I thought that the day I was first attacked in Ikeja was the worst day of my life. That day however is nothing compared to the events of Friday, May 10th, 2013. Yep, that date has been noted, and when I go to meet my Maker, I plan on asking Him how He could let it happen to me. Seriously, I will.
In the meantime, here’s what happened.
It was 5:30 am, and I was all set to go to work. I locked up behind me and walked out into the early dawn. It was still dark, but this darkness I was familiar with, what with the many times I’d been going to work this early. My steps were brisk, and my mind was already ahead of me in the planning of my day at the office.
Evil didn’t need much preamble to announce its arrival. It just happened.
I got to Alaba Expressway, crossed one side of the sprawling highway, got to the median strip, and that was where I met trouble. I was about to cross through the wide crack on the strip to its other side, when I saw the young man bounding towards me. One hand was reaching out to grab my shirt and the other was tugging a gun out of his belt. Instinctively, I turned to run. And went right smack into the second man who was coming up behind me. This one already had his gun out and whacked me viciously across the face with it. Pain exploded in my head and rivulets of it washed down my body. I began to shout, in pain, in panic, and that appeared to be my undoing. They didn’t make any demands, and perhaps they were operating on a high from some drug; whatever was the case, they didn’t stop to offer me any explanations.
They just attacked.
Their fists smashed across my face. Gun butts came down on my head. One of the guns actually discharged when the one wielding it slammed it on my head. The shot exploded and I was momentarily deafened. My nerves were afire with pain and the blood streaming across my face was starting to obstruct my vision. Driven by adrenaline, I fought back. Foolish, yes – but they didn’t exactly leave room for negotiation. They were simply all over me like rabid dogs. Cars screeched past, their headlights blazing, their horns blaring. And in a suicidal instant driven by bitterness and anger, I decided to try to end this the fastest way I could. So as we fought by the side of the road, I pulled at one of my attackers, a motion that caused three of us to tumble to the ground and roll to the middle of the road. The exposed skin of my hands scraped against the tar and my attackers grunted in alarm.
And I waited for the impact that would end it all.
But these Lagos drivers are damn too quick at the wheel. The tires of oncoming vehicles squealed as the drivers swerved out of the way. Not one driver stopped, not one car hit us. They simply kept on veering to the left and to the right as I grappled with my attackers, who were trying to pull us back out of the way. They did manage to do that, and after hitting and kicking me into a submissive mess on the ground, they robbed me. I felt fingers snatch at my phones and my wallet. They were however in too much of a hurry to rifle through my shoulder bag which lay on the ground beside me. Not that there was much inside it – just my ATM card, books and not-so-valuable knickknacks. And then they took to their heels, vanishing into the umbral hold of the receding darkness.
Whimpering loudly, aching all over, I staggered to my feet and shiveringly gathered my discarded things to my bosom. I lurched across the road, back the way I came. My run back home was like a drunken stumble, and my cries trailed me, causing the few passersby to stop and stare. I must have looked a real sight too, all disheveled and bloodied. I got to my building, went up the stairs, past a male neighbour on the first floor, who promptly followed me to my flat on the topmost floor, all the while asking, “What is wrong? Are you alright? Is it armed robbers?”
His words sailed over me as I banged on the door, crying to be let in. I was hanging onto my consciousness by a thread. When my cousins – two females – and a friend who spent the night opened the door, I collapsed inside, onto the carpeted floor, and sunk into shock, into unconsciousness. It was a fresh deluge of pain that pulled me back up, screaming. Someone was dabbing water and Izal on the cuts on my head.
Oh my Gawd – the pain!
As I jerked up, knocking away the hand that was inflicting such torture on me, someone gasped, “Chineke! See his face…!”
“He needs to get to the hospital!” another voice interjected. It belonged to that neighbour.
“And I thought it was only his head oh!” someone else – my cousin, Ada – said. “Chigaemezu,” she barked at my other cousin, “go and get dressed. We’re taking him to the hospital.”
“I’ll drive you,” I heard the neighbour offer. “But which hospital?”
A few moments passed as they debated which hospital would be better suited to our need. They finally settled on one, and then helped me to my feet. By this time, the right side of my face was so swollen that it had pulled my right eye firmly shut. And my left eye was reflexively closed as well, even though that side of my face wasn’t so bruised. So, for all intents and purposes, I was blind. And I was led like so back downstairs.
“Watch your step…”
“Go this way, to your left…”
“There’s a stone here, move this way…”
Each instruction came with a gentle tug in the right direction. More neighbours came out of their flats, tut-tutting in commiseration as we made our way to the man’s car. Four of us got in, the engine vroomed to life, and we were off. Minutes later, we were at the hospital. The smell of sickness and disinfectants enveloped me as I was led into the reception. The voices of the welcoming nurses swelled around me. I still couldn’t see, but I could hear information about my apparent condition being disbursed. No one knew what had actually happened to me; all they had were deductions and speculations.
“It was armed robbers that attacked him…”
“Uche, was it inside a bus…I think maybe they beat him and threw him out of a bus…”
“What did they attack you with…it’s cutlass, it has to be cutlass…”
“But cutlass would have caused more damage – maybe it was a knife…”
“Or gun…hmm, thank God they didn’t shoot him oh…”
I could hear the questions in their words, but I could not answer. Literally. I couldn’t talk. Blood was pooling in my mouth and each time I moved it, fresh pain was unleashed on my face. One of my upper teeth was chipped and its sharp edge was jabbing small pockets on pain on the inside of my lower lip. So, instead I sat there, shivering, feeling a coldness seep through my insides.
Then the voices moved on from the topic of my attack to the issue of my hospital bill. The nurses pulled a sum from the air that made my escorts balk with horror. And so another several moments went by as they haggled back and forth over what amount was appropriate. As I listened to them, I suddenly remembered the stories I’d read on blogs about ailing victims who died in hospital receptions because caregivers unflinchingly insisted on payment of atrocious sums before they could administer any medical ministration.
Yup, Walter, brace yourself. You’re going to die here, a small voice sniggered inside my head. And the optimistic side of me had no energy or inclination to argue with it. I was getting colder still.
Mercifully, a price was finally agreed on. The firm but gentle grasps of the nurses pulled me up from my seat and guided me into another room. The sharp smell of spirits made me aware it was the treatment room. They settled me on a chair and promptly went to work on my face. They dabbed it clean, and one of them started with the stitches. If I thought I felt pain before, it had nothing compared to the phalanx that descended on me when I felt the sharp prick of that thread as it pierced my injured skin. I screamed, wondered fleetingly why this wicked nurse couldn’t have given me an analgesic first, and then I passed out.
I must have remained unconscious for several minutes, because when I swam back up, she was done with my face, and was now scraping hair away from the bruises on my head. Bruises she was going to stitch too. I panicked.
“Nurse, please…” I croaked.
“Don’t worry,” she soothed, “I’ll soon finish. Just too more stitches here…”
“Water…I want water…” I was incredibly thirsty.
“We’ll get Malt for you,” she said.
But they got a bottle of Malt for me, explaining that I needed its nourishment in anticipation of the injections I was going to take. I guzzled the drink, emptying the bottle without letting up, and settled back to endure the rest of my stitching. Eleven in total, I was told. When she was done, she swiped iodine over my injuries – more excruciating ministrations – and patched me up with plasters. There were injections. Then the probing questions of the doctor. My responses were stuttered and laborious. I was kept in the hospital for further evaluations that lasted nearly an hour, before getting discharged with medication and an appointment for a later date. The kindly neighbour drove us all back home. I was exhausted. Aching all over. And I stayed awake long enough to eat – or try to eat – something, take my drugs, speak to my boss, fret about my SIM card and the blocking of my Blackberry, and then finally succumbed to a troubled sleep that was filled with guns, blood and monsters.
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