This was how she was going to die. It wasn’t fair. It wasn’t poetic. No one was going to write a beautiful rendition of her death and make a screen adaptation of it. No one was going to get Nse Ikpe Etim to play her in the movie adaptation because this would not make a good enough story. It really wasn’t fair. Where was the music? Where were the leaves rustling in the night as she ran down the hallway, her chest heaving with fear? No wait, her chest was not ‘heaving’, it was not even that smooth. Her chest felt as if it would explode, her heart made a continuous and thunderous “Ba-dum! Ba-dum! Ba-dum!” She could hear everything, all of the sounds coming from within her, they were not pretty sounds; they were sounds that should not come from within a human being. They should come from the soundtrack of a badly made scary movie, something the Wayan brothers would produce. It wasn’t fair.
“Cut! It’s a wrap for today folks! Good work, everyone! 5 am tomorrow, I want everyone on the bridge, we want to get some scenes in before the city wakes” A groan went through the throng made up of cast and crew. They were once again going to get less than 4 hours of sleep since they were wrapping up at 1am. Temisan was not as disgruntled however, at least she was finally going to be the star of a movie, low budget as it may be. Besides, she had more worries than waking up at the break of dawn. She had nowhere to sleep!! She had willingly signed the contract in which she had agreed to handle her own accommodation in Onitsha telling herself “How many people get to say they filmed on the River Niger Bridge eh?” Low budget or not, these production company people wanted to make an impression on Nollywood.
The man hard at her heels was going to kill her. She was absolutely sure of it but wait, she was using the word man loosely. This was not, could not, be a man. He was an ‘it’, a thing she could not bring her brain to comprehend because it was a creature unlike any she had ever seen. Temisan was not a stranger to nightmares you see. Growing up, the occasional scary scene in movies often left an impression. She had barely slept the night after her first Pirates of the Caribbean - she had woken up screaming as the kraken tried to eat her in her dreams. This was no dream however, neither was it a kraken. This thing that was going to kill her was not large at all, its small body moved in an eerily graceful manner. Its skin was a layer of worms and maggots writhing as they basked in the carrion that had become of its flesh. The moon gleamed off the sockets where its eyes should have been which was now filled with what looked like... Wait. Tears? How could this thing with no eyes cry? The tears glistened as they rolled down what she could only refer to now as its cheeks but it was not its appearance that filled Temisan with dread. It was the cold hands she felt on her heart as she ran. It felt as if someone had placed an icy hand into her chest and had then proceeded to squeeze her heart so tightly death seemed like a welcome suggestion.
Temisan had followed two members of the crew who claimed to know their way around Onitsha in search of a place to spend the night. When they came across "Bedtime hotel", she had laughed at the name but was relieved as they had been searching for over an hour. Her self-acclaimed tour guides had turned out to be as useless as her internet in this area. Segun and Ada were equally as relieved as they apologized profusely for dragging her around in the middle of the night when they had no specific destination. Temisan could not be angry anymore, she was drained, it was indeed bedtime for her. They stepped into what was supposed to be the hotel reception but was really just a dingy looking room with a beady-eyed man seated behind the desk. They paid for their rooms, said a hasty goodnight to one another and went their separate ways. She knew something was wrong the moment the lights went off as she tried to open the door to her room.
The lights were still off as Temisan ran blindly away from the thing. It didn't speak, it just kept on gliding towards her as her nostrils were overwhelmed with the smell of a thousand dead rats covered in mildew. She could not run anymore. Somehow, the icy hand on her heart and the pit of dread turning her stomach had finally won. Her limbs had failed her. She froze. So did the thing. She didn't understand how she could see it so clearly in the thick of the darkness that enveloped them both. She tried to communicate once again with her legs, "Move, please." Nothing. She looked up and it was there, in front of her. Its tears had stopped. It opened its mouth and revealed fangs the size of swords. She screamed. At least she thought she did. No sound came out though. The silence was deafening. She screamed again. Still nothing. Then the thing screamed. This time, she heard everything. It was the worst sounds in the world rolled into one. It was the sound of nails scratching the surface of a blackboard fused with the sound of metal scratching the floor fused with the wails of a banshee. That was when she felt the warm liquid trickling down her neck. She was confused. She raised her left hand to her neck and tried to trace the source of the liquid. Her ears were bleeding! The pain was slow and piercing, it was as if her ears were being slowly penetrated with one of the thing’s sword-like fangs. It wasn’t fair. She hadn’t lived. No one would tell her story. No one would remember. She needed the cold hand on her heart to stop squeezing, she needed the piercing in her ears to stop. She needed it all to stop but then no one would know. It wasn’t fair. And so she tried once again to move her legs. This time she somehow managed to get the message across to her limbs, she began to run again. She had to find someone. Someone had to tell her story. It wasn’t fair.
The grip on her heart had loosened, she did not understand how. “You were not supposed to keep running,” a voice said. She whirled around, it was the beady-eyed man from the reception. “Your greatest fear is supposed to be death. You were supposed to have given up. Why did you keep running?” The lights were back on and he was back at his desk. Temisan raised her hands to hear ears, she could still feel the piercing pain but there was no blood anymore. “I don’t understand.” Her legs had turned to jelly under her as she crumbled to the floor. “Wh…Why?!?”
“Because a coward’s greatest fear is death. And at Bedtime, we provide you with your greatest fear,” he had stood up from his desk now, he came to crouch beside her, “Why didn’t you stop?” She was shaking, the smell of her blood still teased her nostrils, “I didn’t want to die.” But then she realized after she felt the cold hand on her heart that she had indeed wanted to die so why had she kept on running? She remembered. “Not yet. It wasn’t fair.” “You wanted more. You feared that your story would not be told,” the man was smiling at her now, a cold smile that did not reach his eyes. “Your friends are dead. You should be with them. You are not because your greatest fear isn’t death. Your greatest fear is not to have your story told.” Temisan looked nonplussed. She still didn’t understand. “Someone will tell your story.”
It was one year later. Temisan had finally gotten over the trauma of her experience in the Onitsha hotel. She had spun the story, embellished it and made it her own. One director liked the story so much, he decided to make a script from it. She got to play a major role in the movie. Life was good.
They were filming the movie in Abuja this time. On the last day of filming, the director gave her a bottle of champagne to celebrate their imminent success. On getting back to her hotel, a 5-star this time, she was walking on sunshine as she breezed into the reception to pick up her room key. Her favourite receptionist was at the desk, she didn’t understand why the girl looked so familiar but she liked her anyway, “You look like you had a great day ma”. Temisan grinned, “Oh yes, I did! I feel fulfilled!” “That’s wonderful ma, here’s your key.”
As she turned her key in the lock, Temisan suddenly understood why the girl had looked so familiar. She turned around but it was too late. The receptionist smiled coldly at her, a smile that did not reach her eyes as she said, “See you at bedtime.” The lights went off. Written by: Agbonyin Adeola