The sun was high in the sky and unrelenting as it forced its powerful rays onto the dry land that was the NYSC Corpers’ camp in Niger state, Nigeria. The Corpers stood in organized rows and columns as the soldiers barked at them, commanding all sorts. They turned and marched and saluted, doing whatever was commanded, failing miserably in ignoring the heat that burnt the exposed parts of their body. There was the occasional sneak comment or joke but apart from that, they were perfectly organized.
“Thirty six bloody degrees.” Osas complained under his breath. Beads of sweat formed on his brows and soaked into the bands of the khaki face cap he wore over his head. The weather was getting to him. He wanted nothing more than for the useless parade to end, allowing him to get a cold drink from one of the shops. When no one was looking, he wiped his forehead quickly, dislodging the sweat that had formed there.
A few moments passed and there was a commotion at the back. Someone screamed while another person ran. The Corpers scattered while the soldiers struggled to restore order to the parade. Osas stood on tip toes, stretching his 5’11” frame to the max, struggling to see what was going on. When he couldn’t see anything, he reckoned that it was the usual fainting spell that presented itself in every camp, especially the hotter ones such as this.
The soldiers managed to restore order and quickly dispersed the parade. Osas didn’t even bother to find out what was going on. He marched towards the shops, desperate for a cold drink. He wasn’t the only one with that plan.
A tall boy grinned as he saw Osas heading towards the shop.
“This guy, aren’t you a platoon leader? Shouldn’t you be back there, finding out what happened and offering to help?”
Osas shrugged. “Shut up Shalom. Aren’t you a platoon leader too? I’m too thirsty to be of help to anyone at the moment.”
Shalom laughed “Unlike you, I know what’s going on there and she’s not a member of my platoon.”
Osas removed his cap as he entered the shop and ordered two bottles of Coke.
“So what exactly happened?” He inquired.
“It’s actually quite a strange one. Apparently, a soldier bit a girl.” Shalom paused for a moment. “Actually, he bit a girl and two officers.”
“Wait, beat or bit?” Osas asked, genuinely puzzled.
“Bit, like with his teeth and all.” Shalom dramatized a little, holding his arm to his teeth.
Osas dropped his empty bottle of coke, letting the fan in the shop blow him dry. “Nawa for Suarez o. Aren’t you a Liverpool fan? Why does shit like this follow you around?”
“You’ll tell me whether I’m the one responsible for the crazies in the world.”
“See ehn, I’m too tired for all this nonsense sef, I’m going to sleep.”
And with that, Osas walked out of the shop and headed towards the hostels, leaving Shalom laughing in the shop. He wore his cap back to shield his head and eyes from the unrelenting fury of the sun. A slight headache throbbed in his head as he entered the stuffy room. Someone had laid siege to his bed again. He plugged in his phone, pushed aside all the clothes that weren’t his and plopped down onto the bed afterwards. He slept quickly.
He woke up with a start as Shalom barged into the room and jammed the door. He proceeded to closing all the windows and turned out the lights.
Osas squinted through sleepy eyes, spotting two other people with Shalom. “Guy, what it is-?”
“Shhh!” Shalom cut him off. They were all crouched at the base of the bunk.
Osas peered round quietly, noticing the terrified expression on their faces. There was a guy he didn’t know and a girl he was sure was in his platoon.
Shalom spoke first.
“Something is very wrong out there!” He whispered harshly. “There are people chewing on other people.”
“What do you mean?”
“He means people are eating people.” The girl spoke, her voices barely audible.
Osas looked at the people in the room and began laughing. The room was dark and so he couldn’t read their features well but he was sure they were joking.
He looked at his wrist watch; it read 7:15pm. “Nice try, Shalom, but I’m out of here. I’m hungry and I don’t have time for this.”
“I’m not joking!?” Shalom struggled to keep his voice quiet, but his friend’s failure to notice his seriousness was starting to annoy him.
“How do you think I got into the male residence?” The girl asked looking at Osas intently. The little light that made its way into the room casted shadows on their faces, the seriousness of the situation etched onto their countenance.
Osas suddenly realised that they weren’t joking. One quick look through the iron barred windows proved, beyond any reasonable doubt, they weren’t joking.
Right in the field in front of the hostels, three figures converged over a guy, biting, pulling and tearing him to pieces. Osas watched in horror as they stuffed their mouths with human parts. He covered his mouth with his hand to stop himself from throwing up and quickly joined Shalom and co in their crouched position.
“What do we do?” The other guy finally spoke up after a moment’s silence.
“We’ll wait it out,” Shalom didn’t look as convinced as he sounded “Once they leave, we’re out of here.”
“And if they don’t go? I mean, that’s Richard eating someone out there.” The girl spoke. Osas noticed she was wearing glasses.
“We’ll wait.” He replied.
“No way man, I’m not sure I can wait here to die.” The other guy in the room spoke, his voice trembling in panic.
Shalom tried to calm him down. “Calm down Ugo, we’ll be safe as long as they don’t know we’re here, I guess.”
“I can’t man, I just saw cannibals eating people openly,” Ugo’s voice rose in volume as he freaked out. He got up and made for the door. “I’m leaving camp now!”
Time seemed to stand still as Ugo opened the door. Staring at him through vacant eyes and discoloured irises was a person, or what looked like a person. Fresh blood smeared his lips as he clutched something eerily akin to human flesh.
Osas had just finished wearing his boots and stuffing his phone into his pocket when the blood curdling scream hit him. A second scream followed quickly as he turned. Latched onto Ugo was a person seemingly hell bent on having him for dinner.
Shalom ran past Ugo who was now on the floor struggling with the “person” devouring him and exited the room. The girl followed while Osas tried to pry the “person” off Ugo. When that failed, he resorted to kicking him repeatedly.
“Get off him you crazy fool!” He bellowed. It seemed to work. The “person” finally turned to look at him and from his throat emerged a terrible guttural sound that was definitely not human. Years of video gaming and horror movie watching came flooding back to him in one line of information.
Pale skin, strange eyes, strange groans and a sweet tooth for human flesh; it was a no-brainer.
Osas fell backwards in shock, hitting a bunk in the process. The zombie got up and started approaching him in slow shuffling steps. Behind it, Ugo lay motionless in a pool of blood, his throat missing a sizeable chunk of skin. The army uniform it wore was stained with large dark blotches Osas was sure was blood.
“Run Osas, Run!” Shalom shouted from the door snapping Osas out of his daze.
Osas made a dash for the exit as the zombie lunged for him, its bloody hand missing him by a hair’s breadth. He joined Shalom and the girl, who were waiting rather hesitantly, and understandably impatiently in the corridor and they ran towards the courtyard. Osas made it out first but stopped abruptly in his tracks. The others joined him moments later, stopping as abruptly as he did.
A small gasp escaped from the girl’s throat.
“What do we do now?” Shalom asked calmly.
Standing in the courtyard and staring at them through vacant eyes were tens of zombies, all snarling or groaning through blood stained mouths, heads bent at awkward angles. The zombie they had left in the room groaned behind them, approaching slowly with unsteady steps, effectively preventing a retreat. Osas spoke first.