***Hi folks, Billy here. Yeah, I know its been a minute. For the reason why I disappeared, the short version involves my laptop and hard drive developing faults in the space of the same week. It sucks, believe me. Anyway, let’s jump right into it. A surprise story/apology from yours truly***
‘Everything’s fine.’ Sandra lied as she left the nurse’s office.
Her arms hurt a lot more than she was willing to admit but she desperately wanted to play the final game.
As a child, she never excelled at anything that required physical effort so naturally, she flunked all her Physical Education classes. At first, her parents thought this meant she had intellectual inclinations but to their disappointment, she turned out to be an average student.
When she got into high school, in her second year it became compulsory for students to participate in at least one sport. To her utter disappointment, chess did not qualify as a sport so she found herself braving the great outdoors.
After trying and failing at nearly everything she found herself in the last sport she ever thought she would play. Football.
It was an accident for the most part. She decided to go for try-outs and didn’t make the team. The coach kept her on the reserve because she had failed at everything else and she needed to a sport to fill into her school file.
She didn’t play for about a year and at some point, decided to spend most of her time at the chess club which she got surprisingly good at. Then one day in practice, the team’s goalie was injured and the coach asked her to get on the pitch as a substitute.
She could hear the muffled laughs and giggles as she walked towards the goal post and she knew it was going to be an epic disaster. Standing at the goal post, she noticed something strange was going on with the players. It was almost as if she could read the game and predict their movements.
She thought her eyes were playing tricks on her until the opposing team tried to score and she managed to get to the ball first. Their movements were like bright neon red lights in her eyes and she could see everything. Angles, lengths, and projectiles.
That game ended in a 2-2 draw and the goals her team conceded only happened because of her lack of physical strength. However, she saw them coming.
Her hands hurt from the shots she managed to stop and her teammates named her the man of the match with utter surprise written on their faces. She was more surprised that they were but more than that, she felt a sense of fulfillment.
Over the years, she became regular on the team and by her last year; she was captain of the team because she made the best judgment calls. In this last game, she did not. She got sloppy and it got her injured.
They still managed to win but in the final minutes of the game, she stopped seeing the neon red lights.
These were the thoughts that plagued her mind as she walked out of the nurse’s office.
‘Sandra!’ Someone called behind her.
‘Nenye, what’s up?’ She replied.
‘I’ve been shouting your name for a while. Are you going to be okay?’ She asked concerned.
Nenye was the striker of the team and her designated best friend although they couldn’t be farther apart in every way.
Sandra was skinny and frail with long dark brown that always had a certain glow that contrasted the rest of her sickly pale frame. She never got tired of the unripe pawpaw jokes when she was a child and she suspected the only thing saving her from insults that are more creative, was her place on the team.
Nenye, on the other hand, was dark and huge. She looked like she could play any sport or probably join the army eventually. Still, she managed to retain her feminine charm and was beautiful by most standards.
‘Yeah, the nurse said everything’s fine.’ She said.
‘Okay. I think you should go home to rest. Training doesn’t start until next week anyway.’ Nenye said.
‘Yeah, I’ll do that. Let me get my stuff and head home. Have a great weekend.’ Sandra said.
‘Like I’m going to let you go home by yourself.’ Nenye said with a light nudge.
‘Ouch.’ Sandra said.
‘I forget how weak you are.’ Nenye said chuckling.
‘I’m not weak, you’re just a hulk.’ Sandra replied.
They both laughed at their familiar joke and went to their classroom to get their stuff.
Nenye walked her home as promised and Sandra took a long shower replying the final moments of the game repeatedly in her head.
The rest of her Friday evening went by in a blur and she went to bed early feeling too tired or overwhelmed for dinner.
She woke up on Saturday and avoided her parents as best she could. They were excited about her love for football but they never stop worrying about her even after three years.
The sound of the doorbell dragged her away from the slice of toast and milk she was trying to enjoy in the safety of her room.
Her parents never answered the door when she was home anyway so after the second ring she reluctantly went to see who it was.
‘Hello, Sandra.’ The man at the door said when she opened.
‘Sorry, do I know you?’ She said trying not to be rude.
He was a stocky, short man in a blue three-piece suit and a yellow shirt. He spoke with a slight lisp and despite his balding hair and awkward fashion sense; he looked presentable.
‘No you don’t, but I know you.’ He answered.
‘Who is at the door?’ Her dad called from his room.
‘I know about the red neon lights.’ He said simply.
‘Who is at the door?’ Her dad called again.
‘Err, It’s the assistant coach from school. He just came to check on me.’ She lied.
‘Okay.’ Her dad called.
‘You’re a terrible liar.’ The man said.
‘Who are you and how do you know about that?’ She asked stepping outside to talk to him.
‘Come on Sandra. Fifteen unbeaten games this season, three calculated losses that didn’t affect your team’s position on the table. Your team has won the championship for twice in the past three years and now you’re in the finals.’ He said.
Sandra just stared at him wide-eyed.
‘Don’t look so surprised. Someone was bound to notice at some point. People say the team has a lucky charm and in some way, they are not wrong. You’re the lucky charm.’ He said.
‘But I try to be careful; I make sure my defense does most of the work. I…’
‘I’m sure you do your best but we are not ordinary observers. We also know that towards the end of the last game you couldn’t see the lights.’ He said cutting her off.
‘We? Who are you? Am I in trouble?’ She was having a panic attack.
‘Calm down Sandra, I’m here to help. I work for the Extra-sensory Research Facility, here’s my card.’
She took the card.
‘If you want to know more about the lights and the things you can do, come to that address on Wednesday by 5 pm. You’re not alone anymore, you have never been alone.’
With that, he left her standing there staring at the card in her hands.
The rest of her weekend took a very dark tone after that encounter because she found it hard to enjoy or focus on anything else.
On Monday morning, she dragged Nenye to the bathroom at Lunch break to tell her about the man. Nenye was the only one she had told about what she could do.
‘You have to go.’ Nenye said when she finished narrating the incident.
‘I’m scared Nenye.’ She said.
‘You should be. I’m still mad that you didn’t tell me what happened on Friday.’ Nenye said.
‘I’m sorry. I thought it’d be fine. I didn’t want to make you worry.’ Sandra replied.
‘Have you seen yourself? I worry about you by default silly.’ She said.
Sandra managed a chuckle.
‘Anyway you’re going and I’m coming with you. And yes, nothing you say will change my mind.’ Nenye said.
Sandra opened her mouth to protest but the look on Nenye’s face told her to keep quiet.
‘Good girl. Now let’s get you something to eat before this break ends.’ Nenye said giving her an encouraging smile.
After school on Wednesday, Sandra and Nenye took a cab to the Extra-sensory Research Facility.
It was a grey duplex that looked like it had seen its fair share of hard times.
‘Are you sure this is the right place?’ Nenye asked as the cab drove off.
‘Only one way to find out.’ Sandra replied trying to sound confident.
‘We’re here to see…’ Nenye paused to look at the card.
‘…Mr. Obe.’ She finished.
The security guard sized them up for a minute.
‘Your names?’ He asked.
‘Sandra. Sandra Monye.’ Sandra said.
He opened the gate.
‘Top floor, second door to your right.’ He said.
‘Thank you.’ Nenye said rolling her eyes.
The inside of the facility looked nothing like its exterior. There were rooms with glass doors on every corner, men and women walking about in white lab coats with equipment and machinery they had no hope recognizing.
Sandra turned to look at Nenye’s face and she mirrored her own facial expression.
‘Don’t judge a book by its cover.’ A voice said above them.
Mr. Obe casually walked down the stairs also wearing a lab coat although as he came closer Sandra could see he was wearing a yellow shirt.
‘Do you ever wear any other colour?’ She blurted out before she could stop herself.
He laughed and stretched a hand to shake Nenye.
‘Mr. Obe. It’s a pleasure to meet you.’
‘Nenye. Nice to meet you too.’ She said taking the hand reluctantly.
‘Okay let’s move.’ He said leading them upstairs.
‘You said you could help me understand what I do.’ Sandra said.
‘Yes. What you have is something called Passive Photo Hyperkinesis.’ He began.
‘What?’ Nenye asked.
‘Hyperkinesis is basically the ability to subconsciously determine action and reaction in a small but effective scale. It’s photo because it manifests in your eyes.’ He continued as he led them into a room.
The room had a surgical bed, an electrocardiogram and some other equipment Sandra didn’t recognize.
‘What about the passive?’ Sandra asked.
‘I was getting there. Your ability manifests when you’re at rest in an intense or stressful situation. You probably haven’t noticed it before because you’ve lived a very secluded life correct?’
‘Yes.’ She replied.
‘Exactly. I’m guessing your parents protected you from every activity that would cause any strain, also all other sports require a level of active participation. But as a goalie, all you do is watch the game from a position of rest for the most part right?’
‘That’s true! Explains a lot.’ Nenye exclaimed.
‘Yeah. It’s a very convenient and coincidental thing but that sport was the perfect opportunity for it to manifest.’ He said.
‘So what happened in the last game?’ Sandra asked.
‘It’s simple. You stopped being passive. I’ve been watching all your games this season and you’ve been getting more involved in the game with every passing game.
Things that you usually leave for your defenders, you now do them yourself because you can predict the outcome. I’m surprised it didn’t happen earlier.’ He said scratching his eyebrows as he spoke.
Sandra thought back and realized that he was right. She had been getting more involved because it was the final year and she wanted the win to mean something this time. Somewhere deep down she’d been feeling like a fraud this past couple of years and she wanted to do something that mattered this year.
‘Don’t look so sad. I said I was going to help and I’m going to do that.’ He said.
‘How do you know all these things about her?’ Nenye asked keeping her eyes on the surgical bed.
‘Sandra isn’t the only hyperkinetic in the world and we’ve met quite a number exactly like her in the course of this research.’ He said.
‘Okay, what do I do?’ Sandra asked.
‘We’re going to give you a shot. It contains nano-transmitters that will monitor your stress levels and prevent it from exceeding a certain limit. You will be able to function as much as you want in the game and still use your abilities.’ He said.
‘I don’t think this is a good idea.’ Nenye said.
Sandra stood there in silence.
‘Okay, I’ll do it.’ She finally said.
‘Sandra!’ Nenye yelled.
‘We came here for help and answers; I’m not going to leave now.’ She said.
Mr. Obe watched them debate in silence.
‘Are you sure?’ Nenye asked.
‘Will it hurt?’ Sandra asked, directing her attention to Mr. Obe.
‘No it won’t, I can bring in other subjects to testify if you’d like.’ He said.
‘It’s okay. I’ll take it.’ Sandra declared.
‘Excellent, let me get the doctor.’ He said.
He stepped out and came back a few minutes later with a Doctor Nonso. He directed her to lie down on the surgical bed and injected her on her arm.
It didn’t hurt as Mr. Obe promised but he still advised them to wait for thirty minutes before leaving so the nano-transmitters could take full effect.
Nenye took her home before heading home herself. Sandra kept touching her arm most of that night almost as if she expected something to happen and only fell asleep when she got tired of waiting.
The next day during the final practice things went by smoothly. She was relieved that she could see normally again but decided not to exert herself until the finals on Friday. Besides, she needed her hands to be in the best condition for the match.
It was finally game day and she was more than a little nervous. Classes ended by noon and the entire student body flooded the sports arena to watch the game.
All the members of the team excused themselves from class by 10 am so they could prepare properly for the game.
As the students flooded the arena, Sandra noticed a familiar figure on the stands wearing a yellow tee shirt.
‘That’s the only colour in his wardrobe apparently.’ Nenye said lacing up her boots.
‘You ready?’ Nenye asked.
Sandra let out a long breath.
‘Yes. Let’s do this.’ She said.
The game started and she could see everything. At the beginning, she decided to play it safe but towards halftime, she slowly started getting more involved. By the second half, she was making diving saves, kicking free balls away from her 18-yard box and even performed a sliding tackle or two against opposing strikers.
Nenye gave her a stern warning about that but she had never felt more alive. No matter what happened she still saw the red neon lights and the game finally ended 3-0 in favor of her team.
She wore her Man of the Match medal with pride and Nenye got the medal for highest goals in the tournament. After the ceremonies, she made her way the stands to see Mr. Ola but he had already left.
She made a mental note to visit the research facility the next week as she headed home that day.
She told the tale of their league final repeatedly to her parents until they were tired and snuck off to bed leaving her in the living room.
Still reeling from the excitement, she picked up the house phone and called Nenye. They relived moments from the game until they both got tired and fell asleep.
Sandra woke up from the living room couch on Saturday morning seriously hungry. The excitement of the final game took away all her appetite the night before.
She stood up, cleared her eyes of sleep before realizing something was off.
She could see the red neon lights.
‘Okay, that’s weird.’ She said blinking twice.
She took a step towards the kitchen but quickly changed her mind.
Everywhere she turned she saw things were out of place.
‘No that’s not it.’ She thought.
Her living room was fine.
However, her eyes showed her possibilities.
So all she could see was cause and effect.
Suddenly she realized that she lived in a dangerous world and every move she made could lead to a potential accident.
She called to her parents and lied that she was tired from the previous night. They obliged and made breakfast.
She closed her eyes as they moved around the house to resist the urge she had to warn them about the electric iron on the ironing board or the painting on the wall towards the stairs.
By that evening, her parents started to worry because she refused to leave the couch.
Her eyes were getting worse and she started seeing algorithms and changing patterns.
Every move led to a disaster.
Every step led to chaos.
On some level, she knew she was hallucinating but she couldn’t stop herself.
The next day her parents tried to get her to go to church. Her dad attempted to carry her but she kept screaming,
‘NO! We’re going to die!’
They decided to stay with her at home.
On Monday, they got a doctor to come see her but he could not figure out what was wrong with her.
On Tuesday, Nenye came to check on her after school and left the house weeping.
On Wednesday, Nenye went to the Extra-sensory research facility but the building was empty. She asked around but no one seemed to know anything about it.
On Thursday, her parents transferred her to a mental institution for monitoring. They did their best to sedate her but they could still hear her screams at night.
On Friday, Nenye confessed to her parents about the research facility.
On Saturday, Sandra had stopped screaming.
They opened her cell and found her lying still with crimson hands.
Her eyes were gone.
There was a pool of blood on the floor.
She was no more.
***Well, I hope you loved it folks. Hopefully, I’ll have good news for you next time.***