He did not die. The small boy, he did not die.
David kept on descending, keeping his eyes on the boy as he rolled down. As he went down the mountain, he realized that the boy was going slower than he expected. Chisom was wrong; he had more than thirty seconds to save the small boy. It would have been thirty seconds if the boy was falling from the sky. But since he was rolling down, slowed down by rocks and steeps and plains, he’d spend more than thirty seconds before he reached the base.
David went faster. He did not want to lose sight of the boy. As he descended the second steep and looked back to see the boy, his heart skipped a beat. The boy was gone. David could no longer see him rolling down. He couldn’t have gotten to the base that fast, could he? David wondered. But then, he was sure of one thing; he had lost the boy. And then the rain descended on him. He did not know what he would do. The darkness had clouded his sight and his thinking. He could not see. He could not think. He kept on walking on the plain, trying to find his bearing, trying to decipher which way was back to the base. The rain kept on pouring heavily and the doctor kept on walking without direction, into the wilderness.
Picture the children of Israel without Moses; always misbehaving. They’d set up this god and worship it for five minutes until Moses came around and corrected them. Picture them, gray, hungry, dirty, empty; picture them walking aimlessly in the dark, without a leader, falling into the ditch. Now, hold that thought. Hold it…
The rain was pouring down heavily and the two of them could no longer see clearly. They were still standing on the plain after climbing the first steep. Bisi did not understand what Akin was saying until the mass of clothes, or boy, or whatever it was was very close to them. She looked closely and squinted her eyes to see through the rain and realized that Akin was right. It was a human being, a small boy. And he was rolling down the mountain.
“What are we going to do, Akin? Akin?” Bisi asked, hands pressed on her wet chest. She was not sure Akin heard her. “Akin?!” she called again but her voice was lost in the thunder and the downpour.
Akin remained still. He was standing firmly on the plain with both hands folded across his chest. His eyes were focused on the boy. He knew he could not go and meet him. There was no way he would achieve that in this rain. It was bad enough that he could not see clearly. If he should lose his focus on the boy now, he would never find it again. He kept on looking as the boy rolled down closer and closer, approaching their plain.
Bisi looked on in horror as the small boy rolled down; his speed had reduced drastically and Bisi was sure he was dead. She watched in cold terror as he rolled down to the plain and stopped at their feet. She bent down to see him and Akin did the same.
The small boy was a mess. He was cut on all sides and his eyes were closed. His clothes were tattered and he looked more like a madman that a student. His face, his face was terrible. His skin had folded up and his lips were cut open and it looked as though the lower lip would drop if the boy said a word. Or even made an attempt.
“Akin…” Bisi whispered.
Akin did not say a word. He was praying. He was praying that his worst fear had not come true.
“Akin…is he dead?”
He placed his hand on the side of boy’s neck, held the boy’s right hand by the wrist and Akin closed his eyes. The rain washed on them and the thunder rented the air. There was no source of light save the lightning that struck once in a while. It was total darkness. Akin remained still. He wanted to feel something. Something… anything…please…
“Akin…” Bisi called again. “Is he dead?”
Just a moment…just a moment…
And then he felt it; the surge of life, the pulse of existence. He felt it and a small smile stretched across his face. He looked up and let the rain baptize them.
“No, Bisi. He is alive. He is still alive.”
“Really? Oluwa o!” she could not believe it/
“Yes, but not for long. We need to get him to the students. They would know what to do,” Akin said and without a word, he carried the small boy in his two arms and slowly, they began to ascend the mountain, blinded by the rain and the darkness.
The rain did not stop and every passing moment felt like the last. The five of the them remained in the wooden shed, praying silently. They were wet and shivering in the cold. The shed was not impenetrable. The roofing was not strong enough and the rain was pouring through. It started with a drip or two but now, about thirty minutes after the heavy downpour started, they were all covered in water. And darkness. The only source of light was the light from David’s phone which AK held in place. It was getting dimmer and dimmer every minute that passed by.
Lightning struck again, accompanied by thunder and the shed shook.
“We can’t hold on for much longer.” It was Chisom who spoke. He would be the first person to speak since the rain started. None of them had said a word; AK was standing by the door, holding the door in place so the wind would not send it in at them. Kazeem was standing beside Chisom, hands folded across his chest. Tara was sitting on the bare floor, crying; David had been gone for more than one hour now. He was alone there in the rain, in the dark, looking for a corpse. Bukunmi was seated in a corner, all by herself. Her phone battery was now on five percent. She had put it on ultra power mode to get her more time.
She wished this was all a bad dream, that she had not even thought about climbing the mountain. Of course, she would be the jerk who did not climb any mountain in OAU but then, would she be the first? And she certainly would not be the last. So what was the point?
She did not bargain for this. She did not plan for this. She was stranded in a shed, on a mountain, in the rain, in the dark, with total strangers, and with a dead boy who had fallen from the mountain. The boy…
“We do not have a choice,” AK shouted so he could be heard by everyone.
“We can’t hold on for much longer. This shed will collapse,” Chisom said again and lightning struck. Thunder blared and the shed shook. They all fell to the ground. AK dropped to the ground too and let go of the door he was holding in place. It did not take a minute: the storm outside hit the shed and the door flew off its hinges and was thrown into the room. It collapsed to the corner where Bukunmi was seated.
“Are you alright?!” Chisom yelled.
“Yes!” Bukunmi shouted back and crawled out from beneath the door. The thing had not hit her in any vital part.
The wind rushed into the shed and the shed began to shake. It was certain now that they had to get away from the shed. But then, they did not even have time to make the decision. The lightning struck again and the wind swirled with a screeching sound and hit the shed again. Like a giant about to drop dead, the shed began to shake.
“NOW!” Chisom shouted but it was too late. Just that moment, the shed gave one last dying sound and with a rumble, it collapsed on them all.
Bukunmi could not see anything. She did not even know where she was. There was a plank on her head and something was hurting her right foot. Or was it her left? She could not say. She was hearing a distant noise from a voice that sounded like AK’s but she could not be sure.
In the dark, she searched for her backpack with her hand and grabbed it when she found it. She used her left hand to lift up the plank and gawkily, stepped out of the rumble, into the rain.
“ARE YOU FINE?” It was Chisom shouting. He was standing in the rain too, clutching his bag to his chest. Tara was beside him, her bag on her back and David’s in her hands.
“I AM FINE!” Bukunmi shouted though her foot was still hurting. Where were AK and Kazeem?
“WATCH TARA. LET ME GO FETCH AK AND KAZEEM,” Chisom said but he had not taken a step when AK and Kazeem crawled out from under the rubble, dragging their bags with them. They did not look injured but Bukunmi knew they were, it just wasn’t much. They did not have the time to check their injuries as the rain was still pouring down and the wind was not any calmer.
“LET’S DESCEND!” Chisom shouted into the wind and led the way.
It was nothing like their ascent. It was as though they were fighting their way through a thick forest. The edges of the rocks were sharper and there was no plain in sight. But no one said a word. The only thing on their mind was home.
Bukunmi could hardly believe that just some two hours before, she was still in her room with Joy, talking about her ex-boyfriend. He was no longer calling her phone. Perhaps he had finally gotten the signal. Something moved in her stomach at the thought of him. No, she would not. She would not feel guilty. She would not think about him.
They went on, slowly and steadily. The rain was still pouring but they seemed to have gotten used to it already. No one was talking. Everyone was left to his own thought. AK was thinking about the small boy. That boy had rolled down from the mountain. And he, AK was responsible for that. He was responsible for all of them. What was he even playing with, thinking he could actualize his dreams of adventure and exploration?
Tara was still shedding tears. David was still somewhere on this mountain. He couldn’t have continued to descend in the rain. He had probably found somewhere to hide or stay. And they were descending already. What if they reached the ground and did not find him? What were they going to do? Would they come up for him? Would they allow her? She shook her head in regret and shed more tears. She brought all this on him.
They did not know when the rain stopped. They did not notice. They just saw that they could see a bit more clearly even though they were still in the dark and the wind had gone.
“It has stopped,” Kazeem said, raising his wet hands up to confirm. He was right. The rain had stopped.
“Are we all fine?” AK asked.
“Well, I am good here,” Chisom said. He was the one in front, leading the descent.
She did not answer.
“Tara? Can you hear me?”
“JUST SHUT UP AND TAKE US HOME!” Bukunmi shouted in anger and everyone kept quiet. Chisom paused in front and looked back at them all. They stopped too, each one taking some time to wrap their head around what Bukunmi just said. After some seconds, Chisom swallowed, looked up to the bright sky and said,
“Okay. Let us go home.” And the descent continued.
Have you ever climbed a mountain? Have you ever descended a mountain? Have you ever seen a coin? No? But you know a coin has two sides, right? No? You don’t? Have you ever climbed a mountain? Have you ever seen the other side of life?
“We are almost there now. We are almost there,” Akin kept on whispering to the still boy in his arms. The rain had stopped now and the clouds had disappeared. It was a clear bright sky; they could see clearly. They had been climbing for what seemed like forever and Bisi had begged him to turn back more times than he could count but he did not. He could not. There was no other place they could take the boy to than to his fellow students. If they were caught by anyone carrying him around like this, they were doomed.
“Almost there,” he said again as they climbed the second steep to the plain. He put the boy down gently and turned to help Bisi up. She held his hand without saying a word and he lifted her up.
Akin turned back and met the shock of his life.
“The shed?! The…the shed…it was…it was here! It was right here,” he said turning around in a very foolish manner. There was no shed. Where there would have been a shed stood a heap of wooden planks that looked more like rubbles than anything else.
“Where are they now, Akin?” Bisi asked. She knew her life was over already. Mummy Adeolu would send her away and then report her to her mother and they would send her back to her uncle. Her uncle…
“They are supposed to be here,” he kept on saying. He stepped closer to the rubbles and then it hit him. They must have moved. Something must have happened. It was the storm; it had to be the storm. But then, if the shed had collapsed in the storm, where had the students gone? They had to be somewhere around. They had to be somewhere around.
“Come one! Let us find them,” he said and bent down to lift the boy. He could not. His strength was leaving him. Without asking, Bisi bent down like a mother and carried the small boy in her arms and said, “Lead the way.”
Akin opened his mouth and closed it back, and for the first time since they started he climb, he felt guilty.
He was lost. He knew it. There was no point denying the obvious fact. He had walked around the mountain while it rained, trying to find his way home, trying to find any sign that would lead him back to the shed. Or to the base.
Now that the rain had stopped, he could see better. With his wet hands in his wet pockets, he was pacing what he thought to the be the second plain. It looked like the second plain but then, it was different in a way. There were grasses and tree roots everywhere. Perhaps they were there when they were climbing and he just hadn’t noticed it because they were having so much fun. He kept walking, his eyes to the sky, watching as the clouds disappeared.
Where am I? God, where am I?
It happened in a flash. This moment he was walking on the grasses and as he took another step, the grass beneath his feet gave way and he was descending into a dark hollow space. He tried to gain control of himself but he couldn’t; the law of gravity was stronger than the will of man: Doctor David was slipping into the wild.
EPISODE 4 WILL BE OUT ON FRIDAY.