Quickly, the once subtle vibration grew bigger.
My uncle, like in a frenzy of confusion, ran inside, leaving everyone behind. The children who were already standing close to me, moved even closer.
Now! it felt like you’re held by someone and literally shaken from your feet to the depth of your soul. I felt my eyes spin. My mind switched off for a nanosecond and came back alive.
In a disorganized state, the vibrant photographer had fallen to the floor, crawled towards my uncle’s car and held on to one of the wheels, while the kids just gripped my hips.
Lord! Have mercy. All I could do was pray so loud, reciting several verses from the Holy Scriptures.
Suddenly, everything froze. The vibration ceased and it felt like it never happened. I stood still with the kids clinging to me.
We all looked around to find a meaning to this vibration and could see nothing to hold on to. I gently bent down and sat on the bare floor, with the kids now in my laps.
“What was that?” Mautin uttered with so much worry in the texture of her voice. She looked so terrified and I tried to hide mine.
“I don’t know. But we are fine now” I replied
Oviyon just stared and said nothing. He wasn’t scared, didn’t ask any question, didn’t cry, no worries whatsoever in his eyes. He just stared on.
I was worried that he wasn’t worried, so I dragged him to my lap again and tried to make sense of everything.
Like in some sort of conspiracy, the sky was calm and said nothing. The atmosphere was cool as ever, while close and distant sounds remained still and gave away no idea to build upon.
But smell betrayed them all. It gave out a nasty odour. The wind battled with this for a while, trying to be cozy and bringing this once distinct smell but now consistent, concentrated and clear.
Just then, my uncle came out.
The kids looked towards his direction and chorused “where is mummy?”
“Oh!” my uncle said and ran inside for the second time.
The smell proved disturbing and the atmosphere changed instantly from clear to pale-brown smoke which is intensified by each passing moment.
“What’s going on?” Mautin asked again.
The photographer was back on his feet and started walking towards the gate. I stood up, wondering why my uncle isn’t out yet. I was first indecisive about going in to find out why my uncle is still in there with his wife or just escape with the kids – it’s now getting hot.
I held Oviyon and Mautin’s hands and moved towards the gate. I could hear voices outside, footfalls and then thuds, people were running for safety. I joined in the race immediately, dragging the kids with me. Not minding that they are busy calling out for their parents.
The smoke had changed from pale-brown to thick burnt-brown. It’s so thick you’ll think the sky dropped down for a while. I pulled the kids’ cloths over their nostrils and got to the street proper where we met many others and joined in the collective race.
After running for about 5 minutes, I decided to carry Oviyon on my shoulders to make our movement faster. Running for another 10 minutes towards a safer place, we paused and tried catching our breath.
Wow! It’s a long day already.
“What’s happening” I pinched on a young man beside me.
“Ah! Na explosion o. Pipeline explosion” he said vigorously
I remembered my uncle raised this as a prayer point during morning devotion yesterday. He narrated a case of vandalism few days earlier, with everyone perceiving petrol around the estate and it’s been really scary.
“Where is mummy?” Oviyon cried out for the first time since the incident
“They are coming”. I responded unsure
From our position, we could see smoke travelling into the sky. People gather to lament and talk on top of their voices that you will end up listening to nobody in particular because its impossible to do so.
A group faraway showed someone struggling and trying to detach from their grips. I looked away to other people and tried to process how a pipeline explosion will be this large, even causing vibration beneath the soil.
“My kids are in there, let me go” the same woman cried out amidst the little crowd. The woman must be sitting on the floor because people stood around and bent over to calm her down.
“I hope the people vandalizing are happy now that we are becoming homeless” a woman said, walking past us with just an underwear and no shoes whatsoever.
“This can only be God punishing us for the sins we have committed all these years.” Said an older woman behind me, kneeling down and bowing to the heavens.
“Have mercy on us oh God! Take this away from us? She concluded, pouring a handful of sand into the air as she spoke.
“Guys, let’s go and rescue students from that boarding house. They are trapped”. A young man screamed and moved away swiftly not minding if his message was heard let alone accepted. Some other young men of his age ran after him in allegiance.
I stood there, looking around and trying to figure if I could press life’s control Z of some sort. I needed to undo all of these things happening so fast and threatening to cause so much pains.
“Where are my kids?” the woman being guided by the little crowd screams again, coming closer. She looked towards us with blazing eyes. Then, I recognized her.
“it’s mummy” Oviyon screamed, pulled away from my grip and ran towards her. Mautin and I stood still at first, then, moved to her.
The few people who were around started leaving one after the other, obviously, they had their wounds to tend too.
“Where is daddy?” Mautin inquired gently.
“I went in search of you all” my uncle replied and appeared behind us.
I turned and hugged him shamelessly. It’s one big family again.
Afterwards, we moved together as one, stopped over at a house with a fallen roof and sunken pouch. We stayed there for a while to catch our breath. We sat down there watching people move around, lamenting and gnashing their teeth.
Where do we go to now? My aunt asked her husband.
“Let’s return home” Mautin said.
“it’s all gone” my uncle said regrettably.
Chapter 9 is brewing. Wait on it.