Sunny stared at the sun. It was a bright day. The gods were apparently in a good mood, or this was just a front for a brewing storm. Twig park teemed with life and activity: grasshoppers flitted amongst the litter of twigs the park was famous for, summer’s touch lined the sides of the path way that connected its two gates, encasing the center statue of the founder in a light purple ring, and birdsong of all kind poured from the trees that lined the rectangular perimeter of the park.
He sat in the only free seat available; couples in various stages of PDA, filled the three benches to his left, and on the opposite side of the pathway, the four benches parallel to his row served as dining spots for office workers on lunch break. To his right stood the wall that separated the park from a hundred-acre deserted mansion.
According to the residents, the house had been abandoned long before his move to Dila a year ago. It was the object of a ten-year legal battle between the town’s government and an obscure tech billionaire, and it was a hazard. Its overgrown gardens were overrun by mosquitoes, monkeys and snakes that leisurely waltzed into the park through the defective wall.
His eyes began to sting, yet he persisted; the pain was a thrill, it was a habit he picked up to distract to himself from the horrors of a life he now ran from. Eventually, he shut his eyes, and as he wiped them, he noticed a presence next to him; the park bench that he solely occupied now had company.
“How come I didn’t notice her?” Sunny thought. She was dark, with thin black braids packed in a huge bun. Her gold hoop earrings, complemented her gold rimmed glasses, and with the exception of the coffee brown boots she wore, her navy-blue cardigan covered her tiny frame. She was reading a novel, and seemed to be halfway through.
Not being one for small talk, he shot the question: “who are you?” No response.
Stifling a growing irritation, he asked again: “Madam, who are you?”
“What’s your business?” came the reply. Her voice was thin and light; it made her response, even more annoying, and he shot: “well, you’re in my space, I was here trying to chill out, and your presence is disturbing my chill.” She looked up from her novel and gave him a cheeky stare. “You came to chill in this sun?” she asked, a small smile playing on her lips. “I like sunlight” he replied, “and besides, if chilling in the sun is such a strange thing, why are you here?”
Her smile disappeared and, in a rush, she said: “I don’t have a choice. It’s my lunch break, and I’m trying to finish this book. My office is too noisy, and seeing as it’s rush hour, all the restaurants are full; I can’t concentrate with all that noise; this is the only quite place around, and this bench is the only free space. So, if you don’t mind, I’d like to read my book in peace; thank you.”
Sunny stared at her dazed, he didn’t hear a word of what she said, the ring of her voice had his mind whirling. Her eyes, big, round and teeming with exasperation, left him breathless. The slight part between her lips sped his heart rate. “Okay” was all he could say. Taking a deep breath, he asked “What’s your name”, “Teni” she replied.
“Nice to meet you Teni, I’m Sunmola, but my friends call me Sunny”
“Nice to meet you Sunny. Now, can I read my book?”
“Sure” He whispered. He looked up again, this time directly at the sun; forcing his eyes to stay open, he tried to forget about her eyes, how innocent they looked, he tried to focus on the pain, the sweet pain, the only constant life had to offer, the only company he’d ever known. He was so absorbed in his struggle that he didn’t notice the slight buzzing sound coming from the bushes behind.
“Is everything okay?” He turned to see Teni giving him a curious stare, “why are you looking at the sun?” she continued. “It’s a habit I picked up when I was a kid. I made a bet with my elder brother that I could beat the sun in a staring contest, so every day, I’d stare at the sun for as long as I could. I was too stupid to know it was impossible. I realized eventually, after I had to see the optician, but the habit stuck” He replied, hoping his made-up story sounded believable.
“You’re weird. By the way, is it me, or does it sound like there are bees at war over there?” she asked, pointing behind.
He was about to ask what she meant when the buzz registered in his head, his heart skipped a beat, and his stomach constricted. “Hey, Mr. Weirdo” Teni said, “did you hear my question?”. “Those aren’t bees” he snapped, and added “we need to get out of here, now.”
“Whooaaaaa slow down bro, what’s got you so panicked all of a sudden?” Teni asked, “if the sound isn’t bees, then what is it?” “you don’t want to find out, now move” Sunny said.
“Wait, what do you-” Teni was cut off by the sound of drums. “Oh shit” Sunny gasped; turning to Teni, he said: “we really need to go, come on”
A black mist crept out of the bush clump, and moved towards them. She closed her book, and as they got up, he noticed that every other person in the park was unconscious. “What’s going on here? Why are they all passed out?” Teni asked, “Look, Teni, there’s no time, I promise, I’ll explain later, just keep moving.”
They had gotten to the entrance at the far side of the park when a loud voice boomed: “WELL, IF IT ISN’T THE SUN HIMSELF; LEAVING SO SOON?” At this, Sunny grabbed Teni, whispered: “run,” and burst into a sprint. They covered about ten yards, before an unseen force brought them to their knees. Teni started to breathe heavily, and asked in a panicked voice: “Sunny, what’s happening? Why does my body feel so heavy?” “they’re here” Sunny replied. “Who’s them?” she shrieked.
“WHY, HE’S TALKING ABOUT US, HIS FAMILY” a humanoid shaped plume made of the mist materialized in front of them, and then solidified into a bald rail thin man. His eyes had no pupils nor irises, and were pitch black, his wide smile, revealed teeth like a shark’s and his nose was long, pointy and crooked at the bridge, evidence of an earlier fracture. “Sunny my boy, it’s so good to see you, we’ve been looking for you for a while now” the thin man started, and then in a loud voice asked: “HAVEN’T WE BOYS?” screeching sounds, like that of an ape troop emanated from the dark mist that had now caught up to and surrounded them.
“Sunny” Teni asked, voice shaking, “What is he talking about? Who are you? What’s happening?”. Ignoring her, Sunny shot at the bald man “you aren’t my family, you’re a bunch of murderers, you killed my real family, and tried to turn me into one of you.” “Ahh, come off it Sunmola, think of the alternative; would you be here, freely expressing yourself, if I, Razid the merciful hadn’t spared your life?” the bald man retorted. “Wait, Razid?” Teni blurted, and continued “Razid the witch doctor, who has slaughtered four thousand people over the past fifteen years, under claims that he’s trying to summon his god?”. “My, my, I see I have a reputation” Razid remarked, turning to Sunny, he asked: “Sunmola, is this your woman? You always liked them small, didn’t you?”
Teni, began to sob, and started to whisper “Oh my God, oh my God, oh my GOD.” The temperature had dropped to the kind of cold you feel after being caught in the rain, the sky had turned grey, everything was quiet, and every object seemed to have a grey tint to it. Staring at Razid, Sunny said: “Leave her out of this, I don’t know her, I just met her today.” “Ah, but Sunmola” Razid said, “have you forgotten our link? I can see what’s in your head. You’ve been able to block it, but you can’t completely sever it. She might not be your girlfriend, but you like her.” Turning to Teni, he said “You my dear, have achieved a remarkable feat. You’ve managed to make a cold, masochistic heart treasure something other than pain, which makes you the perfect candidate for today’s task”
“NO” Sunny screamed. “LEAVE HER ALONE” He shrieked. His vision began to redden, and his anger, stirred a part of him he had long put to rest. “Ah, that’s it” Razid said through a smile “revive the Sunmola I raised, the monster I created” he smirked. Sunny attempted a leap, but Razid’s spell held him fast. He stared desperately at Teni, who had stopped sobbing and had a dazed look in her eye. Razid who was now standing behind her, had one hand on her forehead, and the index finger of the other pointed at her throat. Smile gone, Razid said as he stared at Sunny: “don’t bother, you can’t break the spell. You should never have left. Did you think I’d be unable to find you? Don’t you know that you carry destruction within you? All you can give is sorrow, and unfortunately this young girl here, is the latest on your list of victims.”
“Please,” Sunny pleaded, “let her go” he begged. “I’ll do anything you want, I’ll go back with you, please, just let her go.” “The time for obedience has passed Sunny” Razid replied, and added: “now it’s time for the sacrifice.” At that, Razid tilted Teni’s head backward, and swiftly pulled his finger away from Teni’s neck, and a stream of blood, followed. She fell forward, head turned towards Sunny, her big, round eyes, wide open, staring at him, a look of confusion on her face, lips slightly parted, blood pooling around her. Razid, stretched his arms to either side, closed his eyes and began a chant.
And Sunny stared, he stared at those eyes, those beautiful eyes that had sent his mind into a frenzy, he stared at her lips, he would never hear her voice ring again, he looked at her face, a confused innocence, and then, clinging on to sanity, he began to chant, began to weave an old spell, the last one Razid taught him. It was only to be used, as a last resort, when all else had failed. He hadn’t wanted to feel the things she made him feel, all he wanted was to be left in his pain, but then he met her, and immediately, she was taken. Razid would pay; it would cost Sunny his life, to make it happen, but the price was worth the gain. Uttering the last words, his vision turned dark, and he faded into unconsciousness.
Razid, was midway through his chant, when he noticed a blood red mist surround Sunny. “The bastard” he thought, “so he seeks to deny me this sacrifice? Well he can have his way, he can keep her corpse.” Stopping his chant, he said “It’s time to go boys.” The dark mist coagulated into a spinning ball and dissipated. As he uttered the chants for dematerialization, he felt a tug on his ankle. He looked down to see a chain of red mist, flowing from Sunny’s body, wrapped around his ankle. “The real bastard” he remarked, “so he made some upgrades?” Razid thought. “Ah, well, that’s why he was my best student.” Closing his eyes, he began to whisper “Asasabonsam my god, it would seem that my journey ends here today. I was not able to fulfil your wishes, but I know that someone else will rise to take over. Whoever he is, let his fists be iron, and let his desire be the fire that burns this world of infidels to ash. Your will be done.”
That evening, Twig park was filled with noise from sirens, and had been placed under quarantine. All the grass, and trees had withered, the wooden chairs were shapeless brown lumps, and then the bodies looked like someone had melted the skin off of them, sixteen of them. Only one thing was recognizable in the park, the body of a young girl, she wore a navy-blue cardigan, and good hoop earrings. Gold rimmed glasses lay a few inches away from her face, her hair which had been weaved into many thin braids was splayed around her, and a pool of blood had dried under her. Her injury was curious, it was as if someone punched a hole in her neck. But her presence only added to the confusion.
Police had questioned everyone who lived or worked in that area, but they were no closer to figuring out what had happened. The accounts went thus: the weather suddenly changed, as if it was harmattan all of a sudden. People in the building opposite the park said, they saw a sudden explosion of red smoke, that dissipated the moment it appeared.
Those accounts didn’t make sense. What did red smoke mean? What did the weather have to do with the gruesome murder of sixteen human beings? The world was a crazy place, life was fond of dropping random mysteries, and this was one of them.