by Daniel Nkado
I was on my way to Kano. It was a Sunday.
The driver was speeding. Most of the passengers were screaming, telling him to slow down.
But he never actually did.
‘Oga, easy!’ they said.
‘This man take it easy!’
Still he did not listen.
I didn’t join them in screaming at the driver anyway.
Even before I boarded the bus I already knew the man was a bit of a crackhead.
And, too, I sort of think it’d be nice if I arrived Kano in daytime. It never once happened before and I would have wanted it to.
The whooshing sound of fast-moving air surged past my ear as the driver sped on. The passengers continued to scream, now majorly the women among us.
‘You this mad man, stop!’ a heavily built woman at the back yelled. ‘Stop me now, let me get down!’
If the driver heard her at all, no one could tell. If anything it appeared the woman’s yelling only succeeded in making him run even faster.
My phone rang then and I looked at it.
It was my mother calling again.
It was barely two hours since her last call.
I smiled, shook my head and swiped across my phone’s screen.
The phone to my ear, she asked just the same questions she’d done earlier: where we have gotten to and if I was feeling okay.
I gave her the answers she needed and she said ‘ok’, again, and then ‘I love you, bye-bye’. She ended the call.
I was returning my phone into the outer pocket of my backpack when it happened.
I couldn’t describe it because it all happened too fast—way too fast. I didn’t witness it. I saw nothing.
All I heard was a great crashing sound. So deafening was it that for a second I thought that it was it—the noise—that had caused a shade of brown to the air.
But it wasn’t it.
It was the blood.
I managed to twist my neck and I saw it—blood. It appeared to have stained every single space in the bus.
I tried to move my arms and discovered I couldn’t.
Not my legs either. Or my neck again. It had stiffened.
Beside me and around, a few were groaning—muffled sounds of pain and departure.
Those already departed were quiet and stiff already, awkwardly positioned and covered in red.
The same shade of red that had appeared to colour part of the air.
But I was still alive. I knew it because I could still make out images, and perceive my breath.
I could feel the raw pain all over me. It flooded me from all angles, overwhelming and biting.
I knew when people started rushing to us.
I heard their screams and the patter of their feet. I saw those that had their hands on their heads.
I was still alive.
I didn’t die in the bus.
I didn’t even die that evening.
Or the next.
It happened four days later. At the General Hospital.
My mother was sitting beside my bed, her figure vague in the messed-up version of what has become of my vision now.
She was saying something. She was telling me something—a question I think.
My mother likes to ask questions a lot.
But vaguer and vaguer her voice went. She was sitting right there, next to me—I was sure—but her voice appeared to be coming from afar. Like someone talking and moving down a tunnel at the same time.
I strained to hear.
‘What are you saying?’ I wanted to ask her.
And then I realized I couldn’t anymore.
It wasn’t her.
It was me.
Something was happening to me. Something strange and incomprehensible.
I was the one leaving.
It was something close to the effect of strong alcohol. Or anaesthesia. Or both.
I was losing myself, yet could do nothing.
For a second I thought it was the drugs and injections, or the pain from the bandaged wound on my head.
But a part of me knew it was not it.
It was something else.
Something more serious. More terrifying. Something permanent.
And just then it happened. It was like the sudden outage of power, the way it happens in Nigeria.
A thick cloak of darkness fell over me and swallowed me whole.
For many long seconds, I saw nothing. Could not move.
Did not understand anything.
I was afraid.
It took a while before the blackness cleared, now replaced by a gentle smoky white, all the same impeding to vision.
Another while passed before my sight appeared to be returning, vague still in the floating mist of grey that now surrounded me.
But I could make out figures once again. And some bit of noise too. All quite very faintly though.
I could make out the image that was my mother’s. Her figure, her face; she was hovering just above me.
She was screaming—I was very sure of it—even though all I could perceive was a faint whistling.
A tall man was standing beside her, watching her. He might have been saying something to her.
Someone came over then to grab my mother.
But she wouldn’t let go. She wouldn’t let go of me.
I wanted to move then but couldn’t. I wanted to say something to her, but no sound could come from me. Yet my mouth was open—I thought that it was.
And then I realized I was no longer there. I was now a floating shadow, weightless as air.
I’d lost total control of my body.
Speech, movement, the feeling of touch, I could do neither of them no more.
I felt terribly sad.
I still do now. Even with the much freedom that I’ve come to know now, I still aren’t happy. Not completely.
There is no pain here. No thirst, no hunger or fear. I have no worries.
I’ve seen it—the worst. It wasn’t as scary as people thought it would be.
Only sometimes I feel a little sad and lonely. When I see the people above that I miss.
‘Hi,’ I hear.
I turn to my back.
She smiles back.
‘When did you arrive here?’ she asks me.
‘Some days ago,’ I say.
‘Welcome.’ She waves. ‘Come, let me show you around.’
Please drive more carefully this season.