2017 AMAB/HBF Flash Fiction Contest | Short listed Story | Roughshod By Damilare Bello

He remembers it this way – shoving his hands as far as possible and watching helplessly as they fail to find purchase. She'd uttered no sound through the descent, merely cutting through 12 feet of conditioned air like an ambitious swan that caught cold. No panic-induced falsetto. No frantic attempts. It was sudden and swift; a solemn acquiescence. And it was the suddenness that provoked him into panic, which provoked reactions – impulsive and unthinking – that led him here.

But presently, with faculties yoked by fear, and a shifting focus, his reaction is least of his troubles. He cannot unravel the past minutes. Did she trip? Tipple over? Clarity eludes him. And being trapped in a gridlock doesn't help. He sighs. His mind is sacked by hysteria, enough for him to repeatedly run tremulous hands through his closely-cropped hair, enough to smack his forehead in reproof.

His ecstatic grunts. Her bucking body. The horror of a beautifully yellow face transitioned into a gory tangle of weaves, bone, and dark matter. All begin to wade into his consciousness soon enough, starting with her oval face.

A face whose husband had rescued him from the misery ofpeddling dodo-ikire for sustenance. A face he'd worshipped when gifted a room in the boy’s quarters. A face that kept enquiring,You okay Justus? Want more soup? That told him when Oga was on a short trip, when to feign loyalty, and said, suggestively, Look, Justus it is alright to call me Miriam.

The traffic eases into a slow orchestra, with cars trumpeting their freedom, and this reminds him that a few months ago he'd been a devoted Chauffeur – till she reduced him to his genitals. And for a victim of abuse, he'd seen her as enough safe space to flee into.

He grimaces, flooring the pedal as his mind unfurls into the past.
His past is a road riddled with ruts: His mother had been a drunk; the father was in absentia. Father's excuse? She'd slept with everyone he knew, and he couldn't stomach her harlotry or omo-ale son. This ruptured a huge vessel in his life, and left it sopping with the hankerings of a drunk-turned-nymphomaniac. The first night it happened, he was barely twelve and almost suffocated. Stoned, she'd forced herself on him, weeping about neglect and motherhood to encourage assent. The morning after, she was sober, and showed contrition forthwith. He kept faith with her, blaming the father. By the time he turned fifteen, the routine was incessant. Contrition. Despondency. And a motherly cuddle that induced her hands toward his zipper. What sort of son deprives the mother? he'd chide himself into compliance.

He'd later read that it was abuse, and with tears confront her. But the damaged proved irreparable as she hung herself two mornings after. Enraged by bitterness, he'd doused the house with petrol and burnt her incestuous body with it.   

With a thumping heart, he swerves into Sabo street, jolted into the present. He runs into an impression. The car jerks. A bumpy noise emanates from the trunk. Panic claws his heart. The body! Another impression. The car halts.

This sudden vehicular malfunction petrifies him. He steps out and dashes toward the hood. Races back into the car. Sprints back to the hood. Does this countless times. How'd he panicked to foolishly carry the body? What if he gets caught? How did he get here? Racing thoughts. His knees buckle. His heart gives.

There're no easy answers. She'd been benevolent to him. This'd bequeathed her a motherly role, such that things became familiar afterward. And when he discovered Oga as absentee husband, things became the same. It took a while then he began to see his mother in her. Then the memories returned. Hurt. Hatred.

Hatred? Yes!
It was why he kept riding her roughshod lately. Spanking her. She'd loved it. Called him akoni for it. But he hated her. Wanted to hurt and violate her the way his mother did. It made no sense to him. Then this morning, on the balcony, during a quickie, he'd seen his mother’s face in hers and had reacted by pushing her.

"I hate you," he screams. Penitent. Yet unravelling this truth doesn't ease his guilt. He knows to keep running, dump the body, and escape this ill-fated road that's his life.

The sun’s snarly countenance is what intensifies his misery in getting the car compliant. He scans the neighbourhood, finding it throbbing with uninterested bystanders. With a frantic wave, he implores an Aboki slouching by. His request is granted, and soon they're buddies in misery, pushing, groaning, and steering, repelling the insolence of a car bent on dishonour. The car soon spurts to life and shudders to death. Yet, being at the acme of a gradient offers prospects.

"Wahalai, moto like dis, push push," Aboki says, suggesting he steers while they go at it again. He agrees half-heartedly; mind elsewhere. He's only pushed awhile before the car stutters, groans to life, and gains momentum, pushing down the slope and crawling away from him, in a cloud of smoke, while he stands there, hands above his head, mouth slacked, slowly mouthing Aboki, Aboki as the car negotiates a turn and disappears out of sight.

He's stunned. A curious crowd gathers. No one knows the Aboki. There're questions. Was he with money? What're the contents of the car?

This intrusion unnerves him. He's considering possibilities. Providence? Redemption? Mi sa momo, he justifies himself. He tries to make away, but is suddenly grounded by unseen force. The crowd has transmuted into her face – bloody and broken. He panics. Doesn't think it's his mind. Doesn't think anything except surviving this ghost. So he screams. The crowd, empathetic to his misfortune, reaches for him. He sees a wraithlike hand and pushes back, horrified. Reach. Withdraw. This dance ensues till he is in full flight.  

He doesn't see the oncoming truck. The truck doesn't miss him. It's sudden and swift. Like a road snapped in half.