- The Storried Platform
ANNOUNCING THE WINNING ENTRY IN THE JANUARY 2018 STORRIED MONTHLY COMPETITION #SMC – MICHAEL CHIMAOBI’S FUGITIVE
What happens to a prisoner who breaks out of prison? This is the simple question this story seems to have attempted to ask and answer. It’s very easy to contemplate a prison break, but once a prisoner escapes he ends up being a fugitive. Why this isn’t clear to a prisoner is a mystery. Why escape the comfort of a prison to be a man enjoying limited freedom after that fleeting moment of celebrating your Phyrric victory?
The first thing that hits me is the acrid stench of fear. Years ago, this place ranked third in my blog-post “Top 10 Places to Avoid at Night in Obigbo,” yet here I am, seeking refuge in its dreadful crannies. We’ve been moving in the darkness, avoiding the streetlights that stretch for miles. They won’t come for us tonight. Not in Miseh Street. Even if they do, they’ll be lazy. Still, in spite of this assurance, I find myself flinching at random, distant sounds like the cringe of a zinc roof under a cat’s pouncing paws, or the clang of a dustbin’s lid tossed by a scavenging schizophrenic. We freeze as Oladokun stops abruptly; there’s a beam of light ahead, getting brighter as it approaches with trailing footfalls. Oladokun turns swiftly, whispering his first word.
“Nobody cares about justice. We care about just us!” The smug prison guard cackled as the cell door squealed shut behind me and keys began to rattle. Nights trudged past, with each sunrise wrestling me to accept my fate.
Eight months in a place separate from the rest of the world, where we breathed something that wasn’t air, where we in the daytime managed to see the sun from a tiny window close to the edge of the tall dirty wall, willing our ears to hear the distant sound of life bustling in the city, wishing that someone would hear, too, if we screamed.—Someone like my Mother. I would tell her I’m innocent, that Priye and I were only unfortunate when they came looking for scapegoats after the bloody cult-clash in Obigbo.— One night Priye had gone wild, hammering the metal bars with his palms while screaming his guts out. The warden had showed up, staring with smoldering eyes. At dawn they came for him, tear-gassing us while they wrenched him away. Hours later they returned him flaccid and bizarre-looking, blood masking his now swollen face and torn lips. Days later, he would roam free, soaring on death’s wings.
Some nights, in this pungent cell of hungry, raging folks, we’d take turns viewing the moon and the stars, whispering wishes that burned our tongues.
Oladokun never said much, never joined us.
Oldest among us, the hulk was incarcerated two years ago for the murder of a policeman, and seemingly forgotten to rot here rather than hang with a noose around his neck. Nobody probed the fact that he’d been keeping this large cup of water for ages. Obviously feared for his eerie speechlessness, even prison guards kept their distance.
Today, an ominous smirk wrapped his face, seeing a guard on routine-check,—the same guard that gave him the cup of water he wouldn’t drink.
The guard briefly stopped by our cell.
“Tonight,” he whispered and walked.
“Good. Our deal stands,” Oladokun said.
We stared at Oladokun, then at each other, silent, keeping our eyes peeled.
“Blogger,” he beckoned, gesturing towards the cup he’d always protected. “This makes walls crumble like sand houses if you use it carefully. Amazing, right?”
Shock waltzed on my face as I held the cup, which held a concentrated sulphuric acid. How did he manage to bung that guard?
Something was brewing, certainly.
The night came alive with voices and the receding footfalls of scampering guards. A fire had started outside. An inferno. We sprang to our feet on Oladokun’s signal, shattering the weak acid-treated wall with adrenaline-packed kicks, creating an exit.
If my trial wouldn’t come, this would be my chance. But one thing stood certain: the moment I stepped beyond this wall, I became a fugitive.
ANNOUNCING THE WINNING ENTRY IN THE JANUARY 2018