The Haunted House

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Chapter Ten

Daydreaming had always been her favourite pastime. Drifting silently into a fantasy world where she was the hero, slaying vampires, fairies, witches. The funny thing was that her partner was also a vampire – a tall, slender mysterious man. The darkness surrounding him as he walks along a misty bridge, his face hidden under his black cloak. She daydreamed to pass away time, when at the park, on the bus, even before she went to sleep and worse, during exams. Once, she daydreamed about her mysterious man and her side by side running away from a burning building. She had snapped out of her fantasy world in time for the invigilator to announce that only 10 minutes remained. Since then, she minded herself during examinations. But not in class.

The weather turned warmer in the afternoon. As she sat in her final class for the day, the sun warm on her hands, she surveyed the area. Her favourite spot was sitting next to the window, daydreaming. Today, she couldn’t. instead, she looked around desperate to put a stop to the hyper thoughts she was having. She noticed the colourful flowers in pots dotted here and there, the small pond and rockery, the neat lawn at the far end. She wondered how they kept a casting place like this clean. The workers must be effective. They were not hard to miss though. With their blue uniforms, they looked sleek and different. Her gaze wandered to the big pot of red geraniums, amazed at how they were arranged.

She loved gardens and plants, which she used to collect in Katsina from her auntie’s shop. Aunt Farida had different types of plants, being a certified botanist. from an early age, Ameena cultivated the nature of taking care of them. She watched in awe as her auntie treated them like the children she never had, carefully watering them, arranging them neatly around her luscious garden. In her little mind, Ameena had felt a sort of pain for the woman who loved others but never got to have her own.

By now she was anxious. It was 2:50 and Dyana hadn’t shown up. She promised her she would go by the library after her first class with Fadila and Adama, find whatever they can and stop by the school. another class was coming up at 4, and they had to stop by Moms friend, Mrs Ditmer’s house to collect some more herbs. Mom had insisted on boiling herbs, burning some and drinking a particular mixture of various herbs. ‘we have to protect ourselves,’ she had said.

‘Honey, we already have enough protection. Look at all these cameras and barbed wires around.’ Mr Aliyu persuaded.

Mrs Fatima was still adamant. ‘These are to ward off any evil. I have a strange feeling.’

‘Honey, please, don’t put your mind on this. If it helps, I have the chief of police on speed dial.’

That was how they spent the night. Burning and burning different sages, herbs until they all felt clogged and teary. The windows had to be open throughout.

Maybe there’s truly something evil. If not why will someone follow us and try to run us over? They must think we have something on them. But what? How do they even know we are investigating? Something doesn’t seem right.

Someone wanted to stop them from finding the truth. What was event eh truth? Voices brought her back form her train of thoughts. Dayana, Fadila and Adama were rushing into the empty classroom. Ameena quickly pushed back the seat for them, eager to listen to what they have seen.

“what have you found?”

“a lot!” Dayana replied, dumping her stack of books on the table. They made a circle, the table in the middle and began going through the books. “so, apparently the Unguwan Turawa area was sort of a hospital in those days. Wounded soldiers used to be kept there for a while.”

“So they turned the houses into hospitals. During which era, specifically.”

“world war 1, even world war 2.” Fadila replied. “though during world war 2, there were many houses there.”

“wait, during the 1st war, the area was isolated?”

“that’s one of the strange things we found. In this clipping, this Santos guy, I guess some missionary or something claimed the area was a ’zonam diaboli.” Adama chipped in, tapping on the clipping.

“what the hell does that even mean.”

“it’s Latin. Devil zone.”

Why would someone call a barren area the devil’s zone. “is there any way of us finding out why he said that?”

“Nope. Nothing more about it.”

Ugh. Another dead end. She turned over the pages, scanning for any new information. Mostly was news about the war. Not what they were looking for. Since there was nothing useful, she decided to ask around their neighbours. Someone must know something. She opened another book – Occultic Practices around the world, by Leonardo Starovsli. The cover showed a dark red moon. She scrolled the contents, looking for an interesting topic.

“um, I think I might know something about someone who used to live there?” Fadila blurted out, almost like a question.

Ameena’s eyes widened, “and you’re just telling us this now?”

All eyes were on her. “guys, no, it’s just that I wasn’t sure. Besides I didn’t want to scare you. And I didn’t think it would get to this.” She gestured around the table, where large books were scattered about.

“well, spit it out. What do you know.”

“there was this couple that lived there. the wife is friends with my mom. Anyway, so I heard stuff about their time at your house. Mrs Jan claimed she heard noises, like really scary stuff. Those shit we see in movies. She was really freaked out, but I think nobody believed her. Most of what happened, later on, was sort of kept secret...”

“secret, like how?”

“the thing is lots of people know the story of the perfect couple whose life turned into a nightmare after staying at the mansion. But honestly, we don’t really know what truly happened.”

“how come I don’t know that story?” Yemi, who arrived moments ago and had been listening attentively, interrupted.

Fadila eyed him, “you dama what do you know?”

Ameena butted in quickly before they began bickering. “wait, but your mom knows what happened. And she can’t be the only one. We can ask her.”

“of course she does. Including a few others, I suppose. But mom hates talking about it. there was one time after it happened, I tried asking her but oh my God. I’ve never seen her so furious. It was like, like she became an entirely different person.”

“gosh. I wonder what happened to provoke that.”

Fadila tsked.

Dayana looked at them warily, “but we can talk to the lady, the Mrs Jan.”

Ameena’s eyes lit up, her mind brewing with new possibilities. ” yes. That’s it! someone must know where she lives. Or have her number. Or something.”

Fadila grimaced, unsure of how to break the news to them. “um, guys, sorry to burst your bubble, but we have a problem.”

“again?”

“Mrs Jan was admitted into a psychiatric after whatever happened happened. She’s not really right in the head.”

Ameena couldn’t understand why everything led to a dead end. It was like there was someone behind the curtain pulling the strings, disrupting their findings, making them go nowhere. She was getting frustrated. Maybe she should leave it all and focus on her life. But it was easier said than done. living in that house gave her chills, she couldn’t be able to live there without getting to the bottom of this. The kitchen where she encountered that silhouette haunted her, its dark hollow eyes probing her. No, she must find out. Whatever it takes. As she looked at Fadila, something new crossed her mind. The next step was actually simple. Okay, maybe not so simple. But they had to do it anyway. Mrs Jan was going to have an unexpected visit. And very soon.

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