Remember me (X)- Short story

The story of fate and destiny

Chapter 10

The Mansion

In one moment, Tara’s eyes welcomed the sunlight as it bloomed and bathed her in a rosy glow through the crack in her curtains and in another, she was toweling her rich dark and wet skin dry before jumping into her underwear and pulling up a sport pant to her waist. You would have thought she was running late to work.

It was just 6.30am.

After such a horrid night on her couch with dreams that defied logic, her grump-o-meter was off the chain. She felt the need to retreat into her cocoon, but that was a luxury she could not afford that morning.

“The world would have to deal with a grumpy Tara.” she shrugged.

The day held secrets.

The last thing she picked from her couch was the bunch of keys in a ring that held amongst others, her house and car keys in an inseparable union.

It was the kind of day that even a feather would fall without drifting one way or the other. It was still, utterly still. There were no puffy clouds or temperature extremes, just gentle sunshine for the people to bask in.

Tara drove to the mainland against the surging traffic on the other side of the road, everyone else was heading down to Lagos Island, Lekki and Victoria Island, where sprawling skyscrapers and monstrous edifices housed the corporate offices of thousands of organizations in Lagos. The drive was as eventless as the thoughts in her head.

There she was driving back to the abandoned mansion that she had only cared to view from the outside a few days earlier, not daring to go in. It didn’t matter to her that she might be breaking state laws or at least trespassing. What mattered to her was to put the relentless curiosity in her mind to sleep once and for all. Closure was her only motivation.

When the abandoned building came into view, Tara wheeled her hatchback right in front of it, right beside the spot she had sat with the strange old man during her first visit. That morning, she took in the view of the building again, staring out of her side window to behold the building that was forsaken and in the throes of dereliction. If the building had a soul, it had to be one that was stoic and sober, as if patience was easy for its grand columns.

After so much quiet and reflective time, the building had discovered the company of the trees and wildflowers that brought brightness right up to its doors and windows.

The swing in front of the building reminded Tara of the ecstatic moments that the kids in the house enjoyed during its prime days. She could hear the faint echoes of the children’s laughter and it did nothing but earn her pity.

She looked around the street before she shut the door to her car. The street appeared deserted, anyone driving out towards the island for work was late already and didn’t care to look at a strange lady alighting from the hatchback looking like she was up to no good. Only a few kids with oversized school bags strapped to their backs hurried along.

She half-expected to see the old man, but she came prepared. She had her dependable solar lamp, a small pen knife and a can of pepper spray. She may be considered stupid for taking on the risk, but not dumb enough to go in without a fallback plan.

She felt confident enough.

She walked past the overgrown shrubs at the entrance of the property straining her ears  in the event that someone should raise an alarm. As she walked on, she realized that no one cared if she walked into the building. They probably considered it a relic for all sorts of shenanigans. She walked towards the side of the building; she figured that going to the front patio would rouse suspicion and draw attention.

As she walked towards the rear trampling on overgrown weeds, dirt, disused paper and remnants of cigarette butts, a sneer cornered her nostrils as the pungent smell of urine hit her. She spat out crudely in acknowledgement.

A local dog scampered out of the corner of the building past her in absolute terror with its tail behind its hind legs until it assumed to be at a safe distance from her, before it let out a growl.

Her determination to find a clue in the abandoned house overshadowed her dislike for dogs.

It must be wondering what she was doing in his “palatial” abode where everywhere was decent enough for a pissing contest. Shameless creature. She was uninterested in the weight of confusion bingo would have to suffer while she was there.

Tara soon found the kitchen exit door. The door, once cherry red, was just the same, though the peelings were all shades of a pink that surrendered to the harsh harmattan sun year after year. Tara imagined that it would move on its hinges still, but with the weariness of an old man.

She shoved the door gently,  hoping it wasn’t bolted from the inside and it creaked loudly with the moan echoing to the rafters that still fought the sagging roof above. The kitchen windows no longer beckoned light inside the building, it was covered in layers of dust that could no longer lift the gloom that the walls imposed. Instead, they added to the growing sense of dustiness and darkness that welcomed her first step.

Bingo couldn’t take it anymore and let out an outburst of barks and yelps with short pauses as though it was pained and helpless as the intruder trudged on.

The crunchy feel of shards of glass welcomed her steps into the kitchen. When she looked at the dusty tiled floor, she realized that someone must have broken into the house years earlier. The dusty and caked bits of broken glass were undeniable evidence.

The kitchen was expansive, even in the near dark, its layout still held the remnant of a luxurious past and its generous curves, tarnished by grit and a subtle, organic palette barely survived the decade-long neglect.

Bingo’s barks got louder. That irritated Tara and she picked out one piece of the broken glass, aiming it at the dog’s head through the large hole in the broken window. It scurried off the moment the glass was in mid-air and held its peace.

“Stupid dog.”

Her hair caught a lacework of silken strands of cobwebs as she approached a large opening that must have been the center of everything beautiful in the mansion. The dog had left patches of drying urine on the walls as she walked past, untangling the cobweb from her hair.

The large opening still had a few pieces of the furniture that once held sway in different states of decay. A chaise lounge had only two of its legs left, while a large cabinet with multiple drawers missing had rodents crawling peacefully oblivious of her presence.

Though the floorboards were bare and the paint in need of loving care, though the furniture lay still without the warmth of its owners, they stood all the same, strong beneath the flakes and dirt of years.

All in all, it looked like a movie-set, a place waiting for life to come. The only give-away was the odor, well, that and the dust. It was musty and dry, but nothing opening the doors and windows couldn’t solve.

A lizard perched on a disjointed stool, welcoming her with a relentless nod. It paid her no attention because it was poised to feast on an insect that walked lightly over the dusty floorboard making neither footprints nor sound for breakfast.

Wall gecko! Tara hated wall geckos. And there they were, scores of them, lying on their belly on all the walls and partitions. They barely acknowledged her presence, she imagined that they were wondering if she missed her way.

When she found the staircase to the upper floors, she took it without thinking. It was made of the finest and richest wood and so it stood majestically. The steps were old, unvarnished and slippery with the recent rain.

“There must be a leaking part of the roof.” She thought.

She grabbed the rail with her free hand and moved up gingerly listening to the creaking wood under her weight. She took one step slowly after the other to be sure the steps could carry her weight.

She found the first door and then pushed, expecting it to swing open, but found that it stood resolute. She moved on to the next one down the hallway. It was the master bedroom, and it was empty save for the beaten large rug. She had no idea what to look for and so did not bother to walk into the room.

She thought about the beach bottle, the coin, the passport photograph and wondered where they all fit in the mansion. Her eyes darted to the left and right of the staircase looking for just about anything, then she noticed a huge rat scurry across the hallway. She cringed for a moment. But that emotion was replaced with absolute terror when she heard the floorboard creak right behind her. It appeared that she wasn’t alone.

She turned quickly to see a white cat duck behind the shadows with its glowing pairs of eyes shooting accusatory stare. She was to blame if the rat got away.

She got the message.

The whole house was a food chain ecosystem for rodents and maybe even reptiles.

The cat strolled down the hallway and for some strange reasons Tara followed the white cat as though invited by telepathy, until it turned into a smaller room to the left. Tara flicked on her solar lamp and touched her pocket for the pepper spray.

The brightly painted door to the room was half off its hinges, it’s still shiny knocker dangled with gravity, but this did not deter Tara as she stepped in after a cursory glance.

It looked like a maid’s room without the trappings of opulence and style. The walls looked darkish with scrawls inscribed with a sharp object on every part. She stood still as her eyes darted from wall to wall, taking in the state of the room and the secrets they held.

“I was really hoping you would come back.” It was the unmistakable voice of the old man she had met two days earlier. It had the drawl that rang in her ears. The voice sounded from right behind her, towards the door.

“Blood of Jesus!” She shut her eyes as fear enveloped every cell in her body.

“Please calm down and open your eyes.”

“I do not want to see you.” She answered in a trembling voice.

Her headache returned ferociously that instant. ”This had better be a nightmare.” She wished. She considered dashing through the door, but she was certain she wouldn’t make it past the staircase before whoever this man was, caught up with her. She would have to take her chances when it came.

“It’s me.”

Her eyes remained shut as she froze barely breathing. In the silence, she could hear his next step towards her. Her eyes rolled under her closed lids as she let her ears do the listening figuring out his exact location.

“You who? Please stop moving towards me.”

”Open your eyes, Tara.”

Counting silently under her breath, “1,2,3,4…” and with both her eyes closed, she raced out of the room, headfirst, with abject and terrifying speed surprising herself with the strength that she pooled to run through the hallway towards the staircase. The solar lamp was lost in the urgency, and she didn’t bother to pick it up.

She tumbled through the wooden staircase, falling and rolling over as she writhed in pain till she hit the dusty floor below. It was a really bad fall. Her knee hit the edge of the steps many times until her ankle snapped. One of her sneakers got ripped out before she landed on her back. She did not feel the pain at the time, but it was there.

She groaned as her eyes opened slowly, groaning as she picked herself from the dusty floor. A shadow appeared on the upper floor, she felt this because she saw the overcast against the streaks of light in the building. Propping herself on one knee, Tara continued her escape, racing through the dusty corridor into the kitchen exit.

This time when she stepped out of the house, she hopped on one leg because the broken shards of glass in the kitchen had done a number on her bare foot leaving a trail of red crimson blood behind.

A startled Bingo resumed the ferocious bark the moment she stepped out of the building. It must have been terrified by her disheveled look adorned with a trail of cobweb and dust all over her head. She must have appeared as a different person to the lady who had tried to stone it earlier.

It barked, nonetheless, relentlessly, tearing the silky silence into a cacophony of echoes.

When she caught her breath, she limped into her car before the maddening pain returned without mercy. She turned her leg on her lap the moment she found the door handle and swung the car open. She plucked three pieces of broken glass from her foot with blood trickling out accompanied by a maddening pain.

Tara fainted.


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11 thoughts on “Remember me (X)- Short story”

  1. Adedamola ilori

    Oooooh boy! Akin, you’re a fantastic writer., I say this without apology and lack of a better word or expression. Your description of the old rickety house is just amazing, I felt I was inside the house, every detail did justice to the message being conveyed. Great job omo Akin.

  2. Hmmm. Really interesting and I added a new word “grump-o-meter”.
    You are really a master story teller.

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