Ngozi pulled on the painting of a cherub, and as she expected a dark doorway lay behind. She swung the bright white light of her torch into the narrow room and saw nothing. Her curiosity piqued, she left the dimly lit hallway behind and stepped into the stifling darkness.
The painting slammed shut behind her with a bang! and her battery powered torch went out.
She instantly backed up to the painting and tried to pry it open. It didn’t budge. Then as the cold hands of fear started to wrap around her heart, candles lit up along the walls of the room and she saw she wasn’t alone. There was a mask, hanging at the other end of the narrow room. It was a long oval made of pitch black obeche and etched with faces frozen in silent screams. She gasped, still feeling frantically for a way out. When the mask moved, she froze, paralyzed; it floated off the wall, contorting and melting. With it, thick black smoke came, obscuring the little light that the candles gave off. It halted mere inches from her shivering form, now a creature with blood red eyes that seemed to glow in the dark; floating in thick smoke from its waist up. It spoke; its voice a thousand sounds that made the air tremble.
“To the woman who sets her eyes on the Mask of Oro, I curse.
A endless cycle of death.
Trapped in the place of thoughts.
Living out her greatest fear.
Her gaze shall be dead and still as the deep sea.
I leave her to her pain and mark her”
It stretched a skeletal finger forward and touched the centre of her forehead, she felt a bone deep chill go through her. And then it was gone, the mask glowing in the candlelight for a few moments. Darkness fell with a whoop and the door she had been leaning heavily on, opened. Ngozi fell out into the hallway, her heart threatening to leap out of her chest, her brain trying to make sense of what she just saw and heard, most of all she wanted to scream; loud and hard, and she stood up and did, fear etched on her face.
She was shut up by a wave of unconsciousness.
A desperate scream pierced the murky darkness.
“MUMMY!!!!” Ngozi opened her eyes; she was lying on the floor of the kitchen. She could hear a rhythmic chopping sound and drops of thick liquid fell like rain. She wiped off her cheek and got to her feet, and right there on the marble island, her husband, Tunde was chopping up meat and blood and bone fragments flew in different directions.
“Tunde what are you doing?”
She felt lightheaded, her nightgown flecked with blood.
“You shouldn’t have looked in the room.” He spoke in a lifeless monotone, eyes focused on what he was intently chopping.
Chop! Chop! Chop! Chop!
“MUMMY! THAT’S JAMES!! HE KILLED JAMES!!” The hysterical wail of her thirteen year old daughter. Ngozi looked closer at the table, and soaked in blood was her infant son in his white unitard. Tunde’s axe came down on his stomach and on his chest.
He was dead.
Ngozi’s vision went white.
“TUNDE, WHAT ARE YOU DOING?!!!” She lurched forward and pulled him away from her son’s mangled corpse and gasped. Lodged deep in Tunde’s stomach was a large knife, he fell dead the moment she touched him. The axe flew out of his hands, spinning away trailing red spirals. Ngozi eyes widened and she put her hand to her mouth. She wanted to run, away from the gore, everything was catching up to her too fast, her dead husband and child’s eyes bore into her.
“MUMMY!” The jolt of the scream went through her and she turned and saw Sade, her daughter holding her own severed head in her arms. The headless body moved towards her and held out the dripping head.
“SAVE ME, MUMMY!. PLEASE.”
The second the cold head touched the front of her nightie, the body dropped like a stone to the marble floor and the head rolled away and came to a stop staring directly at her, into her soul.
Confusion clouded Ngozi’s brain, she wanted to scream, she wanted to cry, she wanted to run. She remembered seeing Tunde sneaking into the room behind the painting, and vaguely brushing aside her carefully phrased enquiries about it, then waking up in the dead night and creeping out to see what was in the room.
“ Money?” she had imagined. That was all she had expected to see, and she had gotten the shock of her life, now her family was dead. She looked at James’ mangled form and a sob came, escaping her lips in a growl. As she stepped toward where he lay, she slipped on the pool of her husband’s blood and cracked her skull on the edge of the island, slipping into darkness before her body hit the floor.
Sade’s scream drew her out of the dark again. Ngozi could feel a stong wind whip her hair, she could feel concrete beneath her, she opened her eyes. They were on a roof and it was about to rain. The dark clouds above were pregnant with lightning, and thunder rumbled. Tunde was standing on the edge of the roof, holding the crying baby by its foot and Sade in a headlock. They all faced her. Sade’s gown flapping in gusts of wind and Tunde’s shirttails waving frantically. He smiled a lifeless smile and dropped the baby.
“NOOOOOOOO!!” The inhuman sound escaped Ngozi’s lips as she ran across the slippery roofing towards Tunde, her own gown wrapping around her feet and crippling her. Without preamble, he tossed Sade into the grey wind. Another scream tore at her throat and she pushed against now viscous wind, nearly pushing her down. Before she got to him, Tunde dove backwards off the roof.
She climbed the ledge, determined to follow her family into oblivion. As she reached the threshold, she saw an image flash clear as day across her eyes. Tunde, James and Sade all dead and covered in blood on her kitchen floor.
Before she could breathe, she felt it. A metallic taste on her tongue, a tingling across her skin, the air around her brightening….and lightning struck, sending her charred body over the edge, towards blissful darkness.
She was running on a bridge. Her car, a red Camry drove alongside her, Tunde at the wheel, James clutched to his chest. Sade at the back had the window rolled down and was screaming. There was no other car as far as the eye could see. Ngozi ran faster as the car picked up speed, the gravel catching her heels. she hit the side of the car hard and shouted
“TUNDE! STOP, LISTEN TO ME! STOOP! PLEASE!!!!, PLEASE NOT THIS TIME!!!”
The car picked up speed and Ngozi could see Sade try to open the door, she could hear her son’s panicked bawling. The car sped off and Ngozi watched in horror as her family died for the third time as Tunde drove the car off the bridge. It hung in the air for a moment and she saw Sade hit the glass repeatedly; frantic, begging, screaming and then it was gone, over the edge.
Ngozi’s bruised larynx didn’t have the time to open another blood curdling scream before a truck appeared out of nowhere and crushed her into darkness.
Ngozi came out of the darkness, her eyes opening softly and terror gripping her heart, the last three times flashing through her mind. There was nothing she could do but try…
He moved through the stark fluorescent lights and thick disinfectant fumes, avoiding hurrying nurses and doctors trying to pull lives back from the edge. He took a sharp turn at the Psych ward and quickly found Ngozi’s room. She sat on the bed, wrapped in a white straitjacket polka dotted with blood from where she had been chewing her lower lip. She stared into nothing. Tunde shook his head.
“You shouldn’t have looked behind the curtain…you shouldn’t have. I know what you are going through. Cycles of death, etched in your memory forever. That is if you have any other memories than your loved ones perishing over and over and over.”
He moved closer and whispered in her ear
“I didn’t want this for you, I love you too much.”
He held her face tenderly in his arms and planted a chaste kiss on her lips then he snapped her neck with a meaty crack! He set her down on the bed quietly, shut her open eyes and covered her up to her chin and gently tucked her in. He kissed her forehead where an ink black circle lay.
Tunde Olawole, wearer of the mask of Oro left the room, as the slowing blood and the stiffening limbs signaled the end of his sixth curious wife.