Mickey, the middle-aged black mouse pokes its head out of the tiny hole burrowed into the floor. Similar holes dot the four corners of this dingy room at the Kru Kru prison. Wary of the sole occupant of the room, it pushes forward, surreptitious and whiskers-alert. Only the staccato drop of water from the leaking roof can be heard as it joins the puddle near the centre of the room.
Until only three weeks ago, when the occupants were two, it was difficult, very difficult, to steal crumbs from them. That Monday morning, two prison officers, a man and a woman, marched to the entrance and called Pius, the older of the two inmates, out of the room. They slipped the handcuffs onto his hands and led him to the hangman’s noose. He never returned.
For a week now, the rat has made away with Agbako’s meal – a paltry loaf of bread and some watery, half-done beans. Agbako has refused to eat, but only stares in the dark. Every night, all he sees are strange things as Pius’ ghost visits him. In those apparitions, Pius never smiles…
After three years in prison, no one bothers to visit Agbako anymore. Even his wife, he heard, has run off with an Alhaji and left his children in custody of his widowed grandmother. The nightmares wouldn’t go, or even move an inch. Last Sunday, he was told he would finally be hanged today.
Today, Agbako lies quietly on the cold floor, staring at the wall. He has seen this inscription over and over again, but now it seems to catch his fancy in a different way. Scrawled on the dirty wall, smudges all around are different inscriptions: ‘Ewejoko wuz hia’, ‘They Murdered My Family. Imagine!!!’, ‘Justice is Dead!!!’, ‘Kill General Butcher Now!’, ‘The Military is a Mess!’, ‘Damn You All!!!’, ‘Nothing more to live for… This life is Krap!’, ‘God is NOT Fair!’. There are so many of such –vestiges of the many souls who have passed through this prison room. The stench of urine and faeces is a constant reminder of the saints and sinners who have passed through this hell.
These days, Agbako dreams of the life he could have lived. He was a man of means and great intellect, but he refused to support the tyrant’s rule. He donated millions of naira to the opposition party. When General Butcher was informed, during one of the nocturnal military meetings, he thundered, “Son ov a p-itch!!! Get me Colonel Killer rightz away!” Two months, Agbako was charged with illegal arms deal and conspiracy and he landed in prison. At 40, he certainly has not seen life in full.
Mickey is busy nibbling at the crumbs of bread when the footsteps from the near distance start to approach the cubicle. As the sound intensifies, the poor mouse cuts a mouthful and disappears into the tiny hole. Agbako does not blink. The jingling of the keys does not spur him to action as the warder unlocks the padlock. The warder moves close to shove him awake while another police officer stands with an AK-47 at the entrance. He smiles, “Mr. Agbako. You have some good news! You are free to go back home.” The solitary drop of water is the only response he gets.
Last night, General Butcher, the dictator, suddenly died of food poisoning. Last night, Agbako gave up and swallowed rat poison – to cheat the hangman’s noose. There, scribbled on the wall is his sign-off: “Agbako Was Here”.
Photo Credit: live.drjays.com
Gbenga Awomodu is an Editorial Assistant at Bainstone Ltd./BellaNaija.com. When he is not reading or writing, Gbenga is listening to good music or playing the piano. He believes in the inspirational power of words and pictures, which he explores in helping to make the world a better place. He blogs at Gbenga’s Notebook (www.gbengaawomodu.com).