Into The Wild 4
They walked on in silence, not speaking to one another. They had been descending the mountain for what seemed like days but they did not seem to be getting any closer to the base. The only reason they kept going was that they could feel it, they could sense that they were going down and not up. It felt easier now than when they were climbing. The rain had stopped completely and there was not a dingle drop of water on anyone, although their clothes were still wet.
Chisom was still leading in front. Unlike AK, who followed closely, he was not trying to make dry jokes. He simply led them in silence. Chisom was a 300 level student. He had one more year to spend on campus and he was very happy that he was doing this. Adventure had always been his thing. He had always loved the idea of hiking, mountaineering, tourism and all. He never got the chance to live his passion until he got into Obafemi Awolowo University and then joined the Explorers. And now, here he was, leading a great team, down a mountain that no one had ever climbed before. It would go down in history that he did this; he was a part of this team and led them to safety. He smiled foolishly to himself and kept on walking down.
Bukunmi was not thinking. She was not sure what she was doing. For one, she was happy that they were finally descending the mountain. But then, why was it taking so long? And why was there no building in sight? They should be seeing the University Senate Building and other tall buildings by now. But there was nothing; just more trees and vegetation and nothing more.
She was bored. Her phone had been on three percent when she switched it off. She had no idea what she was doing then. Of course, three percent was no use. But then, she did not feel the need to put it on. She was standing behind AK and followed his every step with great care. One of them had descended the mountain in a hurry and he was probably dead now; she did not want to be the next.
Tara was heartbroken. They were not talking. They were not talking about the small boy that had rolled down. They were not talking about her boyfriend who had gone to save him. They were all doing as if it never happened, as though these two people never existed. This was a wrong team to go on mountaineering with. They were so unconcerned. She had been shouting that they had to go back up, they had to go back up and wait for David. She knew he would never go down without them. He would never go down without her. And she brought him into all this mess.
They met on a WhatsApp group, on a faculty WhatsApp group. He was one of the faculty excos and she was just an innocent Jambite who had been given admission to study Medicine in OAU. She could remember how she had fallen in love with him even before she met him. The way he talked on the group, the way he did not argue, the way he was not part of the annoying guys who flooded the group with annoying messages after a football match. She loved him and so she began to stalk him. She saved his number and began to view his status updates. They were usually medical jokes and memes and they made her laugh. Once in a while, he would post something about a medical TV series he was following, Grey’s Anatomy. Because of him, she laughed watching Grey’s Anatomy and fell in love with the series. She never messaged him. She never sent a stray hi or hello. There was nothing to say and she was not so good at socializing. She had already concluded in her mind that she had been sentenced to an eternal and silent obsession until a tragedy happened in her life.
It happened on the day of resumption. She was coming to school alone from Ilorin. She had never been to OAU before. She did her screening online. She did not know what the school looked like.
It was dark when their bus reached Ile Ife and she began to look around to catch a glimpse of a signpost to give her directions. She had not looked for long when the headlights of a passing vehicle shined on a small signpost that said OAU CDL. She did not wait to confirm. She shouted to the driver that she had reached her destination and alighted. She was disappointed. So this was the OAU? She took a selfie in front of the campus and put it on her status. And then she made for the gate.
Her phone rang just before she got to the gate. It was him, the guy she was stalking. She picked the call immediately.
“Hello, is this Tara Obande?” he asked. His voice was inexplicable. It was like the voice from heaven which the three disciples heard when they were on the mount with Jesus.
“Yes,” she said shyly. She was blushing already, smitten by the beauty of his voice.
“Okay, Tara. My name is David. I am the PRO of the College of Medical Sciences. I just saw a picture of you in front of OAU CDL on the WhatsApp group. Is that where you are right now?”
“Yes? Is there a problem?”
“Well, yes, Tara. That is not Obafemi Awolowo University. That is the pre-degree school.”
“Ah,” she shouted without knowing. She was in the wrong place at this time of the day? She wanted to cry.
“Can you take a bus and get down to –”
“Am I lost? Ah, God, I don’t know where I am.”
“Okay, Tara. Don’t worry. Stay where you are. I’ll come get you,” he said.
She was not sure she heard him correctly. “You are coming?”
“Yes. I’ll be with you in forty-five minutes.”
“Ah, okay. Thank you, David.”
She went online afterward and saw that she was already trending. Numerous people had grabbed her status and were publicizing it with all kinds of captions. She wanted to cry. It was even worse on the faculty group page. They were literally making fun of her and calling her names. She had not even resumed on campus and her self-esteem was already crushed.
He came as he said he would. He comforted her and told her it did not matter. She had taken the picture in the dark and so her face was not clear. No one would know. It would soon be forgotten.
He gave her hope and a reason to resume school and just in days, they were in love.
He did the asking just the previous week and she did not ‘go and think about it’. She said yes to him. And now, they were here. They rarely had time to meet and talk because he was always busy with clinicals and all. But she had begged him to go on mountaineering with her. She had missed all the ones organized by the departments and faculties because David could not make it. But when they both saw the broadcast message about the Explorers, they did not hesitate. He promised he would come with her. And he did. And now, he was nowhere to be found.
Tara walked on.
AK was feeling like a failure. He was a failure. He had led a group of adventurous students on mountaineering and it had ended up in disaster. He shouldn’t have done this. He should have thought more before sending out messages. But then, he wanted to do it. He did not know it could get dangerous. And what was he thinking, organizing a mountaineering for 6 P.M.? Of course, it should have been in the morning but then, there were so many departments fixing theirs for morning he knew no one would come for his. And so, he picked this time and this was where they found themselves.
Kazeem checked his time and hissed. It was 6. A.M. now. The clouds have lifted and morning was here.
“Good morning, Nigeria,” Chisom said from the front.
“Morning,” they all chorused and as they dragged themselves to a halt.
“I am hungry, abeg. Did we not plan to eat on this mountain?” Kazeem said with a yawn. They all turned to AK.
“Okay… I actually brought some snacks for us but –”
“Oh Jesus! Since morning, you had those and you did not say?!” Bukunmi shouted. She sat down on the rock and Chisom sat beside her. Tara and Kazeem joined them and AK stood in front of them all. He put his bag down and opened it up. He brought out a white paper bag and sighed.
“They are wet,” he announced but they did not care.
“Just bring it abeg,” Kazeem said but then, he snatched the bag from him and brought out an ugly donut. He examined it in his hands and then threw the whole thing into his mouth. He passed the bag to Tara who passed it to Chisom without taking anything.
“You are not hungry?” AK asked. She did not respond. He moved closer to her and said, “Tara, are you fine?”
“She can’t be fine, her boyfriend just died hours ago,” Chisom said as he passed the bag to Bukunmi.’
“SHUT UP! JUST SHUT YOUR MOUTH!” Tara yelled and the mountain shook.
“Sorry, lover girl,” Chisom said and laughed.
“You know, you look like a demon when you laugh like that,” Bukunmi hissed and stood up from beside him. Chisom looked at her in shock and then threw his hands up.
“Can we listen to some music please?” Bukunmi asked AK. AK brought out the speaker from his backpack and played Davido’s Fia. They all gave him thumbs up and nodded to the music.
“There are still donuts remaining in the bag now. Abeg, let those of us who are hungry eat o,” Kazeem said, looking at Bukunmi as she handed the bag to AK.
“These donuts are for David and the small boy. We will keep their donuts for them,” AK said and Kazeem dropped his head.
“Come on, guys. Let’s keep moving,” AK said and helped Tara up. One by one, they got up and continued their endless descent.
When they had walked for thirty minutes, AK spoke up.
“Okay, guys. I know this was not what we promised you and you are probably disappointed already. But please, we will be home in less than five minutes, please let us keep this a secret. I do not want to be rusticated e joorh. Please ooo,” he begged and they all grunted in understanding.
“Thank you, guys. OAU, here we come!”
“I am telling you they are not there se,” Bisi said. She was still carrying the small boy and they were descending to the other side of the mountain. It was morning already and they could see very clearly now.
They had been descending the mountain for hours. The small boy had woken and had fallen asleep again. Akin was sure that he was not dead and he was confident that if they could get him to the students, they would know what to do. But then, they had gotten to the shed where the students were supposed to be and they were not there. And now, they were going down a dangerous lane.
“What if they are not on the other side of the mountain? We have been going down for hours, Akin.”
“They will be there, Bisi. I know what I am saying. This small boy will die if we do not get him to the students.”
They had barely walked for ten minutes after that when they began to hear a distant song.
“Is that what I think it is?” Bisi said, standing still to hear clearly. Akin paused too and listened.
“It is, Bisi. Someone is playing Davido on this mountain. Come one, let’s follow the music.”
“I am tired,” she complained and put the still boy down.
“Pele,” Akin said and carried the boy.
“Thank you,” she said, stretching.
“Oya, let’s go,” Akin said quickly and they began to walk down in direction of the music.
What they felt when they reached the base what not joy. It was not happiness. It was not even relief. AK saw it first. He was the one in front and when he reached the base and saw the unfamiliar environment they were in, he stopped and his mouth fell open
“What is it? What is it?” Kazeem asked. He had seen the expression on AK’s face. He rushed to the ground and his heart stopped.
Bukunmi knew something was wrong the way they were all standing and looking as though they had forgotten how to find their way around campus. It was not until she got to the base that she saw what had happened.
Instead of facing Social Sciences, they were standing in front of an endless field of green shrubs and trees. What was this for God’s sake?
“Where are we?” she asked no one in particular.
“Congratulations, AK. You have just misplaced us,” Chisom said
“No…” Tara whispered. She was crying again.
“No, he has not misplaced us.”
“Okay, great. Where are we, genius?” Chisom asked.
“We are at the wrong base. We are on the other side of the mountain.”
I apologize for the delay in posting this. This was supposed to be out on Friday but for reasons beyond my control, I couldn’t put it up. Pardon me, friends. We’ll meet on Friday.