PHANTOM LABOURER

The fear of death is the beginning of living

Late for class again, I dash between unsuspecting pedestrians as I race for the public bus that would take me to school. Mrs. Funke would be furious at me for showing up late once again. I have promised myself several times that this time would be different but it seems to be wired in my genes to be tardy.

I’m close to the bus stop now, just need to cross the road to the other side and intercept it as it arrives to offload and take on passengers. The day is about to break as bright rays of sunlight stream through the clouds, lightening up the whole street.

I look around before crossing the street, no time to use the flyover, and that’s when I notice them there, as usual, floating above the heads of every single person walking by. A bright green bar hovers a few centimeters above their oblivious heads.

The first time I spotted this thing, I was horrified. I could not fathom their meaning at the time but eventually, I came to understand what they represented.

They were basically life bars that indicated how long a person was going to live. Over time, the green bar would devolve to an orange bar which meant they were closer to their demise steadily. Then a dark brown bar was next which inched them further to their expiry date and most times people with the brown bar had one health issue or were very elderly.

But the one bar I dreaded the most was the deep red bar which means that person was about to die very soon or within the hour. It could be a freak accident, a stroke, or a heart attack.

Whenever I was in public and I spotted a red bar, I did my best to try and save them from whatever impending danger might be lurking around for them before it turns grey, which was the final color that would float above the recently deceased

Often times I succeeded and some other times I failed, their deaths have weighed on me multiple times in the past but I made up my mind to save as many people as I could.

Hospitals were my least favorite places to visit, I would often witness a sea of brown and red bars littered everywhere as people desperately fought for their lives.

Despite this horrific power of mine, I have learned to see the beauty in things and despite my ability to see everyone’s life bar, I can’t seem to see mine which scares me often. I have stood in front of my mirror hoping to see it but nothing shows

I am still lost in thought when I approach the bus stop which was in front of an uncompleted building currently undergoing construction and was laden with a ton of construction materials and scaffolds.

I stood at the bus stop patiently still observing people’s life bars, a kindly old woman in a wheelchair rolled beside me also waiting for the bus, she had a diminishing brown bar which was gradually degrading to red. Her raspy cough indicated to me that she was towards her final years, I hoped she lived a full life.

She smiled and waved at me and I smiled and waved back, I put on my earphones and started listening to music from my phone, which tends to calm me down.

It was then I noticed something strange. A young man in a suit holding a briefcase was walking towards my direction. He was talking to someone on his phone but also glancing at his watch indicating that he was on his way to catch the bus as well.

He had a green bar which was not surprising considering how young and healthy he looked, but then it dropped rapidly to the orange state, I was taken aback, it was a steep drop.

The man looked to be at his prime, he was at the peak of the human physique and there were no visible signs of anything wrong with him. I was still contemplating what I was observing when the orange bar drooped down to a brown bar.

I am perplexed, he was walking on the designated sidewalk and there were no cars in any form of proximity to him. I frantically dart my eyes left and right, searching for what the source of danger could be.

Brown becomes red. Hairs on the back of my neck rise, goosebumps shoot all over my body as my blood turns cold with fright. This man was about to die and I had no idea how.

It was then I heard it. ‘CLANG’ ‘CLANG’ The sound of metal banging on metal. I immediately realize that we are both standing in front of the uncompleted building currently undergoing construction. There are several pieces of scaffolds around the building with a dozen of workers and artisans hammering nails and drilling in holes.

The man was barely ten steps away from me when I noticed his harbinger of doom. High up on the scaffolds, as the artisans tirelessly work away, a piece of scaffold metal had shifted shaken its content which was a workbench that contained a dozen metallic rebars on it.

The scaffold gave way, and rain of metallic rods cascaded down towards the young man. I raced forward and threw my weight at the man, knocking him and myself backward and out of the way of the metallic rain.

“Hey what are you doing?”, the man yelled angrily as he landed hard on the floor.

‘CRASH’ The metal rods, several centimeters thick, landed on the concrete ground. The force enough for some of the rods to be embedded into the hard ground, leaving them standing vertically.

The man’s eyes widened in horror at his luck. He could not believe that he had just escaped death by a hair’s breadth. He stared at where he would have been impaled to death if not for my intervention.

“Oh my God. Thank you so much”, he exclaimed as he was shaking me in a mix of fright and appreciation.

I looked up at his life bar and noticed that it has reverted back to a green color once more.

“How can I repay you?”, he asked

“Please just be more observant of your surroundings”, I reply as I move back towards the bus stop to intercept the bus that has arrived.

The man sat still on the ground, his eyes wide open as he played back the scenario in his head, people crowded him asking him if he was hurt and showing concern.

The man was still staring at me as I board the bus, I look at his life bar yet again and notice that it remained green, he looked up above his head as well, following my gaze and seeing nothing, further cementing his confusion.

“They would not understand”, I think to myself as I find myself a seat on the bus.

I heaved a huge sigh of relief as I approach my school.

Classes were already in full motion, I had already missed two classes, but at least I would not encounter the wrath of Mrs. Funke, for today that is.

I hurry into my third class, stealthily tiptoeing in from the back entrance to avoid attention from the teacher. I see down at the back of the class and scan my surrounding, taking note of my classmates.

Helen and Ali were seated in front as usual, still in denial of been infatuated with each other.

The nerds sat in the first line of the class, as usual, some of the class clowns sat at the far right, making jokes and gossiping.

Nimrod sat still at the far back corner as usual, taciturn and isolated. Kareem and Akeem were ogling the slay mamas in their full-blown makeup as usual.

Everything was going as normal and expected in school. I shiver lightly, my mind flying back to the near-accident from the bus stop. As much as I have faced death, it still bugs me when I encounter it.

I look up at all their green life bars and their cherry happy faces, living their lives as freely as possible.

The class ends and two more follow suit, my mind barely focused on the curriculum and teachers as my mind wander as normal.

“RING” the bell for the lunch break peels as we all pour out of our classrooms to the courtyard to have our lunches and take a break.

Helen and Ali giggle incessantly and disappear behind the admin office which is located far off from the center of the school, probably up to juvenile shenanigans.

The students all rush into the courtyard with their lunch boxes while some approached the food kiosks to purchase food. Nimrod rushed into the toilet, silent and passive as usual.

I unwrap my lunch and sit on a bench still pondering over fleeting thoughts. I was still deep in thought when the end of the break bell rang signifying that we return to our respective classrooms.

I pick a seat in the middle room this time so I could at least appear interested in the next volley of classes. By now everyone had returned into the classroom, Helen and Ali still giggling from whatever activity they had just completed.

Everyone was in except Nimrod, I figured he must have had a bad lunch and was suffering the consequences in the toilet.

Everyone was settled in as the teacher walks in to begin the class. I stare at everyone’s green bar again. seeing so many greenery usually calms me and makes me feel at peace

The class begins and then it happens. one by one, everyone’s life bar drops to orange, my blood turns cold as my heart skips several beats.

What could possibly be responsible for this mass decline?

My eyes start darting back and forth, as usual, looking for the source of the impending predicament.

The orange degrades to brown. I shift violently in my seat, cold chills run down my spine. The sharp drag of my seat draws everyone’s attention to me.

I ignore the looks still frantically searching for the danger when everyone’s brown bar drops to red.

I get up from my seat rapidly. my heartbeat pounding harder than a bongo.

“What seems to be the problem, young man”, the teacher calls out to me.

I gaze at a crimson wave of red bars, sweat drips down my face profusely. Everyone wears confused looks on their faces as they keep staring at me.

I inch backward slowly as the feeling of nausea rise within me, I do a full 360 degrees turn and spot my reflection in the classroom mirror located at the back.

My heart flies into my throat when for the first time ever, I see my life bar. Pulsating in a deep scarlet red, hovering over my head.

What could this mean? I have never seen my own life bar. Was I about to die with all my classmates form a freak accident?

I ran through so many questions in my head when “BOOM” the classroom door flies open. everyone exclaims in horror at what was at the door entrance.

I turn to see what the cause of the commotion is and see the teacher fly across the classroom with a grey bar, as a force throws him off his feet and unto the wall with blood gushing out of his chest. The gunshot was loud and deafening.

I trace the source of the shot and that was when I noticed Nimrod holding a 12 gauge shotgun with rage in his eyes and tears streaming down his cheeks.

I close my eyes and expect the inevitable.

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EATOPIA

A story of adventure and dread

“BEEP” “BEEP” Sandra jolts up from her bed, she groans in dismay as she sat upright on her bed still feeling sleepy. She glanced at her wall clock and sprung out of her bed like a jack in a box as she realized that she would be late for work. She had missed her first two alarms, most likely punishment from the universe for sleeping late the night before. She dashed into her bathroom to freshen up and rushed breakfast as she changed into her work clothes. Multitasking under pressure was her forte. She rushed out of her apartment and approached the gate that would lead her into the street.

“Good morning Sandra”, a voice called from behind her.

Sandra turned and noticed her neighbor greeting her. Silas was a tall, pale, and lanky man with a long face. He wore a crooked smile and a pair of large eyeglasses. His countenance always freaked her out as he would often stare at her and make her feel very uncomfortable.

‘Hope your night was good?”, he said with his permanent grin.

“Erm, yeah, it…it was fine”, Sandra replied as she fiddled with the lock on the gate desperately to escape from this conversation.

“You take care now”, he said as she exited the gate.

Sandra hastily walked towards the main road to hitch a ride in direction of her workplace. Ever since her car broke down and had been at the mechanic’s shop, she had had to hitch rides to work, an act that she had to endure out of necessity.

She got to the roadside and waved down various cars. She clutched down hard on her purse, she could feel the large wad of money that she had been entrusted with delivering to her boss. She hated the idea of having to carry such a large sum of money while hitching a ride with strangers.

“In a hurry, are we?”, a voice spoke behind her, startling her.

She turned to see an elderly man standing beside her, smiling as he looked at her.

“You look eager, young lady”, he added.

“Yes I need to get to work urgently”

“Ah yes, the hustle and bustle of youth”

Sandra smiled back at the man as not to appear rude but kept her eyes on passing cars still trying to wave one down.

“Ah I see, so you are going with the old school hitching?”, the old man added.

Sandra smiled at him once again but was silently praying to get a ride as quick as possible.

Alas, a car came to a halt beside her, in the vehicle was the driver, a front passenger, and two back passengers.

“You need a ride madam?”, the driver asked jovially

“Yes, very much, thank you”

The old man scanned the car and gently grabbed Sandra’s arm as she approached the car door to open it.

“Be wary of whose car you enter”, he warned “Not every smiling face is a friendly one”

“Look, old man, I’m almost late for work and don’t really have many options”, she sneered at him.

She got into the car and the driver turned the ignition key to start the engine. Sandra took one last look behind her to see the old man disappear in the distance, shaking his head disapprovingly.

Sandra shifted in her seat as the car drove on. She glanced at the other passengers beside her. One was a young man in a suit wearing glasses, clutching a briefcase while the other was a young woman in yellow braids. The front passenger was also a young man but in a bright green shirt.

“So where are you headed, madam”, the driver asked politely.

“My place of work is around Bastion, if you can drop me off around Harry Crescent, that would be fine”.

The car sped on along the highway, zooming past market places and pedestrians. She gazed at the bespectacled man beside her, he stared forward without blinking, evident that she was staring at him, but undeterred in his conviction to be bothered, Sandra figured that he was not in a chatty or expressive mood; the same mood she was in

“What’s a fine woman like you doing hiking?”, asked the front passenger in green

“My car is in the repair shop”, she replied dismissively, she didn’t feel like engaging in any conversations, she just wanted to get to work as soon as possible and get the money off her hands.

The front passenger kept engaging her in more banal conversations to which she kept responding as uninterestingly as she could.

“Erm, this route looks very different”, said the female passenger with the yellow braids.

“Oh yeah we are trying to beat the traffic along Tony Street” replied the driver as he turned a sharp corner.

They continued on for a couple of minutes before the bespectacled man asked.

“Why then are you taking such a rough route?”

The car had turned off the highway into a street that led into a forested area and had no smooth surface unlike the tarmac of the highway. The car galloped over multiple bumps, rocking the passengers like a ship on the rough seas.

“Trust me, this is a faster route to your destination”, the driver said hiding a smile which unnerved Sandra.

The car went on for a few more minutes before coming to a full stop deep in the forest.

“Why have we stopped?”, asked the man in glasses aggressively.

“If you don’t mind, I need to ease myself quickly”, the driver replied as he stepped out of the car and walked into the bush.

The front passenger in green also alighted from the car and beckoned at the remaining passengers to take this opportunity to empty their bladders before returning to the road.

Sandra felt exposed and uncomfortable deep in the jungle as the two men walked into the bush and disappeared. The suited man in glasses got down from the car as well.

“I might as well follow suit”

He then sauntered into the bush as well and spotted a large iroko tree which seemed like the ideal spot for him to relieve himself. Sandra got restless in the car and decided to stretch her body.

“Wouldn’t you come out of the car as well?”, she asked the other female passenger.

“No I am fine here”, she replied.

Sandra strolled about to stretch herself and aimlessly wandered about until she spotted the bespectacled man doing his business when she noticed something strange.

The front passenger in green was sneaking up behind him with a large wooden stick in his hand. Sandra’s eyes widened in horror as she could not believe what she was observing.

The assailant whacked the unsuspecting man “THUM” the bespectacled man collapsed like a house of cards. Sandra backed away in terror and clasped her hands over her mouth to prevent herself from screaming.

She crouched low to avoid been spotted. She immediately dashed towards the car to warn the other female passenger of what she had just witnessed.

She got to the car to find the back doors wide open and the female passenger nowhere to be found. She heard a loud shriek erupt from somewhere else in the forest, she darted towards the source of the scream. She stood rooted at the spot at what she witnessed.

The driver knelt on the female passenger, who laid prone on the ground motionless and groaning in pain as the driver repeatedly plunged a long kitchen knife into her chest. Sandra could not contain herself anymore. She yelled in terror and the driver spotted her.

“Ok I know this looks bad, but trust me when I say that I will make it quick and painless”, the driver said as he inched towards Sandra, bloody knife at hand.

Sandra turned around to run towards the car when she bumped into the front passenger in green who had been trying to sneak behind her and knock her out as well. She knocked him over unintentionally as she hurried towards the vehicle. The driver pursued after her.

She got to the car, her heart pounding furiously against her chest like a caged animal. She prayerfully checked the ignition and was elated to find the key in it.

She swiftly locked herself inside the car and fidgeted with the keys in a desperate attempt to start the car. “CRASH” The side window smashed open, spraying glass all over Sandra as the driver grabbed on to her shoulder.

With panic running down her spine, she slammed her entire weight on the accelerator and zoomed off with the driver still holding unto her. The car picked up speed and the driver had to let go as the momentum dragged his body across the rough road.

Sandra steered and swerved the car as much as she could, fighting every ounce of anxiety and agitation. She managed to find the main road again and continued to drive on with the hope of finding the expressway and civilization. Her mind raced with so many chaotic thoughts. Should she go to work? Should she go to the police? Should she go back home?

Sandra drove on lost in her thoughts when “BANG” a heavy force slammed against her shoulder. She cried in pain as she managed to keep control of the steering wheel and not veer off the road.

She stuck her head out to see the source of such rude disturbance when she spotted the front passenger clinging on to the roof of the car with his trusty wooden club in his hand which he had hit her with.

She could not fathom what she was seeing as the front passenger struggled with her over the grip of the steering wheel, most likely trying to slow her down.

He must have climbed unto the car when she was struggling with the driver, she thought to herself. In a desperate state to relieve herself of this perturbance, she turned the steering wheel aggressively from left to right to throw off the assailant. This resulted in the rear end of the car fishtailing and losing control as she veered off the main road and into the hard embrace of a nearby tree. “BAM” Everything went black.

TO BE CONTINUED