“You’re not supposed to be in grade six,” I repeated the second time with the resulting boisterous laughter among my classmates.
I watched the bully knock his teeth together, make futile attempts to stand and pounce at me, but yielded to remain seated since he had no idea what I’d bottled up for him.
“Yes block brain, tell me anyone in grade six that still feels that fishes decay from their heads and not the gills,” I fired again, this time pointing my little finger very close to his nose while every other person hailed my bravery.
Emeka had remained the most feared student since our earlier years in nursery classes. Many asserted it to his huge size and ever mean look, but I’d always believed it was something about pride and a feeling of fulfilment. He alone didn’t bring cooked food to school on extra lesson days, he got fresh food from the canteen, which was uncommon for the rest of us from just middle class homes. I had always waited for a day to prove to him that I was the smarter one and today paved that opportunity, on a plate of ease.
While most people stood behind in support of me, a few others gave inciting chants for Emeka to pounce back at me. I stood firm, waiting for the worst to dawn on me; I wasn’t an expert at physical fights but I had very flexible lips that voiced very hurtful and instigating words. Again, I hardly fought in my younger years due to certain moralities. Peace was a bracelet I learned to wear from home and the virtue never left me until the day with Emeka, I had set those beliefs and morals aside.
I clenched my right fist and protracted my left shoulder for defence. Emeka’s eyes sparked like fire but his fearful eyes didn’t stir me. I maintained my stance there. I moved a few steps back and positioned my fist close to my jaw. I could feel my heartbeat increase beyond the normal rate, that was unusual too. The few times I’d beaten my friends in the past were executed quite easily without a change in heart rate. I wondered why this was different. The notorious boy jolted from his desk and pounced on me like a hungry lion and I fell. That was the pathology behind the heart rate change. He gave me a slap on the left eye, I winced in pains as I held my palm over it. I made several attempts to rise from there but he pinned me very tight to the ground and everyone hailed him. No one seemed to be of help from that torture. It was repeated blows from one cheek to the other coupled with his body weight pressed on my abdomen. I could hardly feel my legs, I was gulping for air and hoped then that I would pass out and prayed for my parents’ forgiveness.
My classmates forgot the ordeals of Ekene, the quite small boy who Emeka almost killed by tucking handfuls of sand in his mouth. The boy was hospitalized for several months, after which his parents withdrew him from the school. No one feared I would pass through something similar, they all shouted and raised their voices, while a few friends of Emeka instigated him to deal with me.
For a moment, I regained an iota of energy and my eyes reddened, my arm muscles got invigorated at this point. Probably, the thought of being beaten up before everyone restored my vitality.
Emeka’s blow came again, this time to a direction I had expected. I couldn’t let it land on my already swollen face, so I blocked it deftly. That wasn’t formidable. Again, rapturous shouts filled the air. Many of my class mates leaped over their desks, a few continued to ginger the fight while the likes of my parents bored me with moral sermons.
“You may get expelled if the Principal gets here.”
“You don’t want to be withdrawn, do you?”
“Go Emma Bonny, teach him a lesson!” I loved it when they called me that.
I advanced forward in aggression and dug a pen from my pocket. I was swift about my moves as I slashed him across the ear, gave a right kick that caught him deep in the stomach and watched him bounce off me while I got freed of his grip. He staggered backwards and went crumbling on the floor.
Personally, there was no greater humiliation for a boy than rolling on the ground with both hands held to the belly. Everywhere still looked blurry, but I saw my class girls in rapturous laughter.
“Emeka the man has got dysmenorrhoea.” They laughed again, after Obioma mocked him.
I felt the rapid panting of my heart press against my diaphragm. This time, it wasn’t another coming blow from the enemy but Mr. Maliki’s cane which lashed on my back and Emeka’s buttocks simultaneously.
Everyone had hurriedly settled to their seats and gotten mute while the fighters still remained on the ground kneeling.
“I’d known you to be a very decent young boy, Emmanuel.” The principal’s small eyes darted to my direction. I wore no expression as I stood before him at the mini office he stayed to take disciplinary measures on defaulters.
“Your despicable act today has changed what this school always thought about you and your parents inclusive.”
My heart sank as I heard him mention my parents. I trusted Mr. Maliki to have passed words to them but I didn’t speak a word in defense.
“Emeka.” He paused and readjusted his silver framed glasses which has worn at some angles. “I have received several reports about your mischief in this school.” He groped his hands in a drawer underneath his table and brought out two white envelopes. “Take!” he bellowed. “Make sure you come with your parents on Monday. Now, get out of this office.”
“Mischievous species,” Mr. Maliki added at our exit.
I clutched my letter of expulsion firmly and tears streamed down my eyes. I couldn’t think straight at that point nor imagine what my father, a pastor would think of his first son. I gathered a few things and left the school compound as instructed. It wasn’t a rough journey home on the city cab. Shuttles were hardly seen at that time since school hours wasn’t over yet. I took the more costly taxis instead of motorcycles which mother always warned against due to the long distance from school.
Our compound was very calm with only our neighbour’s I big pass generator at the balcony. I entered through the back gate and saw my parents’ cars parked very close to the stairway entrance. It was quite unusual of them to be home at that hour. They’d never got home before me. I knew how much my father attended to his members and the series of counsellings he rendered daily. Sometimes, he told us his daily encounters with them; the men that lay other men, a few others that abuse their wives physically and the women that do not cook for their husbands. He hardly mentioned who these people were but they were fellow worshipers in his church. I wished he revealed them to us, such forbiddable acts deserved stern measures and possibly ostracization. I always suggested he stopped them from coming to our church but he always rebukes me with the church is for saints and the sinners sermon which I had gotten weary of learning.
While I pondered on this, I counted my steps up to the doorway and tapped on it lightly and it swung open. It was unlike Mother to leave the backdoor without locks. I got in still, but noticed white powder sprinkled carefully on the cemented floor of the sitting room with a trail of one’s right foot pressed on it. I followed the substance and traced it to the little room where I studied each night, not my parents’, nor the guest room even. Behind the closed door, I heard whispers and soft cries. More like chants and recitations. I couldn’t decipher what that was. At that point, I heard the sharp cry of a cat and the chuckles that followed. The voices I heard were many, not two, not three. I was confused at that point, not scared. I thought about invaders, but their car? It made sense that they could be sleeping at their room while these strange people occupied mine. I checked their room but I met the rummaged room with drops of red fluid sprinkled at some corners.
My heart sank. I went back to that door and kicked it open. Everything and everyone became still.
I screamed in horror as I scampered through the door and out of the apartment. I ran quickly down the stairs, skipping three stairs at a go till I ran through from the fourth floor where we lived. I got to the gate panting heavily and trying to gather myself from the fearful scene up there. I looked back and around me to confirm I wasn’t followed by any of those people. It was a scary picture.
Just then, Uncle Ike came in and bumped into me, which startled me from where I squeezed behind it. He was a minister in my church and I respected him too.
“Blood, blood!” I repeated amidst heavy breadths.
“What blood?” he held me by the shoulder trying to calm me to speak further. I got pacified and narrated how I had seen my parents in a closed room upstairs with red lit candles at every corner. I had seen a small child too. The cry I mistook for a cat was a newborn. It’s throat was slit open and the baby lay naked on the ground, lifeless. I clearly saw the small organ resting on his balls when I barged it. That very sight caught my attention when I got in there. I went further narrating my ordeals to him, I also mentioned two men from my church who I stole quick glances at before I took to my heels. I watched Uncle Ike’s expression, he was smiling at me while I was clothed in fears which was quite unusual. He lifted my chin this time and twisted my neck very roughly and then hit me with the hard object he had. I staggered backwards and finally tripped over a large stone and fell on my back.