Thank God it’s Friday. I’m pretty sure you have been enjoying your weekly dosage of this TGIF Special titled “Fair Game”. I appreciate the encouraging feedbacks I’ve been getting. Thank you all. By next week, you would be completing your dosage. In other words, the last installment of this story comes next Friday. Enjoy today’s!
The two gentlemen got in after helping her with the door. Both of them sat at the front, so she had the whole back seat to herself. The car was started. Bla Bla 3 and Bla Bla 4 reached into their pockets and brought out things that might be candies, put them into their mouths and began to lick. Then Bla Bla 4 turned on the AC, while Bla Bla 3 drove off. Shade wondered why matured men like them should still be licking candies. It irritated her, but it was not her concern. Then she began to yawn and feel dizzy. All of a sudden, she felt exhausted, and her eyelids became heavy. She shut her eyes and heard nothing again. The Range Rover sped away.
A sharp pain ran through Shade’s spine. The pain was trailed by a stinging sensation that wrenched her heart. Now she felt a heaviness in her arm, as though it was under some unseen weight. This excruciating twinge persisted. Her eyelids were no longer heavy now. She began to open her eyes little by little, afraid they would not see anything if she opened them all at once. A flood of light hit her eyes as they were fully opened. She narrowed her eyes so that her pupils could adjust to the intensity. It was all white everywhere.
Everything she saw was white. Shade saw white billowing garments, immaculate white walls, white distant ceilings, pristine white floors and brilliant light all over. Then her eyes caught the movement of a hand hidden in white gloves moving away from her hurting arm. Spontaneously, the searing pain in that arm subsided. She felt relieved. She took a closer look at the hand in gloves and saw it was holding something. It was holding a bloodstained syringe. She had just been injected.
Pieces of the jigsaw puzzle were now falling in place. Shade remembered she had fallen asleep in that Range Rover almost as soon as the AC was put on. Obviously, a sedative had been used to induce her to sleep- a sedative that had no effect on Bla Bla 3 and Bla Bla 4 because they licked candy-like pills that weakened its efficacy on them. They had made her sleep so she would not know what routes were taken to bring her into this strange place. Now that she was here already, they had injected her a sort of antidote to neutralize the effect of the sedative. It was the administering of the injection that caused the pain she was feeling earlier.
“Good morning, Mrs Shade Ade,” a lady with a disarming smile was saying, “I am Catherine, the most senior nurse in this empire. I shall be responsible for getting you accustomed with your new environment. How do you feel now?” Catherine asked. She was wearing a white garment like the two other ladies in the room. They were all nurses.
Shade merely nodded her head in response. What did the woman mean by getting her accustomed with her new environment? Had she been kidnapped? Would Shade be living here now?
Catherine introduced the two other ladies to her, mentioning their names and duties, but Shade heard none of them. Her voice sounded so faraway to Shade, like muffled squeals of a child that were incoherent.
“You are welcome to The White Empire. The first exercise you’re going to go through here is an interesting session called STC. I will be the one to help you with that,” Catherine added.
The abbreviation “STC” rang a bell in Shade’s head. She had stumbled on something like that before while doing one of her many researches. She tried hard to put her finger on what it meant, but it was not forthcoming. Just as she was about giving up, she figured it out. It meant “Science of Thought Control”, a form of euphemism for “brainwashing”. The first thing that would be done to her would be to brainwash her, to transform her thoughts and control her mind against her will, in order to suit the new environment. It entailed the same technique used for persuading and manipulating suicide bombers and prisoners of war to do irrational things against normal human reasoning. It was a subtle way to make someone lose their mind.
Shade knew the processes quite alright. She knew Catherine would present herself as a friend, cunningly seeking to make her way into her thoughts, into her head. Catherine would disassemble her mental faculties, alter them and then reassemble them again with the adeptness of a mechanic handling a car engine. But Shade was not ready to lose her mind yet, not even a part of it. She was not willing to become a victim at the mercy of any puppet master. This unknown enemy might have abducted her son and declared her dead, but the villain would never dispossess her of her mind too.
Shade understood what she had to do to remain sane. She knew she had to play along with Catherine. She had to pretend as though Catherine’s words were having effects on her- words that she countered in her head as soon as they came forth from Catherine’s mouth. It was a tedious task, more like pedalling forward and then pedalling backward again, but she did it all the same to retain her sanity. She forced herself to do things expected of a person brainwashed when with Catherine. Then when she was back in her closet, she would undo whatever had been done. Shade kept at this throughout the STC session that lasted a whole week.
When the session was completed, Catherine told her that she would have a test anytime soon, a test to ascertain whether she had truly lost her mind. Shade was now expected to be devoid of any form of human feelings. She was expected to have lost touch with love, hatred, humour, joy, sorrow and all other realities of life. She was supposed to be a breathing robot, having only professional skills, manners and no emotions.
The next morning after the STC session was completed, Catherine brought Junior, Shade’s son, to her. That was going to be her test. Catherine wanted to know whether there was still any human feeling whatsoever left in her. The mother-son bond was known to be one of the strongest emotional attachments. If Shade could pass this test, then Catherine would believe the brainwashing had been successful.
At the sight of Junior, Shade froze. She felt a strong impulse to scream, to run and embrace her son, to carry him up high in the air and run her hand through his head, to kiss him, to perceive his babyish skin that always smelt of Nycil, to tickle him under the armpit and watch smiles form on his face. However, she subdued this urge that threatened to ruin all the efforts she had been making to appear ostensibly brainwashed and said instead, “Good morning, Catherine. Hello, Junior!” Her voice was cheerless, her countenance blank, as she waved a hand at her two-year-old son, whom she had not seen for the past eight days. She bit her lower lip very hard and fought back the tears in her eyes. How painful it was for her to forgo what she wanted to hold onto! How difficult it was to hold onto what she ought to forgo! This life, how wicked, how sad!
Junior merely waved a hand at her too. He had obviously been brainwashed, otherwise he would have run to hug his mother’s legs. Mother and son now looked at each other as strangers would, for the bond between them had been severed, or so it seemed. Catherine smiled.
“Congratulations,” Catherine said to her. She had passed the STC test, Catherine presumed. She could now be allowed to interact freely with others in The White Empire. However, Shade knew she could not pretend to be brainwashed for long. She needed to get a solution to her problem very quickly.
Since Shade came into The White Empire, she had neither received a message from Grrh nor set her eyes on him or her. By now, she still did not know whether this archenemy of hers was male or female. Just as she thought over these things, Catherine came into her closet and informed her that Grrh would like to see her. Shade’s heart leapt. At last, she was going to set her eyes on this person who had shattered her life, who had made her life bland like dust, and who she now had to seem indifferent to because of the STC session. It grieved Shade so much. It was like keeping a smiling face when a knife was endlessly jabbing at her heart.
As Catherine led her down the hallway, taking her to where she believed Grrh must be, she saw a young man whose back side reminded her of Peters. The tall frame of the man, the shape of his head and posture made Shade feel a rush of nostalgia. The more they moved closer to where the man stood, the more Shade imagined it was Peters.
“Peters!” Shade called out as they approached the man, even though she knew it could not be him.
The man turned, and it was him. It was Peters, her supposedly dead husband.
Was Shade dreaming? Was she out of her mind? Was she dead and was now meeting Peters in the land of the dead? How could this be? An avalanche of questions walloped her head.
To be continued. Catch you next Friday!
~~~Omoya Yinka Simult
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