George was panting heavily, he could hear himself breathe. He stopped walking and looked back. He saw a silhouette but couldn’t establish immediately whether it was someone or just an object. He held the piece of wood he had firmly. He had carried the piece of wood from home. The long, smooth, brown piece of wood was the reason he was where he was; at the cemetery. He had been running for thirty minutes before he started walking. Running was exhausting. He wasn’t an athlete and could not run for more than five minutes. The last time he recalled running that fast was when he was in high school. Even then, he had been forced to as it was required that all students move by running. A new principal had been transferred to their school and brought that rule with him. He had observed that the students at George’s school were lazy and wasted a lot of school time moving from one point of the school to another. He had then one day announced at the assembly that all students were required to move by running. Anyone who disobeyed the new rule was subjected to punishment, which involved slashing the grass which was in the field. George disliked running, and disliked the new principal for bringing a silly rule as he would term it. He had no option though but to comply. He was the happiest when he cleared high school. No more running, I’m a free man! He shouted as he left the school. He then strolled home.
“Who are you? What are you doing here?” George called out at the silhouette, I’m gonna kill you now the way I…..” He stopped after realizing the silhouette couldn’t respond. He moved closer to it. It was a tree which had been covered by a piece of cloth. The tree’s branches had stretched out like humans’ arms and with the moon shining, it’s silhouette formed the shape of a man. George went round the tree and after confirming that there was no one around, he went on with his journey.
He started jogging and went on running. George knew that he was passing through a cemetery. He had heard all manner of stories about graves and the dead as he grew up. Most of the stories told were scaring. Some were true. No story was interesting to listen to. Which kid in the estate enjoyed stories about the dead? The dead had left us. They had gone to another world. A world different from ours. No one, apart from them knows what happens in their world. He recalled one afternoon when they were passing time with his friends. “I hear the spirits of the dead hover around the cemetery. They could get into anyone who passes near them. My sister told me that.” That was Peter. Ten years ago. “They usually whisper your name when you move near the graves” Andrew had added “They…..” “Hey shut up! I don’t want to discuss that subject again.” George had cut Andrew short. “Let’s talk football” George had introduced a new subject. George had always been a coward. Even as he grew up. He always tried to prove to every one around that he was a rebel but deep inside he knew he was a sissy. He was always scared of the dark. He would often scream any time there was a power outage at night. He could not sleep in a room alone. He could not watch a horror film at night. He was always in the company of someone. He had this fear which he could not explain.
He got tired of running and started walking. George was always frightened of the dark, leave alone the graves, how then was he walking at the middle of a land where people had been buried? Where had he gathered the courage to walk, run and even face an object which was at the cemetery? He no longer feared the spirits.
“Let the the dead follow me. Let the spirits accompany me.” he whispered. He looked up and saw the distance he had to cover before he would be out of the cemetery and almost gave up. He knew he had to face a few guards at the end but did not fear. The guards who had been placed at the gates which were the entrance to the cemetery were a lazy bunch of nincompoops. Everyone in the estate that was near the cemetery knew that. They were often compromised when they were at the gate as any one could get in or out of the burial ground. They were to act as care takers but it seemed like they were not aware of their duties. The locals had advocated for their sacking but their complains fell on deaf ears, as authorities often ignored them. George knowing what kind of people the guards were, was not scared to face them. The other entrance which he had used was not manned by anyone. An old, rusty barbed wire had been placed but any one could crawl under it and make their way in. There had been cases of caskets being stolen by robbers and it was suspected that the thugs had used that entrance.
George dropped the piece of wood he had been holding. His fingers were tired. The wood itself was heavy. He got tired of looking at it as it reminded him of what he had done. It was the reason he was out with the dead at that time of the night. He was running away from a crime he had committed. It was the lifeless piece of wood which had made him commit the crime.
George had been playing poker with his childhood friend Tina. They had a very risky bet. The loser of the game was to part with some cash after the game ended. George had agreed to the bet as he thought that he would triumph at the end of the game. He thought himself a pro and felt like Tina could not win anything. He had so much confidence as they started playing and was feeling pity for Tina as he felt she would be the one giving the money. No one had ever defeated him in any game of cards and as this involved Tina, a girl, he felt that it would even be easier ending up as the victor. After playing for two hours, George realized that he was the one to part with cash. He couldn’t see himself give Tina money just for losing a mere game. That was easy money for Tina yet he had worked his ass off to acquire it. There’s no way he could do that. He had excused himself for a minute to go make a call. He did not make the call but went to his house and looked for anything that could act as a weapon. He saw a metal at the back of the door but figured that the metal would be too heavy to carry. He then went to the kitchen where he spotted an old stool. One of the stool’s legs was broken. He picked the leg and hid it in his jacket. He then went to go on with the game.
“That must have been an important call, Ay,” Tina said as George had taken too long to make the ‘call’. “It’s some client who wants some merchandise shipped to his apartment.” George had responded. “Let’s go on with the game.” George said as he went to his seat. Thirty minutes later and George was still losing the game. The money he was to give Tina was too much. He couldn’t see himself do that. Two things bothered him. One was was his defeat and the other was being defeated by a female. How could a female defeat a man? That was impossible for him. More so, not a female he has known for so many years. “Let’s end it here today,” Tina had said after realizing that George was acting uneasy. “No, we can still go on. There’s still some time left” George said trying to act cool. “I want to rush to the grocery store for some foodstuff before it’s closed. We can do this another day.” “Okay, as you wish.”
“I feel thirsty, let me go for a glass of water,” Tina said as she headed towards the kitchen. George mad at himself for being defeated and mad at Tina for defeating him, saw an opportunity as Tina turned to head to the kitchen He had planned to murder her the moment he realized she was defeating him. As Tina got to the kitchen, George pounced on her and hit her with the stool’s leg. Tina fell on the floor and passed out. George hit her twice on the head till blood started oozing from her head. He felt satisfied. His money would stay intact and Tina would not tell anyone that she once defeated George in a game of poker. Some blood had splashed on his black leather jacket. He then removed his jacket and threw it on the floor. What had he done? He had murdered her. Had he gone crazy? He started questioning his sanity. “No, I think I have done the right thing.” He walked over to the living room and saw the cards they were playing with on the table. He picked the cards and started shuffling them. Then something hit his mind. The cops! The cops would be at his house sooner or later. He had slayed Tina. Her family would come to look for him since they knew Tina had visited him. He would then be charged for homicide and imprisoned. Maybe for life. He could not wait for the cops to get him. He had to run. And hide. He would travel to his rural home then cross the border to a neighboring country. No one would know him there. He would start another life there. Even as a beggar, or look for odd jobs, but he could not go to prison. He took the jacket plus the cards and went to dump them at the garbage pit. He then went to his bedroom and took all the money he had kept in his safe. Without changing the clothes he had, he put on another clean black puff jacket and went out.
He wanted to run but figured out that it would arouse suspicion from his neighbors and passers by. He walked for a few meters till he got to a path which split twice. One was leading to the highway and the other was leading to the cemetery. He took the one leading to the cemetery as people rarely used it. Using the one heading to the high way meant he would meet people who may engage him in small talks thus waste his time. He had limited time as he wanted to be out of sight before Tina’s body was discovered. He didn’t have a problem once he got to the cemetery as anyone could make way through it. The cemetery led one to the other side of town. Once in the cemetery, he could occasionally jog and at times walk. He could think of the limited time in his hands and then run. He bravely passed through the graveyard, not thinking of the buried but Tina. He hated poker and the piece of wood that he still carried with him for making him run like a refugee. He swore never to play the cards ever again if he managed to run away from the country.
He had come to the other entrance (now his exit) of the cemetery. He threw some notes on the ground and the caretakers allowed him to get out, even without asking him a question. There was road he was to cross so as to get to a bus stop. It was a busy highway which had trucks moving at a high speed. There was a footbridge which had been erected to help pedestrians cross the road. A lot of accidents had happened on that road and the so the town council saw it fit to put a footbridge there to avoid more accidents, The fly over helped reduce accidents.
George was in a hurry. The phrase ‘safety first’ was not paramount at the moment. What mattered most was the little time he had with him. The happenings in the next few hours would spell his fate. If he managed to escape, he would be safe, if he delayed, the cops would catch up with him and he would spend his entire life in jail. He feared the latter. He hoped everything would turn out different. He didn’t have all the time in the world, and so he chose to ignore the footbridge. He had figured out that using the footbridge would cost him fifteen minutes which he didn’t have. He chose to cross the highway instead.
George stood at the end of the road, looked right and left, moved as if to cross but spotted a trailer and moved back. He was jittery and tensed. Fear was written all over his face but he tried to control his anxiety. He looked right, and the road appeared clear to him. He then made a rapid dash across the highway.
He had not seen an oncoming truck when he was crossing. Loud screeching of brakes caught the attention of road users. Everyone stopped what they had been doing and watched in rue, sadness and contrition. The weak passed out after seeing what had had happened. Many dropped their jaws as they rushed to the scene.
A truck had been speeding when George was crossing the road. The driver had tried to slow down but the brakes seemed to have a problem. George being in the middle of the highway, could not move away to escape the oncoming truck as he could have been hit by another vehicle. Eye witnesses volunteered to go help the victims of the accident. The truck driver had been badly injured but was still breathing. He was rushed to the nearest hospital. George on the other hand had been hit so badly, that he had wounds all over his body. He died on the spot. An ambulance was brought which carried the remains of George to a morgue. Other two passengers who had been in the truck were taken to the hospital too.
The game of cards, poker, had brought all this. Had he not played the game that afternoon, he would probably be still breathing. He had left the lifeless Tina in the house, he didn’t know that he would visit the morgue before Tina.