I woke up on the cool sandy floor of a shack.
Already the sun had fled the sky and sister moon shone down her pale light, giving me little illumination to examine my surroundings.
The shack was a fairly large hut made out of badly twisted planks of wood, lined side by side to form four walls, and a thatched roof with a small rectangular hole cut out at one edge, I don’t know what for. The floor was covered in sand like I said previously; cool, slightly wet sand that provided comfort to my currently aching head. There was a numbing feeling in my wrists and I realized my hands had been tied securely around my back. I tried to look around without moving my head too much, partly not to aggravate the headache and partly in case my abductor was still around. A few bodies were scattered around on the floor, their hands tied by thick rope behind their backs just like I probably was, and their legs left free. I counted four, so we were all present.
Hopefully nobody was seriously hurt. Seeing nobody else in the vicinity, I struggled to a sitting position. As I did so, one of the bodies moved.
“Who’s there?” I recognized Chioma’s frightened voice.
“Chioma, it’s me, Chuks.” I whispered back.
“What’s happening? Why are we tied up?” her voice was loud and bordering on hysterical. Someone outside might hear her and I needed time to collect my thoughts, think out a plan.
“Chioma calm down.” I whispered urgently. “Someone might hear you.”
There was a low m0an from another of the bodies as we spoke and the person struggled to a sitting position.
“Who’s there?” Jenny said in a frightened voice.
“Quiet Jenny!” I said harshly.
“Oh, Chukwudi, it’s you? The place is so dark; I can’t really make out anybody’s face. Who’s there beside you? She said as she wriggled her arms uselessly against its bonds.
“It’s Chioma.” I said, even as Chioma started to murmur something.
“Chioma are you okay? What are you doing?”
“Praying.” She said
“Honestly, Chioma now isn’t the time for that.” Jenny said and turned to address me. “How do we get out of here?”
“That’s what I was trying to figure out before you ladies woke up.” I said, trying to keep my voice down. “I think we are on a beach or something.”
Jenny’s voice came across quietly. “We are at the shores of the River Niger.”
“Oh?” how would you know that?” I asked.
“I’d recognize home even if my eyes were closed.” She said. “This is my birthplace.”
At that, Chioma spoke suddenly. “Home? I said it! You are a Mermaid aren’t you?”
“Yes I am!” Jenny fired back. “What are you going to do? Burn me at the stake?”
“Ladies, I swear, this is not the best time for this!” I said, giving up on keeping my voice down.
“But, she just admitted…wait, you knew?” Chioma gasped.
“Of course I did.” I said. “I thought you said you knew too…in your office?”
Chioma’s voice shook. “Yeah, I mean not really…as in I thought she was a mermaid in the spiritual sense but not really a mermaid…as in…physically…admitting it sounds more real…”
“Well, she is.” I said. “Fins and all, just like you saw the day she called me.”
“Why are you talking as if this is normal?” Chioma sounded like she wanted to cry.
Jenny sighed. “Look Chioma. I’m a mermaid. Deal with it. I’m not even going to ask how you found out and why Chuks here didn’t let me in on the fact that you suspected already. What’s important is that we are all in grave danger and we need to work together if we are going to survive this.”
Chioma took a deep breath. “Okay.” She said. “It’s obvious we have been kidnapped. Soon they’ll come and ask for ransom money. Our part is to play cool. I’m sure the company should be able to come up with a reasonable sum…”
“Em, Chioma. I don’t think the people that kidnapped us are interested in any ransom,” I said grimly.
“Why not?” Chioma cried. “What else will they want from us? Are they ritualists?”
“More like cannibals…”Jenny murmured.
“Whaaat?” Chioma gasped again.
“Chioma, it has to do with the Leopard that killed that old man, the one Sidney got into trouble for, and the man that strangled Sidney to death in the firm this afternoon.” I said.
“Maybe you should start from the beginning, Chuks.” Jenny said.
“There’s no time…” I began
“Yes Chuks, start from the beginning because I don’t understand what either of you are talking about!”Chioma said.
And so I quickly told Chioma everything. About the Sight, about finding out Jenny was a Mermaid, my dreams of the man-animal and the people he had killed. I even told her about my revelations about the board members and her wooden cross.
“And so here we are,” I said. “The last thing I recognized was the voice of the driver, the man-animal’s accomplice from my dreams. Before I could react we had all inhaled the white stuff. It probably was some kind of chemical to knock us out.”
“He’s been right under our noses the whole time.” Jenny said.
“How come I couldn’t discern it was him, though?” I said, perplexed. Then I looked at Jenny, or what I could make of her.
“Stop glaring, I can feel it.” Jenny said. “It wasn’t my fault.”
“You’ve been messing up my powers since I got to Asaba.” I said angrily. “See what you’ve caused.”
“Hey! Honestly it wasn’t my fault!” Jenny cried. “When I touched him in the car accidentally with the Revealer ring, it came across a different kind of power. He was wearing a talisman of some sort; something that would have hidden his true identity from someone with our gifts. I only saw the talisman for a second myself before he pushed me away. Even if I hadn’t tampered with your powers, there’s no way you would have seen anything.”
“So, you are saying that you did tamper with his powers?” Chioma cut in.
“Yeah, but he knows that already. I told you everything in my office Chuks. And I am sorry. I really am.”
“It’s alright dear, it’s not your fault.” Chioma said. “It’s his fault for sticking around you even when he knew you were a mermaid.”
“What?” I said.
“Being a mermaid, it doesn’t make me evil, Chioma.” Jenny said pleadingly.
“I know.” Chioma said. “I get it. But like he said, you did tell him you were interested in his power. And he didn’t take enough precautions against you. At least you were honest.”
“What??”I said. “How…”
“Well, I did try all my seductive charms on him.” Jenny said and I could feel her smile. “Most men would have fallen immediately but he held on for longer than I’ve ever known any other man to. He’s a keeper, he is.”
“You used charms on him?” Chioma said.
“s£duct!on charms, my specialty.” Jenny said coolly. “But he’s stubborn.”
“No.” Chioma said. “He’s in love.”
Both ladies giggled and I felt the beginning of an unlikely friendship between them. I was happy to know they were finally bonding, even if it was sort of at my expense.
“Em, I don’t mean to interrupt this girls’ night out…” I said. “But don’t you think we should wake them Obi and Kelvin up? They’ve been unconscious for too long. Then maybe we can figure out how to get out of here.”
“Tell Jenny you are sorry first,” Chioma said.
“Sorry? For What? She s£duced me like she said! I…”
“Aw come on, Chuks,” Chioma chided. “Admit you like her already. You wouldn’t have let her come so close to you if you didn’t like her a little.”
“I didn’t say I hated her…okay okay.” I said as Chioma kicked some dirt towards me with her free legs. “I’m sorry for being angry with you, Jenny. You did warn me. Chioma warned me too. Even Chuks the Stronger pulled my ear, but I didn’t listen. I don’t blame you for anything. I mean it.”
“Thanks.” Jenny said. “And I’m sorry for trying to hide you from Chioma. She was the one who had the original idea to call you up for the project. I kind of stole you from her when I discovered how special you were. Chioma…sorry about that.”
“Apology accepted.” Chioma said. “You know, all this mishap has actually brought us closer. I believe we are all going to be good friends!”
“I’m afraid it’s going to be a very short-lived friendship then.” A voice said at the door. “As short as your lives.”