Ray’s submission was as expected. Having contributed several short stories to Jaguda Quarterly, the young writer’s love for blood and gore had become familiar.
A cursory scan of the opening paragraph once again proved the genius with which the writer curated devastation. However, there was something unnerving about this entry. A sinister veil clung to every word, and line after line, the tale built to a tempo too haunting to dismiss. The editor reached for a cigarette, lit up, laid back on the recliner, and began reading the story a fourth time.
The mandate was clear: they were to bring his head.
The Hyenas understood the task. The legend had been told from generation to generation.
They were the privileged ones; the ones chosen to add another glorious chapter to the legacy of the Society. The six of them waited in silence. In a few minutes, they would earn their spots in the Hyenas’ Hall of Fame and become part of the Hyenas’ thriving folklore. The would be immortalized.
This was the day the Hyenas had chosen. They would rejoice and be glad in it. Church bored him. The rites and rituals were a drag. For many years he avoided any kind of congregational worship. But this day, he was left with no other choice. He had asked the hand of a retired Archbishop’s last daughter in marriage. There was no way the renowned clergyman would give his blessings anywhere else but in church.
“If anyone has any reason why these two should not be joined in holy matrimony, please speak up now or forever hold your peace,” the officiating Bishop announced unrushed, each word reverberating off the cathedral walls.
Having never witnessed such an objection he adjudges this portion another banal requirement that ought to be done away with. He desperately wants to yawn, but he puts up an attentive veneer, an art honed from years of practice. After all, he was going to be an Archbishop’s son-in-law.
“If there is no one, then we shall proceed,” said the Bishop in a manner which showed he had done it by rote many times. “Before nko,” the groom muttered to himself as the Bishop launched a brief sermon e about the sanctity of marriage. He heard without really listening and waited for the only part that mattered to him.
“Do you, Adeagbo David, take Ilekhomon Elizabeth, as your lawfully wedded wife, to have and to hold, from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, until death do you part?”
“I do,” he answered with a depth and fullness in his voice, as he looked into the eyes of his pretty bride. She blushed, and cast a glance at the diamond-encrusted ring resting on her fourth finger.
The Bishop turned to her and repeated the same lines.
“I do,” she replied and the church came alive with a standing ovation.
“You may now kiss the bride,” the Bishop shouted above the thunderous applause. That was the sign they had been waiting for. Six of them got out of the mini bus and jogged
towards the east entrance of the cathedral.
They approached with axes in hand, chanting the Creed of the Hyenas in unison,
“…to do as told, to defend as needed, to fight, to die, to kill, to protect, whatever it may cost me, even the ultimate price, to defend the honour of the Hyenas worldwide.”
Sighting them, congregants seated close to the entrance sprang up in a frenzy and pandemonium ensued. Soon, the hysteria spread across the massive cathedral like a tidal wave. Horror had come to church.
He heard the familiar chant from afar. It was something from his past, from a dark corner of his life he never wanted to relive. He saw them as he turned towards the exit. They look like a Nollywood version of The Expendables: purple bandanas tied across prominent foreheads, taut biceps encased in snug black T-shirts. They look exactly the way he must have looked that Friday afternoon fourteen years ago.
Akeem became the Amir of the Muslim Students’ Society, Federal University of Lagos in the latter part of 2002. Smallish and whippet-thin with a brush of goatee on a narrow face, the Amir was respected by his ummah but fiercely avoided by the rest of the student populace because of his aggressive views on campus gangsterism. Sermon after sermon, he berated the evil and swore that given the chance he would do everything within his powers to rid the institution of the menace. That vehement commitment had compelled him into the student union, where he was eventually elected President of the Students’ Union Government; thanks to the massive support of his course mates in Mass Communication –the largest department on campus- and the Muslim student society.
It was then they began to call him Alfa Aluta. He couldn’t have asked for a better nickname.
Alfa Aluta went after known and suspected cultists with cut-throat ferocity. Many were arrested, some were dismissed from school while others faced legal prosecution and ended up behind bars. Many more were forced to publicly denounce their membership. In one semester, the university was purged. Fellow students cheered him on and the authorities applauded his quest. He became a hero.
But he had made enemies amongst the various fractured confraternities. Only one cult group mustered enough leverage to take him on. They called themselves the Hyenas.
The rumour mill had it that the Brotherhood of the Hyenas sought to avenge the ridicule their members had suffered at Alfa Aluta’s hands. From a different campus, they set up a strike force of six and went after the unionist. One Friday afternoon, as he left the mosque after juma’at, Alfa Aluta was shot dead. Two quick fire shots to the chest brought him down.
The riots that followed his murder were unprecedented in the University’s history. Property belonging to suspects were vandalized and or looted. Cars were set on fire. The halls thought to be housing the culprits were burnt down. Those believed to be girlfriends of the cultists were publicly assaulted. Anarchy was set loose.
To arrest the tension, the Vice Chancellor announced an indefinite closure of the
campus. And everyone went home.
Days later, it was announced that the 6 suspects had been rounded up across four different campuses and taken into police custody. Five of them died while in custody. Only one escaped. Word got around that he was escorted out of the country by a team of police officers. It turned out he was the only son of the State’s Commissioner of Police.
It didn’t take long for the Hyenas to gather that it was the boy who ratted them out. The Brotherhood declared him persona non grata amongst the rank and file of confraternities and a pledge was made to ensure the renegade paid for the breach of trust with his life.
The editor rubbed his eyes as the familiarity of the story hit home. Memories flooded him with astonishing clarity. He got up from the recliner and peered down the length of the swimming pool. There was no soul in sight. But he knew he was not alone. He could smell death, like the smell of a decaying rat in a stuffy room.
“Hi, Davo,” a voice came out of the gloom.
The editor froze and peered into the darkness. No one had called him Davo since he had been smuggled out of the country years ago. And no one had, since he returned some 8 months back.
“It’s been a while, brother,” the voice said. Six silhouettes stepped out of the shadows.
Five of them held small axes, while the sixth was armed with a sawed-off shotgun. David could barely make out the bandanas on their heads.
“Guys, please. Don’t do this. Please my brothers…”
The eerie slide of metal over metal stopped him as the one with the pump action readied his weapon. Ignoring his growing panic, they began to recite the Creed.
“…to do as told, to defend as needed, to fight, to die, to kill, to protect, whatever it may cost me…”
He had forgotten all about the finality of the Creed. In that instant, he broke into a run. The pump action went to work. The bullet carved a fist sized hole through his spin and slammed his fleeing form forward against the tiled floor.
The shooter stepped close to the fallen man. Ignoring the feverish twitches of his victim’s body, he pulled back the barrel, chambered the next cartridge and pumped another round of shots into the editor’s forehead, splattering his brains all over the floor.
Satisfied, they faded into the shadows. They had earned their legend.
The text message had just one word: DONE. Fourteen years of pain and vengeance had been finally put to rest.
Rasheedah rose from bed, and did ablution. She then threw her hijab around her head and rolled out her prayer mat. She would make prayers for the repose of her dear brother’s soul,the one they called Alfa Aluta, the one who first called her Ray.
“Inna Lillahiwainnailaihiraji’un,” she began. A dam of grief bursts giving way to streams of tears.
Bankole writes to live. Winner of the Christmas Nostalgia Contest (Naija Stories 2012); Finalist, Farafina New African Writing contest (2013); Gold Winner, Young Lagos Advertising Ideas Festival (young LAIF 2012); Winner, Miami Ad School Scholarship competition (2014); he currently works in Corporate Communications of a foremost Insurance Company. His short stories have been featured in a couple of anthologies including the ANA Review (2013), Of Tears and Kisses, a collection of short stories on Naija Stories (2012), A Basket of Tales, a Benue ANA publication (2015), amongst others.