Bloody Rose Strewn Aisle

She stirred in her sleep pouting flawless full lips. As he watched her, tenderness rose in his chest. He smiled, shaking his head in mock disbelief. In a few hours, they’d be married. Watching her made him feel grateful. And scared. He hadn’t thought he would make it through school alive. But here was he– Seychelle Udoka, Don Scorpio–getting married. His eyes grew misty but he brushed away the tears. A Black Python don mustn’t be caught getting wet. Never.

A flash of blue caught his eye and he rushed to the window. Apart from the expansive well trimmed lawn and a few egrets he couldn’t see anything. His inner censors began to hum. This must be serious, he thought. His sensors didn’t lie. He made for the door.

“Honey?”

Chineze was awake. He exhaled in a low whoosh and turned to meet her luminous eyes boring into his.

“Jewel, you are up. Nice. Get ready. We leave by ten.”

“We do ?” Chineze said, stifling a yawn and walking over to bury her face in his neck. “I feel like I am bursting with joy, honey. You are such a gift. I love you.”

“As are you Jewel. I love you too. I always will, with my heart and all the blood that flows through it. I will love you till my heart cam pump no more.”

“Such poetry…”

“Is not worthy of you my Jewel. But I mean it. I love with you my life.”

Giving her a peck, he inched towards the door. “I’m going for a little walk. Get ready, the make-up artiste and her crew will be here soon. I’ll be right back.”

Without waiting to hear her reply, he was out of the door.

Outside, the sun was perched above the hills casting a golden glow over the expansive golf course that was the pride of Le Meridien, the regional five star hotel. Acres of rolling hills, exotic flowers, merry birds and glorious clouds greeted his eyes. He was about abort the phoney stroll plan when he saw it.

On the sand between the house and the garden, someone had made some markings on the sand. Nsibidi, an ancient code of signs and symbols used to pass messages to members of a sect.

The markings had been made with a vulture’s feather. Its message was clear: We are here.

Fear punched him in the gut while rage coursed through his veins. He came to marry Chineze in the remote village of Idu to stay under the radar. He had tried to get visas to London but it didn’t work. The embassy said he couldn’t justify the large amounts of money in his account wit his sketchy work history…. Now this.

Many people wanted him dead, souvenirs from a five year career as a Black Python hitman. But who wanted him so badly? This badly?

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Sometimes it felt like his life was soundtrack of blood and pain. From his mother discovering she was pregnant with him and not having a clue whose it was, to his drunk ‘Uncle’ Lazarus throwing mom and him out under a rain of punches one dark night.

He could still see his mother weeping and retching into the overflowing gutter till she fainted. The land lady, bless her soul, had rushed then to the hospital.

He could still hear the sounds of women groaning in cold ward: the sick, the hurt, the dying.

He could still smell the blend of antiseptic, uneaten food and body fluids.

He could still feel the cement floor beneath his back– cold, hard, cruel.

It changed him. Even before he was told his mother was dead, he vowed never to be weak. He vowed never to let others dictate his life’s choices. He would dictate theirs, instead.

It was no surprise, when he got into university on a scholarship (his third) he joined the Black Pythons. The cult made him feel less vulnerable. It gave him a sense of belonging and power but at a price. He was happy to pay. He had so much rage twirling in his gut, sending people off was therapeutic.

Now, that was unimportant. He didn’t want to carry his bloody past into the future. That’s why he had changed towns four times in the last six years. He kept no cell phone and no permanent address. He knew the lengths rival cults could go to avenge a perceived slight. An ex-hitman was a prime target. In spite of himself, his hands were quivering.

He erased the marks and went back to get dressed. He had just an hour before his wedding. On the way he would make a few calls for back up from the hotel lobby. For the first time in years he said a prayer. Lord, keep Jewel and baby safe. Amen.

The beginning…
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Edward Please Call Me

The first time he heard her voice, he was in awe. It was a fount of fresh water, refreshing and teasing him all at once. From then on, it became his daily companion, his addiction, on the long ride from Palmgrove to Ajah each day. Its soft, sure lilt made him smile, made him wince, made him laugh aloud.

Before long he knew her schedule, had the outlay of her programs tattooed on his mind. ‘Dream, Live, Achieve, Praise’ on Mondays, ‘Celebrity Spotlight’ on Tuesday, ‘Know Your Self’ on Wednesday, ‘Be The Change’ on Thursday, ‘Kisses and Knocks’ on Friday, ‘Rock it Hard’ on Saturday, ‘Vessels Of Clay’ on Sunday.

When she was away for three days of casual leave, his world veered off orbit.

When she resumed, it revolved again.

When she got a Youtube Channel. He was one of her first fifty viewers. She was as he had imagined her: brown, beautiful, full figured and feisty.

He took in every inch of her honey brown skin, her earthy smile and the slight squint of her right eye. He would give anything to be closer to her… there were no takers.

That is how he would have remained– a faceless, irrelevant online admirer–if she hadn’t opened a Twitter account.

When she did, the dice rolled in his favour, he had clout there and he made it count.

Using his twelve odd accounts he got her 1000 followers in two weeks, it was easy from there. Soon she was an OverLady, ruling over a virtual kingdom 10,000 followers strong.

She followed him, at his official account, but still, it was hard to make the leap. What was he to say, really? The truth would make him look like a common troll, a lie would toss him into the bin, along with all the celebrity mention seekers…

As he re-read the direct message before sending, he wondered why words were such inadequate things, when they were all you had. With two deep breaths and prayers to Cupid and Fortuna, he pressed ‘Send’.

She never acknowledged the message. After a while he sent her another one, again there was no reply.
Impatience gnawed at his gut, and Rejection nibbled his liver. His carefully planned transition from online admirer to real life lover was turing into a Hungarian horror film.

He disliked the thought of mentioning her, of being so obvious. In the end he had no choice, and even then, it made no difference.

The pin that burst his balloon with a bang was waking up to find that his main account had been suspended. Over 6,000 hours of wit, networking, quotes and favourites, wiped out like they had never existed.

Twitter admin cited user abuse and said he had been reported as spam.
Did he mention a certain account more than five times in two hours?

Liquid rage ran up his throat and erupted in a groan as he flung his phone on the bed. The hardy N900 nokia split into three wholes without a qualm. No! No oo oo ! He screamed as the fury rocked him like gunfire.

In the coming days, nothing soothed the pain: not music, not whiskey, not insanity workouts, not the news that his study leave application had been approved.

He logged out of his other accounts and deleted his Youtube App. With the renewed verve, he focused on reading for his professional exams. He did well in them, his scores soaring above those of his course mates,fuelled by the his rage.

A year later, he got an offer to work as Public Relations and Social Media Consultant in a multinational telecommunications firm. It was another welcome opportunity to bury himself in work. He gave it his all.

One saturday evening, at a dinner, he saw her. She was just the way he remembered from his Nokia N900 screen–a burst of colour, animation and bright smiles. A fresh jolt of pain hit him, but he braved it and smiled back.

“Very nice to meet you,Yemi. ” He managed.

“It is ‘my’ pleasure Mr Edward.” She gushed with a wide smile and a flutter of her borrowed eyelashes.

When she left, an usher slipped him her card.

Edward, please call me. It said.

Committing the number to memory, he squeezed the card into a ball and threw it into the nearest basket. At last the pain began to ebb, in its place there sprung a delicious dash of freshly ground revenge.

As he left the dinner that night, he tuned in to her program again for the first time in years. Things were going to be quite different this time, that, he was sure of.

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Power Play

When a sleepy, poorly paid nurse in a government hospital pierced Chinedu’s ears,she thought he was a girl. It was a mistake that changed in that many ways, how the world would see him.

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Guarding criminals wasn’t in Martha’s job description but again, what was? : not the mopping of spewed vomit, so malodourous that it made her wonder if the man had swallowed a toilet; not the battle to start the old-model generator; not the slaps she gave women in labour to help them push faster; not the quickies she had in the toilet with Dave.

But all that was insignificant, compared to the problem at hand.

She had come to the night shift early hoping for a quiet night and 6 hours of power. The national electric company, PHCN, hadn’t let her bulb blink in weeks.

She wanted to charge her phones, rechargeable lanterns, and laptop. She was certain this would be a peaceful, uneventful night.

Until she saw the bed, with someone handcuffed to it.

The beaten bruised form looked grotesque on the red mackintosh. While she watched, he writhed and wriggled, straining against the cuffs till he drew blood. His tiny diamond earrings flashed mini rainbows in the white light.

She stared at him, too scared to say a word. He saw her and snarled.

“What are you looking at? Get me some oil, olive oil or something.” He said.

“We don’t have any” Martha replied, fighting the urge to run that hammered in her chest.

“Then look for some. Or else, when I find my way out of these cuffs. You ‘ll be very sorry.” He said, straining against the iron shackles.

“Alright then.” Martha said, backing out of the room.

“Nurse!” Chinedu called.

That was his name. She remembered now, from the handing over notes.
“Yes?” She answered.

“I want to pee. Get me something. Be fast! *#/:+!” He roared.

Anger, Duty and Fear tussled inside her. Duty won. She ambled back into the room got a bedpan and took it to him. Anger boiled in her head, a bubbling cauldron. She took deep breaths and counted to thirty.

When he was done, she zipped his fly and he began to laugh–loud guffaws that bounced of the walls and resonated in the night.

“You are just a night soil woman, calling yourself a nurse. Feeling uppity in your white uniform.” He spat at her. She jumped. The blood streaked sputum landed on the floor where her feet had been.

That’s when she lost it. Tossing the bedpan at his groin, she drenched him in a shower of urine and a sharp, stifling odour filled the room. Walking over to a stunned Chinedu she grabbed his ears and twisted them.

“Don’t ever say that to me, again. Do you hear me?” She asked.

“Yes, yes, I do.” Chinedu said.

She slapped him twice on the cheek and gave him a knock. He tried to bite her but got a blow to the nose that left him howling in pain.

“That’s better. Slimy idiot. I’ll teach you not to say that to any one ever again. Full time fool.”

With that she walked out, rolling her generous hips and humming Fela’s ‘Dem go say I be Lady.’ Back at her desk, she locked the door behind her and rubbed her thighs together till she came, imagining Chinedu inside her.

When she finished. She went back and cleaned him up, swapping his wet soiled clothes for scrubs. He was silent while she worked.

The gunshots that followed startled them. Three masked men barged into the room wielding guns. She screamed and was hit across the mouth so hard she passed out.

When she woke up, she was in an incomplete building, handcuffed to the wall. And Chinedu was smiling down at her.