The university environment had assumed its serene nature since the exams commenced. Rooms hardly ever blared with loud music anymore, nor were fights witnessed between a lodge member and the lover. Such periods were Ikenna’s best parts of the semesters. His penultimate year has presented him with more engagement at school, including marathon lectures and lab practicals. Notwithstanding the pressures and complaints from his course mates, he coped excellently and approached every exam in courage. His next paper on Metallurgy was only two days away but he prepared as if it were the next day. On his return from afternoon prep, he ran into Chiebo at his door, seated patiently in wait.
“Guy wetin sup na?” He was surprised to see Chiebo. He imagined if he brought news from home since they all lived in the same area.
“Which kain question be that, you done forget wetin we discuss?” Chiebo said irritably.
Hesitantly, Ikenna opened and let him into his room which had pieces of notes lying all over and clothes heaped at the foot of the bed. The room smelled of worn clothes drenched in sweat. Such was the typical state of his room during the exams. You could call him a studious engineering student that wouldn’t let anything but money, distract him.
Months before, Ikenna had bumped into Chiebo at a store around his place. He watched him hand over some notes to the lady at the counter. The amount was presumably a huge one and he equally knew Chiebo’s family meagerly status. Ikenna on his part, hardly ever mingled with boys that weren’t in any high institutions. The kind that Chiebo belonged to, the kind his mother also termed ‘street boys’. These boys wore dreads and slippers, polos and ripped jeans, used very expensive phones and never had well-paying jobs.
Ikenna still went over and said hello to him while Chiebo returned it in wide smiles—the same university boy that doesn’t mingle. They both exchanged contacts and kept in touch ever since.
Ikenna grew to love Chiebo’s responsiveness and obsession in whatever work he did. His daily WhatsApp status were majorly talks about working hard and ‘hustling’. Ikenna wondered how else to work hard and hustle; doing the engineering practical was enough work on his side, getting to follow his mother to Eke market to run after customers to patronize their goods was equally draining, not to talk of his father who worked all day at the office and moved from pillar to post for his duties, only to return each day with a cluster of headaches and lethargy. Curiosity pressed on him to ask his guy about the work, but he preferred not to ask.
Until one day. “You never care about this work I do. It pays well,” Chiebo had said during their conversation. Ikenna wondered the pay that couldn’t afford his family a better apartment in another area. Most buildings in their street lacked maintenance and leaking roofs were the most common. To that effect, most occupants get to sundry their wet clothes and mattresses after every downpour. On several occasions, he had bumped into Chiebo carrying mattresses up and down the stairs like everyother person affected.
“Tell me the work you do,” Ikenna replied after a while.
Chiebo smiled and let him know all he needed. Most required—secrecy and high intelligence were paramount, the distinct dress codes which Ikenna detested were also expected. He wouldn’t have to pierce his ears nor lock his full hair into dreads. Not just at that point.
In his earlier years at home with his family, they all participated fully in holy communion and never skipped daily prayers. He couldn’t risk drawing Fr. Anselm’s attention to himself, nor be termed, ‘the separated’ which was his best phrase for the unrepentants.
Chiebo had convinced Ikenna enough on what was required to become successful in the work. Ikenna partly gave his consent but Chiebo was already at his place the day after that conversation. He was ready to take him along on that journey. With no option left for Ikenna, he decided to go with him. It was just a day’s assignment and would definitely return the next day to revise for the exams.
The journey to Delta was a smooth one, they had traveled worth Ifezulike transport company. The bus had several women in it—fat women that smelled of ukpaka and scent leaves. They seemed to be from the popular Ose market of Onitsha with the several bundles of different vegetables and plantains pushed under their seats. One middle-aged man was seated at the front with a teenage girl while the two boys squeezed in between those women at the back seats.
Two hours later, they arrived Onyeoma’s shrine at a particular village in the state. The native doctor was known for his effective charms and young people like them never ceased to come for his assistance.
When Ikenna stepped into that shrine, he let out a shout and tried to turn back. His Christian mind had returned, how would he confess to Fr. Anselm that he had visited other gods? Chiebo grabbed him and urged him to remain calm, he had once been there in the past so the fear of skulls had left him.
Ever since Ikenna got into cyber frauding, he had not earned anything significant. Chiebo assured him that Onyeoma’s charms would hasten the process and yield more results for him.
“As I get my juju that time, business just flow with speed. You gats wash your hand well,” Chiebo had convinced.
After series of mixtures and incantations, Onyeoma finally instructed, “No woman would see your underwears for only one month!” With that, he sent them away.
They both left the shrine and spent the night in a guesthouse. He thought about his girlfriend Kaodi who would soon get a better life after his success came. He would afford more women for threesomes and chores too, Chiebo always talked about how good those things were. When the sun had come out, they checked out of their room and headed back to school together.
“Ara, madness you will take, if you fail to heed to instructions!” Onyeoma’s words resounded in Ikenna’s head on entry to his room. The room had taken a new look, the books had been neatly arranged on his shelf while the heap of dirty clothes were no longer on the bed. He consciously bent over the bed to check if the clothes were there, particularly his underpants and singlets. Only Kaodi had access to his room and she alone could have taken his clothes for laundry. He pulled of his shirt and trousers and scampered out of his room towards Kaodi’s hostel.
“Guy na boxers you wear so?” Chiebo was quite alarmed and reminded him over the window. As at then, Ikenna was out of the gate already. He ran hastily along the university streets on his spotted boxers while his organ dangled at every take off; away from madness, away from eternal calamity, towards Kaodi’s hostel and away from poverty.