By Dare Lasisi.
A yellow butterfly momentarily landed on my right hand while enjoying my dinner at the popular East End restaurant. It was a sign of a strange visitor in my vicinity. A bad but expected omen. I looked around and saw one tall dark-skinned man with an ‘extra-large’ head. He maliciously gazed at me as if to punch my face. I pretended as if I did not see him. I noticed he was a one-eyed man when he removed his sunglasses.
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It appeared I was in the state of critical hypnotism, I could imagine spirits escaping from his rotund forehead, radiating the aura of discomfort. Cold shiver suddenly travelled down my spine.
As if in a trance, the man removed an iPod gadget from his back pocket to listen to his favourite songs.
He smartly moved to dance away from my side. I instantly heaved a sigh of relief as if out of bondage. I rushed my food and traced him to a nearby supermarket. I saw him at the milk section and I tried to approach him, but I blinked as if smoke dulled my both eyes and before I could utter a word, he vanished into the thin air. I came out of the shop with a sense of defeat to meet another scantily clad angelic daughter of Eve. She was a mixed breed teenager from her look. She smiled at me as if we were childhood friends. As she opened her set of sparkling white teeth, I noticed a tiny pin at the centre of her tongue. She also tattooed a scorpion on her left breast. My instinct told me she was a ghost made of water, a mermaid in human skin. I could not muster the courage to ask her probing questions. She noticed I was really interested in making her, my new friend.
This lady quickly dropped a piece of paper on the floor as she was running to catch the train. I picked the paper up with excitement strolling down my heart. I read her barely legible handwriting of her contact address. It was a place in Edmonton Green and near the popular North London cemetery. I was thinking of tracing her the next day and not really worried about the aftermath effect.
As I walked down my lonely street, two brownish foxes crossed my path. I tried to scare them away with a big stone. These hungry beasts ran away and later reappeared as I inserted the key into my front door. I promptly moved back to avoid any attack and suddenly, they escaped from my sight. The foxes actually came for the garbage bins.
When I finally entered my bedroom, I was in a total state of confusion, unable to explain the scene to anybody. I was agonising in silence. I kept a sealed lip throughout the night. I could not sleep as I was so afraid of her expected torture in my dream. I watched my newly-bought plasma television until 2.30am to avoid being ferried away into the dreamland. My mind advised me to trace her given address in north London. But another mind cautioned me to let the sleeping dog lie. To sleep or to remain awake throughout the night? I was in a dilemma.
A few days after my encounter with this strange beautiful lady. I picked up my phone to call her number. She was so delighted to hear from me once again. We discussed briefly on the phone and later decided to meet again in north London.
On one fateful Wednesday. We met in front of the post office. She hugged me so tightly as if to crush my bones. She then held my right hand and took me to her apartment as we walked through a footpath littered with dog poo, broken bottles, and beer cans. I endured the stench emanating from the forest.
She was staying alone in a one-bedroom flat. From her breast pocket, she extracted a bunch of keys to open the front wooden door. I noticed a white cat in her living room. I was so fascinated with the unique designs of decorations hanging on her wall. She must have spent a fortune to acquire such exotic decorations. She asked for my choice of food and I politely requested for bread and tea only. The lady insisted that I must eat a solid meal. Then I agreed with her and asked for any solid food available.
From my observation, she was a good cook in the same class as my late sweet mother. She set the table and we started to eat semolina plus fresh fish stew but I noticed one imaginary hand eating with us. I could not ask her until this strange hand stole the fish head portion assigned to me to eat.
A few minutes later, I saw the vanished fish head in her mouth. She was chewing it with all her energy. I told her of my love for fish head right from my primary school days and we both laughed.
She told me she grew up in south-eastern Nigeria with her Nigerian mother while her English father from Kent divorced her mother when she was just a toddler. She later returned to England at the age of 23.She could speak some words in Igbo language but very fluent in broken English.
I was gobsmacked and could not continue my eating. I asked for the toilet. When I finally got inside the toilet near the front door. I vomited all the food with anger and flushed it. She heard the sound of the water.
The lady knocked at the toilet door to ask about my welfare.
“Are you alright at all? Any problem with you? Can I call the ambulance for you?” She said.
I gasped for breath as I tried to respond to her words with all my energy. I knew I was in a deep mess for visiting this mysterious lady.
“I am okay but my stomach just reacted to the semolina. No problem my dear sister.” I feigned my calmness.
When I returned to the living room. She offered me a glass of wine which I declined. I told her to get me orange juice or just a glass of clean water. She carried out my requests.
She tried to make eye contact with me and started to ask me several questions as if in a job interview.
“What really happened to you in the toilet? I knew you wasted and threw up all my food. Maybe my food is not delicious enough for you?”
I mustered the courage to speak out my mind as I was secretly planning how to escape from her temporary bondage in north London.
“I cannot say your food was tasteless. I just don’t like eating outside my house. I am okay now. Let us change the topic please.”
“Tell me the truth. Don’t be afraid to speak out your mind.” She pestered me further to say something.
To hide my feelings about the vanished fish head. I tried to crack some jokes with her.
“I really enjoyed the fish head but you also ate part of it without my consent. Even your whole body and spirit enjoyed the fish.”
“How do you mean? My spirit or what?” She asked me as if to slap me in the face.
As I was discussing with her. I was hearing strange voices from her bedroom. As if some people were speaking gibberish words. It sounded as if they were knocking their heads on the wooden walls.
When I asked her. She lied to me that she was only playing music in her bedroom and she cannot take me into her bedroom until she could trust me.
When the noise continued, I asked again and she blamed her Indian neighbour’s children. After all these sensitive questions and she could not give me reasonable answers. I maintained my sealed lip.
“Oh, lest I forget. I don’t even know your name. I told you my name as Ade when we first met in east London last time.”
“Okay, call me Stella or just Estee as my friends often call me. Don’t bother about my last name.”
She gazed at me with seductive eyes and it appeared an electric shock forcefully travelled through my veins. I tried my best to resist the temptation. My eyes started seeing her double images in different beautiful forms. Maybe her divided images were the confused state of my mind or just odd illusions.
She first appeared inside her kitchen and moment later, sitting next to me and started playing with my phone. I could not say anything. I was just looking like a day old baby. I called out her name as if in danger to come and rescue me.
“Estee! Where are you? I need to go back to my east London house.”
“I am here with you. Please open your third eye properly, Ade. You’ll see me clearly.” I could no longer endure Stella’s torment. Time to escape.
Stella noticed my terrified body language but we both pretended as if nothing happened. My phone rang and as I picked the call, her own phone also buzzed and she quickly disappeared into her bedroom to answer the call.
It was my flatmate who called me to ask about my location. I told him I was with a new friend in north London and I would tell him details at home.
I tiptoed next to the bedroom door to listen to the telephone conversation with her caller. Stella spoke some coded words which I was unable to decipher. She then continued in clear words.
“You know in my first world. I was admonished by the gods not to marry any tall man from my mother’s country of origin. I have one Nigerian man in my living room right now. It appears I am deeply in love with him. Should I reveal my true identity to him? Tell me the next steps now.”
The unknown caller responded to her: “Wait for the next three days and I would tell you what to do”
As I listened to those chilling words. I retraced my steps back to the living room in readiness to escape from Stella’s bondage. I did not know the true identity of her caller but I guessed it was somebody well known to her.
Stella came out of her bedroom to apologise for keeping me waiting in the living room for over an hour. I checked my wrist-watch and it was exactly 11.25 pm. I had just less than twenty minutes to catch the last train to east London.
“I am really sorry. It was an urgent call from my cousin living in Scotland.”
“I need to go now. So glad to visit you today.”
“Going to where?” Why not sleepover and go tomorrow morning?”
“Maybe next time. I must be at work latest by 7.30 am tomorrow.”
I knew Stella wanted me to sleep with her in the bedroom but one imaginary person momentarily whispered to my right ear to resist any temptation to sleep till the next day. My stressed body was ready to sleep but my heart instantly knocked out the plan without any reservation.
She decided to let me go and as I was about to exit his flat. I requested for a can of Coca-Cola drink.
“Can I have a chilled can of Coke from your fridge? I would like to drink it while inside the train.”
She handed two cold cans to me. I smartly kept them in the pocket of my winter jacket.
Stella gradually moved closer to grab me to her chest and passionately kissed me.
I could not resist the urge to kiss her with all my mouth. The kiss lasted for a few minutes.
“See you next week, Stella. Thanks for everything.” I waved my final goodbye to her.
I could read the disappointment on her face as I departed from the flat.
I ran to the nearest train station in order not to miss the last train to east London. I suddenly hit my left foot at a stone but the impact was not too painful for me. I continued with my journey to the station.
I was extremely lucky to reach the platform when the last train was about to move. I quickly jumped inside the train. I drank one can inside the train because I was so thirsty. It was so refreshing for my throat.
I got to my flat at exactly 12.24 am. I looked around for marauding foxes before opening my front door. I gently opened my fridge to warm my leftover fried rice in the microwave oven. I ate my dinner and quickly jumped to bed to sleep. I was just too tired to take my regular night bath.
Stella appeared in my dream. I found myself holding hands with her in an open field on one sunny afternoon. We both strolled down to the edge of the field to discover a river. We saw some fishermen on canoes while some teenagers were also swimming on the other side of the river.
“Can you swim?” She asked me.
“I cannot swim. I wish to learn how to swim like a fish one day?” I responded.
“I cannot teach you today but I love to swim right now.”
“You must be joking! We are not here to swim! We are for heart-to-heart discussion as young lovers.”
“Please, let me just feel the water for a few minutes. Let me swim! Water is a therapy for my body.”
“If that’s your choice, then go ahead. I wish you the best of luck inside the river.”
“Excuse me! Let me go to that corner to quickly change to my swimming suits.”
She emerged a few minutes later, fully dressed in bikinis, to hand over her clothes to me.
As if remotely controlled by unseen spirits, Stella dived into the river before my very eyes and moment later, I saw her struggling to float. That was my first time seeing her swimming. It was like a suicide mission.
I was tempted to rescue her as a non-swimmer but I promptly restricted myself. I alerted the fishermen and regular swimmers in the area to save her from drowning.
It was rather too late. Stella had sunk deeper into the belly of the river. I started to weep like a baby. I screamed her name many times as if to call her back to life.
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My alarm rang to interrupt the nightmare. It was a big relief when I woke up. I checked my wall clock, it was exactly 6.10 a.m. I felt SO bad. I could not understand the dream of seeing Stella drowning in the river while all efforts to save her proved abortive. I went to the bathroom for my shower to prepare for work. I put on my brown suit for work. I ate my favourite breakfast cereals.
I decided I would call Stella from work in central London to tell her about this riverside nightmare.
During my lunch hour, I called her mobile phone many times. No response! I sent text messages. No response. I knew something was definitely wrong somewhere. That was quite unusual for Stella to ignore all my calls and text messages.
When I finished work at around 5.30 pm, I decided to check Stella at home since she was not responding to all my phone calls and text messages. I got to her doorstep in north London at about 6.54 pm. I knocked at her front door many times. No response. I called her phone once again, my call instantly went to a voicemail because her phone was switched off.
I stood in front of her flat as if stranded for more than one hour and one old white lady whom I suspected to be her neighbour came down to break the sad news to me.
“I am sure you’re looking for Stella?”
“Yes! I called her phone many times today but no response!”
“I am sorry, I have tragic news for you. Stella committed suicide early this morning. She left no suicide note but some anti-depressant tablets were found inside her bedroom. Police and ambulance came for her corpse today.”
Tears quickly navigated down my cheeks. I could not control myself anymore. As if the whole world collapsed on my forehead. But why Stella? Did she die of an overdose of anti-depressant drugs?
“Suicide or what? This is just a bad dream! Please, wake me up! Why must you die now, Stella?”
This neighbour left me alone to mourn Stella. I returned to my flat with a broken heart to weep all night for the tragic transition of my dear friend aged 23. I remembered my last night’s dream when Stella drowned in the river as fishermen struggled to save her. Was she saying her final goodbye to me in that dream? I was unable to crack these nightmare codes.
Our friendship lasted for less than three months. I was denied the golden opportunity of laying a wreath on her tombstone. I later gathered that her body was cremated and ashes scattered on River Thames. No funeral service for her.
The mystery of Stella’s death is neatly wrapped in the womb of tomorrow. No funeral service for her. Stella unceremoniously returned to the Supreme Commander of the whole Universe.
Peace, peace and perfect peace for Stella, the haunted lady. You’re forever alive in my heart.