A young boy, thin as rail, walked an empty street. It was dark and gloomy but it was almost dawn. On he walked, one feet in front of the other. For minutes, then hours, all the way into the early dawn.
By now, he left footprints of blood on the asphalt. His feet were scraped raw and bloody. Did I mention he was a boy? Yes, a boy he was.
On and on he walked until alas, he saw the two flashing lights of an approaching car. Two people were in it. A couple by the looks of it. The beam of their car fell upon the sorry sight of the wiry thin boy on the black asphalt. The woman in the car immediately felt compassion for the boy. She told her husband, “We must help that boy. By God we must.” And so the husband agreed. He could not go against his wife. His heart and soul. The love of his life. So he stopped the car and they both got out. The woman walked towards the boy and stooped to his level.
“Who are you my dear child?” She asked. No response.
“What are you doing out so late?” No response. Her eyes fell on his bloody feet. “My God! Look at your feet.” She exclaimed. “You shall come with us at once if you will just tell me your name.”
The boy said nothing. She looked into his eyes and her motherly instinct took over. She smoothened the boy’s clothe. The man carried the boy to the car and dropped him ceremoniously on the passenger seat. “My love, we do not know him. Not even his name.” The man said worriedly. “What of his parents.”
“I know. I know.” She said, eyes on the drivers mirror on the boy who looked out the window. “But I feel I must help. Look at him and tell me you do not feel the same.”
The man looked at the boy and indeed felt the same.
“OK. We shall take the boy home until he is claimed.” They felt so much for the child because never had they had one to their name. So they drove him to their home. A large imperial house. Grand as gold with exquisite paneling and large Corinthian columns on the porch. They parked their car and the party of three walked into the house.
The husband got in first and switched on the light. It was in this grand hall of a room that there stood against the wall, a large painting of the Davinci’s Monalisa. A replica more likely but only to the keen artistic eye. The woman asked the boy some questions about his home or where he came from. About his family and the school he went to. All received no answer. It was as if the boy was mute with no words just his large brown eyes. Like a mirror reflecting your person. The eyes were like a window to the soul but the window was shut and veiled.
The woman was puzzled. She didn’t know what else to do. She turned to her wise and powerful husband.
“I heard tale of a specialist.” He said. “I shall call him now. Perhaps he can get the child to talk. I fear the boy is autistic, Maria.”
“He can’t be.” The woman said vehemently. “He just can’t. Call the specialist, I’ll make us some breakfast.”
It took three hours for the doctor to come. An unkempt man with a head of hair, with shaggy trousers and a face so fair. A face of a man who never left his house much. A hermit by the looks of it.
The doctor didn’t waste time in pleasantries. “Show me the boy,” He asked.
“This way please,” The husband said.
“I and my husband found him on our way out this morning. His feet were bloodied. It looked like he’d walked quite a mile.”
“We’ll see,” The doctor said.
They got to a room and the husband gestured the man inside. Inside sat the boy on a tiny little bench facing the window. His eyes were focused on the window. Not so much as anything without but on the glass of the window and the thickness of it.
“Hello,” the man said to the boy. “I am Dr. Luke, what is your name?”
The boy didn’t reply. His gaze was fastened on the glass.
The man waited for a while. He cleared his throat but the boy didn’t acquiescence his presence. He thought perhaps it was the presence of the couple. He gestured for them to leave which they did. He was now alone with the boy.
“Hello, dear boy. I am Dr. Luke, what is your name?” The boy looked at him. He was mute with no words to give. Something about the unwavering stare of the child made the doctor uncomfortable. He started sweating so much so that he had to loosen up his tie and freed the first button of his starched shirt.
“If you may, where do you come from? What made you roam the street on that august hour?”
The boy stared and said nothing. The doctor decided there and then that it must be those eyes that made him uncomfortable. You see they were not normal eyes to the doctor. They were so blank and yet so golden. Like a jewelry store with a transparent glass separating the in from out but no key to get in. Words could be the key but the child was not giving. Why wasn’t he? Why in God’s creation did he remain mute? Was he autistic? No! He couldn’t, the symptoms didn’t match. There were words but this dirty thin child didn’t deem it fit to tell anyone. The boy stared at him directly in the eye as if he could detect the doctor’s discomfort, as if he took a perverse pleasure from keeping mute. Oh the horror, to think the child knew the fear and dread the doctor had for him. The wretch. The accursed wretch! The doctor sweat more profusely, he reasoned that he was older and more experienced than the boy. He tried to reason with him. His mind thought up all manner of things. The boy remained still as a statue. Not one word from his lips. Not one precious secret to dispel. The doctor was getting angry. He got closer to the boy. He placed his hands on the boys shoulder hoping to relax not the boy but himself. But he was in fact much closer to those eyes. Full of words but nothing to tell. The boy was mute. The man vexed and screamed at the boy. The boy remained a mask. Not one word. Not a single word. He threw a tantrum and threw a table. It crashed to the wall shattering on impact. The man trembled with rage. The audacity of the child to withhold from him such treasures of mind. Such secrets that held dark tales. What was even worse was the knowing. The boy knew him, yes that must be it, the boy knew him but the boy he did not know. The horror of it all was damning.
He must have caused quite the ruckus because the couple rushed in. The woman looked at the sight of the room and was alarmed. She looked at him accusingly. “What have you done?” Her fingers pointed at him. Those accusing fingers.
The husband grabbed him by the collar and threw him to the wall. Arms tightened on his throat. “Who are you to come into our house and threaten the child? Leave now. Get out before I call the police.”
But the doctor was not satisfied. His eyes still fastened on the boy’s. Those glass eyes looked at his. And it was empty. He was empty. He still knew nothing. But he knew the knowledge he did not know was horrid, violent and tales of blood. The doctor begged. “Give me one more chance with him. A minute, an hour. I promise I will make you see.” He was already being pushed out by the husband.
“Leave. Leave at once. Now I see all your crazy patients have intact driven you crazy yourself. You are of no use to us.”
There, the accusation. But the boy still looked on. The doctor and the boy’s eyes locked together. The boy’s eyes, an emotionless mask, haunted him. What did he hide beneath? What were the words that could unlock the eerie feeling of gloom? He was thrown unceremoniously out and the door slammed shut. He stormed back to the house. Knocked once, twice, three times. The family shouted and told him to leave. But he couldn’t leave not without knowing. He banged on the door. The door was thrown open. The husband brought out his phone and threatened to call the police. The doctor left. He had to. An incidence like this could cost his license. He could never practice again. So he left the house. But he knew he’d be back. By God he would.
He was on the street pacing. It was dark now. The silence of the street fueled his rage so much. It became deafening. The quietness was full in the empty street. He had to forget the child before he was driven mad. He got into his car and drove to the nearest bar. The loudest of the lot. There was dancing and music, and smoke and drinking.
He walked towards the counter where the bartender did seat. He wasn’t seated. The doctor ordered a drink. The strongest he could think. So he drank. One glass turned to two and two to three until he had several bottles on his tab and his mouth did stink. From alcohol? Yes. But more from fear. Fear of his mind, of the boy’s accursed smile. Yet did he smile? No, the boy was a mask. A muted, veiled mask. The man knew he had to find the secret behind the mute but what a task it would be. He eventually got so angry just thinking about the child that he smashed his glass on the counter top. A man confronts him and the doctor just loses it. He smashed the glass on the man’s head and watched as blood dripped from the cut. The man himself threw some well-placed punches. It quickly escalated into a brawl. Eventually, he was kicked out into the street. Into the silent deadened street.
He realized he had to solve the mystery behind the mute. He could not rest, could not think, until he did. He got up and walked all the way to the couple’s house. Too drunk to drive, he staggered and fell as he trudged along the bumpy dark road laden with an innate curiosity. He finally got to the still large house. You must know he was drunk but his mind was not. He knew what he wanted and get it he must. So he went to the hedges surrounding the wall and scaled the fence. He arrived at the other side gracefully and with a sentient calm. If you saw him, you might not think him to be drunk. There was a dog. Thin as broomsticks. But with sharp viscous teeth and a large foaming maw. It growled at the doctor but the man expertly calmed the dog by throwing some slices of suya at it. The dog retreated and munched on the slices of suya greedily. For now, the intruder was forgiven.
The doctor almost dances at his first victory. Now he knew he could get to the bottom of the boy’s dark mind. On that strange night, he believed so much that he could indeed fly.
He walked towards the house, towards the glass of the window facing inside. He saw the family on the dinner table. They were saying the grace before eating. Now the prayer was over. The food was passed round. The boy, silent and mute, munched gently on a chicken lap. Oblivious to him. The woman and man were smiling, it seemed but the doctor was not. He knew the boy hid something. Something so dark and ugly. So he looked and looked, hoping to draw those glass eyes. Yes, triumph at last. It looked at him. He was so filled with rage that he felt the need to act. But his critical mind knew he mustn’t. So he hid because presently, the couple looked. Sensing something amiss. Perhaps the accursed child could share his knowledge of mind now with the couple. Knowledge he wouldn’t share with him. Damnation! The doctor thought. But he remained hidden in the bush. He once again came up to look but they’d left the dinning and now the servants cleared the table. He circled the house and once again found them this time in the sitting room watching the television. The couple laughed with cheer at the program on the screen. The boy sat at the corner. Eyes blank and emotionless. Those eyes came to rest on his. Those all-knowing eyes. The eyes of the mute.
He followed as the woman took the boy to the bedroom believing him to be sleepy. He was after all a child. But the man knew better. The boy, the mute was anything but sleepy. God, he must have a million murderous thoughts running through his calm muted mind. The woman put the child to bed and kissed his forehead. After which she left. The boy slept a deep and calm sleep. The man waited. He was a patient man. So he looked and looked, waiting for the eye to come up. The muted eye. But it remained closed in sleep. He must have made a lot of noise because he heard the barking of the dog. The dog growled and barked and strained against the chain in a madness to be free from it. And the dog was indeed freed as the chain broke in the effort to be free. The dog came at him in maddening speed. With its tongue foaming with saliva. The doctor ran with fear for his life. He climbed the fence and took to his heels.
He ran for hours and hours not stopping for even a minute. Running from that dog and the thrice accursed house and from the mute with the brown glass eyes. He got home, crossed the steps and banged the door behind him. He paced and paced. By now he is amok. The fear and fury had driven him mad. He made himself coffee but realized it should have been tea. He was angry for no reason and jumped at the slightest noise. A creak in the door or the scurry of mice.
He went to read a book but was lost in the first few lines. He eventually fell asleep. Later, he woke up and bolted out of the bed. Not a care in the world for a bath or a brush of the teeth. He ran to the man’s house like a man run amok would. He was sweating from every pore. The cause was the mute who’d entered even his dreams and created a horrifying nightmare.
He got there and the first thing he saw was the crying neighbors and the police. He walked up to the chief inspector with a purpose and asked what happened like a concerned citizen might. Deep down, he hoped for the death of the accursed child. The mute with the eye to drive one mad. The inspector told him that the couple were found dead with blood everywhere in the room. They’d been butchered with kitchen knives.
The doctor saw a spectacle. But of course, why not. It was the boy he saw. The boy being tended to by some neighbors. And the man went into a rage. A rage he knew to be at an end.
”it is the boy!” he screamed. “That evil child, it is him I tell you!” he screamed and ran to kill the muted monster who still looked blankly with those brown glass eyes. But strong men held him. He was in such a rage you see. One forgets reason once one gets to such extent of animalistic driven passion.
He hit one of the men with a round house punch and kicked another in the groin. He was driven by a manic need to kill the muted monster. The police got to him and knocked him out with their heavy baton. Of course, did I mention his rage was at an end?
Only later did people discover his finger prints on the couple’s neck and the bullet buried in the dead dog’s skull.
Izu Obi was born in Lagos Nigeria in 1997. He is a writer, Poet, Editor, Graphic designer amongst others. He started writing his first book (Vane) when he was fifteen. While trying to juggle being a writer and also an engineering student, he ended up completing his first book when he was nineteen. He has also completed a book of twenty eight poems titled The descent and a collection of short works of fiction title The mute and other stories. He is currently a student and an advocate for a peaceful, non-tribalist Nigeria