Lady Koi Koi

In a quasi-military co-educational boarding school in Nigeria, the ghostly apparition of a lady walks the corridors and halls of a female hostel. The students are caught between believing the tales of the ghoulish lady and laughing it off as the never dying myth of Lady Koi Koi; a nom de guerre given to the ghost because of the sound of her high heels clicking on the concrete floors of the hostel. It is not a myth. Amina Mohammed, an eleven year old girl has seen this ghost but no one believes her. She fears that in the creeping dark of the night is the scary apparition. As mysterious disasters ensues Amina is the only person with the power to unravel the mystery of the ghoulish apparition and the last barrier between it and the total annihilation of the school. As time runs out, Amina struggles with her latent powers while the school falls into chaos around her as the terror of Lady koi Koi is unleashed. It is a battle between the light of innocence and the darkness of an ancient evil

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4. CHAPTER FOUR

CHAPTER FOUR

 

Talatu lost her parents at the age of five, during a fracas in the ancient city of Zaria. It was a communal clash between the minority community of Christians and the majority Muslims. Talatu’s father was an Imam in one of the traditional adobe built mosques in Birnin Zaria which was the name of the walled old city; a part of the sprawling city that dated as far back as the thirteenth century and was then known as Zazau. Her mother was also slaughtered that same sunny day as she stood alongside her father’s three other wives in an effort to , shield her father from some of the rampaging youths mostly of the Ibo ethnic group, who had swarmed the city from the multi-ethnic neighbourhood of Sabon gari. It was a reprisal attack for the murderous onslaught that had been earlier unleashed on the Samaru neighbourhood the Friday before by some muslim youths known as Talakawas, incensed by the accusation that a Christian man in Samaru had desecrated the Quran by using some of its pages to wipe away the feces of his child, who had naturally took a toilet break on the floor of his shop in the local market. Over a hundred souls had been lost and countless houses burnt. The Christians were aspiring to do more damage, attacking the Imam to them was a loud statement they had to make, he it was who had delivered the sermon at the mosque which had so enraged the Talakawas. Armed with rifles, machetes and clubs, they achieved their purpose, and after hours of bloodletting, a battalion of soldiers from the nearby barracks in which the Nigerian Military School was housed finally brough a restive peace to the city.

            Talatu and her nineteen siblings were distributed amongst relatives and family friends. She was given to an Uncle and his two wives, and she joined their twelve children. They lived a couple of inches from squalor and in a bid to escape the clutches of poverty, her Uncle moved the family to the bustling suburb of Agege in the Lagos metropolis, where he believed he could make an honest living trading in kolanuts. The move of the family went without hitches and in two months their fortunes had changed. Talatu who was gangly, anally retentive and severely introverted was registered with the other children in one of the neighbourhood schools, popularly known as Jakande schools. They were the schools for the poorest and was built under the socially conservative polices of the United Party of Nigeria and consisted of bare necessities in structure and aesthetics. They were functional and free.

            Talatu showed that in the silence within which she existed, her mind sparkled with inert intelligence. She wasn’t overtly emotional and was hard to read, so her Uncle, his wives and the other children kept out of her way as long as she did her copious amount of chores. She was meticulous and diligent at doing them and as time went on, more and more work was piled on her plate. As was her style at the time, she never complained. In school though, life was different for her, somehow her teachers found her to be so reliable that in no time, she was foisted on the other students first as class captain and then as a prefect, attaining the later at the age of seven.

            Everything was going well in her blossoming life until one day in the dead of the night just before the holy month of Ramadan when news filtered in to their three bedroom flat that her uncle and the sole family breadwinner had died in a ghastly motor accident in the confluence town of Lokoja when the lorry bringing him and a consignment of kolanut from the north had gone into a skid on the bridge, crossed the median of the road, hit the metal railings of the bridge and somersaulted into the churning waters of the River Niger. His body and that of the driver and his sidekick where never recovered. Three more bodies swallowed without regurgitation by the infamous river.

            Her life collapsed right from that moment.

            The two wives of her Uncle took steps to secure a comfortable existence. One promptly remarried one of her Uncle’s trading partners, becoming wife number seven, while the other one returned back to Zaria, where she used her share of the money left behind by her husband to open a bukka. The plan was to take Talatu back with her and have her work in the restaurant; a dismal happenstance that felt to her like a permanent eclipse to her shining star.

            It was her teacher and headmistress who stood up for her. Fought tooth and nail to wrest her from the vice like control of her Aunt and arranged for a space for her at the Save Our Soul children village, an internationally recognized orphanage in Lagos. And if her star shone in the Agege suburbs, it glittered at the SOS schools. Belonging to the family based orphanage was something that wasn’t too new to her yet different, there was a semblance of love and community in the village and it warmed Talatu, slowly opening up the gilded cage she had locked herself in. She excelled in everything she put her mind to and learnt to manipulate her way to partonage. In doing so, she evoked the ire of nearly all the other orphans in the school and was socially ostracized by them. She had no issues with that, as long as the Principal, teachers and home mothers were on her side, she was satisfied.  It was not surprising that when the federal government announced  scholarships for orphans in the country, Talatu was the first to get it and in the fall of that year, resumed at Command Secondary School Kaduna.

 

Shawowo was the only child of a fabulously wealthy government official and former banker and his equally wealthy doctor wife. Being an only child he had always been fawned over, treasured like he was immensely more valuable to the collective wealth of the world than the Kooh - I - Noor was. His life was ensconced in a vacuum, the best of everything was his birthright. And instead of soaking himself in the exalted status he was born into, Shawowo was in rebellion to it. He could see farther than most children his age and was often celebrated by his parents as precocious, and being that he was far wiser than his age, he already understood the relationship of cause and effect. He had figured out the source of wealth of his father and tied it to the immense poverty he could see from the airconditioned windows of one of the family cars, as it drove him from some expensive place to the other.

            He was admitted into the prestigious Eton college and expelled after the first year after beating to a pulp three school bullies, who had called him an African monkey when he stood up for a nerdish, hugely proportioned freckled classmate who was the butt of class jokes. The beating was one demeanour too many for the school. First it had been his refusal to wear the traditional dark blue blazer and then it was not wanting to use the knife and fork presented at the dining hall or responding with the word “Sir” to the school principal.  He was growing into a bundle that was too much to handle and his frustrated parents took him to several child psychologists  who had come up with explanations as to his behavior that stretched from him needing a sibling and being unable to ask his parents for one, to him being clinically depressed and needing anti depressants, some said he was mildly schizoid, while others claimed he was acting out from a sexual abuse that he must have suffered as a younger kid. One actually said he was homosexual and was rebelling against himself. Two said that he hated his parents for what they were and what they represented and his rebellion was him sticking it up to the system. At his age, his parents couldn’t believe any of what they said and then decided that what he needed was good old African discipline. Spoil the rod and spoil the child. They were going to give him the rod like he never could dream of having it. So it was in this line of thinking that Shawowo was sent to Command Secondary School Kaduna. It was quasi-military, which was comforting to his mother, she didn’t want a total military dispensation. It was co-educational, which was reassuring to his father, because the suggestions that his son was gay, was unsettling enough to him, even though he pretended not to believe a word of it, yet the fact that his son had an open aversion to girls had been silently worrisome to him. Then there was the fact that it was far away from him, over nine hundred kilometers, so he wasn’t too close to check up on him twice a day, which they knew they would be tempted to do, and the distance will allow the authorities treat him like they would treat any other student since they would not be operation under their oppressive powerful aura. His mother fighting the temptation to call him every other hour began writing a journal made up of letters to him, in a leatherbook book, the day he left their posh residence in Victoria Island Lagos for the arid, religiously conservative and militariolic city of Kaduna.

            Shawowo had wasted no time in spreading his wings as soon as he walked through the metal gates of the school. On the first day he got into his first fight with a senior student who had unceremoniously walked over to Shawowo’s wooden locker and picked up a pack of kelloggs frosties cornflakes. The eleven year old Shawowo had stood there watching incredulously as the senior opened the pack and began emptying the contents into his mouth which was tilted up as the box even hung higher. Shawowo didn’t realize he had began raining painful punches into the senior’s unprotected stomach until he felt two hot slaps sting his face from the Senior Prefect, who had joined other students in pulling him off the Senior. And upon identifying the author of the two slaps, Shawowo had turned his ire on the Senior Prefect and attacked him with a flurry of punches. It took three and a half weeks for Shawowo, who was then known simply as Dele to apologise to the Senior Prefect even though he flat out refused to bestow the same apology ond the offending senior. Let the heaven’s fall if it wants, but over my dead body will I apologise, he had screamed out in response to entreaties. Shawowo was tiny at the time, but he roared larger than a lion. And as the days greyed so did his escapades, he had gained the notorierty of being a trouble maker, even though it all revolved around him fighting for one injustice or the other, but to the seniors and then authorities, trouble was trouble, no matter the hat it wore. They failed miserably in convincing him that an injustice should be always referred to the authorities and that there was virtue in turning the other cheek, to him, you stood up for yourself and you fought for what was right, no matter what the price maybe. He suffered a lot for this ideology, endless lashes, detentions in the school guardrooms, endless punishments, four suspensions, yet he never changed, he was known to say on many occasions, if Jesus was afraid of the Cross, he would have chosen soldiers as disciples. There was deep meaning in that saying although he refused to explain it further, use your brains people, God gave it to you for a reason, he will respond to the requests that rained on him, he was known more for his unpredictable actions than for long speeches, let the talkers talk he would say on other occasions, and let the fighter fight, he would surmised, the sky is large enough for both of them.

That was Shawowo and he owed no one an apology unlike Talatu who felt she held a secret brief that was known only to her and herself alone, a brief to make up for all the ill luck life had besotted upon her, by showering as much or even more ill luck than what life had in store for her on everyone who crossed her path, especially if by some stroke of fate, that person happened to be subjugated to her. There was only one person she respected without fear and adored without love. He was Colonel Chris Obi, the military commandant of the school and he was known by all and sundry as Big C.

 

Big C was as fashionable as they come. A perchant for wearing designer jeans, Nike trainers and military issue camouflage jackets, complete with his trademark green beret. Most times, he swung with a dignified air, a walking stick which could be open up into a chair, the students called it his “swagga-stick”. No one could discern what he was looking at, because he always wore Ray Ban aviator sunglasses, but then you knew when he had just passed a corridor, left a room or was about appearing unannounced because his Coolwater by Davidoff perfume had a language of its on.

            He hovered around 6ft 6inches from mother earth, was ripped with lean but well defined muscles, his complexion was burnt caramel, his lips a darkish pink, his nose chiseled like the beak of a woodpecker; thin and impossibly pointed, making it physically incongruous for the size of his head and body. He was always clean shaven and never failed to wear his ivory handle army issued 9mm brownie pistol, snug in its holster, that hug on his right hip like a renegade cowboy of the Wild West. Command secondary school Kaduna was his fiefdom and he ran it like a Arabian Sheik; unquestionably. But even then, the students had a soft spot for him. His charm radiated like a ripples in a stagnant lake.

            A stickler for order. Meticulous. Neat. Big C believed that a child was a blank slate, like an empty hard drive in a moribund computer. So programming was everything. The right codes inputted into that hard drive, made the computer function perfectly. Punishment he believed was the anti-virus software, a good dose of it, will right every wrong and uncorrupt the corruptible. A leather whip in his left hand was a thing to fear. Many a student had learnt the hard way. Big C didn’t like excuses, he abhorred superstitions, detested gossip and could jump into the raging ocean rather than accommodate sloth, avarice and the unruly. He was military to the core, and order was his watch word. Little wonder he loved the overzealous Talatu for vibrating at the same frequency as he did and took it as his personal ambition to break Shawowo Mpoto and force him to conform to the rules he had laid down for the school. He had once said that the school was a zoo, the students animals and he was the zookeeper and at another time, after one too many drinks, he had said the school was a circus the students the animals and he was the trainer, in which ever case, students were animals and his primary duty was to tame them, civilize them, teach them culture and force a socially acceptable identity on them. To Big C, Shawowo was his wildest animal and getting him in line was a challenge he had so gladly embraced.

            The genius of Big C was a distilled skill at killing you and you believing that he was actually doing you a favour. His tact was extraordinaire. His smile captivating. The timbre of his voice soothing. His patiene exacting. His cunning sharp. He could outmaneuver, out think, out plan his greatest adversary and the one character trait that worked for him, was the ability to reduce his self to such levels of humility that his opponent had no choice but underestimate his wiles and dismiss the threat he posed. There was a reason why the Army headquarters had posted him to the trouble plagued school in the first place. He was a performer.

            He had taken over from a Col Ibrahim Kufa. A mild mannered, very private man. A man who had allowed the school grow unmanageable under him. A bad student riot and five deaths later, the authorities knew they had to send a fix it man to seize back control. Big C was the man and he did just that. In his first week in school, he had expelled 37 students, suspended the entire fifth form, de-boarded twelve other students and shot repeatedly into the ground around the feet of a particularly recalcitrant student called Scoraw. Everyone had taken notice. A new Sheriff was in town. Everyone except Shawowo Mpoto.

            Their first confrontation had been on a Saturday night. Big C was driving his jungle green wrangler jeep down the dirt road that ran alongside the school wall. Farmland stretched to his left and the wall stood to his left. The bright headlights pierced the darkness. He did this frequently. This stretch of road was notoriously used by students who snuck out of the school into the neighbouring village to buy culinary delicacies that were unobtainable in the school dining hall; suya, fried doya and kose, barbecued chicken or jollof rice filled with diced liver and eggs soaked in rich peppery stew. Some other students had snuck out for things that were even as forbidden as visiting the brothel in the village popularly known as Philson. On worn out mattresses that lay on rickety bed frames and hanging on singularly red light bulbs, many students, all teenagers had lost their virginity to mostly obese and sometimes svelte miserly looking, near impoverished, ladies of the night. It was actually a right of passage. If you were a male student and you hadn’t been to Philson, then you kept your trap shut when boys were talking. Mostly the boys first went over the wall at the dead of the night, when they turned fourteen or entered the third form and won the rights to wear trousers instead of the shorts that was the designated uniform of junior students.

            On the night, Big C kept silent, his eyes searching through the dark shrubs to his left and the walls to the right. He knew he was close to the most notorious stretch since it ran just a short distance away from the male hostels. He looked at his MTM special ops military wristwatch, tapped on it slightly and it illuminated to reveal the time; 11.005pm. This was the exact time the sneakers were jumping back over the wall into the school. You never caught them going because they could always cook up an excuse. You caught them red-handed.  Loot in hand. He pulled over and parked the jeep into an alcove in the stretch of shrubs in the farmland, then he brought out his high penetration flash light, his batch of handcuffs and his high voltage taser and got out of the jeep. His well shone war boots crunched the pebbles beneath his feet. He froze for a moment, listened, all he could hear was the moaning of the night, low but perceptible. He gently shut the door, turned around, adjusted his eyes to the surrounding dimly lit darkness before stealthily walking into the corn stalks that stood like terracotta warriors on one side of the road.

            With one hand stretched in front of him, he made his way through the farmland. Pushing aside, and melting through the opened up pathway as he headed to his appointed spot. His feet searched for footholds in the deep ridges between the mounds that held the roots of the corn stalks. It was a tough job navigating this terrain in the dark, especially when he had to do it so silently. He stopped and listened, the night was still moaning, he looked up at the skies, it twinkled with a fellowship of stars. He pushed on and in just above five minutes, he finally arrived at the spot.  He crouched down and looked across the road, some corn stalks serrated his view. The wall stood about thirty metres away from him. A huge mango tree embraced a part of it. It’s large boughs stretching across the wall and hanging the darkness of the surrounding village.  It was this tree most of the students used for entry and exit. The brown and gum stained branch was thick enough to bear the weight of ten boys, and the roughened bark created crevices that made climbing all the much easier.

            It was going to be some wait. There was no gain saying the fact that anyone will come over the wall that night, but Big C was going to take his chances. There was a thrill in the chase, an adrenaline inducing experience that made him long for the days of war, even though as a member of the Education Corps of the Army there was virtually a next to zero chance of him ever being deployed to fight in any of the numerous internal skirmishes in Nigeria or the external United Nations or Ecowas peacekeeping missions of which Nigeria was famous for. He braced himself for the wait.

            He looked with a singular focus at the wall. His eyes darting from left to right and then back to the bough of the tree. He had staff to do this, but he wasn’t going to delegate the thrill and seat high and mighty before the enormous mahogany table in his carpeted office. This was his arena and he was a gladiator. He kept looking and then he saw the shape. It was there one moment and then gone. So fast that he thought he really didn’t see anything. He looked harder. And just before he saw it again, he felt the hair behind the nape of his neck rise.  He knew that was the sign of fear, but couldn’t understand why he should be afraid. This surely was a student wearing a black gown and maybe a black mask and black gloves, he squinted, it was all black and seemed to have an ability to change form effortlessly, like an amoeba on a Petri dish.  Just when he began to hold it firmly in his line of sight, he noticed three other dark shapes approaching from the left side of the road towards it. They were the same, about the same height, something in the 5ft 7in range. He could take them, all of them, he held tightly on the tazer. It was comforting and just at that precise moment, he noticed that these figures were not walking on the dirt road, they were gliding. Like a hovercraft skirting across the shore. It can’t be he muttered to himself. He flicked on the switch of the flashlight. It bathed the road with light. No figures. He looked left and then right. Nothing. He turned it off. The figures were there, but this time around, they were looking at him, or more like facing his direction. In the darkness of their figures, he could see the redness of their eyes shining forth at him. He swallowed hard and reached for his gun. They began floating towards him. He flicks open his holster and gripped the comfort of the gun and set it free. His eyes were still trained at the approaching figure. Big C felt his head begin to swell and his heart begin to pound. These were not students, the thought flashed through his mind. They couldn’t be villagers either. What is it that glided over the ground and had the form of a human? He was working through the puzzle as he slowly got up, lifting his gun up in his right hand and placing it over his left hand in which was the flashlight. His training was coming to the fore. They drew nearer. He could smell the scent. The alien scent that bedeviled the mind and sent liquid fear running through the vein. Suddenly they began accelerating towards him, preternaturally fast. He opened his legs to gain a better position and then put up on the flashlight at the same time as he shouted.

            “Stop!”

            The figures disappeared in that instant and standing there in their place, right in the cross hairs of the beam of illumination from the flash light was Shawowo Mpoto, a bag of goodies in his hands. He stood frozen in fright. His luck had finally run out. He squinted through the harsh light and could see nothing even as Big C stood there in a daze. This was not who he had seen.

            “Are you alone?” Big C called out.

            “Yes sir” Shawowo responded in fear.

            “Sure?”

            “Yes sir”

            “Where is your costume?”

            “Costume?”
            “You were dressed in black a minute ago”

            “No sir”

            “Don’t you dare lie to me, young man” it came out with an angry growl.

            “I was not wearing black Sir”

            “What is your name?”

            “Dele Ajayi”

            “Form?”

            “Four”

            Big C fell silent. His mind raced. He could swear he had seen the shadows. More than one of them. Floating above ground, sowing deep fear in him. How could it be that it was now this boy standing here in their place. This school… he stifled the thought. There was no point in giving in to superstition. He sighed, swallowed hard and walked out of the corn stalks and approached Shawowo.

            “On your knees, Dele Ajayi” he commanded.

            Dele stared at the pistol that pointed at him and dramatically fell to his knees. The dirt road sending out a puff of dust. It rose to his sensitive nose and in unison, both Big C and him sneezed. They didn’t have a minute to say the normal “bless you” greetings as the night had suddenly grown cold and they had both looked around them, skin tingling. A thick cloud slid over the moon and the darkness deepened. And then they heard the laughter. It came all around them. They sounded low at first and then rose gradually in maniacal frenzy, like a million locusts dancing on cymbals. The night cried with fear and no sooner had it started than it stopped. A suffocating silence. Big C shone his flash light around them. Nothing. No one. Yet he could feel eyes watching him from the dark. He turned back to the kneeling Shawowo.

            “I thought you said you were alone?”

            “I am alone, Sir, I swear on my father’s…”

            “Shut up!” Big C exploded at him.

            He did.

            “When I am done with you, you will tell me, who your friends are and you’ll all regret trying to play this sick prank on me. Now get up and start walking, that way” he pointed the flashlight in the direction of the car. There was no need to slap the handcuffs on him, the pointed gun was a bigger deterrent.

 

            The drama continued later in the morning. Right on the assembly grounds that sat beside the administrative building and flanked the form one building on one side, the library and form three building on the other side and the walls of the female hostels on the last side. It was tradition for all students to assemble every weekday morning after breakfast but before class, all dressed up in their green and white uniforms to listen to announcements by the school authorities, an address by Big C and the routine punishments of twelve to twenty lashes of the whip, known without affection in Nigeria as Koboko and sometimes it was swamped for the even more unfriendly Bulala.

            There was usually a desk upon which the about to be punished stood, while Big C delivered a gospel of their crime and spelt out the punishment, which was usually inflicted by the awe inspiringly handsome but demonically evil soldier known as Sergeant Slaughter. That day, Shawowo stood on the desk. He was smiling. His face shown with an innocence that was hug deserving. His lanky frame gave him an athletic bearing that metaphorically presented him as an Olympian on the medal dias.

            “Last night I went on my normal unannounced patrols of my school, and as luck will have it I came across this boy here, this boy that tried to make mockery of me with his band of friends who hid in the dark like the cowards they were and strove to attempt scaring me. Little the cowards know that I am incapable of fear. So for every action there is a reaction, every crime a punishment, every lie another punishment, every truth forgiveness, so I will ask this recalcitrant boy here to reveal the names of his friends and perchance we will temper justice with mercy, but first do you know this boy?”

            “Yes” the school responded

            “What is his name? Big C asked in his usual routine at instances like this.

            “Shawowo Mpoto” they thundered

            “What?” he was shocked, that was not the name of the boy who stood with a haughty air on the desk a short distance from him. Big C knew his name was Dele Ajayi as he had identified himself the night before and not this Shawowo business the students had so eagerly supplied.

            “I said what is his name?” Big C tried again.

            “Shawowo Mpoto, Atura Pepper, Atura Waya, Rasta Ambassador, Magnetor of all chics, Commandants only nightmare...” they thundered on with glee.

            Every student in the school, except Talatu, had the hundred names of Dele Ajayi memorized.

            “Shut up! I said shut up!” Big C slammed his fist on the lectern in front of him as he sort to restore order. Veins of anger visible on his forehead. It was at that very moment he swore to tame Shawowo and at the same moment, he first noticed Talatu. She was the only student, who silently stood amongst the crowd of boisterous students, a frown on her face, uniform as perfectly pressed as humanly possible, hair, socks and sandals as neat as was obtainable. She was looking at Shawowo with a look akin to deep scorn, while others looked up at him with adulation.

 Big C stared at her, even as he pounded the lectern, in his mind which was now dissolving into the hell of molten magma, he knew he had found his new Senior Prefect in Talatu and also knew that nothing will stand in his way, from putting into subservience this boy that stood on the desk and peered down on the raving students, as though he were Julius Ceaser and the mass of uniformed bodies were his faithful Roman subjects.

            Yet in the building chaos of that day, there were eyes dripping with hate watching them, of which none of them whether standing or sitting in that assembly ground had the slightest notion of.

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