The flight had been a smooth one and in fact we were nearing the Nigerian atmosphere when it started. We were all afraid. I looked at Mick and I could sense fear in his face but he tried to be calm. He told me that nothing would go wrong. He assured me that the technical team would soon rectify the situation and I believed him.
The plane started to vibrate once more. It was as if it was an earthquake. The voices that came from the speakers told us to tighten our seat belts. But it was not assuring. I’m so not ready to die. I still have a lot to do. Some of the fellow passengers had fainted, others were praying. To who? I wonder. Jesus or Allah? They do not answer you when you need them. I remember the day before my 18th birthday. I had begged Allah and he didn’t respond. So praying is no use now. It’s either this plane crash and everybody dies or not.
Then everybody felt the quick descent. We knew what had happened. The engines of the airplane had failed. It was unable to act against the gravitational force pulling us down. And now, gravity had won. We were falling down 10m/s faster every second.
The last thing I remembered was a bright light. I opened my eyes. I died. I saw myself in a white robe and angels attending to me. I closed my eyes. The next time I opened them, I realized I wasn’t in heaven but in a hospital in Lagos. I heard voices everywhere. It was so loud. Ah, it hurts…
It was after a week I gained full consciousness. Then, I remembered. Mick! Where is he? I stood up from the bed, and looked everywhere. He was not here. Slowly, the memories began to pour in. He had kissed me and had held me in his arms. We had hugged tightly before we lost each other’s grip in the crash. Now, I long for him. How long had it been since the crash? One week? Two? Where is Mick?
I pushed a bell beside the bell and a nurse came in shortly afterwards. “You’re awake!”, she exclaimed.
“Where is Mick?”, I demanded.
“Who?”, she replied, “I… I do not know who Mick is. The survivors from the plane crash had been rushed to this hospital. And of all six, you’re the only awake now. I suggest you go back to sleep.”
“I’ll sleep when I see him.”, I ordered. She isn’t going to make me sleep. I have to see Mick. Where are you, baby?
“I think you’ll need the doctor’s attention.”, she said and then left the room. I stared at the room. Six survivors? Forgetting that I was an atheist, I started praying for Mick. He has to be a survivor too.
The doctor looked like he was in his mid-forties. He looked smart in his white coat. He smiled to reveal a set of perfect teeth, just like Mick’s. He spoke up, “Halema, I’m doctor Lanre. The nurse had reported that you woke up a few minutes ago. We understand that your body is still very weak, so it’s better for you to rest.”
‘But where’s Mick?”, I asked. And the doctor looked at me and smiled, “he’s safe. He’s still unconscious. You need to rest.”
A wave of fatigue hit me. I was satisfied to know that my Mick is safe, though unconscious. He’s in coma, I thought. I prayed again and I thanked God for keeping Mick safe. Then, unconsciousness finally set in.
I started responding to treatments. And I can feel like I’m strong enough to move around. I learnt that we lucky that the aircraft had crashed into the ocean in Lagos. I pressed the bell beside the bed. A nurse came in a short while later and I told her I want to see the doctor. The doctor was busy attending to other patients. So, I started visualizing how happy I would be to see Mick and hold him and touch him. He would also be very happy. I would tell him the crash has taught me that life is too short to make any unnecessary delays. I was still picturing Mick’s face when the doctor came in.
“Where is Mick?”, I asked.
“Mick what?”, the doctor replied as though he didn’t know who I was talking about.
“Mick Sanders. He was on the plane with me before the crash.”
“Well, there is no Mick Sanders here in this hospital. All six survivors from the plane crash had been females.”
What? “What? This is not possible. You… You told me he was safe.”
“Actually, the state you were in would not have permitted me to disclose such. Now, that I see you’re much better, I tell you that he’s safe… Not on earth, though.”
My Mick! He died! How am I going to live without him?
“How could it have been possible? No male survivor?”, I asked. I wanted to be sure that the doctor is mistaken. I was hoping he’d say that Mick is somewhere. Probably in another hospital or anywhere. I need to know that he’s alive.
“Well, it is possible that that all male passengers died. This resulted from the male genetic makeup. The female has two X chromosomes which allows them to survive accidents more than male.”, the doctor explained but I wasn’t listening. The words he said didn’t make sense to me. Nothing mattered now. Mick is dead.
Tears dropped from my eyes. The love of my life is dead. If I could to back to the past, I wouldn’t allow him to follow me to Nigeria. God didn’t answer my prayers. He had forsaken me again. I can’t take it anymore. I don’t need to live anymore. I started losing consciousness. The doctor had sedated me. Rest was what he thought I needed. But all I really need is Mick.
I woke up to see my siblings sitting near the bed. They looked sad. They can’t bear to lose me after they had lost their mother. “Abubakar, Mariam, what are you doing here?”
“We heard of what happened to you and we came here. How are you feeling?”, Mariam ventured after staring for a while. “We’ve been here many times but you were in coma. It’s a huge pain to watch you in that state. Thank Allah you’re alright.”
“I’m feeling much better. What of Mama?”, I asked trying to hide the pain in my voice. I knew that she would have been buried according to Islamic rites. Islam didn’t permit the dead lying around for long.
“She’s been buried. We’re worried about you, Halema”, Abubakar finally said. I didn’t know how to respond to that. I need to speak to Julia. “I need to make an international call”, I said
“Tell me the number”, Abubakar said calmly.
I gave it to him and the call was connected after a while. “Julia, it’s Halema.”
“Halema, thank God you’re alright. I heard the news. How are you? I’m so sorry about Mick”, she said in relief. She must have been shaken by the news.
“Yeah. I knew you’d be here for me”
“You have no idea how I have been begging God to save you. There’s so much you still have to do in this world, I reminded him”, she laughed because it’s funny. She’s an atheist and have always laughed whenever she sees people praying and afterwards thanking God for what he had done. She’d laugh and say, “You do know your prayer didn’t matter because what’s going to happen will happen.”
“I actually prayed for you. I didn’t mind my earlier thoughts about prayer and I believe God wouldn’t mind too”, she said finally.
I laughed. Trust Julia to lift your spirits. I momentarily forgot about Mick and said, “Since when did you become anti-atheist? Anyway, what’s up?”
“Well, you know that douche Martin?”, she started, “he approached me yesterday and requested to be my friend?”
“What? That Casanova!”, I exclaimed. Abubakar looked impatient beside me. I must be really exhausting his airtime. I had forgotten how international calls are expensive in Nigeria.
“I must go now. I’m still at the hospital now. It’s time for medication.”, I said and waited for her reply before I hung up.
I remembered when I first met Julia. She was also a student in the university. She studied English Language and she now edited my blog posts. She had been packing a huge pile of books in her arms when she tripped and fell. I quickly rushed to help her. She later introduced herself and invited me to have a coffee as a thank you. Then, we started seeing each other more often. It wasn’t long till I discovered she was a lesbian. She found me attractive and I had told her she isn’t my type. But we remained friends after that.
Then reality started setting in. I have no friends here in Nigeria. I have associated myself with US so much that I had forgotten about home. And now, life has dealt with me another blow. It has taken away the most cherished person in my life. I wondered why I wasn’t the one who had died. Mick, why do you have to go? Why not me? I wondered. Life is not fair. It has the habit of popping your dreams right in front of you. But now I am determined. I am no longer afraid of death. I am a survivor. Storms of the world had fought but I still survived. I realize that I do not have to fight with the death of Mick anymore. I need to be the woman he would have wanted me to be. I need to make him proud, wherever he is.
Abubakar spoke beside me, “Halema, I’ll need to go back to school now.” He was a student of the University of Lagos. He had gained admission last year. He’s studying structural engineering. I replied, “Okay. Good luck with it.”
The doctors came not long afterwards and I asked him, “How long have I been here?”
“Four weeks!”, he replied sharply, “how are you feeling now?”
“Better”, I replied not sure if I was truly feeling better.
“Good. You’ve been responding well to treatments and very soon you would be strong enough to be discharged”, he assured me.
I can’t wait to be free. The walls of this damned place always seem to be closing in on me each time I open my eyes. “How bad was it?”
‘Well, you suffered some fractures and you had about five dislocated bones. And yes, you suffered some damages in your head. We were afraid you’d suffer from temporal amnesia. But when you woke up and you remembered everything just fine, we knew it was a miracle.”, the doctor explained.
“And other passengers?”
“Two of them are now conscious. They suffered similar damages as you, but there is one particular white lady who suffered a worse fate. She’s still comatose right now. And we’re pretty sure that she’ll suffer from amnesia when she wakes up.”
“Oh God!”, I exclaimed.
“Honestly, I never knew you were quite a celebrity. The press has been demanding some information on your status. I learned that you’re a famous blogger who had been writing about Africa.”
“Yes”, I changed the subject, “what was the cause of the accident?”
“Well, I do not understand much of the terms. But the flight seems to be a targeted one. Some knocking reagents were found in the engine of the plane. The engine had suffered heating while trying to burn through the fuel and eventually it failed. It was a miracle the flight had lasted that long.”
‘What? Who could have done this? I don’t understand. Why would a bunch of innocent civilians be targeted?”
“I don’t know, Ms. Umar, but I’d say it is the IS.”
“But they have not claimed responsibility, have they?”, I asked. It started to make sense. I’m in trouble. IS is targeting me.
“No, they haven’t.”, he said. And he looked at me, and I said, “Thank you for having this conversation with me. I never knew doctors to be this patient.” Well, what do I know about doctors?
Now, back to the matter at hand. I’m in big trouble. It made sense that the flight was being targeted by IS. Word must be out that I’m still alive. They’re coming. They’ll be coming to get me. It started when my hands struck a very important and obscure manuscript from the US Library of Congress. Julia’s father had connection with the people in the Congress and I was allowed entry. When I saw it, I was struck by what I was reading. I started copying what I could from the page. I secretly photocopied several pages from the manuscript. The manuscript didn’t feel to be published. It was titled: Scylla and Charybdis. I checked Google for any information on the title. It came straight from Greek mythology. Scylla and Charybdis were two immortal and irresistible monsters. Scylla was a female monster with six snake-like heads, each with pointed teeth, and barked like a dog. While Charybdis caused a whirlpool by swallowing the waters of the sea three times a day. When Homer’s Odysseus attempted to sail between them, he encountered disasters on both sides.
Since the day I opened the book, I knew I was in trouble. I was Pandora and I had opened the box. All that is left for me is Hope.