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Of course, a couple of the stories in this challenge (if not all) are first drafts. Here is one of 'em.
Dan Brentwood Jr. loves having his breakfast on his way to work-hot, sizzling and spicy. So, he’s always taking the lane that cut past the fast food drive thru. (I need a name for the fast food drive thru.) The fast food guy’s name is Jack-yeah, one of the most common English names in the world, just like Jones. So, this guy Jack knows Brent, as our guy’s usually called. Jack knows Brent’s early morning treat; he knows what he likes to eat on his way to the job-his usual, as you would call it.
Brent, our guy lives a long distance from that drive-thru and has to navigate his route across town in his Honda Accord just to have his morning treat. Talk about working hard for the honey. But he does alright every weekday morning, too. And simply because he loves the meals they serve at the drive thru. He wouldn’t dare miss it for the world.
One particular morning, he was caught up in traffic-Brent doesn’t like getting late to his job. That morning, just because he had to have his usual gourmet chow, (what kind of stuff does this guy eat? Has to be something adventurous. Need to check up on some funny dishes.) he called the office and informed them to expect him in late-traffic problems, he said. But we know what it really was, don’t we?
Brent was a lovable, not-overtly-professional kind of guy. The kind of person you fell for on short order and loved even more after a few hang outs together. He was of average height; a soccer fan with an extremely soft spot for Barcelona FC.
On the normal, personal side, life’s been good to him. He works for a construction company as the chief architect. A non-smoker who isn’t quite acquainted with booze, Brent jogs half a mile and back each weekend. He’s in top form in mind and body.
On the morning of the incident that triggered this story, Brent had awakened from a bad dream-a really mean dream with a scream behind firmly pressed lips. And he was sure he’d been hollering through the entire nightmare. He discovered that the longer he stayed awake-the clearer his mind got-the fuzzier details of the nightmare became.
One memory stayed though, (sounds like a typical nightmare, don’t it?) One thing he remembered and grasped completely and perfectly was the fact that there’d been blood in that dream. A river of blood flowing everywhere and from nowhere. His nightmare scenario could be summed up in the words of a character in the movie, Night of the Living Dead, “Everybody died.” And that’s just the way it happened in that dream or at least from what he remembered. Lots of people were going down in a pool of blood, a lot more lying around in the bloodbath. What he couldn’t recall even though he beat himself up about it was the face of the killer.
Dead people were scattered from hell to breakfast but the killer was not seen. And Brent couldn’t bring his mind to conjure the face of the killer, not for the life of him. Maybe, just maybe he’d seen that face but didn’t want to believe what he saw. The mind rejects horrors that are too gruesome for it to contain or the witness of such event goes insane. Maybe, his consciousness kicked against the idea, repulsed by it and turned its eyes against it and would not admit its plausibility.
Matter-of-factly, his mental repertoire had come unhinged and he tried alas, with more than a little difficulty to rid his faculty of the nocturnal drama. It was a lost cause. More on the dream, later.
A few weeks early on, some rich dick with a bought and paid for chieftaincy title had contracted Brent’s company for a building project-some freakish stuff with loads of dough involved. Big stuff.
The Chief Thief recently acquired a 10 acre property along the Lagos-Abeokuta Expressway. He wanted to erect a kind of national landmark, some knock out stuff you could use to find your bearings on google maps. Besides the basic idea, the moneybag didn’t very much care what Brent and his colleagues cooked up. “Just make it big-a hotel, an estate, even a public library would be a welcome development.” The nation, he claimed had been good to him. The truth of the statement and, what the nation had actually done for Rich Dick was totally lost on Brent.
And so, Brent had spent time visiting, touring monumental artifacts that ran the length of Nigeria’s landscape-sort of trying to see beyond the hoopla and spell out what ought to be but isn’t just yet. He’d also chucked in enough time, (Lord knows, he’d done his share of research.) on the internet. Checking and browsing monuments-great and historical architecture, especially of Ethiopian and Nubian origin. He was sleepless nights from the whole business and yet, he couldn’t come up with a basic idea. The emphasis, ladies and gentlemen, is on BASIC. A working idea for rat’s sake. In case, the management of Alcestis Construction Co. called him up for an emergency meeting.
That was the bane of his worries. He’d practically chewed off the butt of his pencil pondering the entire scenario, turning over and over in his head the image of the six-man board going nuclear by the time they realized he had not one solitary idea to present to them. He’d gone an extra mile and let the cat out the bag-the tail, at least-by confiding in a friend. Of course, the project was still top secret or all rival companies would swarm the money-bag’s house begging a cut of the loot.
The whole thing was literally tearing him up inside, cutting at the root of his creativity, shutting down the flow of his chi. Good ol’ Brent didn’t understand what was going on; his past achievements had been remarkable; he’d done really great stuff, designing masterpieces for better and more worthy clients. Why in cold hell would one money bag’s project, a dirty one at that, cause him such belly ache?
Was there something here he wasn’t catching up to? Some sort of whim-wham at work? Brent didn’t really believe in all that African traditional religious and fetish stuff. Of course, he believed it existed-he believed the supernatural aspect was real and factual. He just didn’t believe in it like the fetish guy believed in his shrine. The emphasis here, ladies and gentlemen, is in.
He was civilized and the western culture was the in-thing for him. Though, Brent would not exactly fit into the picture of a practicing Christian. The emphasis in this case is on practicing. Brent rarely went to church on Sundays sometimes, the beach sand was his place of worship and the rays of the early morning sun was God’s heaven lights shining down on him. The noise, laughter and merry making of the beach people around him and the sound of the breakers washing up on the shore was all the joyful noise he needed.
Well, he gave his offering to the Suya mallam by the grill and the tips, bless his generous soul, to the waiters at the beach bar were his tithes.
On that fateful morning, the one that inspired the story you are now reading, while Brent waited for the cashier to repeat his order, something else came through the speakers. He heard a voice distinctly different from the cashier’s.
The cashier himself would, at a later time, dispute Brent’s statement.
Here’s the message that came through the speakers:
The land’s not for your man. Hands off.
Brent was so startled by the statement he started out of his Honda when he heard it. His mouth went dry. Damn he had to snatch a bottle of cool water out of the pigeonhole and drink the whole thing in one gulp before he could manage the words,
“Damn Jack, what was that all about?”
The voice/speakers/thing repeated the earlier stated message as if for emphasis. As if poor old Brent needed his doubts dispelled that he’d actually heard those words.
A thousand thoughts convulsed in his mind as he tried to grasp the import of the words that had come blaring through the speakers in broad daylight.
Why did it have such effect on him?
His guts were as parched as a desert.
He felt a shudder run the length of his spine. Felt it like volts of electricity, like his whole body got plugged into the freaking Kanji Dam, as matter of fact.
Brent confronted Jack, the drive-thru guy about the voice. He denied hearing any such thing.
“Damn man. We’ve known each other for like what? Five years now? Have I ever played that kind of dirty prank on you before, dude?”
Brent wiggled his head. “No, you have not but . . .”
“Why would I do it now? I don’t play that, man.”
Brent had to get off Jack’s case. Even though, the kid was a naturally jovial, next-door-neighborly guy, he was never known to play pranks on customers. Brent just had to give him that much credit. It was strictly business with Jack.
The first thing Brent noticed when he got to work that morning was that all documents pertaining to Chief Thief’s project were AWOL. They were missing from his car-the ones he had there. When he turned on his computer, after coming into the office, there wasn’t a trace of any item about the project. Not of the research, not of the contract. The computer was wiped clean, only of matters linked to the project. His laptop bore the same grave news. Every one of his other saved stuff remained intact. Untouched.
He thought it some kind of prank. The thought occurred to him, he might have left the documents related to the project behind at home, but what about the ones stored on the computer? How in blue hell do you explain that?
Something was clearly negative about the piece of land. Terribly wrong. Brent couldn’t place it, yet. But it was something he knew perfectly. The evidence was poking him in the eye. While he yet stood there pondering on his next line of action, his computer screen went blank. Only the deep darkness of a well in the night was left and then these words floated on the screen:
The land’s not for your man. Hands off.
Brent, as earlier stated wasn’t your man when it came down to a believer in jazzy stuff. He saw all that was happening as some rival company’s way of trying to scare him off the job. There’s a probably a mole in the Alcestis Corporation working for the rivals, he thought to himself. His unbelief would be his undoing.
A week after the files were deleted off his computers, his newest girlfriend died in a most tragic and mysterious way. The cops discovered an inscription made possibly with her blood on her bare tummy;
The land’s not for your man. Hands off.
The cops asked him what the note meant to him but of course, he couldn’t tell the cops such crap (or was it?) about ghost voices and some sin-ridden land. They’d probably take him for his girlfriend’s killer on grounds of insanity.
Then his car bust into flame. He wasn’t in there when it happened. Did it have anything to do with the land? Did it not? Brent couldn’t tell but he was beginning to sense that his very life was stake.
How does he bring himself to tell his boss that their latest project was infested with demons?
Maybe, he ought to do a little research and find out why the piece of land had such force backing it. How did the money bag come about the piece of land?
But before he’s through with his research something happens that almost cripples his life as an architect. In any case he won’t have to explain his inability to go through with the project to management, anymore.
Tragedy just switched places and two of the six-man board of directors came down with a bad case of dead.
All projects were on hold till further investigations. Obviously, the board members knew one or two things more about juju than Brent.