Chapter Three: Echoes of the Past

“Probed” is a science fiction concept with a Nigerian setting about five extraordinary children trying to live ordinary lives. Subsequent chapters will be released every Tuesday each week. I hope you enjoy reading the story as much as I love writing it!


Chapter Three

Being the new kid can be frightening, especially when your aim is to blend in with the others. Some kids adjust within a week, some a month, others never.  A special few though, own the school right from the very first day they walk in.

Within a week there was a realization among the kids that blending in anticipated more than they imagined. Mustapha learned that he didn’t have to force himself to talk much, as long as he did what was needed to be done at the right time and stayed out of trouble. Nneka learned that sexual harassment wasn’t the only thing that could make you feel used, while Aisha learned being the “know it all” meant you made friends amongst your teacher and less among your mates, unless you let them copy your assignment. Abiye was still a child, free from the burden of life’s philosophies, even with the hardship his past life entailed.

“Guy how far? Did you do that math assignment?” A dark boy who Mustapha didn’t know his name had walked up to him with two other boys trailing right behind him. They were twenty-five students in his class, and he knew all their scents and voices. He could tell if any of them passed him without looking them in the eye, but he didn’t care for their names. “It was very hard ehn!”

Mustapha raised his head from the desk to look at the enthusiastic boy in front of him, and the other two whispering to each other and stealing glances at him. It was obvious that they were waiting to see how he was going to respond to them. This was his second week here, and he had not said a word to anyone but his teachers, and that was when he was being asked a question. He wordlessly pulled his math note from his bag and handed it over to them. Aisha had come to his aid after long hours of stressing his brain. The kids made an effort to learn what they could on their own, because Aisha gets serious migraines right if she has solved any problems (mathematical or not) for a total of seven hours within the twenty-four hours that make a day. So after hours of classwork in school and homework to deal with after school, she might not have a lot of juice left to help her siblings with their homework. Besides that, they had promised the Ogunbades that they would not give their schoolwork to their sister to do for them. Sometimes they let her proofread their work till they get all the answers right, especially since sometimes she got tired of constantly checking and just did the rest of the assignment herself. At least Richard or Lillian couldn’t say they gave her their homework to do in such cases.

The boy flipped to the page where the assignment was and stared in surprise. “Could we… use it to crosscheck our own?”

Crosscheck fire. They’ve not done it I’m sure.

Mustapha refused to voice out his thoughts, and shrugged in reply instead.

“Na wa o… This guy is worse than Tunji, I swear.” He said to the other two before they walked away. Mustapha raised an eyebrow at them. He gave in to the urge to ask.

“Who’s Tunji?”

The boys froze in their tracks and turned slowly to look back at him in disbelief.

“I swear Peter I don’t think I knew the sound of this guy’s voice until today.” one of the other two guys said to the first one, clamping a hand on his shoulder. He shrugged it off absentmindedly, not taking his eyes off Mustapha as he did so.

“Tunji Gbadamosi… He’s one guy like that in SS2B.”

SS2B was a science class; Nneka’s class to be specific. Mustapha wasn’t sure why, but that simple fact seemed to heighten his curiosity. He nodded curtly and looked away, indicating that they weren’t going to hear anything else from him.

Nneka knew her beauty attracted a lot of unwanted attention, but there was no way her peers were capable of hurting her. They weren’t capable of any damage close to the fatality of the ones she had dealt with in the past, physiological and physical. She constantly ignored the audacious males that tried to be close to her, but she let the girls come close. The girls were the one of the most popular in their year, and they found her suitable to join their clique. They tried to make her go places and do things with them, and she let them drag her along, grateful of the company of females just like her but highly indifferent about most of the things that interested them.

“That fifty shades of Grey movie is insane!” Amaka said excitedly in class during their lunch break. They sometimes liked to gather around Nneka’s table and chat with their snacks if they didn’t feel like hanging outside class. “I’ve watched it like more than twice since I got it on my laptop. I can’t get over it!”

Nneka raised an eyebrow at her while the girls chattered about the movie. She had seen the preview of the movie and heard about the book, but she didn’t give it much thought.

“What’s the movie about?” Nneka asked, and girls stared at her in shock.

“The movie that everybody is talking about Nneka… you don’t know it!” Amaka said in disbelief. She was the one who seemed to be more in tune with the trends than the others, so it was a big deal to her when any of her friends lag behind.

“I just didn’t get why everyone was making a deal about it.” Nneka said with a shrug, feigning impatience. “Is anyone telling me what it’s about or not?”

One of the other girls named Bisi did her best to describe the story and its concept, but Nneka was far from impressed.

“Why would any girl be into something that insane?” she blurted out when Bisi was done. Amaka gave her a funny look before turning away.

“I don’t know about you… but I think I’d like to try something like that out one day.” Another girl Omowunmi, said pensively. Nneka resisted the urge to glare at her.

“Trust me, all those things you described… there’s nothing good about it.”

Amaka let out a sarcastic grunt, still not looking at Nneka.

“How do you know? Or you’ve tried it before.”

A shiver ran through Nneka’s spine as she saw a brief flashback of various episodes of sexual assault back at the facility. Being bound and suspended, deep blows that healed and hid the evidence of the rape and torture that spawned from the attempts of scientists trying to making their private perverted fantasies a reality.

“Nneka!”

Bisi was snapping a finger in her face, making her flinch out of her reverie.

“Are you okay?” Another girl, Margaret asked. Before she could think of an excuse Amaka pointed to the doorway of the class.

“Who’s that?”

A tall boy stood at the doorway, scanning the class intensely.

“I know that guy… he’s in the art class. Cute, but he’s so quiet.” Bisi said in a whisper.

“That’s my brother.” Nneka said firmly, jumping off her seat and walking up to him. She knew crowds got to him, which was why he was unable to enter the class.

Mustapha averted his eyes away from the boys staring intently at the only male student Nneka has ever been seen talking to at her own will and turned to look at his sister.

“This one that you came to my class… hope we’re safe.” Nneka said with a giggle. Mustapha tried to drown out the murmurs coming from the male students. Nneka giggling around a guy?

“Mama how do you cope with these guys watching your every move?” Mustapha said under his breath, but loud enough for Nneka to hear. “In my class, there’s a line mehn. I don’t send them and they try not to send me.”

“You sef… live a little.” Nneka said, shaking her head.

“Anyway I came to your class because I heard about one guy named Tunji Gbadamosi.” Mustapha said with a shrug. “I don’t know why, but the guy picked my interest. I just wanted to see his face though. It’s not like I want to talk to him or anything.”

“That’s weird. You only show interest in food.” Nneka said in surprise, her eyes straying to the gala sausage roll peeking from his pocket. Mustapha chuckled and shrugged again.

“I don’t have to remind you that my body is more active than the regular… that’s why I’m constantly hungry, and I never sleep.”

Nneka gave him a sad smile. At the facility Mustapha was looked emaciated compared to them because of this fact, even though they all ate equal portions. He had ulcers that Nneka constantly had to heal before they got beyond her capability. When it began to affect his functionality they doubled everyone’s rations and split it two four portions, which meant they were fed morsels every six hours instead of one miserable meal. Now he was free to eat well whenever he wanted to, without worrying about getting fat.

“Anyway back to Tunji… I don’t know him, but I’ll ask the girls.”

“Ok sis.”

Mustapha waited as Nneka went to inquire about Tunji. Her friends were sitting expectantly, silently wondering why her brother was still there but not daring to ask.

“Na wa o… you and your brother dont even look alike. He looks Hausa and you look Igbo.” Amaka blurted out. Nneka didn’t even bother looking at her. She was too forward.

“Please who’s Tunji Gbadamosi in this class?”

Bisi gestured her head to a guy sitting at the corner staring absentmindedly at the rest of the class. He looked bored to tears.

“Wow… I don’t think I’ve ever noticed him before.”

“Why are you now asking about him now?” Margaret asked curiously.

“It’s my brother that asked o, not me.” Nneka said hastily, before they got the impression she was interested in him. They would jump at the slightest possibility if she doesn’t clear the air.

“What does your brother want with Tunji sef? That one doesn’t talk to anyone.”

I can see why Mustapha finds him even the least bit interesting.

“I know? Is it my business? See him at the door Amaka, go and ask him yourself.”

With that she walked back to meet Mustapha and tried to describe Tunji without drawing attention to them.

“That one at the corner staring at God knows what.”

Mustapha turned to look at him properly, and ended up freezing like he literally got put in a cold room. Nneka looked her brother worriedly.

“Mustapha what’s wrong?”

Mustapha thawed at the sound of his sister’s voice, but he didn’t answer. He chose to run instead, with a confused Nneka hot at his heels. She knew he couldn’t use his super speed with everyone around, but he was still a good runner without it.

“Mustapha wait now!”

Mustapha complied and turned around to face Nneka, who was breathing heavily.

“What’s your problem?!” she said angrily.

“That guy… he looks just like… just like…”

“Just like what Mustapha? Spit it out.”

Tears rolled down his cheek as the words forced their way out of his throat in between sobs.

“Mama that guy looks like my brother!”

Abiye was excited. They were going to be a “small movie”, as the teacher put it. Everybody wriggled eagerly in their seats as they shut the blinds so the projector could stand out clearer. The documentary was about rearing farm animals. As the narrator talked about the outdoor habits of the goat, Abiye shifted in his seat uncomfortably.

He detested animal documentaries.

In the facility he was made to stare at the screen for countless hours staring at different animals, understanding their lifestyle until he was able to turn into them and act like them.

He started to breathe heavily. He raised a reluctant hand, much to the annoyance of his classmates, as his hand was casting a shadow on the whiteboard.

“Yes, Abiye.”

“May I please be allowed to use the bathroom?”

“Wait a few minutes dear. When the movie is over you’ll be allowed to go.”

Abiye hung his head and shut his eyes tight, trying to block out the images of the goat he had seen earlier. But he couldn’t drown out the sound of the goats bleating.

“Please ma… Please let me go to the bathroom.”

“Abiye… are you crying?”

Abiye opened his eyes and touched his face, surprised to find out that he was indeed shedding tears. She had put on the light, and everyone was looking at him.

“You can go.”

He dashed off for the bathroom, but not before he heard someone say that he was afraid of goats, much to the amusement of the rest of the class. He rushed into one of the stalls and locked it before sitting on the unopened toilet seat, sobbing uncontrollably.

“Please… not now… not now.” He said as he looked at his hands, letting out a small bleat before he could stop himself. He looked at his socked feet. They were slowly turning to hooves.

 

Aisha stared at her classmates tiredly. She now understood what Mustapha meant when he said she acted like she was forty. She couldn’t make decent conversation with her peers, they were into TV shows Abiye liked, and she never bothered to watch. She made a mental note to watch some with Abiye so she wouldn’t be left out in a discussion. But her lack of interest in TV shows and cartoons wasn’t her only shortcoming. The teachers liked her a lot, and her classmates had begun to call her a know it all. No one like an ITK (I-too-know). She took to spending her break time in one of the unused labs in the senior secondary wing. She didn’t want to tell her siblings her problem. They all seemed to have it together; she didn’t want to seem like the only one who didn’t.

While reading her encyclopedia she heard the sound of people running down the hallway, which was usual at that part of the school. As she was about to check what was happening she heard what was unmistakably Nneka’s voice.

“What’s your problem?!”

She sounded angry. Aisha cracked open the door to see Nneka breathing heavily. But before she could call her attention she heard Mustapha’s voice at the other end of the door. She froze.

“That guy… he looks just like… just like.”

“Just like what Mustapha? Spit it out.”

Tears rolled down his cheek as the words forced their way out of his throat in between sobs.

“Mama that guy looks like my brother!”

“What?!”

Nneka and Mustapha turned to look at the other person that exclaimed. Aisha came out of the lab sheepishly.

“Aisha what are you doing in SS wing?” Nneka asked confusedly.

“I prefer to read here. Mustapha what happened?”

Aisha ran to hold Mustapha by the waist, as she was quite short compared to him. He went on one knee so he could let her a give him a proper hug.

 

All five children do not remember anything from before the days they were brought to the facility, but the experiences from the incident that paved the way to their misfortune down to the present was imprinted in their memory. Muyiwa and Aisha were kidnapped from the same bus by the arm robbers that had slaughtered all the passengers. Aisha had been travelling from Jos with her aunt, so she remembered what she looked like, and even the image of her being shot multiple times by the robbers before they bounded she, Muyiwa and the other children into the back another bus that took them straight to the facility. She couldn’t remember her aunt’s name, but she could remember her face so vividly, down to the gory details that took her life. Muyiwa had travelled alone. He couldn’t remember where he was headed or where he was coming from, but he remembered the robbery as clearly as Aisha could. Nneka could remember her aunt handing her to the men in exchange for some money. She remembered screaming and kicking before she was sedated. She woke up in the facility. But she couldn’t remember anything other than the face of the aunt. She couldn’t remember how they were related, or even if she had a family before she started living with the woman. Abiye was a baby abandoned in a cardboard box in the bush, while Mustapha was the only survivor of a bus accident.

 

The brakes had failed and the bus was moving fast. The door which had been shaking from the hinges had fallen off, and Mustapha was hanging on to the backrest of the seat for his dear life.

“Mustapha… let’s jump.” His brother had coaxed, talking to him in whispers amidst the pandemonium around them.

“Ibrahim… this bus is moving too  fast. I’m afraid.”

“See thick bushes for miles out… we will only injure, we cannot die.”

Mustapha began to cry, but Ibrahim encouraged him.

“Jump… I’ll be right behind you.”

 Mustapha shut his eyes tight and jumped, narrowly missing a sharp rock jutting out of the bush. He turned back to see Ibrahim preparing to jump…

Right before the car somersaulted into the air and exploded. It was then Mustapha slipped into unconsciousness, and woke up in the facility.

He was the only one that could remember a name, because he had called his brother during the incident. He could never forget the look on his brother’s face before the impact of the somersault threw him back into the bus before it exploded.

“If Ibrahim was alive he’d definitely be much older, but the resemblance…”

Aisha hugged him tighter. It was very unusual to see Mustapha break down. After a moment of silence he tore himself away from Aisha and looked at his sisters.

“Is break over yet?”

Nneka looked at her watch before answering. “About five minutes left.”

“Enough time for a quick run. Don’t worry I’ll be careful.”

He was off before anyone could convince him otherwise. Nneka and Aisha exchanged sad looks before wordlessly returning to their classes.

Abiye returned back to class after a few minutes. As he walked in his classmates snickered, ignoring the warning glances from their teacher. The short movie was over. Abiye sat ashamedly in his seat with his head hung low. When school was over he picked up his bag and ran out before they started teasing him about his assumed fear of goats.

Halfway down the hallway he heard someone calling for him and he dared to turn around. It was Arinze, one of his classmates.

“Hello Abiye… let’s go downstairs together.”

A confused Abiye agreed and they walked downstairs without saying a word to each other. When they got to the compound Arinze turned to him and smiled.

“Abiye… I’m also afraid of chickens. See you tomorrow!”

 

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9 Comments

  1. Pingback: It’s Been A While (Probed RECAP and MORE!!!) | Wolfger Ricardo

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