September smells fresh.
And it’s feels like we’ve been gone for 14 years.
An A! Serial by Olajumoke Omisore Premieres on Saturday 10th of September, 2016 but here is a fantastic piece by one of our own, Bankole Banjo, enjoy!
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Ray’s submission was as expected. Having contributed several short stories to Jaguda Quarterly, the young writer’s love for blood and gore had become familiar. A cursory scan of the opening paragraph once again proves the genius with which the writer curates devastation.
However, there was something unnerving about this entry that suggested it was more than fiction. A sinister veil clung to every word, and line after line, the tale built to a tempo too haunting to dismiss.
The Editor-in-chief reached for his Dunhill cigarette, lit up, laid back on the recliner, and began reading the story a fourth time.
The mandate was clear: they were to bring his head.
The Hyenas understood the task. The legend had been told from generation to generation. They were the privileged ones; the ones chosen to add another glorious chapter to the legacy of the Society.
The six of them waited in consummate silence.
In a few minutes, they would earn their spots in the Hyenas’ Hall of Fame and become part of the Hyenas’ thriving folklore. They would be immortalized.
This was the day the Hyenas had chosen. They would rejoice and be glad in it.
Church bores him. The rites and rituals are a drag. For many years he avoided any kind of congregational worship. But this day, he is left with no other choice. He had asked the hand of a retired Archbishop’s last daughter in marriage. There was no way the renowned clergy man would give his blessings anywhere else but in church.
“If anyone has any reason why these two should not be joined in holy matrimony, please speak up now or forever hold your peace,” the officiating Bishop announced unrushed, each word reverberating off the silence in the cathedral.
Inwardly, he sighs. Having never witnessed such an objection in his many years on earth, he adjudges this portion another banal requirement that ought to be done away with. He desperately wants to yawn, but he puts up a sterling veneer. It is an art well honed from years of practice. After all, he is going to be the Archbishop’s son-in-law.
“If there is no one, then we shall proceed,” said the Bishop in a rote manner with which persons conversant with church weddings are all too familiar.
“Before nko,” the groom mutters to himself as the Bishop broaches a sermonette about the sanctity of marriage. He hears without really listening and waits for the only part that matters to him.
“Do you, Adeagbo David, take Ilekhomon Elizabeth, as your lawfully wedded wife, to have and to hold, from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, until death do you part?
“I do,” he answers firmly with a depth and fullness in his voice, as he peered lovingly yet intently into the eyes of his pretty bride. She blushes shyly, and casts a glance of adoration at the diamond-encrusted ring rested on her fourth finger.
The Bishop turns to the woman and recites the same lines.
“I do,” she replies with tangible excitement and the church comes alive with a standing ovation.
“You may now kiss the bride,” the Bishop shouts above the thunderous applause.
That was the sign they had been waiting for.
All six of them got out of the mini bus and jogged towards the east window of the cathedral. They approached with axes in hand, chanting the Creed of the Hyenas in unison;
“…to do as told, to defend as needed, to fight, to die, to kill, to protect, whatever it may cost me, even the ultimate price, to defend the honour of the Hyenas worldwide.”
At the sighting of them, congregants seated close to the exit sprang up in frenzy and pandemonium ensued. Soon, the hysteria spreads across the massive cathedral like a fierce tidal wave. Horror had come to church.
He hears the familiar chant from afar. It is something from his past, from a dark corner of his life he never wants to relive. He sees them as he turns sharply towards the exit. They look like a Nollywood version of The Expendables: purple bandanas draped securely across prominent foreheads, taut biceps encased in snug black T-shirts. They look exactly the way he must have looked that Friday afternoon fourteen years ago.
Akeem became the Amir of the Muslim Students’ Society, Federal University of Lagos in the latter part of 2002. Smallish and whippet-thin with a brush of goatee on a narrow face, the Amir was respected by his ummah but fiercely avoided by the rest of the student populace due to his aggressive views on campus gangsterism. Sermon after sermon, he berated the evil and swore that given the chance he would do everything within his powers to rid the tertiary institution of the menace. That vehement commitment had compelled him into the student union, where he was eventually elected President of the Students’ Union Government; thanks to the massive support of his course mates in Mass Communication –the largest department on campus- and the Muslim student society. It was then they began to call him Alfa Aluta. He couldn’t have asked for a better nickname.
Alfa Aluta went after known and suspected cultists with cutthroat ferocity. Many were arrested, some were dismissed from school while others faced legal prosecution and ended up behind bars. Many more were forced to publicly denounce their membership. In one semester, the university was purged. Fellow students cheered him on and the authorities applauded his quest. He became a hero.
But he had made enemies amongst the various fractured confraternities. Only one cult group mustered enough leverage to take him on. They called themselves the Hyenas.
The rumour mill had it that the Brotherhood of the Hyenas sought to avenge the ridicule their members had suffered at Alfa Aluta’s hands. From a different campus, they set up a strike force of six and went after the unionist. One Friday afternoon, as he left the mosque after juma’at, Alfa Aluta was shot dead. Two quick-fire shots to the chest brought him down.
The riots that disclosed his murder were unprecedented in the University’s history. Property belonging to suspects were vandalized and or looted. Cars were axed down and set on fire. The halls thought to be housing the culprits were burnt down. Those believed to be girlfriends of the cultists were publicly assaulted. Anarchy was set loose to the hilt. To arrest the tension, the Vice Chancellor announced an indefinite closure of the campus. And everyone went home.
Days later, it was announced that the 6 suspects had been rounded up across four different campuses and taken into police custody. Curiously, five of them died while in custody. Only one escaped. Word got around that he was escorted out of the country by a team of police officers. It turned out he was the only son of the State’s Commissioner of Police.
It didn’t take long for the Hyenas to gather that it was the boy who ratted them out. The Brotherhood declared him persona non grata amongst the rank and file of confraternities and a pledge was made to ensure the renegade paid for the breach of trust with his life.
The editor rubbed his eyes with both palms as the familiarity of the story hit home. Slowly, memories flooded him with astonishing clarity. He got up from the recliner and peered down the length of the swimming pool. There was no soul in sight.
But he knew he was not alone. He could perceive the foretoken of death, a fetor in the air like that of decaying rat in a stuffy room.
“Hi, Davo,” a voice came out of the gloom.
The editor froze and peered into the darkness. No one had called him Davo since he had been smuggled out of the country years ago. And no one had, since he returned 8 months ago.
“It’s been a while, brother,” the voice said emphatically. Following those words, six silhouettes stepped out of the shadows. Five of them held small axes, while the sixth was armed with a sawed-off shotgun. David could barely make out the bandanas on their heads.
“Guys, please. Don’t do this. Please my brothers…”
The eerie slide of metal over metal stopped him as the one with the pump action readied his weapon. Ignoring his growing panic, they began to recite the Creed.
“…to do as told, to defend as needed, to fight, to die, to kill, to protect, whatever it may cost me…”
He had forgotten all about the finality of the Creed. In that instant, he broke into a run.
The pump action rifle went to work with characteristic aplomb. The first bullets carved a fistsize hole through his spine and slammed his fleeing frame forward against the tiled floor. The shooter stepped closer to the fallen man. Ignoring the feverish twitches of his victim’s body, a desperate sign of death subjugating life, he pulled back the barrel, chambered the next cartridge and pumped another round of shots into the editor’s forehead, splattering his brains all over the pool.
Satisfied, they faded off into the shadows. They had earned their legend.
The text message had just one word: DONE. Fourteen years of pain and vengeance had been finally put to rest. Literally.
Rasheedah rose from bed, and did ablution. She then threw her hijab around her head and rolled out her prayer mat. She would make prayers for the repose of her dear brother’s soul, the one they called Alfa Aluta, the one who first called her Ray.
“Inna Lillahi wa inna ilaihi raji’un,” she solemnly began. A dam of grief bursts giving way to streams of tears.
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