I can almost taste the blood. I feel nostalgic following the trail of blood that seems to lead nowhere. I hear the distant barking of a dog. Maybe it’s lost. Just like I am. My heart thumps bizarrely as though I just did a hundred-meter sprint and won first place. Thick dark clouds sprawl across the sky, proclaiming the start of the rain promised since morning. Stillness swamps the street and for a moment, everything stops. Even the wind holds its breath. Then the rain lashes down, unforgiving, carrying the trail of blood with it as it formed a little stream that ran down the street. I should have listened to my roommate. I raise my hand to wipe the large raindrop that just sat on my nose.
His body lay like a morbid mannequin. It looks as if some special effects have been done on his body for Halloween. His face is bruised, covered with great blotches and lacerated. There is fresh dirt under his nails, dark like compost from an abandoned garden. I should be in bed by now, my subconscious seems to be louder than usual tonight. I should have listened to my roommate. So many I should haves but I didn’t. I should not have trusted my instincts over the weather channel. They made shitty predictions sometimes so I couldn’t be bothered when the lady with the badly-worn red lipstick cautioned that everyone remained sheltered.
“Where are you going, looking like a hot mess?” Mel asked, with a strident tone. She is a frizzy- haired girl who looks older than her age. Her face gives away her youthfulness but her body tells stories of years of fat accumulation. I swear she is two full seats. She lives her life as if to dismiss any suggestion that fat people should always be jolly and high-spirited. She is sulky half of the time and keeps to herself. On days when she isn’t sulky, she is nosy.
We met at a seminar on West African Post-Colonial Literature during our fresh man year in college. Sitting lifelessly in that boring class, the only thing that kept me awake was the occasional squeak of chairs against the shiny floors, the sound of the clock as it tick-tocked and the faint murmur of the Professor who looked like he could do with some good years of retirement. She spoke to me for the first time, asking me what the last trailing words of the Professor were and I couldn’t help noticing an undertone of a somewhat Nigerian accent, unsuccessfully camouflaged by the British accent. When she turned to resume her initial state rather disappointed that I couldn’t answer her, my eyes roamed about the class, wondering why everyone else hadn’t dropped dead yet from this boregasm. Later that day, we bumped into each other at the students housing office and to my surprise, our names were displayed on the notice board, with Mel and I, paired up to be in one room.
“I am going out with a couple of friends.” I spoke to her as I was getting dressed in the half light of the room.
“Do you know it is gonna rain today? You better stay in girl.”
“I’ll be back before you know it.”
I was not back before she knew it. I had stayed to drink with my friends. I was the last to leave and quite drunk, I hurled myself down the stairs and walked towards home. Or so I thought. My mind wrote cheques that my actions could not cash that night. I knew how to get a cab home, but my body just wouldn’t stay in check and follow my mind’s lead. My phone gave up on me hours ago at the party and my squinted eyes were too happy dancing to a drunken tune that I couldn’t recognize a pay phone even if it stood right in front of me but my other senses were heightened. The pungent smell of the blood that stuck on firmly to the edge of the sidewalk and did not get washed away makes me want to throw up there and then but for whatever reason I can’t. I stand there motionless, shocked and horrified for a good five minutes, I read about stories of dead people left on streets in novels and watched them on CSI, I never for once thought that I would come face to face with a dead body. My first instinct is to yell for help and I do. I scream at the top of my lungs but I am in the middle of a dead street on a dead night. There was no other sign of life apart from mine. My throat is lined with sandpaper and aches for water. For somebody to show up, for anybody to show up.
In the shadows about twenty meters away from her, unknown to her, knelt a person on the sidewalk despite the fact that the rain-sodden sidewalk was caked in filth. He had a revolver in the one hand and a semi-automatic shotgun in the other hand. The silhouetted figure of the man walked steadily towards her. His big boots made a rhythmical noise against the sidewalk, solid and regular like a soldier. His face was stern and he wore a troubled look. The smooth metal in his hands glimmered with callused fingers wiping its surface, feeling the cold. He kept swinging the gun in his hand, while walking towards her. As though by some divine intervention, Karen swiftly turned and saw the figure walking towards her and her heart did a full flip.
“Stand back” she said, almost in tears. Out of habit, her eyes wandered around him and then she saw it, the revolver in one hand, the shogun in the other. “Who the fuck are you and what do you want?” she asked holding back tears and choking on her words. He laughed boisterously and kept walking towards her, then suddenly, as if on instinct, he started sprinting towards her. Her feet slipped outwards on the sidewalk as she rounded the corner, the cold evening air shocking her throat and lungs as she inhaled deeper, faster. “Please God let me live.” She cried aloud, throwing herself forward with even greater force. Her lungs and heart were pumping, but the air didn’t seem to be enough as he sprinted forward, panic and trembling in her exhausted limbs.
The bullet gobbed out of his hand, red in the darkness and with great force. The accompanying sound was enough to send her berserk. It hit her in back, propelling her even more forward in an awkward cartwheel.
She let out a loud shriek and Mel rushed to her room in the apartment that they shared. Her forehead glistened with sweat and she was trembling. “Are you okay” Mel asked with an exaggerated look of concern.
“No I think I just had a really bad dream”