SAVING FAITH

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It was a dark night and Faith Osewa wanted to buy something at Back-Gate. Back-Gate was a dangerous place. Thieves lurked. Rapists abounded. And there was this rumour that diabolical men patiently searching for people’s head to cut had joined the cast of bad people in the territory. For most Ekehuan students (girls especially) the place became a no-go area when the sun was on the edge of the horizon, dipping into the far west, and when shadows began to lengthen, creating the loom of darkness.

Boys whistled at her as she walked past the Male Hostel. The right curves and flesh at the right places meant she was always a constant target of primal sexual advances – ‘harassment from the men-folk’ Faith preferred to call it. It made her constantly angry that these guys – who were supposedly receiving a university education – didn’t know that shouting at her words such as ‘see big yansh’ ‘chei this girl set finish’ ‘o boy see booby’ ‘baby come now’ didn’t make her feel good or proud. It made her feel naked and objectified as a mere tool for sexual pleasure. Once, when she was new in Ekehuan, a guy had fondled her bum during a Parade. Angry, she had stormed to the Security Post, which was populated by men. They had told her to count herself lucky she was not raped, considering the kind of tight-fitting trouser she was spotting. Faith had thought she was having a hearing defect. But it soon dawned on her that Ekehuan was not a world of men, but of monsters parading as civil citizens.

She walked on, ignoring their catcalls and profane words. She was almost at the gate separating Male Hostel and the neighbourhood called Back-Gate when she saw one of her classmates. Chuks was coming through the gate into the Hostel. But he had not seen her because he was looking at the ground.

“Chuks,” she said and grabbed his arm as he almost walked past her.

He looked up, and met her eyes. “Faith Osewa.”

He said her full name with a sense of nostalgia and surprise; like a man in a dream, lost in a fantasy world.

***

Chuks was really lost. But he wasn’t lost in a fantasy world. He was lost in Faith Osewa. She was his fantasy. She was his dream. He hadn’t believed in true love until recently when he saw her at the auditorium. But this was not a story of ‘boy loves girl but boy cannot tell girl how he feels’. Chuks Amuohu was a confidence man. Six foot, dark, and a chiselled face, he wasn’t your normal loser. He had not asked Faith out because he had his own secrets; secrets that he felt Faith – because of her churchliness – would never understand.

“You know my full name. How?”

Chuks shrugged. “I don’t know. I guess I’m a fast learner. We met at the auditorium last month remember?”

“During clearance.”

“Exactly.”

“I know, just that I don’t remember telling you my full name.”

Chuks shrugged again, and tilted his chin sideways. “I saw it on your file.”

“Oh!”

“Are you angry?”

“Why should I be?”

“Some girls don’t  . . .”

“I’m not some girls Chuks. I’m Faith Osewa.”

“Yes ma’am. So where are you off to?”

“Back-Gate.”

“This night? It’s too dangerous.”

“I know, but my roommate is at the Health Centre and she needs some drugs.”

“Don’t they have drugs at the Health Centre?”

“The pharmacy store has closed.”

“That’s strange. Should I walk you down then?”

She giggled. “C’mon Chuks, it’s not like you have a gun.”

“It’s not all about guns.”

She touched him on the shoulder. “Thanks sweetheart, I really appreciate. The pharmacy is just a few blocks away from the gate. I’ll be fine. Take care of yourself.”

She started to walk towards the gate but Chuks wasn’t comfortable with her walking the streets of Back-Gate alone

“Are you sure?” He shouted as she reached the gate.

“As positive as optimism.” She shouted back and disappeared into the waiting darkness beyond the gate.

But love makes you go crazy. It makes you think in circles. It makes you think stupidly, and you end up acting like a demented idiot. Chuks knew all that. It was why he was not surprised at himself for going after Faith Osewa, five minutes after she had disappeared into the blackness of Back-Gate. Yes, the girl had told him to back off, but he just could not. He would never have forgiven himself if something bad happened to her.

***

Faith had refused Chuks’s offer simply because she didn’t want to look weak. Yes, she was female and Back-Gate was a dangerous neighbourhood, but that didn’t mean she needed a guy to make her feel safe. She didn’t like it when guys thought it was their duty to protect a girl. She didn’t like it because it was such sense of duty that contributed to the stupid idea that women were the lesser of the sexes. There was no way she was going to accept that. The good Lord made the man and woman equally.

The first pharmacy she entered didn’t have the drug she was looking for, and the pharmacist, an old man with a bad breath, directed her to another pharmacy which was about two streets away. Faith thanked him and set off again.

As she walked on, the streets became darker and more deserted. She had left the part of Back-Gate where loud music boomed from night-clubs, and clusters of people gathered around a food seller. Here, the dishevelled houses lined up beside each other like dead corpses; the air carried a frightening, eerie silence that was only punctured by distant vehicle horns.

She made it to the pharmacy the old man had directed her to. At the front of the shop were four guys sitting on a bench, smoking pot. Behind them, the door of the shop was open, but the entrance was barricaded by a vertical-horizontal iron gate. A gutter separated her and the men.

“Good evening,” she said. “Please I want to get a drug. Is the pharmacist around?”

They all looked up and seemed to be sizing her up as their head went up and down.

“Hello,” she waved at their faces. “I need the pharmacist. Is he here?”

One of the guys stood up abruptly, his hands across his abdomen. “Ha! Shadow, konji dey hol me for here.” He stretched his two hands towards Faith. “See as Baba God finish work.”

The other guys burst into laughter, so much that they seemed to be choking on their pot, wheezing and struggling to contain themselves.

Sensing what was to come next, Faith doubled back and started to walk away. But she soon heard footsteps behind her and when she looked over her shoulder, the four guys were coming after her.

She panicked, and broke into a run.

In her fright, she took a wrong turn.

***

When Chuks reached the second pharmacy – with the directions given to him by the old man with the bad breath – he could sense something bad had happened. The assaulting smell of pot was strong in the air, and he easily deduced that some smokers had just left the place. Then where was Faith? He didn’t want to reach conclusions, but sinister vibes and chills had invaded him.

He clenched his fists around the vertical-horizontal iron bars that guarded the shop, and with one pull, he tore the welded bars off the walls they were attached to. He dumped it into the nearby gutter and proceeded into the shop. He had always known he was a monster, but the sort of rage that enveloped him right now was inexplicable; like nothing he had ever felt before.

After ransacking the whole drugstore in anger, he realised this was not going to save Faith. He didn’t even know where she was, or what was happening to her. For the first time in his life, he felt completely helpless, hopeless. He put an arm across the wall, bent his face over, and started to cry.

***

Back-Gate, like most neighbourhoods in Ekehuan was a perfect maze. There were no closed streets, no dead-ends. Every road connected to another road, every turn was an opening to another opening. Faith knew that if this chase had occurred in Lagos – where she resided with her parents – she would have been cornered a long time ago. Unlike Ekehuan, Lagos was a city of closed streets.

At the pace she was going, Faith feared she was going to lose steam and give her pursuers the advantage. But she knew she could not save energy at the moment. Immediately she realised she had veered off the right path back to school, she knew her survival depended on how fast she could lose the guys. But the bastards were obviously controlled by dopamine, a powerful motivation adrenaline, and they didn’t seem like giving up or tiring out – shouting words like ‘God punish me if I no duck that yansh today’, while making victory noises like barbarians going for the kill.

Faith veered into a street without a tarred road, and though she tried to keep going at breakneck speed, she stumbled on ditches and potholes. At a point, tripped by a stone, she fell flat on the ground, her chin scraping the coarse soil. Her own blood filled her mouth. Despite the incredible pain that ransacked her whole being, she didn’t wait a second nursing her injuries – the perverts were closing in rapidly, apparently seeing her sudden fall. She couldn’t let them get to her. No, that won’t be good for her. She picked up herself and made another turn.

Her shirt had been ripped apart by the fall. Her brassiere was out in the open, and she could feel the sting of several cuts all over her body. She could smell her own blood streaming out from these cuts. Her lips, bloodied, were swollen.

And weariness started to weigh upon her. She was losing too much blood. Too much blood. The bad guys were gaining, closing the distance.

Faith knew she would not last much – the street stretched interminably. She felt like crying, but she knew she had to be strong. This was not the time for tears. This was the time to be resourceful. She decided to enter the nearest building and cry for help.

She jumped a gutter and went through a gate. The compound she had entered was a bungalow. The ground was sandy. She went straight to the front door, but it was locked. She banged furiously. Through the window, she saw a flicker of light come up. Someone was inside.

“Hello, please help me. They want to rape me!”

The four guys streamed into the gate, and Faith knew at once that she was cornered – the house was fenced. “Hello, please help me!” She cried, banging the door furiously. But instead of the door opening, the light that had just come up inside went out.

“Ha! Baby you think sey dem go open door for you?” One of the guys said, as they approached her. “Everybody dey cover their own head for this place oh!”

They rounded her up, and although she clawed and cried, there was little she could do against four, strong guys. No one came out of the bungalow as they gagged her mouth with rough palms, and took her to a nearby bush beside the bungalow. None of them could keep their hands off her breasts and bum. They didn’t even notice she was bleeding. All they wanted was to get in between her bruised thighs.

They laid her on the ground of the bush, and one of them knelt down, about to yank off her trousers and open her legs. He was naked. His tool was erect. Lying weakly, defenceless, Faith bit her lip in pain. This beast was going to be her first.

Or maybe not.

The next second, his head was off his neck, and rolling on the ground beside her. Chuks was standing behind the headless body. His eyes were balls of fire, and two large teeth sprouted from his mouth, which was covered in blood.

Faith Osewa screamed in horror.

***

He had smelt blood in the air. Her blood. Faith’s blood.  He had stopped crying, and stepped out of the pharmacy into the night. The smell of blood had become stronger. And he had started to trace its source.

When he found the source, he had lost control of the little humanity he harboured. He had become the beast he was. He ripped of the guy’s head with one bite. No mercy. He didn’t spare the other three also. Yes, they ran, but he pursued them. He didn’t have a problem with catching up. He was as fast as light. One by one, he dug his fangs into their necks, and their heads came off. No mercy. They didn’t deserve any mercy.

Faith was waiting for him, when he came back from his short hunting. He hadn’t changed his form – it took a while before he could do that. He thought she would have fled in fear. But it seemed she had gotten over her initial terror. She was on the edge of the bushes, all bloodied and scarred, but still standing on her two feet. And he was out on the road, a monster in human form. The night was dark, but the constellations above combined to produce a shade of magical luminosity.

“What are you?” She asked.

“I don’t know.”

“A vampire?”

“Vampires are myths. I am not.”

THE END

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