Read Choices here
Matthew heard the cry again. A loud sharp wail, piercing into the thick darkness. The cry reverberated ahead of him and an urgent curiosity crept into his bones. Slowly, he inched towards the direction of the cry. A large bird flew above his head, flapping its wide wings furiously. It seemed to be on a mission of its own. Well, Matthew was too. A mission to discover the source of the mysterious cry. It sounded like the cry of a baby, but he wasn’t so sure. He stepped on a broken trunk and it snapped loudly, disturbing the calm of the night. The darkness made it almost impossible for him to see beyond his nose. Nevertheless, he advanced, each step bringing him closer to the focus of his interest.
He stopped in his tracks when he saw an object, no bigger than a football, wrapped in a blanket. Could this be the source of the midnight cry, he wondered. Taking three forward steps, he bent down, heart thumping against his rib cage. He tasted salt on his tongue as a cloak of apprehension descended upon him.
Cautiously, he stretched out his right hand and touched the object and he was caught off guard by its cotton-like softness. Sucking in a sharp breath, he lifted the side of the blanket and nothing prepared him for what he now beheld. Staring at him was the bloodied face of a baby with skin the color of an over ripe mango. It would not have been more than a day old, its jet-black hair plastered all over its tiny head and face. It had no eyeballs, just two hollow sockets revealing an endless depth of darkness. Its mouth was curved in a sinister smile, sending shivers down Matthew’s spine.
His hands and legs trembled like a leaf under a strong wind as his mind tried to unravel the mystery before him. He attempted stepping backwards but his legs were as heavy as lead. The baby opened its mouth and let out a shrill scream, and like a scheduled episode, he found himself screaming alongside.
He felt a hand touch him and he jerked, eyes flying open. Josiah’s perplexed face looked down at him.
“Wake up Matthew, you’re having a bad dream.”
Matthew closed his eyes and opened them. It was a dream. A dream. He took a deep sigh, his breath shaky with relief. He sat up but his mind was jumbled up in thoughts. He glanced at Josiah who was sitting at the study table, a pen in his left hand. He was probably preparing for his exam coming up later this morning.
“Was it the same dream?” Josiah asked, a gentle look on his face.
Matthew gave him a knowing look as he drew his knees up to his chin and clasped his hands around them.
“Can I get water please?” His throat was parched.
“Of course.” Josiah went off to the kitchen and came back with a bottle of cold water. Matthew gulped it in a heartbeat and set the bottle of the floor. Josiah stood, watching him closely.
“Do you want to talk about it?”
Matthew shook his head. “Not now Josh. You have an exam to prepare for.”
Josiah pulled the chair closer to the bed and sat. “It’s just 4 a.m. My paper is for 11am. You have my attention bro.”
Matthew studied his face. His concern was genuine. Matthew gave a rueful smile as his mind wandered through memory lane. Josiah and Matthew were roommates during their undergraduate days at the University of Lagos. Josiah was an Engineering student while Matthew was an Accounting student. Josiah was a year ahead of Matthew, but because his course of study was a five-year course, they graduated at the same time.
Matthew was what anyone would consider a drop-dead handsome guy given his striking features. His eyes were round and bright, and his eyeballs were two shades lighter than the color of coffee, and this caught the attention of any onlooker. His eyebrows were very full and had to be carved regularly. His mother often joked that he accumulated the share of eye brows that should have gone to his two younger sisters. His nose was well pointed and his lips were perfectly shaped. To crown it all, his dentition was excellently arranged and whenever he flashed them, he was well aware of the swooning effect it had on ladies. He wasn’t very tall, but what he lacked in height, he made up for in body build. His regular visits to the gym also aided his well-built appearance, and his healthy eating habits aided the smooth glow of his cashew-colored skin.
Without any effort, he commanded the attention of ladies. They were all over him, and he considered it a thing of pride to have ladies fight for his love and attention. He didn’t start out as a play boy, but by his third year in the university, he already had three girlfriends and a string of “concubines”. Surprisingly, his wayward lifestyle had little or no effect on his grades. He wasn’t a top flier, neither was he a dull student. Understanding this, he celebrated his Bs and Cs with satisfaction.
Matthew didn’t like Josiah at first. In fact, he hated him. They met at the time when Matthew had squandered his accommodation fees and desperately needed someone to split the bills with. None of his friends could come to his rescue and so it was a big relief when he met Josiah who had the cash but didn’t have a place to stay. Josiah was an unapologetic Christian, and his boldness concerning his belief irked Matthew. They became roommates at the point where Matthew’s frivolous lifestyle was at its peak, and he wasn’t ready to listen to anyone, more so his bloody roommate. Josiah was the first person to tell him bluntly that his lifestyle was bad. But for Josiah’s unexpected calmness and the intervention of their neighbor, Matthew would have fought with him that day. In fact, Josiah became a heralder of many firsts in Matthew’s life.
He was the first person to preach the love of Christ to Matthew in such a simple manner, so simple that he found it quite difficult to believe. He was the first person to wash and clean Matthew up after he had gone on a drinking spree and retired to the room soaked in his vomit. He was the first and only person who had the nerve to trash the carton of condoms lying on Matthew’s table and when Matthew confronted him, he said he did so because he loved him. Matthew was torn between anger and frustration as he glared at Josiah’s kind face. He warned him never to meddle with his stuff again and Josiah simply smiled.
“Jesus loves you more than I do Matt, and He’s waiting for you to come to him.”
Matthew had grunted at his statement, but those words never left his heart. When they finally graduated, he still wasn’t repentant, but he had become very fond of Josiah. Josiah was a very good guy, one of the few ones left. Matthew only needed to take off the veil of animosity and bitterness to accept that Josiah was the best friend anyone could ever have.
“I’m all ears,” Josiah reiterated, bringing Matthew back to reality.
Matthew folded his arms. “Josh, I’m in deep trouble.”
Josiah’s silence was his cue to continue speaking.
“This dream has tormented me for a while. It stopped at a point, but recently, it started happening again.”
“This is serious. Can you explain the dream to me?”
With nervous breaths, Matthew explained the harrowing dream to him, reliving every single detail. By the time he was done, he was sitting on the tiled floor, his legs spread slightly apart. The room was hot, even though it was still early in the morning and the fan was on. Josiah closed his eyes for a few minutes, saying nothing. When he finally opened them, Matthew saw pain.
“Olanna”. His voice was soft, but the mention of the name sent shivers down Matthew’s spine.
“I regret everything I did.” Matthew’s voice broke. “I wish I followed Jesus earlier. I would not have made such a costly mistake.”
Josiah let out a deep breath. “Where is she now?”
Matthew’s eyes brimmed with unshed tears. “She’s dead.”
“Jesus Christ!” He sat up immediately. “Dead?”
Instantly, Matthew flashed back to the afternoon when Olanna, his girlfriend visited him. He was in his final year then, preparing for his project defense. He had gone to the library, so she left a message with Josiah. On getting back to the room, Josiah handed him a brown envelope.
“Olanna asked that I give this to you.”
Strange, Matthew thought. A brown envelope? He dropped the file in his hand and opened the envelope. There was nothing inside, except a pregnancy strip. He didn’t need a prophet to tell him what it meant. Olanna was pregnant again.
“Damn!” he muttered.
“Anything the matter?” Josiah asked, glancing at him.
“Why are girls so stupid? I told her the last time not to allow this happen again. Now just take a look,” he said, waving the strip in the air.
Josiah sat up. “She’s pregnant?”
“Isn’t it obvious,” Matthew said with irritation.
Josiah folded his arms. “What are you going to do?”
“Did you just ask that question? Take a look at me,” Matthew said, standing fully before Josiah. “Do I look like I’m ready to be a father?”
“If you were not ready to be a father, maybe you should have kept your private part private.”
Matthew swore and they both glared at each other.
“This is not the first time, I suppose?”
“It’s none of your damn business,” Matthew retorted sharply.
Josiah turned his attention to his book.
“Don’t do it.”
“Don’t have an abortion. Take responsibility for the baby.”
“That’s the most ridiculous thing I’ve heard today. Take responsibility? Like it’s my fault that she ended up pregnant?”
“Whose fault is it then?” Josiah fired back.
“Olanna should have known better. She’s not a child for Christ’s sake! I warned her not to allow this happen again, but I guess her dumbness stood in the way of her understanding!”
Josiah stared at Matthew as if he had just grown green horns.
“Matt, do you love this girl at all?”
Matthew sank into his bed. “I do. I love her. But we are both not ready for a baby now. I haven’t even graduated, not to talk of earning money for a living. She’s just in her third year, and she has two more years to go. A baby would disrupt everything!”
Josiah leaned forward. “Irrespective of the manner of its conception, a child is a blessing. I believe you can find a way around this without harming the baby,” he said mildly.
“Yeah, right.” Matthew sneered. “A way indeed. I didn’t know what I was thinking, discussing this with you. I know you’re gloating in your heart. After all, I never heeded your warning.”
Hurt flashed through Josiah’s eyes. “Why would you say that Matthew? You’re my friend so why on earth will I gloat over your predicament?”
“Look, I’m tired of this conversation,” Matthew snapped. “I’m going out to clear my head.” With that, he picked up his phone, adjusted his T-shirt and walked out of the room, slamming the door.
Thanks for reading. Episode 2 comes up next!