Biodun was being calm on the outside but he was lowkey furious. When Obinna called him on the phone, sounding frantic and saying he needed help, he was sure Obinna had gotten himself into trouble again. Obinna had a reputation for being the worst kind of onigbese. The kind that would borrow money, try to skip town, get caught, and need to be saved from a beat down.
This is the kind of friendship Biodun would’ve logged out of years ago but they’d known each other a long time. They were like brothers at this point, and he believed Obinna could be saved.
By the end of the night, he’d realize just how wrong he was.
He was drifting off to sleep when Obinna burst in, clutching a small duffle bag. His clothes were tattered, and he was covered in tiny, deep cuts and dried blood. Biodun was terrified.
“What happened to you??”
Obinna didn’t answer. He locked the door and dashed around the living room, shutting the windows and drawing the blinds. After ensuring all doors and windows were locked, he turned around.
“I’m in trouble, Biodun.”
“Yeah. I guessed that when you burst in looking like you tried to fight a big cat,” Biodun replied. Throwing panicked looks around the room, Obinna rushed over and sat him down in the nearest chair.
“I need to tell you something and you have to let me finish because it’s important you let me finish.”
“Did you borrow money from someone and try to skip town again? If that’s it, you might as well spare me this backstory. Let’s just go pay them and apologize so they don’t break your knees.”
“This isn’t like other times, I swear. Just let me explain. Please”
“Remember that fine girl I told you about? The one doing her NYSC in that military barracks in Ogun state that’s in the middle of nowhere?”
“Yeah. I can’t remember her name though. Did she do this?”
“I don’t remember her name either and it’s not important to this story so let’s not dwell on it. And no, she’s not responsible. But it did happen when I visited her. Do you know that that barracks only has pit latrines??”
“No water closets anywhere. So bizarre. Anyways, my first night there, I was pressed and decided to go unload in the bush –”
“Shhhh! I went to unload in the bush because I’d honestly rather die than squat over a latrine.”
“So you’re willing to squat in the middle of the bush but not over a latrine?”
“SHHHHHH! You’re digressing. Anyways, when I was all done and getting ready to leave the bush, I heard a baby crying. It was very faint at first and for a second I thought I was hearing things, but it got really loud all of a sudden.”
“Don’t tell me you followed the sound.”
Obinna didn’t answer immediately. He grimaced and lowered his head.
“I followed the sound.”
Biodun was like:
Obinna immediately began defending his actions.
“I was going to ignore it because I’ve seen every horror movie ever, but then I thought that it could be an abandoned baby situation and if the baby ended up dying because of my irrational fear, I’d never forgive myself. But it wasn’t a baby, fam. It was — and I’m going to need you to keep an open mind here — it was a bush baby.”
There was a long pause during which Biodun briefly considered throwing Obinna out. He settled for a deep sigh instead.
“I would ask if it’s crack you’re on but I’m pretty sure you can’t afford it.”
“I know what this sounds like but I SWEAR TO GOD this isn’t a joke. Everything you’ve heard about them is true.”
“Like how they’re a fictional race of magical forest creatures made up to scare boarding school children into going to bed on time?”
Obinna ignored him and kept talking.
“They’re short and stocky and look like a cross between Sméagol and the leprechaun in that 90s horror movie starring Jennifer Aniston’s nipples. They’re ugly as sin and cry like human babies to draw people in. They have magic and a lantern and…and a mat!”
With that, Obinna reached into the duffle bag he’d been clutching since he came in and pulled out a shiny mat made out of pure gold. Biodun got up and backed away like:
Still holding the mat up, Obinna walked towards Biodun, who kept backing away with the look of a person whose reality had just been shattered.
“I take it you believe me now.”
“Isn’t that a thing they’re supposed to guard jealously? Why do you have it?”
“The one I found gave it to me. More like offered it. It made me a deal that if I could keep it on me for 7 days, it would automatically become mine. Seemed easy enough. And I figured that I could sell it and finally make something of my life, you know?”
Biodun didn’t respond. He was trying to shake off the sense of impending doom he was feeling. Obinna went on.
“What it didn’t tell me was how difficult holding on to this was going to be. Since I got it, it has been relentless in its efforts to get it back. Relentlessly violent.”
He spread out his arms to show more cuts.
“That’s how I got these. I realized I’d messed with some real shit when it showed up the next night and murdered the girl I went to see. It was brutal, man, and strangely quiet at the same time. It tore her limb from limb. I knew no one in the barracks would believe my story so I ran. And I’ve been running. But I’m so close to the finish line and after that, I’m home free!”
Something about Obinna’s last sentence made Biodun’s brain jam. The feeling of dread that had started when he’d been forced to believe Obinna’s story had risen to insane levels. He began putting words together, slowly.
“You said you’re almost at the finish line. When did all this start?”
“7 days ago.”
“Doesn’t that mean you’ve won?”
“Well, not yet,” Obinna answered, gesturing at the wall clock. “It’s 11:45 pm. I have 15 more minutes before midnight. That’s when the game ends.”
Biodun began to hyperventilate.
“Dude, what’s wrong?”
“YOU BROUGHT IT HERE!”
All the lights in the house went out. The front door violently blew open.
The silhouette of a short, stocky figure stood in the doorway.