The Hunt by Maymunah Kadiri

I looked over my shoulder, looked ahead again, I couldn't afford to let myself be off guard. My heart was beating so fast and hard that I could hear it. Fear had enveloped me and I couldn't think straight any longer. I tried to reason, so maybe I could find a way out but nothing seemed to be coming to my head. I breathed heavily, chest heaving, but making sure it wasn't loud so I don't cause attention to myself. Sweat was dripping all over my body making me even more uncomfortable in my present predicament. I gulped and continued looking back and forth in case anyone was headed my way. I wondered where Tolu was, I was so scared that something had happened to him, and Oluchi, I would never, I mean never, find the heart to forgive myself if something happened to her. I also wondered how everything took such a drastic turn, this was supposed to be fun.


It was a bright Monday morning and as usual , I had got up early to handle the morning chores and head to work. The charming smell of a misty morning had me gingered up. I simply loved Mondays most especially because I got to go back to my wonderful job and make a difference in people's lives. I worked at a non-governmental organization called Speed Dial. We specialized in picking up cases long forgotten by the Police force in Kogi state. My boss is one of the most influential people I have ever met. His heart and care for the less privileged moved me, and I always fell in a trance whenever he made speeches.

In an hour, I was ready to get to work, my younger sister who goes to Kogi State Polytechnic, an institution not far from where we stayed was still in bed. I rolled my eyes and had my hands akimbo before saying,

'Oluchi, get up jare, is it because you don't have morning lectures that you're still in bed?'

'You've just made my point for me, yet you're still asking ' she replied drowsily.

'The sun is out, it is bad omen to still be on bed by this time'

'Just five. More. Minutes. Pretty please '

I shook my head, and a sweet smile formed on my face, I knew those five minutes would turn to two hours.

'Just know that I am heading out to work Okay? '

And with that I left the apartment. I didn't want to hear anymore of her nagging and reluctance to wake up. For I knew once I stepped out, she would get up, since she was now alone in the apartment.

I boarded a taxi to Speed Dial, korina road, New Layout. I had wanted to sit in the front seat but it was already occupied and so I settled for the back seat. I could swear that some kind of spiritual element was always with me whenever I boarded the taxi, because it was either the taxi driver accepted too many passengers and the place became cramped, or someone with a choking body odor sat beside me, or perverts who would keep asking for your mobile number, calling you baby and fine girl, or just any other form of discomfort.

Today's own wasn't that bad but discomforting nevertheless. The man who stopped the taxi after I had already boarded it looked very cool. His blue striped shirt with  black coloured pair of trousers, black kicks below, and to top it off, a pair of shades dramatically placed on his head instead of his eyes. It was normal kogi Swag anyways.

Everything was nice, until he sat beside me and smiled before he greeted, 'Good Morning'

I could swear my medicated glasses cracked a little, it did not only affect my nose, but it affected my soul. His breath was terrible! I decided not to judge him on that, seeing as he was nice enough to greet me. I smiled warmly and greeted back. At once, he pulled out his phone and started surfing the Internet, I breathed a sign of relief that he didn't try to start a conversation.

I reached the office safely, paid the taxi driver and thanked God for no complications on the road. I was fond of doing that, at each step of my day, thanking God for little little things. It was an old habit I picked up from my mother back in Abia state. She would always say ' Amaka, my dear, the air you're breathing is not yours, so why not thank God for giving you what you did not ask for, before thanking him for what you asked for?' 

Although we breathe oxygen, not just air, her words always pierced through my skin, it was always there like a tattoo to my heart. A tattoo I would always be thankful for.

The day went by smoothly, with the discovery of a new case, where I was sent to investigate some people in  Adankolo about the case of a missing schoolgirl. The day was eventful and very fruitful, which my boss was delighted about. When the company car dropped me off back at Speed Dial, I stepped into my office to meet a visitor. I was surprised since I was not expecting him until tomorrow, which was my birthday. Tolu and I had been going out for eight months now, and I could see the relationship going strong. He was fascinated by me, and I was lost at the sight of him.

'Hey Amaka, happy birthday in advance ' I couldn't help myself from blushing.

'Awww, baby, you're absolutely the best' I managed to say before we shared a warm hug. I buried my face in his shoulders as I put my arms around his neck. I could feel total protection wherever I was with him.

We both sat on the lounge chair and started to chow down the food he had bought for the both of us. He started talking about his plans for my birthday, apparently, it was laid out to be exciting and adventurous.

'See Amaka, preferably take a day off tomorrow, since I have lots on store for you'
'I am not sure I can just take a day off without a week's notice... '
'C'mon, you only turn twenty one once '
'Hmmm, maybe I could try something, I said try oh' I reply, which causes him to crack up a little.
'Don't worry, anything that makes you comfortable '
'Alright ' I replied, trying to eat the dish quickly as it was almost time to go home.
' I am going to pick you up at your apartment tomorrow morning, wear something fit, that you can run in ' he said as we both got up and I started clearing my desk.
'Something I can run in? ' I asked, a little confused.
'Don't be scared oh, I told you it's going to be adventurous'
'I just hope it doesn't get dangerous'. 

My last statement made him laugh so hard tears started coming out from his eyes. He had his hands akimbo and slowly shook his head.

'Amaka, you will never seize to amaze me. It's only you that can change something romantic into one kind of action movie'.

'Ha, forget oh, life is too short to not watch enough action movies ' I said as  we both left my office. Smiling at the laughs we just shared.

He drove me home and pecked me goodnight. I got out of his car with a sweet sensation inside, then I waved until I couldn't see his vehicle any longer.


Oluchi and I chatted long into the night, until we both fell asleep on the living room couch.

The next day was my birthday. I woke up to a breakfast in bed by Oluchi. She was annoying and sometimes but I couldn't wish for a better little sister. Mostly because we were the only female children in our family, the others were four boys. We were a total of six children. Later on, Tolu came over. All smiles, greeting Oluchi and taking me to his car. He put a blindfold over my eyes so I couldn't know where he was headed.

When we finally reached our destination, he got out and helped me out, making me take little tiny steps, because I was still blindfolded. I thanked God on the inside for a safe journey.

When we finally reached the front door of the unknown 'house', he opened the door and took off my blindfold.

What I saw next shocked me out of composure. I shrieked and screamed. My parents, their friends with some of my friends were standing right in front of me. With beautiful decorations and designs. It looked like an incomplete building that they had tried their utmost best to rearrange just for my
birthday party. I was overwhelmed beyond what I could think of. I quickly turned to hug Tolu, then I rushed over to my mother and father, hugged both of them tightly, unknowingly tears started coming down my cheeks.

The party was simply amazing and I couldn't thank Tolu enough. He was simply the best. Since it was late in the evening, my parents and their friends retired to my apartment, I provided them with my key, because they did not live in Kogi state, they had to stay with me for the while.

Tomorrow or the next, they will board the next plane to Anambra state. They hated travelling and enjoyed the comfort of their own home, so they said many a time.

The party continued with my friends and I, partying to rock songs and playing crazy games. Later on, by 6pm, Tolu suggested we play Find the Axe.

It was a common game in a forest like environment, where the mastermind hides an axe tied to a tree and others would go around looking for it. The first to find the axe would ring a bell, which is normally connected to the axe, signalling everyone to his direction. The losers of the game usually perform an embarrassing dance for the winner. 

By 6:10, we all set out, Tolu was the mastermind and so, did not need to participate. Everyone at the party, especially Jonah and Joyce, a pair of twins, insisted we don't walk together, because he was the mastermind and we were dating, he could give me hints. We just laughed it off, but Tolu ended up walking with Jonah, and Joyce walked with me. Oluchi walked with some of her friends which would soon separate when they got deep into the forest like environment, just behind the incomplete building.
Joyce and I were walking together, but soon, because it was not a group competition, split and started searching for the axe alone.

I was walking with my hands in my pockets, slowly looking at every tall tree very closely, because it could be hidden up there when I heard a sound, more like a footstep on a ground filled with dried leaves. Instincts made me turn back immediately, in defense, when I saw Theresa, Tolu's colleague in his place of work. She slightly laughed at my sudden fear and sarcastically raised her hands up in surrender.

'How's your search going? 'she asked
'Still have no idea where it might be, and it's been thirty minutes '
'Tolu must be an amazing mastermind right? '
'Yeah, he's just the best ' I replied
'So you guys have been dating for like, how long now? ' She asked again.
Tolu had told me that he felt Theresa had feelings for him, and that I should avoid talking about our relationship with her.

'It hasn't been that long, but how's your Masters degree program? ' I replied again, trying to change the subject.

Almost immediately, we heard the ring of the bell, telling us that someone had found the axe and we should be preparing to dance the loser dance. Theresa and I smiled to ourselves and started walking towards the direction of the bell. When we got there, we met everyone else, but not the person
who had rang the bell. We all stood there, dumbfounded, murmuring to one another about what was going on. I looked around for Oluchi and spotted her typing away on her phone, then I looked around for Tolu but couldn't spot him.

We all heard a sound coming from above our heads, sounding like some kind of spiritual chant. We looked up, only to have like twenty masked men dressed in animal skin and marks all over their body drop from the tall trees surrounding us. There could never be screams, in the history of screams, louder than the ones we screamed upon seeing those men. I had never been so scared in my entire life. We all tried to run for our lives, but most of us fell victim, as the men grabbed us tightly and taking us with them. I was one of the victims, but Oluchi managed to escape.

I kept struggling to get out of their very tight grip, but it was of no help  as they quickly tied both my arms and legs. They took me to a certain hut in the forest, it was hot, old and dilapidated. I was laid on the ground, while they went out to bring the others into this particular hut, I supposed.

I was in a very confused state and did the only thing that I could think of at the moment, I prayed. I prayed to God to help me find a way out, I prayed to God to protect Oluchi, Tolu and everyone else who was in this sudden predicament. Then, it hit me, my hands were tied before me, so I could try to untie it. I tried with all of my might but it just seemed impossible to untie. I looked around, and saw some pieces of zinc, on the ground, I shifted myself a lot before I reached it, picked it and started vigorously using the sharp edges to cut through the rope. Once I was done, I sighed heavily and my eyes lit up. I immediately started on my feet, with my bare hands this time. I could hear footsteps approaching so I quickly got up and dashed out of the hut. One of the masked men was bringing in Joyce, sighted me, quickly put Joyce in the hut and ran after me, but I was ahead of him by far. I didn't bother to look back, but searched around for somewhere to hide in, so he could run past me without seeing me. My plan worked perfectly as I hid behind a big fat tree and the masked man ran past me. My heart was beating rapidly as I was still very confused at everything, I wondered if we were all going to die today, thought about my parents as fear enveloped me again and I lost my sense of    reasoning.


I continued looking back and forth, to make sure no one was coming. I looked back and saw someone coming, I quickly backed up, I wanted to run but fear had enveloped my legs. I was just backing up slowly as my hands trembled badly, but then I saw it was Tolu, my eyes lit up in happiness. I tried to run to him but stopped in my tracks. It was Tolu and at the same time was not Tolu. His eyes were drained and he was dressed differently, almost like the attire of the masked men. He walked towards me in a slow, vicious manner.
'Tolu if this is a joke, you better stop it '
He looked to me and sighed, 'I am sorry'
He immediately put on a mask and ran at me. At first, I did not want to run, which made me fall backwards to the ground, but after I took to my heels, it felt like as if the forest was just getting bigger and bigger by the second. I looked for an end, and so, I ran straight ahead, but it made it seem like I was running in circles.

Tolu was a much better runner than the other masked man and so quickly caught up to me, he cornered me in an angle in a way that he directed me to where to run to. I asked no questions and continued running, thinking about what had happened to my sweet and loving boyfriend. I ran back to where the
bell was and everyone was there. I stopped in my tracks, I was breathing so heavily that you could hear me from a mile away. The masked men, my friends, Tolu's friends, Oluchi and her friends were all standing in front of me, it was almost as of they had all joined these certain masked men and had all conspired against me. I wanted to run again, but everything I did was scream. I screamed so hard they were even surprised and covered their ears. I felt someone grab me from behind, holding me tight around my abdomen. I looked back a little and saw it was Tolu, I started crying as I
fell slowly to the ground.

All hope was surely lost and I was definitely going to die today was the only thing going through my mind, when Tolu took off his mask, smiled and said 'Happy birthday'

As if they were all programmed they started laughing. I got up and cleaned my tears, a little confused and less petrified. But then, all the masked men took off their masks. They turned out to be my parents and their friends. I was in serious disbelief as they all said 'Happy birthday!'
My heart was still beating heavily so I could not even smile. Tolu put his arm around me and said 

'It was just a prank sweetheart, your parents and I planned it all'
I left his grip and ran over to my father, hugged him tight and asked,
'Were you the one chasing me? '
' No, my child, that was Peter my friend, I was told to tie all your hands and feet'
'When did you guys plan all of this?'
'A month ago '. My mother answered.
'I still can't believe I have such a crazy family and even crazier friends
'I said still pretty amazed and recovering from the shock.
Oluchi handed me a bottle of water as she said' Well, you better start believing' we all laughed simultaneously. Tolu came over to me and said

'Hope you enjoyed it '
' Yes I did, darling, this is the best birthday ever! ' I raised both my arms to show my excitement.
' Just wait till you see next year's event ' he said then started walking ahead of me.
' what, you're doing another thing next year? '
He didn't answer and everyone laughed a little.

' Tolu, come on, for God's sake tell me' but he only started walking faster, which turned into running, and in a split second, everyone was running towards the incomplete house.

Memunat Kadiri (SS3, Rock 'n' Gardens Academy, Lokoja)

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