TO SAVE A SOUL: (4)- BY MURTALA ASSAYOUTI

I do not know how long I was without conscious, wavering between obscurity and light but he nurses told me I was gone for several hours before and after I reached the hospital. They said I had first come conscious in the wee hours of the morning of the second day, moaning and groaning some incoherent nonsense about a man who ran away with another man’s wife. It was two days later that people started coming said nurse grace. The first person was a pretty lady whose crying had disturbed the typhoid patient on the bed next to mine. She had come with another woman who looked scornfully on. Nurse Grace said she had had to be dragged out of the%20room when her cries refused to stop. Others come after, both male and female, people who cared and wanted to make sure all was well with me and others according to the talkative nurse, who did justice of informing me of most of what I missed while unconscious, just wanted to know what was going on. ‘Amebos” she called them. I was not fully sentient then. They said it was a miracle that I survived, a miracle that none of my wounds were terminal, that in time I would be like I was before it ever happened, a miracle because it would have taken less to have me lying in a morgue. I was very lucky they said. In my snips of wavering consciousness I could at times make out the people in the room but it was so very hard to place these faces or fathom out their essence in my life. They were to me a crowd of unknown entities. Only one figure stood out strongly in my drowsy mind and my subconscious declined to erase it from memory for it bore a strong and sinister presence, torturing my mind always until I fell into thoughtlessness. A small hospital room. Two beds. Seyi sat on one looking remorseful. There were others in the room. A lady. Who was she? A girl, too. She was pretty. The room looked very familiar. As the people. Words from my mouth. Asking Seyi how he was. The lady was answering, there was a cold air to her … Someone talking, whispering hallow sounds. From a good cause …” “The girl by his side was sobbing. I was saying sympathetically, “You’re going to be alright, I’m sure. You have a strong spirit and you are a good person.” I went over and held his hand, I smiled. “ … you can’t give up now. There is so much to live for. So much …” When and where had I said that? That hospital room … my friend, Seyi, was there. He had acute malaria. I had gone to visit. I met her there. Folake now, outside in the corridor, tears in her eyes. “He has sickle cell anemia; doctors don’t know how long he will last. I’m scared for him.” My words reassuring, comforting. “He will be fine, I am sure. He will be alright. God will make everything okay” That was the first time. It was late on reaching Oluronsogo that Saturday night. Folake was already shaking, the fear of encountering her mother sending shivers up her spine. “She will understand,” I tried to placate her. ‘It was not your fault, nor was it mine. She will understand.” I was holding%20her hand so I gently pulled her closer to me, trying to comfort her. “I know, but Mommy will not be out this late, and never with a man. I do not know what I’m going to tell her. I feel so ashamed …’ She squeezed my hand, turning to face me. “It doesn’t matter, foes it? After all, I’ll still have you.” My heart always throbbed faster when she talked like that and my mind would leave me ascending in the euphoria of fantastical emotions. There was too much love in her words, so much genuine emotion. I stopped and pulled her towards me, her shoes sweeping the dust from the road onto my sandals. I hugged her, whispering in her ears “For me there can never be another.” From the shadows of the house I could make out small figure with brilliant eyes, wide and innocent staring intently at us. That was the last time. I woke up suddenly, startled t consciousness by a weird and wonderful feeling. The room was dark, apart from little light emitting from a candlestick at the far corner. I slowly raised my head, wincing from the excoriating pain that pierced through my body and almost sent me crashing back into darkness. I remained still for some minutes, heaving gently, waiting quietly for the pain to diminish. After a while I slowly eased myself up on my elbow and took around the room. It was a small room, barely large enough to hold the three hospital beds in it. There was a large window on the side of the shorter plane of the rectangular shaped space to the right of the bed. I could make out the mosquito net beyond the opened glass louvers. The gentle night breeze flowed graciously into the room and even though I was irked by the absence of electricity, I was grateful for the air that cooled my sweating form. There was no one else in the room. The two other beds in the room%20had always seemed to be eerie loneliness suddenly took over me. Where was everybody? The room had always seemed to be filled. The beds had never been empty in my earlier snips of consciousness and there had always been a nurse or doctor by the bedside. What had happened this night? Had everyone gone and left me? “Hello …” I said timidly. “Is there anyone here?” Only silence answered me. I tried to raise myself fully up but the effort was too much for my spent body. I lay back, allowing my system to adapt to the wrenching pain and fatigue before attempting again to lift myself into a sitting position. There was a slight noise to my right, like lift footsteps, but when I turned as quickly as my aching head could move there was nothing. The door was to the left of the room some distance from the foot of my bed and if anyone had come in, it could only be from there. Then what was it that I had heard? I tried to raise myself again, succeeding to rest my body on both elbows as I surveyed the room. There was certainly no one in the room. “Hello! Is anyone there?” I shouted as loud as my feeble voice could carry. Only silence answered me again as I groped painfully to a sitting position.%20It was then that I saw the bandages on my body and the white cast on my left leg. There were various degrees of painful sensations from different parts of my body and I raised my bandaged arm to feel the surface of my face where the pain was most agonizing. I winced as I touched the dressing on my visage. The thought of a horribly distorted face clogged my mind; an aberration of monstrosity doomed to face the mockery of the world. It didn’t go well but I consoled myself that it wasn’t worse than losing an arm or a leg or outright death. Or was it? Whatever, I thought as I clumsily tried to lift myself from the bed.%20Then I heard it again, the soft paddling of sole on floor. This time I could almost swear they were someone’s footsteps. I turned quickly, instinctively. Who was there? At the far left corner of the room was a half-empty dustbin: there was nothing else. Apprehension gripped me. “Who’s there” I called out feebly as I stared into the candle-lit shadows. There was obviously no one. I turned back to the door. “Nurse!” I shouted as loud as my aching lips could muster. “Hello! Is there anybody there?” To be continued.

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