For A Chocolate Bar: Mall Shooting Experience.

Aisha Adebayo loved the white Twix chocolate bar that she would do anything to get them. A trip to the local mall was supposed to be smooth and quick like the others have been. This time, masked terrorists take their violence to another level and cause havoc by coming after innocent lives. Before this grim experience, she had never thought another the finality of life.  

For the past three weeks, I have been haunted by a particular memory. Each time I closed my eyes to sleep, I would hear ear-splitting screams; it would be a miracle if I was able to fall asleep. Then I see myself in a secluded place, panting hard. I could see the blood stains on the tiled floor, and believe me; it was crazy that I could feel the chaos that it would bring goosebumps to my skin. It is impossible to escape. I had tried everything to stop myself from remembering, but it just wouldn’t stop.

My friend says I need therapy- to sit down with a psychologist and talk about my issues. Maybe it’s Nigerian in me talking. Was the therapy supposed to magically take away the most traumatizing moment of my life? Therapists were not that special, nor were they magicians. Three weeks ago, I was at home, working, when I suddenly developed a craving for Twix white chocolate. It was midday. I should have focused on getting a stable lunch for myself; instead, I wanted junk food. I decided to go to the mall to get some. It seems absurd to go to the mall to get a piece of chocolate. It was ridiculous, but my sugar cravings were heightened. It was that time of the month. I was mentally drained, sexually frustrated, and that chocolate could have been the best thing in my life. 

The local mall by Adeniran Ogunsanya was usually jam-packed- by high school girls, tourists, and also creeps who try to hit on high school girls. I planned to get in and out without attracting attention to myself and hoping I wouldn’t see anyone I knew. I wasn’t dressed well either way. When I got to the junk food store, I sent a smile to the charming owner, Femi, and picked up a basket. Beside him was his 5-year-old son, Jamal. I was here for one Twix chocolate; in reality, I was going to grab about five other chocolate bars so that I don’t have to go through this journey again. “That time of the month?” I heard his voice and glanced up. He had a knowingly smile on his dark face- it was charming; I mean, he wasn’t supposed to ask me that kind of question. 

I gave a small smile in response,” I don’t think you’re supposed to ask me that.” “Aishat, it’s the 21st century; men know about periods.” He teased. “Because you only want to know when to avoid your wife.” I jeered, and he shrugged,” Maybe. I was about to pick caramelized peanuts for my mother when the chaos started. There was this surreal vibration. Femi, too noticed it. He looked towards the entrance and saw people running. I narrowed my brows, wondering what could be wrong. Could a celebrity be around and people wanted to take pictures? But who deserves such a reaction? 

Femi moved from the counter to inspect. I stayed grounded in my spot- I wasn’t going to be those people in horror movies to check out a weird sound. That’s when I heard a gunshot. My heart skipped a beat, and I immediately dropped the basket in fear. I gasped and wondered what to do as the gunfire filled the air. Femi rushed inside immediately. “What’s happening?” I struggled between going out and staying in for solace. Just then, a young woman rushed into the store; her chest was heaving up and down, and there was a distinct blood stain on her white dress. Femi quickly inquired,” What is it?” “People came in and started shooting.” She answered in a breathy tone. Femi had

Her response instantly scared me. I kept quiet while Femi threw many questions at her,” What do you mean, shooting? What people? Why the mall?” In frustration, she yelled at him,” Armed men came into the mall from the entrance and started shooting! How should I know?!” I heard another gunshot and cowered. The young boy in Femi’s arms barely knew what was happening- he didn’t know that his life was on the line. His focus was on the chocolate bar in his tiny hands. “So, where is everyone running to?” He glanced out the window, watching people run and run.  “I don’t know, to hide. I can’t leave. If I get out, they may be around, disguised.” She explained. “Disguised?” Femi blinked multiple times.” What is this?” I kept my eyes fixated on the window as Femi conversed with the woman, throwing more insufferable questions at her. I noticed a man in black with a machine gun. He pointed his weapon at the phone store and started shooting. I couldn’t miss the smile on his face as he caused havoc. A normal person would try to hide, but I was paralyzed in fear. I couldn’t hear Femi and the woman talking; all I could hear was blood pounding in my ears.

A small woman ran across the phone store for her life. The masked man was quick to release bullets into her, and that’s when I let out a scream. Screw me; The scream got the attention of the masked man. I just got death to focus on me. He pointed the weapon to the store and nodded. 

“God, God, God….” Femi whisked Jamal into his arms, ready to run. The masked man was tackled to the floor by a security guard. Femi opened up another door in the store and put the young boy in while I watched the battle between the two musclemen. The other woman in the store thought about leaving the store from the back exit but changed her mind immediately after she saw more people running for their lives. She chose solace instead. Was it a smart choice?

“Aishat, hurry!” Femi pulled me by the arm. From the corner of my eye, I saw the security guard get up but then fall after he had been shot in the head. Femi pushed me into the small low-lit room and shut the door. He twisted the key in the hole multiple times. The woman’s cries, as well as my heavy breathing, filled the air. “Aishat, calm down,” Femi said. I wanted to yell at him, but I was afraid to be heard. What did he mean by calm down? We were in a disaster. Our lives could end at any moment. I shivered as soon as I heard a gunshot and glass shattering. The young boy was about to scream before Femi put his palm over his mouth. He gestured to the rest of us to keep quiet. The masked man had entered the junk food store. I could hear gripping footsteps. 

“I dey hungry.” His extremely deep voice was heard. He seemed as though he was picking some snacks. “Gbadebo,” another distinct voice said,” We dey round up. The boss said five minutes.” “Shey, you don carry the money?” “Money ke. The boss says we no go carry anything.” “C’mon, get out of here! I come to kill a person and not get money? Wetin be that, Kasim. You be my cousin. You sabi things in his country. My children need this money?” The rest of us in the hiding place listened to them go back and forth.

“This is not about the money. If you were paying attention during the meeting, you would know.” “That one no concern me. All this terrorism shit. I no care. I kill person, and I want money,” He huffed. I heard the counter open and the deep voice say,” Me, I get two children. They no go suffer.”

“Gbadebo, no, don’t do this.” “Come, stop me now.” Just then, we heard another gunshot. This time, I was the one that released a shriek. We heard another gunshot. It seemed as if one of them had become a traitor. “No play in this game,” The other person’s voice was heard. We were confused about what exactly happened. Was the so-called Gbadebo killed or what?

My ringtone, “Crazy in Love by Beyoncé, began to play, and I was scared. I touched my pockets, but it wasn’t there. I noticed that I left my bag outside. “Mama bear?” the man “Kasim had said. His footsteps got closer, and then the door knob opened. I couldn’t believe I was standing an inch close to a murderer. “Kasim!” another voice was heard. “We dey go oh! Military day on sight already!”

We then heard footsteps receding, which meant that he may have left the scene. Following his exit, we heard a rush of shots and other screams. None of us in the shelter were able to say anything. We were worried that if we did, it would be the last thing we did. “Femi.” My throat hurt. “Yes,” It sounded as though he had been crying. I wanted to ask if we could come out now, but I was afraid. It had been a total of ten to fifteen minutes- just silence. Even the little boy could not say anything. I expected him to be crying, but all he was focused on was his chocolate bar. 

“Your son isn’t saying anything? Is everything okay?’ I muttered to him. “He is deafmute.” Femi answered,” I took off his hearing aid.” Oh. No wonder. I didn’t know what to say again; I looked to the left where the other woman was. She had been quiet all this time. Her eyes were shut. I spoke up,” Madam?” She didn’t answer or open her eyes. I immediately grew concerned and shook her shoulders. Instead of her waking, she collapsed fully to the floor. I looked back at Femi, who was also confused. He left his son’s side and crawled to her. He placed a finger on her neck, examining her. He let out an “Oh God.” “What is it?” “She’s dead.” “But how?” He was as clueless as I was. “Shock, maybe?” Could shock kill a person? Femi went ahead to open the door. The lights were not on like before. The store was turned upside down. Gbadebo’s body lay directly in front of the counter. There he was, lying in his pool of blood. That wasn’t just it. 

The outside scene was much worse. With trembling and wobbly feet, I walked to see everything. There weren’t gunshots heard but crying, screaming, or ambulance sounds. Everywhere I looked, there was a dead body. The security guard and the other masked man lay on the floor, dead. Femi didn’t wait to start analyzing as I did. He packed his load, scooped his son in his arms, and left. He needed to be far away from the place as possible. I glanced inside and saw the woman’s dead body. Her family must be looking for her- she probably had young children, but there was no way to know. She didn’t have a phone on her. 

Speaking of phones, I walked to my bag; close to it was my phone; the screen was shattered, but I could see missed calls. So many. My mother had been calling. She was probably going out of her mind wondering about the status of her only daughter. When I got outside, there were many people. The press had started doing interviews, and the police and military were around the area. Medicine after death. I heard my mother scream my name. She quickly located me and rushed to me. I could barely remember what happened afterward. My mother told me that I went numb and paralyzed. I couldn’t speak. When I refused to move, she wanted to carry me, and I shrieked backward, scared of personal contact. I feared that the man was coming back.

Over 90 people died, and 30 were still receiving treatment. No one knew who the terrorists were. The government released statements that they would find the persons for this. I didn’t believe anything. Who knew if it was a tactic to control the population? I didn’t step out of my house for anything, including going to public spaces. My mother pushed me to go to church one day, and I had imagined the people rushing in. I threw a fuss immediately, and the ushers took me into the pastor’s office to calm down. They claimed that I was possessed. My mother told them that “She is traumatized.” They probably didn’t believe it. 

The mall was closed until further notice; you should have seen the amount of time the authorities took to carry the bodies out. The families kept asking, showing pictures of their loved ones. Some people had m identified their loved ones, but they were dead. My mother gave thanks to God that I was alive. I had God to thank and also Femi. I never heard from Femi afterward. It seemed that he went into hibernation mode too. When it seemed like everything was going well in my life, I was thankful. I became condor stepping out. A short tip to the mallam for matches reminded me of my trauma. 

“Kasim, how far work?” Kasim? “E dey oh.” It was the name and the voice for me. I locked eyes immediately with the man. Even though I had not seen him before, I knew he was the one in the store. The one who killed his cousin. The voice and my guts proved so. “Fine, girl.” He began to ogle at me. Like a robot, I turned immediately and started walking away, ignoring his cat calls and his taunting. I got into my house and locked the door. I leaned against the locked door and tried as hard as possible to calm my racing heart. It wasn’t working. I yelled out, “Jesus!” when there was a doorbell ring. In my ears, it sounded like a gunshot. That’s when I knew that I would never be okay. 

That’s the thing about trauma- it may seem as though everything is okay, but when you remember or see one thing from the past, it triggers you. Then you spiral out of control. I would never be okay.

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