The Deadist – Chapter One

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Chapter One

There was something about the Lagos lagoon that beckoned to Jude whenever he drove his Toyota sedan on the third mainland bridge. It was not about the winding bridge itself, neither was it about the bumpy ride on the badly finished asphalt deck that questioned the stability of the piers. It was a creepy feeling that caused intense anxiety preventing him from turning his head to view either side of the bridge.

But it was practically impossible not to view the lagoon. His line of sight as he drove on the bridge as it meandered through served him different views of the brackish water.

Park by the side and take a jump. It’s not going to be difficult; I swear. Sharp sharp!” The voice was inside his head, the same one that had been urging him to end it all for the past few months. It was quite persuasive too, subtly urging him on, with crystal clear images that instant.

“Park this godforsaken car by the shoulder of the bridge, unbuckle the seatbelt, scramble out of the drivers’ seat before anyone can rescue you. In one swift move, huddle across the crash barrier and then take a leap into your freedom. Liberate your soul. It is that easy bro.”

Jude’s mind provided what was left of that scene.

His body would hit the water below in a loud, splashy, and dramatic fashion. He would thrash his arms and feet in a feeble attempt to swim, just as his body would start to dip below the waves. The current would take him down as his eyes strained for the light that dimmed above. Then water would start to fill his ears, his open mouth, his lungs and……..”

His right hand latched onto the seatbelt buckle in a firm grip, the same moment his body shuddered violently as fear reverberated through it.

The short burst, but loud and disapproving hunk from the SUV in the adjoining lane reprimanded his lack of concentration. He had veered off course only slightly, yet the driver gave him a disgusting look as he sped by.

Jude wondered if he had mouthed a swear word.

“Is everything okay?”

“Yes, I am fine sir.” He faked a weary smile, that twitched at the curve of his mouth.

His passenger that afternoon was a middle-aged man with crossed eyes. His suit looked like they had seen better days, but the few times he spoke to him and on phone during the ride, his English was surprisingly impeccable.

“Are you sure?” he asked again.

Jude nodded.

Most of his passengers sat in the back seat, as if they owned the car. A pleasure that lasted only for the short ride. They would fiddle with their phones all the time and it made him feel like he was invisible to them until the ride ended and it was time to pay the fare.

Not this one. He joined him in front seat and remained alert as he drove, as though commissioned by God-knows-who, to prevent him from self-harming.

From the corner of his eyes, he could see his passenger’s oversized nose as it twitched to the strong whiff of his damp upholstery. The odor became more pronounced when he turned on his air conditioner. There was no way he was getting a good rating from this passenger for sure.

It was his fault. He left one of the side windows down after he had slept in the car during the rain the night before. He wanted to enjoy the cool breeze the rain offered trading in the wet upholstery for a much comfortable sleep.

The searing heat in the last few months left him with no option.

“Please turn off the air conditioner and let’s enjoy the sea breeze. Your car smells horrible.”

“I am so sorry sir. Somehow despite my best efforts, the rain got into the car last night.”

“No problem, just wind down the windows please.”

Wet air flowed into the car bringing the freshness of the seaside to their senses, offering some relief.

“You are almost off the bridge bro. You should drive the car to the side and into the lagoon at top speed. I am sure your passenger wouldn’t mind. He looks like he is tired of living anyway; just look at his beat-up suit. Step hard on the pedal, rev the car into the crash barrier and end it all. Sharp sharp!”

“Bastard!” Jude muttered.

“What!!”

“Nothing sir. Nothing.”

The images flooded his mind again.

This time, his car would hit the concrete curb violently with shards of glass splintering in all directions, before tumbling over into the water down below. He imagined the voice of his passenger screaming like a scared teenager as he held onto the grab handle for his dear life.

A smile sneaked up on his face again as he shot a quick look at the man in suit again, who just stared on oblivious to his driver’s death wish. Sometimes he just loved the way his mind worked.

“Yes, just do it bro. Do it sharp sharp. Do it now, now.”

As though on autopilot, the car tires hissed through the wet asphalt in defiance of his mind’s suicidal request, allowing his passenger the pleasure of switching attention to the changing scenery as residential buildings dotted both sides of the road.

Death, not today.

“You messed up bro, you should have ended it already. We will try again!”

*****

Two riders had cancelled their order on the mobile app that afternoon after they couldn’t stand the pungent stench of the damp, stale and moldy upholstery the moment they sat inside his vehicle.

“Jesus!” was all one passenger exclaimed.

“Abeg, abeg, what nonsense is this?” Another fumed.

The sun had hidden behind heavy clouds most of the morning and his car stank to high heavens as the day progressed without the heat from the sun to dry it. He was embarrassed to open his car doors for his passengers and every time he sniffed his clothes, they had the same unpleasant odor.

If he wasn’t getting any passengers, there was no way he could make enough money to pay back the loan on the car. He was already behind on his repayment schedule after he had spent part of the money repairing his failed shock absorber the previous week.

 

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