THE FIRST MORNING…

There were tall slim trees lining the driveway.

Their shadows lay behind them; waving on the sand, imitating the trees’ dance to the wind. Shrubs lined the crown of the driveway, planted between the streetlights; their short shadows casting dark imprints on the lit tarred road. The cemented edge of the crown was painted in green and white; adding character and identity to the road that led up to the unknown hotel. The picturesque scenery rubbed up the anxiety of being on strange roads to unknown places at almost midnight wrong. After all, we had been driving for over two hours in the middle of endless sands with only bird calls and the infrequent cars speeding past for fleeting company. It could have been a scene out of Friday the 13th… a beautiful road to the saw-wielding psychopath lurking in the shadows of the State-abandoned property somewhere in the middle of nowhere.

“Ina kwana?”

I hadn’t seen us draw up at a gate painted in green and white. I also hadn’t noticed the driver slow the car down. But I heard a strange voice express a familiar greeting; and it drew me away from images of ripped bodies and hacked-off heads in my subconscious; souvenirs from late nights in front of the television movie channel.

I looked across over the driver, to the man bent at the waist peering into the car. A security light was behind him; so while all I could see was a dark form in the shape of a human, I knew he could see me clearly. A tad too disturbing, that thought, after the visual memoir I had just experienced in my head.

The gates opened while he was still beside the car; and I realized there must have been someone else behind him or beside him; to whom he must have given some sign that we were to be let in. I wasn’t sure if it was comforting; but I didn’t get to dwell on it as a building painted cream and brown appeared at the end of the driveway. There were lights in front of it, and that got me wracking my memory for any horror movies whose psychopath’s house had a lighted porch.

Chucky? Nope.

Friday the 13th? Nope

Valentine’s day? Nope

Wrong turn? Nope

I know what you did last summer? Nope

Scream? Nope

Hostel? Nope

Species? Noo…hunh?! *eyes pop* Her front porch was lighted; wasn’t it?

I was going to ask Google (Lord knows what key words I’d planned to use) but a figure in black (who wears black at night in the middle of nowhere for Chris’ sake?) rose out of a shadowed wall that I hadn’t even seen and I lost all attempts at being cool. It was a deafening scream first, then a crazy struggle to get out of the cab till I recalled the man had stepped out to open the door for us before we boarded. As at that time I had been awed by his chivalry, but my frenzied brain was reinterpreting the event:

The door can only be opened from the outside… measures to reduce the possibility of the average prey escaping.

I wasn’t going to be the “average prey”. Matter of fact, my mind had not finished explaining everything when my hand had flown over the window and to the car-door handle outside.

Frenzied voices were speaking gibberish in hurried tones somewhere outside me. The driver’s and someone else’s. That was just more impulse, fuel that got my feet on the floor and racing for the bush, thinking that heading back to the gate would be useless. Definitely, they were all in on it.

I was at the edge of the bush when my brain alerted me to the eerie silence. My subconscious noted that the birds it had clocked in earlier had stopped chirping. As sudden as the silence before it had been, so it too hit the night… but with a bang.

Boom!

A gunshot. My feet froze. My heart stopped. The world tilted, blurred, became hazy shapes, then all went dark before…

“Dupe!”

My eyelashes sprang apart and light, too much light, caused them to draw back together. My boss’ face was some metres away from mine, looking scared. Giggles, happy baby giggles, were in the background; somewhere by my right hand side. My eyes caught something in my peripheral vision, to my left hand side: curtains.

There is something there. A window perhaps; a vista to this world I am caught in, definitely.

I moved my limbs testily; they were not shackled. I got up, still wordless, and walked to the dancing curtain. Half terrified, half curious, shaking hands stretching like a slow motion movie scene to lift the curtain.

The sun was climbing up from behind gorgeous rocks, and a tremor shook my being.

DSC01895A gasp left my oral cavity as I slid open the glass door and stepped onto the balcony to soak in the beauty of that morning. A smile picked up my cheeks, even as tears slid from my eyes and I sagged against the wall, weak.

It had been a dream… my mind working with my fear from the night before to create a script of what could-have-been. Only the beauty remained in reality that morning. And by God! Dutse was beautiful.

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