A Christmas Story -Second Part

trains-christmas

By Nora Vasconcelos

(You can read the 1st part here)

People screamed on the wagon. Horror was all around. In a second, James was gone.

Gone, but not dead. The dim light that covered his face added confusion to his altered state of mind.

He didn’t feel any particular pain, even when he could see some blood stains colouring different parts of his damaged clothes, which looked more like rags than the original suit that they had composed just a few moments ago.

Am I really alive? He wondered.

Then he saw him. A man approached him.

He got scared. It was then when he knew he was really alive …and helpless.

The man kept observing him as he got closed.

“Who are you?” James managed to ask.

“I am the one who lives in the subway tunnels.” He explained as he kneeled down to treat James’ injuries. His ability was unbelievable.

“Who are you?” James asked again. Not waiting for his answer he say: “you have act as if you were a doctor. How did you end up here?”

The man stood up and started to walk away, leaving James somehow fixed but alone and confused. Then he turned back. “Come,” he said.

Slowly and painfully, James got on his feet. With a limp and some groans, he walked towards him. But his steps were fast, and soon the only thing James could see were blurry shadows, among them, only one resembled the silhouette of a man.

Some meters ahead, he finally caught up with the man, and he couldn’t believe his eyes. This man, who had rescued him from the track and had cured his wounds, now was offering him a place to stay for Christmas.

“it’s not much,” he said, “but this will keep you warm until daytime comes and I can show you your way out.”

“Thank you …for everything.” James said.

While he was lying down, looking at the concrete walls he wondered if he should asked his savior one more time who he was and how he had got there, but he resist the urgency to know. Instead, he try to sleep.

The trains had stopped running and darkness covered all the space around him. Then all what had happened to him that long unusual day came to his mind.  It had been only in the morning when he had gone to work, business as usual, thinking all things would be right, and just a few hours later, he was there, protected by a man who didn’t want to speak to him but who had saved his life.

Christmas day has already passed, was I even missed…? That thought made James shivered. Would I end the same as this man who has rescued him? Exhaustion prevented him from elaborating all sort of answers.

The first thing he heard the following morning was the typical sound of the trains running on the subway tracks. Pain all over his body reminded him of what had happened to him.

The mysterious man wasn’t there anymore. In his place, a thin envelop appeared. “To the man I saved,” it read.

Sitting down slowly, James took some time to come to full awareness. His fingers touch the letter and felt it. It wasn’t heavy, may be it was just a simple note. Would I get the answers to some of my questions? He wondered.

“Yesterday you asked me who I was and how I had ended up here. The truth is that I have asked myself the same two questions over and over. All I remember is that one day I was a well-known physician and the other I became this shadow of a man that you have seen. I have no recollection of what happened to me. But yesterday, when I saw you falling off that train and when I fix your wounds a sense of urgency took over me. I might never know how I ended up here, or who I am, but I do know now that I want to go out there and do more with my life. What will you do with yours?”

The note ended there. James was overwhelmed. There he was -or he had been-, contemplating the worst way to end all his predicaments when the sliding doors suddenly opened, and just a few meters away there was a man who had lost everything and he didn’t even know how or why, and even so, he wanted to live. What will I do with my life? It’s such a good question.

While entertaining this thoughts in his head, he discovered that on the other side of the note, the man had drawn a map showing him how to get out of the tunnels, and so, his life was about to start again.

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A Christmas Story – Part One

By Nora Vasconcelos

christmas

James leaned his head towards the sliding doors of the subway wagon he was traveling on.

It was only then when he noticed a man wearing a Santa Claus suit. This made him feel worst.

Being fired hadn’t been bad enough. The company had waited until the last minute, on Christmas day, to let him know that he was no longer an employee of Sweets & Snacks.

“Don’t take it personal, Jimmie. With all these people going on a diet, and the new laws and taxes discouraging people from buying products like ours, we have to downsize the company if we want to give enough money to our Research and Development department,  so they can come up with new sweets and snacks that fit into these new trends. Besides, you had mentioned that you wanted to take some time off to spend it with your family. Look at this as an opportunity to make it up to them.”

James knew they were right, but he just couldn’t understand how he was the only one chosen to go. He tought things were going okay, more than okay!

He had put on many extra hours all the year, getting the financial department in working order, after the previous manager had left the company with a self-paid ‘bonus’.

With nobody noticing it, 8,000 dollars had ‘disappeared’ from the petty cash box. It was only until James started working in the company, 12 months ago that, little by little, he put together all the pieces of the puzzle, noticing the frecuent visits the manager made to the cash area, with silly excuses such as a parking fine, when everybody new he walked from his apartment to the office, or those tickets for takeaway orders at late hours, when no pizza nor chinese packages were anywhere to be seen the following morning.

One day, in December last year, James arrived to the office thinking it’d be business as usual, until he saw the manager going out of the director’s office, ushered by two very tall and strong police officers. On his way out, he looked at James and yield at him ‘you’ll pay for this, Jimmie. I swear to it.’

Next thing he knew, he was the new manager. The big boss had offered him a nice pay raise and an office with a magnificent view of the new fashionable tall buildings in the city.

Then, his job became his whole life, and his office, his new home. James worked over Christmas and New Year’s. He also missed all the birthays and school events of his three kids, and his wife got tired of listening to him saying ‘I’ll make it up to you.’

Twelve months later, when the financial deparment was operating under a new set of standards and procedures, and the company had recovered not only the money stolen by the previous manager, but had got a very nice profit, despite the new trends in the market, James thought that he’d finally have time to spend with his family, and with his Christmas bonus he would take his wife on a wonderful trip around Europe, all the main shopping malls included.

It was then when all went wrong. All of a sudden he found himself without a job, leaving the building with his dreams broken and a silly check that hardly covered a month of his salary. ‘This are tough times, Jimmie,’ his ex-boss’ words resounded in his head.

‘Luckily’ he’d been allowed to take his things with him, all awkwardly positioned inside a cardboard box that the day before had contained some of the monthly supplies of paper for the copy machine.

An ordinary letter of recommendetion was part of the stuff he had filled the box with, along with several photos of his wife and kids, and some brochures that a travel agent had given to him a few days before, with all sort of European tours.

Of course, he had to return the company car; so, now, he was riding the subway. And here he was, with his head leaning on the sliding doors, watching the man disguised as Santa Claus.

How was he going to tell his wife and kids that he had been fired?, he wondered.

He took his sight apart from Santa, and looked intensely toward the railway. All inside the tunnel was dark. The only light that he could see came from the train.

Then a strange thought crossed his mind …what if?  He shivered.

He turned his face back and saw Santa playing with a little girl, they both were laughing. Memories of the happy times with his family took over his mind. Then, that somber idea crossed his mind again …what if?

He contemplated the idea for a little longer this time. After all, he’d become a stranger now, his family might as well be better without him. At least they would have the insurance money.

Then, the unexpected happened. The sliding doors opened when the train was traveling at a high speed between two stations.

James was expelled of the wagon with such violence that not even strong and magical Santa could hold onto his legs on his efforts to bring him back into the train.

While flying away towards the immense oscurity of the tunnel, people on the train could listen to James calling out for help, screaming with his voice full of terror: I don’t want to die!

* * *

To be continued next week  🙂 

 

(You can read the second part here)

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‘Eclipse’ – Short Story

By Nora Vasconcelos

(Part 2)
— — —

In a matter of minutes day turned into night. Darkness covered Abakaliki, and most of the provinces in the southeast of Nigeria.

People all around went out of their houses to watch how the Moon covered the light coming from the Sun, with its spherical presence. Then, a funny feeling accompanied the whispers of the observers who lower their voices, more and more, as the light disappeared from the sky.

“Nothing bad should happen”, many said. Some others prayed.

Slowly, the effect was completed. Then, nothing could be seen, neither on earth nor in the skies. The power company had agreed on a petition signed by the local people who wanted to go through the whole eclipse without any lights that could distract their attention from the Moon and the Sun’s encounter. Only the critical areas were working, such as the police stations and the airport.

Looking up, Leye started thinking about his wife. Were they really fighting over the colour of the wall? That sounded really foolish, he accepted, but he also knew that their fight wasn’t just about that.

He resented that Yewande had stopped paying attention to him and all what he wanted and needed since she had taken over the work needed to fix and mantain the building. Or at least he felt it that way. Was he jealous of a building? He wondered. Then, he noticed that Yewande wasn’t around.

They weren’t in speaking terms, but may be it could be a good idea if they shared this moment. Should he look for her? After all, they didn’t even need to talk. They could just hold their hands.

But he didn’t dare to break the silence that surrounded the neighborhood. All around was darkness and calling her was not an option. He didn’t even have a flashlight. They would make it up when the Sun started shining again, he decided.

Almost an hour later things in the city came back to normal. As soon as the sky recovered its blue colour and the Moon let the Sun shine again, people returned to their regular activities.

Noises seemed to explode after such a prolonged silence. That brought Leye back to reality. Why should he apologise if she had been the one who painted the building without consulting with him first?

“She doesn’t even know that I don’t like cream or white colours!” He said aloud while getting up from the chair that had served him as a base during the eclipse.

If she doesn’t care enough, what’s the point of this marriage? He thought.

Life had come back to normal, he realised that now. But the sounds coming from the back of his building weren’t usual.

He forgot about his disappointment and went to investigate.

One minute later he was shocked. The cream-white wall that had been the cause of their fight, the same that he had painted over with a blue coat, was now painted in green and cream stripes! He couldn’ believe his eyes!

“Cousin!” A young man said from a scaffolding.

“Manolo?” Leye asked, calling his friend’s name.

Although they hadn’t seen each other for some years, their friendship remained as strong as the day when their suitcases were mixed up in Beijing. At that time, five years ago, Manolo and Leye were attending an international conference sponsored by the Chinese engineering company they both worked for.

The incident made them laugh, as they had to wear each other clothes for a complete week until they were able to coincide at a lecture to exchange suitcases.

The following day, each one started to wear their own clothes, but by then, people noticed the exchange and they kept on asking the new friends why they shared their wardrobe, so Manolo and Leye came up with the idea of telling people that they were cousins.

After that, they visited each other frequently, either in Mexico and Nigeria, but some time later they were promoted and time wasn’t enough for long trips, so they stopped the visits and took the best advantage of technology, chatting over the internet and emailing e-cards for the important days.

That’s why Leye’s surprise was so immense when he saw his cousin there …and painting his building!

Manolo gave some instructions to the men who were working with him, and then he went down of the scaffolding to give his friend a big hug. “Cousin!” He said, with a warm tone.

Leye still couldn’t believe what was happening. “How is it that you’re here? Why are you painting my building?” He asked in a serious way.

“Oh! That? It was Yewande’s idea. She called me last week and told me all about your quarrel. She knew I was visiting our offices in Africa and I offered her to come here to see if I could do something to help you both to solve your differences. Then she said that the only thing that would make you happy it’d be if the building was painted in green and cream stripes, so I told her I’d do it, and here I am!”

Leye hated the way the wall looked. In fact, he hated all what had happened these pass weeks. Offended, he asked Manolo: “And where’s my wife?”

“Aw, she told me she would be traveling this weekend. I met her this morning at the airport. She gave me the keys to the apartment. Then, she left, right before the eclipse. You didn’t know?” Manolo asked, feeling worried and confused.

Of course Leye didn’t know. As much as he hated cream or white colours, he hated more not knowing where his wife was. As for the green and cream stripes, what it could be worse than a green and cream building! He wondered

Oh, yes… A cream-white one, he answered himself.

“All this is a complete mess,” he told Manolo. “I have no idea where Yewande is and I don’t understand why she told you everything would be okay if you painted the building in green and cream stripes.”

“Aw, man! You really have a terrible memory!” Manolo said, padding his friend on the back. “Don’t you remember? Those were the colours you both wore on your wedding day! Your traditional gown had more green than cream and hers was the opposite!”

Leye was speechless. How could he have forgotten that! He had agreed to wear a green wedding gown with some cream colour on it because he knew how much Yewande liked those colours, and she had consented to a traditional Nigerian wedding because she knew how important it was for Leye’s family. That had been a sign of their commitment to each other.

Now, everything was clear! It had been a way for her to commemorate their anniversary, and he had been so stupid thinking she had done it just to bother him! How could she possible forgive him? He had to look for her, right away!

“Manolo, please, forget about the painting. Help me find her! Please!” Leye said checking the time on his watch. If Yewande was where he thought she would be, there wasn’t a lot of time left.

The two friends hailed a taxi and asked the driver to take them to the airport. Once there, Leye asked a clerk where he could get a charter flight that could take him to Obudu Mountain Ranch, it was the resort where they had spent their honeymoon, and the place where she wanted to travel before they started fighting over the colours of the building.

As soon as he made all the arrangements, Leye boarded the small jet and Manolo promised him to take care of everything at home. Wishing him good luck, he waved his friend goodbye.

Sometime later, right after the sun had set, Leye found Yewande enjoying the view from the pool. “If I was going to spend time here by myself I thought I’d better make the best of it,” she said when her husband approached her.

“I’ve been a complete fool,” he told her, touching her head softly. “My judgment was as blocked as the Sun during the eclipse. I was so focused on myself that I didn’t even take the time to see through you and understand your reasons. I don’t know how you’ll ever be able to forgive me…”

Yewande didn’t say a word. She continued with her eyes fixed on the horizon. Had she listened to Leye’s explanation? He wasn’t sure, and he didn’t know what to do or what to say.

Some minutes passed, and the first starts appeared in the sky. It was only then, when the night had covered their faces, that Yewande took her husband’s hand. “I can’t believe we actually had our worst fight ever due to the colours of the house! Let’s forget all about it.” She said, bringing him closer to her.

[You can read the first part of this story on Obinna’s Blog]

*This is the final story installment for the Crossover Mexico-Nigeria Project.

* * *

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* This story is part of The Crossover Mexico-Nigeria Project

Read all other Crossover Mexico-Nigeria stories in this blog or visit Obinna’s blog

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‘Who is taking the books?’ – Short Story

By Nora Vasconcelos

Mary couldn’t decide if she was going to continue reading her book or if she’d just spend her time listening to the rhythmic jazzy tunes that filled the club’s atmosphere  …along with the smog coming from the cigarettes, and the spicy notes of Cajun food coming from the kitchen, located just a few meters away.

Being there was a little bit like being in New Orleans, she thought. But in fact, she was right there, in the same city that had driven her crazy minutes ago, when she had had to fight with the other drivers just to get the right exit, before getting into the high-speed lane.

That’s why Mary liked to relax in places like this any time she had the chance, and Mexico City gave her plenty of choices to do that. That also suited her perfectly as she was a lifestyle reporter for a local magazine.

That evening, it was the opening of the jazz club and the ambience turned lively when the band started playing all those classic songs that became popular during the Louis Armstrong era.

Mary soon got into a cheerful mood and started to enjoy the evening, while typing some ideas on her smartphone, for her to remember the highlights of the event and to complete her article later on.

The time passed fast, and while she was enjoying a tasty plate of jambalaya, a young man approached her.

“Are you alone?” He asked.

“Yes, I’m covering the opening for a magazine, so I’m actually working.” She answered with a friendly tone.

“Oh! So, would it bother you if I sit here, with you?” The man said.

“Not at all.” She replied, showing him the seat next to her.

After typing a few more words, Mary put her phone back into her handbag and asked him where he was from.

“I’m from Nigeria, miss. I arrived to the city this morning. I’m on a business trip and I was supposed to have a meeting this afternoon, but my colleagues’ flight was cancelled due to the bad weather, so I’m alone here. I’m staying at a hotel close by and they recommended me this place, when I asked them where I could have dinner.’

“Aw!” Mary said. “So, you haven’t actually had the chance to visit the city, have you?”

“No,” he replied, feeling a bit ashamed. “I don’t really know if I’ll have the time to do some sightseeing, as I’m on a tight schedule. May be after I finish all the meetings I’ll have some time to go around. Any place in particular that you recommend?”

“Well, if you don’t have much free time, I definitely recommend you one of the bus tours that are offered in the city, they’re quite good, and the price is right.” She answered.

“Great! Thanks!” He said, smiling at her. “By the way, my name is Adewale.”

“I’m Mary. Quite nice to meet you, Adewale.” She said.

“So, you’re a reporter?” He asked.

“Yes, I write reviews about new restaurants, clubs and any other place where food and entertainment combine. It’s really interesting and I have the chance to enjoy myself while working.”

“That sounds fantastic!” He said, smiling back at her. “My job requires endless hours in the office. In fact, this is the first time I’ve been assigned on a business trip. I’m really thrill about it. I’m sure you never get bored.”

“Almost never. Sometimes we have to wait for a long time before the events start. That’s why I’m always carrying a book. Besides…” She leaned towards him, getting closer to his left ear. “Can I tell you something…”

Adewale also leaned towards her and nodded.

“For some weeks now, I’ve been working on a story of my own. If everything goes as I plan, I’ll have a cover story and I’ll get a much better position.” She said to him.

“And, what’s the story about?” He asked.

“Well, I first heard of it from a friend of mine. Then, I started to do some research and I discovered that books are actually disappearing!”

“Indeed?” He said, sounding surprised.

“Yes! In the magazine we have a huge collection of books. It’s so big that it seems infinite. This is because the family of the owner has been collecting books for many generations. But when I started asking questions, their inventories didn’t match. Someone has been stealing the books!”

A waiter bringing some beignets interrupted their conversation.

After two plates of the sweet pastries were placed on the table, Mary continued.

“But it’s not only that. My friend, who first gave me the tip, told me that his personal library was stolen the other day. The strangest thing is that nothing else was taken from his house. The same has happened to some other friends of mine, and if you may know, I’m missing a book right now!”

“Seriously?” Adewale said.

“Seriously! What I have been able to confirmed so far is that books are been stolen, but I haven’t found any reason for that. Any theories?” She asked.

The young man placed his right hand on his head, and scratched it softly. “Who would like to steal all those books?” He said aloud, not really asking her.

“May be they want to used them as construction materials…” He offered. “You know, if they’re recycled, they might be of some used. Or may be, someone doesn’t want people to read any more.”

“I’ve also thought of that, I mean the second option. But I can’t imagine who.” Mary answered, while checking on her phone, which had just rang.

Seconds later she left the table, whispering Adewale that she’d be back.

It didn’t take long for her silhouette to disappeared among the people that were occupying all the tables in the place.

While waiting for her, he also received a phone call.

Covering his left ear with his hand, as a way to listen better, he nodded a couple of times, and then smiled. “Yes, I’ve spoken to her…” He said, just before Mary came back to the table.

The same waiter that had brought the beignets came back to the table, offering them some coffee this time.

They both accepted the coffee and tasted the beignets, laughing at each other when they saw the confectioner´s sugar covering their mouths.

“So, how do you like Cajun food so far, Adewale?” Mary asked.

“Oh! I find it very tasty. Is it common here in Mexico?” He said, placing his phone back in his pocket.

“I wouldn’t say it’s so common, but we do like spicy and tasty food, we use many similar ingredients. And here in La Condesa people are used to having many different restaurants that offer international food. This neighbourhood is an attraction for tourists and locals.”

“Very interesting.” He answered. “But I have to say that now I’m really intrigued about your research. Do you have any other leads?”

“No really”. Mary said, taking another sip of her coffee. “As I only work on this during my free time, I’m advancing at a slow pace. On the other hand, I’m just doing it to satisfy my own curiosity, so I’m not really in a hurry. I have no deadlines on this, so it’s okay. However, I am in a hurry with this story…”

“Aw!” Adewale said, sounding a bit disappointed.

“It was my editor, the one on the phone.” She explained. “He wants me to email him the review of the club right away, as they’ve just closed a deal with the owner to have some adds in the next edition, so they want the story to be published right away.”

“That means you have to go?” He asked.

“Yes! I’m really sorry we have to cut our chat short, but you know what it’s like when duty calls.” Mary said, while picking her things up.

She took one last sip of her coffee, and kissed Adewale goodbye on his right cheek.

“Nice meeting you!” She shouted from the door, right before she left the place.

The young man continued staring at the door for some time, then one of the waiters talked to him.

“Excuse me sir.” The waiter said. “Has the young lady left? I ask you this because I think this book belongs to her. Someone left it outside the kitchen, where we collect the garbage. It has no name, but I remember seeing her carrying a book like this when she arrived. When we went through it, we also noticed that is has some sort of chip on it. It might be something important. If you happen to see her again, could you let her know that we have it, please?”

Adewale reached for the book, but the waiter left before he could take it.

What would he do now? He wondered.

(To be continued next Wednesday on Obinna Udenwe’s Blog: )

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* This story is part of The Crossover Mexico-Nigeria Project

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‘Rats’ invation of Lagos’ – Short Story

By Nora Vasconcelos

(Part 2)
— — —
[You can read the first part of this story on Obinna’s Blog]

The ones who were lucky, skipped town. But they were the less. The rest of the people were still stuck in the city, ruled by the giant rats.

On April 13th, two days after the rats showed everyone what they were capable of, the local authorities made a deal with them. They would have everything they wanted: food, wealth, property and the management of the Port, which would give them the total control of the economy of the city. All of it in exchange for them to stop threatening the people of Lagos.

The conquest had succeeded before their deadline, which had been set for January 1st, 2016.

For about a month, there were no major incidents. People started to heal and the rats focused on taking over the strategic places and positions in the city.

Jeher, the leader of all the giant rats settled in a huge mansion facing the lagoon. Every day, with his enormous teeth he bit the fresh meals that were brought by ten servants, all of them people who weren’t allowed to look at him, so they had to walk with their heads down.

The rat enjoyed insulting them, showing up his power, feeling always sure that now that his kind had controlled the city, no human would ever be able to remove them from their comfortable life.

Holding his food with one hand, Jeher liked to play, holding his big tail with his other hand. This seemed to scare his servants more than any other gesture, apart from showing them his big teeth.

He liked power, power that he had got not because he was the most intelligent or hardworking one, but because he had bullied everyone all his life, even when he was a regular tiny rat running across the sewer lines across the city.

Not only humans feared him, but also the other rats. Since he had become this colossal rat that found the way to grow thousands of times his normal size, everybody around had lost part of their bodies due to the attacks made by this rat that found pleasure hurting other beings, just for the sake of it.

His second in command, Leax, had bought all her way to power, paying Jeher so he wouldn’t hurt her, on the contrary he would take her all the way up. Together they bullied everyone, and if someone dared to complain they would get rid of them, either sending them to faraway dirty manholes, where food was scarce and weather conditions would punish them badly, or making them work unspeakable tasks. Rats feared them the same as the humans did.

By August 15th, all the cargo shipments that arrived to the port were controlled by the rats. All the incoming merchandise was processed and storaged, so they kept the most valuable goods and the most exquisite food. The left overs were sold to the people in the city who had to line up for long hours before getting a putrid piece of meat and some moldy bread.

For the rest of the world, the horror that caused the story covered by the international media had passed. What became breaking news and took over the TV shows at some point, turned into an old story filed in the archive. Rats ruling a city was just another tragedy the world had got used to.

At least it seemed so to the people of Lagos who had lost all hope. They had seen all the international media leave months ago and no one else had come ever since. All the promises of help from foreign powers and friendly nations had remained as good-will acts, sometimes only performed to get a bigger space on the news.

And the rats felt happy about that.

What nobody knew was that somewhere faraway, a young man in Mexico had been working really hard to find a solution, or at least some sort of relief.

Concerned for the faith of the people of Lagos and horrified by the power that the rats had gained so easily, he spent all his spare time working in his little apartment on a series of experiments that could diminish the strength of the rodents.

Pedro was aware that poison hadn’t worked, so he designed different plans. Some of them sounded simple, some impossible, but he didn’t discard any idea. At least in the planning stage.

As the days passed by, more walls in his house were covered with notebook pages full of diagrams, equations, drawings and paragraphs. Paper cups with left overs of dry coffee were all around the place, and maps of Nigeria could be seen over the tables around the apartment with small notes and arrows drawn in different colours.

But desperation caught up with him. None of his ideas would solve the problem. After all these months, Pedro was finally giving up. Exhaustion caught up with him, and he fell asleep right where he was, covered by a pile of dirty clothes and newspapers.

Suddenly, something unexpected happened, the solution came to him in his sleep, as clear as if he were awake. But, could it be done? He wondered, still half asleep. 

Afraid he would lose this idea, Pedro forced himself to wake up. It was time to implement his plan.

Jotting down all his thoughts along with formulas and lists of items that he would need, Pedro showed then no signs of fatigue. He had to act fast, before the rats could cause more damage.

One week later, Pedro was in Lagos. A backpack hanging on his left shoulder, a metal briefcase in his right hand.

As soon as he settled down at an abandoned hangar, he set all his equipment, but he still had some doubts. Was this a real solution? He questioned himself, over and over.

That same day, Jeher was particularly bored. Since the rats had domesticated the humans, so they would do all the work for them, the fun had severely diminished. May be it was time to move ahead with their plans to conquer other cities. After all, it had been quite easy, and his richness and power would be then infinite. He didn’t have to conquer the entire world, just some critical places. Then, he’d ruled everyone on this planet!

But all this thinking had made him hungry, so he ordered some snacks from his special reserve. A few minutes later, a human servant brought a backpack full of little kittens.

It had been brought by some Mexican guy who dared to come to the city, taking advantage of the almost non-existing fares charged by the few airlines that had kept flying to Lagos.

The present –the young man had said– was in exchange for the rats to let him do some scientific work in one of the abandoned areas of the airport, because his experiments were so unusual that he had already been rejected in other countries. As Jeher had no interest in science, he allowed Pedro to do whatever he wished.

Relaxing in the garden, the rat picked up one of the little kittens with his big claws, and as he was taking it to his mouth, something happened…

In a matter of seconds the little kitten changed its size, and it kept increasing it until it became impossible for Jeher to hold it anymore. The kitten, bigger than an elephant, landed all its weight over the rat …The last thing the evil rodent saw was the huge interior of the cat’s pink mouth.

Minutes later, the rest of the kittens started to pop up, growing as big as the first one, then they began to chase the rats all around the city. It took them no more than two hours to end the rats empire.

The few ones that weren’t eaten by the felines, Leax among them, ran away toward the bay, so scare of the cats that they forgot that the waters of the lagoon had been polluted with their own garbage. They died even before they drowned.

The humans couldn’t believe it! This horrifying episode had ended, but they were so traumatised by the whole experience that they weren’t sure how they would go on with their lives. May be they didn’t have the strength anymore, but they thanked Pedro anyway.

How did you do it? An old man managed to ask.

I found the way to alter the genes of these cats, so they would become huge just with the tiniest contact with the giant rats, then I left the rest to their natural instincts. Pedro answered, happy because his idea had work.

But, what are we going to do with the big cats now? The same old man asked.

That, my good friend, is something I still have to figure out… Pedro said, looking at the horizon were the enormous felines were taking a nap, after their big feast.

* * *

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* This story is part of The Crossover Mexico-Nigeria Project

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‘An unexpected journey’ – Short Story

By Nora Vasconcelos

It was six months since Tom, Sam and Charlie had designed a plan that would take them to fly over the main archaeological zones that were well preserved in the Yucatan Peninsula.

The idea had started as a school project when their literature teacher asked them to write an essay describing the most fantastic journey they could ever imagine.

Working in small groups, some of the boys and girls wrote stories about traveling to India, others described detailed trips to South America, and there were some groups that even imagined time travels to the past or the future as well as space journeys to faraway galaxies.

For the three friends their ideal trip was one that would take them to see part of their own country from above. Spending time flying in a balloon seemed to them a much exciting idea than just taking a plane.

Their essay was cheered up by their teachers and classmates, and it was then when a what if? came to their minds, after all How difficult could it be? …Apart from learning how to fly a balloon, borrowing one, getting all the provisions and designing a viable route…

With some help from their schoolmates and the support of their parents, Tom, Sam and Charlie found the way to transform their wish into a plan. Friends and family helped them make some ‘noise’ on Social Media and not so long after the project had started a balloon company that offered touristic services throughout Mexico said that they would sponsor them. The trip was scheduled for the school break, that would give them some time to prepare everything.

Learning how to control the balloon was the most difficult part. None of them had ever been in one before and as thrilled as they were, they had to admit that the very first time when the guide handed them the control, they felt butterflies in their stomachs. But they trained hard, weekend after weekend until every one of them got the gist of it.

Today, this plan was about to become a reality. The official launching day, set for July 15, started at 5:00am when they all gathered at a private runway that was small for commercial planes but big enough for small jets and of course, aerostats.

The travellers, who had arrived to the hangars at 4am, spent the minutes before their departure placing all the supplies inside the huge basket. Packages containing food and water were side by side with all sort of gear, clothes and several small fuel tanks. A map and a sophisticated GPS equipment would accompany them in their hot air balloon trip as well.

The brilliant tones of the balloon shinned as the sunrays went through its fabric. Shadows coloured in red and yellow framed the figures of the three explorers who were concentrated in finalizing all the preparations before getting into the basket.

Teachers, classmates, reporters and even some local politicians gathered around little by little.

At 5:55am, they hugged goodbye their parents, siblings and friends, and smiled, one more time, for the press. Five minutes later, the big balloon, all filled with hot air, started to separate from the pavement, meter by meter until the distance between them and the world below made everything look very small.

A blue sky and a soft breeze coming from the sea delivered the promise of a gentle flight all the way from Campeche city to the archeological zone of Uxmal.

The three friends had decided to fly alone, and not because they wanted to prove anything, they sure would have appreciated having the company of a balloon expert, but taking into consideration the length of their trip, it was wiser to take advantage of the extra storage space to get more supplies and some additional safety equipment.

The winds favoured them once they reached the desirable altitude, then they headed for Uxmal, enjoying a view they had only imagined before. The intense green of the forest was only interrupted by some small villages built in the middle of nowhere. Everything looked so tiny from where they were!

Their cell phone had not signal at that point but they kept on taking photos that they would upload on their Social media accounts as soon as they were able to get some bars.

About and hour and a half later, their hearts skipped a beat when they saw not so far away the top of the Uxmal pyramid. All their dreams were finally coming true and even when they were seeing it with their own eyes, it was hard for them to believe it was true.

As the balloon moved along the area, they couldn’t decide if this ancient site was more impressive from the land or from the skies. What they were certain of was that the view was truly beautiful.

Taking as many pictures as they could, they barely spoke for some time after they had passed the historical zone. Their smiles were doing all the talking then.

Their first stop would be close to the town of Kabah, where they could rest for a while and after that they would try to start sharing their experiences with the rest of the world. A few hours later, they would fly all the way up to Chichen Itza, a little east from where they were now.

Descending into the meadow was easy, and there their sleeping bags allowed them to get some sleep as the excitement and tiredness of the day had started to catch up on them. Smiles again, where all over their faces.

At different times, Tom, Sam and Charlie worked on their digital updates taking advantage of the good signal that their phones were getting from the town close by. Although, they didn’t spend much time doing that as they wanted to be well rested for the next leg of their trip.

The following morning, the same as the previous day, the balloon went up to the air at 6am. The clouds blocking the sunshine gave them some sort of relief as the heat started to increase once they had reached the forest again.

Throughout the jungle some small pyramids could be seen, the same as small towns and villages. The wind, a bit stronger than the day before was helping them get a faster rhythm, which allowed them to arrive to Chichen Itza a little earlier than expected.

Once again, the view from the top was magnificent, the Mayan pyramid and the observatory offered a spectacular view. And it remained spectacular until they landed nearby for the second time. Their hearts seemed to grow out of the excitement. After that, if everything continued according to plan, the next day they would reach Tulum, in the Quitana Roo coast.

Would a bit of rain be a bad sign? Should they wait to continue their journey? They considered that this kind of situations were normal because the weather was supposed to change unexpectedly since it was hurricane season, so, once again, at 6am their colourful balloon headed up to the sky for which it’d be the longest flight of their trip.

As they were traveling south-east, almost an hour after they had departed, they got the bad feeling that the weather would get worst. Now they were sure that they should land, but everything below was a dense forest that would damage the structure of the balloon, so they had no choice but to continue. Lucky for them, the winds, quite strong now, were in their favor.

A little later, they felt relieved when they started to catch glances of the unique sky-blue sea that characterised the beaches that went all the way from Cancun to Tulum. They were getting really close now to their destination and they were very happy about it.

But the storm made the balloon take an unwanted turn! Now they weren’t heading for Tulum anymore, they were going to the opposite direction, away from the shore. Soon they saw from above a big island which should be Cozumel, not only because of its size but because some cruise ships were docked near its pristine beaches.

The balloon continue flying away from the shores and the clear waters became darker, then a sudden storm caused the balloon to deflate and in a matter of seconds, they faced a free fall all the way down to where uneasy waves seemed eager to take them into the deep ocean.

As the basket pulled them inside the high tide, their life jackets lifted them towards the sea surface. With their eyes filled with salt water, they still were able to see that they were far far away from the shore. What could they do?

“Look!” Tom managed to yell.

Then his two friends saw what he was pointing at…

Was it real or just a hallucination?

A cargo ship with a big green and white flag painted on one side and a Nigeria logo written with big lettering on the other side appeared on the horizon.

Would they be rescued before they drowned? They wondered.

(To be continued next Wednesday on Obinna Udenwe’s Blog: )

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* This story is part of The Crossover Mexico-Nigeria Project

Licencia Creative Commons

‘The spirit man’ – Short story

By Nora Vasconcelos

(Part 2)
— — —
[You can read the first part of this story on Obinna Udenwe’s blog]

…Father and the neighbours couldn’t believe it!

Everybody in our street had felt relieved when the spirit man had died. Things were supposed to go back to normal. Why was this happening to us? We all wondered.

As soon as the news went around, people gathered outside the building were the spirit man used to live. Nobody really knew why we were there. The spirit man was dead, so why we should expect to get any sort of explanation by standing in front of his apartment.

May be we wanted to be sure that he was really dead. After all, he was the spirit man, and his feet never touched the pavement, or so the kids said.

Would it be our collective guilt that had brought us here? I thought.

What if the spirit man didn’t have anything to do with our misfortunes and he’d been killed for no reason at all..? No! That couldn’t be. Everybody in the neighbourhood said that he was guilty because people had died just because they had looked at him…

All these ideas tormented me over and over while I was standing there. Then something happened… Something nobody expected.

As a big gray cloud covered the sky, we saw how some light was coming from the spirit man’s apartment.

How was that possible? We wondered, asking each other if we had actually seen what we thought we had seen.

Silence invaded us. Then we watched more attentively. A chill was felt around our paralysed bodies. There was not only light coming from his apartment, but also noise…

‘Someone is there!’ A woman screamed.

‘That can’t be true!’ A young man said. ‘We got rid of the body at the lagoon… Even more, we saw it disappear as it sank in the muddy waters.’

It couldn’t be the owner of the building as he was away this week, visiting his family in the countryside.

So, who was there?

The uncertainty was terrible. But nobody dared to get closer to look inside the place. A young boy had passed away even after the spirit man had died, so, it was for sure that whoever looked through those windows would share the same faith…

‘Spirits don’t died, that’s why!’ A young boy said, hiding among the crowd.

Was that true? Had the spirit man come back from the land of the death…?

‘I’ll go and see!’ An old man said. ‘Cancer has already taken the best of my years, pain’s unbearable and one less day on this earth won’t really matter.’

We all looked at him when he started to approach the place.

As he was getting really close to one of the windows, the lights in the apartment went out.

Anyway, the old man had the chance to get a glance. ‘It’s empty!’ He yelled, just before he fell onto the floor and died.

Screams filled the air… Then everybody ran away, leaving the body of the poor man lying there.

When we got home, father said he had to come back. ‘It is not right to leave him there,’ he told us. But little time passed before he came back.

‘He wasn’t there anymore!’ He said. His face pale and his hands shaking.

‘What happened?’ Mother asked. ‘Please don’t tell me that you saw the spirit man?’ She begged.

‘I cannot say it was him, his features were different, his face was different and yet, there was something familiarly odd…’ Father said. Then he remained silent for a while, his eyes fixed on the wall, his body leaning on the door.

‘I can’t stay here with all of you! Not now that I’ve been haunted. I have to go somewhere far away from you. I can’t allow my family to get what I might have…’

And in a second, father was gone.

Mother ran to the door, but when she got close to it, she stopped, afraid of touching it.

What if ‘it’ was contagious even through the objects…? We all dreaded.

Then we cried all the evening until our bodies couldn’t take it anymore and we felt asleep. Only mother remained awake. A candle on the window, a chair blocking the door…

The next morning our doorbell rang. Mother didn’t dare to answer.

The bell didn’t ring again. Only the sound of someone going away was heard.

I shouldn’t have done it. But I did it anyway. While mother was still trying to make sure that whoever had been there was really gone, I looked through the window. A man with a limp was leaving our place …His feet barely touched the street.

I didn’t recognize him. But when I was about to go back to the room, I saw his face as he was turning his head toward our door. His nose was twisted, the same as one of his eyes and one of his ears… His eyes were as brown as the light that appears right after the sun has set and just before the night comes to rule its realm.

An hour passed before mother gathered the courage to open the door. And when she did it we noticed that our house number had disappeared. What did that mean? Were we condemned as well…? Were we going to be the next…?

‘The man with the limp had taken it for sure. But why?’ I said.

‘Let’s go kids!’ Mother ordered, gathering a few clothes in a hurry. ‘We can’t stay here!’

A friend of the family had a small apartment on the corner of our street because it was convenient for him to stay there any time he visited his grandparents who lived two blocks from here.

Mother and father took care of the apartment when he was away, making sure that it remained functional. Now, it would be our hideaway house. Nor the spirit man nor the man with the limp would ever know that we were there. Or so we thought…

The following morning everything was silent. Not even the wind blew around.

When we were getting ready to have our breakfast a bang on the door made us jump from our chairs. Nobody was supposed to know we were there!

Trying to be quiet, mother got near the door and looked through the peephole. ‘Nobody’s there,’ she said. So, she opened the door.

The house number had disappeared again!

Mother went out, hoping a mischievous kid had taken it, but we all knew that it had been the man with the limp.

Then we went out and walked along the street. There were no people outside and all the numbers of all the houses had disappeared. The same as it had happened to us!

Faraway… almost on the opposite corner, we managed to see the man with the limp entering the building where the spirit man used to live.  Were they one and the same?

At least no more people had died during the night. Or none that we were aware of. We still didn’t know what had happened to father. It’d be better if we went back to our new place. After all, it had been him who had suggested that we moved there in case things turned more complicated, so he should know where to find us when he felt it was safe.

A few hours later, a note was left under our door. We all thought it’d be from father, so we rushed to pick it up. Unfortunately, it wasn’t. The note wasn’t sign, it only said: Meet me at the apartment in an hour.

We all knew what apartment was that.

At 2pm all the neighbours got together at the spirit man’s place. Even father was there. Then we were certain that nobody else had died in the last hours, so we felt it should be safe for us to be there. Even so, no one dare to get too close to the apartment.

The man with the limp opened the door and looked at us. His expression was a puzzling one. Who was this man?

‘You all have been part of a terrible crime here,’ he said with a severe voice. ‘You’ve killed a man who never said anything . If he was a spirit or no, you’ll never know.’ The man paused and studied our faces.

‘I’ve come all the way from Gabon, where a cholera epidemic destroyed our hometown. People blamed the spirit man, but there was no way to probe it was his fault even when death became his constant companion…”

‘Oh’s!’ Were heard from the people around us.

‘By taking off the numbers of your homes I’ve prevented the disease from knowing where you live, so it won’t be able to kill anyone else. I’ve also cleaned this apartment with all the herbs and chants I know, so no one will get sick anymore. But remember, what you have done here it will remain for the spirits to be judged, so you might as well never be safe again…”

* * *

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* This story is part of The Crossover Mexico-Nigeria Project

Licencia Creative Commons