By Peter Oz.,
“Hey, don’t sit there, you won’t be comfortable!”
I turned and beheld the stunning face I have seen several times. It was Debby, the most beautiful girl in our campus. Her pristine voice was unmistakable clear in the cacophonous humdrum of the bus park, her set of pearly white teeth glistened in the morning sun. I approached the back of the bus where she was nestled, gingerly counting my steps. She was now grinning, which heightened the creases her dimples made in both cheeks, they were so big they could comfortably hide a coin.
“Why do you say so?” I coyly stammered, my face instantly flushing red.
“It has doesn’t have enough leg room” she replied, pointing at the seat. “And for someone your height, it would be extremely uncomfortable”. She was obviously right, the seat was crammed up that my knees were going to stick out underneath if I sat there.
“Thanks for the heads up” I muttered, sitting down besides her feeling so self-conscious.
“You’re welcome” she breezily replied, turning to continue with what she was doing with her phone.
Being this close to her for the first time, I couldn’t help but notice her well-manicured hands which girlishly clasped her IPhone device. Her braided hair was neatly arranged in corn rows, with traditional beads laced in between them like white boats in a sea of thick black hair. She smelled of lavender.
Someone just texted her on Whatsapp, probably her boyfriend I imagined, feeling jealous. I had always disliked the guy, always feeling pompous and too big, eager to put down people at the slightest chance he gets. He was one of the bad eggs in campus, although I still don’t know why Debby likes him so much. “Lucky bastard” I muttered under my breath, reaching out to grab a book to plug the silence as we waited for the bus to fill up, occasionally stealing a peek at her.
After a while, summoning up courage I decided to talk to Debby even if it kills me.
“We are in the same school” I said, lightly tapping her shoulders. She turned, removing the ear piece from her ears.
“Yea I think I have seen you around campus a few times” she replied, flashing those set of killer white teeth “Which course do u study?”
“Philosophy” I answered, immediately thinking of another line to continue the flow of the conversation but my mind went blank. After struggling to come up with something, with beads of sweat having formed at my brows, I gave up the fight, turned and opened another chapter in the book. By then the bus was almost filled up.
I woke up to sounds of insults and arguments between the bus conductor and a passenger, they were haggling indecently over the transport fare. I had inadvertently fallen asleep while reading. Realising myself I immediately checked and discovered saliva stains on some pages of the book and on my shirt, which I hastily cleaned up, then muttering a silent prayer I turned, but behold, there was Debby looking at me, a sly smile tugging at the corners of her cheeks, I felt so embarrassed at that moment I would have welcomed the Rapture with open arms. Fortunately the passenger had settled with the conductor and was making her way to the back seat where we sat.
“Good morning Aunty” I greeted her, shifting sideways.
“Good morning my son” she warmly replied, sitting down. She was of considerable weight for the seat creaked loudly, sinking down a few centimetres. She had taken up most of the space left for the fourth commuter. Around 11.56 AM, already full and ready, our bus left Anara on the arduous journey to Obite.
There were indeed first signs of trouble. We had barely travelled for thirty minutes when the driver called out from the front seat
“Abeg make we all come down, e be like say the motoh get small problem o.”
“God punish you there, you must give me back my money!” The lady beside me bellowed immediately, visibly angry at the turn of events. Other passengers soon joined in hurling obscenities at the driver.
“I have an appointment by 1.00 PM and I can’t miss it, you better call your people to send another bus” shouted a balding man at the second row. He wore a grey ill-fitted suit and red tie, he was probably in his late thirties.
The driver paid no attention to the insults and complaints, quietly alighting, he proceeded to open the bonnet. Some passengers went to help out, offering unsolicited advice. Most of the other passengers had drifted to a nearby shade, some were easing themselves amongst the thick bushes that lined up the express way.
“Make we dey go.” The driver finally called out after what seemed like ages, closing the bonnet as he went to the booth of the car to drop his tools. He then took out a sachet water from the pigeon hole and washed off the grease on his hands. Slowly we clambered inside the bus again, maintaining our former sitting positions. The car revved after few trials and we continued on our journey.
We had scarcely settled down in our seats when a young woman who sat in front of Debby invited all to join her in prayers.
“Praise the lord!” she vociferously proclaimed, her voice serenading the entire bus. For a small woman, she had a really loud voice.
“Alleluia!” we all answered, I could clearly make out Debby’s voice, it was simply angelic. We sang praises for close to fifteen minutes after which I lost interest. Feeling sleepy and tired I snuck deeper into my seat, turning to face the window.
The prayer warrior was now speaking in tongues as I drifted off to sleep, this time conscious not to embarrass myself, again.
Somewhere in the deep muskiness of unconsciousness, I heard the steady ringing of something I couldn’t quite make out. Grrrr! Grrrr! Grrrr! The same sound over and over. It sounded so close. Opening my eyes slowly and with much difficulty, I tried in vain to recall where I was but my mind felt blank and dizzy, it was as if everything was upside down. I managed to open one eye, then suddenly it all came rushing in, then I realised that indeed everything was upside down. The bus had collided with a truck somersaulting twice before plunging inside a ravine, its tires were still rolling violently in the sky like a sun dial.
“Someone help!” I screamed, inhaling the acrid fumes from the burning engine which had filled the interior of the bus.
I tried to move, but immediately felt a stinging pain in my spine, it was the most horrible pain I have ever felt. I looked down and saw that my legs were jammed, stuck underneath the seat in front of me. Slowly as I looked about inside the bus, the horror picture unfolded in front of me; the driver and the two front passengers lay lifeless, meshed in between the crushed front part of the bus, their body parts strewn all over the front seats. Most of the passengers had been thrown out of the bus during its deathly descent, for I could faintly make out cries and screams from people, a few distance from where the bus was, wrecked beyond recognition.
Looking out through the shattered bus window i saw the lifeless body of a lady on the bloodied grass, with one of her legs twisted grotesquely behind her. Upon closer look I discovered it was aunty Jide, the woman who sat beside me in the bus. Unable to hold back the tears any longer, I wept profusely despite my own condition. “I am going to see my fiance’s parents” she had earlier told me before i slept off.
The smoke from the engine had now filled the entire bus, and it was getting thicker by the minute making breathing difficult. Although I found it hard to see clearly in the thick fumes, I could still make out some of the passengers lying in various postures as I scanned the remains of the wrecked bus, most of them were already dead. Suddenly, the ringing began again. Grrrr! Grrrr! Grrrr! it rang, sounding so close this time around, it was obviously a mobile phone. It rang for some time and then stopped, only to begin again after some seconds. Tracing the sound with my ears, I finally saw the phone lying on the blood strewn floor of the bus, the logo was beaming a white light, it was clearly an IPhone. My heart sank to it’s depths when I saw her.
Debby was in a terrible condition, virtually blinded by blood. The glass window had jammed into her face, ripping it open from lip to forehead. Her gums were torn out, her cheeks pulverised. Her shoulder appeared dislocated. She was pinned against the crushed door, breathing laboriously.
“Debby, Debby!” I called, amidst tears. She just lay there twisting in pain. Suddenly her whole body started convulsing, shaking violently. “Jesus, Debby, Someone please help!” I screamed as I felt the life going out of her. After few seconds she became still, rigid and quiet. She was dead. I felt so helpless, stuck there unable to do anything. After few seconds i passed out.
The shrill sound of metallic banging shook me from my torpid state. Two hefty men were now hacking at parts of the bus with metallic objects, trying to force their way inside. They were obviously kind-hearted rescuers who had stopped to help out. After much effort they managed to pull my legs from under the seat, but not without my having lost much blood, due to the deep wound from where the iron had cut into my flesh. I tried moving them but they were unresponsive.
“Can you walk?” one of them asked me. I simply shook my head. He then carried me out in his arms, careful not to touch the injured part. The other man had covered Debby’s face with a cloth.
We managed to squeeze through the tight opening the men had made, then i noticed there were still more bodies littering the bush path. Restraining the tears, I took a parting look, for the last time, at the remains of the bus, its company name was still visible in the twilight; IJEOMA it read in bold blue colours. More cars had stopped, as more people were now rushing down the ravine in searching of survivors.
Slowly as we made our way up towards the highway, and feeling so tired and exhausted, I finally closed my eyes, gently rushing into darkness’ warm embrace.
Peter Oz., has been fervent with us and does a very fine emotional joggling with his creative pieces. Take a look at the story adaptations How to kill a baby and Who killed Judas? Enjoyed Hell’s gate? Like and follow us, share with friends, it’s amazing and worth the time. Find Peter in our community and learn what he thinks about his writing.