My name is Ola Komolafe.
My fears are constantly increasing like the temperature of a pot of water on a stove. Pangs of hunger grips my stomach, and I can feel my intestines whither because of inactivity.
I am already used to the darkness, the extreme heat, the insufficient air, and the stench of the poop inside the iron bucket at the corner of my prison.
I miss Black, his soft silly voice, the constant questions he asked each time he came, “are you okay?”
I miss Yellow too, although his husky voice usually terrifies me, but he never came without bringing food. Moreover, right now, I am so hungry and it feels as if I have never eaten anything since the day I was born!
I have heard the muezzin, from the mosque faraway, say two fajr adhans. I am here, alone, like an astronaut trapped on the moon. No food, water or light. They say man can do without food for two weeks, and a week without water. I say it is a lie. If I do not see food and water within the next twenty-four hours, I will die.
Wait… that sounds like footsteps
I stand with what seems like the last calorie of energy inside me and find my way to the metal door using my hands to feel the wall until I reach the metal door.
I slam my balled hands on the door, hitting it as far as I can; trying to draw the attention of whomever owns the footsteps.
Footsteps. They are getting louder. It is coming in my direction.
My hope rises like an engine responding to a pressed throttle.
The footsteps. I can hear them now. I think they are just right outside the door. Oh food… water…
My hopes have been in trickles, but now I can feel a flood of it as it drowns my system.
A force pushes me backwards, and I lose my balance falling backwards towards my sweat-soaked mattress.
“Cover his mouth.” A husky voice commands. I recognise the voice. Yellow!
I hear their footsteps first, and then I see their shadow as they move towards me. A beam of white light floods the room and chases away the darkness the same way a cat would do to a rat.
It is then I notice the shadows that entered are Black and another Black. However, this second Black looks smaller. I call him ‘small Black.’
Black and Small Black approach me. Small Black grabs my shoulder and pins it to the ground. I struggle but his grip is firm. Black walks towards my head. He bends and sits on his knees. He is holding a cloth. Cotton maybe.
“Open your mouth.” He commands. His command is very soft and it probably won’t scare a three year old boy. He taps me softly on my right cheek.
It is Black. Obey.
I open my mouth wide like when the dentist wants to examine my brown teeth. Black tucks the cloth inside my mouth until it fills my mouth. I am wriggling, but Small Black is doing a very good job pinning me down. Next Black unwinds a duct-tape dispenser, he winds it round my mouth, and neck until the cloth is firmly in place.
My mind is throwing questions, like fireworks on New Year’s Eve. Do they want to kill me? Why are they doing this? Are they moving me to another place? The questions come in singles, then tens, and then I am not able to keep count. Answers are out of reach. At least for now.
“Oya hold his leg.” It is Yellow’s voice again. I still haven’t seen him. He must be the one holding the lamp.
Black stands and moves towards my leg. He raises my right leg and plants my heel firmly on the ground, holding it tight.
I am completely confused. More confused than the way they kidnapped me from my hostel. I am scared, like a lost child in the market.
I wriggle, trying to break free, but Small Black’s grip on my shoulder is like a dry concrete, and Black is doing a good job on my right leg. Wait, my left leg-it is free! I can kick.
Without giving it much thought, I swing left leg and bury a kick on Black’s face. The kick catches him unaware. He staggers and fall. Small Black is surprised. I bet he is not expecting a kick when I use my thigh to connect a kick to his torso. He releases his grip.
I pull myself together, stand and am about to make a run when a strong kick connects to my knees and sweeps me off the ground. I fall, hands first, as a cushion, before my body follows. What follows are sets of kicks and blows that make me scream like a tortured terrorist.
“Let me warn you.” It is Yellow speaking. “If you try what you just tried now, thinking you are Van Damn or what,” He swings a machete across my face. Then he bites it, “I swear, Ogun, I will chop off your head. You can try me and see.”
I am quiet as they take their respective positions, Small Black pinning my shoulders, Black holding my leg, and Yellow doing nothing other than barking instructions.
I am thinking of what Yellow is doing when I feel a sharp pain shooting from my legs and spreading it all over my body like ripples.
I wriggle, I scream but the tucked cloth muffles my screams to mere grunts. Nevertheless, I continue screaming.
I feel another jolt of pain. It is exponential in thousands to what I felt earlier. I am screaming very loud now, wriggling and violently shaking my head. The pains are constant, shooting all over my nerves inside my body.
Small Black releases his hand and steps aside. Yellow too. I quickly sit on my buttocks and pull my legs closer. They pains are from there. I see blood spewing out.
Yellow has just cut my toe!
I scream, violently give random blows and chase after Yellow.
A kick lands on my stomach. I fall to the ground. A blow connects to the back of my head. At first, everything seems to be moving in spirals. Then it looks like I am seeing a cartoon. Yellow… blood… Small Black… machete… Yellow… spirals… spirals… beams of white light, and then darkness.
This was not how we planned it. He was not supposed to get hurt, talk less of cutting his toe, but his father can be so stupid at times. He is not taking us seriously. He should have paid the fifty million naira we asked from him. We are not asking for too much.
At first, we asked for one hundred and fifty million naira, but we reduced it when he pleaded with us, and still, he does not want to pay. Does he not like his son?
For a man that worth thirty million dollars, fifty million naira for him should be like taking a bowl to scoop out of a stream. The man is just too stingy.
I am sure, when he gets the severed toe we sent him, he would take it to the forensics to check the authenticity. That kind of man cannot be my father; I would have killed him since. I do not know how his children cope with him. Well, it is not my own business. I hope he pays soon.
The room is dark, like I am in a cave or something. There is no difference between shutting and opening my eyes-it is still darkness.
I lay on the sweat-soaked mattress as troop of thoughts and fears invades my mind.
Yellow and Black are taking longer than necessary to bring me my brunch. It is a long time since the sound of the adhan, from the muezzin faraway, filtered into my room. It has been long, maybe five hours. I cannot really tell. There is no clock to tell the time. Even if there is, the darkness would not allow me to see it.
I remember when Yellow and Black just kidnapped me and brought me here, locking me up like a prisoner condemned to life, the darkness was strange. So strange that in time, I begun to see shadows in the darkness! Like the devil himself dwell within me. I was so scared but I soon learned to live with it.
There was no escape. The walls and door were made of metal. I would bang and bang the metal with my fisted hands until they bled, hoping to attract attention of someone. No one seemed to hear my bangs. I got tired, so I resigned to fate. I adapted.
I soon learnt to tell the time by listening to the muezzin say the adhan (call to prayer) summoning the Islam faithful to prayer. The muezzin says the call to prayer five times daily. That of the Morning Prayer was noticeably different because it was usually called twice. Thereafter, it became my clock.
With the clock, I calculate I have been here for one week and some days.
Twice a day, either of the blokes who kidnapped me would enter the metal prison I am in and give me food. They would also empty the iron bucket where I pooped in. They would always come in wearing a mask so that I will not recognise them. One of them wears a Yellow mask. He is muscular and very huge. When he speaks, it seems there is spittle in his throat, and his voice sounds husky. He threatens to kill me a lot. I don’t like him.
The other one wears a black mask. He is skinny and I can easily overcome him in a fight. He has a soft voice and he is usually caring. I like him.
Incandescent light fills the room. I instantaneously shut my eyes as the light pierce my eyeballs. Then slowly, I open them and they begin to accommodate the light.
The ceiling fan is already rotating in its fastest revolution, blowing the stale carbon dioxide filled air round the room. The air blows against my skin, and my pores absorbs them in gulps like a thirsty camel.
You can never truly appreciate something unless you have seen the lack of it. The lack of sufficient air is making some unpleasant things to happen. Heat rashes have ravaged the better part of me in the bid to find comfort. Breathing is difficult because the air is polluted, that sometimes, I get unconscious.
In my heart, I am praying that the power supply should last. In fact, I would gladly trade my food for it. I pray the light last for ten hours. No, ten hours is beyond impossible. Four hours is okay. I attune my mind to four, and I keep praying.
I have not even finished my prayer, not even said Amen to the ones I have said, when the room dived, head first, into darkness once more.
Ifeanyi started talking about carbon dioxide poisoning. What the hell is that? I think the black mask he is wearing is not reflecting in his character. We should probably switch mask.
When he talked about the carbon dioxide stuffs, I kept my cool and allowed him purge his stupid mind.
He said Ola’s skin has turned flushy and ravaged with heat rashes.
I hushed him shut before he would say any more words that would turn my boiling anger to a geyser. The main discussion should be how we would split the fifty million into three parts, or two, if Ifeanyi agrees to my plan. I have been reading blog reports that our victim’s father drowned in fear when he received the severed toe, and that he is defying the police instructions by agreeing to meet at the rendezvous and pay the ransom.
That is what I am waiting for. My phone rang.
“Hello… it’s me… Mr Komolafe.”
The victim’s father
“You are late. We are already getting ready to cut his left toe, and…”
“Please…” His scream was deafening. “I will pay seventy million… I will pay… I will.”
“Seventy million you say?”
“Yes sir. Seventy million. Black suitcase. This evening. Six thirty.”
“Okay. Remember to bring the police along so that you can use the money to conduct funeral for your son.”
“No… no police. Just me.” His voice was shaking.
I disconnected the call and smiled. Imagine if I have all the seventy million for myself. Just imagine.
It has been three days. Three days since they cut my toe. Three days since I last ate. I feel so hungry and thirsty that I can finish a whole goat and drink a bucket of water and won’t be satisfied. In addition, there is the extreme heat too. The heat rashes on my skin feel like goose bumps.
I don’t know which one will kill me first; the lack of oxygen, the putrid stench of poop at the corner of the room, extreme heat, hunger or thirst.
Nutritionist deduced that one can survive without food for three week, but a week without water. I think they are wrong. I don’t think I can stay one more day. I don’t think.
By the time the fifth and sixth day pass, I finally understand it all. I am like a coal mine purged of its coal. I’m too weak to stand. Pains still surround the stump where my right toe was, but I am getting used to it. I think the stump is infected.
There is nearly no more oxygen in the room. Sometimes, my nose shrinks and my lung ceases to function for some minutes.
This is not how I thought it would be. Moreover, I don’t think I will be able to make things right because I’m dying.
I threw away the bloodstained penknife and entered the Toyota Camry sedan with the suitcase full of money. Ifeanyi was still grimacing in pains from the stab wound I had delivered to the back of his neck. It wasn’t supposed to be so, but I got too greedy.
However, he had been brilliant and brought about the idea that we should rig the rendezvous with dynamites. We both stole the chemical compounds from the Chemistry department’s laboratory. I picked the padlock with a candle and hammer, while Ifeanyi knew just what to steal.
At the end of the day, I watched him mix glycerine with nitric acid to form nitro-glycerine, and then he mixed it with sodium nitrate. He boasted that it was explosive and a mild shake can cause an explosion. I shuddered in fear as he taunted me with it.
He later added sawdust, then the poured it into four metal containers.
We placed the containers to cover a wide rectangular space in the rendezvous, and Ifeanyi ran wires through them. He said electricity was the trigger.
Our Mr. Komolafe brought policemen as against our warnings. I saw them far-off from my vantage point. Luckily, our plans made provisions for rifle toting policemen.
Immediately the phone rang, I picked it and instructed him to drop the money and turn his back and leave. He would see his son at home within the next two hours. He obeyed.
As soon as he dropped it and moved about hundred meters from the drop, Ifeanyi did his magic, and the whole scene went ablaze with blasts as if it was in the middle of a war-zone. Everyone ran.
I was running, heels almost touching my head, when I heard Ifeanyi’s voice calling me to wait. I stopped and saw him appearing from the smoke with a briefcase. My heart leapt for joy.
“Open it, let’s confirm.” I said excitedly.
He opened it. The suitcase was filled to the brim with naira notes in one thousand naira denominations.
I jumped for joy.
“We better start going. Those policemen can still be around.” He closed the suitcase.
“Okay. Let me piss.” I pretended to walk towards a bush while he walked towards the Toyota.
Immediately he had his back to me, I produced the penknife from my pocket and stabbed him in the neck. Blood gushed out like water from a broken pipe. He held onto the wound, screaming in pains.
I turned, picked up the suitcase and rushed into the Toyota.
I know I’m going to die. I’m losing too much blood. The pressure from my hand over the wound doesn’t stop the blood flow. I feel like Caesar when Brutus just stabbed him.
Losing too much blood won’t kill me. Betrayal would. I didn’t plan for this. I didn’t know Sammy wanted the money for himself like I did. Everything was set. The Toyota Camry with a damaged brake pad. The fake money in a black suitcase. Everything except the unexpected stab.
I feel sorry for Sammy. I feel sorry for myself, and I feel sorry for the mastermind of this kidnap, Ola Komolafe, lying down in the container-abandoned.
Within the space of one week, Police will discover the corpse of a guy with a black suitcase filled with fake naira notes, amounting to millions, inside his Toyota Camry car that crashed into a parked trailer; the corpse of a suspected kidnapper stabbed in the neck, and a black suitcase containing seventy million naira in the surrounding bush; and the corpse of Ola, the kidnapped son of the multi-billionaire, in an abandoned Container at a construction site.
Nevertheless, they would never know the connections between them.
Kay Ade Greins is an eccentric storyteller who likes thrillers, mysteries and conspiracies more than the way an ant likes sugar. He is currently working on a compilation of his short stories alongside doing the research of his debut novel. His works have appeared in Al-fahm magazine, Naijastories, ELSiEiSY, amongst many others.