- The Storried Platform
RED CHRISTMAS – By Nwachukwu Obinna
It normally begins from whispers behind closed doors to gossip among peers. Children walk about the street with papers searching for coddling adults to write their name on it. Teenagers, on the other hand, are exhilarated to the sound from ignited firecrackers they used their long-term savings in buying whereas mothers are seen compiling the list of items to be bought.
To the Akpans this year’s celebration will be more special because Anthony will be returning to the country after five years of his tuition abroad. Mrs. Akpan wheedled her husband into redecorating the home as her only son should be welcomed in a regal manner. Nana, Mr. Akpans mother is to take her granddaughters, Ruth and Naomi to the market on the 24th while Mr. Akpan is to go to the airport to pick up Anthony.
Neighbours are also seen making preparations as well. Mr. Iloh, the aged man who lives opposite the Akpans was seen cheerfully spraying his old and worn-out 504 Peugeot car that had been packed in his garage since his retirement twenty-five years ago. And Brother Paul, the evangelist who lives adjacent strut about the street, dumping his washed-out coats and tired shoes on every waste bin he could find. Who knows, maybe he finally decided to settle down.
Despite the rowdiness of the marketplace and the persistent increment in the prices of items, still, people are seen with smiles on their faces. Words of good cheer from the lips of every store owner fills the air. Lights of various colors blink brilliantly from one shop to another. Children urge their reluctant mothers into purchasing items not on their list.
It was on the 24th of December, on the eve of Christmas. Nana walked about the marketplace with her granddaughters. Like a wild-goose chase, she searched blindly, having no inkling of the kind of clothes to buy for them. It was at the fifth store she went when she saw Brother Paul making payment for a suit he just purchased. After exchanging pleasantries with Nana, Brother Paul suggested that both the girls be taken home so as to give Nana a lighter mobility.
Not long after Brother Paul left with Ruth and Naomi, a pandemonium ensued in the marketplace. Everyone was seen running helter-skelter. Shop owners flee from their stores unlocked; mothers search desperately for their lost children. Just as Nana was about to partake in the tumult, not minding what might have been the cause, she was knocked down unconscious.
Mr. Akpan was on his way back from the airport with his son when they both saw a great mass of people flooding towards their direction. The uproar made them jump out of their vehicle in a reflex and joined the race.
Rumours were heard about a gunshot in the marketplace. Mr. Iloh came running towards the Akpans to warn the family about staying indoors. But he was very unfortunate as he met only Mrs. Akpan in a state of disarray. She had already seen the news report of the invasion.
Silence crept into every home as those who were indoors are warned to remain still with their doors locked. The gunshot lasted for hours, disturbing the peace of the neighbourhood. Children are held firmly by parents to prevent sudden bawl.
It was a day filled with terror, especially for Mrs. Akpan. Flashes of the faces of her husband, her only son, her two daughters and her mother-in-law haunted her, making her more terrified, despite the effort of Mr. Iloh in trying to keep her calm.
The next day was a day of mourning for the residents. Dead bodies littered the streets and the marketplace causing a lot of grief for the dwellers. For Mrs. Akpan, it was a day of great loss, a week of turmoil and a December to remember.
It was a Red Christmas.
It normally begins from whispers behind closed doors to gossip among peers. Children walk about the street with papers searching for coddling adults to write their name