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Manna from the dark



A third man waved his pistol, motioning me to lie on the ground. He was the tallest. The slit on his ski mask and exposed forearm placed him of a much lighter complexion. His demeanor picked him out as the leader of the bunch. Baron returned. “Everything is under control.” He rushed to where Madam lay, dragged her to her feet and slammed her fore‐ head against the wall. “Open this door!” She raised an arm to shield her face, tears smearing her makeup and mascara. “There is nothing in there.” Her voice shook, and a cough caught in her throat. Baron raised his hand and brought it down on her cheek. It connected with a cracking sound. Quick as lightning, he swiped the back of his hand across her face with such force that my insides churned. Blood spurted from her nose and gushed down the front of her white T-shirt. Her eyes rolled back in her head and she crumbled in a heap to the ground. He jerked his head toward his accomplice. “Get some water. She thinks we came to play.” The abettor ran off and returned with a bottle of water. I watched as Baron unscrewed the cap and emptied its contents on Madam’s face. She spluttered. Her eyes flew open, head sweeping from side to side, as if trying to recall where she was. Baron squatted, wrapped his hand around Madam’s hair and yanked her to her feet like she weighed nothing. He turned her to face him. “Now, I want you to key in the code of that vault.” He squeezed her throat, shaking her back and forth like a doll. “Do it!” I watched her hands shake as she keyed in the combina‐ tion code and then stooped to look at Baron. “Open it,” he barked. “I don’t have the keys. I only have the code.” She wriggled her fingers. He balled his hand into a fist and punched her in the mouth. She screamed as the blow sent her flying backwards. Her head missed a table by inches. Blood splattered everywhere. In a flash, I sprung from the floor, locked my hands around Baron’s throat and squeezed. He gasped, his hands trying to fight off my grip. I drew him towards me and slammed his head against the wall. A sharp pain shot through my upper arm, I looked down and saw the white of my sliced flesh, blood gushing from the hideous wound. Their supposed leader had his arm raised. A long blade caught the light as he readied to deliver a second blow. I let go of my victim and charged at him. He swerved to the side and his hand flew up again. I felt the blade cut through my back and screamed. Another swift move opened my thigh. I gripped my legs, terror replacing numbness as I watched blood gush. I fought to rise, but he pressed the sword against my throat. His eyes reflected his intention, mine dared him. He pushed the blade, and I felt my blood trickled down the side of my neck. I lowered my eyes in defeat. “We are not here to play. We know there is over 25 million naira in that vault. And we’re not leaving without it.” Baron slammed the butt of his rifle on the floor and walked toward me.

Their leader placed the long blade in his path and shook his head. In my daze, I heard the shaky voice of Prof. “I have the keys. Please, do not kill anybody.” “Now, you are talking.” Baron grinned. Their leader motioned with the sword and they formed a circle, heads close as they listened to him. I strained but caught none of his words. Baron took the lead again. He grabbed Prof. by the collar. “All right, open the vault.” “Wait, the keys are in my drawer.” He pointed at the direction of his desk. “Let’s go.” They both disappeared, and the leader waved his sword, gesturing me to rise. I held the wall and lifted myself, winc‐ ing. The other two returned. I saw Prof. insert a key in the vault with unsteady hands. Baron shoved him aside, turned the key and swung the heavy metal door open. “Come here!” He grabbed Prof. by the collar and pushed him into the room. Then he encased Madam’s neck and pushed her in. His eyes blazed when he looked at me. “You think you can hinder our efforts, right? A punch hit my stomach, followed by another on my temple. I doubled over, nausea rising. I puked on the shirt of my assailant. He drew back in shock, his eyes dark with anger. “Idiot!” He pushed me into the vault room. I looked around at the money piled up in stacks; customers’ deposit for the whole week. “Fill the bags!” He dropped duffel bags at my feet. I gaped at him. “Think we came for jokes? This will show you how serious we are.” He grabbed Madam’s long braids and slammed her on the concrete door of the vault. She shrieked. A huge bump appeared on her forehead, like an inflated balloon. “Fill up those bags,” he snapped. I dragged my feet, stumbling my way to the shelf where the deposits were stacked. “Hurry, stupid idiot!” The leader brandished his serrated blade to stacks of higher denominations. His men heisted the higher notes into the bags. Four large bags filled. My cloth clung to my sweat-soaked back. The wounds on my arm ached. The robbers rewarded pauses with sharp kicks and slaps. “Faster or I will use this on your fucking head.” Baron brandished the butt of his gun at me. Two more bags filled up, and they filed the three of us into Madam’s office. Baron waved his gun. “You all sit on the floor shoulder to shoulder!” Their leader withdrew a masking tape from his backpack and tossed it at Baron. He stood back, leaning against the door, cold eyes watching. A third guy stood over us, a jeering smile on his face. “Press your hands together.” He kicked Prof. on the side. “You heard me?” They bound us in little time, turned off the lights and shut the door behind them. Darkness descended. I embraced it, shutting my eyes

A third man waved his pistol, motioning me to lie on the ground. He was the tallest. The slit on his ski mask and exposed forearm placed him of a much lighter complexion. His demeanor picked him out as the leader of the bunch. Baron returned. “Everything is under control.” He rushed to where Madam lay, dragged her to her feet and slammed her fore‐ head against the wall. “Open this door!” She raised an arm to shield her face, tears smearing her makeup and mascara. “There is nothing in there.” Her voice shook, and a cough caught in her throat. Baron raised his hand and brought it down on her cheek. It connected with a cracking sound. Quick as lightning, he swiped the back of his hand across her face with such force that my insides churned. Blood spurted from her nose and gushed down the front of her white T-shirt. Her eyes rolled back in her head and she crumbled in a heap to the ground. He jerked his head toward his accomplice. “Get some water. She thinks we came to play.” The abettor ran off and returned with a bottle of water. I watched as Baron unscrewed the cap and emptied its contents on Madam’s face. She spluttered. Her eyes flew open, head sweeping from side to side, as if trying to recall where she was. Baron squatted, wrapped his hand around Madam’s hair and yanked her to her feet like she weighed nothing. He turned her to face him. “Now, I want you to key in the code of that vault.” He squeezed her throat, shaking her back and forth like a doll. “Do it!” I watched her hands shake as she keyed in the combina‐ tion code and then stooped to look at Baron. “Open it,” he barked. “I don’t have the keys. I only have the code.” She wriggled her fingers. He balled his hand into a fist and punched her in the mouth. She screamed as the blow sent her flying backwards. Her head missed a table by inches. Blood splattered everywhere. In a flash, I sprung from the floor, locked my hands around Baron’s throat and squeezed. He gasped, his hands trying to fight off my grip. I drew him towards me and slammed his head against the wall. A sharp pain shot through my upper arm, I looked down and saw the white of my sliced flesh, blood gushing from the hideous wound. Their supposed leader had his arm raised. A long blade caught the light as he readied to deliver a second blow. I let go of my victim and charged at him. He swerved to the side and his hand flew up again. I felt the blade cut through my back and screamed. Another swift move opened my thigh. I gripped my legs, terror replacing numbness as I watched blood gush. I fought to rise, but he pressed the sword against my throat. His eyes reflected his intention, mine dared him. He pushed the blade, and I felt my blood trickled down the side of my neck. I lowered my eyes in defeat. “We are not here to play. We know there is over 25 million naira in that vault. And we’re not leaving without it.” Baron slammed the butt of his rifle on the floor and walked toward me.

Their leader placed the long blade in his path and shook his head. In my daze, I heard the shaky voice of Prof. “I have the keys. Please, do not kill anybody.” “Now, you are talking.” Baron grinned. Their leader motioned with the sword and they formed a circle, heads close as they listened to him. I strained but caught none of his words. Baron took the lead again. He grabbed Prof. by the collar. “All right, open the vault.” “Wait, the keys are in my drawer.” He pointed at the direction of his desk. “Let’s go.” They both disappeared, and the leader waved his sword, gesturing me to rise. I held the wall and lifted myself, winc‐ ing. The other two returned. I saw Prof. insert a key in the vault with unsteady hands. Baron shoved him aside, turned the key and swung the heavy metal door open. “Come here!” He grabbed Prof. by the collar and pushed him into the room. Then he encased Madam’s neck and pushed her in. His eyes blazed when he looked at me. “You think you can hinder our efforts, right? A punch hit my stomach, followed by another on my temple. I doubled over, nausea rising. I puked on the shirt of my assailant. He drew back in shock, his eyes dark with anger. “Idiot!” He pushed me into the vault room. I looked around at the money piled up in stacks; customers’ deposit for the whole week. “Fill the bags!” He dropped duffel bags at my feet. I gaped at him. “Think we came for jokes? This will show you how serious we are.” He grabbed Madam’s long braids and slammed her on the concrete door of the vault. She shrieked. A huge bump appeared on her forehead, like an inflated balloon. “Fill up those bags,” he snapped. I dragged my feet, stumbling my way to the shelf where the deposits were stacked. “Hurry, stupid idiot!” The leader brandished his serrated blade to stacks of higher denominations. His men heisted the higher notes into the bags. Four large bags filled. My cloth clung to my sweat-soaked back. The wounds on my arm ached. The robbers rewarded pauses with sharp kicks and slaps. “Faster or I will use this on your fucking head.” Baron brandished the butt of his gun at me. Two more bags filled up, and they filed the three of us into Madam’s office. Baron waved his gun. “You all sit on the floor shoulder to shoulder!” Their leader withdrew a masking tape from his backpack and tossed it at Baron. He stood back, leaning against the door, cold eyes watching. A third guy stood over us, a jeering smile on his face. “Press your hands together.” He kicked Prof. on the side. “You heard me?” They bound us in little time, turned off the lights and shut the door behind them.

Darkness descended. I embraced it, shutting my eyes.

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