Searching For Hope
By: Akíntayo Akínjídé
Cast your vote here: http://imbube.org/contestants/searching-for-hope/
Grace Ademola was searching for hope and the only place she was sure she could find it was in death. One problem with her was that she wasn’t one that conformed with the ways of others. So, she couldn’t die the same ways others died- by jumping down a bridge or someplace very high; by stabbing oneself or by poisoning oneself. Some had even tried suffocating themselves. There are some methods that had been known to have a massive failure because the people didn’t always get a good timing. Example of such was those that jump in front of cars. She would have loved to jump in front of an oncoming car, to get a very fast death.
However, she preferred the one she chose over the others. With the readiness on her part, she, as well as many others, would die. That was a perfect way to give up one’s life. The man had made the plan and she loved the fact that she would be the executioner. The man, whom many of her friends referred to as the Boom, had shown her a better way to die, a better way to have hope. As she sat beside a young lady, who was reading a book in the BRT bus, Grace stared out of the window and was very sure that life was hopeless. The only place one could find hope was in death. The woman tried to pick something in her bag, and Grace sighted a pocket knife. That was it: everyone was afraid of death. If only they could come to the knowledge that death was the only means of finding hope.
The day Boom saw her, she was seated in the sand, wallowing in tears, in front of a burning furnace. Her father, a widower, had just been alleged and executed by fire for being a member of the Bokoharam. They said he had a strange bag and questioned him about it, but he adamantly refused to allow them to open it. But by the time they dragged it from him, what they found brought his demise. He was an inventor and had just finished a project he wanted to take to Baba Sule, the man who would connect him to an investor. The whole ordeal started after she ran off to buy snacks, while he waited impatiently for her. He didn’t want her to follow him, but she insisted until he allowed her. By the time she returned to where she left him, all she could see of him was his head before it was immersed in the blazing fire.
She kept crying and became oblivious of the world, even when Boom placed his hand on her shoulder. He lifted her and clamped her weeping face to his body. They had snatched away the hope she had of ever going to the University or of ever being a great woman in life.
‘Little girl, I’m sorry for your loss but you can’t stay here’, Boom said stiffly. ‘ These people are still looking for someone to blame’.
As he dragged her fifteen-year-old body out of the field, the only thing that lingered on her mind was the blazing fire and her lost hope.
‘Leave me’, she cried and tried to fight her way out of his grasp, but he was strong enough to drag her off the market, to a place she didn’t know. By the time he had dragged to an uncompleted building, she came back to her senses and asked where they were. With a big scowl on his face, he told her that was the place to find hope for revenge.
‘Yes. Hope for a better future. Hope for revenge. We are the cleansers. Your father’s death was tragic and he should be avenged’.
With tears still streaming down her eyes, she cried, ‘ They killed my father’.
‘And they will pay’.
That sounded sweet. She rose and ran to meet him, staring into his cold eyes. ‘How will they pay? My father was my only hope’.
Boom’s stiff face cracked into a sad smile. ‘There is no hope on earth. There is only hope in heaven. Riches and happiness are forever in the heavens. Only fools will find hope on earth’.
‘But I want to be something big on earth’, she said and crumpled to the ground as the image of the burnt body of her father’s corpse flooded her image. Heaving heavily, she pulled an elephant grass that was growing in the emptiness of the house, pulled it and flung it at Boom. The elephant grass wasn’t supposed to have a hope of ever breeding a field there when she had just lost hers.’ I want something on earth. I want to hope on this earth. Who will know me when I die?’
Boom’s strange smile remained on his lips as he strutted away from her. ‘ Hope can only be found where it is eternal’.
‘Do you know why many young people die?’ He asked and turned to stare into her teary eyes. ‘Do you know?’
Grace inhaled and rubbed off the catarrh that was escaping from her nose. He peered into her eyes and pushed his head forward. She was able to observe him a little. He wore a regular pair of trousers and tucked a beautiful stripe shirt into it. Yet, the shirt was folded to his elbow level, revealing the golden wristwatch he wore.
‘Answer me’, he said. ‘Do you know?’
She shook her head.
‘They die because they are after ephemerals. We call such things er… er… Temporary things. Things that don’t l…’
‘I know the meaning of temporary’.
‘If you ever want to be great, do it for a cause… A reason… For something that would make you have riches. Your name would be on the tongues of babies. Mothers would want to name their children after you. Writers would write about your great deed. A lot of people would create things that would remind you. And what would be in for you…. What do you stand to gain? You would be rich in heaven. You would be given exceedingly great riches. Your name would be inscribed on the wall of your house. Are you looking for hope? There is your hope. Not here. It is in the eternal life’.
By this time, the sadness that was pumping her tears had disappeared and had been replaced by anger. ‘What do I do? Tell me what I can do? How do I get to this place of hope?’
He smiled, turned towards the door leading out of the uncompleted building, and beckoned that she should follow him. They went to a camp where no one could ever imagine it could be. Although people had always complained about Boko Haram, no one had ever gotten the hint that they were in Lagos state and weren’t only northerners. There, they trained regularly with Boom reminding her, and every one of the other children he had recruited, that there was hope in making the leaders die. He kept reminding them that the people were not their offender; that the government was the problem. But the government was the people. Until a new set of leaders took over, the country would still be in shambles. With that, they were trained on how to make people suffer.
Now that she was on the bus that was heading for the busiest market in Lagos, there was no way they wouldn’t suffer the consequences.
As the BRT moved slowly through the traffic jam, the woman beside her stared at her for some seconds and brandished a bright smile. Grace looked away as the woman became immersed in her book again. Grace sat straight and began to contemplate on what she would do. Would she have the chance to let this go? Maybe she should remove the vest and put it on someone else. Maybe there was hope elsewhere. She shook her head as if it would help her ward off the feeling and the thought. The best way to do avoid backing out of her revenge plan was to keep her mind off it. So, she looked about and decided to peep into the book the woman was reading. She became so focused on it and read it along with the woman. Her father had always been keen on reading books, and he always gave her the chance to explore his own library. The part of the book she was reading was about how human beings weren’t born for just any reason. The writer began to express how a lot of people have given up on life because they placed their focus on people and not in themselves and God.
She read that part just when they bus heaved forward a bit and stopped. She whimpered as she tried unfailing to hold back the tears that were forming in her eyes. The woman beside her glanced at her again and was going to keep reading her book, but for some reasons, looked back at her.
‘Are you alright?’
Grace nodded stiffly as she tried to fight back her tears. The author had given them some stories that really marveled her. The Author’s impartation and expectation about life were all expressed in such a way that it instantly washed off the venom of anger Boom had planted in them.
She rose and rushed down from the bus. The woman with the book shouted after her to know if she was alright. But how could she be alright when the only thing on her mind was how she had stupidly wanted to blow up a whole market, full of living human beings? With the bomb vest attached to her body, there was no way she wouldn’t kill a whole lot of people. The next thing on her agenda was how to get to a place she could die alone. And peradventure she did kill people, the number would be fewer than that of the big market she was going to. She ran off, with her very big Jalamia dancing around her.
‘Young woman…Young girl’, the woman from the bus called, still chasing her.
Grace was very sure that if she got tired, she would stop following her. But the woman kept running after her as if her life depended on it. Still crying, Grace ran off into the suburb part of the country. And she kept doing so as she knew the implication of not remaining in the bus. Despite the fact that Boom trusted that their anger was fueled, he always claimed that the fear of death always jolted people out of their anger, and make them wet their pants. That means each of them always had someone that kept a tab on everything they did. As wrong as she felt he was, she saw the meaning of what Boom meant.
She led the lady far into the forest and repeatedly chanted her plea of forgiveness to God. However, when she got to the end of a closed area, she turned back like a cornered animal to face the nosy woman.
‘Get away from me. Leave me alone. Go’, Grace shouted as she knew the other person would soon notice her disappearance.
The woman who was holding her phone on the right hand, and her book in the second hand, yelled at her. Despite Grace shout at her to stop following her, the woman came nearer. Now, whatever this woman thought she was doing, she was about to die a merciless death and she wouldn’t want it to be her fault.
‘Get away from me’.
‘Don’t worry. I will help you. Is something wrong?’
The opportunity to save the woman was becoming slimmer per time. Seeing that she would soon be the cause of the death of the woman that made her have a change of mind, she hurriedly removed her Jalamia and provoked a gasp from the woman, who fell backward while trying to withdraw from her.
‘What’s that?’ The woman said as she rose to her feet.
‘Run. It’s a bomb. It would go off soon’, she shouted as the woman stopped crawling away.
‘Wait… Wait… We can do something. We… We..’
‘It’s a bomb’.
‘Yes. I read about diffusing it last week. Is… Is there a timer there?’
Hyperventilating now as death crawled near, she glanced at the vest and at the woman. ‘There is no time. My watcher would soon be here’.
The woman was adamant, she hurriedly dumped her bag and the book on the floor and rapidly began to type into her phone. ‘Yes, yes I got it…’
The woman grabbed her bag and removed her pocket knife, and ran to meet Grace. She searched for a part of the vest and stabbed it. The vest tore a little.
‘Don’t move. This vest is rigged in such a way that any movement on it would blow it up’.
The woman tore the vest. By this time, Grace was sure she would die. However, they got it off in time. The woman gently dropped the vest and pulled her away. Grace was very fast herself. They both ran off the area, but not for long because the blast from the bomb threw them away, making Grace become unconscious.
By the time Grace woke from her unconsciousness, she was already in a hospital and the woman was sitting beside her. She felt like asking the woman if her only job was to poke-nose in the affairs of other people.
They later left the hospital and the woman made her live in her home after lying to the police that they were both victims of the bombs, that Grace was her ward. The woman said she wanted to sanitize her mentality and the first book she gave was the one she was reading on the bus: Just A Little Love.
On her first day of reading those books, she couldn’t help wondering what would have happened if the woman hadn’t read about diffusing bomb online. What would have happened if someone hadn’t written it? What would have happened if she hadn’t read that book? Grace opened the first page and prayed she find hope in it.
I entered this story in a competition and really desire your votes as a part of the scores to win
Remember to cast your vote here: http://imbube.org/contestants/searching-for-hope/
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