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The 8th Commandment

She was jolted awake by the incessant ringing of her Samsung phone. In her state of sleep deprivation, she had to quell the urge to fling the phone at the wall. But she knew that she would be the one to bear the burden of that later. Instead she ended the call and slipped back to sleep.

But just as the sleep was getting more enjoyable, the phone rang again. She looked at the caller and saw that the caller had hidden his or her number. She had serious misgivings about people who hid their numbers to call people; in her opinion, if you didn’t have any ulterior motive, why don’t you show who you are? And the recent case of the woman who picked up and unknown number and later jumped to her death made her to be extra wary of private numbers.

She was about end the call and switch off her phone when her finger touched the fingerprint sensor at the back of the phone and the call connected. She sighed and placed the phone to her ear.

“Hello,” she said, yawning and hoping that she would not find it hard getting back to sleep.

“What is the eight commandment, Julie?” the caller, a man with a gruff voice asked. She had the distinct feeling that he had been drinking.

“Who’s this please?”

“You have your Bible, right? Find out what the eight commandment is. I’ll call you soon to know if you have checked it. Bye,” the man instructed and disconnected the call.

Julie was mortified. She sat up, swung her legs down to the floor and wondered who could have called her to tell her such a thing. She got up and her eyes met the framed photograph of her wedding day. She remembered her husband and shook her head in sorrow. Today was exactly fifteen years since he died.

At that thought, she suddenly became still. Her blood turned to ice as something flashed in her mind. It can’t be, she told herself over and over again. Yet…

She quickly switched on the light of the bedside lamp, fetched her Bible and with shaky hands flipped to the Book of Exodus. Her eyes roamed the pages, scanning the words faster than they appeared and silently hoping that she was wrong. But she knew…

Then she saw what she was looking for, what the man had instructed her to search for.

“Exodus, Chapter 20 verse 16,” she read, ” ‘do not accuse anyone falsely’.”

As if correctly timed, her phone rang. The shrill ring sent chills of fright down her spine. She tentatively picked the phone, swiped it and picked the call.

“He–hello,” she quipped.

The man sounded like a stern teacher. “Did you check what I asked you to check?”

“Yes,” she breathed, “yes, I did.”

“Good. Now answer this question: are you guilty of going against that particular injunction?”

“What do you mean?” she asked with a sinking feeling?”

“I do not play games, woman!” he snapped. “I’ll ask you one more time, and you are going to give me a straight answer. Did you break the eight commandment?”

“I–I don’t… know,” she stuttered.

“Very well. I think you’ve given me your answer. Now get ready to pay for your sins.”

“What do you mean?” Julie screamed into the phone, but she was talking to herself as the man had already ended the call.

She dropped her phone on the bed, and bent her head over her hands, which were propped on her knees. She shivered from the cold and the sudden fear that had taken hold of her. Her phone pinged in reception of a text message. She opened it and the words made her to moan in terror.

WARNING: YOUR HOUSE IS NOT SAFE FOR YOU. YET YOU SHOULD NOT GO OUTSIDE. FOR THE DANGER THAT LURKS BENEATH YOUR BED WILL HAVE A FACE WHEN YOU GO OUTSIDE.

After reading it, she sprang up from the bed. She wanted to check the bed, but stopped herself. What if something terrible was beneath her? She didn’t want to face such a thing. She was now convinced that the person who was tormenting her knew what she did fifteen years ago. Could it be him? she thought. But he was supposed to be in prison. Who then?

“Get hold of yourself, Juliet!” she shouted suddenly. “Quit acting like a child. What are you shivering for? Someone calls you and sends you a creepy message and you turn to jelly? Get a grip on yourself!”

What if he had planted a bomb in this house? her mind queried.

At that thought, her knees gave way and she crumbled on the floor. She was confused and racked her brain on what to do. Then she decided to call Emmanuel, her lover that she met four months ago. He was a policeman and would know what to do.

She quickly dialed his number. He picked up on the fourth ring, and she breathlessly narrated everything to him.

“Now, sweetheart, calm down. We deal with creeps like this all the time. He wants you to stay at home so that he can break in and harm you. I would have come over, but I have an assignment in Ondo State and I will be back next tomorrow. I want you to drive to the police station and report this case. I’ll call them to provide you with security, okay?” Emmanuel said with a soothing voice.

“Okay,” she replied.

“I love you, Julie,” he said.

“I… love you too,” she returned and ended the call.

With a plan in mind, she took a quick shower and dressed up. She picked up her phone and dashed out of her house. She drove out of her house and accelerated towards the police station. As she turned the corner towards a deserted part of town that would take her to the police station, her car suddenly stopped. She immediately became still. She came down quietly and scanned her environment. Anything could happen to her here and no one would know.

Just as that thought took root, a lone bike rider drove past her. She didn’t see his face, but had the notion that he looked familiar. Then the man reversed and came back.

“What is the problem, madam?” he asked.

She looked at him. He had a slim nose, full lips and piercing eyes. He was also sporting a full beard, like those terrorists one saw on the TV. Again, that feeling that he was familiar came, but she dismissed it. It couldn’t be him.

“My car suddenly stopped,” she answered, wiping sweat off her forehead.

“Oh. Sorry. Go and open your bonnet. I can help you with it. I am a part-time mechanic.” He gave a flashy grin and waved her on.

She turned to go into her car, but the man grabbed her from behind and covered her face with a black handkerchief. She could smell the substance that was choking her—chloroform. She fought wildly to be free, but the man was incredibly strong and within one minute, she was unconscious.

When she came to, she was bound to a chair in her house. Her eyes were heavy and her head felt as if the Boys’ Scout were having a band practice there. With great effort, she opened her eyes and faced the man who supposedly wanted to help her. He poured water on her face and as she opened her mouth, the water choked her. She gave wheezing coughs and tears rolled down her cheeks.

“Are you guilty of breaking the eight commandment?” the man said.

Her eyes widened. It was her unknown caller. “Who are you?” she managed to ask.

“You know me.” He removed the beard and the man she saw made her gasp in shock.

“Andy? How…? You are supposed to be in prison.”

He gave a low chuckle. “That is what you want, right? For me to be locked up forever. But thankfully the new governor granted some prisoners pardon and I was among them. I have come to balance the equation. To take something from you for the years you took from me.”

“I… Please, don’t… It’s not what you think,” she pleaded, her teeth were shattering from cold and fear.

“Oh, really? So the fifteen years you took from me is not what I think?” he snapped and she jumped. His anger shook her.

“I’m sorry. I didn’t know what else to do.”

When the slap landed on her face, its force snapped her head backwards. She saw white light and her vision blurred. She tasted the coppery taste of blood—her blood—from her cracked lips.

“Your apology is not needed. Since you do not want to admit what you did. Let me remind you. I was sleeping that particular day, fifteen years ago, when you called me and told me that something was wrong with your husband. I rushed down immediately and saw your husband on the floor in the pool of his own blood. I looked at you and saw you with a bloody knife. You were shaking so badly, and I knew that you couldn’t say any coherent thing. So I took the knife from you and you said that you wanted to go and clean your hands.

“I waited for you for fifteen minutes and when you were nowhere to be found, I decided to call the police. That was when you came back through the front door with the same police I wanted to call. You pointed at me and told them that I killed your husband. I was still holding the bloody knife and some of the blood on it had touched my fingers. They needed not to hear from me as the ‘evidence’ was damning enough. I was taken to the station and within two weeks, I was tried and convicted of murder. I was sentenced to twenty-eight years imprisonment, but thankfully the governor pardoned those who had served up to fifty percent of their jail terms.

“Now that I’ve reminded you of your deeds, it’s time for your punishment,” Andy concluded.

“Please, wait,” Julie said, “I did not have any other option. I saw his chat with you about the girl he impregnated. You advised him to marry the girl since I was unable to bear a child. I confronted him about it and in the resultant scuffle, I killed him. When you took the knife from you, I saw it as an opportunity to walk away cleanly from the mess and I took it. I’m not proud of my actions, but I had to save my neck. And now that you’re free, I’ll make it up to you,” she pleaded, trying to free herself from the bonds on her wrists and ankles.

“Save your sorry for your creator when you meet him. And you’ll slowly and painfully go to him,” he replied. He brought out a knife, turned her wrist and slashed her across the vein. He did the same thing with the other wrist, and as the crimson liquid poured from the cuts, she pleaded with him to make it stop. Instead, he took out a duct tape and covered her mouth.

Then he switched off the light and left the house, leaving her to slowly bleed to death.

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