Eerie Reverie

I should have called it a dream, but what about the bruises and scratches left on my feet and legs, which burns and hurts me so deep into reality.

I should have called it a dream, but what about the bruises and scratches left on my feet and legs, which burn and hurts me so deep into reality. I had actually gone to work after hunger and emptiness had dealt with me for three days in a roll; I hadn't gone to work in order to protest my delayed bimonthly wage as if that would bother them; it definitely didn't; for they had wantonly replaced me the fifth day they noticed my unremitting absence with some hunger-stricken unseemly unemployed desperate: it was characteristical of them anyway. I arrived in Enugu State, 9th Mile Corner, precisely with the hope of securing a job in The Nigerian Breweries Ama, and basically, I couldn't have come all the way with a University degree to work twelve hours and under the sun, but here I was, sweating humbly under the sun; only possible in a hellish country as the one I was born in. 

When I wasn't under the sun, it was during my night shifts, for the company operated on two shifts: I couldn't tell which of these shifts was a lesser evil, for there could never be a fair comparison between two deadly evils; they all had their prejudices, the sun rising and falling right above our heads with its scorching heat draining whatsoever amount of food and water one had taken, leaving a byproduct of fetid heat and salts which I feel, rub off and sometimes pinching its particles off my face during or after the days work: sometimes, yielding to the temptation of certainty, I taste them just to be sure they were actually salts and didn't just look like it, and they were. 

The night shift starts off at 7 PM, lasting on till 7 AM, and one had to be wide-eyed awake all through: believe me, there is no temptation stronger than forfeiting sleep at night, but being a man as we have been groomed had become so hard that one had to serve one devil over another, so I tarried with the grand hope of probable direct recruitment once the opportunity arose in the brewery, and I just slaved on freely. 

The brewery was colossal, built beautifully with a planned design that I was sure was of the West --- there were a lot of departments: cleaning, security, bottle sorting, crating, production, packaging, and distribution, working robotically in shifts all day and night long; so it engaged a lot of undervalued labor --- this was okay in a country where one has been doctrine by religions frowning totally at reasonability with a strong disinterest in human rights advocacy. Human rights denial, which was supposed to be the greatest of all earthly evil, is being neglected: it is most godly to be a slave and iniquitous to fight or claim one's rights; there was no need for any struggle on earth here when heaven above is such a beautiful place, with streets enclaved in gold --- how can those unfaithful in little things be faithful in great things? I always would ask myself.

It's commendable how the company treats its staff which isn't up to ten percent of the whole lot of individuals functioning in the company, with the remaining 90 percent being engaged by unknown contractors with brutally funny names like GPM, Antioch, Sonafem, Injus and the rest. I do not know the company's reasons for this indirect employment method, but humanly and logically siding, they should have used such an amount of energy and finance implored in contracting these companies to create a standard human resource department that should be in charge of employment even down to the cleaners, but while writing, I discovered some of their reasons --- employing staff directly would be detrimental to the company's income, and income at all cost even at the expense of life and health is just the soul of most Nigerian businesses. Let's say if all the staff was employed directly by the brewery, they would be responsible for their retirement plan, health insurance, and some other workers' welfare; but using these nameless and faceless contractors, they could elude all these because these contractors wouldn't write any agreement with you, either would they provide an employment contract, so if a worker injures, slumps or dies while working, it was solely at the expense of such a person, his direct family, and an extension --- double wahala for a dead body, and the owner of the body. I sometimes find these contractors saying, "work here na soldier go, soldier come, barracks go still remain."

A friend I met at the brewery who promised never to return immediately was paid his wages, and I respect him so much because he was true to his words and kept his promise: he said to me one heavily heated afternoon when we were trying to take shelter from the shadow of a very tall stack of crated bottles, "this kind of work we are doing, ideally isn't meant for free citizens, but should be reserved for prisoners and the company paying some form of fees to the correctional agency, and also, providing food for the prisoners while on duty. These outings could also serve as a form of correctional excursions as it allows the prisoners to gain some new skills, site see or maybe just make good use of their sentence instead of pine. The money paid by the brewery to this agency would, in fact, be a source of revenue to the agency." I thought and still think my friend was credibly right, but we were in no sane country; we can't be free citizens in a detained country, and in comparison to the prisoners he mentioned, we were all prisoners, with some being more imprisoned than others. 

The brewery pays handsomely, or so I think for these contracts, only for the contractors to employ a lesser bargained number of poverty-stricken and scarce choices left citizens to work under the most unfavorable conditions with an unimaginable pay ranging from seven hundred to a thousand five hundred naira, on days or night when one was on duty. As a slave, I wasn't bothered not until after my draining two weeks of labor, the transport fare I borrowed: spent, and at the end of the third week, I was yet unpaid; then did I begin to bother, not even because I could influence the payment, but because I had no transport left to go to work and continue slaving; so I just sat at home, praying and hoping to be paid a certain amount I wasn't sure of, because the contractors I work for --- Antioch, pay seven hundred naira shifting for one who had completed sorting and stacking of a truckload of crated bottles which ranged from 21 to 24 pallets, with each pallet containing about eighty to ninety-six systematically arranged crates and the record of work done was documented by the supervisor, who in turn becomes your Lord, for he had the power to influence your two weeks working wages to as low as four thousand naira or high as sixteen thousand naira.

Now, this was the peak of it; I wouldn't and couldn't stand this payment delay, not even after the strain and drain I had gone through. I resolved to storm into the company and confront the supervisor or manager, but a challenge was soaring; I couldn't trek on an empty stomach from my house to the brewery, my tank was completely out of gas, so I called on a neighbor who sells provisions to lend me his bike or some money for transportation, but was informed he had gone to the market to get some provisions and would be back in no time. I dressed up eagerly and waited in expectation of how I was going to "change am for my supervisor," but then I slept off in wait.

I wouldn't explain all that happened, but I eventually collected my wages, and it was about ten thousand naira; what in God's name could that afford? I thought as I walked back home, worked up in thoughts, then I passed by "Geek Thrills," a grand lounge and probably one of the best chilling spots around, very popular to alcoholics and life lovers. 

On entering this lounge, a University classmate of mine was incidentally driving in; he stopped by and beckoned on me; we shook hands delightedly and vigorously, talked and laughed happily like the comrades we used to be, then a car horned angrily from behind before he asked me to hop in so we could take some bottles together. 

As we drove in, my mind was fixed on the Heineken poster just inside the complex; it had been a long time since I had hungered and thirsted for this drink; in fact, since I arrived in town two months ago, I hadn't been able to afford a chilled bottle of any beer: now here I was with a friend whom I knew was doing so well as a cryptocurrency investor, and from the smooth of his skin, the sleek of his car and even the fragrance in the car, I was assured he could even spare me a carton of Heineken and transport fare; there was this brio he possessed and carried along, passing it out on all circumferentially around.  

He parked his car and asked a worker where the VIP bar was, and we were directed. He asked for my brand as soon as we were settled in the bar, and fortunately, our brands coincided: he ordered food along with the drinks; this thoughtfulness of his brought an inconcealable smirk to a side of my face he couldn't see, a healthy drinker must first take a good meal before consuming any form of alcohol.

We filled our glasses and raised them high above our heads; then, we clinked in celebration of old times. "If I could clink a glass from the bottle of Heineken in a companion of a Champ, then I am also a champion," I said to myself. We talked and laughed about old times tipsily, he hadn't told me what he had come to do in 9th Mile, and I wouldn't ask him unless he decided to talk about it. About an hour or more into our indulging stay, a celebrity prophet showed up; the prophet Odumeje, alias liquid metal; I was was stunned, but he's my shock. 

They greeted like acquaintances, and then they moved away and talked for a while before returning; only then did I get the chance to greet the prophet and talk about some trivial things; I even told him I had watched a video that very morning on Instagram where he and Lord Zeus where were probably in a club vibing and miming one of his songs. I told him I liked the video for many reasons: I respected him as a prophetic novelty, Zeus also for his prolific Keggites language, and then finally, the caption Zeus placed on that video, "In the Land of the Rising Sun." I was happy; in fact, that day was going on as one of my best days in Enugu.

My friend excused me and promised to return soon, he was leaving with the prophet, but I was free to eat and drink whatever I wanted. I remained for some more hours drinking and eating pork while waiting before deciding to go out and get a girl I could chat with while drinking; "after all, the world would be too tough without them," I said to himself in support of my intention as I stood up to go out. I strolled indecorously outside the gate and walked a few meters towards the road; before coming still, I looked left and then to my right, but the girls my eyes could find around seemed to be hookers. "No! No! No! Not them..." it's been a long time since I made a stern determination against them, and I tried not to remember the event that prompted this decision. 

Frighted in my search, a motorcycle drove by carrying the most beautiful creature I had seen in quite a while, dressed in professional nurse apparel and so young at that; she looked between eighteen to twenty-one. I hailed her before the bike could completely pass by, and she responded with a most wonderful smile turning her around to stare at me. I stopped another bike immediately and instructed the rider to chase after the bike she was on like they had stolen some valuable from me. 

We rode for about ten minutes before riding into a location I hadn't known existed, and with strange-looking indigenes, only then did the bike stop, and I alighted: still looking around in search of the beauty of a nurse, the bike that had brought me rode off. I strolled further, but then I had lost track of my way. I talked to a little boy of probably six, and he seemed not to understand English, but after my explanatory demonstration, he pointed towards a direction; I headed towards it but then realized the end to be a thick bush with grasses way taller than myself. That boy must really have dementia, I thought to myself, as I whirled around sharply trying to locate where I had met the boy; then I met a very old and raggy-dressed couple. 

The elderly woman was in front carrying a bag of an unknown substance which looked like grains though, while the man carried his looking doubly heavier than that of her's; it was damn heavy, really heavier than it looked, which I confirmed after I had greeted them and told them I was in search of my way: the man responded that I should trail after them, then I offered to provide a helping hand, and he consented. It was heavier than I thought as I staggered on, managing not to have toppled over just anything. 

They led me into a dimly lit storeroom with a strange smell stimulating a puke, but I managed on. His wife dropped hers just in front, and I was about to drop mine when some strange animals I had managed to spot in the semi-dark room, wandering interiorly in the hall I had thought to be dogs, came towards me. They weren't dogs but underfed or starved lions; some attacked my legs while some stretched and struggled with the bag I was about to drop. I screamed, kicked, and tried to run back, but I had been surrounded; in a swift impulse, I noticed a window in the front which didn't look securely strong: I whacked and struggled against the scratches and drags these dog-looking lions were providing me, and luckily I reached the window; climbing through almost as I had shattered it, I managed to fall outside the hall through the window and land on my right shoulders: there was a strong piece of the club close to where I had fallen, I picked it up freely swaying it powerfully against the skull of the first lion that had followed me through very closely; I heard the cracking sound the club made as an impact on its skull mixed with a profound painful groan as it collapsed quietly at a corner, a second was trying to climb out, and I flogged its head more violently than I had even done to the first, it fell back inside. Charged bestially, I marched closer to the window more confident than a wounded lion; looking through, I shouted in a roar as I watched the lions directly in the eyes, and they calmed as some backed away while the others just stilled in awe. I wanted to be sure I had put them in order and none of them was going to attack me from behind. When I was sure I had succeeded in imbibing fear and decorum into them, I turned and limped away, a club in hand, badly bruised all over my legs and shoulder.

I woke up with severe pains in my legs, shoulder, and hips, and I hadn't been able to stand or walk without assistance since that very day; so out of nothing to do or strength to go anywhere, I was lying on my bed and writing out my boredom in which I only pause momentarily to tell myself, "I should have called this a dream, but what about the bruises and scratches left on my feet, shoulders and entire body which burns and hurts me deep into reality."

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