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“Strangers have been living in our boys’ quarters for two years and no one knew about it… until now.”

He placed his hand in front of the mirror, breathing heavily.


He looked at himself but did not see himself.


He saw a stranger holding the very mirror that was in his hand.


And as he turned around, he realised the mirror did not lie at all.


The stranger had been holding the mirror all these while, but he did not see him until… he looked back.

THE DAY OF ARRIVAL…

“We’re home.” Chief Okafor smiled at the tall green 6-bedroom duplex standing in front of him, “Nne, we’re home.”


Madam Okafor did not pay attention to her husband’s words. All she cared about was not letting her baby girl, 3-year-old Chidinma, touch the dusty floor. That was her princess, her world.


“Chief! Honey! Wake ejima (twins) and bring them inside!” Madam Okafor instructed her husband.


He did not respond. He was still in awe at his childhood home that he inherited from his late father years ago.


It had been a long trip for the Mbeze Okafor family who just arrived at their home in Awka, Anambra State, after two years of not visiting.


But was home still home after it had been left to starve for two years?


Chief Okafor got the twins, Chima and Chike, out of the car with their sleepy eyes, almost bumping into the gateman who was struggling to carry Madam Okafor’s oversized Gucci box.


Emeka, the gateman, was thrilled to see his oga and his family return home for the Christmas holiday and could not wait to taste Madam Okafor’s delicious isi ewu (goat head) the former gateman had boasted to him about.


“The next time there is a pandemic, we will be here.” Chief said to his wife as he entered the master’s bedroom after dropping the twins off in their bedroom.


“God forbid.” Madam Okafor muttered under her breath.


She hated the Christmas Holidays at Anambra. From greeting one million family members, to cooking in bulk together with top class gossipers, to serving Chief and his friends palm wine and kola nuts every night, to visiting Awgbu village to watch masquerades roam the streets and to also greet Igwe Benedict Nwaeze of their kingdom, the same community that Chief Okafor had become the youngest chief in.


Though Chief Okafor lived for these moments, Madam Okafor would rather die than see another day of it.
Thankfully, this holiday would be different. Because Madam Okafor made sure no one knew they were coming to Awka for Christmas.


Madam Okafor slumped on the bed and took off her medicated glasses, groaning about how sore they were making her eyes feel.


“I say make una no wear dis glasses for moto (car), una no wan hear.”


“Honey,” She gave him a warning glare, “I have warned you about speaking pidgin in this house.”


“Aanhan, na just both of us dey here.”


“English, please.”


Chief Okafor sighed and sat next to his wife and stretched out his hand to her, “Nne. Mama ejima-”


“It’s ‘darling’.” She slapped his hands away and got up from the bed, “When you’re ready to talk like an Mbeze Okafor man, talk to me.”


With that, she left the room and slammed the door. Chief Okafor could not help but laugh at his spoilt wife’s attitude.

*****

By night time, the three kids had turned the house into a market square. After sleeping through the day, they had regained their energy to cause chaos around the house they had missed so much.


“Mummy, this food is too cold.” Chima complained of the boiled rice and Ofe akwu they ate at the dining table for dinner.


“Shut up and manage it like that. Can’t you see there is no light to warm the food.” Chief Okafor said to him through the darkness of the room.


“We should be thankful that Emeka’s wife even offered to make this food, if not, your little bellies will be dancing makossa this night.” Madam Okafor said while adjusting the kerosene lamp on the table.


“What is makossa?” Chike asked.


The two parents looked at each other and snorted before Madam Okafor said, “It’s the Zanku of our time.”


“What is Zanku?” Chima asked.


“You see why I told you to send these children to government school, but you never listen. Ask them anything about our country, they don’t know.” Chief Okafor said to his wife.


“Honey, they are just 6 years old.”


“After this dinner enh, we will go and play our proper African game in the parlor. None of these PS5 or Coocomango you people like watching.”


“It’s Cocomelon!” Chidinma retorted.


“E get as e be.”

*****

All through the night, Chief Okafor had done everything in his power to teach his 3 little children how to play Whot card game. But it was doomed for disaster.


Soon, they all fell asleep from the frustration of not understanding the game. They all laid together, cuddled on the big couch in the parlor as if they had not fought hours ago. There was still a power outbreak as they slept in darkness with the cool breeze of harmattan weather.


Around midnight, Madam Okafaor had woken up first. She stretched out her arms, making sure not to wake up her daughter who was sound asleep on her belly.


She looked down at her beautiful princess and gently stroke her kinky hair. She smiled and turned her head to the side to stare at her husband and the twins sleeping next to her.


My beautiful and perfect bundle of joy, she thought. My family.


Though her husband snored as loud as the generator in the next house, she couldn’t help but want to squeeze the living life out of those cute cheeks. Silly man.


As her eyes trailed from her husband’s face to the window next to him, she jumped.


A black figure was standing outside the window. Peering right into the parlor.


Madam Okafor quickly reached out for her medicated glasses on the floor and looked outside the window once more.


It was gone. The black figure.


Or was it her imagination?


She stood up with a sleeping Chidinma wrapped around her body and shut the curtain before coming to squeeze herself closer to her husband and the twins. Just in case. In case whatever she saw outside was ready to jump and attack her.

*****

Bang!


Madam Okafor jumped up at the distant sound that woke her up.


Bang!


She shuddered and looked around in fear.


“Where is that noise coming from?” She whispered to herself.


It was 3am and not a single one of the others woke up. Had she been imagining sounds too?


Bang! Bang! The loud noise from outside still continued. It sounded like metal hitting metal. But it certainly wasn’t their house door.


“Honey.” She tapped her husband who was still snoring like her neighbour’s generator.


She slapped him and he shuddered in confusion before looking at his wife.


“Didn’t you hear that sound?” She whispered to him.


Nne, I’m tired.” He groaned, “Let’s talk about it tomorrow.”


“Shh. The sound will come again, wait and see.”


She waited for a long minute for the banging noise to come again, but nothing happened. She turned to her husband to explain the situation to him, but he was fast asleep. He didn’t care.


Madam Okafor curled under her husband’s arms in fear, though the sound had not come back again. She did the sign of the cross and prayed Our Lord’s Prayer before shutting her eyes and pulling her family closer.


At least if anyone should die tonight, let them die together as a family.

*****

The following night, it was there again.


But this time, Madam Okafor and Chief Okafor were alone in their bedroom.


Madam Okafor got up at the first sound of it and woke her husband up.


“Chief!” She shook him, “The sound is here again.”


He groaned with his sleepy eyes, “What is-”


Bang!


The noise.


Chief Okafor heard it too and jumped up at the sound of it. Madam Okafor was relieved to know she was not being delusional the whole time.


Bang! Bang! It continued.


“Let me go and see what is there.” He got up from the bed, but his wife pulled him back.


“Don’t go outside! Don’t you watch American movies? They will kill you first.”


“I no sabi that one. Me like this,” He beat his chest, “I get Igbo man blood in me. I will strike them back.”


She did not have time for her husband’s long chatter and got up from the bed.


“Let’s go and get the children first.”


She opened the door without waiting to hear what he had to say. He jumped down from the bed and followed behind his wife barefooted.


They both barged into the kid’s room, only to find the kids awake on their shared queen size bed.


“Mummy!” Chidinma jumped down from the bed to wrap her arms around her mother. Her mother grabbed her in her arms and lifted her up to carry her.


“Daddy, where is the noise coming from?” Chike asked, after the last banging noise stopped.


“I don’t know. Just stay together, you hear?” Chief Okafor locked the room door and switched off the room light.


The emergency plan was for nobody to leave the room until daybreak. Chief Okafor and one of the twins slept on the floor with wrapper, while Madam Okafor, Chidinma and the other twin stayed on the bed.


As the others had slept off, only Madam Okafor was wide awake.


She stared at the ceiling, flashbacks of the strange figure by window from last night replayed in her mind. Could he be the one causing the noise outside?


“Mummy,” Chidinma called her attention, “you’re not sleeping?”


“My dear, I will.” Her mother patted her head and pulled her closer to her chest.


“Mummy?”


“Yes, sweetheart?”


“I saw a hand coming out of the closet before you and daddy came in.”


Madam Okafor froze right there. Then turned to look at her daughter.


“Where?”


Chidinma pointed at the half open closet standing opposite their bed. The closet was shaking bit by bit. It was certainly not the harmattan breeze. There was something there. There was definitely something there. A body, perhaps.


Madam Okafor, having watched too many serial killer documentaries, had only one thing to do.


“Close your eyes and sleep, my love.” She whispered into her daughter’s ear while staring at the closet, “It is only just an imagination.”


Chidinma did just as her mother told her to. But as for Madam Okafor, she did not move an inch. Because if she did, somebody was going to die tonight. And it certainly wouldn’t be that intruder in the closet.


She made sure to keep an eye on the closet all night, making sure that intruder does not touch a single strand of her family’s hair.


The following morning, at about 7am, Madam Okafor woke up first.


She had not realised when she slept off while staring at the closet. She sat up on the bed immediately and looked around, then sighed in relief when she saw her family still safe and sound.


She looked at the closet from last night. It was wide open.


Shocked, she got down from the bed and dashed for the closet. She opened it wide enough to see who was inside, but no one was around.


Nne, wetin happen?” Chief Okafor asked in a husky voice.


Madam Okafor stared at the room door and went for the door handle. She pressed the handle down and opened the room door without unlocking it. It opened.


“Honey, didn’t you lock the door last night?” She asked.


“Yes, I did.”


She stepped back in horror and turned around to look at her husband with wide eyes.


“There is a stranger in our home.”

*****

When Chief and Madam Okafor confronted last night’s issue with Emeka, the gateman had told them he did not see any stranger coming out of the house. He also told them that he did not hear any banging noise from the past two nights.


The couple began to doubt their instincts. Had moving back into a different environment cause them to start hallucinating? Or… was this house haunted?


As they were leaving the security house, Madam Okafor noticed the full plate of isi ewu in Emeka’s room. She had prepared it for her family and the gateman last night.


“You didn’t eat the isi ewu after you begged me to make it yesterday?” She said to Emeka.


“Ma, abeg no vex. This one wey you prepare bitter for my mouth. I no sabi say you never prepare am well like before. You remember oga Simon wey work for here before I come?” He said, referring to the gateman from two years ago, “E tell me say you dey prepare am well well. But I no like this one. Abeg no vex.”


Madam Okafor didn’t seem offended but promised to make a better one next time.


As they returned to the house, Chief Okafor could not help but think of one thing.


Nne, this gateman… I’m beginning to suspect him oh. Abi he’s lying to us.”


She shook her head, “I don’t think he has anything to do with last night. After all, he is albino and his skin color for show inside that closet.”


Chief Okafor noticed the very little pidgin she spoke. He wanted to tease her about it but he knew his tush wife would hunt him down if he did. So, he kept his jokes to himself and nodded in agreement

*****

At 7pm, the sky was dark. And so was the Mbeze Okafor family house.


The family of 5 sat outside the backyard to get fresh air. Right next to the boys’ quarters.


Madam Okafor was relaxed on one of the dining room chairs, reading Fifty Shades of Grey and giving her husband those dangerous sexy eyes. Chief Okafor noticed and he returned back those dangerous unsexy eyes to her while taking a sip of his palm wine.


The twins and Chidinma played Police and Thief around the backyard, running around the compound and screaming with laughter.


Madam Okafor dropped her book to the side and sent a text message to her husband,


Come to mummy in the kitchen.’


She left the backyard first. Chief Okafor followed after like a hungry dog. They locked the kitchen door, leaving the kids to play outside alone.


The danger began.


No, not the commotion Madam and Chief Okafor were about to do in the kitchen.


The real danger.


It didn’t take up to five minutes after the couple had locked themselves in the kitchen that the twins heard loud movements from the kitchen.


Chima ran to the kitchen door and pressed his ear against the door to hear what was going on inside.


“Chike, mummy and daddy are dancing again.”


Chike, out of annoyance, yanked his brother away from the door and yelled at him, “They said we should stop peeping anytime they’re dancing!”


“I don’t care. Me I want to learn to dance too.” Chima tried to return to the door again but Chike pushed him, causing him to fall down.


Chima screamed and got up to push his brother to the ground. From there, they started slapping and kicking each other.


The kitchen door opened, and Madam Okafor came out with her spaghetti top sleeves down.
With a shocked expression plastered on her face, she shouted, “Ejima! Stop fighting!”


The boys did not stop fighting until their father, whose trousers were sagging, dashed to separate them.

Madam Okafor held onto Chima, while Chief Okafor held onto Chike to pull them apart.


In the midst of these chaos, Madam Okafor looked around and realized something was missing.


“Chidinma! Chidinma!” She shouted, “Where is Chidinma?!”


There was no response. They all froze at the realization of Chidinma’s absence.


“She was just here with us!” Chike shouted, while looking around at the empty backyard.


“Let’s look for her.”


They all began their search. They looked around the backyard and called out their daughter and sister’s name a million times, but there was no answer. They included Emeka in the search too.


Madam Okafor panicked the most because of her suspicion of an intruder in the house— the figure she saw by the window and in the closet. Could he have kidnapped her daughter? The thought frightened her. What did he want from her innocent daughter?


“Let’s go and check inside.” Chief Okafor said to them.


They all rushed into the kitchen door. As Chief Okafor was entering last, he heard a light thud sound coming from behind him. The boys’ quarters.


He stopped to ponder the sound for a moment. Wait, was the boys’ quarters open? But his key had been missing since the last time they were here.


He stepped backwards and turned around to head for the boys’ quarters alone. He took little silent steps towards the door of the quarters until he reached for the handle. He held onto it for a short moment and carefully pushed the door.


It was open. The boys’ quarters have been opened without his permission.


He debated whether or not to enter, but this was his home after all. He should be aware of everything that went on in his home.


He pushed the door open and kicked the air, thinking somebody would jump right in front of him. But it was empty.


He glanced around before turning on the flashlight in his phone. He stepped into the bungalow building, shining the light at every corner of the quarters. From the furniture to the carpet to the doors, until…


The metal door.


There was a giant metal door at the last corner of the boys’ quarters. It was half open, with the giant padlock broken.


Chief Okafor slowly walked into the metal door that led into an open space. It was supposed to be a storage but now it was… a bedroom?


There were a couple of rumpled wrappers lying on the floor. A few plastic cups, clothes, worn-out slippers and just anything a regular man would need.


He searched around the room with his flashlight until he saw something weird. A steam. The steam was coming out of a kettle. Which meant…


Somebody was here.


He looked around frantically for who this strange creature was, until his phone flashlight started blinking.

He was getting a phone call. From his wife.


Nne, lock the door now! Don’t let-”


“Honey!” She cut him off and began weeping on the call, “Come up. Please. It’s urgent.”


Madam Okafor did not need to repeat herself twice before Chief Okafor ran out of the boys’ quarters.


His heart was pounding in his chest. Every step he took felt like he was running on hot coals. As soon as he got to the top floor, he pushed down the door of his room with full force. He came prepared to fight with nothing but the Igbo man blood in him.


Nne!”


She was there, sitting on the bed peacefully with their daughter in her arms while facing the wall.
“You found her.” He said in relief and jogged towards their side. He placed his hand on his wife’s shoulder, “Nne-”


She turned around. He fell backwards.


It wasn’t Madam Okafor. It was another woman. A stranger, holding his little princess.


“Who- who are you?!” He stood up and suddenly, a knife came in front of his throat from behind.


“No. Who are you?” The deep voice with the knife said from behind.


Chief Okafor could not move. He was shaking.


“Where are my wife and twins?”


“Shut up!” The stranger from behind pushed him against the mirror next to them, “Who are you? And what are you doing in my house?”


Chief Okafor held onto the mirror and looked at the man with knife behind him through the mirror.
“I won’t tell you until you show me my wife and kids.”


The stranger growled and dragged him to the children’s room and pushed him on the floor. Madam Okafor, the twins and Emeka were tied against the closet with wires tied around their wrists and the closet handles.


Chief Okafor’s eyes grew in horror and before he could take a step towards them, the stranger stabbed him on the shoulder with knife, causing his wife and kids to scream.


“Shut up!” The stranger said to them.


Chief Okafor fell in front of them and groaned in pain at his bleeding shoulders. The stranger forced the knife out of his shoulders, causing him to groan louder.


“Darling! Come this way with the kids!” The stranger shouted through the door.


“You don’t have to tell me twice, honey.” The woman carrying Chidinma said in her American accent.


The woman appeared with two little boys that were around Chike and Chima’s age. They were all dressed in tattered and worn-out clothing like beggars, including the stranger with the knife. Madam Okafor trembled when she saw Chidinma in the hands of another woman.


“Sit on the bed while I talk to these fools.” The stranger said to the three of them, and they obeyed.


He brought out a chair in the middle of the room and pulled Chief Okafor to sit on it. Then he stood behind Chief with the bloody knife around his throat.


“Now tell me, who the hell are you? And how did you get into my house?” The stranger asked again, angrier this time.


Chief Okafor stared at a terrified Madam Okafor and the twins for a moment before he started choking. Then the choking turned to laughter. He began laughing like a mad man which caused everyone around him to be confused.


“No.” Chief Okafor shook his head, “What are you doing in my house?”


“Don’t even play with me.” The stranger yanked his bald head to face him, “Why the hell are you in my house, wearing my clothes, and even stole and deceived my daughter.”, referring to Chidinma.


“I didn’t steal anything, you agbero.” Chief Okafor stared back at him, “I took what is rightfully mine. Don’t you see?”


The stranger threw Chief Okafor back to the ground and growled at him.


“How dare you!” The stranger’s wife yanked the knife from her husband and pulled it in front of Chief Okafor’s face, “Speak now or you will forever hold your peace in hell when I cut your damn throat, you big ol fool.”


Chief Okafor, unbothered, glanced at Madam Okafor tied against the closet and said, “Nne, you sabi this yankee accent?”


“Shut up!” The stranger’s wife kicked his face, causing his body to roll on the floor. She kicked him once more before she left his side.


She squatted in front of Madam Okafor with the knife pointed at her face. Madam Okafor cried at the sight of the knife, but the woman hushed her.


“Now tell me, who am I?” The stranger’s wife pushed her medicated glasses up, the same medicated glasses Madam Okafor had been wearing all this time.


“You’re- you’re-” Madam Okafor stuttered as she stared at the stranger’s wife, “Madam Mbeze Okafor.”
“And who the hell are you people?”


Madam Okafor stared at her husband then back at the stranger’s wife before she shut her eyes and revealed everything she knew.


“My name Uchenna Umeh. And my husband there,” She nudged her head towards the fake Chief Okafor lying on the floor, “he is Josiah Umeh. And… and we are the strangers in your home.”

TO BE CONTINUED….

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