He groaned as the pounding increased. It was as if Mama Effiong had left her shop across the street and taken up space in his head. Rolling over, he fell off the bed only to realise he had actually slept off on the couch. As he sat up, rubbing the base of his back where he had fallen on a bottle, everything began coming back to him.
Mide’s parents were always travelling and so, he mostly had the duplex to himself to do as he pleased. Along with Paul and Ade his best friends, he would throw parties whenever his parents were away. One of such had held over the night and it seemed both of them had left him alone to clean up this time. He hissed as he took in the extent of the mess, deciding it was best he called professional cleaners to do that.
His left arm began to itch and he started to scratch only to discover a number had been written on his arm. He smiled as he recollected how wild the girls Ade and Paul had brought were. One of them must have probably scribbled her number on his arm. He got up from the floor and began to search for his phone. It was wedged in between the couch. He sighed in relief as he didn’t know half the people who came for the party and anyone could have walked away with it. He had to take an inventory later to be sure nothing was missing. His mum had OCD and she knew exactly where she placed everything.
Dialing the number, he slumped on the couch and stretched his legs on the glass table. It rang once and was disappointed with the voice he heard. It wasn’t feminine, sounded raspy and was reeling out some strange instructions. He cursed and ended the call. The boys were probably trying to play a prank on him. Next he dialled the cleaners and made for the bathroom. He had to get the ink off his skin. It was beginning to itch more and redden. He couldn’t risk having a reaction that would go out of hand.
After scrubbing the ink with hypo and dettol for almost five minutes, he realised the ink wasn’t coming off any time soon. Beads of sweat started to form on his forehead. What if it was a real tattoo? His mum would have a feat and create a major scene. He ground his teeth. Whoever pulled this expensive joke would escape death by a thread. As if in response, his phone chimed. It was a text message from the number.
“I know what you did.”
With sweaty palms, he began to type furiously.
“If this is a joke, you better stop it. I don’t find it funny.”
” Hahahaha. You fool. I know about Black Velvet.”
Mide shook his head. That was his 21st birthday party three months ago. He replied.
“So? Everyone knows about Black Velvet.”
“I’m talking about Becky.”
He froze as he slid down to the bathroom floor.
Becky was a babe Ade had been trying to woo for a while. She wouldn’t give him any attention because it was no news Ade changed girls faster than you can blink. Becky had come to the party in the company of her friends and had shunned Ade completely. People had woken up in the morning to hear a girl screaming and crying. It was Becky. She claimed Ade had drugged her and with Paul, had taken advantage of her. Ade insisted she had been more than willing to go all the way and even mocked her. She had left the house with people thinking the worst of her. When news reached them that Becky had attempted suicide as a result of the issue, the boys had confessed to him but that was that about it. They never came out to say their story was false. Mide also kept quiet. After all, it was bros over…
Two images followed suit and he clicked on download. He chocked back a scream as he saw the lifeless bodies of Ade and Paul. There were both bleeding from the mouth, ears, nose and eyes. The raspy voice wasn’t playing. A message followed.
“Still think I’m joking?”
“Please. I don’t want to die. I didn’t do anything.” Mide was beginning to sweat through his shirt.
“Exactly. You did nothing. You covered up their crime. And that’s why you’d end up like them.”
“I’d do anything. Whatever it takes. Please I don’t want to die.” He was beginning to sob softly.
“I’ve been more than generous. I killed them both because they refused to confess.
There was a pause.
“But I gave you a fighting chance. Chop off your left arm or die. What would it be?”
When he had called the number earlier, he had been told poison sacs had been injected under his skin through the ink and he had twenty minutes to either chop off the arm or the poison will be released into his bloodstream. His phone chimed.
“Ten minutes left. How far would you go to save yourself?”
Mide leaned his head against the wall. He should have spoken up when he had the chance to. Becky wouldn’t have ingested chemicals and ended in a medically induced coma. Now, his silence would cost him his life. He thought of his parents. As the only child, his demise would be such a huge blow to them. There was no way he could cut off his arm. It was just impossible to do. He closed his eyes, sniffing as the images of his dead friends flashed before him. It would be over soon.
***** ***** *****
“So guys, that’s how I ended up with an arm.”
Mr Akinniyi detached his artificial arm. Gasps and murmurs erupted around the room. It was filled with students of St Engregs School. Mide in the story turned out to be their visiting counsellor.
His voice rang across the Hall as their noise quited down. Hands began to shoot up.
“Okay. I’d just answer a couple. You there.”
He pointed to a guy in thick glasses.
“So, I’m curious. You sounded like you had accepted your fate. What made you change your mind?” He sat as his friend shoulder bumped him.
“Well, I realised I didn’t want to die. I was young. I had my whole life ahead of me. So, I fought to live.”
He pointed to the light skinned girl facing him directly.
“You were home alone. How did you get the arm off and didn’t you for once consider you could have bled to death?”
“Very smart thinking there. I used a machete I found in the garage. And no, I didn’t consider I could bleed to death till I actually started bleeding to death. I was alone in the house and as I lay on the garage floor bleeding, I said a prayer. If only God would spare my life, I’d spend the rest of my life telling my story.”
“Did you ever find out who Mr raspy voice was?” Someone shouted from the back.
“No. The number was deactivated after that. ”
“Do you think they got what they deserved?” Another asked. He meant Ade and Paul.
Mide sighed. “They were young. They did a terrible thing. But no one should ever take justice into their hands.”
“Did you speak up after that?” A tiny girl asked.
“Yes. I did. I had to make restitution. Truth is, I was scared if I didn’t, I may find myself choosing between cutting off one of my legs or death. I didn’t want to take any chances.”
Laughter rang out across the Hall.
“And Becky?” Another girl asked.
“She’s fine now. It took her two years to come out of the coma. But she forgave me. She’s fighting against rape and sexual harassment now.”
There were murmurs among the students. Mide reattached his arm as he watched them keenly. He then cleared his throat.
“That said, I want you all to take one important point away from all these. Should you ever find yourself in a position to speak up against a wrong, never ever hesitate. Because your silence could turn out deadly.” He paused and smiled. “Thank you.”
Walking off the podium, he sighed. It’s been 20years of talking to teenagers and young adults. Silently, he prayed he had planted a seed in the hearts of the students.