“People Just Like You” Series – Dolly Parton “You will never do a whole lot
Chapter Three -“Stranger Things”
Fear has taken over.
Benjamin felt the panic begin like a cluster of spark plugs in his abdomen the more his mind replayed the strange phone call. The tension grew in his face and limbs and there was nothing more he wanted than to talk to someone that very moment.
At some point it appeared as though the room was spinning and he was left without much choice than to squat on the floor, hoping by so doing it would make everything slow down into something his brain and body could cope with. He suddenly felt so sick.
In his mind he couldn’t shake the feeling that something just wasn’t right. The silence that enveloped him at this time was the kind that falls right before you get knifed in the back. It sent a shiver down his spine as he felt his blood chill in his veins. Instinctively, he looked around the room as though there was someone else there.
Spooky didn’t quite cover it and eerie was indeed an understatement. In the shadow, cast by his window blinds, he sat lost and stunned, one thing was certain, he knew he had to get out of the house that moment.
He jumped into his jeans and hurried out through the doorway grabbing his mobile phone and wallet along as he buttoned his shirt with his other hand. That house was the last place he wanted to be.
The fresh cool air welcomed him as he jumped right into the untarred street with both feet, watching the newly released spheres of muddy water fly as he hurried through the miniature canyon carved by the rains on the road.
Everything seemed the same and yet different. The trees stood naked as they had before, but their twigs curled in a distorted way, as if the tree itself screamed in pain.The sky was a mass of grey cloud with the brilliance of a new page upon a sky canvas of such consistent hue, but instead of letting small shafts of light through they emitted an ethereal glow.
It was eerie. The street should be thronged with commuters by this time of day, but it stood as empty as the sahara desert. With the sort of rain that kept everyone indoors for hours, it was unlikely that anyone was in a hurry to get anywhere.
Benjamin hurried into the adjoining street and quickly hailed a yellow cab. He was grateful that he found one as soon as he arrived at the bus stop and did not suffer the indignation of waiting in his thoughts. He was off to see Allen, his workmate and close friend, he dialed his number and on first ring his friend answered the call with his voice babbling happily like a mountain river.
“Dude, tell me!”
“Are you home?” he asked without recourse to their usual pleasantries. He didn’t wait for a response either before he followed it up with;
“I am on my way to you. Just stay where you are”
Allen sensed that something wasn’t quite right. His friend was usually the calm and calculated one, and not one to speak with a cracked voice stained from panic and fear.
“Dude are you okay?” and the phone call ended with the insolence of a disengaged tone.
The journey to Allen’s house was typically about 25mins, but it felt like forever, as the movement of the car wheels over the potholes on the Lagos road jerked him back to reality sooner than he would have liked.
As the cab followed the curves of the stretch of road, meandering through junctions and roundabouts, Benjamin tried very hard not to fiddle with his phone lest it rang again. It was a necessary evil he had to carry about.
By the time the cab driver killed the engine right at the entrance gate of Allen’s self-contained apartment, Benjamin had tossed a handful of cash over the drivers shoulders and was out of the back seat in seconds. He barely heard the driver thank him as he approached the steel entrance gate of the property.
He walked briskly towards the rear of the property where Allen’s apartment was shielded by a dwarf fence and hurriedly opened the entrance door, shutting it behind him along with the indistinct chatter and a jabber of voices from Allen’s neighbours.
He leaned on the door as he shut it, catching his breath as though being chased and for the first time since he woke up that morning, it felt like he had found rest in a safe haven, while a gale raged outside. That moment time itself became more calm.
Allen’s face was buried in worry lines,and he was even more concerned when he saw his friend looking like he had seen a ghost. Seemingly lifeless as he leaned on the door.
“What’s this about Ben? Come sit down” he ushered his friend to his small and familiar parlour that was now strewn with dirty laundry and smack in the middle of the room sat a clothes horse, almost buckling under the weight of wet laundry.
Embarrassed by the sorry sight of his unkempt apartment, Allen offers an unsolicited apology.
“Sorry was doing a quick laundry”
Benjamin blurted out the sequence of events that had transpired earlier at his house the moment he hit the only couch in the room. Sitting at the edge of the couch, he tried to explain to Allen that not only was he certain that Mr. George had passed four years ago, there was no way his phone could be functional and active.
Allen listened intently and then suggested that perhaps a family member was still using the phone or someone else was already assigned the SIM card number and this new owner coincidentally had a voice match with Mr. George. There had to be an explanation.
At first it sounded plausible as Benjamin considered the possibility. But he had thought this over several times and this explanation was too weak to shake him off.
“Listen Allen, that voice is the same one I have heard for many years, I know that voice even if I was deep in sleep”
Allen thought about it and lamely suggested that it was possible that voice and sounds may be distorted over mobile phone networks.
“Don’t take this too seriously. It could be nothing”
Looking at his friend’s unconvinced stance, he asked that he handed his phone to him. Allen confirmed the phone number in dispute and instinctively dialed the number using his mobile phone.
They both waited with bated breath as they watched the dialed number on Allen’s phone.
“The number you have dialed does not exist” the automatic voiceover responded.
“Dude, are you sure about this phone number?” Allen asked derisively.
Benjamin began to sense that his friend may be considering him a nut case.
“Allen please check the call records to see the call duration and you will notice that something is amiss here” He snapped back.
Allen rummaged through Benjamin’s phone confirming that the call logged a 10seconds duration.
“Strange!” he muttered thoughtfully.
“I’ve got a friend at the network provider, perhaps he can clear this confusion, so you can put your mind at rest. You look so worried, I was beginning to think you could be suicidal.” Allen reassured his friend.
Benjamin sighed and then offered to help his friend with the laundry to distract himself from the quagmire he seemed to be slipping fast into.
The next morning, Benjamin headed over to his house, now convinced that as soon as Allen’s friend at the network provider’s head office reverts with a position on the status of the SIM number, he would put this confusion to bed.
When he left Allen’s house, his friend was shirtless sleeping deeply with serenity plastered across his face as he slept. That moment, he wished he could find such peace. His lower eyelid bore the weight of his insomnia like the amateur makeup on a crying child.
He shut the door behind him and headed into the street. He had to take a short walk before he could hail a cab. In his haste the day before, he had forgotten his phone charger and he was now well and truly out of battery.
Turning the corner into the bus stop, he inadvertently noticed a green Toyota corolla drive past with a lone occupant. He caught a glimpse of the side view of the driver as the car picked speed past the bus stop, and he could not believe his eyes.
Incredible!! It was Mr George behind the steering wheel or so he thought.
“This is impossible” His heart began to pound as adrenaline rushed through his every vein.
But he is now spurred on by anger and determination rather than fear.
“Whatever this is , I am going to get to the bottom of this” he determined.
He tried to catch a glimpse of the car registration plates, but his view was obscured by the passing trucks and pedestrians as the Lagos road came alive with the usual hustle and bustle of traffic.
He quickly hailed a motorcycle that was thankfully available. As he sat astride the motorcycle, he pointed at the green toyota salon car that was cruising steadily just six cars ahead and charged the rider to catch up with the car. He didn’t care to negotiate the fare with the rider who was starting to protest.
“Move quickly” he labored to scream amidst his anxiety.
From his vantage position, he could still see the back view of the car driver.
Distance was all that was stopping him from getting a clear glimpse of the driver and perhaps halting the vehicle.
As though on cue, the motorcycle rider ducked in between cars and cleverly maneuvered to within two cars to the green car. Benjamin was now getting really anxious as he still couldn’t make out the registration plate number.
Then the driver in the green car made a sharp turn banking the car to the right , almost as though he suspected that he was being followed and then picked up some speed leaving the motorcycle in a hail of dust.
Undeterred, Benjamin urged the rider to move faster, just as the traffic on this road was a bit lighter. The engine purred as the rider stepped hard on the throttle while both their knees skimmed the road as the motorcycle took the road bend. Still the green car edged farther away.
Benjamin was getting agitated as it was becoming obvious that this chase had ended before it even began!
The green Toyota corolla cruised down the road, driving south and all that Benjamin could see was the brief instances of the car shuffling between traffic and then finally getting lost in the sea of vehicles.
His motorcycle rider laboured on in futility until he advised him to take him home.
Now he was determined to solve this mystery; first the strange phone call and now mysterious sighting.
When he thought about it deeply, he was convinced even more than ever that it was Mr George he saw driving that green Toyota car.
This was certainly more than a coincidence!
Could his mind be playing tricks on him?
When he fetched his phone from his pocket to call Allen about the latest sighting and road chase, it welcomed him to a blank and lifeless unforgiving stare.
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