The group huddled together for a picture as the tour guide struggled with the glittered iPhone, obviously foreign to him. Amber cringed and silently prayed he wouldn’t drop it. I went hungry to buy this phone. Don’t let my village people win.
‘Say furaha,’ the tour guide finally chanted, exposing two missing front teeth.
A couple of clicks and Amber wasted no time retrieving her phone. Ma ko ba mi. The pictures came out lovely. Not so bad for a native. Something caught her eye and she squinted. Looking from the picture to the now scattered group, it then hit her. Joe was missing in both.
Where the heck did he go?
Tucking the phone in her waist pouch, she went from cluster to cluster. “Have you seen Joe?” A shrug here, a no there and worry lines began to appear on her forehead. She stood at the entrance of the cave and watched as the others headed back to camp. Their chatter slowly faded and she was surrounded by an eerie stillness. Still no sign of Joe.
As she stood contemplating going back into the cave to begin a one-man search, she was hit by a blast of cold air. She shuddered as the creepy bonfire stories from the night before began to play in her head. About how one person always disappeared from the group whenever there was a camp out.
She shrugged them away. They weren’t true. They were exactly what they were; bed time horror stories to fit in with the aesthetics of the camp. People don’t just disappear. But she couldn’t help the odd feeling in her bones.
Hands grabbed her from behind and she shrieked. Turning around, it was Joe. She rammed her fist into his chest. “You scared the crap out of me. Where have you been?”
“Shhhh.” He kissed her lightly, then a little longer.
“Yuck! What’s that bitter taste?” she rubbed the back of her hand aggressively against her lips.
His eyes looked glassy. “Sorry. It was a little concoction I took in the cave.”
Her brow shot up. “What did you say?”
Joe pulled her in by the shoulder and started to walk. “Remember that guy we met at the mouth of the eastern cave? The cave supposedly housing the legendary spider spirit?”
Amber stopped and shrugged his hand off. “That’s not some guy. That’s a dibia man.”
He threw his head back and laughed. “Leave that thing jeyrey.” He tried to reach for her hand but she pulled back.
“Are you serious right now? You realize these people take their native superstitions serious.”
“Exactly. That’s what they are. Superstitions.” He belched, releasing a foul smell. “Anyways, he said I had a restless soul and I needed to be tamed. So he gave me this herb to drink and I took it.”
“You what?” she yelped, facing him squarely.
He shrugged. “What? It’s not a big deal. Look, that guy was definitely stoned. I only wanted a bit of what he had…” He grinned. “…for the experience.” and laughed in a way that sounded like a snort.
Amber looked into his eyes. They were dilated. Whatever it is he took, he was not himself. But still, she couldn’t ignore the cold chill he seemed to have brought back with him.
“You are on your own on this one, Joe. Let’s just get back to the lodge.” She said in disappointment.
“I should go check on Joe. See if he’s alright.” Amber said absent minded, to her bunk mate.
She wrapped her ‘spongebob’ kimono around her and put on her slides. The other guys were huddled in front of the TV, watching a football match. Joe was a football fanatic and never missed a match, especially with friends. Whatever was going on with him wasn’t good. He had looked distant during dinner, throwing up every single thing he ate.
The door to his room was ajar but no light poured out from the gap. She wrapped her arms around herself; this side of the lodge feeling ice-cold.
“Joe…” She called out. The walls echoed her words to her.
She looked towards the corridor and thought of calling one of the guys. But then she thought of how silly that would be. What exactly was she afraid of?
Clutching her phone and taking slow steps, she walked to the door and opened it a little bit more without stepping in. Light from the yard came in through the window, enough to light some parts of the bed. Joe lay still in bed. He looked peaceful. Whatever he took had obviously knocked him down.
Amber sighed and returned the door to its original position. “What is wrong with me? Why am I so paranoid tonight?” She made to leave and then paused. “I should make sure he’s breathing fine. This silly goose won’t give me a heart attack.”
She reached for the wall on the inside and felt for the switch, putting it on.
Her mouth formed a big O as her phone fell to the ground. Every inch of her, paralyzed. Joe lay in bed peacefully. Only that he wasn’t sleeping. Half his face was gone, slowly knitted by a giant spider to a blanket of…other faces.
What do you think is the correlation between what Joe took in the cave and the giant spider? I myself do not know. Maybe you do. Tell us. Lol.
*Tsoro means horror in Hausa