the DRIVER from HELL: A THANDIUBANI SHORT STORY
It is Friday the 13th, 2013; I am sitting on the red rug inside my room with pen and paper - my thoughts going wild....
I ᵃm not new to intrigues but the story I am about to tell will leave you with chills running down your spine. It is late at night probably 8:00 PM.
Some minutes ago, I had my sister right next to me inside the Camry car heading to 'gate six' (It is just opposite the University gate) Well, my name is still Thandi.
She is young like me and pretty too. Just near the campus gate across the road, a sea of humans gather buying and selling even at that wee hours of the night. We came to buy foodstuffs. So I watched with intrigue the bustling commercial and business activity around the area. Obviously, the outburst of the school population came with it a million change,,,
A change that has seen the increase in the number of girls, boys and market places. These days, the crowd on the road, mainly students have made the 'wide road' so narrow. Even the queue each afternoon and the hustling to enter buses have made life hectic for the residents.
I found a seat and sat while browsing through my phone. It is an open area near the school main road. At the middle demarcating the school area from the residential area is a federal road that laughs with many pot-holes begging for renovation. My sister was inside the kiosk planning what to buy and what not to buy. The kiosk has four poles of plank wood staked to the ground with an old zinc roof, and then on the tables was displayed expendable goods. A simple bulb light shone illuminating the dark air. People shouted, some laughed, and others walked up and down aimlessly and yet some frolicked in the dark with their female folks - the life of a typical Nigerian university student.
On the bench I sat browsing through the web pages on my phone occasionally raising my head perfunctorily. The shout was louder but I wondered why. A big trailer just sped past. The car was moving as if being pursued by an evil spirit. Even the thick dust it raised and the thick black smoke it left behind made me to cower. But I nearly laughed when I saw people who didn't even see the back of the trailer curse the driver in so many weird ways.
Well, I just concentrated on my phone because the day hasn't been a great one for me because of a certain daughter of Eve...
Then came rushing within some minutes was my sister’s friend. Just like they do in Nollywood movies, people from nowhere started gathering one by one without even being called. I saw the lady by my left who had been busy without success trying to start the Tiger T950 generator, she strapped near me with eager open ears.
'A car is burning with passengers inside. It was hit by a tanker carrying fuel' she shouted. As confused as she was, she ran up and down aimlessly as if she knew the people in the car so-to-say. She had her hands on the head as if someone who lost her means of sustenance. The look on the faces of her listeners spelt the unknown, fear and discomfort.
I didn't react immediately because the story wasn't new to me. Accidents happen!
Then I stood up and looked in the far distance, a raging fire shouted with loud splashing firelights. My younger sister was on the phone. People have started gathering some running away while others ran closer to the spot of the fire...
'What rubbish! Why are you telling them to run away?' I shouted at my younger sister as I grabbed the phone from her. She had called my Dad asking them to run away from the house. According to ‘her own’ version of the story, the fire is going to affect our house should the tanker carrying fuel explode. She was already running up and down dragging me and begging me not go there (to the accident spot)
Some miles away, the fire is raging like a furnace. Angrily I let go my hand from her grip and proceeded to the spot.
'What is going to happen to all the passengers of the Hummer Bus? Who will save them from this sudden death?' I contemplated as I wheeled the car to a reverse. My sister kept her mouth busy with words of restriction and chanting. I cared not. I packed far from the spot to join the crowd of others at the spot...
Here is my friend, Jack. He was there even before I came. He was there even before the fire started!
He was still alive, the driver of the Hummer bus. But his broken legs were trapped by the "clamped" iron body of the car. It was a head-on-collision, I looked into his eyes, and it was filled with pain. That look of certain death filled his eyeballs. It was some minutes after impact. Dragging him out of the car seemed the only option but how?
It was a hit near the bumper at the upper region just before the windshield, the airbag did save his life but his legs and waist are broken and caged by the crumbled iron body of the car. In the pandemonium; the dragging, screaming and begging came a loud bust of fire from the car engine. It happened in a twinkle and came with a bust like the firelights of a firecracker. Out of nothing, the car was on fire with the driver of the Hummer Bus still trapped in his own driver's seat. We struggled to pull him just out of the driver's seat but his legs refused to let loose. The car door was open already and his hands touched the bare-floor of the main road as he tried fruitlessly to free his trapped legs. The bust of fire from the engine again turned us all into Olympic runners as we scampered for safety watching helplessly as the drama unfolded.
But it was the driver of the trailer who was speeding as if a demon sent from evil dungeon, the same driver that raised dust and thick smoke at the university gate. As he sped past the school gate, he rammed into the Hummer Bus which was going to Akwaibom from Lagos. Just few miles away from its destination, the car had a fatal accident.
So, we ran away as the man shouted in pains, his legs still trapped by the bumped iron body of the car. Only a miracle could save him. His eyes were red shedding blood. Even the fire extinguisher was like pouring water on a tortoise shell as it had no impact.
'Help, help, help' the man cried
His voice almost gone due to too much shouting. I cried out helpless tears. It was a painful sight. The only way out for him was to cut the iron body of the car or quench the fire but all remained a wishful thinking. There was no tool to cut through the iron and even if there was, who would dare such in the midst of the inferno? The other option of quenching the fire was more of a wishful thinking because the 'Fire Service' in Nigeria has become a bunch of fools who don't know their work. All they know how to do best is collecting their salary at the end of each month.
Alas! Other parts of the engine exploded as it fried the Driver's lower body region alive. He shouted in pains as the fire burnt his dislocated legs. He was shouting, begging, and crying hopelessly. His two hands waving, flying in the air in need of help. His eyeballs were dark and his face dropped sweat the size of a raindrop. My heart died seeing all these, I prayed God for a miracle but he was not available. But he knows best...
So the Driver cried helplessly and hopelessly as fire burnt him alive trapped by the bumped iron body of the Hummer Bus. Even as the fire raged, the crowd mourned and cried. Men, women, mothers, boys, girls, motorist and students all stood silent as another human burnt alive. I gulped down bitter saliva as my soul went numb.
It could have been me or another person. So another life ended within some minutes because of reckless driving. The driver of what I later learnt was a 911 trailer escaped even before people got to the spot. He bled as he ran away from the car even before it caught fire. But a life he just took. Some said he took a life, that no matter how far he runs death will find him in a most painful way just as he took another life because of his recklessness.
But still others contemplated; maybe the driver who was burnt to death may have done something bad which involved the loss of human life. How did his legs get stuck? How did the fire start? What really happened?
In his eyes I saw fear, desperation, thoughts of the unknown. Imagine what it feels like to be burnt from toe to head alive,,
I, Jack felt for the poor driver.
So, when I entered the car and proceeded home with my sister I took a last glance at the burning car; fire have charred the tires and formed a circle of smoke all over the hummer bus. As if a heated furnace, the fire raged fueled by an unseen force. Just from nothing the fire started and spread to the back of the hummer as if fuel was poured on it. The driver's door was open and the burnt remains of a human who once shouted for help some minutes ago fried and burnt as if a dead goat hung on a stake hairless in the fire. His body was black like charcoal and water-like fluids dripped from his inflated burnt stomach even half his head was still burning in the fire. The thick black mould that formed in his eye region must have dried his painful tears and his bones took a permanent position just near the car tire. It reminded me that another chapter in the life of a man is permanently closed and the painful exit of another once blossoming life. It reminded me that life could be meaningless but depending on how we live it. It made me think, think deeper and better. It made me aware of my mortality, the eventualities and lives’ many other unknown stories in stock for us humans. Even his family had no clue the painful end that life dashed him. It left me with many a question begging for answers. Just some miles away from his destination the driver met his waterloo. I am still in a state of helplessness as I pen this piece. This experience is better fiction than reality. Thandi is really in distress…