Chike wanted to feel the sort of love he had read about in all the novels and seen in the big romantic movies. He needed that calming assurance of being loved, of knowing he existed not just for himself but as a part of something bigger. The love he had been deprived all his life had led him on a quest to find the one who would complete him, the one who would know him inside and out and fulfil all of the wildest longings of his aching heart.
The first thing he thought when he saw her pictures was how much she reminded him of his ex. It was almost weird, but scrolling through her Instagram posts, he could swear that he felt a certain kinship with her. There was familiarity in the way her smile stretched from ear to ear, and the exotic clothes she wore brought back happy memories of the hot harmattan afternoons he experienced growing up in Owerri, before that tragic day when his mother was “swallowed” by the Otammiri river. Before his father stopped being bothered about him and life in general.
But it was her eyes that held his attention the longest and reminded him the most of Kunle; the only person he had ever loved in his life, the one man who held the power to shatter his heart as completely as he had done almost five years ago. Chike had been a 300 level economics student of the University of Lagos on that fateful day when Kunle walked into his department, and the very first thing he had noticed were his eyes. Strong, confident, mournful eyes. Eyes that missed nothing yet seemed to feel everything.
The eyes are the window to the soul, he had thought to himself.
It started from a handshake, a simple introduction, exchange of pleasantries and then phone numbers. Then the texts followed, the calls, the meetups. He had never known about that part of himself, had never even tried to explore anything outside of what he knew. But Kunle knew, and he had so much experience, so much wisdom and confidence, it was so easy to trust him, so easy to relax and let him lead the way. The love that blossomed had to be hidden from their friends and everyone else for obvious reasons. It was impossible not to suspect however and certain eyebrows were raised and questions asked. But love won in the end and Chike, for the first time in years, was finally happy and at peace with himself.
And then Kunle walked away. Chike couldn’t understand how easy it was for him to just decide he did not love him anymore. It seemed so quick and well thought out, just a three hour delay between getting the ‘we need to talk’ text and Kunle telling him to his face that he didn’t want to do it anymore, that he wasn’t ready for such a commitment to any man or woman.
“You can’t mean that,” he had blurted out while trying to hold on to his jacket, “You love me, you know you do.”
“Come on man, it’s really not that serious,” Kunle had told him in his usual flippant manner. “I like guys and I like girls, and so do you Chike. We’re too young to be joined at the hip like this, we have literally our whole lives in front of us.”
Chike had sat alone on the bench at the bus park crying his eyes out while the campus shuttles filled up one by one with students going to Yaba, Bariga, and everywhere else in between. As the semester progressed and his world turned into several empty black spots, it dawned on him that Kunle had never really loved him, and had in fact just been using him. The pain turned to anger and he took it out on himself. He self-harmed, experimented with the latest drugs, and forgot himself in the sweaty embrace of a dozen different guys and girls until, from the depths of his being, he finally found the strength to pick himself up. The experience cost him an extra year of study but to him it was all worth it because he was older now, stronger, wiser and more prepared for life. But still, he was as desperate as ever to fall in love, and also to be loved, deeply and truly.
As he continued to scroll through sexy_ayeesha’s Instagram he weighed up his options and decided to damn the consequences. Man must love, he thought to himself, sending the first of six direct messages. He was pleasantly surprised when his phone started to vibrate barely two minutes later. Swiping down on the screen, he saw that sexy_ayeesha had replied not just once but six times to his six different messages. His heart began to thump fiercely and he jumped off the sofa and yanked the red plain tie his office forced all employees to wear off of his neck. He paced his small living room in circles; from the TV to the painting of palm trees on the rear wall and back again, all the while completely fixated on his phone and only stopping to remove the footstool from the way after he had bumped into it a dozen times. He loved her energy, the way she responded to his messages with gusto and zeal, and her eyes, those big, bright balls of passion. He felt himself being drawn in once again, he felt himself cave to the beckoning of her soul through those eyes; her effect on him reduced not in the least despite the Instagram filters. He promised himself that he would be careful this time, he would not give his all only to be left hanging and alone. Never again.
The chat moved to WhatsApp over the next couple of days and Chike and Aisha could not get enough of each other. They texted well into the night, they texted while he was at work and several customers lined up in front of him waiting for their various banking transactions to be sorted out, and they texted while he was stuck in traffic as the angry conductor berated a mother of two for still finding a way into his bus despite his many shouts of “I no get change o”.
Aisha sent him pictures that were not on any of her social media accounts and he marvelled at the seeming softness of her skin, the fullness of her lips and the dark sheen of her natural hair. And then those fucking eyes. The first time she sent him a voice note it was sultry, short, and clearly intended to be suggestive. He had taken the initiative and finally given her a call.
“Your voice is exactly how I expected it to sound,” he gushed over the phone.
“Really? Wow please tell me more,” she giggled, “Is that a good or bad thing?”
“It’s perfect that’s what I mean, it’s completely perfect just like you.”
“Please stop whining me, I know exactly how you men are. You seem so different now but I’m sure all that will change when you get whatever it is you want.” He wished he could tell her he didn’t want to be different, he didn’t want to feel this way at all. His mistakes of five years ago were still raw in his memory and he never wanted to lose control like that again. But her next words sent him spiralling out of orbit.
“I want you to come see me.”
Chike felt the wind get knocked out of his sails and he forced his constricted throat to stammer. “You… you want me to come… “
She laughed loud and hard. “Yes, I want you to come see me. Why do you sound so surprised?”
He cursed himself for his ineptitude. He was certain she was going to change her mind. Why had he sounded so shocked? What woman would want a man who wasn’t even sure of himself?
“No it’s not that. I’m not shocked it’s just that… I just… “
“You just what Chike?” The mockery in her voice was clear even to him.
“When would you like me to come?”
Her response was immediate. “The next full moon, that’s exactly three days from now.” Perhaps she sensed the slight hesitation he felt so she hurriedly added, “Ha ha, it’s nothing serious. It’s just going to be my first time seeing you and I wanted… I don’t know, a little bit of romance maybe?”
Chike felt his spirit begin to soar. The words Aisha was saying sounded exactly like what he desperately craved to hear. “It’s a date,” he almost screamed into the phone before she had the chance to change her mind, “Yes I’ll come see you. No problem.”
“Then it really is a date. I’ll text the address and other details to you right away.”
For the next two days Chike was a different man entirely even as he tried to keep a lid on his expectations. He knew of many Instagram couples that had worked out and were still working out. Okay maybe not many but still, there had to be a point to the app other than double tapping on pictures, living a fake lifestyle and hair vendors posting twerk videos in order to get more customers, he thought to himself. His happiness was almost complete and even his colleagues at work could see it. So could his landlord, who silently wondered to himself if it could be an opportunity to increase his rent.
On the third day Chike rose from sleep with joy in his heart and spent ample time grooming himself for his evening date. The next couple of hours were spent in fantasy land, conjuring up scenario after scenario of how things could play out. His Uber driver was a woman, a first for him, and thankfully she wasn’t the chatty type so the trip was conducted in relative peace and quiet, aided by the soft music being played from the car stereo. Chike slept off on the way and would have been shocked to know just how many SARS checkpoints his driver had manoeuvred through on the way to Aisha’s house in Ikorodu while he slumbered and snored. She woke him up when they got on the exact street and together, they followed the directions previously provided until they reached the cul-de-sac and the massive imposing structure that occupied it.
Chike’s first thought as the driver reversed and turned away was how any woman claiming to be single and so young could afford such a house. His second thought as he stared up at the thick growth of trees and vines that surrounded the gate and exterior walls was why anybody in his or her right mind would want to live in such an utterly lonely and desolate place. Despite a certain castle-like appeal, the house left his stomach feeling unsettled but he shook it off, pushed the side gate open and walked in.
The compound was a much better sight especially in the glare of the fast setting sun. The grass was neatly trimmed and a marble cut pathway led from the gate straight to the veranda. The building itself had three or four green vines creeping right down its front which rendered a classic feel to the entire aesthetic. Chike was barely half way down the path when the door of the house swung open and Aisha raced out to meet him and jumped into his arms. He was overjoyed. All his internal misogyny about a single woman living in such a place instantly evaporated in the wake of her exotic scent. She was dressed in a flowing red satin gown and in his mind ‘beautiful’ would have been too plain a word to be used in describing her.
They finally released themselves from each other’s embrace and Chike got a chance to look her in the face. Immediately he was lost in her eyes and that feeling of familiarity he had felt when he first gazed upon her Instagram instantly returned. She didn’t remind him of Kunle anymore, she reminded him of home. He was finally home, had finally found his place in the world and he was never going to give it up.
Aisha linked her hands in his as they walked into the house together. He was impressed by the décor and her sense of style. It was clear that she had focused much more of her taste on the interior rather than the exterior of the house and it was not a wasted effort. He whistled softly under his breath and she turned to face him.
“You like?” she teasingly asked.
“I love. Like, really love.”
“Awwn thank you so much,” she replied as she led him to sit on the plush sofa.
“So what would you like to drink?”
“Anything, absolutely anything you’re offering right now, I don’t even care.”
Aisha laughed; a full, hearty laugh, then she walked in the direction of the kitchen and quickly returned with an unopened bottle of wine and two glasses.
“You have very good taste,” he said examining the bottle, and as an afterthought he added, “Omalicha, i meela!”
She blushed so fully that he immediately knew he had made the right choice. “I’ll love it if you speak Igbo to me, especially all those your pet names and praise names for your women. I’m completely in love with such things.”
Chike, who’s spoken Igbo could be described as basic at best, wasted no time. “Ah ah! If it’s that alone then consider it done. I’ll spoil you with the language ehn, olu gbajie boys.”
They laughed together for a long while and then she abruptly sat right in his lap and stared deep into his eyes. He knew that in this moment she could ask him to slap the Pope and he wouldn’t even hesitate.
“Is this moving too fast? I mean, are we moving too fast? Because this is great and all but if it’s too fast then…” He didn’t wait for her to finish before moving in for the kill and capturing her lips with his. They kissed for what seemed like an eternity before he stopped and smiled contentedly.
“It’s not moving too fast asa nwa. You won’t believe me but I’ve been waiting for this moment my entire life. This feels so right and nothing could ever be better than this.”
They spent the next hour making out, sipping wine and barely engaging in any small talk. Finally she got off his lap and on her feet, straightened out her gown and stretched her hand to clasp his.
“Follow me upstairs, I want to show you something.”
Chike wasted no time in getting to his feet. Of course, he thought to himself, I have a few things to show you myself. They followed the spiral staircase to her bedroom on the second floor and again he marvelled at the simple elegance of the entire house and warm comfort of her chambers. A large water bed was placed directly in the centre of the spacious room and all other furniture arranged around it. The curtains were a dark red colour and completely closed, the walls blended well with the curtains and the bed itself, which was also another shade of red. Everything matched and it was all very beautiful and pleasing to Chike’s eyes.
“Stand right there. Yes, right there, don’t move please” Aisha said, directing him to the foot of the bed as she walked over to a part of the wall that held a chrome panel with different buttons and switches. She flipped one of the switches and for a moment nothing happened. Then all of a sudden, a tiny, whirring noise like an elevator running on its levers started to sound directly above him. He looked up to see a small section of the ceiling begin to slide back, slowly, on invincible hinges. It opened up fully to reveal a translucent glass roof covering the space, from which the brilliant moonlight descended into the room, illuminating the bed behind him and everything else the light touched. The blueish hue of the moonlight contrasted perfectly with the muted red colours all around him, transforming Aisha’s bedroom into something out of an eighteenth century fantasy novel.
Chike stood in awe as the room changed into what he always imagined heaven would look like. The sky roof wasn’t something one saw every day but it had been executed to perfection, with the glass constructed in such a way that it absorbed the rays of the moon hitting it from outside and then magnified the light all through the room. He finished his admiration of the room and turned to face Aisha. She looked like the goddess of sin basking in the brilliant light, her flowing red satin gown completing the aura of royalty that had descended upon her.
She cat walked slowly to where he stood, obviously enjoying the dumbfounded expression on his face. “Take off your clothes,” she whispered seductively, placing a palm softly on his chest. His brain took hardly a second to boot before he acceded to her request and was soon struggling with his clothes. She grabbed the hems of her dress and in one swoop lifted it above her head and let it drop to the floor, standing totally naked in his presence.
Before his mouth could drop any further Aisha pushed him onto the bed and climbed astride him. Her lips found his again and locked on as they explored each other’s bodies, caressing, kissing, biting and scratching. When she finally guided him inside her Chike thought he was going to faint from the sheer pleasure of it all. He thought he had already died and gone to heaven, evidenced by the immense beauty of the woman on top of him and the room they were in.
“Chike do you love me?”
From his vantage position looking up at her while she slowly rode him, it was impossible for him to feel anything but love, in that moment.
“Yes, I love you Aisha,” he hastily replied as he tried to stifle his grunts and groans. “I love you more than anything else in this world.” He wrapped his fingers around her slim waist.
“Are you sure?”
“Do you want to be with me?”
The pleasure was becoming intense, it was impossible for him to think rationally. “Yes I want to be with you, I’ve never wanted anything more in my life,” he gasped out.
“Are you mine? Do I have your heart and soul?”
His eyes met hers. The moonlight above and all around her looked extraordinary and as he looked into her eyes he felt himself trapped by their beauty, by the blue and white fire he saw in them. One hand clutched tightly at the bedsheets while his other hand travelled the entirety of her soft backside. He was about to explode and had no control over the words escaping from his mouth.
“Yes Aisha I’m yours and yours alone. You have my heart and everything else. You are my queen, I want to be here with you and never leave. I am yours.”
He didn’t hesitate for even a moment. “Forever.”
Aisha smiled. And Chike, on the verge of the most intense orgasm of his life, felt himself start to float off the bed. Yes! Yes! Yes! He thought, I’m coming, this is incredible. Then the pain hit him, sharp, piercing and worse than anything he had ever experienced. Chike’s eyes finally opened and he knew that something had gone horribly wrong. The moonlit room that had been so insanely beautiful only a few seconds ago now took on its real shape with markings and inscriptions on the walls that looked like they were written in white chalk as blood flowed down from the ceiling, steady and unrelenting, to form a pool around the bed.
A foul stench like death filled the room from nowhere and he couldn’t feel his body. The intense pain persisted though, firing all through his limbs but he couldn’t move and he had no control of his arms, legs or anywhere else. The woman on top of him was still writhing and riding, only now as he tried to focus on her despite the pain he was in, Chike experienced true horror, the type of which he had never known before. It was Aisha, but then it wasn’t really Aisha. Those eyes that had completely captured him before were now empty and lifeless. Under the moonlight, she looked like a creature from hell; her skin was dry and scaly like a lizard’s, shock-white hair, and claws where pretty, manicured nails had once been. He tried to convince himself that he was imagining things because of all the pleasure he had been feeling, but this couldn’t be his imagination. Not the horns springing forth from his lover’s head, or the dark feathered wings attached to her back that seemed to have come out of nowhere.
Chike felt like he was being sucked into her, felt his soul start to leave his body and travel up to become one with her. The pain coursing through him reached its crescendo and his eyes began to close, everywhere around him getting dimmer and dimmer. The thing on top of him suddenly started to laugh; a loud, high-pitched cackle that was the true embodiment of evil. The grotesque scene was further enhanced by the rays of the moon, still steadily pouring in through the glass roof. Chike, knowing that he was completely finished, mustered up all his remaining strength, forced air into his lungs and screamed, as loudly and desperately as he could. But no sound came out. Nothing could be heard but the monstrous cackling of the creature straddling him, draining the life out of him. And then absolute silence as his eyes finally shut, never to open again.