Uzo di anya!”
She said the old woman had told them, that night as she and her fiancé stood by their car which had broken down for the third time again, along the road, just before Umunede.
Time was 10:17pm.
Their Destination Owerri.
Her fiancé had come down, opened the bonnet and tried to remedy the situation, but there was barely anything more he could do.
So frustrated and resigned, they both stood by the car waving at vehicles speeding past to see if any would stop and come to their aid.
None did, the road was dark, crickets were already chirping from the thick vegetation that enclosed them and their fears stayed only by the fact that they had each other.
They were worried and scared to their bones, wishing the car would just move so that they’d get into the closest town and retire into a hotel for the night, but none of this happened.
They were yet there, her fiancé running hands over different vehicle parts while asking her to turn on/off the ignition when this old limping lady walked past them without uttering a word.
She said it was her who saw the woman first and motioned to her husband to reach out to her.
As the woman had kept walking slowly/limping like she hadn’t herself seen them.
Her fiancé called out.
And after a few more tries, the woman stopped in her tracks and stayed, not turning.
Her fiancé not thinking that anything sinister was amiss walked towards her and when he was a few feet from her he greeted.
“Nne Goodevening, biko where can we get a mechanic around here and how far is the closest town from here? Motor anyi mebili emebi and I am stranded with my girlfriend.”
To which the old scrawny woman replied.
“Uzo di anya.”
Yet not turning.
And as he made to ask another question, she replied in a sudden shrill voice, in pure Igbo.
“Je labaa nime motor gi; gbachikwa ya agbachi, for when it gets to Eleven o’clock, you would no longer be alone.”
As she said this, she turned and in the place of her face was just a wide open mouth with no eyes or nose.”
He staggered back in shock, as fear coursed through him like electric currents.
He checked on his watch and time was 10:56 pm.
Hurriedly, he rushed back to the direction where his car and fiancée were and when he got there, she was deeply asleep.
He made to wake her, tugged on her a few times but she was unyielding and as he made to push her a last time, something drew his gaze and he looked up.
And at the distance, covered in something like light smoke, he saw them.
They were many, people dressed in rags, men, women and children.
Families, with children clinging onto their mother’s backs and some holding onto their father’s hands.
They were walking slowly, head fixed upright, staring ontoward and approaching their direction.
He remembered what the old woman had told him, and he immediately entered the car and locked it from within.
His fiancée was still asleep, something he didn’t understand for she was awake some moments ago until after the old woman.
And while inside the car he kept peeping from the window.
This time these people, who had their faces dusted like it had chalk on it, their bodies covered in rags, their eyes fixed and unblinking, their movement slowed, were just ten metres away.
In all of his life, he had never felt fear so pure, so raw, so solid and so powerful.
He realized he had wetted his trousers and just when the strange people were 5 metres away, his wife woke and said she was really pressed and needed to ease herself.
He couldn’t talk.
He just sat there shivering and pointed at the people to her.
“What? What are you showing me? please open the door for me, achoroo’m inyu mamiri.”
And with this said, she yanked at the car door, until her fiancé wrestled it off her.
She seemed incognizant of what was happening, and seemed not to have seen anything.
By this time the people still looking straight up were beginning to walk past the car like they were oblivious that there were humans there.
And it was this point that she saw them, and also at this point that he realized that their legs weren’t touching the ground.
No sooner had this realization hit them, than they felt a force pushing the car from behind and as they turned to be sure, they saw hands and cold faces peering into their car, pushing it.
They both fainted.
And when they woke the next morning, their car was at an old abandoned fuel station just by the road, and cars were speeding past an express not too far from them.