The Immortals’ Code is for those who haven’t read it, for those who asked that this particular version be restored and for those who wonder if I can write something intriguing that is not entirely romance. Well you’re in for a ride.
One who contends with immortals lives a very short life
Greek poet 9th-8th century BC
Little Nafisa, trying hard to steady her schoolbag under her left arm, looked at the school gate with searching eyes and frowned. As expected, there was no one to pick her – again. No, this was again, raised to the power of 11. She smiled at herself proudly, remembering the knowledge she casually acquired from a senior class earlier that morning.
‘Wait let me get a double promotion to primary five and we’ll see if anybody can touch me!’
She smiled for a second time, then hissed and frowned when she remembered she had to walk home alone again. She took out her Islamic Studies textbook from her schoolbag where she had safely hidden her lunch money, but before she got the chance to retrieve it, a pudgy hand appeared and hit the book, hurling it to the ground. Nafisa slowly but irately lifted her eyes to meet her assailant’s. The eyes belonged to a dirty, overweight boy with dusty hair and cracked lips. He was one of the school’s notorious bullies and a lot of the other kids were terrified of him but Nafisa wasn’t. He merely irritated her.
“Nobody has come to carry you home!” He stuck out his tongue and laughed tauntingly and his partner, appearing from nowhere, joined him with a shriller laughter. Nafisa shifted the same irate eyes to the second bully who was the boy’s older sister. She was also overweight but a lot neater.
“Our driver is coming. Maybe we can drop you in your mud house.” The girl put in her own hurtful line.
“I don’t stay in a mud house. My daddy is rich!” Nafisa retorted, now a lot more incensed.
“I know,” the girl replied. “He’s the one-eyed mud house man between the blind mud house men.”
The boy exploded in laughter, holding his stomach as he bent over. His sister smiled proudly at herself and crossed her arms, geared up for another attack but as she opened her mouth to speak, Nafisa cut in.
“It’s not between the blind mud men but among the blind mud men,” Nafisa corrected in very clear English.
Embarrassed and annoyed, the girl pulled Nafisa’s veil off her head and stomped it with her foot. The six-year old immediately turned red and her eyelids brimmed with angry tears.
“Cry-cry, go and tell your mommy!” the boy teased.
“Stop it!” His sister hit him. “Her mommy is dead.”
“Okay.” He crossed his arms and shrugged, and at that moment a car honked at the school gate. He threw his hands in the air excitedly. “The driver has come! Yay!”
“Let’s go,” his sister said to him and smacked Nafisa’s lips with her middle finger. “When you grow up and reach like me, I’ll allow you to revenge.” She laughed and hopped away.
Nafisa watched them leave, then she bent down to pick her veil and textbook and when she lifted her head, her tears were gone and her features, normal. In fact, she was even holding a smile on her face but it quickly disappeared when she saw him.
She looked away immediately and began to recount how many times she had seen him during that week. She had seen him four times. That day was a Friday and it was the fifth time. But something was different about him. He was not just staring at her like the other times, he was walking towards her. She became afraid but it did not overshadow her curiosity. Her teacher once told her that if a stranger talked to her, she was to say nothing and walk away. But she had seen the man more than once. Was he still a stranger? And why was he smiling at her?
She looked away again, clutching her schoolbag to her chest and wondering why her elder brother, Hamza had not shown up.
The man was so close to her now; he could almost touch her. She did her best to remain calm.
“Nafisa?” he called her name and she stared at him but made no attempt to answer. “How are you?” He was smiling. She was still staring.
“How are you?” he repeated.
“You’ve closed from school?”
“Okay. So… I’ve come to take you home. You don’t know me but I’m your uncle.”
“Uncle who?” Her little eyes searched his face.
“Your daddy sent me to come and take you home.”
He took her veil from her hand and fixed it back over her hair. “Are you ready to go?” he asked in a soft tone.
“My teacher said I should not follow a stranger.”
“But I’m not a stranger. I’m your uncle. You can call me ‘Uncle’ like Hamza does.”
She widened her eyes. “You know Hamza?”
“Hamza knows me and he calls me ‘Uncle’,” Stranger reiterated.
“Why didn’t Hamza come to carry me?” she asked with a slight frown.
“Because he had to stay back for extra lessons in his school,” the man answered and placed a tender hand on her shoulder.
“You know Hamza!” she smiled and nodded satisfactorily. Stranger laughed. “Okay, let’s go.” She walked ahead, giving him her schoolbag. “Hamza used to carry my bag,” she added.
Stranger looked at her and laughed again as he took the bag from her.
He never took her home that day. When they got into his car, he handed her a soft drink and when she had taken an ample amount, she fell asleep. Hours later, she woke up on a strange bed, in a strange house, miles and miles away from home. Like all the other children who were taken away from their parents in similar manner, Nafisa went through the motions of crying non-stop, refusing to eat, despairing, falling ill, half-heartedly accepting her fate and ultimately, seeking the stranger’s good graces who finally became like a father to her.
Years went by and during that time, Nafisa got the best education money could buy, ate the best meals, wore the best clothes and even traveled abroad on holidays; but at the age of thirteen, the real reason why she was chosen was revealed to her. In the thick of night she was harried out of bed and taken to a place devoid of the luxuries she was used to and left to survive for a whole year.
There, alongside other teenagers, she was trained to fight with her hands, trained to want to kill for the fun of it, to hate and forget all that she once knew, to surrender her body to torture and sexual humiliation and finally, to live like the world was created to rest beneath her feet.
When Nafisa returned from camp, everything that she once was had been forgotten. A cold and merciless person had taken her place. A few random assignments were given her and she carried them out effortlessly. After that, it was decided she was ready to venture into the world.
At the age of fifteen, Stranger took her back home. It was a hot day and the setting sun broke through thin clouds as Stranger cruised his sleek Honda Accord into a reserved neighborhood and parked it below a large neem tree. Having killed the engine he pointed to a house two buildings away.
“That’s your house.”
Nafisa stared at the house for a long time. It was a beautiful bungalow with a spacious compound surrounded by mango and guava trees. Nafisa looked at Stranger and slowly shook her head.
“That is not my house.”
“It is,” he replied.
“No. When I left Kano, my father was very poor…”
“He hit a goldmine. Look,” Stranger took her hand, “I know you’re scared but this is home and I know they have missed you for so long–”
“No!” she shook her head and snatched back her hand, “I don’t want to be here. Home is with you, Captain.”
Her lips trembled strongly. “So don’t let me go back.”
Her eyes followed his pointing finger to the main gates of the house where her elder brother, Hamza stepped out and lit a cigarette.
“Hamza…” she whispered.
“It’s like he knows you’re here. He can sense you.”
“He…he won’t remember me,” she stammered.
“Oh, yes he will.”
Nafisa gave her brother a closer look. “He looks more like our mother now.” She turned to Stranger with imploring eyes. “Please, don’t let me go back. You can take Hamza to come and stay with us. I can’t live with my father and his wives.”
Stranger took her face and looked pointedly into her eyes. “You are back home for a purpose. Don’t forget that.”
“Yes, Captain.” She gave in to the tone of his voice and he kissed her forehead.
“You know how to find me but you’re not permitted to unless I call for you.”
“Come on, darling,” he pinched her face playfully, “you look like your life is ended when it has just begun. You’re just fifteen for heaven’s sakes. Act your age! Your mates will be experimenting with makeup and boys…”
She threw Hamza a sour look. “I hate boys.”
“Time for you to go. Come on, get out.” Stranger opened her door and she squeezed her skirt restlessly.
She stepped out of the car.
“Hey, you have your cover story?” he asked. She nodded and straightened up and the car screeched away. Her brother looked her way and slowly turned fully to her and his cigarette fell off his lips. Then he used his hand as a shield against the northern sun to get a clearer view of her.
“Nafi?” His voice was unsure. “Nafi?”
She sauntered towards him unsteadily but halfway, her knees went weak and she stopped walking. She began to squeeze her fingers edgily; but he hurried towards her.
“Hamza,” she said in a croaky voice.
“Nafisa!” He began towards her and swept her up in his arms. He held her very snugly till she could hardly breathe. She pushed him away and he put her down, not ashamed of the tears on his face. He touched her cheeks. “Is this you?”
With dry eyes, she nodded.
“This is really you, Nafisa.”
She nodded again with a smile and he hugged her tighter and broke into a sob. She stiffly remained in his embrace for a while, and then finally tapped his back awkwardly. They remained like that for a long time. When they spoke, it was in Hausa.
“Where have you been?” He released her. “I thought you were dead; everyone thought you were dead.”
“But I’m here now.”
“Yes…but where have you been and who was that person in that car that brought you?”
“Hamza, it’s a long story.”
Hamza pulled her away from the street to a flowerbed outside the fence of the house.
“Tell me everything.”
They sat on a couple of blocks fencing the flowerbed.
“Is this really our house, now?” Nafisa asked, staring into the compound.
“Ehn,” Hamza replied with a frown. “Baba somehow got money and we suddenly became rich. People are saying is blood money.”
“Are you happy here?”
He looked at her in amazement and laughed.
“You’ve grown and you sound older, even older than me.”
“That’s because I’ve seen things.” She looked down as she picked dirt off her. “Terrible things.” Her eyes clouded briefly, not with tears but with darkness, as she stared away. “I’m lucky to be alive today, Hamza,” She smiled and added in English. “I’m lucky.”
So she went on to tell him the fabricated story of how she was kidnapped and sold to a rich family in Ibadan who owned a hotel but sold hard drugs and taught her the trade. Later at the age of twelve, they made her a child-prostitute. She slept with a string of sick, perverted men who were esteemed customers at the hotel. She told him that the person who brought her home visited the hotel three days ago and saw her and thought she looked like someone he once knew. He paid to have her for the whole weekend and when he had got her out and heard her story, he investigated her origins and brought her home.
Hamza believed every word and was totally in the dark about what really happened to his sister, oblivious over how the Stranger, also known as ‘Captain’, trained her as a soldier under him to be ruthless and unfeeling, perverted and depraved, poisonous and deadly. He had made her into a vessel that could carry out his darkest and deadliest whims and sadly, for a long time Hamza was going to be unaware of the venom that was now his sister, Nafisatu.
Her return kept her stepmothers preoccupied for a long time with what to gossip about, and her father said nothing nor showed any form of emotion at her appearance. Apart from the fact that her family was now wealthy, nothing changed. It seemed Nafisa had just been away for a weekend and returned to find things the same. However, it did not take her long to execute the real reason why she had returned. Her father was to be eliminated as her final test.
As the story told, the old man went to sleep and didn’t wake up. It was believed he rested peacefully but Nafisa had administered a poison that slowly stopped his heart and while he struggled to breathe at night, she sat by his bed and repeated over and over, “O Allah forgive him and me, and grant me a good substitute after him.”
When he had expired, she quietly left the room and went back to sleep.
At the early signs of dawn when the birds by her window began to chirp, Nafisa opened her eyes, blinked and fixed her gaze on her open door. Gentle morning breeze blew in the thin, transparent curtain that usually shaded the sunlight from coming in. But just as it began, the breeze ceased and the birds stopped chirping and it seemed the world had become still.
Then a heart-wrenching cry rang out from somewhere, shattering the silence of the morning.
Nafisa shut her eyes.
Another scream followed the first… then another… and a third that gave rise to other wailing voices. Hamza rushed into Nafisa’s room. He stopped at the doorway, his panting frame blocking the rising sun.
“Nafi? Nafi!” he called breathlessly.
Nafisa stirred from ‘deep sleep’, “mmm?”
“Open your eyes, Nafi!”
“It’s Baba. Baba is dead!” he announced.
Nafisa opened her eyes but it was not shock her brother saw. It was something else, something disturbing.
“Didn’t you hear me? Baba is dead.”
“Well,” her eyes meet his, “it is God’s will.”
Hamza stood frozen at the comatose smile on his sister’s face.