By Umoh Joshua
“It is my pleasure to welcome you most profoundly to Usakedet”, the eldest of the trio uttered in a loud voice, his left hand beckoning in my direction.
For me, the gesticulation could mean either of two extremes – a warm signal of acceptance or an open invitation to jeopardy. Then, I restrained my strides, contemplating as to what was better between moving forward and drawing backward. It was a discombobulating experience, similar to that of a child whose two wrist watches were telling different times, in simultaneity.
As the confusion lingered, sensations of anxiety, not fear, began to build up.
I then became cognisant that the three persons before me were solidly dark-complexioned, with contrasting sparks of white illuminating from their teeth regions and their pale garments. The lead figure had a reflective black crown rested on his head and a twisted twine rope tied by and suspended from his waist. The light source from behind me made it possible for me to scantily capture their looks and lures. But the more I looked at them, the more it appeared it was wiser to abscond. Just when I decided to attempt the race of and for my life, the youngest of them all threw a penetrable jab at me.
“Hmm! Are you scared?” he snuffled.
“No, I am not”, I responded with utmost alacrity, my response betraying my body language.
“Then, walk up to the Master”. He said, as though he never noticed the contrast between my verbal and body languages.
“Come close, my friend”, the eldest figure beckoned again, as he majestically yet staggeringly fixed himself to the only available seat in the large span of the open-air field. His seat was a massive and craftily stenciled piece of black, igneous rock. I wouldn’t like anyone to notice I was fretting. So, I summed up guts and paced closer to him, like Peter would do on the water surface at the prompting of his Master. He wrapped his hands round my 21 year old petit body mass, in a brief embrace that was neither warm nor cool. I courteously shrugged myself off the hug, in a mild protest. I withdrew a bit and stepped back in slow motion.
The only female among them walked up to the Master’s seat and whispered to his left ear some words that I could notice more for sound than sense. Soon afterwards, the Master cleared his throat and what followed was a deafening blast of trumpet.
“Kpooorrrm! Kpooorrrm! Kpooorrrm! blaaarrrr! blaaarrr! blaaarrr!”
Then there came an influx of other entities from every angle of the field. In a jiffy, the number grew. And grew. And grew! Within splits of moments, non-uniformed persons like me also converged from every direction. The field was flooded with a growing galaxy of heads, with just a little space at the centre for the Master, his two allies and myself.
I battled hard to maintain composure and put on the whole armor of confidence and fearlessness. I had been trained all my life to maintain confidence at all times, even if I had to fake it. Even on his dying bed at Ibritam Memorial Hospital that fateful Saturday morning, the last words that had dropped from my late father’s lips were, “Anthony, you must always believe in yourself and make everyone else believe in you. Fear nothing but your fear. Show confidence at all times”.
My father, Ededet Inokon was a commissioned officer of my country’s military establishment who had ascended through the ranks to become a Colonel. He was a professional combatant often assigned to lead military formations against in-country ‘terrorists’ groups, the ones so acknowledged by my country’s government and the one not so acknowledged. He was stern, stout, disciplined and a practising believer in the doctrine that action speaks louder than words.
Have you ever heard of a father whose children could never mistake his facial expressions in the public? Then you have heard of our late father. When he looked at us in a particular way, we knew exactly what his eyes were saying. He was not the brand of father that passed a facial signal to any child and have the child retort, “Daddy, why are you looking at me like that?” Of course, you wouldn’t dare that with Col. Inokon. He had a special military belt with which we were dealt with each time we offended his sensibilities or flouted his commands.
All my childhood was spent in the military barracks and even our home was like a small, nuclear military formation. Once my father arrived home, he would blow his whistle in a particular way and all of us, including his wife – our mum, would file out and march forth to receive him with special salutes. He barely called me and my three siblings, Chamberlain, George and Blessing by our names as that was not necessary. He just needed to blow his whistle in a peculiar way to have each of us respond to it or summoned by it. For me, Peeeeem! Peeem peeem for Chamber. Peeem peeem peeem for G-boy. Peeem peeem peeem peeem for Ble-ble.
I say this to tell you how much I was trained not to fear anything. And I mean, anything. But I found myself in this wide field flooded with strange faces on staggering bodies and could not help but entertain some dint and dents of fear.
Then the entity whom they all addressed as Master began to speak to the sea of heads, his voice now resonating like thunderbolt.
“We never used to have this high number of new entrants until about two years ago”, he began.
“Like you know, our world is inhabited by people who have finished inhabiting the other world. The job the three of us do here every one hour, whenever our shift-team is on duty, is to receive all those transiting from the other world to our world. And for two years now, this number has significantly ballooned. Even when we receive our new intakes hourly and relocate them to their various communities here, we are constrained by space and the lack of it. We may soon shut our doors as there are no more free communities for deportees from the other world.”
“You may be wondering, why the upsurge?” he said as he picked up the tail of the rope tied to his waist, which was dangling by the ground. He emptied his right hand into his left palm and began to caress the fabric. I could still see his face, at least faintly, for the illumination from behind was good.
“These days, there are too many things that send folks packing from the other world. Apart from those who leave there by nature, so many come here unprepared. Some are flushed out by hunger. There is this unusual hardship that has drastically decreased their number and augmented ours.”
“Some that evade termination by hunger, find it hard to escape termination by anger. Everyday, people are massacred like chicks and nothing spoils. A terrorizing group that had since been ‘technically defeated’ is leading in the crusade to depopulate their world and congest ours. From a large set of transit animal raisers, there is a subset of killers that have become belligerent and deadly today than ever before. These killers go about butchering farmers and others in their home communities over there, and nobody says “Jack Robinson”. Even the armed uniformed men paid to protect those communities sometimes advance the frontiers of the on-going carnage,” he dropped the lines and twitched his head in disappointment and empathy.
As he continued, the contours (the ones I could see) on his physiognomy relaxed and a grin of smiles lit up his face. “But the statistics of new entrants has even doubled since their leader started calling up people from here for political appointments over there. Few days ago, about eight of our people approached me for transfer certificates to enable them return there, claiming they have been called up for duty. Instead of these appointments de-congesting our clime, they are increasing our number as many more people are volunteering to join our world so as to get from here what they couldn’t get from there.”
“So Anthony, tell me the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. Are you approaching our world just to receive one of such future appointments? My friend, look at me in the eyes and answer my question. Are you truly dead or alive?”
My lips began to shiver and quiver. My body began to shake and quake. For the very first time after the demise of my father, Late Col. Ededet Inokon, I became thickly afraid. Really afraid!
“Gladius, bundle him up here! He is not a genuine immigrant and possesses no transfer papers.”
As the youngest of the first three entities I met in Usakedet whose name – Gladius – was now known to me, began to approach me, I screamed, “Pleeeeaaase, leeeaaave meee alone! Leave me! Let me return! I won’t come here again for any political appointment! Pleeeaaase!”
Then I woke up. It was all a dream!
Umoh Joshua is a Former Broadcast Journalist/Presenter at AKBC, Radio Services.
You can find him on Facebook: www.facebook.com/umoh.joshua