“Some things are only real if you believe in them” Unknown Please follow the story
“We have all got strange things about us“
I wasn’t sure if I was awake or in a dream. I couldn’t tell the difference because it felt oddly similar. I think I may be in the place between thoughts and the movies of the nighttime or simply just in a trance. I could perceive the distant whiff of petrol. It came like in misty waves, riding on the back of the cool breeze that rustled my window curtains. But I don’t recollect leaving the windows opened.
Then I saw the silhouette of an owl with its yellow eyes unblinking within the ruffled curtain.
“What was it even standing on?” I couldn’t understand what an owl was doing in my bedroom. Or where I was exactly. But it stared with yellow eyes befitting a witch’s cat. I felt shivers down my spine and my heart responded with a palpitation so strong I thought I was having seizures.
That was when I heard the dog’s bark. It had an urgency to it, perhaps borne out of fear or agitation. But there was no intermittent whimper nor yelp, just a determined, sustained, and deafening bark. It felt like the dog was just right at my window. But I don’t recollect owning a dog!
My heart was starting to beat erratically and with a hard tug, echoing into my ear drums in the silent spaces between the dog’s savage bark. I could feel the tightening on my chest as the smell of petrol filled my nostrils. Something wasn’t right.
It must be a dream I submitted. There is no way this could be real.
Then the pair of yellow eyes blinked slowly in the dark. Thrice! First it’s was the upper lid and then the lower lid in quick succession. It then vanished like it was never there in the first place, like the whole thing had been a visual joke.
My brain, fuzzy from the petrol fumes, struggled to make any sense of the information all my sensory organs were processing at once. Suddenly, I couldn’t move a muscle and it felt like an invisible weight was holding me down. Was I going into sleep paralysis now?
Something was amiss but I couldn’t make sense of it all.
And then sweat broke out on my brows. The air felt warmer, as though getting a gust of heat from an oven.
Fire! Fire!! Fire!!!
The night before, I had gone for a party in the company of my friend, Udeme. Since the Academic Staff Union had downed tools months earlier, we found ourselves idle for most part of the day and decidedly spent time in each other’s company. Udeme was studying Estate Management at the Obafemi Awolowo University and was the closest thing to a brother to me.
We were also roommates on campus and practically shared everything we owned. Well…except for the ladies. We had a distinct and diverse taste for ladies. He liked them busty and curvy with skin as bright as the yellow sun, while I preferred my ladies slim, ebony-dark skinned and petite. I often wondered how two people could be so similar yet different.
Perhaps another telling difference is that we lived miles apart. He grew up in the peaceful countryside of Ilesha with his aged parents, while I had a rather protective and privileged upbringing in one of the not-too-cool suburbs of Lagos. He made the 4hour trip to Lagos with the sole intent to spend part of the “forced holidays” with me – his bosom friend and I was eager to impress him.
I never ceased to share with him stories of my escapades in Lagos and how much fun I was having partying and meeting new girls. The stories didn’t seem to end and it wasn’t long before the urge to join me on one of my conquest was too hard to resist.
So…Last night, there was another house party organized by some neighborhood friends and it had all the trappings of fun; half-naked girls, excess booze and all shades of smoke. We weren’t exactly invited, and this was often the case anyway. But since we wanted to have some fun, we thought it would be “cool” to turn up.
And so we did.
When we arrived at the venue of the party – a small bungalow within the estate, I beckoned to an old friend through the dwarf fence who let us in by opening the large metal gate excitedly whilst I eagerly introduced Udeme.
“Nice to meet you buddy, my name is Charles” they shook hands briefly.
Udeme cleaned his hands on his jeans almost immediately. Charles cared less. When he offered to shake my hand, I showed him a clenched fist instead. I could imagine that his palm was probably wet.
“How is the party going?” I asked Charles.
He was probably too eager to return inside giving a thumbs up with his stubby hands as he led the way into the bungalow.
We followed curiously.
I stole a quick look behind us towards the iron gates wondering why there weren’t any other attendee outside like most parties I had been to and why Charles promptly locked the gate after us.
Loud music welcomed us as we approached the entrance door into the ante room. The smell of smoke wafted out from the house as the door opened.
At first it looked like we were the only unmasked guest! Every guest appeared to have a mask on. Some wore the head mask, others the full-face mask but a few had the half-face mask on. It felt like it was an Halloween themed party!
I wasn’t sure whether to be excited or apprehensive. But maddening fright was starting to creep up my spine with urgency. There was a distant suggestion to leave the party from a muffled voice inside my head, I paid it no attention.
I was curious, there was something about the party that smacked of sophistry and great panache.
I looked at Udeme and a gleeful face stared back at me. I bet he couldn’t tell that something was off about this party. I couldn’t blame him though, he hadn’t been to lots of parties in Lagos, how could he tell.
I started to think back to how I got wind of the party and how connected the strangeness of seeing masked ladies and men when it wasn’t 31st of October, the famed date for Halloween.
At Charles beckoning, a luminous green vinyl wristband was wrapped around our left wrists by a voluptuous lady whose fluffy lips was all that could be seen through her mask. She wore a tight blue jeans and a matching frilled top that struggled to hold her breast together.
She barely said a word. She grunted and motioned as she wore the wrist band one after the other. There probably was no need to speak as the banging music from the sound system could easily drown the loudest scream.
Udeme was already starting to flirt with her. He had a reputation for taking his chances no matter how slim. I paid no heed to their shenanigan. My mind was bent on finding out what was going on inside the living area.
She requested for our mobile phones and stuck a stick-on note at the back with a serial number scribbled on it that corresponded to the one on our wrist band. I handed her my mobile phone reluctantly. Udeme followed suit.
Now we were going in blindly without any means of communication.
When we stepped into the living area, Charles was no where to be seen. The house was pitch dark except for glowing wrist bands and cleverly mounted standing and wall lamps. The lamps had an eerie red glow as though they were wrapped in a transparent sheath.
I wasn’t alarmed until I noticed that most of the wristband glowing on the wrist of the guests in the poorly lit room were shades of red just like the color of the lamps. There were only a few of us wearing the green/lemony glow.
It then dawned on me that all the guests with the green wrist bands had no face mask on!
Blinding fear exploding in flashes inside my brain. It felt like someone poured gasoline onto the spark of fear in my head.
Something was horribly out of place.
Udeme was already starting to gyrate to the music from the sound system. He even had a willing companion who hit the dance floor with him. It was Olamide’s hit – science student, playing through the speakers.
The lucky bastard. He was always an easy pick with the ladies. I wonder why I never got that lucky!
I didn’t have to wonder for long as I scanned the room quickly for exit points. There was none I could easily discern. Between the musty room, the growing number of guest and the loud music, it was hard to notice anything else.
Someone thrust a red cup of drink into my hand. I didn’t have the choice of refusal or the pleasure of saying “thank you.”
When I looked to my side, it was a lady fully masked and she seemed to mutter something i couldn’t quite make out. I deftly noticed that she had a red wristband too.
I took a careful whiff of the drink and it smelled like whiskey mixed in some syrup. I couldn’t even see the color of the liquid. I wish I could, but I had no plans to drink liquids I couldn’t see.
Udeme had downed his cup in one fell swoop when I turned to look at him. He was dancing seductively with another of the “green wristbanders”. Grabbing the lady from behind as he twisted his waist to the music.
Oju ti dirty
“This guy is a gunner” I reminded myself.
“Drink it” Came a voice from behind me. It sounded like Charles. But two hands held me firmly on the shoulder and I couldn’t turn to face the person. I felt assaulted.
“Now” he blurted into my ears, competing for audience with the music. I could tell quickly that it wasn’t a request, but an order.
I pretended to sip from the cup as I raised it into my clasped lips. It smelled smoky and briny, with deep complexity and hotness that hit my nostrils sharply.
“I dare not taste this concoction” I warned myself.
The room had about 25 – 30 guest by my estimation. Half of that number were seated in a couple of chase lounge at the corner and settees arranged to create space for the dance floor. A few ladies sat huddled at a corner in extremely short and provocative skirts with shinning face mask. Some of the masks on their faces had flowers on them while some had a holding stick.
A couple of hunks stood in pairs puffing and sipping from the red plastic cups as though in deep discussions while a few curvy ladies walked about with a steel tray that first held a couple of red plastic cups – which I assumed had the same content and drink I was also served, before returning to make the rounds with what looked like wraps of weed or “smoke”, which the guest groped with excitement.
The room was not only poorly lit now, but it had thick mesmerizing smoke hanging in the stale air twirling ceilingward.
I could hear some guest cough intermittently.
I could barely see beyond a few meters and Udeme was no where to be found. Fear had now consumed every cell in my body as i felt a soft shiver.
I tried to look towards the door we came in through and two hefty looking guys manned it like their life depended on it.
“Where am I for God’s sake?” I tried to look for any sign that could give an hint of the sort of party we were in. That was when I noticed the owl. First the yellow eyes glowing with a dark ring in the middle caught my attention. It looked like it was hanging strangely in the air. But i couldn’t quite make sense of it. Perhaps there was a wall behind it, I couldn’t tell.
Then the music stopped and the chatter of voices was suddenly loud for an instant before dying quickly in anticipation of what was about to commence.
“What now?” I asked.
Then a hand tugged at my wrist. I panicked first before realizing that it was Udeme tying to touch base.
“This party is lit bro. That shorty is a hot stepper. I love the ambience, where has this been all my life” Udeme’s excited but slurred voice whispered into my ears.
I had no words for his obvious naivety and I offered none.
He took my silence for agreement and kept nudging to whisper more into my already deadened eardrums.
“Shut up Ode!” I blurted into his face.
The lights from the lamps suddenly went out and the room went pitch dark as though anticipating a performance of some kind.
“One with love” a low-pitched hoarse voice bellowed through the room.
“Separation by death” chorused the voices around the dancefloor.
“One chance!” I muttered as I shook my head in pity. Pity for myself and Udeme and how our “gragra” for parties we were not invited to has now landed us in the strange company of this fraternity.
It looked like an initiation or induction party. My heart beat was starting to be irregular. At first it was in sync with my breaths, but it soon outpaced my stifled breathing.
A glowing mask was starting to be discernable from a distance. It flickered through the thick smoke like it had just been turned on.
“Gentlemen, we’ve got some guests“
Accompanying those exact words was the unmistakable whimper and low growl of a dog. At that moment I noticed the red glow of the leash around its neck.
I backed away slowly only to be halted by the sound of bodies hitting the floor in loud thuds and groans.
Udeme collapsed next to me like a pack of bones twisting into an unnatural position as he slumped.
“I knew it. They spiked our drinks”
A roar of excitement echoed through the room. The room was still pitch dark until;
“Lights on” the voice in the centre ordered.
All eyes were on me. Shocked, bemused, angry, unbelievable!
Please click here to read the second and concluding part of this pulsating story
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