Hey guys! New series “Two Lives and a Soul” by Ojay Aito now on African Stories. From the hilarious “Life of a Barrack Boy”, Ojay once again delivers a captivating yet fluid Nigeria story. “Two Lives and a Soul” is a story about…..let’s not let the cat out of the bag.. We hope you enjoy reading it as much as we did.
Two Lives and a Soul – Episode One
Tick-tock, tick-tock, I blinked twice as I stared at the table clock. Waiting. Waiting for it to come alive. Today, I just happened to be awake earlier than my alarm clock. Seated idly at my room desk, I traced the frame of the medieval time piece with my eyes. For the first time I imagined the scope of knowledge that had conceived the idea of creating a device that served two purposes. As the world grew older, innovations have led men to create devices that met more than one need. And after having read the Blue Ocean Strategy, it was easy for one to realize that such models have been long ingrained into the business world as well.
No, I’m neither into the whole hocus-pocus of the business world, nor into the scientific postulations of propagated theories. I’m just a twenty seven year old sales man, with a 1907 alarm clock as the only bequeathed property from my grandfather, a man I met before my brain could keep vivid memories. He died only a day to my christening. So my dad named me after him. His name was Eli.
As I held the tiny time device in the palm of my hand, my vision focused past the tiny fingers of the clock, unto the golden lining of its interior. But instead of seeing through the intricacies of the mechanism that make the tick-tock sound, as Hollywood would make us believe is possible, I saw something I had never seen in all the time I had this ‘priced’ possession. For the first time, I realized the golden lining had an inscription written inconspicuously along the circumference of the inner frame. Perhaps it was a farewell message that came from the design company.
My grandfather was a traveler, more like a pirate as I later grew to understand, so he had a few precious artifacts that had not a Naira’s worth in this day and on this side of the world.
It was just five minutes away from five o’clock when the tiny little knocker would come alive, hitting the two cones on its both sides; but before then I stood from my creaking flat wooden chair and moved towards the only source of light in the room with the metal device in my hands. I lifted it towards the dull white light, away from the thick shadows of the clothes by the wall. The inscription on the inside of the clock was guarded by the thick concave glass, which prevented me from tracing it with the tip my fingers. I thought about my grandfather for a sec. Johnny Depp in his thick pencil shadowed-eyes was the only well represented pirate I could imagine granddad looked like. Or was it the other way round?
As expected, the inscription wasn’t in English. Neither was it French, ‘cause I spoke both fluently. Didn’t look like Spanish or Portuguese either, thanks to the little exposure I got at Mary Hill, back in the day.
Was I the first to have noticed this? Well, I couldn’t think of anyone who had had it at this proximity for the past twenty two years. I tried again to read the statement. Although I never learnt about its history, I always thought of the alarm clock as a prize grandfather had won during his days of adventure. Except that right now, I thought of the possibility that it was, you know, a stolen piece, perhaps, not conspicuously missing from one of the Persian castles in the Middle East. Don’t blame me for that, blame the Pirates of the Caribbean for my weird imaginations.
I tried reading out the words which simply refused to make any sense still. It all of a sudden became a necessity that at least I tried to make some meaning to it, because I needed to be done with all of the distraction by the moment the alarm jolted on to life. That would be the start of my day, and to beat the traffic in a twenty first century Ambode Lagos, I couldn’t be at home by 5:30. Some of my colleagues at work insisted that if I only had to wake up by five in the morning, then I was one of the luckiest people in the city. Some of them had to leave their homes an hour before my wake up time. I sometimes wonder why they had to go home anyway. Anytime I thought about what they said, I profusely refused that my life should be anything worse than it already was. I believed there were those who had a choice of when to go to work, and I was sure they weren’t of a different human empirical nomenclature. Soon, someday, I would choose to wake by ten in the morning, and leave work say 11 that same morning, with my bank account looking like an international phone number. How about that for living in Lagos?
Aoys fun umendikayt ir gekumen, fun umendikayt ir vet tsurikkumen. I kept trying to pronounce the words as I moved away from the source of light, back towards the table. I dropped the time device on my rickety desk, as the seconds seemed to count down to my wake up time. I didn’t know why I just didn’t stop the alarm from going off, guess I was conditioned to hear it go off every day. As I moved away towards my mattress at the other corner of the room, I became conscious that the words I had read from the clock still clung to my tongue. At that point, I knew I had to shake it off vigorously. With the way my mind worked, my head could surprisingly keep nonsense information, and totally betray me when I had to remember vital data during the defense of a project at work. If I didn’t force it out, it could either become a song on my lips, or a cliché for greeting strangers on the street.
Umendikayt might just mean How do you do?
Tried as I may, the words still came off my lips one more time before the clock fingers finally struck five. The alarm came off hard and loud, like it beat right on my ear drums.
I moved towards the table clock and stuck my index finger between the tiny hammer and one of the bell cups. My finger vibrated somewhat, and I waited patiently for the time piece to stop its hammering but one minute after, the hammer still hit my finger at the same spot. I made a mental count of how long the alarm was suppose to last. With the speed of light, my mind spanned many years, even back to my days in boarding school. There was never a time it went this long. Two minutes, and it kept on with its vigorous hammering. And then the words came again. Before I knew it, I was speaking the unknown words out loud.
Aoys fun umendikayt ir gekumen, fun umendikayt ir vet tsurikkumen. Suddenly, I saw a dim shade of light haze out of the circumference of the clock’s frame. It shone brighter. And even brighter. And the vibration became harder, and even harder. The whole of my hand began to shake violently, till it spread through my entire body. I couldn’t pull out my finger from the device which now made the entire room glow with a fluorescent teal color. I screamed, but I wasn’t sure if my vocal cord was able to produce any sound, because I couldn’t hear a thing apart from the clock alarm which now seemed to beat from my chest.
The light from the table clock engulfed my whole body before I felt it finally disintegrate me into a million light particles.
I became aware of life again as I shook violently from my bed. I breathed heavily without opening my eyes, but I was glad that it was all a dream. It had to be a dream, however surreal it was, it was only a nightmare. I felt soaked in my sweat, the cotton bed sheet sticking to my back. There seemed to be so much light in my room, and I tried hard to recollect whether I went to sleep without turning out the light. Finally I slowly opened my ears, squinting a little to the brightness of the fluorescent light screwed to the ceiling of my room. Again, I was sure it seemed brighter than normal.
As I opened my eyes fully, I realized that people stood over by bed staring down at me on either side. I blinked a few times and opened my eyes wide. They were there. Strange people I have never met in my life. Four ladies and… a guy. All five of them were black save for the one who stood by my right arm. She was young, beautiful, and white, with deep blue eyes and a European nose. I looked from side to side without moving my head. I didn’t know anyone here. And I wanted to scream. The eldest of the ladies quickly put her hand on my left shoulder, and the softness of her palm immediately calmed me.
“Hello son,” she said with a smile.
Son? I thought about it. This wasn’t my mother. Her skin looked fairer like she hadn’t been under the sun for months, with fewer wrinkles than my mum’s. The tone of her voice sounded pleasant. Who were this people? And where was I? I wanted to ask, but the softness I felt from her touch was also in her voice.
Yes, I remember! I was supposed to be getting ready for work. But wasn’t that a dream? And where was I now? This wasn’t my room? And these people, who were they? Where am I? All five people that surrounded my bed had genuine smiles on their faces, and the beautiful white lady on my right side suddenly bent over and pressed a kiss on my cheek. It kinda hurt, but it felt good.
“Sam, I’m glad to have you back. Thought I lost you,” she said.
Sam? I am no Sam. My name is Eli, and who are you? Who are all these people? I wanted to sit up from the bed. I was late for work. But as I tried, the woman who called me son touched me again, and I simply let back my head onto a very soft pillow. A pillow? I didn’t have any pillow. I hate using pillows, but this was soft too. Very soft. My eyes slowly closed, and I said to myself. This is only another dream. A dreadful dream from a beautiful nightmare?
“Hey buggie,” the guy who was by the end of my bed called out to me. I looked up at him, and a strong force pulled me towards him. “Soon, you would be home, okay?” He had a smile that looked like mine. In fact, apart from his cornrows and the crucifix pendant on his chest, two things I didn’t possess, I would say he was my reflection.
Soon I would be home. But really, where was I? And who were these people?
About Ojay Aito
Ojay Aito is the writer of the popular Barrack Boy Series “Life of a Barrack Boy”. A Chemist, he has since vied into the literary world, writing for metro journals and working as a radio producer.
As he patiently awaits the publishing of his debut novel, he continues to chunk out numerous works of fiction mainly on his blog barrackboy.com and a few fiction sites within and outside the country.
Two Lives And A Soul is a story that breaks out of the boundary of contemporary Nigerian fiction and sets a different stage for readers who have no reservations for the yet unimaginable…
He tweets via @1Ojay on Twitter.