Bisi dropped to the ground and did not rise again. She did not faint. She did not fall to death. She just did not have the strength to remain on her feet.
“Bisi! Bisi” Akin was screaming. His face was thick with sweat and the veins on his head were bulging as though they would burst open. Bisi did not hear him, and if she did, she did not seem to care much. She remained still on the ground, her eyes wide open. She was still.
“ Bisi, what is it?” AK asked her and when she did not respond, he turned to Akin. “What happened to her?”
Akin had been the one in front with Bisi when the girl fell.
“I don’t…I don’t know…she jus…she just fell…she just fell to the ground,” Akin said. he knelt by Bisi’s side, holding her face, shaking her. She did not respond audibly. Quiet moans came out from inside but not a word could be picked.
Darkness was falling already and it was becoming more certain that they would have to spend another night in the forest; their fourth night. Kazeem and Tara walked up to them slowly and unenthusiastically. Tara was dragging herself up and she sat down beside Bisi. She did not say a word. She did not see the need to. She had already agreed in her mind that this was what was going to befall them all eventually; it was only a matter of time. They would all drop dead in a matter of days and so when she saw that Bisi was down already, she was not shocked.
Kazeem seemed to be thinking the same thing. He too joined Tara on the ground without a word.
“Guys! Guys! We have…we need to do something. She is not…she is not answering me,” Akin was saying but they did not answer.
AK was knelt beside him. He did not know what to do. This was even more reason to not get back home, to never get back to school. How was he going to explain the death of two climbers? Of course, he knew his real problem was the small boy and not this girl. After all, he did not bring this small girl along with him to the mountain. She was with Akin and if the worst happened, he would deny them both without a thought.
“Guys!” Akin yelled, looking up at them all. “Is it because she is not a student? Because she is not one of you?” he asked bitterly, his eyes red with tears and anger.
“No, man. It is because she is going to a better place. She is going away from this world of suffering and hunger and uncertainty to a world where she would not have to beg for food, where there would be abundance of everything,” Kazeem explained faintly. He talked effortlessly, not caring much for the words he said. He did not even look at Akin as he spoke. He merely looked to the ground, lost. He was already imagining what heaven would look like, the glory of God radiating from an invisible throne, with the prophets and the Seal radiating flanking Him on all sides.
“So you say we do nothing?”
“No, bro. I am asking, ‘what can we do?’” Kazeem asked.
“This is insane,” Akin said and looked away. His eyes remained on Bisi. He had not noticed how terrible she looked until now. Her once beautiful face had become a covering of thick bones that would not stay calm beneath the thin layer of flesh. It was as though he had not eaten for four months, even though it was just four days.
“Help us, Akin. What can we do?” AK said, sounding as though he cared.
“What we need, guys, is food. We need to stay alive if at all we are going to survive,” Kazeem was saying.
“We are in the middle of nowhere, Kazeem. Where would we get food?” Tara asked. It would have been more of a shout but then, she was without strength and so she could not muster enough energy to shout.
“She is dying…” Akin said, his eyes still focused on Bisi.
“Come on! Don’t you guys watch movies? We have many things we can turn to food here, guys. There are birds, edible leaves, insects, rodents…”
“Are you serious or you are just making fun of us all?” Akin asked angrily. What was this rubbish coming out of Kazeem’s mouth?
“Oh, you think this is a joke? You think this is a joke? Folu is dead already and is enjoying in heaven or hell as the case may be…your girlfriend is about to join him. Maybe you want her to join him before you know I am not joking,” Kazeem said.
Tara, Akin and AK looked at him intently and when they saw that he was really serious, they could not believe it.
“Disgusting…” Tara whispered and said no more.
“Are you really that hungry, Kazeem, that you will eat insects and leaves? Are you an animal?”
“Humans are animals… social animals…” Kazeem explained.
“You are not making sense,” AK said and stood up.
“We can’t just pick up leaves and start eating, Kazeem. How are we going to know which is edible and which isn’t?”
“Don’t ask me that. I was not the one who is studying Zoology,” he said.
“Who is?” Akin asked.
“Bukunmi, she left with Chisom,” AK said and sighed.
“But why…why is it that all the useful people have left? The doctor amongst you is gone. The zoologist is gone. Of what use are the rest of you?” Akin said angrily.
“Hey, be careful there. I am a Law student,” Kazeem said, his chest puffed out.
“And how is that useful now?”
“Well, maybe not now but in…”
“Shut up, okay? Just shut up,” Tara said and Kazeem shut his mouth and then opened it again.
“She is also a medical student. Why can’t she help?” Kazeem said, pointing at Tara and then folding his arms in a childish way.
“I am in Part 1. We haven’t done anything medical, dummy,” Tara said, angry that she had to waste her breath on this.
“Same thing,” Kazeem said under his breath.
Akin was no longer listening to them. His hands remained on Bisi’s face. She was still alive; he could feel it.
“Guys, we have to keep moving. We are on a path and this path leads somewhere. Let us keep going,” AK said. This was all he knew how to do now…exhort and encourage.
“She can’t walk, AK,” Akin said, pointing to Bisi. “She can’t walk. How are we going to move on without her? We can’t leave her here.”
“No one said we should,” AK said firmly. “But we have to progress now if we all don’t want to fall to our death. We have to carry Bisi along with us.”
“What?!” Tara shouted. She could find the strength now.
“There is no other way, Tara. We cannot leave her here and we cannot remain here,” AK explained.
“I will carry her,” Akin said without wasting time. He bent down and lifted Bisi to his hands. She was heavy, heavier than the small boy. Akin knew there was no way he would go on like this for long. He would just drop dead too and they would have two people to carry.
“Are you sure you want to do this?” Kazeem whispered to Akin, careful so that Bisi would not hear.
“What choice do we have?” Akin said.
“Tell her to get up. She is not dead. She is just feigning it. Everyone here is tired. Why should she be the one to be carried?”
Akin looked at Kazeem and shook his head. “Such disgusting talk coming from your mouth, Kazeem,” he said and walked on, Bisi in his arms.
Kazeem shrugged and moved on, Tara coming up behind him. AK was in front leading. He kept to the path in hope. He knew there was hope. This path did not just come out of nowhere. Some people used it to get to the mountainside and those people were not dead. He knew it was only a matter of time before they reached them. If things worked his own way, they would be some tribal people who could not speak English and did not know anything about OAU. But they would welcome them, give them food and send them away with supplies.
The five of them walked on for thirty minutes. AK was the one carrying Bisi now. Akin was already tired and could not go on. Tara was exhausted too and Kazeem was holding her hand, dragging her along.
It was Akin who first noticed it. He was the one in front. He suddenly stopped and looked around. The others stopped behind him.
“What is it?” AK asked.
Akin said nothing.
“What is happening, Akin?” Kazeem asked.
“The path…the path…” Akin was saying in a low voice that sounded happy. Or was he being sarcastic?
“What is happening guys?” Tara said, moving to the front to stand beside Akin.
“The path…it is getting wider,” Akin said and then he began to walk faster.
“WAIT! Where is he running to?” Kazeem shouted.
“He said the path is getting wider,” AK said, looking at the ground as though trying to see what Akin was seeing. “What does that mean?”
Tara turned to them. “It means, we are getting close to the end of it, to the home of those who walked out the path,” she said and began to run after Akin. Kazeem followed swiftly.
“Wait for me!” AK shouted but no one waited. He could not run because he was carrying Bisi.
Akin ran in front. He knew it. They were close. He ran for what seemed like hours but it was only minutes. He was soon out of the field and found himself in a clearing. He looked up and what he saw shook his heart. He could not believe it. He could not believe that his eyes were not deceiving him. Was this really happening? Was he really seeing this? He dropped to his knees and kept on looking. He did not know when he started crying.
“What is it?” Tara asked, running up to him, panting. “What is it, Akin?”
“Clothes…clothes…” he was saying.
Tara looked up and understood. Before them, on a rope tied to two trees, wet clothes were hanging. Some of them were still dripping, showing that they had just been spread on the line. She looked around and she could see a small house in the distance. It was a bungalow and it was painted blue. Behind it were many other houses like it, small and painted blue. She did not even wait for the rest. She picked Akin by the hand, dragged him up and together they ran to the first house. They were going to pass this night under a roof.
Chisom descended further. The sun had completely gone down and Chisom knew if he did not reach the base soon, he would have to sleep alone on the mountain. He did not want that. He had been travelling alone for hours now and he did not want to imagine what it would look like, sleeping alone in the wild.
His mind drifted to his colleagues on the other side of the mountain. He wondered what was happening to them now. Had they found a way to get around the mountain? He doubted that much. He could not see how. He thought of AK and of Kazeem and he wondered what kind of condition they were in now. And Tara also, the doctor’s girlfriend.
The doctor. Chisom did not know how to think. He could not deny the fact that he felt sorry for the doctor. He had been lost since the beginning of the climb. Only God knew where he was now. Was he off this wicked mountain? Was he in school already? Chisom doubted that too. There was no way that guy would be in school and he would not have found a way to rescue them, even if it meant reporting himself to the authorities.
And there was Bukunmi. Bukunmi who had fallen into a pit. Chisom did not want to think about it. He did not want to think about what could be happening to her right now. He knew if he did not get to school before nightfall and get help, he would never see Bukunmi again. There was no way she was going to survive one night in that pit.
With all these thoughts banging in his head, Chisom began to descend. He had to get home. He had to get help. He did not know how he was going to do it but he knew he had to do it. He kept on moving and when he got to the slippery sides, he held on to a firm edge and slid down. he did this many times.
He stood by now, crouched and held on to a sharp edge as he slid down gently. When he got to the plain, he got up and looked up. And there it was, Obafemi Awolowo University materialized before his eyes in all her beauty and grandeur. He did not know what to say. He did not know what to do. he kept on looking and did not know when his eyes became wet. He dropped to his knees and raised his hands to the sky. “Thank you, Jesus. Thank you, Jesus.”
Chisom was finally home.
They all ran to the house with reckless abandon. AK came out of the fields and saw what the others had seen.
“We are home! We are home!” he shouted.
Bisi opened her eyes wide and coughed. AK looked at her and smiled. “We are home, Bisi,” he said and put her down. she held on to him as she staggered and managed to stay on her feet. AK held his arm around her shoulder and helped her down to the house. He watched as Akin ran.
He soon got there. He looked at Tara and Kazeem before he knocked. They were all panting.
“What are you waiting for?” Tara asked.
Akin sighed. He looked at the brown shiny door, made a fist and knocked.
There was no answer.
He knocked again.
He knocked the more.
Not a word.
Tara did not seem to care anymore. She yelled. “HELP! HELP! WE NEED HELP!” she pushed Akin aside and rammed her hands on the door. She rammed on and the door shook as though it would come down.
“Who is it?!” an angry female voice called from within.
On hearing the voice, Tara sighed, sank to the floor and began to cry. Finally…finally…finally… for the first time since David left, she was happy to hear someone’s voice. She was happy to hear a stranger’s voice.
They could hear as the woman unlocked the door and opened.
The woman that stood before them could not have been more than thirty years old. She had smooth skin and her eyes looked angry but her face wasn’t. she looked from Kazeem to Akin and then to Tara where she sat on the floor. The woman raised her eyes and looked at AK as he dragged along Bisi.
“Who are you people?” she asked in a very confused manner. Tara looked up as though she wanted to talk but she did not have the strength. Kazeem looked at the woman hungrily as though he would have swallowed her whole if not that she was taller than him. It was Akin who spoke.
“We are students of Obafemi Awolowo University, ma. We came climbing the mountain four days ago but we got lost and found ourselves here,” he said, still panting.
The woman widened her eyes as though in unbelief and pointed to the mountain behind them. “You mean you have been in the wild for the past four days?”
“Oh my Jesus! Ah, Oluwa o!” she exclaimed. She did not know what to do. her mouth fell open as AK dragged Bisi to her door and they all collapsed to the floor together.
“Can we come in?” Akin asked.
“Of course, of course!” the woman said and opened the door widely for them.
The house looked bigger inside and it was even more beautiful. The walls were painted pink and lemon green. As they entered, they were welcomed by a small girl sitting on the sofa before the TV. She could not have been more than nine years old. She had jet black locks on her head and big rectangular spectacles hanging from her small nose. She smiled at them as they entered as though they were her classmates. Akin managed to smile back but the rest just sank into the sofas.
“Let me get you all something to drink, please,” the woman said went away through a door by the left.
Tara looked around the house and fell in love with it. There was a huge bookshelf on their left, close to the door the woman disappeared through. The walls were neat and there were different portraits and paintings hanging on it. They were all in black and white and they all looked ancient, as though whoever had hanged them there got them from a 16th century merchant.
There was a charcoal drawing of a white man, wearing a hat, English dress and boots, holding a whip in his hand. Before him were three black men, naked, hands raised up, bound by chains. Tara sighed and looked away.
Akin was looking at the small girl and they were smiling at each other. Akin and the four others were sitting on a long sofa and the girl was sitting in another sofa by their right hand.
“What is your name?” Akin asked.
“Eunice,” the girl said, adjusting her glasses.
“Eunice…” he repeated and then looked away as the woman walked into the sitting room with a tray. There were seven sachets of OAU pure water on it and five mugs. She put the tray on a stool in front of them.
They did not even look at the mugs. They grabbed the pure water and finished them all in a second. The woman was amazed. “I think I should get more,” she said and went. She soon came back with a bag of pure water which she placed in front of them. One by one, they reduced the contents of the bag to half. Bisi alone took four sachets. She was fine now with eyes wide open.
When the woman saw that they were calm now, she looked at the small girl and said, “Eunice, go and bring the juice from the fridge.”
The girl came down from the sofa and went away.
“Thank you, ma,” Tara said. she had found her voice now.
“You have a beautiful daughter,” Akin said.
“Thank you. I really…I really am sorry about you guys,” she said.
“Thank you, ma,” Kazeem and AK said at the same time.
“My husband is not home, he would have taken you back to campus straightaway. But he is still at work and won’t return until nightfall,” she said, looking out the window as though she was expecting to see her husband walk in.
AK could not believe his ears. Were they still around OAU? “Sorry ma, please, where are we?” he asked.
“What…oh…you don’t know? You are on campus. You are at the Staff Quarters… you know, Staff Quarters, when you leave EDM and turn right before you get to the mountain.”
They could not believe their ears.
“But…but that is not possible, ma…” AK was saying, looking at the others to be sure he was not the only one thinking the woman was joking.
“What do you mean it’s not possible? I am a lecturer here and I live here with my husband who is also a lecturer in Geography department. This is Obafemi Awolowo University Staff Quarters.”
“But that is not possible ma…”
“What do you mean? Which mountain did you climb? Was it not the one over there?” she asked, pointing to the opposite direction.
They shook their head.
“Which mountain did you climb?”
“We climbed the mountain behind Social Sciences, beside the new Moot and Mock court,” Kazeem explained.
“That is impossible,” the woman said, looking suspiciously at them all.
“That was the mountain we climbed ma,” Akin said.
“But that is not possible. How could you have gotten here then?”
No one answered. No one knew how that was possible. They all remained silent for a minute, looking at each other.
Eunice walked in, a bottle of Boom grape juice on the tray she was carrying. She placed it on the center table and stood aside. The woman opened the Boom and served all the cups.
“You all should take that and get some rest. If you need to sleep, you can ask Eunice to get you mattress. I will be in the kitchen,” the woman said and left them.
They emptied their cups in five minutes and then emptied the whole bottle. They remained seated for like thirty minutes, saying nothing to no one. Tara sat quietly, looking at the POP ceiling. She was thinking about David and she wanted to cry. Kazeem was belching, his eyes fixed on the empty cups. Bisi was dozing already. Akin was still playing the smiling game with Eunice. AK’s head was in his hands; he was thinking.
“Do you believe her…that we are in Staff Quarters?” he suddenly asked.
Tara looked at him and shook her head. “I believe anything,” she said and turned to Eunice. “Please, can you bring the mattress now?”
The girl went in and came back with a mattress. She went in again and brought two more. Tara got down to one and Kazeem followed suit. AK took one too. Bisi settled on the sofa and slept off. Akin sat on the sofa, smiling with the girl and he did not know when he closed his eyes and he began to snore peacefully.
The darkness in the pit got thicker and Bukunmi knew it was night already. She wished the moon came out. It did the day before when she slept on the mountain with Chisom.
“I cannot believe we are going to sleep here,” she said David who laughed loudly.
“I have been sleeping here for the past three days,” he said.
She looked at him and shook his head. They had been talking for the past six hours. She suggested ways they could get out but none of them made sense. They were faraway from the surface and there was no way they could climb out. There were no roots hanging on the wall of the pit and the wall was made of sand, not rough enough to hold on to. They could shout for help but no one would come.
David had already given up and was prepared to die here. Bukunmi was preparing herself too.
“Did you ever imagine that you die in pit?” he asked.
Bukunmi swallowed. She had never imagined such. She had never even imagined her death not to talk of imagining what form it would take.
“Same here. I always imagined myself dying in my own hospital, performing a surgery at a very old age,” David said.
“Why would you be performing a surgery at a very old age?” Bukunmi asked.
“Well, I would be the only one in the world who can perform the surgery,” he said simply. Bukunmi could not see his face clearly but she could imagine him smiling.
“That is selfish.”
“Call it what you may. There are aspects of cardiology and neuroscience that no one has ever dared to explore. I am going to do that and when people need help, I am going to be their go-to guy,” he explained in the dark.
“Well, good luck with that. It is still selfish,” she said.
He did not answer her. Instead he asked, “What do you want to become, Bukunmi? What do you want to die doing?”
“Yes, you,” he said.
She sighed. She wanted to just tell him what she always told everyone but then, it occurred to her that this could be their last moments in this life and she did not want to spend her last minutes telling lies and did not want David to spend the last minutes of his life believing a lie.
“I want to become a doctor,” she said softly.
“Oh,” David said. he got up from where he sat on the ground and went to stand beside her.
“Yes. I was given Zoology. I did not want to study it. I am still coming back to do Medicine once I am done,” she said. David did not respond for a while and then,
“I admire your courage,” he said and went back to sit. “Going to sleep here,” he said.
“Goodnight. Make sure you wake up,” she said, still pacing around.
David slept off and soon, she was hearing his snores.
She did not know for how long she paced or for how long he slept. She just knew that after that after what felt like eternity, David suddenly jumped up and yelled.
“What is it?!” she asked in shock but he did not answer.
David was fighting himself, slapping himself everywhere and beating the wind.
“WHAT IS IT, DAVID!”
It was a scary scene. He was acting as though he had been attacked in his dream.
“David, what is it?”
He did not answer. He kept on slapping himself and whimpering. Bukunmi wanted to move close to him but she could not. She kept asking him what was up but he did not say a word. It was dark and she could barely see his outline. From his rough movements, it was as though he was removing his clothes.
“What is it, David?” she asked again, now scared.
He removed his trousers and threw it away.
“ANTS! SOLDIER ANTS!” he shouted back at her.
Bukunmi could not believe it. Just then, light penetrated the pit. Bukunmi looked up and saw the moon shining from above. She sighed and looked down at David. She could see him now but what she saw sent her screaming. David was wearing only his boxers, his muscular shape obvious in the moonlight. But Bukunmi did not notice all this, she couldn’t have. David was covered in a blanket of ants They covered him from head to toe and were swarming on his body. Bukunmi looked on helplessly as the doctor fought his innumerable enemies, and she began to cry.
FINAL EPISODE comes out next week.