Into The Wild 2
They climbed on, slowly and steadily. The sun had gone to sleep and the moon must have been preparing to rear its head as they ascended the mountain. The seven of them, AK, who was the leader of the team, Chisom, Kazeem, David – the Part 6 medical student, Tara – his girlfriend, Folu, the quiet one and Bukunmi.
It was a quiet climb with AK in front shouting all about Obafemi Awolowo University and the hidden and unexplored beauty of the campus. Bukunmi was not comfortable with the way he talked, as though he was acting a movie. She was not comfortable about the mountaineering itself. She was only doing this because she had to; she did not want to be the weird OAU graduate who did not climb any of the mountains in the school throughout their four years on campus.
“Careful now. There is a steep here,” AK shouted from the front. “Hold someone!”
Bukunmi looked up and saw him struggling to climb, on all fours. After him, Kazeem went on, holding Chisom tightly.
“Baba, no drag my hand off na,” Chisom said and they all laughed. Next was David and Tara. It was an easy one for them. David was a muscular man. He simply held Tara with one hand and pulled her up the steep. Bukunmi looked beside her and saw that she was left with the small quiet boy. She sighed. Of all the people she could be climbing the mountain with…
“Come on, Bukola, we don’t have enough time. There is still so much more to explore,” AK shouted. He was now on a plain on the mountain with the rest of the climbers.
“The name is Bukunmi, not Bukola,” she said a bit harshly and held the boy’s hand as she climbed. Thank God I’m wearing trousers, she thought. She could not imagine what would have happened now if she was wearing one of her short skirts.
She was about to slip as she raised her leg to balance on the plain ground.
“Off your sneakers. It helps the friction,” Chisom said quietly. Bukunmi looked at him, looked at her sneakers and then removed them. All this while, Folu, the small boy stood still, arms folded. After removing her sneakers, she reached for Folu. He grabbed her hand and she pulled him up as she herself crawled up the steep. They were finally on the plain.
It was then that the first sign came. Not one of them noticed. The clouds began to darken slowly and there was a distant noise, as though it was already raining somewhere faraway and it was only a matter of time before it caught up with them.
“Your phone is ringing,” Folu said when they finally joined the rest on the plain.
Bukunmi looked at him and felt her bag; her phone was vibrating. She knew it was him so she did not bother to check. “I know,” she said to Folu and turned away.
“Okay, people. We have one more steep to climb and then we camp, eat some food, play some games, take pictures and do all the things we cannot do on land.”
“That sounds creepy,” Tara said, looking at David. He laughed and did not comment. They continued the climb.
“Abeg, change that song,” Chisom said and everyone grunted in support. Falz’s Polished had been playing on the speaker since they started the climb. It was on repeat and they were getting tired of it already.
“Falz is a good musician,” AK said as though that was enough reason to keep playing the song.
“We know. We just don’t want to start singing Polished in our dreams tonight,” Chisom said.
“Do you have Child of the World?” David asked.
“No, let’s play Alright,” Tara said. she was still holding on to David’s hand in a way that made Bukunmi uncomfortable. Was this love or some sick obsession? She hissed silently and spat in disgust.
AK changed the song. He did not play Alright. He played something else instead, something none of them knew but no one bothered to argue. The fact that they were no longer listening to Polished was enough.
Her phone rang again and Folu looked at her as though wondering why she was not picking up her call. Bukunmi did not care to give him an explanation. Her only prayer was that this boy disturbing her with calls would not drain her battery.
She sighed. This boy. He had become ‘this boy’. How fast. How quick. She did not understand what was happening to her. She had been in love with him. She wanted him and she had him and then it felt useless. The desire died. The need vanished. It was like the unquantifiable desire to eat that comes when one has been fasting for three days. After a spoon or two and you drink water and then it dies. You suddenly feel like you’ve had enough already.
Right now, she knew she had had enough. But how to tell him? How to tell him??
“Here comes the second steep!” AK shouted from the front, his ugly music blaring from the speaker. “And hey, there is a shed here!”
They looked up. It was true. It was more than a shed. There was a wooden house on the mountain. There was a cross sign engraved on the doorpost. It looked as though it had not been inhabited for long. It stood firmly on the rock though there was no visible foundation. It looked creepy; it was creepy and Bukunmi was certain they would have nothing to do with the house.
They climbed the second steep quite easily; the first one had prepared them for it.
“Okay, guys. Let us take a picture,” AK said. He brought out his phone and his face suddenly turned sour.
“What? You don’t have camera on your phone?” Kazeem asked.
“No. Phone’s dead. Battery low.”
“Eh ya, pele. Let us use mine,” Kazeem said. He brought out his phone and it was the same story. “Sorry, guys. Dead battery here too,” he said, waving his phone in the air.
“Okay, people. Whose phone isn’t dead?” AK asked, looking from one climber to the other.
“Let me check,” David said, putting down his heavy backpack and opening it up. Tara crouched beside him, her hands on her chin.
“Why is everyone’s phone dead, by the way?” he asked.
“No light in school for three days now.” It was Bukunmi who answered. She was tired of all this nonsense; the way David was feeling like he was some special someone.
“Oh, thanks for that. Didn’t know.”
“How come?” she asked. She was certain he knew. He was probably just trying to show off.
“I am a Part 6 medical student. I stay in Gloryland,” he explained. It struck her, the way he said it. The way he emphasized his class and the way he dragged the ‘medical student’. Bukunmi was annoyed. Who did he think he was?
“I see…” she said sarcastically and walked away to stand beside AK.
“Come on! No one with a phone?” Chisom asked. His phone was obviously dead too. “What’s up with your phone, Bukunmi?” he asked.
“Dead,” she answered without checking.
“Are you sure?”
She looked back; it was Folu who asked, the small boy. What was his problem?
“Yes, I am.”
Chisom looked away from the two of them and turned to David.
“Doc, any luck?” he asked. He sat down on a rock beside Tara.
“Still checking…” David said slowly and then, “Got it!” He brought out his phone and unlocked it. “Who is good with the camera here?” he asked, waving the phone.
“I am your man, doc,” AK said, coming closer. Before he reached the phone, Chisom had already collected it. He held it high in the air and they all smiled for a selfie.
“Wait for me!” the small boy shouted as he ran to them.
“Careful!” David shouted as he saw the way Folu ran. But he was too late. As the small boy ran, he stumbled on a rock and fell.
“NOOO!” Tara screamed, her hand over her mouth.
“What is it? What is it?” AK asked, looked away from the camera.
“HE IS…HE IS…FALLING DOWN.”
She was wrong. Folu was not falling down; he was rolling down. They watched with mouth agape as the small boy rolled down the steeply mountain.
“He is going to die,” Bukunmi said. Shock was written all over her face. She could not believe her eyes. She could not believe she was seeing this. Was he really rolling down the mountain? She did not know how high they had climbed until she looked down and saw how far the base was.
“WE HAVE TO DO SOMETHING!” Tara screamed. David held her close to his chest.
Chisom was shaking his head. “There is nothing we can do, dear. He will reach the base in thirty seconds and once he does; it’s over,” he said with gloom written all over him.
David looked at his wristwatch and said, “We can do something. We have thirty seconds.”
As though he was being controlled, he put down his backpack and began to climb down. The others stood still, looking at him, mouth agape. Tara’s hands were still over her mouth. She was crying.
“There is no way in hell he is going to reach the base before that small boy.”
“Where is the small boy? I can’t… I can’t see him anymore,” AK was saying. The other looked down and realized he was right. For some reason they did not know, Folu could no longer be seen rolling down the mountain.
“Maybe he has stopped. Maybe he took hold of a sharp edge and held still. It is possible right?” Tara asked, looking from Chisom to AK. Chisom was shaking his head. AK’s body was shaking.
“What do we do now?” Kazeem asked.
“We wait,” AK said.
“Wait? For what?” Bukunmi asked. She had been looking at all that was happening since and she could not bring herself to believe that it was true. She just saw someone die: she just saw Folu die. And she did nothing.
“Listen to me! We wait. We wait for the doctor to return with Folu and then we know what we are going to die.”
“By that time, it will be dark,” Chisom supplied and everybody’s heart sank.
“We need to start going down now. And can you please stop calling him a doctor? He is a medical student!” Bukunmi said angrily.
There was silence. No one said a word. Tara was still standing still, tears were streaming down her face. She had seen the small boy. She saw him first as he ran and fell and then rolled down the steep. She had seen the boy.
Kazeem sat down and Chisom joined him. Tara went to sit down beside them. AK and Bukunmi remained standing, pacing to and fro.
The time was 7:30pm and on a normal day, it would have been a bright night. Maybe the moon would have visited. But it was not a normal night. There was nothing normal about the night. Five out of seven climbers waited on the mountain for David to return, either with a corpse or a small boy. He did not return.
“We should get going,” Bukunmi said again. No one answered her. She wished she could go alone. She would have if not for the steeps and the sharp edges.
“We should get going, AK! We should get going!”
“SHUT UP!” AK yelled in annoyance and suddenly, lightning struck. The thunder rendered them deaf. And the rain became to fall. It did not start with a drizzle. It did not start slowly. It started angrily, like a rain that intended to flood the whole city.
“Quick! To the shed,” Chisom said and they all turned to his direction. He was walking towards the wooden shed that stood firm on the mountain like an edifice. Without a word, they all stood up, carried their backpack and followed him to the wooden house.
“I am not at ease, Akin. I am not at ease,” Bisi said again. Her face squeezed into a frown.
“Sshhhh, be quiet,” Akin said with his finger to his mouth. “Look, they are already there. Let us just climb the steep and join them.”
“Join them? Join them bawo Akin? Has something gotten into you? Shey you are drunk ni?” Bisi asked, looking surprised. Was it not crazy enough that he had to bring her to this unknown mountain for a treat? Did he also have to take her to where the students were? What if one of them lived in Awo and knew her from Mummy Adeolu’s shop? She was dead.
“Let us go back, please, Akin,” she begged but Akin wasn’t listening.
Akin stepped out of their hiding place and looked up at the mountain. The students had just climbed the second steep.
“Come on, Bisi. You said you wanted a treat. I am giving you one and you are doing like a village girl.”
“It is not like that, Akin. Me, I am afraid ni. I am afraid. Do you even know this place?” she asked, stepping out of the hiding too. She joined Akin as they continued to climb.
“Of course, I know this place. Don’t you trust me?” Akin asked, looking up at the mountain.
“Of course I trust –”
“What, Akin?” Bisi asked, grabbing Akin’s hand.
“Jesu!” Akin repeated.
“What is it now?”
He did not say a word. He merely pointed towards the mountain and Bisi looked. What she saw sent her heart to her mouth. Coming down from the mountain with utmost speed was a figure. It looked like a bundle of cloth…a basket of cloth.
“Who would throw clothes down the mountain?” Bisi wondered but Akin shook his head in misery.
“It is not clothes, Bisi. It is somebody. A man is falling from the sky.”
*NEXT EPISODE WILL BE OUT ON TUESDAY.