The boy strode worriedly through the connecting corridors of the Microbiology Department, his brow furrowed in a frown. Of course Elvis was fond of procrastinating but this time, procrastination was not an option as any more delay may have really unpleasant consequences.
He peered into one of the lecture rooms and scanned the room carefully for the boy who ought to help him fix the problems that culminated from his faulty registration number but as he expected, no sign of Elvis anywhere. Continuous Assessment was two weeks away, and if he sat for any of the tests with his current registration number, his scripts would be marked as invalid.
She sat close to the window overlooking the lecturers’ parking lot and tried to assimilate Professor Timson’s “Theory of Disease Transmission” without giving herself a headache. She had a lot of reading to do but she was already feeling dizzy. Microbiology was notorious for its large assortment of heavily padded reading materials, textbooks, journals and handouts. The claim was none of these was less important than the other, and if you were going to pass in flying colours, you would do well to read every single book in your collection, something that drove most students crazy.
She absently noticed a boy looking into the hall from the opposite window and frowned. Obviously, he was searching for someone. She could relate too as she had not seen her boyfriend Dare since morning – precisely he and his two nutjob friends Elvis and Tunde – which made it slightly unsettling. Of course, the trio were known for taking spontaneous vacation without prior information to any of their close friends, but for some reason this particular absence made Monica uncomfortable. They usually showed up in class in the morning before vanishing into god-knows-where. This time though, they simply never showed up.
It was probably nothing. Still…………..
“Excuse me…,”a male voice interrupted her train of thoughts. It was the boy who had been peering through the window of her lecture hall. She had been so deep in her thoughts and books, she hadn’t noticed he had made a round, stopping by everyone in the half-empty hall, asking questions.
“Yes?” she replied, stroking her forehead. Yep, she was definitely spotting a headache.
“Are you a student of this department?”
“Okay, do you know a certain Elvis Abbey?”
“Yes, I do. He is my course-mate”
“Well, do you know where he is? I need his help urgently”
“Oh well, I really cannot help you”, Monica replied. “I haven’t seen him all morning. As a matter of fact, I am looking for him too, his best friend is my boyfriend and I am worried. Their cell phone numbers aren’t connecting and we have a lot to talk about concerning the upcoming CA week.”
The girl sat observing the exchange between the two students in front of her with interest. She didn’t want to contribute, but she was amused nonetheless. After all, everyone in the school called her a weirdo so she usually let them figure stuffs out themselves even when she knew exactly what was going on. In fact, her reclusive and antisocial tendencies were because she knew way too much, so much so it drove her on the path of solitude and maybe, probably put her on a path of destruction too.
These two people were concerned about the whereabouts of those rascally boys who never knew when to stop or where to keep off. But she knew, she understood. She had seen them drove past her in the first hours of daybreak and she had followed them closely on her bicycle. And the path they took suggested only one thing – they were headed to Delilah’s lounge.
She had a history, a connection with that place and as much as she tried, she simply could not ignore issues that rose in direct relation to the brothel.
She was right. They were headed there. She watched them from the shadows get into the boat paddled by that creepy, old village man who smelt like a week old corpse and observed as they disappeared into the horizon.
She wasn’t sorry for them even though she was certain of one thing: they were never coming back.
However, watching the concern on the faces of these two people made her uneasy. They seemed genuinely troubled and she had to admit, she liked the girl. She was the only girl in her department who looked at her in a nice way and sometimes even made an attempt at conversation with her.
“Ok, then”, the boy continued, “If you hear from them anytime soon, please tell Elvis that Kabiru checked on him and I am fast running out of time”
“Sure”, the girl replied, “I will, it is probably…..”
“I know where they went” A soft voice interrupted and both of them turned.
Monica studied the girl briefly. It was Oma, the quiet girl with a very eccentric disposition. She had to resist the urge to roll her eyes.
‘You do?” Kabiru asked excitedly “Please where? So I can go find them. It is urgent”
“I doubt you would really want to do that. I saw them headed towards Delilah’s lounge”
Both Kabiru and Monica stared at her confusedly.
“Delilah”s lounge?” Monica asked “When?”
“This morning. At about 8. With my own eyes. I even saw them get on the boat and watched it paddle away”
Monica didn’t know Oma really well, but she was reasonably sure the girl was no liar. Her eyes immediately flared up with anger and jealousy. Oma chuckled again. She just set off a time bomb. If Dare ever came back, he had a lot of explaining to do.
“Where is this Delilah’s lounge and how do I get there?” Kabiru asked, a bit lost.
“You can get there through a boat. It is across the Kambili River. It is a sex house”
Kabiru raised his eyebrow in surprise. The river was known for its tumultuous nature, and what the hell was a brothel doing that far off the school premises?
As if reading his thoughts, Oma continued. “It is a brothel that is home to the most beautiful women you ever seen, but it has a sinister background and thrives actually on the souls of its customers, male or female. It is rumoured to be run by the demon Prakya herself.”
Monica was just glaring at Oma, she didn’t say a word. She knew the legend for she had heard it countless times, and it had now started to get boring.
“And how do you know all these?” Kabiru asked, amused.
“It is basically hearsay though, but one thing I know for sure is, nobody who went there ever came back.”
“That is a big lie”, Monica put it, more scared of never seeing Dare again than actually the authenticity of the claim. “People do not go up there; that is all. All that story about disappearances are just made up.”
“Are they?… Is it?”, Oma asked with that flat smile still on her face. A dark shadow fell across her eyes. “Then what happened to Osho and Amati? Everyone knew they went up there, everyone knew they never came back.”
Osho and Amati were two of the school’s security guards. They had boasted so much of going upstream to the brothel that in a week, most people in the university had heard about it. So, when they disappeared, everyone assumed they had been taken by the ladies of the night, because practically everyone knew the legend. Of course, an extensive search went underway at the notorious brothel but they were never found and the women denied ever entertaining anyone remotely resembling the two men. Eventually, the case met a dead end.
“That is pure speculation”, Monica retorted, “They may never have even been up there”
“They were. I know because I was…..”
“Okay, please”, Kabiru interrupted before Monica could grasp Oma’s last words. “I want to know this place. It is important I see Elvis today, my registration number is threatened and the CA week is around the corner. I do not believe in all this hogwash you are on about. I just want to go up there and check if I can find him, and drag him back here with me. Today is my last day to get this stuff corrected”.
Oma smiled, and Monica looked at Kabiru confused.
“I can take you there then but I am not going in through those doors”
“I will go with you too”, Monica put in. “I am worried. I am getting worried”
Oma stared at her, shook her head and smiled. Then she stood up.
“Ok then, buckle up. This is going be one hell of a ride and one you won’t forget in a hurry anytime soon. So, in the voice of legendary James Brown…………….Let’s partayy!”