Their second night in the wild did not go well. They had spent their first night in the rain, running around and descending the mountain so they did not really feel anything. They did not sense any danger neither did it occur to them that they were actually in what seemed like a forest. But now that they were no longer running, now that they were settled, and they were conscious of their environment and predicament, it became much more difficult to pass the night on green grass at the base of the mountain.
They were not thinking about this in the afternoon. In the afternoon, they were talking. Immediately everyone of them confirmed that it was really the small boy that the two strangers had brought, and that the small boy was still alive even though he was not conscious, they got talking.
“Where did you find him?” Tara was quick to ask. Her mind was still on David. If they could find the small boy, then they should be able to find David, she thought.
The two strangers looked at each other and sat down on a rock in the grass.
“Who are you guys?” AK asked as he too sat down on the rock beside them. Kazeem and Tara remained standing.
“I am Akin,” the boy said, looking at AK.
AK nodded and stretched out his hand for a handshake. “I am AK. It is nice –”
“Oh shit! Can we skip this nonsense introduction please! Where did you find him?” Tara yelled in annoyance, clapping her hands in haste.
“We did not find him. He was rolling down. He came down to meet us,” the strange girl said. She looked gentle and fragile, like a pawn in a chess game.
“Did you see anyone else? Did you see anyone else with him?” Tara asked.
Akin nodded. “We saw a guy climbing down the mountain. It was as though he was chasing the rolling boy or something. We were watching him from where we stood at the base of the mountain but then, all of a sudden, he just vanished from sight and this small boy rolled down instead. Was that guy part of you people?” Akin asked, his eyes on Tara. She did not answer. She simply covered her mouth with her cupped hands and turned her back on them all. Where are you?
Kazeem sat down on the grass close to where the small boy lay and focused on him. If not for his small stature, perhaps no one would have recognized him. He was battered beyond recognition. Rolling down the mountain, all the sharp rocky edges and plains had torn his skin in many places. His face was hideous. His eyes, which had suddenly become too big for their small sockets, were still shut. His nose looked broken and grotesque; Kazeem was not sure it was not. The boy’s lower lip was cut, detached from his face and almost falling to the ground. It was as though any attempt by him to talk would lead to the death of his lower lip. There was no way he was going to talk with his lip hanging like that – like an extension of his mouth.
His body was fine to an extent. Although there were cuts on all parts of him and his clothes were completely torn, he was still in one piece. There was no more bleeding. The rain seemed to have washed him clean and allowed blood clotting on the cuts.
He was pitiable, the small boy. Kazeem just kept on looking at him and then suddenly, he said, “Do you think he is going to make it?”
“Well, that remains to be seen,” Tara said.
“Aren’t you guys going to do something? Are you just going to watch him die?” the girl asked.
“Who are you please?” Tara asked.
“Bisi. I am with Akin.”
“And what were you guys doing here on the mountain?” AK asked. “You don’t look like OAU students. No offence.”
Akin nodded. “We are not OAU students. I am one of the barbers in Faj. She works at Awo buttery,” Akin said, gesturing towards Bisi who was still sitting beside him on the rock.
“Ah, okay,” AK said, sounding disappointed. “Do you guys know your way around here?”
Akin looked at him in surprise. “Don’t you?”
AK swallowed. “Well, it doesn’t look like we do right now.”
“What? You…you guys are lost?” Akin asked, looking from AK to Kazeem to Tara like he was staring at a bunch of disappointments.
“Yeah, man. We are lost,” Kazeem admitted.
“What about the small boy?” Bisi asked in a faint voice, her eyes focused on the small boy.
“What?” Kazeem asked.
“The small boy is dying. What are you going to do about him?” Bisi asked again.
Kazeem turned to AK for an answer. AK shook his head and said, “I don’t know. I am not a medical student and I know exactly nothing about stuffs like this.”
“God,” Bisi sighed and turned to Akin. In what was supposed to be a whisper, she said, “I thought you said they would know what to do.”
“I thought they would,” Akin whispered back, loud enough for the whole world to hear.
“Look guys, we are lost. We are as clueless as you are. We do not know what we are going to do right now. We were seven that started this climb and look at us, we are three here. Two of us left us this morning to find their own way back to the other side of the mountain. The smallest one amongst us fell while trying to take a selfie and here he is, half dead. The last of us, a part 6 medical student, who would have known what to do is currently nowhere to be found.”
There was silence for more than one hour and Bisi began to sniff back tears. What kind of students were these ones anyway? She had believed that coming to them would solve half their problems. Akin portrayed them as intelligent beings who knew what they were doing. But now, it did not look like it. The medical student amongst them was lost. The smallest amongst them was dying. What a climbing group this was!
“Why did you guys wait? Why didn’t you follow the other two to the other side of the mountain?”
“They don’t know their way around the mountain; no one does. The more we wander around this mountain, the more lost we would get. We are waiting for rescue,” Tara said.
Kazeem looked at her and shook his head. He made it simpler for the barber and the Awo girl.
“We are waiting for the medical doctor to come back with a rescue team.”
It sounded stupid, really.
“Rescue team bawo? Does anybody know you are here?” Akin asked.
“Not for me. Only my boyfriend knows,” Tara said, smiling in a funny way.
“So he is going to come find you, right?” Akin asked, his eyes wide with optimism.
“No, bro. Her boyfriend is the missing medical student,” Kazeem said shaking his head.
“Oh, God,” Bisi said again.
“How about you…what is your name?”
“Me? I am Kazeem. I told only my roommate and he is here too,” he said, looking away from the small boy where he lay on the floor and at AK where he sat with Bisi and Akin on the rock.
“How about you, AK? Someone is surely going to miss you,” Akin said.
“No, Akin. I told only my roommate, Kazeem here, and my friend, Chisom, who has gone rogue.”
“Chisum? Where is Chisum?”
“Trying to find his way back to the other side of the mountain,” Tara said. She lay on the grass, beside the still small boy whose chest was still heaving softly.
“So no one is going to miss anyone bayii?” Akin said, throwing his hands in the air.
“How about you call someone? Don’t you people have phones?” Bisi said.
“They can’t have network here, Bisi,” Akin said.
AK shook his head. “Even if we did get network, our phones are dead.”
“All of you? How come?” Bisi asked. She did not understand what kind of students these ones were. They had no clue what to do to make the small boy live. They had no idea how they were going to get home. They just remained on this side of the mountain looking pathetic. Oluwa, what am I doing here?
“There has been no light in school for days now,” Kazeem explained. “And the only person whose phone was not about to die when we started this climb, whose phone we wanted to use to take the selfie is lost.”
“The medical student?”
There was another round of silence. AK remained seated on the rock, his head in his hands. Akin and Bisi were looking at the students, still trying to believe that these guys were the students they were following while they were climbing the mountain. Kazeem went to lie beside Tara and both of them were looking at the small boy’s chest.
They remained like this for must have been hours before they heard a gruffish sound. They sat up and Tara looked around. But it turned out to be coming from Kazeem’s open mouth. He was already sleeping. And snoring.
“We would pass the night here,” Chisom said as soon as the sun went down and darkness began to creep upon them. They had been climbing for hours nonstop and it seemed as though the mountain was higher than it was before.
“But why? Let’s just keep going now,” Bukunmi said. She and Chisom had not talked much since the climb. He had asked her why she decided to follow him, a foolish grin on his face. She had answered him sharply; she needed to get home.
“Bukunmi, we can’t be foolish. That was the same mistake we made the last time. We were climbing in the dark and look where it got us? We sleep here, and we continue at dawn,” he explained. She did not say a word. She simply nodded.
He put his backpack down and opened it. “Do you have anything to make this sleep more enjoyable?” he asked.
“No. I did not plan to sleep while I was coming here,” she said, not looking at him.
“Okay, sleeping beauty. Goodnight,” Chisom said as he brought out a pair of dirty black socks from his bag and put them up. Then, he zipped up his bag, laid his head on it and settled to sleep.
Bukunmi wanted to ask him why he was going about with dirty socks but she did not. She opened her bag to see if there was anything in it to help her pass the night in peace. There was nothing valuable in there. Just her small mirror, a hair brush, a bottle of water, her small brown diary, her charger, her useless power bank. She took the bottle out and gulped down half the water. She returned the bottle and just like Chisom, turned her bag into a pillow.
“Goodnight,” she said into the dark. There was no response, only the sound of Chisom’s hand slapping insects away from his face.
The darkness covered them all. It was so thick they could hardly see each other. There was no need to anyway. They were all asleep, all except Bisi. Sleep was dead to her. It was one of the things Mummy Adeolu liked about her; she could stay awake in the shop all through the night and not blink once. She was not born like this but since what happened with her uncle, she had learnt to stay wide awake every night. Her uncle…
There was a small noise and she sat up. She looked around and saw that everyone was still sleeping. AK was beside Kazeem, who was still snoring violently. Tara slept like a fetus, her hands over her face. Akin was lying beside her, sleeping too. They were all here.
She heard the noise again and got up on her feet. It sounded as though something was making its way around the field. Leaves were ruffling as the noise grew louder and closer. Cold terror gripped Bisi and she began to shake. She could not feel her legs. The noise grew much closer. And then there was silence. In the silence, she could hear the heaving noise of a creature breathing behind her. She turned immediately and fell to her feet.
“AHH!” she yelled and looked up to the being.
“Sorry, I sleepwalk sometimes.”
Bisi sighed. It was the small boy. He was finally awake.