A short story of a girl's recurring nightmare...I walked briskly towards the market, it was a sunny Tuesday morning and since I didn’t have lectures till 12pm, I decided to quickly rush to the market to buy some provisions and a pack of hair extensions to braid my hair.

My plan was to get a quick braid before my lectures, but that was obviously not going to happen again today. I woke up late after a night of watching my favorite series, I had promised myself I would sleep after two episodes, but I just couldn’t stop at the second one as I couldn’t contain my suspense and excitement till the next day. I finally went to bed by 4 am after watching almost the whole season, and if I didn’t have a low battery percentage, I probably would have kept at it till I finished every episode. As a result, I could not get to the market as early as I had planned the day before.

As I passed through the market stalls, several traders kept calling out to me. Usually, I didn’t mind the attention I got from these traders trying to sell their wares; I only hated it when they tried to grab me. “Sister, you no go buy shoe? I get your size oh” “See, these fine pants and bra e go fit you well well” I looked to the man calling out to me to buy shoes, “Aboki inakwana,” I said in Hausa. I was excited my Hausa was improving, and I could carry out simple conversations without injecting some English. “Ah, customer na you?” he replied. I picked up the silver sandals that drew me to his stall but immediately realized they wouldn’t fit. Unfortunately, I wore size 42, and most times, it was difficult getting footwear my size. “This one goes fit you well well oh make wear am for you” “Aboki the size too small e no go size me” “No this one dey expand just wear am first. After you wear am like three times e go size you, e dey expand” he insisted.

I was inwardly smiling because I knew it was a sales strategy to get me to buy shoes I would probably never wear. But I obliged him and let him try it on me. Quickly glancing at my watch, I realized it was already 10:00 am. I need to hurry, I muttered to myself. Eager to be on my way since I had not even gotten what I came to the market to buy, I said, “Oga, no worry, next time I go buy another one, but this one too small for me. I be your customer nau, I go... Before I could complete my statement, someone hurriedly brushed past me, knocking me off my feet. My only savior was the quick reflex of the Aboki. After I righted myself, I realized there was some kind of confusion; the air was thick with chaos. All of a sudden, everyone was running in different directions, and then I heard someone say “an fara” (they had started). Realizing what it meant- another crisis I took to my heels.

I had run for some minutes before I realized I was running in the wrong direction. I looked around and realized I was mostly among Hausa guys. I could taste the fear in my heart, but adrenaline was also pumping through my veins; I immediately started running in the other direction, but quickly realized it was a wrong move as a young boy of about 12 years or more noticed me. It was obvious he was an almajiri. I could see him still clinging to his plate. With fear in my heart as our eyes met, I silently begged him with my expression to be quiet. But he suddenly shouted, “yarinya Nyamiri.” I realized it was too late as several eyes turned in my direction. The street was wider here, and I could see some boys coming from the opposite direction brandishing knives, sticks, and cutlasses. Since everyone was now turned in my direction, they also came to a stop when they got where I was. They were only standing a few feet away from me, looking at me as if daring me to do something, anything. I was rooted to the spot, looking into the faces of my assailants, and I could tell from their expressions that my life would not be spared. I could not even deny being a Christian; my look, dress, and color instantly gave me away. I couldn’t believe my life would end like this; if only I had gone earlier to the market as I had planned, at least, I would probably be home now. I could see my whole life coming to an end; the tears were coming down so fast, clogging my throat that I couldn’t even speak a word, not even beg for my life.

They were already so close, and I instinctively closed my eyes, shielding my face with my hands, expecting the blows. The fear of what was to come and resignation to death made me so weak that the first blow to my shoulder by a boy who looked like he was barely 10 brought me to my knees. I screamed out in pain with each new blow to my body; my assailants were shouting several profanities as they struck me. I tried to shield my face, but it was difficult as I was also trying to reach other parts of my body that were in pain. I could feel my strength leaving my body. I couldn’t even use my hands to shield myself as I had been battered by different hands all at once. I kept muttering “Jesus” as I cried out in pain whenever something new hit me, which was every four seconds or so.

I was making short prayers asking God for mercy and to receive my soul when they finally killed me. Then I felt a sharp object pierce through my chest. Looking down, I saw my blood quickly spreading all over my white Tee shirt-the the same shirt I have always sent to the dry cleaners because I could never get it to be as white as I thought it should be. My last thought as I lay on the dirt floor, smeared with my blood, was this; how heartbroken my family would be when they heard the news of how I died. I was bleeding from so many places that I couldn’t keep track of where I had been hit. My body was on fire, for all of my 20 years, I had never felt pain like this. My attackers were still screaming and hitting me, and from my bloodied eyes, I could only make out body forms as my left eye was badly injured from a blow to it. I was slowly losing consciousness. “This is it,” I said; hopefully, it would be over soon.

I finally stopped trying to fight, my body was limp, and all I could see around me was darkness. And then, in the darkness, I heard a faint voice singing my favorite song, power to redeem by Lauren Daigle; my mind couldn’t fathom where it was coming from. I woke with a start screaming, “Jesus!” I looked around me. I was in my room in Awka; my sheets were soaked with sweat. My alarm had also gone off, playing ‘power to redeem.’ “It was all a dream,” I said, but it felt so real, and my heart was still running at a thousand miles per hour. The nightmares never stopped; they seemed invincible, especially after another therapy session. I could still taste my fear and hear their screams as they hit me; it seemed as though they somehow left the realms of my dreams to torment me in reality.

“Calm down, it was just a dream, you are fine. It was only a dream”. I kept on trying to reassure myself. If only I could believe it because it felt so real.

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