The Lighted Strangers

‘STOP THERE!’ I heard out of the darkness just by the side of the road. I almost ran out of my clothes in shock at the loudness and suddeness of the command.
I was coming from a football match viewing centre. I don’t usually go out to watch matches that last beyond 9pm but this is one of those once in a decade type of match. And it was already 10pm.
Before I went out, I made sure I emptied my pockets, leaving just 100 naira and my old rugged Nokia phone in my left back pocket.
‘I SAY STOP THERE!’. A voice cmmanded again.
I reduced my speed while also trying to look at the direction of the voice.
I think it was coming from behind the street light because I could see some movements in the darkness that is made more invisible by the white light of the street light.
Thinking back, I think the voice that gave the last command is more masculine than the first.
‘Who is that?’ I finally managed to say after swallowing some cold saliva.
‘Didn’t you hear us before?’
The 1st voice continued.
The two of them finally emerged from the shadows and stood just under the flood of light such that I could read the large print in the front of the bigger guy’s shirt.
‘FREEDOM’, it says. With the second ‘E’ almost wiped off.
The other guy was slim, just about my size though a little taller.
‘Fly Emirates’ was written in front of his own red shirt.
‘An Arsenal fan’, I thought to myself while moving back a little as they moved closer.
‘Where are you coming from by this time of the night’. Arsenal asked me.
‘Who are you people?’. I answered his question with another question, the typical Nigerian way.
I was showing some bravado while trying to deepen my voice so they would think I was not afraid.
‘You dey craze?’. The Freedom guy replied me.
‘Where is your ID card?’
I almost laughed at the question because it brought me back to my days in school when a phone was stolen in the night class and then the old security man came armed with a cane and demanded that we all show our ID cards.
‘I say where your ID card?’
The deep voice wiped the smile from my face as I was brought back to reality.
‘Abeg wetin be this? Which kin ID card?’
I was feeling more confident now. We were taught martial arts during the NYSC orientation camp. Nobody can threaten me.
My confidence was so increased that I pocketed my two hands my normal Victor’s style and even began walking away.
‘If I shoot that your thin leg!’, One of them shouted at me.
I continued walking still, even increasing my speed.
And then I heard,
‘Crack’ It was like the sound I have often heard in movies just before shooting pulling the trigger.
‘Dear Lord!’ I muttered as I slowed down.
Without turning back, I asked them,
‘Abeg sorry o, but are you people the nightguard?
‘I’m sorry sirs, I didn’t know’.
My brief confidence had completely evaporated as my hands began shaking.
I removed my hands from my pocket and raised them up still without looking back.
‘Na now you dey loyal abi’ the big FREEDOM guy mocked.
‘I thought you were brave just now’.
‘Bring out your phone and money you have on you!’
I was not really surprised they were not nightguards since I know nightguards to be old men.
We were now some distance away from the street light but I was about three paces from them.
I was still thinking of what to do when I remembered the tall guy’s shirt and club.
‘Up Gunners! Up Arsenal!’, my shaking voice said as I managed a smile with only the left part of my lips.
I was trying to appeal to his emotion so he will allow me go.
‘Oga, I am not an Arsenal fan. This is my roomates shirt’.
‘Good! So they are students’, I thought to myself.
‘Why you dey gist with am now?’ The big ‘FREEDOM’ guy rebuked his partner.
‘Bros, I neva see the phone wey I ask say make you bring come out o.’
‘Empty your pocket now now!’
Both of them shouted at me at once.
I looked around and couldn’t help but wonder if there were no persons in the two buldings by the tarred road.
I was really out of ideas and I decided to give them the 3-year old phone I use in updating most Facebook posts, as well as the change remaining from the 100 naira I left home with.
But as I put my hand in my left back pocket, we all heard the sound of Okada coming from behind them.
The three of us looked sharply at the direction of the sound.
I was hoping the okada man pass by us but all of a sudden, the sound of the machine was lost.
The two guys smiled like lions who have cornered an antelope and one of them stretched out his right hand, beckoning on me to come closer and give them what they asked for.
And then, I remembered. I remembered how a guy was wounded at night because what he had on him was too small for the theives.
As I was walking towards them, I began wondering if my 30 naira and old Nokia C-3 phone will suffice.
My other mind told me they will never agree that I don’t have more valuable things on me.
I even began to wonder, what if they decided to follow me home to collect my Laptop and Tablet?
I was still rummaging my mind when the sound of that Okada came back to life.
I think it only stopped to drop someone off.
The two strangers quickly looked back at the direction of the sound as they did the first time.
Whether it was the fear of losing my Laptop or my precious tab or whatnot, I don’t really know what made me do what I did next.
I shouted,
‘OKADAAAA Maaaan!’ and immediately ran away from the thieves and away from the okada’s sound.
My long legs were carrying me in flight away as I noticed the reflection of light from some distance behind me.
I think the Okada man heard me and was moving nearer to the guys.
The only one time I looked back, I saw the two guys talking with the Okadaman as he turned his Motorcycle back to where he was coming from.
I didn’t stop in my flight, taking Olympic gold medalist steps as I approached home. Even Usain Bolt will salute me at the speed that I took from the streetlight to my house.
I didn’t even use the gate but jumped on the fence as I breathed laboriously.
On the fence, I looked back again and I could see the two guys as they retreated back to the shadows, waiting for their next victim.
I took three deep breaths and jumped down from the fence.
As I knocked and waited for my brother to open the door, I looked at my legs and saw that one of my shoes was gone. I quickly felt my pockets for my phone; it was there but my 30 naira was also lost.
‘Wey your second shoe?’, my brother asked, laughing as he opened the door.
I slowly shook my head about five times and answered,
‘Bros, na long story o…’
The Lighted Strangers.
(c) 2015
100% Fiction.


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