Tony Okosisi swiveled in his chair and frisked his suit intermittently. He looked through the window and saw a small cavalcade thronging the streets that materialized into the main town. He was nauseated by the esoteric songs which the people chanted gleefully.
He wondered why 21st-century people would be absorbed in fetish practices, as far as engaging in a fetish festival in the center of the town. He fumed.
Matthias Iruoha, a middle-aged plebeian ambled into his office and sat opposite him.
“Good morning sir”, he greeted.
Tony ignored him and directed a question that had been bothering his mind at him, “why do these people still hold this Ukwe Festival so sacred?”
“It’s an age-long festival riddled with so many myths and legends”, Matthias explained looking straight into Tony’s eyes and searching for doubts as he was wont to do.
“I don’t believe all that fetish crap I hear about the numerous deaths caused by the Ukwe Mask”, Tony thundered. Matthias cringed.
“Sir, I’ve worked here for a good many years and I can tell you that The Ukwe Mask is something you don’t want to joke with at night. It doesn’t spare nocturnal humans”, Matthias averted his eyes to the collection of files arranged neatly on Tony’s table.
Tony guffawed and sneered.
“Nonsense!, I’m disappointed in you, Mr. Matthias. You believe such nonsense? A mere mask? Causing deaths at night? Nonsense!”. He riposted.
Matthias shook his head ruefully and stood to his feet, “a word is enough for the wise”, he muttered quietly.
“I’ll effect your sack if I hear anything else from you”, Tony warned. Matthias walked out of the office and Tony settled into his chair.
Tony rubbed his eyes with the back of his palm. He still felt groggy but darkness had crept in on him as he slumbered in his office. He looked out through the window and everywhere was as calm as water. There were no movements abroad. He picked up his suitcase and walked out of his office, locking the door behind him. The long corridor was deserted and his footfalls could be heard several kilometers away by interested ears. His house was a stone throw from his office so more often than not, he didn’t come to work with his car unless he wanted to go shopping at Kingsway Stores after work. That day wasn’t one of his shopping days so he set out for home on foot.
The night seemed innocuous as he walked down a narrow path which led to his home. Suddenly, he could hear a humming in the distance, he waved it off as one of the attendant inconveniences of the night so he trod down unperturbed and scarcely inhabited. The humming became louder, the night assumed an uncanny eeriness that didn’t sit well with Tony and he had to double his steps. He reproduced a rosary from his pocket and muttered some prayers. He was perspiring in the chilly darkness as the humming drew nearer. He looked behind him and didn’t see anybody or anything coming after him but the humming drummed in his ears as he let out a desperate, “Get behind me, Satan”. He broke into a run, flailing his arms; wrestling off his invisible demons. He got to a declivity which he hadn’t noticed before that night, even during the daytime and he fell in a heap. He tried to rise again but he saw the mask bearing down on him, brandishing its teeth into his puny flesh. He was trapped in his skin, clammy, crummy, and sweaty. He was lifted involuntarily out of his discolored body and he tried to get back into it. He couldn’t. He wept as the night breeze swept him away.
Matthias was perplexed at the crowd in front of the office gate. The bustle and chatter were unusual. People prated on excitedly, scarcely listening to the other. He brought up the rear and came face to face with the MD, Mr. Okorobo.
“What’s the pandemonium about sir?”, he asked.
The man shook his head and tears seeped down his wizened face. From the grey hair that strews his head and the creases of his skin, one could discern that he would never see 60 again.
“Tony Okosisi was found dead this morning just at the threshold of the junction that leads to Ukwe shrine”, the man said in between muffled tones.
“He may have been murdered. What are they doing about investigating the cause of his death?” Matthias was justifiably peeved.
“His skin was discolored. Ashen like the skin of a leper. Just the way Ukwe Mask takes its nocturnal preys”.
“OH” Matthias heaved a sigh of regret and walked back to his car.