Here’s the finale of Femi’s gripping series HUSH. Follow him on twitter @disfemisef
The Burden of Proof drops tomorrow. I’ll be posting download details here on the blog tomorrow. ff me @tundeleye on twitter for details. Enjoy.
I couldn’t shake the feeling that I wasn’t going to like what I heard when I got to Chi Chi’s room. There was just something wrong with the whole situation. I headed towards the wards slowly, deliberately. My feet felt like lead and it took an actual physical effort to get one foot ahead of the other. Chi Chi was a nice enough young girl and she didn’t deserve what happened to her. I had no idea what I was going to tell her minders when they came to collect her. I sighed. What the hell happened? I got to the wards and located her room. It was a small room, since it was a private hospital, I had been able to pay for a room and have her stay there. She lay in the bed with some gauze around her head coupled with some bandages. She was still, but was breathing. That was a good sign. I let out a breath. I hadn’t even realized that I had been holding it. There was a part of me that secretly feared that I would come in here and find her dead or something. She had drips running through her arms and I could see that the bandages where heavy with sweat. I felt for her. She was just a kid, what did she know? What had she done? What had happened in the house? I was trembling. This was just how it was with Zoë that night. What the hell was going on? I was scared for my family, too scared even. I stood beside her bed and gently placed my hand over hers. She responded slowly, her eyes flicked open and she looked at me. Her eyes were full of fear and I was sure she could see the fear in mine.
“Are you okay?” I asked.
Her eyes welled up and the tears began to flow.
“I want to go home.” She said.
“I know, you will.” She looked at me again and there was something else there, was that longing in her eyes? I shook the thought from my head and asked.
“I think you should sit down, you’ll need a chair when I’m done.”
I stood in front of the house. For some reason I did not know, it all looked ominous.
I entered… just as I heard a crash from the kitchen. I made for it immediately, just to hear,
“Foolish girl! What have you done?” I heard a crack and heard Zoë yelp. Did that little witch just slap my daughter? I got to the kitchen and my fear was confirmed. Ibukun, the neighbor we had watching Zoë, was standing by the sink while my daughter was holding her face in pain from the slap she’d just received. There were some broken dishes on the floor. I stood rooted to the spot as the anger overtook me,
“YOU BITCH!” I screamed.
I felt like throttling the girl and was making my way for her when I stopped. I had another overpowering emotion, but this one was fear, for at that moment, the apparition stood behind Ibukun. I glanced Zoë’s way quickly; her eyes were as big as saucers. She could see it? Did she see it that night too? I turned towards Ibukun, I had to warn her. I had to say something. She seemed quite oblivious and bewildered, just the way Chi Chi looked. I had a sense of déjà vu and an icy feeling on my insides.
“Ibukun!” It was Zoë, Ibukun turned towards her as if to ask what the matter was. The movement was swift and decisive; in one fluid motion the apparition turned and snapped Ibukun’s neck. She was dead before she hit the floor. I watched as she fell to the floor, it was in slow motion, it felt like an eternity before she hit the ground. In that time I felt numb. She hit the floor and nothing happened for like three seconds.
Then, Zoë screamed. The apparition looked at me with the hair that covered her eyes and the slit that was her mouth. She said
“I will not be ignored.” The voice was harsh, yet silent and sad. I was sure she was shouting, but, it felt like I heard the voice inside me. With that she started to glide towards us. I stood between her and Zoë. She wasn’t going to get to my daughter.
She didn’t need telling twice, she was up on her feet and she ran, as far as her little feet could carry her. I waited a second and I followed suit.
I drove even faster.
She was right; I did need a chair when she was done. What she had said was a shock to me and as I drove home at breakneck speed all I could think of was if I was on time. I thought of my wife and daughter, I loved them so much. I was going to see them both. God, I really do hope I’m in time.
Zoë had run up the stairs and I had followed. We ran through the hallway as the windows around us shattered of their own accord. I wondered where she was heading to, the apparition glided behind us effortlessly as more windows crashed. I shielded my eyes and head from the rain of glass as I followed Zoë down the rabbit hole. She was running without hesitation, as if she knew exactly where she was going to. She stopped in front of my room and ran inside. What was she doing? That was a trap! I followed her inside anyway and watched in fascination as she ran to the bedside table, retrieved the picture of us at the grand canyon which she had installed a couple of nights ago and huddled in front of the dresser, the picture clutched to her chest. It was a tender moment for me. For a second, I forgot we were being chased by a hostile force, I just watched my daughter clutch that picture and my heart melted. I could protect her, I WOULD protect her. This was probably going to be a last stand of sorts. I braced myself. I felt the ground shake and the lights began to flicker. The windows in the room cracked and my mirror shattered. Zoë screamed. The apparition was at the door.
She glided in and her slit curved into a smile.
“Here we are.”
The house was in view but something was wrong, it looked normal but, there was definitely something wrong. I parked the car and got out. Some of the windows looked smashed. What the hell was going on? I ran into the house and made for the kitchen. The kitchen had multiple entrances and it was a place Zoë ran into a lot. It also had the most handy weapons, that being kitchen knives. I got to the kitchen and stopped cold. The prone body of Ibukun greeted me. I broke into a cold sweat. I ran to her and checked her pulse. Nothing. She was very dead. I wanted to collapse in a heap but I couldn’t. Where was Zoë?
“Zoë? Honey? Where are you?” I called. I left the kitchen and started looking frantically round the house. Where was my daughter? I started making for my room and I felt dread. The windows leading to my room where definitely smashed. What did this? I broke into a slight jog towards the room. I followed the trail of destruction up to my room. As I got closer my eyes widened in surprise at what I saw. I was running full pelt now, screaming.
“ZOË!ZOË!” I got to the door just as it shut in my surprised face.
Did I just see Daniel?
I gulped and looked back at Zoë cowering in the corner and felt a surge of courage.
“What do you want with me and my daughter?”
The apparition glided closer towards me; the air was suddenly quite cold. She stood in front of me and said.
“I just want you to remember.”
“Remember what?” in response, the apparition just moved closer and touched my hands, they were cold and lifeless.
Suddenly everything changed, we were no longer in the room, and we were suddenly outside. I recognized this place; it was the place from my dream, the one with the plain area and the freshly dug earth. Zoë was behind me with the picture still clutched to her chest. The only difference now was that it was raining. I felt the rain run through my hair as I began to get soaked.
“I have to take necessary measures. You’re not really wet.” The apparition said.
“Where are we?” I asked.
“You don’t remember this place?” the apparition asked. “This was where I died.” And with that, she pulled back her curtain of hair and for the first time I saw her face in full.
I was banging on the door screaming
“ZOË!ZOË!” for whatever reason, the door was refusing to budge. I was desperate this time, I had seen a face apart from Zoë’s in there, a face that scared me, a face I had never expected to see again.
I was staring at me.
How was this even possible? I started to back away slowly.
“What is this?” but even as I said it, it was all dawning on me. The pieces began to fit, the horrible truth became clear.
“I never survived the cancer did I” I said in a low voice. It was a statement. The apparition, the other me, shook her head slowly.
“No, you didn’t.”
The realization hit me like a wave. It all made sense now. Why I hugged Daniel and Zoë and they shivered, why I had the dreams I kept having, why I had always felt weird about my recovery.
I remembered this place. I remembered the occasion. It was a rain y day in July. The soil was moist and muddy. My parents owned land in the Badagry area, which was where we had our family house. This was a plot reserved just for the family. My parents were supposed to be buried here, in a small private place. But, I died first. It was a small ceremony, most of my friends were abroad and my parents were a very private bunch. It was like I was hovering above the coffin as they placed me six feet under. It was raining but, Daniel and Zoë didn’t seem to care, they were crying their eyes out. Zoë had screamed, just like she had in the dream and one of my aunts had to hold her, Daniel was no use, he stood there and I knew that that was all he could do, if he even moved, he’d have broken down. I remembered my own funeral. I remembered everything
“But, I talked to them” I lamented. The apparition just stared
“Really think about those conversations. Really, really think about them.”
And I thought about it, the thoughts were flooding in, the images so rapid, I couldn’t keep up. I had to hold my head to stop it from actually spinning.
The conversations, I remembered now. The answers were never quite direct. I had just assumed normalcy and thought nothing of it. No wonder Daniel didn’t seem to take my fear of Chi Chi seriously, no wonder the women outside stared with both pity and longing, no wonder Daniel was grocery shopping. Now that I thought about it, when we were together, he never grocery shopped!
“The dream?” I asked. The apparition answered
“It was an unconscious way of trying to remember.”
So what about all the stuff that happened in Zoë’s room? Chi Chi? Ibukun? Did I kill and harm them all?
The apparition seemed to read my mind.
“I carried out your thoughts, that’s all I did. Whenever you had a strong, overpowering emotion, that happens.”
I understood now. I was numb. I was dead.
But one question still gnawed at me,
“Why am I still here?”
The apparition looked at Zoë, shook her head and disappeared. I was alone. I looked at Zoë too. She didn’t seem scared. She just looked at me. Tears were falling down here face but she didn’t seem to be actively crying. I looked at my daughter and I understood. I remembered when I first held her in my arms when she was born, I remembered it vividly. The noise in the delivery room, the sound of Zoë wailing, the weather, the color of the drapes, the cute doctor, I remembered promising that I would never leave her. I remembered saying those words and even then, I had been a little creeped out because, Zoë stopped crying the moment I said those words and had looked at me with eyes full of understanding. I still saw those eyes throughout my lifetime, like she understood things that I didn’t or like she knew me better than I knew myself.
I went towards her now. She could see me. She didn’t shirk or run, she just looked at me, and just like in the dream, held out her hand. I took it. At that moment, our surroundings melted away and we were back in my room. I was holding my daughter’s hand and that was all that mattered.
The door banged open and Daniel came inside panting. He took one look at me and fell to his knees.
Something about hearing my name struck a cord and filled me with a strange bittersweet feeling, a weird fulfillment, like that thing we do when we finally remember the name of the actor that played a role on some show that we know we know, but for the life of us, can’t remember. I had no tears left. I looked at the man I loved, his eyes were shimmering and all I wanted to do was hold him.
“I never thought I’d see you again Amelia. This has to be some sort of miracle.”
Zoë ran to Daniel and he held her. She buried her head into his shoulder and he just held her as he shed silent sobs. She was patting his head and rubbing his back as if to say “There, there. Everything is alright”.
In that moment, I understood why I was still around and what I had to do.
“Daniel, honey,” He looked up.
“I’m giving you Zoë okay?” He nodded tearfully. “I trust you to take care of her. She’s your daughter too.” He managed a watery grin.
“Sure Amelia, sure.”
“I have to go now. Know I’ll always love you, now and forever.” Zoë looked up.
“Zoë, I love you too honey. Never forget that.” My little girl just nodded quietly. Looking at her, it occurred to me that she was an enigma, even to me. She didn’t speak much, but she had an understanding with Daniel that made me happy and jealous at the same time. They seemed to just click. It was one of the reasons we were together. He would sit on his bed and work on his laptop and she’d sit beside him on her ‘V-Tech’ computer. Both would work in silence for hours at times, not speaking to each other, but, comfortable in their company. Daniel would occasionally pat her head, like she was doing now and would get them cookies and milk. It was a mysterious relationship.
It was clear now. They loved each other and she would be safe. With that thought in mind, I let myself go. I felt myself dematerialize as Daniel and Zoë looked on in awe. And just like that I disappeared.
Daniel and Zoë sat there for a long time, he was wondering what he’d do about the dead body in his kitchen. Thankfully, Chi Chi was alive and would be able to explain the situation to the police and whoever needed an explanation. He also had Zoë and it couldn’t be proved that he was in the house when it happened anyways. Well, there was no use sitting here crying over spilt milk. He finally got up and stretched his hand to help Zoë up.
“Ice Cream?” He asked. She nodded, took his hand and they left the room together.
Zoë couldn’t sleep that night. She tossed and turned holding henry, her stuffed animal close to her. After a couple of minutes, she stopped. Her breathing became calm and rhythmic. She turned and asked.
“Mum? Would you sing to me?”
“Of course sweetheart” I answered. I would be damned if I left my daughter and husband for anyone to interfere with. I held my daughter tight and sang,
Hush little baby don’t you cry, mama’s going to sing you a lullaby