Fear is subjective and personalized to each and everyone of us. It can be triggered even before the actual moment. I was fearful of the unknown but knew I needed to run to stay alive.
I grew to understand Madam Nk and how her business worked. All she wanted from me was my attention and obedience and loyalty. She taught me a lot of things I didn know and opened my mind. We would go on several occasions to cook for people and on most cases I always looked for the beautiful face of my mother. Maybe I could find her in one of these big parties. From my memory at Damis birthday, I got to understand that we weren poor. It made me hopeful that the senator may have thrown me out of his house but he brought me closer to my dreams.
At first life as a cooks assistance was challenging. Madam Nk wasn as friendly as the other people Ive met in my past, she challenged me a lot. She made me want to be a better version of myself. I decided to go back to my first love. Music. I would sing while we cooked and the women will dance to the tune while others used pots and spoons to create a rhythm. It made our job much more easier and they all encouraged me to chase a career in music which I did. I started singing for people in events we went for and made some money for myself.
On one occasion while we chanted and I sang, I remembered another memory. My mum had called him my brother. We were cooking and singing and he had come in and took two pieces of meat running away and she had shouted and we laughed about it later on. I remembered his face but not very well, the memory was fuzzy.
I thought of my family once again. Did they miss me? Where they looking for me now? How many siblings did I have?
* * *
For the first time since I joined her, I saw Madam Nk smiling widely. She was really happy. She announced that we got a new contract which was the biggest deal ever. Half payment have already been sent to her
Indeed money was everything.
The contract was from an influential man who paid four times the normal charge of Madam Nks services and asked that we come without foodstuffs that everything has been provided. No one suspected a thing. Madam Nk went with her best cooks, including me as her assistant and musician.
We got to the venue by 3pm in the evening and was told that the event would be starting by 5pm that evening. So we got to work immediately and started cooking. Madam Nk mentioned to the man about the lack of meat in the foodstuffs provided. He told her that meat was coming that we should keep on doing the rest of everything. We continued cooking without meat and just as we were almost done with cooking, we heard a car drive in and she sighed in relief for we have been waiting for the meat.
Madam Nk asked me and some girls to follow her so we could go get the meat. On coming out from where we had set up for cooking, instead of meat, we saw three beautiful girls dressed provocatively, step out from the car into a house in the opposite direction. Not understanding what was going on, we went back and continued doing what we were doing in silence. It was Ann, one of the hired cook that broke the silence.
”Madam Nk, I think we should leave here ”
We all turned to her direction with quizzical expression on our face.
”A friend of mine have told me a similar story of what is happening here. I no longer feel comfortable here. How can we come for a job that we were paid four times the normal amount and we were asked not to buy any foodstuffs. Not even meat? The money is just for workmanship ”
”Whats your point, Ann? ” Madam Nk asked adjusting again on her seat.
”What if we are the meat to be cooked ma? ”
Small, prickly goosebumps broke out across my arms and stomach, sending a small, cold shiver through me. That thought have never crossed my mind. I turned and looked at Madam Nk, her face was pale but she recovered almost immediately.
”Stop making stuffs like that up Ann, you
e scaring them ”
I looked at Ann and could tell she was scared out of her mind. The knife she was using to peel the carrot was shaking with her hand.
”Im not making it up. Ive heard a similar story ” Ann continued.
I wished Ann could just keep quiet.
”Shes right ” an older lady, Mrs Ilo chipped in.
”Everybody stop! ” Madam Nk had enough.
”Nk, we need to leave this place, now. Before we see what we shouldn see ”, she continued.
”If anybody wants to leave they can leave, but Im not giving any of you my car. You can trek ”
An argument started. The man came to ask what was happening and the two women said that an emergency came up and they needed to leave but Madam Nk didn allow it because the car available was limited. For whatever reason known to them, they didn include the fact that they suspected that he was a ritualist. After listening, the man called one of his boys and asked them to drop the women off. The women suddenly seemed reluctant to go with the driver. The man grew suspicious.
”Is there a problem? ”, he has asked.
”No, not at all ” Ann had replied.
”Then, go ”
They reluctantly followed the driver and left. The man apologized and we continued with what we were doing.
Few minutes later, everyone had already moved on and forgotten what Ann had said. Then we heard a scream which sounded faint, we didn think much of it because music played. It was the second loud scream that made everyone stop what they were doing in fear. I felt horripilation of dread tingle down my spine.
What was that scream?
We stepped out to see what was happening and saw one of the girls trying to escape from a tall, hefty man with his face smeared in blood and a butchering knife in his hand. She had blood on her and right there, before our eyes, he killed her.
I don know what happened next but I opened my eyes to see the women all around me. Madam Nk pulled me close and wiped the tears that wet my cheeks.
”Oge, right now. We need to stay calm. We can let them know that we know ”
She turned to the other four women, ”We have to act ignorant. Pull yourself together. Its food we came to prepare for them. They won hurt us, at least not now ” her voice was breaking off, she didn even believe her own words.
”Madam Nk, why did you doubt Ann and Mrs Ilo? ” I asked.
”I didn doubt them. Right from when we got here and didn see meat, I knew something was not right. I just knew that if we shouldve acted on it, they would know that we know who they were. So I just wanted us to be ignorant because they still need us to cook. They won hurt us as long as we act ignorant. ”
We calmed ourselves down and cheered up as I was asked to sing. Then four men entered carrying a huge tray of meat. Blood was dripping from one side of the tray. I felt the urgency to retch but Madam Nk pinched me so hard and I regained my composure while she thanked them for the meat. I looked to the tray and saw blood all over the supposed meat. It triggered a painful memory.
I remembered seeing the pictures of my parents from the auto crash. My both parents were dead. That was why no one had come looking for me. The vivid images of blood and fire and their bodies disfigured gave me a hard time breathing.
Madam Nk pulled me in against her chest and held my head.
”Now pull yourself together at once. ”
”I remember my parents Ma, I remember now ” I continued.
”What about them? ”
”They are dead. They are dead. They
e dead and that is why no one has come to find me ”
”Oh, Im so sorry Oge. I really am but right now isn the right time for you to mourn them. You have to stay alive. Now pull yourself together ”
We started washing in complete silence and soon we were done and cooked and spiced. By the time we were done, it was past 7pm. Madam Nk instructed everyone to get into the car quietly. Once we were all in the car, she zoomed off. She didn bother telling anyone we were done or not. We used the opportunity when they were all relaxed and drinking to leave, giving us enough time ahead of them incase they did want to try something with us. And they did want to try something with us as we noticed a car drive out from the compound behind us, racing us.
The women kept screaming as Madam Nk sped up. I tried to calm them down because she needed to focus and drive us out of this mess. After sometime, we didn see the car again as we came up on a high way leading to the city. The one of the women spoke up.
”Is that the cloth Mrs Ilo was wearing today? ”
We stopped and behold it was her cloth with blood stains all over it. Her bags and Annas shoes were scattered around the road. Then we saw the headlight of the car behind us again and we all rushed into the car with Madam Nk zooming off without caring if the doors were shut or not. We were speeding so fast and it was dark. We all just wanted to survive. They stopped following us but we kept on speeding
Unfortunately, we didn see a hole by the road and the jump crashed the car flying the doors open and I saw myself flying out of the car and hitting my head on something very strong.
Everything blacked out and I didn feel anything anymore.