Patience is most needed
In this world oft’ hurrying near
Everything had gone wrong since William Craig turned twenty-five, the recurring voices in his head, the nightmares that echoed in his sleep. He could understand none of it, why they were beginning to steal his quiet hours.
The last nightmare did it for him. He saw their faces, horrible and terrifying, staring and laughing at him. They didn’t hurt but instead they loved him, kept beckoning. He opened his eyes, jumping out his bed, but they lingered in the four corners of the wall till he ran out the room. He’d had enough: he was going to tell his parents.
He was the only child; they always listened and made sure he got everything he wanted. Sometimes life was too comfortable for his own liking, but it was a privilege and he enjoyed it. They sat in the parlour and listened to all his fears and dreams, before they burst into laughter. It was something they had never done before.
“Did I say something funny?” William asked in surprise.
Mrs. Craig first realized her reaction was hurting him and stopped, and turned to her husband, who immediately understood her expression. The Craigs were that simple and loving: forty-five years of marriage made it seem like they had known each other from birth.
“So, what nightmare have you been having?” Clara, his long-time girlfriend asked.
“Wait! Mother told you?” William’s face nearly caved in.
He had come to love her more than anything or anyone, except his parents. They talked about nearly everything, but no, not his dreams, and he had his reasons.
“She was worried and wanted me to talk to you.”
He frowned and turned his face aside; he was doing it again. These looks always worked on her, on all women. She wrapped her arms around him, apologetic.
There was something his parents were not telling him; it lurked behind the façade of their laughter, something near worry. He had finished making love to Clara for the third time when his parents came to break the news: they were going on a vacation to South Africa to celebrate their 45th wedding anniversary. He wanted to be happy but he couldn’t – he kept feeling things were going from bad to worse.
“What?” Mrs. Craig fumed. “You’re not happy for us?”
“No, I am. I’m just wondering why now?”
“Your dad wanted to give me a different treat this time around.”
“What rubbish is this?” Mr. Craig barked. “Since when do you have to convince your son to accept your decision?”
William flashed a dreadful stare at his dad. He obviously wasn’t going to change his conservativeness any time soon. He was a typical African father. He was yet to accept that in the twenty-first century, parents handled their children with care and understanding.
“I wasn’t …”
“We are leaving tomorrow and you’re driving us to the airport,”
Mr. Craig said, before leaving with his wife.
The morning was quick to come and William dropped them at the airport. He had barely settled home when his phone rang. He stopped imagining how it would feel to be home alone.
“I don’t understand what you’re saying?” his voice was unsteady
“Am I speaking to William Craig?” the voice at the end of the phone asked again.
“We’re sorry to inform you that the flight your parents boarded has just crashed. The plane had…”
William dropped the phone. He could not hear more. His fear had become reality.
In his sadness, he drove to Clara’s to seek solace. First, he heard sounds, then saw clothes (both male and female) sprawled around her parlour. He burst into her room and there they were – his best friend and Clara, entangled in the century’s long battle of lovemaking.
He rented a self-contained room in the suburb of the city, far away from his former life. No sooner than he did, he heard that Clara had committed suicide. She was obviously unable to bear the shame of her unfaithfulness and his un-forgiveness. He shed no tears for her. His anger wouldn’t let him feel for a stranger, for that was what she had become in his eyes.
William started a new life and a new job as a waiter in a local bar. He had followed Aminat there unknowingly. When he crossed the road behind her, trailed her into her office and saw a “waiter wanted” signpost, he was intent on only her. And now, he had her: undeniably the best thing that has happened to him since his double tragedy.
“Is everything okay?” Aminat asked inquisitively. William was still breathing heavily, having sprung up from a dream – or rather, a nightmare. She drew open the curtain and the sun rays shone on him. He had seen the faces again in his dream.
“I’m fine dear, just a bad dream,” he assured her.
“Well then, hurry up and walk me to the door. I’m leaving for the supermarket and will be back before noon.”
William rolled his arm around her, walked her to the door and stood there to watch her cross the road and board a bus. About to cross, she swivelled and blew him a kiss.
She didn’t see the red wagon jeep that drove up from behind her.
He shouted her name and rushed towards her, but it was too late. She had been hit and landed slowly on the ground, blood forming sea. The white he wore was now coloured, and he held her remains while he shouted for help. People rushed towards them, but were of little help, instead bringing out phones and recording the scene. Eventually, a man broke out from the crowd to help, but it was too late. Her breathing had slowed and suddenly stopped without warning. She died in his arms. The whole world heard him wail.
There was a pattern, one he couldn’t yet figure out. His nightmares were the three women laughing and making jest of him, but whenever they weren’t laughing and mocking him, they were smiling and gesturing. If this happened, he would wake, only to later lose someone. The same thing happened before his parents’, Clara and Aminat went. Before Aminat was a brief romance with Cynthia. He had just woken up from his dream, when not too long later Cynthia came along to tell him she was pregnant and would terminate it. She went to the hospital and never returned.
Nights came and went, William Craig barely slept. He feared to close his eyes for more than thirty minutes or he’d see them again, laughing at him in a mocking gesture – but that was better, than motioning for him to come.
There was nothing left to do but die and join his loved ones. He was a curse and didn’t want to drown another soul into his grave pool. One day, after resigning as a waiter, he got home drunk after taking three bottles to suppress his fear of death. He held the knife and made a sign of forgiveness to Christ. He wanted to write a suicide note but didn’t, because there was no one to miss him. No one to care. He held the knife up high and it sparkled. He was driving it down his stomach but stopped halfway with a frown. There was a loud knock on the door. He went to open and it was his landlord asking for a bill. He had defeated death.
This post is brought to you by The Book of Jakarta
Despite being the world’s fourth largest nation – made up of over 17,000 islands – very little of Indonesian history and contemporary politics are known to outsiders. From feudal states and sultanates to a Cold War killing field and a now struggling, flawed democracy – the country’s political history, as well as its literature, defies easy explanation. Like Indonesia itself, the capital city Jakarta is a multiplicity; irreducible, unpredictable and full of surprises. Traversing the different neighbourhoods and districts, the stories gathered here attempt to capture the essence of contemporary Jakarta and its writing, as well as the ever-changing landscape of the fastest-sinking city in the world.
He got another job that made him move from one place to another, day and night, as a fireman. When he quenched fires, every now and then, he hoped that the fires were his fears. He was too busy to notice his new neighbour. They only met once, when she introduced herself.
“I’m Tracy Omolu,” she said with smile on her lips and cheer in her eyes. It was the first time in a long time he had been spellbound, and he wanted to be happy again. He wanted someone with an overflow of happiness to flood him.
“I’m William Craig,” he said, feigning a grin. “I hope the compound isn’t short of what you expect?”
“Well, can we ever find a place that isn’t short of our expectations?” she joked.
“Welcome again.” He shook her hand, then went into his own apartment.
That night he dreamt again. First, he dreamt of the witches mocking him, and then his father appeared in a white gown, regal from head to toe, echoes in his voice and fierceness in his gaze.
“Daddy, is that you?”
“Don’t drown another soul into your pool of death,” his father warned.
“Dad, is that really you?” William asked, less concerned about what the ghostly figure was saying.
“No one lives and dies by himself; you died the day you were born.”
“Speak less and open your ears,” his father angrily replied.
“Then why mock me?”
Not only did he open his ears, he opened his mouth and eyes too. He couldn’t believe what he was hearing about the circumstances around his birth. He should have known he was no ordinary child; that there was something mystic about him. Death.
The story dates back to many years before he was born, when his parents had no child, ten years after marriage. He didn’t, until now, know that his dad was a son of a missionary who had come to dwell in Ogun state, where he had married his mother. He claimed there was no pressure on him, his parents were late. But for mother, there was. She couldn’t bear to look over the fence without feeling shamed (even when not reproached), and she got tired of hearing the words Faith and patience.
His father’s axiom used to be: ‘A hunter’s surest weapon is patience,” to which she one day replied him: ‘A hunter with patience as his weapon is one day bound to be devoured by the same animal he patiently waits to kill.” His father knew she was right but was too blinded by religion to see reality. She got worse by the day, especially after her closest friend gave birth after eight years of childlessness. That was when he realized that the desperation of a woman is no good pressure; all men are bound to fall, and his father did.
They went into the forbidden forest to seek the three sisters’ help: fire, wind and rain. It wasn’t so difficult. All his mother did was to sleep outside their hut, alone, for two days. Nine months later William Craig was born, but then the incident on the naming ceremony made them run away, to Lagos, to start all over, away from the sisters yet they remembered Rain’s words: ‘No one lives and dies by himself. You wanted a son: we gave you a god, and he will bring death to everyone he loves.’
Two weeks later and Tracy came looking for William. She had not seen him, no one had, and then she went and knocked his door. William intended not to open it, but he did. They got close and she wiped his tears. He wanted to tell her to stop when she kissed him, before she took off his shirt and he her blouse. He was too weak to speak, lost in her kisses, ensnared by her rhythmic moans.
“I’m sorry,” he began, his eyes absent of smile but his body relieved in her love. “This can’t happen again.”
“I don’t understand?”
“This was all a mistake, it shouldn’t… it can’t happen again.”
“What do you mean by mistake?”
“I don’t mean it the way you’re thinking. It’s not you, it’s me.”
“Yes. You’re the kind of woman any man would die for.”
“Except you, of course,” Tracy said.
“What I’m trying to say is that I’m not the kind of guy you deserve. My life is a mess. Anyone I love eventually dies.”
“Not anyone. I’ll be the one who doesn’t.”
She was doing it again, sweet-talking him. Now, he was too weakened by her touch – any man would be.
“I didn’t think you believed in the spiritual and the supernatural.” Tracy began fiddling him after he told her about his exes.
“I don’t,” William shot back. “At least I didn’t until recently.”
He wanted to tell her everything he had of late found out about himself, but somehow thought that could be more dangerous. He sure had no intention of telling her that his parents had supposedly brought him an imminent doom.
William loved his new job as the head writer of a book firm. He couldn’t stand his sleeplessness during the night, wondering what awaited Tracy. He decided to travel to where it all started, to seek a solution, as she was too precious to join the fallen. Tracy came in time to see him packing his clothes.
“Are you travelling?”
“Yes, I am. I need to visit my village. Maybe I can find a solution to this evil upon me.”
“Baby,” she said gently. She was doing it again, using that tone on him. “I thought we talked about this?”
“I know, but I’m doing this for your sake. What if something bad happens to you? I’ll never forgive myself. I’d just die.”
“No baby, you won’t. We need you now more than ever.”
William was awed. “Who is we?”
She said nothing, instead using his hand to rub her stomach. William Craig was going to be a father.
Tracy was right, nothing was actually wrong. It was just his subconscious playing tricks with his dreams. Eight months now and he hadn’t had the nightmare that he used to, and hadn’t seen his father again. He was convinced it was a hologram that he had seen.
They lived happily. Some nights together in each other’s arm – most nights, actually. He kept reiterating how she was a blessing in his life, to have come at the time she did: when he had no hope, when all he thought about was dying.
“If only Mum and Dad were here,” he often said. He was convinced their passing was a coincidence, as were the women he had lost. Tracy was a living proof.
Nothing bothered him, and his life was the way he had always wanted it. He had no trouble until a client came to request that he would ghost-write a story for her. It was his job. There was one thing though: the story she wanted had so many similarities to that which he had personally experienced. The only difference was the names. This bothered him, but he could not share with Tracy, now his fiancé.
That same night, he dreamt again. First, it was the witch sisters mocking him in laughing gesture. He woke up to see Tracy lying peacefully beside him. He went back to sleep and this time they beckoned he come.
“Honey, can you please not go to work today?” William beseeched Tracy at the break of dawn.
“Well, you are getting very heavy for a start,” he grinned. “Plus, I wouldn’t want Junior to go through the harshness of the sun.”
He shouldn’t have lied; he should have just told her about the dream and that he feared something bad might happen to her. Instead, he kissed her and left. She was too stubborn to be convinced otherwise.
William dashed home. The emergency call he had received claimed urgency. He kept cursing himself and praying it was a domestic accident but it wasn’t. There she was, on the kitchen floor in a pool of blood, wearing the red gown he had bought her. Tears were no longer a thing in his eyes; he had cried them all. There she was, the woman he intended to marry, in a pool of blood.
“Don’t drown another soul in your pool of death,” he remembered his father’s warning. He should have listened. He had wanted to listen but she bade him otherwise. Now, she was the victim of his negligence and her ignorance.
He saw the letter on the decking, but it wasn’t a suicide. It was a note from her husband in Port Harcourt. She was married! He mumbled in disbelief. She had run away from him and relocated to Lagos. She was legally married and her husband had vowed to repay her deceit. He finally did with death as her reward.
There was nothing left to do but join her. That’s when he saw the three sisters, in their fierceness appearing around him. This time they didn’t laugh; instead, they had a temperate smile. Their hands holding each other and him at their middle.
“Why?” William asked them with boldness in his voice.
There was nothing to fear anymore.
“It’s time for you to join us,” Fire answered, sparkles of flame in her eyes.
“Why have you taken the life of everyone I’ve ever loved?”
“William Craig. You’re not a man, you’re a god, our god, and you can love no one except for us.”
He looked down, knowing they were right, yet he wanted the pleasure of taking his own life and not him going with them.
“But you’ve taken my father, why me? Isn’t it written that a son should not pay for his father’s sin?”
“You’ve got it all wrong, our dear husband,” Rain responded, gentleness in her voice. “You’re his sin.”
He laid back in surrender, knowing there was nothing left than death.
Before he closed his eyes, he observed their smile. They said nothing, yet he knew the meaning. He held on to Tracy’s hand, sure that there would be no afterlife for them. His heart wept. Letting out a deep sigh, he closed his eyes and, in that moment, realized even gods cry.
About The Author
Albrin Junior is the pen name for Alex Aigbike Junior. He’s an author, scriptwriter, speaker and filmmaker. His debut novel, Naked Coin, won the Lagos Book House Award for the 2020 Book of the Year. He has also published a collection of poems and short stories and has been published in journals. He has served as a panellist and speaker in book events, as well as produced a couple of short films. He’s basically a man in love with art.
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