A Minute Before 4

A Minute Before 4

It was a Friday afternoon at exactly 4pm. The roads suddenly became too free of traffic; the atmosphere too calm. I sojourned in peace, relishing in the unusual solitude the road had to offer. I knew I had to reach home before six as a result of the curfew imposed by the military government, but the peace looked too good to be true. I decided to return to my starting point and relish the ride all over again. It wouldn’t be so long before the bloodbaths commenced and peace became a figment of my imagination.

The yellow and black of the tapes tightly woven at the left side of the road caught my attention. I didn’t think it was there during my first ride. There was a ton of persons gathered around, mouths agape, hands on waists, darting eyes, drinking in the scene without missing a spot. Their huge and gaping eyes reeked of a fear I wasn’t immune to. It wrapped its hands slowly around me until I became drowned in the same fear even though I had no idea of the scene that played before me.

I tapped the shoulders of the man in red, but he didn’t seem to feel a thing as his eyes remained transfixed to what laid ahead. His mouth muttered heartfelt curses and his chest heaved deeply.

Knowing what was going on was impossible to me as the profusely bleeding head of the very tall Mr. Okafor served as a permanent obstruction. I recognized him as the gardener that tended to the little trees grown in the estate. He drove a rickety car that looked like dirt even to the trash can. I remembered waving across to him as I drove down the road the first time before the traffic thinned out. Had his car given up by the roadside?

My fear turned into curiosity but the throng of crowd kept me rooted to the spot.

I couldn’t afford to hang around any longer. The soldiers weren’t one to go against. I tried calling out to Mr. Okafor to probably seek medical attention but the chatter of the crowd was way to loud.

I got into my car to leave, quite sure my wife would be quite terrified at what happened and would want to wait on the news. That is, if it ever got reported in the first place.

It was 5pm already when I continued my journey. The roads were still free, save the careless teenage boy who zoomed recklessly past me. I cursed within, then sighed. It was what the community tried to avoid and promote at the same time.

I moved into the driveway at 5:30pm but my wife’s car wasn’t there. That was really strange. She always reached home an hour before I did.

There was half a glass of milk on the table and the cookies had gone cold. The TV’s remote control laid carelessly tossed on the rugged floor and the couch looked like they had been slept in briefly. Had she stepped out to get something?

The front doors decided to barge open just then, welcoming a woman I couldn’t recognize and my weeping wife. I reached out to her reflexively just as Mr. Okafor walked in behind them.

I paused midway, wondering what Mr. Okafor needed in my house. He came up to stand beside me. The blood at the back of his head had dried up but I could now almost see the insides of his brain. He looked down at me and shook his head as my wife thrashed all around in tears.

I called her name but there wasn’t a sign that she could hear me. I made a move to join her on the floor when Mr. Okafor held me back.

“You’re in separate worlds now. We both are. It happened at exactly 3:59pm when you waved at me. You shouldn’t have.”

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