12 days earlier
Her routine was straightforward - brush her teeth, do some workouts, apply her skin care products, bath and eat. Then whatever came afterwards was either the Uni, going out shopping or to a cafe, or simply staying at home. That was what she had planned for that Wednesday morning. It was six days after they had relocated to the house and so far, everything was almost perfect. She always said almost perfect because there was always something missing, whether you noticed earlier or later on.
Ameena looked around frustrated, in her gym wear. She had used those dumbells just day before yesterday. So where were they? The wardrobe, on the bed, under the bed, the bathroom, the study - she had checked them all. Nothing. It had disappeared. Before she could jump into conclusions, she ran downstairs, stopping at the 3rd floor.
“Mom, have you seen my dumbells?” Mom was already ready to go downstairs, as were others judging from the fantastic smell of perfumes buzzing all around.
“No, dear. Did you bring it with you?”
“Yes, I even used it on Monday.”
“Well, maybe Khadija took it. You know your sister. She might have been trying to use them.”
Ameena’s face instantly lit up. Of course, it was her 9 year old sister Khadija. Why didn’t she think of of her sooner? Khadija was a vibrant, funny, girl. Ameena adored her but sometimes she got on her nerves. Taking things that didn’t belong to her was a no-no.
Apart from that, she was likable especially for her wittiness and sharp mind. She loved eating - anything that was sugary that is, but had managed to remain as slim as a stick. Ameena always wondered how she did it.
Ameena knocked on the door opposite of her parents room, then peeped in and entered. “Heyyy, Dija.”
“Ina kwana.” She croaked.
Solemn tone. Ameena noticed that somryhinh was wrong. There was something edgy about her this morning. Moreover, the girl never just said good morning just like that without pranking some sort of joke.
“You okay?” Ameena inquired.
“Naaa you’re not okay, baby sis. You just say that but that’s not you, girl. I think something’s wrong. Tell me, you know imma listen to anything okay?”
“Big sis, jiya, I heard something in this room. It crawled up to me but I couldn’t see anything.”
Ameena’s eyes widened. “Here? Halima fah?” Halima was Kjadija’s immediate older sister.
“She woke up but she didn’t see anything. I swear I’m not making it up. Wallahi i felt something.”
Her eyes welled up with tears. “It scared me,” she whispered.
Halima entered, from the bathroom in her towel, water dripping of the floor. Ameena thought it was strange for the girl to create something like that. Maybe something really happened yesterday. But she had no way of knowing what. She asked Halima what she heard but the 13 year old girl insisted Khadija was just having a bad dream or making it up.
“But I’m telling the truth! Wallahi fah.” She insisted, clearly getting agitated that no one believed her.
“Well, if you’re not making it up, then you were dreaming. It’s simple, darling.”
“B-but you also felt something cold, you told me.”
“You, now what?” Ameena threw the question at Halima who was now applying her lotion.
She rolled her eyes, “Yeah, duh, because it was like 2 in the morning, and we’re on the 3rd floor in the middle of nowhere in the coldest city in Nigeria. What did you expect?” She huffed.
Ameena managed to calm her sister down and urged her to go downstairs to eat. “Look, if something like that happens again, no matter how little, you tell me okay?”
Before she left the room, she asked them both whether they had taken her dumbells. They hadn’t. Strange, she thought. There was no exercise equipment in the house yet, so she went on with her routine workout - without her dumbells.
The dining table was noisy as always. In a huge family like the Maikasuwas’, it was easy to get lost in the discussion. In the middle of breakfast, Mom asked a rather wierd question.
“Did anyone leave the door open yesterday?”
Murmurs of No rang around the table. “Maybe it was Anti Esther?” Aminu asked.
“I thought so too, but when i came downstairs, she hadn’t even come yet. I remember locking it yesterday before I went to bed.” Mom looked worried.
“what if Abubakar was sleepwalking?” Ishaq burst out laughing, causing snickers from Hauwa, Aliyu and Khadija. Abubakar used to sleepwalk when he was 5. As he grew older, it reduced. But now and then, he would wake up in the kitchen or even bathroom with no idea of how he got there in the first place.
“Hehe, yeah maybe. Says the clown of the family.” Abubakar retorted.
“That’s enough.” Mr Aliyu’s voice boomed tbrough the air. He turned to his wife, smiling.
“Maybe you forgot to lock it yesterday. don’t be too worried about it.”
Mrs Fatima agreed, chiding herself for thinking too much about it.
The sound startled her. 1:34am. Ameena had been chatting with her friend, Ore, from Katsina. She was telling her of the new girls she had met in school, including a guy that seemed too handsome not to be an actor. She was just narrating the part where he asked her about her hobbies. Taking her small torchlight this time, she walked slowly, careful not to alert whoever it was causing a commotion. She wondered why no-one had heard the loud noise coming from the ground floor, while she, at the 4th floor had. The lights were out again. Shit, she forgot to tell Uncle Musa about it. The stairs looked like spiraled webs, in the dimness of her torch. As she passed a room on the third floor, she heard a faint voice. Her eldest brother Bala, probably chatting with his girlfriend. She had to tell someone to follow her. Probably Abubakar. She knocked lightly before pushed the door.
“Sadiq.” She whispered his nickname.
It was a large room, just like every other room in the house. Two beds were opposite each other, a wardrobe at the far end, two tables and chairs. It looked wide with nothing much that contained it. She was lucky to have only one bed in her room. She valued her privacy way too much. Touching him lightly on the sole. She woke him up. Aminu was snoring heavily on the other end.
“Mina? Everything okay?”
“I heard that sound again, and I don’t know what to think. Help me check, please.”
He rubbed his face, and followed her. She knew he’d not ask questions. He was the most easygoing and calmest of them all. As they reached a curve towards the kitchen, they stopped. Indeed, the sound was coming from there. They stop abruptly.
“Which me first, I was sleeping when you woke me. Go in dai.” He retorted.
“Okay, fine, let’s go in together. ”
“I don’t think there’s anything there though. Maybe a tap had been left open,” He whispered.
Ameena shrugged a bit. Sadiq didn’t believe himself either. A tap, making that noise?
At first, they didn’t see it. Everywhere was normal - the kitchen utensils arranged in their rackets, the oven at the corner. She did a quick check lighting her torch around, then leaned on the island.
“Thank God, there’s nothing. I thought maybe someone broke in o.” She turned to her brother, “I’m sorry I woke...” Then she saw his face, stricken with fear.
“What is it!” He pointed behind her. She turned slowly, gulping. She couldn’t believe her eyes, she had to blink a few times. A figure - no, more like a silhouette was in the kitchen, using a hammer to knock the cabinet. The sound cut through the silence. They were both rooted on the floor, looking at the scene before them, aghast. It slowly turned towards them. Long black hair covered the face but what looked like a smile suddenly appeared.
Ameena snapped back to reality, pushing her brother towards the door. “Run!”