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That same night, the star littered night sky over Kelvin bore a bright, full moon on the beautiful campus of the University of Ankara.
The sky tonight was one that softly called out to Kelvin for a flex of the limbs after a strenuous campus day.
One that called for his habitual night walks every evening nature’s cool of day beckoned to him, promising a refreshing of body and soul.
Kelvin was a tall, slightly astute dude at six feet three. He’d got a supple chocolate skin that gave off a healthy sheen.
His skin often smelt as fresh as seacoast breeze of early dawn. It always felt cool to the touch. Like a pampered young woman’s soft skin.
Besides, he’d got a bold, handsome oval face with a scarce moustache. He’d also got a bare, clean shaven, regular chin.
A dimple appeared in his cheeks when he smiled. And when he laughed he’d reveal a perfect set of enamel white dentition behind a lusty pair of full pinky lips.
His breath, too, was as cool as the pure, fresh air of an unscented air conditioned room.
Kelvin was not a fashion freak. He only dressed up to look good rather than to make a fashion statement.
He had his best on at night. Because he believed his show of intelligence and skill were enough to clothe him during the day, but that he was responsible for decking himself in designers at night.
He stood for a minute or two in front of Herbert Macaulay Hostels, where he resided on campus. He had his hands pocketed in his unzipped hoodie.
He gazed in the direction of his path with a slight smile. A playful breeze dangled his neckline hoodie straps.
He glanced up at the clouds and ran his gaze sky-wide. And forwards, as far as his eyes could see through the dense foliage of tall, sturdy trees ahead.
He felt the clouds must be gathering over settlements kilometres away, with the way nearby trees swayed their leaves exuberantly.
He looked up the time on his wristwatch. He’d habitually chosen a light Rolex to ensure the ease of his leisure walk wasn’t in the least compromised.
It was about twenty minutes past nine.
He dart a quick gaze at Macaulay Hostels behind him—he’d be back before eleven.
He had already laid his bed. So he wouldn’t have to just be going through the stress of laying it by bedtime when he’d return.
He set out down the main road that has the Student Union Building. Using the fairly lit pedestrian sidewalk. Taking one step at a time.
Taking the time to feel the breeze. To absorb the delicateness of night.
◙ ◙ ◙
Khalid laughed a hysterical fit in the dark, brooding silence that followed the video.
The group had just seen the performance poetry YouTube video that same night.
The contestant that’d carted away the first place prize for the national poetry contest that’d held in Abuja a week earlier was the golden boy. Kelvin Babalola.
He’d been awarded a sum of British £2000, alongside a creative writing fellowship at the University of Edinburgh.
The twenty-some undergraduate poet had represented Nigeria’s southwestern University of Ankara, in Ankara City.
Meanwhile, the second place prize had been awarded to a certain Jordan Samuel from Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, in northwestern Nigeria. It was a monetary prize of £1500.
Those were the two boys that mattered to the group of twelve here right now. Those were the names pinned to their target boards.
But just one was the target; the other, a means to an end.
‘Isn’t it rather amusing?’ Khalid’s words sifted through a fit of equally dark, foreboding giggles.
‘That poetry stuff has only got a good title but with a gross content. We’re not terrorists, are we?’
He scanned the solemn faces that looked back at him, speaking wordless expressions of agreement.
He went on.
‘Isn’t that just interesting? That stupid rat painted a terrorist picture of us before the world. Why? Simply because, in our gracious generosity, we the Dragonfire take up the burden of purging the society of wrong orientations!’
He had a really big laugh of amazement about now.
In Khalid’s mind, however, the injury and hurt was rather that the young chap had successfully ridiculed what he’d become.
Who he’d become altogether.
◙ ◙ ◙
Kelvin halted in his steps. One or two rides had just sped past in one mad chase.
The cars were probably heading home from the bar at the campus mart just at the head of the road behind him. That night must’ve gone down with bottles upon bottles for them.
He looked back. He’d covered some pretty long distance already. He was by the Student Union Building now, the SUB.
He took a quick, unconscious glance at the big structure a moment.
Loud street pop music boomed from upstairs the SUB. Guys in there would now be playing some snooker as a DJ spun his selections.
Kelvin returned his gaze and crossed over to the opposite side of the street he’d been treading.
He strode leisurely to a beautiful leisure terrain just by the driveway. He sat down on one of the concrete pavements for a bit. His ears were engaged picking the rhythm of the chirps of nocturnal insects.
He could feel it in the breeze that it’d rain later that night. The dark, heavy clouds were already shrouding the night’s big, bright moon.
But he wasn’t bothered about getting wet by rain. The thought of being washed by rain excited him, in fact.
He spread his hands as far apart as the east is to the west, as a sudden rush of wind whooshed past. His clothes fluttered blithely in the cool, moist wind in that instant.
Much like a white flamingo flapping her flattering wings in the air.
Kelvin always found body relief in nature. He found release, too. A release of soul. Of pent-up emotions.
But he also found something he felt was beyond all of these. He found poetic inspiration in the warmth of nature’s sequestered sceneries.
Kelvin was way too obsessed with performance poetry. With the thrill and glamour that always came with stage presence.
But to him Obsession wasn’t the right term. He dubbed his extremism, Passion.
But even yet, Kelvin was obsessed with poetry, and with the spotlight.
To him poetry was a first love, to say the least. For it was much more than that to Kelvin. It’d become his breath. Or rather, his god.
With poetry, too, Kelvin always tried to prove to himself several times over that he was the best still. And even when his position remained uncontested in the minds of his contemporaries.
He did this by constantly putting in for performance poetry contests over and again. And even putting in for those rather below his status for the person he was. ‘The face of Nigerian performance poetry among the emerging voices.’
It was most times a case of the eagle playing with the vultures. Yet the extraordinary poet always found the competitions worthwhile.
For they always asserted his uncontested reign in the skies above, and also in the valleys beneath.
In the ever so competitive race of best-ness going on within his skull, he was the only one running. He was running against himself.
He thought about his last performance, his biggest ever. It’d been a week since he performed his best poem yet, a biting satire on terrorism. If I was a Terrorist.
Many billboards all over the country now bore his face. They also had alongside his picture different punch lines from his very dramatic piece.
He could feel the consuming pride, the submerging honour, the overwhelming glory… even now.
They were such that words could not help qualify.
In a moment, everything diffused. The feeling, the aura, the ambience.
Like a thin wisp of a little smoke disappearing into air.
He felt something down in an unreachable portion of soul. He felt the public attention of his last poetry performance passing. He felt all its grand glory ebbing away.
He zipped up his hoodie and flipped the hood on to cap his head. He folded his hands over his laps, leaned forward and bowed his head heavily over his folded hands.
He let out a sigh.
It was an inexplicable, keen sense of void, of meaninglessness—maybe vanity—that Kelvin felt.
An everlasting vacuum his self-crafted idol couldn’t fill up. So much as he stacked it into his soul’s vast cavity.
He felt empty-ed. No; maybe, void-ed.
He gazed up at the star studded skies being shrouded in the dark, dense, heavy clouds already. What came up in his mind was a fresh couplet for a new poem.
Behind the star-ly shine in nightly skies,
A massive gloom lies.
He wanted more, but he couldn’t explain what more glory he’d got lacking.
He was pretty financially buoyant for his age. He’d made a lot from his wins in several poetry performances of international repute.
A lot of international literary mags published his essays and short stories for substantial pay. He’d also diversified his funds and invested in a trade.
He was buoyant enough, as well; and so was sponsoring his own University education.
In any case, students’ school fees at the University of Ankara was extensively subsidised by the federal government, being a federal institution.
Kelvin had it altogether, it seemed. But he wanted more.
He now felt bored, dry and empty. He wanted more thrilling glory. He wanted another poetry performance.
He wanted even more.
◙ ◙ ◙
The fight was primarily Khalid’s. Khalid was only using his eleven man team to actualise his grand schemes.
He was a player. A master gamer.
It’d started for Khalid as wanting to fight for a sociocultural cause, a noble cause.
Khalid had taken it upon him to “upgrade people’s thinking, ideals and sense of pride.”
So they wouldn’t “look up to any foreign race or culture, but look into themselves instead and bring out the king in them.”
But Khalid’s unguided passion and his needlessly critical and opinionated mindset had led into an obsessive, excessive pursuit.
And he’d gradually turned an extremist.
It’d started for Khalid as wanting to fight for a noble cause. Now, he was fighting against humanity.
And the same went for the young men that made up Khalid’s group.
Khalid had exploited their raw, unbridled passion. He’d made of such obsessive passion a desire to serve his cause.
And to willingly do so.
For Mark the obsession was towards adventure, and creating hi-tech software.
For Teslim it was a sense of indebtedness and gratitude to Khalid.
For Kabir, another young chap in the group, it’d got a religious motivation.
Khalid had exploited their obsessive demons.
Now his eyeballs turned a pair of glowing embers and his face as resolute as never before.
He began dishing out coded orders like the commander of a battalion.
‘The next firing is going to be an incredibly hard one. One that must fire some porcelain in its China itself. We’re going to fire the white glazed clay work at its China: we’re firing it at its imperial source.’
He swivelled his seat around. ‘Team Alpha: take care of the preheating stage and get the lighter prepared as soon as possible.
‘Team Beta: get the firewood for the kiln ready.
‘Team Gamma: work on the post heating stage of the firing and make preparations for the evacuation after firing.’
He paused for breath.
He struck his temple with his forefinger. ‘I have everything calculated here!
‘Human ways of doing things are only simple arithmetic. You only have to make some intelligent calculations and everybody’s just as predictable as sunrise and sunset.
‘Believe me; this firing is one that’ll certainly go down history lane a legendary blast of genius!’
He turned to Mark in a jiffy. ‘Hey, Mark. Hack into their website and publish on the information update page that Dragonfire’s ready shortly and coming for them soon.’
‘Yes, boss!’ Mark blared, dragged his seat towards the computer in front of him, steadied his glasses and ran the mouse over its mat in a frenetic pace. With frantic tip-tap sounds punctuating his work.
Khalid reclined in his seat. He rocked his seat in a gentle half circle spin.
He spoke like a star-gazer that could tell the future right ahead of time.
‘We hit in forty days’ time!’
A torrent of amazement mingled with bewilderedness engulfed Khalid’s men.
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Copyright © 2019 by Kayode Olla