.
Francesca’s terror was complete. She thought she was in a dream. But this was real. As real as rain. She couldn’t shout. Fear had paralysed even her lungs. She knew it was the end, when the monster came charging at her. She closed her eyes, but didn’t have the chance to say her last prayers before she felt something crush her torso.
When she opened her eyes again, she was lying on a bed in a bright room. The ceilings were white. She attempted to turn her head, but it wouldn’t budge. Her neck felt heavy, like a stone had been tied around it.
“Just don’t move.” A voice said somewhere close by. She heard the sound of a chair creaking over hard surface, and a face appeared over her, hovering. It was Pastor Rachael. “Thank God you made it.”
“What happened?” Francesca said. Her voice was weak and hollow, and she knew it herself. She thought she had died, and was in the realm of angels.
“You need to rest, I’m so glad you made it.”
“I don’t understand. What happened? I’m in so much pain.”
“Sorry. You don’t remember anything?”
“What then do you remember?”
She didn’t reply immediately. She seemed to be pondering the question. “I . . . I went for a group meeting. That’s all.”
“That’s all? You don’t remember anything else?”
Francesca gasped in pain. She had reflexively tried to shake her head.
“Sorry. Don’t shake it again . . . we found you in front of the hostel gate covered in blood. Doctors said you had a zero chance of survival.”
Francesca tried to return the thin smile on Rachael’s face. “Yeah . . . but I think my neck’s broken.”
“That can be fixed.”
“Sure. For how long have I been here?”
“I’ve been out for five days?”
“Wow. Feels like the other half of a second. I mean I can vividly remember walking towards the hostel. It’s like I blinked and found myself here.”
“Yeah.” Rachael said.
A silence ensued. Francesca peered into Rachael’s hanging face. She felt Rachael knew what she was thinking. She was right.
Rachael said: “I know you are thinking who did this to you. But we haven’t found out yet. Like I said, we found you lying in a pool of blood all mashed up like chewed meat. And you were silently saying some meaningless words.”
“Meaningless words? How?”
“Yeah. They didn’t make sense. You were saying ‘please help me, the sheep is coming again’. Does that make sense to you?”
Francesca’s thoughts were suspended. Why would she refer to a sheep? The last time she heard the word, she had been with Collins. He had joked about being a sheep, and she had joked about being a goat. That can’t be possible. “I don’t think it makes sense . . . by the way, where is Collins?”
“Oh! Your darling. He’s been patrolling here like he owns the place. I’m sure he would soon be here.
“I need to talk to him.”
“Of course.” Rachael breathed out.
The air from her pastor’s breath hit Francesca’s face like a gust of wind, and it carried a foul stench, like that of a rotten egg. But she didn’t say anything. That would be rude. Wouldn’t it?
However, Francesca opened her mouth: “I have to tell you something.”
Collins Ogu didn’t like to fail, because he knew his survival depended on being able to keep his nature a secret. But something had happened that night. He had attacked Francesca intending to finish her; but after crushing her against the gate for the first time, he had withdrawn and walked away. Why? He couldn’t quite explain it, but he had felt guilty about killing her. For goodness sake you guys are in love. But that was not his nature, he reminded himself. He was a child of the devil, and he was destined to commit deeds worthy of darkness. He had killed his parents when he was twelve because they didn’t buy him a Christmas shoe. He had murdered countless people the same way, mauling them to pieces without mercy. It was his nature, his curse, the way he was wired.
So why did I not finish her up that day? Why haven’t I finished her for the past five days? He couldn’t quite explain it, but he knew what it was. He was in love. And that love had tried to change him. He had tried to fight his curse, for the first time ever. He had wanted to break free from the chains of darkness, from the grip of the devil. He had wanted to find salvation.
But this is who you are boy. You belong to me. Remember how many you have killed, murdered. You can’t receive salvation now. No one would give it to you. You are who you are.
He believed that voice in his head. Yeah, he could not receive salvation. Nobody would give it to him. He was not worthy of it. He was not worthy of Francesca’s love. And there and then, inside his hostel room, he knew he had to end everything. He set off for the Health Centre under the blanket of an eight O’ clock darkness.
He met Pastor Rachael in the lobby of the Health Centre. He smiled as he approached her. “Good evening ma’am.”
“Good evening, how are you?” Rachael said.
“I’m very fine. And you?”
A brief, awkward silence, then Collins said: “You came to see Francesca? How’s she?”
Rachael nodded. She appeared to be worried about something, and when she spoke, she tried to avoid looking at his face. “She’s fine. She should be inside resting.”
“Yeah, she woke up this evening.”
“Great. Then let me quickly see her then.” He walked past her, but stopped after taking a few steps. Rachael had called his name. He swung back.
“God loves you.” She said.
Collins nodded and smiled. “I know that.” But as he walked down the corridors of the hospital, he wondered how easily he could lie to people. He knew he didn’t believe in God, or all the bullshit peddled by religious people; but no one knew he didn’t. He was as convincing as a politician.
He reached the door where his prey was. He knew this time he couldn’t fail. And for no reason at all, his pulse rate quickened. He gripped the handle, turned it and the door budged without creaking. But he didn’t push it wide open. He only opened it a little. Because he didn’t want Francesca to see his face (he was scared he would not have the nerve to finish her if their eyes met) he changed into his sheep form before pushing the door a little bit more so as to walk in . . . on four feet.
Inside, it was dark. He could see two beds. One was occupied, the other was not (that was the way it was supposed to be. Francesca never had a roommate). He cursed himself for being a coward. If he had not changed form, he would have been able to switch on the lights. However, he knew he didn’t need the lights. All he had to do was pounce on his target and get the job done.
He took a leap, and while in the air, a stupid thought crossed his mind. What if this is not Francesca’s body? What if it was just a bunch of pillows arranged to look like a human being?
When he landed on the bed, however, he had thought it all wrong.
It was a net. Some people might call it a trap.
She cried so much. She couldn’t believe it. It was like a nightmare. How could Collins be a sheep? But it was all before her. The sheep was entangled in a net, and she had seen the security people carry it out from the room where she, Pastor Rachael and some nurses had set the trap.
When Pastor Rachael had told her about the words please help me, the sheep is coming again. The memory of what had happened had come back. She could remember the fear she felt. The horror. She could remember thinking it was Collins. But of course she had no proof. She had confided in Pastor Rachael after the foul-breath incident. Rachael had quickly suggested they took necessary precautions. “I think this is a very spiritual case’, she had said. They had prayed together, and according to Rachael, the Lord had directed them to lay a trap.’
“Now I hope you believe in ghosts and demons and spiritual forces,” Rachael asked Francesca. It had been two months since the sheep was caught in a net (the police had released the animal claiming they couldn’t detain a ‘harmless’ animal). Francesca was using a double crutch to support herself, as Rachael walked down to class under a tame afternoon sun.
Francesca sighed. “With what I’ve seen? I’m a monkey if I don’t.”
Three Years Later, Somewhere in Russia . . .
The room reeked of ink. It was a nauseating smell that made one want to puke.
He heard movement, but he was in no position to determine the source. After a very long time, he started to hear voices. At first, the voices spoke in a language he didn’t understand. Then a new voice entered the fray.
“Good morning Dr. Kovac. Any progress?”
“Definitely sir. Though it’s still very little.”
“Enlighten me.” The man who had spoken first in English said.
The voices started to get clearer. It was like they were getting closer to where he was.
Dr. Kovac’s voice continued to boom with enthusiasm: “. . . very unstable for now, but we have been to detect consistent human traits in it. But I have to say Mr. Bill, I cannot guarantee anything.”
There was coughing, apparently from the man who had been called Mr. Bill. “How much have we spent on this project doctor? Two billion dollars? Three? . . . I’m not looking for guarantees Dr. Kovac. I’m looking for answers.”
Collins Ogu froze wherever he was.