It took ages before Bermota could stand from the couch. She supported herself with Fumbi’s back. She really looked like a cashew fruit. The nut would be her small head. Her body was gradually streamlined from her torso downwards so that her legs looked like two toothpicks stuck in her puff-puff body.
Omohafe, Fumbi and Janet were still bland with reactions. One of the men pulled up his shirt to reveal a pistol well-tucked into his pair of trousers. He then motioned that they stay quiet. They nodded a little more than necessary as they were about to start sobbing. It was terrifying that those they saw as acquaintances were by-standers to whatever atrocities were about to happen.
Janet shivered. The plot still did not make sense. Their fear meter hit maximum with whimpering voices emanating from the house. Bermota squeezed herself through the sliding door between the lobby and parlour. She drew the curtain to one side and then beckoned that the girls be brought in. For the first time, Fumbi got to see the owner of the smelly feet. Her lips moved, seeming to mutter “Bermota”. She was one of those who knew her well.
Bernice Asemota was that wild child every child is warned to run from when they get to the University. At 15, she had spent almost more time at the juvy than at home. She was a regular visitor or more like a part-time staff on cases bordering on illegal possession of fireworks, battery, attempted arson, assault, theft and attempted rape. After her parents tried all measures to clip her wings, she started growing horns. So they decided to take the bull by the horn. They lured her to Nigeria to be monitored by an old-soldier maternal grandfather and a retired school principal grandmother. She remained wild; only the location changed.
“Friar, let’s get this party started. Our last guests have arrived”, Bermota announced as she finally got herself through the door, not as though she was referring to those in the lobby.
There seemed to be a panel of hosts waiting in the sitting room aside from the owners of the whimpering voices. The two men saw the three girls through the door before sliding it shut behind them. With the veil of tension and the pungent stench of fear and anxiety exuding from the girls, it was difficult to make out the condition of the sitting room. Pheya tried concealing a thousand anxieties as she was obviously fuming with anger. All she only hoped they’d get out alive so she could shred every fibre Tumininu’s muscles.
“Are they now complete?”, Friar, one of the men seated in the sitting room asked, letting out a puff of the weed he was smoking slip through his dark glossy lips that looked like used engine oil. Fumbi coughed.
“Yes, and I even got you a bonus”, Bermota replied, her heavy hand pointing at Fumbi. Fumbi burst into tears. Lady Bermota made a duck face to mock her. Pheya squeezed Fumbi’s hand and then patted her back.
“Let’s get out of here and watch me knock out that your moon face.” Pheya feigned confidence. Bermota motioned to hit her but Friar cut in.
“No! No! No! We should not treat our guests like this.” He disagreed as he got up sharply, barely changing his height and took a few steps towards Pheya who was still at her best at concealing the terror. He stroked her hair and ran his fingers over her face, tracing its edges. He stopped with her chin caught between his thumb and index finger, a wide smile distributing across his scarred face. She gulped loudly. She could not hide her irritation. She removed her face from his touch. Bermota chuckled.
“You must be that Janet”, Friar said as he smirked. Pheya shook her head. Thoughts whiled past her mind. She got visibly terrified for the first time. For Janet.
Another young man walked in through the curtain drawn over a door leading away from the sitting room. He was shirtless, seemed tipsy and reeked of alcohol. He whispered to Friar who nodded his head repeatedly before distributing that smile over his scarred face again.
“All is set. I’m starting with Janet, whoever she is”, he said in a hurry as he turned to leave the sitting room immediately.
“I am Janet”, Pheya said stepping forward before Janet herself could react. Bermota and Omohafe laughed, their eyes fixed on their phones. Friar knew she was lying. Janet, muted by fear, only sobbed a little louder. Pheya knew what was going in. Janet understood the ritual. Fumbi was not unawares either. They had all heard the rumours. They were now living the rumour.
“Okay, let’s go in with our last three guests.” Friar conceded, looking straight at Pheya who now had tears grouping on her eyes. Fumbi shrieked. She thought she would not have been caught in the situation if she had not picked a room with Janet; although guilt still managed to whiff through her mind.
While Fumbi was lucky not to have been reallocated to Bermota’s room, Tumininu was not so fortunate. And when Tumininu needed help with a math course, Fumbi got Janet and Pheya to help her out. Bermota got to know Janet and Pheya as Tumininu’s study partners. Omohafe, on the other hand, was a close friend of Bermota, more like a pawn.
Bermota was not so smart. It was rumoured that her head was small and so her brain was too small to power her body and education at the same time. She only got admitted into electrical and electronics because through lobbying and bribery. Till 400 level, her grades were consistently injurious to the eyes. She was to be withdrawn. Once again, lobbying and bribery bought her a place in the 200 level class of Agricultural Engineering where she was already on an extra year. With 9 years spent already to get a 5-year degree, some of her mates in 100 level were now her lecturers.
Two men led the three girls behind a curtain one of them emerged from earlier. Bermota followed closely. Behind was a dark room. How their party invite suddenly got them caught up in a cult group initiation and kingpin ascension ritual remained a mystery to Pheya and Janet. Fumbi, who met Omohafe earlier that day, however, understood Omohafe most definitely sent the text changing the venue of the party.
Pheya had too many questions. She was a math whiz and entirely hated that the incidences over the last couple of days were not adding up.
“Before anything happens, I need to ask Lady Bermota a question,” Pheya said, looking up to Friar. She did not know where the courage came from. Friar nodded for her to go ahead. He seemed too nice to be involved in cultism.
“Why did you have to send a sticky note?”, Pheya really did not know why that was the question that came up first. But that was what started it all.
“You thought this was a Momma boy’s package?” Friar scoffed. The other men laugh.
“What sticky note?” Bermota asked.
TO BE CONTINUED…