AJ paced worriedly around the waiting room of the hospital. His sister was sobbing quietly in a corner, her husband Jim's arms around her. Simon, not fully grasping the severity of what was going on, busied himself with staring at the nurses as they walked by. All he knew was that Sam was 'sick' and was in a room somewhere with doctors. Well, they had been sick before...mummy or the doctor usually gave them medicine and it was okay.
The sound of the door in front of them opening made them all look up. The doctor came out, a grim look on his face.
"Oh God! Don't tell me! Where is my Sam?! Tell me he's okay!" cried Sharon. Her husband gently hugged her and looked at the doctor. "How is my son? Is he okay now? Is he awake?" The doctor softened the look he had on. "I'm afraid I have both good news and bad news. The good news is that your son is breathing again..." Sharon jumped up and shouted "Thank God!"...."bad news is that although he's stable, he appears to be in some sort of coma. We don't know exactly why right now, but I want to assure you we'll do our best to make sure we find out the reason. These things are touch and go at best...he could wake up in an hour or a week...or a month. Like I said, he'll get our best care...NURSE! QUICKLY!!" Sharon had fainted
AJ stood outside the hospital, confused. He had told Jim and Sharon about the camera after she got a hold of herself. Of course they had pooh poohed the whole thing. Cameras didn't harm or kill people. No amount of theories he put forth could convince them otherwise. He had gone to see Sam in the hospital room. There, hooked to several strange machines, the boy looked pale and fragile. His brow was furled as though he was pondering something. He had wanted to reach over and smoothen the wrinkles off Sam's forehead but stopped himself. He didn't know if he would be doing more harm than good. He didn't know what to do, but he knew he HAD to do something...
First order was finding out who OWNED the camera, who 'Lauren' was. The Landlord of the house didn't live close by and in any case, the man hadn't been receptive when he first asked about the previous occupant(s) of his place. He would have to find out from another source...and AJ knew who he was going to ask.
'General' alongside Mama Azeez were the oldest tenants in the compound. Maybe they would know something.
He bought a bottle of Chelsea dry gin to give the 'general' that would loosen his tongue, he thought.
He was right. After a few swigs from the bottle, 'General' was smiling like a cat that had just eaten a fat bird. "Of course I remember them, my boy. Sad story really. Young couple like that, always smiling. What was his name again? Ah, yes! Jide. He had a beautiful wife...Linda or Lauretta or something..." AJ cut in.."Lauren?" The general brightened perceptibly "yes! Lauren. They had a little boy too, he died, sadly...Sad story really. Poor woman couldn't take it...I heard she killed herself."
Here, the 'General' stopped long enough to swallow an obscene amount of the gin. "So what happened to Jide, the husband?" AJ asked. "Oh, they took him away...the man lost his mind. I've heard he's at St Nicholas...you know, the place where all the crazies are...but why are you interested in all these macabre events? Come, drink with me, be merry. This drink reminds me of 1865...when Mungo Park discovered Ikpoba River and Mary Slessor killed some twins in Calabar. I was captain of 4th Scorpion squadron and we were..." AJ closed the door quietly behind him.
In a couple of hours, he was at St Nicholas. He already knew he wasn't going to be allowed to speak to the so called 'Jide' but this was Nigeria...a few minutes and Five hundred naira later, he was standing outside Jide's room.
He didn't know what to expect, but his mind hadn't prepared him for this. He thought crazy people looked...well, crazy. Jide was a neat, tidy man, perhaps an inch or so below six feet. Being indoors most of the time had given him this gray look, but his eyes seemed intelligent. Instinctively, AJ knew that he could trust this man...tell him the truth about the camera and everything.
It took him about 15 minutes to relate his story. Jide listened to him attentively, only interrupting once to ask him about Mama Azeez.
When he finished, Jide looked up, sad smile on his face. "Young man, I am sorry that all this is happening to you, but wait, listen to me, while I tell you my story."
"My name is Jide Afolabi. As you know, Lauren was my wife. We had just started out in life when we moved into the place you're staying now. I was a sales rep for a Media outfit and my wife was a photographer. Yes, that was her camera. We didn't have Joshua, our son until after 4 years of marriage and as you would expect, Lauren and I doted on the little angel. We didn't have much, but we were happy. We thought we had it all, life was good...but disaster struck. Joshua got ill and we spent all our resources on him. The doctors tried all they could but I'm sorry to say, we lost him. That was the beginning of our woes. Lauren refused to believe he was dead. She would pray and fast for weeks, asking God to raise him like Lazarus. When that didn't work, she became a Muslim, praying to Allah 5 times a day. I let her do all these things, thinking it was her way of dealing with grief. How I wish I paid more attention to her then...the evil one was lurking. I cannot say how or when it began, but Lauren eventually started to dabble with the occult. I would see strange books and items in our bed, surrounding a picture of Joshua showing in the camera's visor. She finally confessed to me that she was going to resurrect Josh with them. This was too much for me, I was worried she was going mad...I didn't know she was already too far gone by then. The next day, as she was taking her bath, I took all the things, the potions, the books, the charms...I burnt them. I smashed the camera against a wall and threw the pieces away. When she came out, she immediately knew what I had done." Jide paused and took in a deep breath. "I thought she was going to shout. She just looked at me and spoke softly.." he stopped speaking again. AJ waited. "She said, and these are her exact words" AJ leaned forwards "you think you can keep me from him? He is alive in that camera...I am going to get the camera back. He speaks to me...he tells me we are going to be together in the camera, the three of us. Now I see you don't want to be with us, but it is okay. I will GO TO HIMMMM!!!!"
Jide was crying softly now..."I just laughed at her 'foolishness' trying to convince her that Joshua was in a better place now. When that didn't work, I went out, as I was already late for work. That was the last time I saw her alive. She took her life that day. Of course I see her now and then, that's why they all think I'm crazy...my son, you don't know the kind of peril you're in...I wish I could help you. My wife...some part of her that's evil and twisted is in that camera. I found that out when I tried to take pictures with it. Do you know how many people have died horribly because of that camera? I tried to get rid of it, but it kept coming back. I'm sorry, you're on your own boyo..."
This wasn't what AJ was expecting to hear...he wasn't any closer to finding a solution to the problem. He was about to thank Jide for his time when the soft sounds of Prince Nico Mbarga's 'sweet mother' rent the air...
Jide's already pale colour became even lighter and sickly. He looked helplessly at AJ. "She's here. That was her favourite song" he whispered.
AJ looked up to what Jide's eyes were staring at. There, floating above, hands held aloft by multi-colored balloons was a woman in a bloodied, tattered nightgown. No, this was a dream...he would not believe it...would not scream...should not scream...
And then it/she spoke.
And he screamed. And screamed.
To be continued.