The early birds chirped on the window ledge ushering in a new day. A dog barked from a distance. A car engine started and revved off by the second. Neighbours hurled abuses at each other, each claiming who had parked in the other’s spot. That was enough to wake her from her reverie. At first, she tried to ignore the sounds by burying herself under the blankets but it was of no use.
Another day at that horrendous high school, her parents decided to take her after the huge transfer. The thought of it made her shudder under her skin.
“Daisy, Daisy hurry up! Or you won’t be picked by Baba Jeremy” her mom yelled from the kitchen.
Baba Jeremy was the only neighbour who drove to town where the school was located and used to get Daisy and Jeremy to school on time because public transport was really hectic in the morning.
The school is a huge, old, ancient, two-storey building in a u-shaped formation. Beautiful flower pavements lined the sides and the school was shaded by an enormous Baobab tree. Students from the Coastal area used to have weird superstitions about the tree, claiming they heard unusual sounds during the night. Not that they attended school at night but so heard from the night watchman.
The Principal, Ms Ndanu, was at the gate checking over the late comers alongside catching up on the early morning gossip with the Teacher on Duty. Daisy was hesitant to go in and just wished she could go back home with Baba Jeremy. Jeremy had already closed the car door behind him, when his father had called out to him to have a great day- he barely heard the words but turned in time to wave to him.
“Daisy, let’s go or we will be punished for being late.” Jeremy beckoned to her.
“We are already here,” she murmured, “So we can’t be late.”
She hurried in, just in time for the bell to guide them to class while reminding others that they were already late. The late ones now had the full attention of Ms. Ndanu and Mr. Mkutubi. The first lesson was Chemistry and they barely had time to prepare themselves for the lesson before the prefect was summoned and told to call them to the laboratory. They were to learn about chemical equations. Something she had mastered from her previous school. So when Jeremy asked for her help she helped him quite quickly. While staring outside barely listening to the teacher, she remembered her former school and the friends she had. Here she had none and five weeks had passed since she joined the school. There was something about that school that made her reluctant to make new friends. Maybe it was the mysterious stares that other students gave her, maybe because she was said to have an anger disorder or maybe it was because was cautioned on being too friendly with people her age. She felt otherwise anyway, in fact all she wanted was to leave the school and had tried pleading with her parents to go back or move to another town altogether. It was mainly after these conversations and the shouting with her parents that she then ran up to her room and cried herself to sleep. After which she was woken up at night by unknown voices.
Her distant memories were disrupted by a painful nudge from Jeremy. Who had informed her that the teacher had asked a question and was impatiently waiting for an answer. He showed her the question and told her she was expected to answer on the board. So she went, slowly with measured footsteps towards the whiteboard thinking of the answer she was to give. After scribbling a few things on the board, she sat down. This was taken too seriously and she received astounded stares from the class with giggles from the back,in fact, she had written backwards! After class she was called to see the Guidance Counsellor for a talk.
The Counsellor had dark, bulbous eyes, one would think that she could see even the memories not said. They started conversing but the Counsellor couldn’t understand a single thing about Daisy. The Counsellor just wrote in the report that she needed more guidance.
Daisy found Jeremy as he was seated under the dreaded Baobab tree. She walked up to him and decided that she wanted to know more about high school. As they stood up, something caught her eye and she could have sworn that she saw a face on the bark of the tree. Jeremy saw how she was taken by the tree and quickly pulled her away from it. The ride home was uneventful and only Jeremy’s animated chatter with his father was heard. Jeremy himself dared not speak of how Daisy wrote backward on the board, for he wasn’t sure that any adult would understand how or what was going on with her.
The night was cool as it had been drizzling for the better part of the evening. Daisy had sat up on her bed thinking of how her day had gone…the Chemistry class, the teachers, the tree…. That tree, what was it about that tree? She decided that she had to sneak out of the house and check out that tree. It would be risky. She did not know short cuts towards the school and it would require going to school extra early to investigate the tree. A thought crossed her as she wondered who could help her understand the history of the school. Just then Jeremy called her asking if she had completed the day’s assignment.
” Hi Daisy, could I come over to complete the Math assignment, I can hardly make head nor tail of what was required?” He enquired.
“I’m very glad you called because I have been debating on whether I should call you, for the past two hours!” She quipped.
In less than ten minutes, Jeremy was at the door. He greeted Daisy’s parents coolly and when Daisy came to the Sitting room they started on the assignment. Halfway through Daisy stopped working. Something unreal was happening in the book. Letters were floating literally from the book! Then a soft tap. She ignored it. Another tap. She ignored it.
“Jeremy,” she whispered, “Jeremy, do you hear anything? Are you seeing what is happening to the letters in the book?”
“No, Daisy there isn’t anything wrong with the book nor do I hear any tapping. Maybe you’ve watched a horror movie and you are having flashbacks to the same thing?” Jeremy replied.
“Please let’s finish the assignment, I need to go back home.” He insisted.
She sat quite still on her chair as if she was watching something on the television. She then tried to continue working on the assignment. Ta! Ta! Ta! It started again. She looked up, startled. What could it be?
“Jeremy, are you sure you can’t hear that sound?” She now asked while shivering as she suddenly felt very cold.
“No, if I heard the sound we would have gone with you to find out what it is?” He replied.
He wasn’t quite sure how someone would hear sounds that weren’t even heard.
Just then, Jeremy looked at his watch and knew that it was time to go home.
She walked him to the door as he left, he asked her if she would be okay. She answered that she would be fine. Something suddenly crossed her eye, a silhouette of a person fully dressed in white was a few steps away, hidden in the bushes. Jeremy had already turned to bid his friend goodbye. No sooner had he taken the turn from the house than she stepped out again. Peered in the dark, hoping for a sign of something or someone. Then she went inside. Her parents were sleeping already and she did not want to bother them. So she put out the lights, locked the door and went to bed.
The night was warm and still. No wind passing through despite there being a fan on. She got up and went to open the window in her room. “Ah, at least I’ll get some sleep now.” She said feeling relaxed. She went into bed and closed her eyes. Ta! Ta! Ta! It started again. She ignored it. Put a pillow to cover her head because she thought it was all in her head. In a matter of seconds, she felt a chilly breeze coming through the window, she had started regretting why she opened it in the first place. She turned around, deciding to go and close the window. Just as she had lifted her head from her pillow, she gasped. She was met with the figure she had seen behind Jeremy! The figure was pale, had shrunken skin, unkempt long hair falling over the face. She wanted to scream but no sound came. Her eyes were wide with fear as she wondered how the figure passed through the grilled window frame. The face looked up toward her, she felt faint. Half the face was burnt and the black eyes looking at her were full of rage.
“Daisy? Daisy? Are you okay?” Her mother’s whisper came in slowly through the slightly ajar door. She walked in and turned on the light. Daisy was glad that her mother had walked in and thought she was having a bad dream. Her mother looked around, made sure everything was fine and walked out. Daisy got sleep again then dreamt about the huge Baobab tree at school. In the dream she saw people walking into the tree while others were carrying out a weird ritual. She was woken by something cold and wet on her face. She wasn’t sure where she was. She jumped up, she was sleeping on the grass. How did this happen? She was dazed. As she looked around, she saw people walk past her. They too looked distant not knowing what they were doing. Just silently walking past like they were floating in a dream. She followed them, once or twice asking a person what was happening and where they were going. All she was met with were indifferent stares with no reply.
Suddenly, the people stopped in their tracks right in front of the Baobab tree in the High School. She gasped as she was shocked how it was possible that in her dream she saw the tree and it became a reality. Although the people just stared blankly at the tree, none moved. Then came a shrill cry, like mourning from the tree. When she looked keenly, she saw a face in the tree! It gave a deafening cry, that people were forced to cover their ears. She blacked out.
No one knows how Daisy was found at the school the next day. All they knew was that she needed medical assistance as she had become hyperthermic. No one even knew about the previous night’s mass movement where people were mesmerized and unsure of what was happening. Maybe they didn’t even know what they were doing.