TooSweet Story Vibez: 𝗪𝗔𝗥𝗡𝗜𝗡𝗚: 𝟭𝟴+ (𝗙𝗼𝗿 𝗴𝗿𝗮𝗽𝗵𝗶𝗰 𝗱𝗲𝘀𝗰𝗿𝗶𝗽𝘁𝗶𝗼𝗻𝘀 𝗼𝗳 𝘀𝗲𝘅, 𝗮𝗻𝗱 𝗹𝗮𝗻𝗴𝘂𝗮𝗴𝗲)
A dead girl’s naked body was washed ashore on Ibeno Beach two weeks ago. In Akwa Ibom. The fishermen who discovered this, said that they heard a strange sound coming from her body, from deep inside her stomach. A crackling 𝘴𝘴𝘴𝘩𝘩𝘴𝘴𝘴𝘩𝘩𝘴𝘴𝘴𝘩𝘩 sound.
The girl’s body was bloated, and green. When it was cut open for an autopsy, the source of the strange noise was taken out.
A radio. Someone had made the girl to swallow a cheap radio the size of a pocket dictionary.
I never really knew her name was Peace Etim Nkanga, until she transferred money to my account.
But I knew her on Facebook as Gloria Michaels.
She started reading my stories from YorochiTV, then she DMʼed me and said her mother was from my local government, Ikono, but the woman and her second child (Gloria’s little sister) lived in Ibeno.
Gloria Michaels said she lived in FESTAC, Lagos, with her auntyʼs family.
Gloria disturbed me sha.
She would call me relentlessly, sometimes for no reason at all. She would talk about her slow, sunny day. Or one of my new story posts. She told me she was scared after reading the one about a mysterious Calabar woman.
She was a fun girl, Gloria Michaels. Very hilarious.
But she was also suffering from a deep and acute loneliness.
She was lonely in a city of twenty million people.
Late April, she sent me a final message. From a borrowed phone. Apparently, her aunty had seized her own phone after an ugly incident.
Gloria told me, “I want to go home, Sima. I’m very tired and sad.”
I didn’t know what to say to her.
Gloria deactivated her account.
Life went on, this life of masks and sanitizers and isolating fear, paralysing fear. This new life we were all learning to adapt to.
I wouldn’t hear from Gloria Michaels again until early June. She called me with a strange number, and it took me almost a minute to recognise her voice, to pull memories of it from a dusty box.
When she told me, “This is Gloria nau. Gloria Michaels.”
I screamed enh. I had really missed her.
We started talking, and it did not take me long to notice that something was different about Gloria. Something in the way she spoke, in her calm tone. Even the background seemed less…noisy? No generators, no traffic, no stray voices.
Gloria told me that she was no longer living with her aunty. She said that one day, a certain Madam offered her a job, a good-paying job. So, she ran out of her aunty’s three-bedroom flat and never looked back.
“Where are you staying now?” I asked her.
𝘓𝘦𝘬𝘬𝘪, she said. In a costly flat with six other girls.
I heard it then. Something had grown over Gloria’s voice, thickened it, solidified it. It was a weight of experiences. I could hear a different Lagos in her voice, a more assured Lagos.
When I told Gloria that my mother was sick and needed money for surgery, she immediately asked for my account details and did the transaction in the second screenshot.
I was stunned.
Just like that?
“Please manage for now. I don’t have much now. I just sent like 400k back home and my balance is really low. Maybe I’ll try and send more—”
I had to cut her off with thanks, effusive gratitude. I was overwhelmed with joy, confusion, and disbelief.
The 20-year old girl who barely had 5k to her name months ago?
Gloria said it was nothing, really. She only wished she could do more. I took #20,000 for myself and paid the rest into my mother’s UBA account. I remember going to De Choice in Uyo that day and giving my debit card over. I bought meatpies because I wanted to. I bought so many meatpies.
I was now curious.
So, I asked Gloria, as delicately as I could.
And because I asked, just because I asked, Gloria Michaels is no longer alive.
Gloria didn’t want to tell me at first; she bluntly refused.
But then I was silent about it, and if you give people the silence that is deeper than a grave, they would inevitably fill it up with words, with handfuls of dirt.
And Gloria had dirt.
“I will delete every message I send to you as soon as you read them. You can read fast, right?”
I said yes.
𝘚𝘰𝘮𝘦𝘣𝘰𝘥𝘺 𝘧𝘰𝘳𝘤𝘦𝘥 𝘎𝘭𝘰𝘳𝘪𝘢 𝘔𝘪𝘤𝘩𝘢𝘦𝘭𝘴 𝘵𝘰 𝘴𝘸𝘢𝘭𝘭𝘰𝘸 𝘢 𝘳𝘢𝘥𝘪𝘰.
This is what Gloria Michaels told me.
That she no longer went to church after the night she saw a masked popular pastor fucking a man.
Mondays to Fridays, she and her flatmates worked at various places on the Island. On Saturdays, they prepared. They tushed themselves up. And they left their phones behind, because for about nine hours, they would not need electronic devices. Electronic devices of any kind were forbidden in the place they would go to.
Another thing: none of them ever knew where exactly they would go to. Not her, not any of the other girls.
They simply moved to their Madam’s house and waited. They would wait for a big van to come for them. Inside the van, they would be given a password and told to memorize it. For the night.
Gloria stopped trying to figure out the routes always taken by the van. She didn’t know Lagos that well. She couldn’t also just look through the windows because there were no windows to look out from.
At their destination, they would be driven into a dark space and led inside a house which always felt like a museum to Gloria.
Many people moved around inside the house, and all of them wore Afro masks. All of them. Some wore grey robes over their clothes; others wore black robes. Only a tiny few wore red robes, and always seemed older, way older than others.
Only the selected girls wore creamy white robes.
White meant that any point through the night, anybody could approach Gloria and request for sex. They were men, and they were women, sometimes. They would ask for blowjobs, or quickies, or any form, any measure of pleasure.
As a rule, Gloria couldn’t refuse more than five requests in a row. It would be noted, and this would enrage their Madam. As their Madam often stressed, there were thousands of girls in Lagos that were willing to take their places. That would kill to take their places.
𝘛𝘩𝘪𝘯𝘨𝘴 𝘥𝘦𝘺 𝘩𝘢𝘱𝘱𝘦𝘯 𝘧𝘰𝘳 𝘵𝘩𝘪𝘴 𝘓𝘢𝘨𝘰𝘴, 𝘨𝘶𝘺.
All Gloria had to do was to open her legs and fake moans or writhe in practiced sexual enjoyment. Big dicks, small dicks, smelly vaginas, clean vaginas, rough hands, bad breaths, eyes avoiding her own through holes in masks.
Gloria trained her ears to listen carefully, to actually hear.
She listened through the gentle piano music, through the feet shuffles and swishes of robes and sounds of fucking. She listened to the voices, and the harder she listened, the better she got at picking out accents of Yoruba, Igbo, Hausa, Ibibio from carefully spoken English.
Sometimes, she recognised who was speaking. Who she thought was speaking: A popular politician. A former senator turned minister. A northern governor’s son. A pastor. An extremely rich socialite. A retired footballer. Even a highly-known Instagram celeb now in jail for advanced fraud; she knew his voice in particular.
All rich people, Gloria realised. Oil money. Tech money. Government money. Family money. Dirty money.
At 12 AM, the orgy would end and the girls in white would be taken away to another part of the house. There, they would wait, resting, for the others to be done. After this, they could either be taken away for an extended period by an interested party. If not, they would wait for the chosen to be returned. Then, right before dawn, they would be packed into the dark van and taken back to their Madamʼs place.
The girls rarely spoke to each other on these nights.
And on Sunday evenings, Gloria would wake up to see a familiar credit alert. A deposit of #350,000. Madam always took her own percentage, nothing more or less than #150,000.
This was the routine for weeks.
Getting fucked. Getting paid. Saying nothing about either of these things.
Gloria was afraid of the girls she lived with. It troubled her that they could laugh and gossip and love with abandon and zest, but keep quiet about this thing, this thing they had given their souls to.
Even when one of the girls got pregnant and was replaced by Madam, they all welcomed the replacement girl and acted like there hadn’t been anyone else before her.
Gloria knew her constant thoughts were unhealthy. She could be killed or made to disappear in the snap of a finger. Just like that.
But she wondered a lot. About the rich, powerful people in those robes and masks. About Madamʼs operations. About the van that took them through Lagos with ease, even with the curfew and lockdown.
And she was afraid and lonely, more lonely than ever before.
She told me that she was already sending money to her mother back in Ibeno, so that they could buy land and build a house in Uyo.
One day, she would ask Madam to let her go.
That was the plan.
But then, Gloria saw something she shouldn’t have.
One of those Saturday nights at the place she had no name for, in the mansion with the high, domed ceilings and marble walls.
She and the other girls in white had retired to a smaller chamber, waiting for the other coloured robes to be done.
And maybe she was sleepwalking, maybe she was looking for a toilet, but somehow she left the room and wandered back to the centre of the house.
Except there wasn’t an orgy anymore.
Something else was happening.
They were gathered around two figures in the centre of the hall. All of them in their grey and black and red robes. Only the red robes sat in chairs.
And high above them, on a raised platform, was someone…no, something, sitting on what had to be a throne. Hidden by the blue-black darkness.
They were all chanting. Deep, guttural sounds that made goosebumps rise and harden on her skin.
Gloria moved slowly, carefully.
There was a black-robed, masked man in the centre of all this chanting, grunting and thrusting hard into the body under him.
Two things happened immediately.
Gloria gasped, almost screaming, because the black-robed man was fucking a girl, a child that could not have been older than her own little sister.
And then, the thing in the high chair moved, shifted so slightly. It was a black, horned goat.
It looked at Gloria and she felt as if all she was and would ever be was suddenly and rudely laid bare, exposed.
She felt naked.
Her body vibrated and a knife cut through her mind with pure, wicked malice.
They were all looking at her now.
Everything was wrong.
“Somebody dragged me away, Sima. I was so weak. I felt sick. Because of what I had done, they moved all of us away sharp-sharp. I was so fucking scared, guy.”
There was nothing to be afraid of, Madam later assured Gloria.
It was all settled that Gloria’s incursion had been a harmless mistake. The only consequence of it was that Gloria would no longer be part of the girls in white.
That should have been it.
Gloria would have adjusted, and she would have returned home to her family.
𝘚𝘰𝘮𝘦𝘣𝘰𝘥𝘺 𝘧𝘰𝘳𝘤𝘦𝘥 𝘎𝘭𝘰𝘳𝘪𝘢 𝘔𝘪𝘤𝘩𝘢𝘦𝘭𝘴 𝘵𝘰 𝘴𝘸𝘢𝘭𝘭𝘰𝘸 𝘢 𝘳𝘢𝘥𝘪𝘰.
We stopped talking for about a week after she told me all this, Gloria and I. So many things were happening. I tried hard to forget about the things she told me, and I almost succeeded.
Until the morning Gloria called me to say that she was afraid for her life.
It was October and the #EndSARS protests were heating up.
Gloria called me, panicking. She sounded completely paranoid.
Her Samsung phone was missing, she said. “I just woke up and it’s gone, guy.”
It had to be one of her flatmates, one of those conniving girls.
“What would they need your phone for?” I asked.
As if it was not already clear.
“They have been watching me, Sima. Watching me closely. They think I don’t know but I know. I know.”
“But sebi we always deleted our messages na? We always cleared the chats, abi?”
“Sima, you of all people should know that nothing in an Android phone is ever really deleted. There’ll be traces that only deep scans can find.”
“I need to move, guy. Sima I’m so scared. I’m so scared.” She cried.
I tried to calm her down, even though my own head was spinning. “Don’t run, Gloria. Don’t do anything like that. It’ll just confirm their suspicions, you get? I don’t think they’ll find anything, relax. Free your mind and be cool, you hear?”
She said, “Okay.”
But she wouldn’t go out for work tho, because of the protests and everything. Traffic was crazy out there.
She would just stay at home and chill. Try to, at least.
I was going through my Twitter feed that evening and sinking into despair.
Because it was 20-10-2020.
Because armed military officers opened fire on peaceful protesters at the Lekki Toll Gate. I was watching the videos on Twitter, clips from DJ Switch and people brave enough to record the atrocities of the federal government.
MTN was frustratingly slow that evening.
At a point, I left my phone and sobbed to sleep.
And that was how I missed her calls.
But I got her text messages, four of them, when I put the SIM back in.
7:41 PM: 𝘚𝘪𝘮𝘢, 𝘸𝘩𝘺 𝘢𝘳𝘦 𝘺𝘰𝘶 𝘯𝘰𝘵 𝘱𝘪𝘤𝘬𝘪𝘯𝘨 𝘶𝘱? 𝘓𝘢𝘨𝘰𝘴 𝘪𝘴 𝘩𝘰𝘵.
9:06 PM: 𝘚𝘪𝘮𝘢, 𝘮𝘺 𝘧𝘭𝘢𝘵𝘮𝘢𝘵𝘦𝘴 𝘢𝘳𝘦 𝘯𝘰𝘵 𝘣𝘢𝘤𝘬 𝘺𝘦𝘵. 𝘜𝘱 𝘵𝘪𝘭𝘭 𝘯𝘰𝘸. 𝘐𝘵 𝘥𝘰𝘦𝘴𝘯’𝘵 𝘧𝘦𝘦𝘭 𝘳𝘪𝘨𝘩𝘵.
11:51 PM: 𝘚𝘪𝘮𝘢 𝘱𝘭𝘦𝘢𝘴𝘦 𝘥𝘰𝘯’𝘵 𝘤𝘢𝘭𝘭 𝘮𝘦 𝘯𝘰𝘸 𝘴𝘰𝘮𝘦𝘵𝘩𝘪𝘯𝘨 𝘪𝘴 𝘸𝘳𝘰𝘯𝘨,, 𝘐 𝘫𝘶𝘴𝘵 𝘴𝘢𝘸 𝘢 𝘩𝘪𝘭𝘶𝘹 𝘮𝘰𝘷𝘯𝘨 𝘴𝘳𝘰𝘶𝘯𝘥 𝘰𝘶𝘳 𝘧𝘭𝘢𝘵 𝘢𝘯𝘥 𝘵𝘩𝘦𝘳𝘦 𝘢𝘳𝘦 𝘮𝘦𝘯 𝘪𝘯 𝘪𝘵 𝘵𝘩𝘦𝘺𝘩𝘢𝘷𝘦 𝘣𝘦𝘦𝘯 𝘸𝘢𝘵𝘤𝘩𝘪𝘯𝘨 𝘵𝘩𝘪𝘴 𝘱𝘭𝘢𝘤𝘦 𝘢𝘯𝘥 𝘸𝘢𝘪𝘵𝘪𝘯𝘨 𝘐 𝘥𝘰𝘯’𝘵 𝘬𝘯𝘰𝘸 𝘱𝘭𝘦𝘢𝘴𝘦 𝘐’𝘮 𝘴𝘰 𝘴𝘤𝘢𝘳𝘦𝘥
12:29 PM: 𝘐 𝘤𝘢𝘯’𝘵 𝘴𝘵𝘢𝘺 𝘩𝘦𝘳𝘦, 𝘚𝘪𝘮𝘢. 𝘔𝘺 𝘧𝘭𝘢𝘵𝘮𝘢𝘵𝘦𝘴 𝘢𝘳𝘦 𝘯𝘰𝘵 𝘩𝘦𝘳𝘦 𝘧𝘰𝘳 𝘢 𝘳𝘦𝘢𝘴𝘰𝘯. 𝘐’𝘮 𝘨𝘰𝘪𝘯𝘨 𝘵𝘰 𝘵𝘳𝘺 𝘢𝘯𝘥 𝘨𝘰 𝘵𝘰 𝘮𝘺 𝘈𝘶𝘯𝘵𝘺’𝘴 𝘱𝘭𝘢𝘤𝘦 𝘪𝘯 𝘍𝘌𝘚𝘛𝘈𝘊 𝘰𝘳 𝘰𝘯𝘦 𝘰𝘧 𝘵𝘩𝘦𝘴𝘦 𝘩𝘰𝘴𝘱𝘪𝘵𝘢𝘭𝘴 𝘢𝘯𝘥 𝘤𝘩𝘶𝘳𝘤𝘩𝘦𝘴. 𝘐 𝘥𝘰𝘯’𝘵 𝘧𝘦𝘦𝘭 𝘴𝘢𝘧𝘦 𝘩𝘦𝘳𝘦.
I. Don’t. Feel. Safe. Here.
Last known words.
It was already 1:17 AM, and I was only just seeing those messages.
Of course, I tried to call her back immediately.
I called her number: 08127672492.
It was unreachable.
I tried again and again and again.
Still unreachable, even till the next day.
Frantic and uneasy, I re-installed my GBWhatsApp because I hoped she had gotten her phones back somehow.
Her last seen was 12:32 AM, on the 20th of October, 2020.
It stayed that way for days, for weeks.
Her numbers too, all three of them, remained either switched off or unreachable.
I hate how easy it was for me to conclude that she was fine. That she was alright, and probably keeping away from me for her own safety.
I was so desperate to believe my own lies.
And I let life blind me, I let time slip her out of my mind slowly.
October, November, December.
I heard it from my friend, Solomon. We were friends in the University of Nigeria, Nsukka. He’s from Ibeno, has family back there.
He told me, “Dah, they found one girl’s dead body on Ibeno Beach two weeks ago. For this new year o. Imagine that kain thing. And I know the girl’s mother sef. She was a former member in our church.”
I said that I was sorry. That it was such a terrible thing.
“Wetin be the girl name sef? You sabi her name?”
“Yeah. Peace Etim or something like that.”
I swear, my heart dropped down down down.
𝘛𝘩𝘦𝘺 𝘳𝘦𝘮𝘰𝘷𝘦𝘥 𝘢 𝘳𝘢𝘥𝘪𝘰 𝘧𝘳𝘰𝘮 𝘩𝘦𝘳 𝘴𝘵𝘰𝘮𝘢𝘤𝘩, 𝘨𝘶𝘺. 𝘐 𝘤𝘢𝘯’𝘵 𝘦𝘷𝘦𝘯 𝘶𝘯𝘥𝘦𝘳𝘴𝘵𝘢𝘯𝘥 𝘵𝘩𝘢𝘵 𝘰𝘯𝘦.
But I understood.
It means broadcasting. It means punishment for sharing the wrong information.
I want to go to Ibeno before I return to school.
They say the greatest trick the Devil ever played on people is to make them think that he doesn’t exist. With lies, loads of lies disguised as truths and possibilities.
You see it now?
They throw stupid conspiracy theories for you to chase like dumb dogs: Illuminati nyen nyen nyen. Bill Gates vaccine. 5G blah-blah-blah.
The governor of a state containing twenty million people publicly stated that “forces beyond my control” were responsible for that atrocity at Lekki Toll Gate.
A whole governor.
And all we could do was laugh?
𝘉𝘦𝘺𝘰𝘯𝘥 𝘩𝘪𝘴 𝘤𝘰𝘯𝘵𝘳𝘰𝘭.
These people who hide behind shadows to dictate the world we think is ours. They have the money and power; and we don’t. We don’t even have the reach, the range to do shit.
These people can afford to get away with undiluted evil.
As if it wouldn’t be too easy to kill us and have people argue that we barely even existed. That we were imagined. Fake news. Fantasy. Fiction.
Anything we find hard to believe, either out of fear or arrogance, we call it fictional, unreal, fake, bullshit.
There is a girl buried in a family compound in Ibeno. Just 20 years old. Too young, too young to be swallowed up by the world, guy.
Tomorrow, I will go and offer my condolences to her mother. I will buy gifts for her little sister. I will sit with them in silence for a while, and then I will ask to see her final resting place.
It will be fresh, still. The gravestone almost white even in this January of dry heat and dust.
𝗣𝗘𝗔𝗖𝗘 𝗘𝗧𝗜𝗠 𝗡𝗞𝗔𝗡𝗚𝗔 (𝟮𝟬𝟬𝟬 – 𝟮𝟬𝟮𝟬).
And because I’m afraid, because I don’t want to believe that I inhabit a world of dark evil and merciful shadows, I will take out a permanent marker and write “𝗙𝗜𝗖𝗧𝗜𝗢𝗡” on that grave.
Because it is easier that way, isn’t it?
It is better that way, guy.
This is fiction.