Temi woke up and looked into pitch darkness. Save for the snores of the other girls in her dormitory room, there was no other sound. Well, except for what she assumed to be crickets chirping. But it was not the crickets that had woken her up.
“I shouldn’t have drunk so much water before going to bed. Who’s going to follow me to the bathroom at this hour?”
She slipped her right hand under her pillow and drew out a digital watch. Her brother had given it to her just before she went off to boarding school three months ago. Her classmates had teased her for wearing a “boy’s watch” as they called it. This boy’s watch was the only source of light in that dark room.
2:34 a.m. Great! Perfect time to go wandering off to the bathroom alone. The same question repeated itself in her mind: “Who’s going to follow me to the bathroom at this hour?”
She quickly ran through a mental checklist. Dayo, her bunk-mate who slept on the top bunk, slept like a log. She would be sure to give Temi a hot slap if Temi made the mistake of asking her to accompany her on this night-time visit. Dayo did not joke with her sleep and had already made that clear the other day. Temi had interrupted Dayo’s afternoon siesta to ask if she could borrow a few cubes of sugar. If not for Temi’s fast reflexes, Dayo’s hand would have made a temporary tattoo on Temi’s face.
“No! Definitely not Dayo.”
What about Jemima? Jemima was the new girl who had transferred from a school outside Lagos to their school, in the middle of the semester. She seemed to get along with everyone, including the senior girls. They did not send her on useless errands at all. Temi was not so lucky. She seemed to have a large sign on her head that read:
BORN TO FETCH WATER
Suddenly, she remembered. Crap! Jemima had caught that cold that was going round the school, a common occurrence during the rainy season. Because Jemima was asthmatic, she had to sleep in the sick bay until she recovered.
What about Esther? Temi pondered on this option for about 30 seconds and then crossed her name off the list. Esther was just as scared of the dark as Temi was.
Exasperated, Temi was faced with only one option: go to the bathroom alone. For the past three months, she had been careful to make her bathroom run before going to bed. However, last night was different. She had unexpectedly developed hiccups just before lights out, and had to down a few cups of water to get rid of it. Now, the water was begging for release at 2:34 a.m.
To make matters worse, she remembered what her classmates had told her during prep the day before. A group of girls in her class had decided (without her permission, of course) to inform her of the prevailing myth in school: the mysterious Madam Koin Koin. At first, Temi had laughed at the idea of a woman or creature – no one knew which – who patrolled the halls of the dormitory only at night. No girl had ever seen her. In fact, as the myth went, no one lived to tell the story.
“Why did those silly girls have to tell me this rubbish story? Who said ignorance was not bliss?” Temi lamented bitterly.
The pressure on her bladder was urgent, interrupting her mental soliloquy. She knew she did not have much time. The other option – to sit there and wet her bed – was not exactly an option. “Bed-wetter” was not a nickname she looked forward to. Labels like that never go away. Jimi, her elder brother, was living proof. Although he was now a university graduate, his friends and ex-classmates still jokingly called him Camphor. The name had stuck just like the strong smell of camphor on his school uniforms.
No, Temi was not going to be labelled. She got up and hurriedly wore her rubber slippers. Gingerly creeping around the dorm room, she felt her way to the door, bumping into a few beds along the way. As soon as she reached the door, her foot struck something odd. The hollow sound that bounced back was like that of an empty box. Opening the door slightly, she tried to look at what she had kicked. Just then, the moon unveiled herself from behind a cloud where she had been hiding. The moonlight shone near the door and Temi saw what appeared to be a shoe box by the door.
Who on earth would put a shoe box by the door? While the thought was still forming in her mind, Temi turned around sharply. She heard approaching footsteps. But, these were not rubber-clad soles.
“Koin, koin, koin ….”
The sound of shoe soles hitting the concrete floor sounded eerie at that hour. Temi’s impression from the timing of each step was that this person was walking leisurely.
“This person is taking her sweet time,” she thought.
And then, almost as suddenly as it started, the footsteps stopped abruptly, a few yards shy of Temi’s dorm room door. This whole time, Temi had stood rooted to the same spot, frozen stiff with fear. Was this who she thought it was?
Just then, it started whistling. Faintly at first, and then slowly it became louder. Temi could not believe her ears. She knew that tune.
… TO BE CONTINUED …