You never stay the same after you take your first human life. First, your mind becomes a battlefield. Then comes the realization. Suddenly, it feels like you’re in a trance. Your conscience pricks. Your heart races. Your fingers twitch. Your pupils dilate in wide-eyed horror, and you run your hands through your hair repeatedly.
But in the first moments, you don’t feel any of this; you feel, instead, a certain gratification, because the hooded figure sprawled slovenly across the floor of your off-campus-room, in a pool of his own blood, had, only moments before, been waving his gun menacingly in your face, asking after your roommate, and then about your wallet. And so you’re relieved that the risk paid off. With a little more preparedness on his part, it could easily be you on the ground.
Hakeem wasn’t home when the intruder barged in, and you told him this even though he could see for himself and didn’t need to ask, or be told.
“When does he get back?” he bellowed.
“I’m not sure,” was your stuttered response. “Sometimes he sleeps out.”
You heard him groan, and then curse, but you didn’t see him clearly because the flickering candlelight you’d been reading with offered very poor lighting, and because your eyelids were pressed shut in terror and anticipation. Still, you knew both his arms were outstretched, the gun drawn level with your face. You could almost smell its metallic muzzle.
“Oya, submit your wallet.”
You fumbled around in your back pocket and held it out to him.
“Your phone. That laptop too.”
You opened your eyes a notch and saw him pointing to Hakeem’s sleek red HP balanced atop a stack of textbooks. Hakeem would kill you. But before that, you would kill yourself because your entire academic project was contained in it. And worse, your supervisor hadn’t approved it. You passed him your phone.
“Quick! The laptop.”
“Bros, it’s not mine,” you found the nerve to say. “It’s Hakeem’s system.”
“Did I ask?” he quipped. Shifting the gun to one hand, he shrugged off his red backpack, unzipped and threw it on the floor. “Put it inside. Don’t forget the charger.”
As you stuffed the bag, you recognized that this was your worst day yet. You imagined going through the trouble of sourcing for materials all over again, staying back in school to rewrite a previously written project, or perhaps even getting an F. All of these thoughts fueled your exhausted gas-tank of bravery so that you surprised even yourself when you spoke.
“Bros,” you started to say, rubbing your quivering palms together in entreaty. “My entire project is in this system. Abeg, let me just send a copy to my phone… sorry… flash-drive.”
He stayed calm. You looked in his eyes and saw it soften and so you spoken again, tentatively.
“The flash is right there. Let me do it sharp-sharp. I won’t waste your time.”
“Bring it,” he responded, and you half-ran to the turquoise plastic cart in a corner of the small room to fetch it.
“See it, sir.”
“Oya, drop it in the bag.”
Your countenance grew pale and your shoulders slouched at his blatant disregard. He didn’t care. Slowly, the disillusionment began to set in.
“Tell that maga I’ll be back for him,” he said and hunkered down to zip up the backpack.
In that moment, you remembered the pistol from last week, cold, black and heavy, tucked away behind a small Ghana-must-go on the high wall-rack. This single black metal had breathed life into all you’d feared was true about Hakeem; the rumors about his cult affiliations. It confirmed that Hakeem wasn’t the same innocent lad you’d taken a room with in your first year on campus.
And then it happened, a little too quickly for even you to make any sense of it. In the two seconds it took your assailant to reach the door, the handgun no longer in your face, you reached up and pulled out the pistol from behind the Ghana-must-go. Then you aimed and sent an impatient bullet flying, together with your sanity, through the air, into another man’s back.
And there it was – your first kill.