Chapter 1 – It Starts
It was a cold morning in January, the hamatan left his lips chapped and crackling as he lay there shivering under a bridge in Lagos. Life hadn’t always been fair to him, but still this was the height of it all. Four years ago he had a warm bed and somewhat of a family, if you could call what he woke up to take care of everyday, a family. But three square meals a day and a dry place to sleep, a friend and some smiles a day was what he had, and it was good enough for him. It was good enough because he really hadn’t had anything better for as long as he could remember. But yet, here he was, shivering under a few sheets of cardboard and adorned in the little bits of clothing he had to his name, all on at once.
Nigeria isn’t known for being a cold place, but then a lot of the people with that frame of mind have a home or a room to shelter them from the harshness of the outside world.
To Hakeem Nigeria wasn’t hot, it wasn’t cold, it wasn’t kind or cruel. Nigeria was just his workshop. You eat what you can today because tomorrow may be harder than yesterday. Hakeem had grown up moving from house to house as a helper since the age of 6 and now he was 17, on the cusp of adulthood and still had nothing to really call his own. His little Nike string bag carried his life within its parting seams. It was his prized possession because the only home he stayed in where he actually felt welcomed had another boy his age there…his name was “I.k.” and they were 13 at the time.
I.K was like the family he had always longed for. They ate together and did home work together…not that hakeem had the pleasure of an education, but he was a bright and inquiring mind, so I.k would always rush home to share the days tales with him. All the while hakeem would be washing or cleaning or even both at the same time. They had a strange arrangement as they both kind of understood where each other came from, and they knew their places in the world, but yet they avoided talking about it and just played or learned together.
One day, hakeem was sent to the market to get random home necessities but before hakeem had left the house, which seemed to have changed a lot in the last few months, I.k called him just as he left the gate and told him to hold on to his Nike bag and not to look inside till he got back. The puzzled Hakeem asked why, but it was just important I.k persisted and then he ran back in. Hakeem had always trusted and respected I.k’s kindness towards him, so he just agreed and with a shrug, turned and went on his way to finish his chores.
The market was stressful as alway, and crossing the road on the way back he had cut his slippers avoiding a bike man who cursed at him in Yoruba as he sped of. Upon getting home, the gate was locked and even after the knocking he gave it, the gate man never came to answer it. After about 4 hours of sitting outside the gate he decided to walk around the compound to check if anyone was around. It was getting late and the fish he carried was starting to smell a little funny. As he rounded the third corner of the fence, he saw that the back wall was smashed down and the now visible kitchen door was obviously broken into. Dropping everything in his hands, he ran up to the house shouting “Aunty!!! Aunty…Ik…Anybody de house?” And tentatively, he came towards the door which hung on its hinges.
When did all this happen? What became of the family and Ik? Is he ok? Hakeem’s mind was racing. Are they okay? He thought as he peered around each door way of the scattered and wrecked house. Upon searching all the rooms, he found nothing to explain the state of the house or where the people where.
He had entered the last room on the ground floor hands shaking and slightly sweating with worry. This door was still locked and he knocked on it asking “is there any one here? Ik you dey inside? Watin happen?…..” but he got no responses. With fear in his heart, all the possibilities flashed in his mind and his instincts took over and he ran.
He didn’t have a destination, but he knew if anyone came and found him alone in this house, it would cause more problems for him than he could handle…. So yes, he ran.
Years went by and strange things seem to happen around him, people would try and steal his little black Nike bag, police seem to always eye him suspiciously and one day when he passed by the house the neighbors had recognized him and given chase. Upon hiding in some nearby bushes he found out they were looking for him, lots of people where, not just for the disappearance of I.k’s family but from the conversations he had overheard, because someone told them to get him at all costs.
So in the end he had hidden, run, fought and even killed. Life has always been hard on Hakeem, but these days it was even more so. In the end, what mattered to him was that he was alive and had gotten away from those who wanted him. Ik and his family had disappeared 4 years ago and he had begged, borrowed and stolen to get here…lying under a bridge with cracked lips, pasty dry skin and a well built yet scraggly body. Opening his red hurting eyes, he slowly sat up in his little corner shifting his cardboard neatly to one side.
He had looked in the Nike bag ages ago, but still never understood what was inside. It was just some money (long spent), one of Iks old t-shirts (which he was wearing at the time) a rock and a toothbrush. They were random and he never knew why I.k had given it to him but appreciated them non-the-less. As for the rock, it was a strange item, and all he knew was that when the smooth rock in the bag started to glow or get hot, something was about happen and he never could tell if they would be good or bad.
Just as he was sitting there in thought, gazing at the little blue rock item it started to glow. Very dimly but within his little black nylon bag he could see its mild blue glimmer. This reminded him of the trials he’s been through, and this brought a little smile to his face. He closed the bag and slung it on his back. Slowly turning around he saw 3 dirty under the bridge dwellers slowly walking towards him. His mild smile slowly turned into an devilish grin as he said “Make una no try am oh.”. To that they looked at each other laughing and replied, “Can you imagine? This small boy de try tell us wetin we fit do.” said the first with messy dada type hair, “Na wa oh, me sef I de wonder wether we don turn pikin for night” the second in ripped up jeans said to chuckling third man who was almost at Hakeems resting place. Hakeems back was getting warm from the glowing rock he had become accustom to, especially as it had been his companion these past few years. He stood his ground defiantly challenging them with his presence, as if daring them to come any closer. He was tired and still slightly groggy from just waking up, however he knew in his mind that he had been through worse, and these three idiots didn’t realize he was looking for a way to blow off some steam anyway.