I don’t know if this can be classified as an ‘Introduction’, as I haven’t really written one before. Yes. I usually go to the heart of the story. Hopefully, this will not be a trend; my mind is already trying to create permutations and sentence combinations…
Shut up, mind.
It’s always like this for the both of us, my mind and I. Most times, it is worse.
What I want to do here, is try to re-introduce this story, SWAN SONG, both to you the reader, and to me. Yes me. This is an old story, and a special one too, written at a time when I was discovering the art of short-story writing. This story, however, is more of a novella than a short story; it was what I used to round up a series of short stories I wrote some years ago. I just found myself thinking about it again, and the voices in my head didn’t let me rest until I had taken out my hard disk and had trawled through files to locate it. And boy, am I glad I did. So this ‘re-introduction’ is for two reasons.
The first is for the characters in the story. When I wrote this, my writing was in no way bad, but it wasn’t what it is now, so I need to do them justice once more, in a more fitting way…John, George and Daniel. The three musketeers.
The second reason is more personal. This story is a special one for me, you see…
I wrote this story after I lost one of my closest friends to Sickle Cell, in our final year. I tried and tried to think of a way to honour him, and one day, I took up a notebook, a pen, and opened a new page to create my own piece of alternate history. So I decided to revisit this place and rediscover the past. I’ll try not to change much in this story, but I will try to add what I might have been afraid to add back then. Just forgive any cheekiness you may find in this story.
Okay, enough talk/writing. Now, to the main event.
Oh, one more thing: what you are about to read, is all real.
After all, who is to say Fiction isn’t real?
All lyrics used in this story are copyrighted material of their owners.
Yesterday I lost my closest friend,
Yesterday I wanted time to end,
I wonder if my heart will ever mend,
I just let you slip away…
-Lost Prophets, 4. a.m. Forever
“Do you hear that? Do you hear that, son?”
“What’s that daddy?”
“That’s the wind, son. That’s the wind of change…”
If I don’t say this now,
I will surely break…
-The Fray, Look After You
4 weeks ago, if you’d told me that the dead could speak (not ghosts; there’ve been stories of ghosts speaking to people, though not to me. I haven’t seen one. Yet. I must be ghost-repellent-suits me just fine. No, I’m talking about cadavers!), I would have looked at you like you needed to get your head checked. Even with all that was happening at the time, broach the subject and I would personally have hauled your ass to see a shrink. Or a pastor. Or whoever could and would have helped.
Dead people, talk?
Since the past week, my take on life and everything concerning it has changed. It wasn’t actually a gradual process, you know, like childbirth…
No. It was the most abrupt change that could ever happen to anyone. Something happened. Something so incredible that I still can barely get my head around it. It was an…what’s the word…other-worldly experience. And it wasn’t pleasing either. Actually, it was the most painful thing that ever happened to me in my entire life, short as that has been.
And I lost more than I gained.
Writing this has been the hardest thing I have ever had to do, no fun reliving the events of the past weeks. But I had to do this, because I’ve got the feeling that forgetting would have dire consequences…
Just be thankful that it didn’t happen to you.
Oh, sorry. My manners.
My name is John.
Did we create a modern myth,
Did we imagine half of it,
What happened then, a thought for now,
Save yourself, save yourself,
The secret is out,
The secret is out…
-Thirty Seconds to Mars, A Modern Myth.
I am not alone,
I live with the memories,
Regret is my home,
This is my true freedom…
-Alterbridge, Shed My Skin
This is for the ones,
Who believe that lives won’t change…
-Amber Pacific, If I Fall
The three musketeers. That’s what they called us. The only thing was, we didn’t have swords (we weren’t in an Edwardian age) neither did we have horses. No; what we had was by far more greater than that.
We had friendship, and in the end, it was all that mattered.
George, Daniel and I.
The three musketeers.
We didn’t deliberately invite the name; somehow it emerged from our course-mates and stuck like glue. It wasn’t a bad moniker though – I’ve seen people being called worse. We didn’t mind. Actually, we kind of liked it. Whenever we were alone gisting, we would envision ourselves doing great things, becoming great people, you know. Forming a formidable team, no matter the stage. Music, academics, business…
Sand castles, some would say.
Hey, not a crime to be ambitious, is it?
We were final-year students in the University, three accountants-to-be. We were also room-mates, or should I say hall-mates? Yeah, our room was actually a small hall, which we shared with roughly sixty or so other guys. And no, it wasn’t over-crowded, not that we noticed anyway, but on a really sunny day, you would wish you had your own personal and portable air-conditioning unit.
Nevertheless, the room had its upside. It was filled with the most wonderful characters; a wonderful, hilarious, God-chosen cocktail of personalities. ‘NITE OF A THOUSAND LAUGHS’ , that popular Nigerian comedy show, had nothing on us. Every waking moment was fun, so much so that other guys from other rooms would come to spend time with us and get belly-aches from laughing so much.
Sorry, but back to us.
George, Daniel and I had appropriated a corner of the hall, the left-most corner from the front door. Cozy. Not the Hilton, but okay.
George, the oldest of us, was a tall, handsome guy, not so fair, not so dark. None of us were, actually. A little over six feet, he was slim and wiry of build. Not a body-builder or an exercise buff. He was just one of those rare people that God blessed with minimum body fat. He was also our unofficially designated cook; he could whip up some tasty dishes. And he was our drummer.
Oh yeah, did I ever mention that we were starting a band?
Daniel. Daniel was taller than me with about half-an-inch or so ( don’t know if that matters but hey, half-an-inch is half-an-inch). Not bad-looking, he was also slim, but his was not from body-building, neither was it the rarity of nature.
Daniel suffered from Sickle Cell Disease.
He wasn’t always sick – the crisis associated with sicklers didn’t always disturb him.
He couldn’t be troubled to do anything, except when he really had to do them on his own, like taking a bath, doing his laundry, um…okay, ran out of stuff there.
However, we didn’t mind.
What are friends for, if not for inconveniences?
Besides, Daniel couldn’t cook even if his life depended on it. Even I cooked better than him, and that’s saying a lot.
But Daniel was a great guy. There’s a reason we stayed close friends right from the first day we met. Yeah. Daniel. He was cool…
He was also our lyricist. Super cool, huh? Talk about our own black Eminem.
As for me, well… Okay. Here’s the deal. I don’t want to cloud your judgement about me alright? I don’t want to be tempted to tell you that I am a cute guy (I am though; you should see me) who’s got long, golden hair (NOT!), blue eyes (mine are black), and I walk like a lion (well, I’ve got my own swagger, if you know what I mean). No I’m no Prince Charming (I can be when I need to) from a Mills and Boon story. Actually, my life can be summed up in a couple of words.
Books. Lots of them.
Music. Play me a good tune and I’ll dance, or sing along if I can’t dance.
Love for, and of God.
Love for, and of my family.
Love for, and of my girlfriend.
Love for, and of my friends.
Love for life. Life probably wants to screw me six ways to Sunday. But I survived long enough to write this story. Some people were not so lucky.
Right now, I don’t know much anymore. Not after what happened. But I know this; my life will never be the same again. The course of my life has been irreparably altered, and most of the time I feel like a rudder-less boat adrift a stormy sea with no land in sight; translation – I feel like crap, like I don’t know where I am going to anymore. But I hope to change things real soon, just take my destiny and shape it any way I want.
Enough about me. I came here to tell you a story, and tell it I shall.
I hope I get this right.
Tap-tap-tap-tap-tap. I opened my eyes, removed my head-phones. I could still hear the music coming from them, like people screaming from a distant land. I reduced the volume. “Wetin?” I asked George. He’d been tapping me.
“Guy, one day you go jus’ deaf. Just like that”, he warned, snapping his fingers.
“I’ve heard that before. What’s up?”
“You didn’t see her?”
“How?” George asked, perplexed, raising his shoulders, opening his hands questioningly. “She pulled a disappearing act on me.” His brows knotted together, and for a moment he looked like a six-year-old student complaining to his teacher about the complexity of a math question. “I don’t even-” He was interrupted by his phone. He checked the screen and then looked at me, face unreadable. “It’s her.”
I felt like laughing. I watched him as he answered, then terminate the call. “She had a lecture,” he explained. “She couldn’t come.”
“Thought as much,” I said. “She should have called you since.”
“Said she was in a hurry.”
“This your girl wan’ put you for high jump oh.”
“No mind her. Man, I am hungry. Food dey?”
I looked at him with mock incredulity. “You cook food keep?” I asked him. “Or do I look like a fast-food joint to you?”
George laughed. “Guy you dey eff up oh.”
“Guy, shun. Let’s go to the café .” I got up, tossed my CD player into my bag, tossed this into my locker, locked up, got dressed. Took some money, my phone, sunglasses, and got ready to follow George.
I heard a low whisper. “Soon you’ll understand.”
“Understand what?” I asked.
“Huh?” George countered, turning to look at me.
“Soon I’ll understand what?”
George’s expression turned blank, then quizzical. His eyebrows went up. “What are you yapping about?”
“Didn’t you just say something just now?”
“Yeah, I asked you what you were yapping about.”
George can be a clown sometimes. Guess he’d just pulled one on me.
I shrugged. “Where’s Daniel?”
“With his babe” George answered.
“The one who’s not his babe, or another one I don’t know about?”
“The one who’s not his babe.”
We walked to the cafeteria and joined the line of people ordering food. We carried ours – two plates of steaming-hot jollof rice with fish (we preferred fish ’cos the meat they served was as big a Maggi cube. Or should I say as small as…). George went to get us drinks and water. He returned and we began to eat, talking around mouthfuls of hot rice . A shadow fell across our table and we looked up.
“Thieves,” he said, sitting down. “You didn’t call me to tell me you were coming here. Afraid you’ll both pay for my meal?”
“Next thing now,” I replied, “you’ll expect us to call you when we want to shit.”
“How’s your girl?” George asked.
“She’s fine. And I told you this before, she’s not my girl.”
“Right,” we both said, nodding and smiling.
“What?” Dan asked, taking a spoonful of rice from my plate.
“Wetin dey happen for inside school?” I asked.
“Nothing much. Have you guys gotten your project topics approved?”
“I just got mine approved,” he said, sipping George’s Coke.
“Guy!?” George exclaimed, snatching the drink.
“What? John didn’t complain.”
“Yeah. And this is Coke!”
“Go and buy yours,” George said, putting the drink back on the table. “Don’t drink this again.”
Dan drank it anyway.
We finished eating (Daniel didn’t buy anything, said he wasn’t really hungry, so why did he eat half of my food?) and just as we were getting up,
George was the closest to me, so it was only logical that he be the one to play this prank on me. Again.
“What’s coming?” I asked George. Daniel just looked at me steadily, his gaze suddenly unreadable. But right now, I had eyes only for George; he would not play this prank on me and go free.
“I said what’s coming?”
George cocked his head, looked at me, touched my forehead, as though looking for a fever. Sighed and shook his head. “Oh, no wonder. Must be the heat from the rice. It’s messing with your head. And I thought I warned you about eating hot food. I do hope you are not falling seriously ill.” Turning to Dan he said, “This guy has been hearing voices all day. Must be that loud rock music he plays every time.”
Daniel laughed weakly, but his eyes looked strained, like he didn’t believe his laughter.
As we left the café, Daniel sidled alongside me and whispered in my ear.
“I hear them too.”