The walls were silent, those hideous marks underneath sneering at her, leering her to come closer. She wouldn't dare. As luck would have it, the old grandfather clock chimed. Ameena startled. Soft breeze blew in. She took a step forward, then another, and another.
She looked out of the window, dodging behind the curtains so that no one saw her. Who could even see, she chided herself. It was very quiet, and the house was empty. On a second thought, after what she had gone through, she couldn't be too sure. She checked the clock again and hissed.
Where are they?
It was a quarter to four, and the rest of the family would be back soon from the wedding. She needed to get this over with before they arrived. This was the only chance she had. Who knew when the whole family would be out again? She had managed to fake a headache - just to stay at home.
She hissed again, this time dialing the number furiously. One beep and a hushed voice spoke. "We're outside the gate now."
She ran over to the main door and clicked on an electronic device. It beeped and came to life. Sure, there they were, outside the gate. Clicking on open button, the gates opened wide. They were lucky, Bulus the gate man was away on a family trip.
They all scurried into the sitting room, out of breath. "What took you so long?" She asked as she locked the door firmly.
"We wanted to make sure we weren't followed," a lanky guy answered.
"And we think we were." A girl in an oversized clothing added.
"You think you were?" She hurried over to the electronic device again to ensure the gates was locked. "How did you know? Did you see whoever it was?"
"One question at a time, Meena." Another guy flopped on the cushion, drinking from a water bottle he took from the centre table. "When we were in the cab, we noticed a car following us. So we told the driver to drop us off, right behind that secondary school, DeVon. So we trekked, can you imagine. After a while, we heard noises around us, like they were coming from the bushes."
Meena's eyes widened. "Did you see who it was?"
"I think I caught a glimpse of a person dressed in all black wearing a dark sweater on top, with a hood on. He was hiding behind the trees. So we quickened our pace and took another path. " The girl replied.
"Uhm. How do you know it was a He?" Another boy asked.
"i wasn't sure but..."
"or maybe it was a girl even. You and your feminist ideas always thinking guys are the..."
"i said I wasn't sure. If you were listening closely, you would have hard when I was saying I think. Why didn't you stay to make sure it was a girl. And yeah, everyone knows..."
Meena interrupted them, "Okay okay. Fadila, Yemi, we're not here to fight. Fadila saw a figure, but isn't sure whether it's a guy or a girl. That's the least of our concerns. Our main concern now should be that someone is following us! It's possible they already know you're here."
A new feeling had dawned on them all. Fear. Someone could be lurking behind those trees. Maybe even spying on them right now. Fadila looked around her nervously, and said in a low voice, "let's get this over with. We need to be home before dark."
Tbey unloaded the equipment that they brought - a tape, recorder, large knives, a saw, some paint.
"Ibrahim, let's check the kitchen first." Meena addressed the lanky boy.
They used the saw to scrap the walls and cabinets, looking for anything they might find. "If my mom sees this, she'll kill me. "
"But you're doing this to save them."
"They wouldn't understand. They never do."
They checked the cabinets, underneath the kitchen island, under the tiles, cracking some them, breaking drainage pipes, uncovering every single item which lay on the kitchen floor. There's so much they could do. Meena wished they could remove every single item but that was impossible.
By the time the sun was deep yellow, casting the kitchen in a dim view, they were exhausted. "Do you think we'll find it?"
"i don't know, but we have to! It has to be somewhere here."
"we'll find it, Meena. I feel it. Even if we dont, you know that I'll do anything for you. Anything." He lay his hand on hers.
"Thanks, Ibrahim." She squeezed back.
Just then, Yemi barged in interrupting their conversation. He looked out of breath, panting. "You need to see this. Dayana found something."
In a second, they were out of the kitchen and dashing towards the sitting room, Yemi in lead. He pointed to the wall. "Dayana, what..."
"I was looking around here, using the ultra radiance and it showed something around here, look. It's not visible but it seems dense unlike the rest of the walls."
Sure enough, that section was showing the presence of something. It looked black and fluffy in contrast to the creamy background the rest of the walls showed.
"There's something there, let's peel it off."
Yemi looked uncertain and hesitated behind. This was not part of the plan. They were vandalising the walls. He was certain they wouldn't be able to repair it before Ameena's family returned.
Dayana held one up tipped corner while Ameena held the other. Many questions whirled in her mind. What could be behind those walls? She remembered comfortably leaning against it just yesterday. Grandma Hadiza loved to take a nap close to it. It was soothing, the white flowery wallpaper she claimed. Another nagging thought made her shiver a little. That shadow. Who was he/she? What was he doing, following her friends? Were they safe? She made a mental note to remind them to arm themselves with pepper spray and rubber knives anytime they were going out. She sure hope they were safe though. But what about her. Was she safe?
"isn't this umm, like a, crime?" Yemi sputtered.
"Crime indeed, " Ameena huffed. "No it's not. Besides, granny was always saying how she hates this wallpaper. Dad talked of changing them to another colour." Something that her maternal and paternal grandmothers disagreed on.
"Besides, there's something there. Maybe it could give us a clue." ibrahim chipped in.
After peeling off a whole chunk of the wallpaper, they stepped back watching in fear.
She gasped, "oh no, oh no." Ameena had always known there was something sinister about the house, but she couldn't understand what. She tried to explain but they all thought she was confused.
"What is that?" Dayana muttered.
"The mystery behind it all." Before them was a painting of what looked like a young woman slashing her palm with a knife, the blood trickling down into a bowl in which a man about the same age as her was holding. He was bowing before her, and some few onlookers were watching with admiration. All their clothes were red, long with a hood. Tbeir faces were not visible enough but it looked like they were smiling. The lady was the only one that wore white and the young man wore a long black cloth with a hood.
"What're we going to do? This isn't something we're supposed to find." Fadila asked, the fear evident in her voice.
It really wasn't. Ameena looked at it in fear and trepidation, aware of something else entirely. This was something sinister. And whoever that shadow was, might have known of this. They could be in danger. All of them.
But she had started this. Involving her friends could be dangerous. She had to end it. She had to protect her family. Even if it means offering herself as a sacrificial lamb.