(23) No man jokes with food. Does your husband like a kind of food? Try to change your cooking.
Rumour has it that in the early mornings, the expressways of Abuja are littered with dead bodies. Iman’s Toyota cut through the dusty fog of the early morning, the dark outside her windscreen occasionally broken by the few working streetlights. Never passing the forty km speed limit, Iman drove down Nnamdi Azikiwe Expressway till it became Shehu Yar’Adua Way.
Nervous, Iman pulled the dead skin from her chapped lips with her teeth. As the sun made its steady ascent, her lips were bleeding. She could still feel the pressure of Kevin’s teeth on her shoulder. The horrifying memory made Iman shudder, and her right foot hit the accelerator harder than she planned. Struggling to rein in her emotions, Iman slowed and veered right, parking at the side of the expressway. She groaned and slammed her head against the steering wheel. If she couldn’t find a dead body, there was no way she would return home.
Through the tears in her eyes as she lifted her head, Iman made out a dark form sprawled to the left of the road in front of where she had parked. The tempo of her heartbeat increased. Iman moved forward until she was close enough to confirm that the dark form was indeed a dead body; a man by the looks of it. Iman could see a blue shirt that was hoisted up, exposing the belt, tight around a trim waist and brown slacks.
She had prepared her car, lining the back seats with sheets of newspaper, to protect them from gore. She had laid out a blanket on the floor of the car: she would use it to cover the body. As she stepped out of the driver’s seat, Iman looked nervously around her. There was no other car around—no one in sight—but Iman was sure that several pairs of eyes were on her. Just in case, she had her story straight.
“I am a good Samaritan,” Iman would say. “I’m just taking him to the hospital . . .”
If anyone catches you, you’re dead, a cold voice warned Iman.
As soon as it was on her back seat, Iman felt relieved. Shifting gear to Drive, Iman sped off. As she drove, she couldn’t keep her eyes off the rear-view mirror.
“We’re not going to ask any questions,” she whispered to herself like the crazy woman she had now become. “Whether he was hit by a drunk driver, whether . . .”
It took a while for her to hear the murmuring. This time, she moved the mirror and saw that the dead body in her back seat was moving.
“Wayo Allah na!” she screamed and hit the brake forcefully. The body rolled over and bumped against the back of her front seat.
In the driver’s seat, Iman quivered. She didn’t dare look behind her. She needed this to end.
“Please help . . .” His voice was faint, but it was there.
Outside the car, the sky was no longer dark. Iman reached for her shoulder and traced the imprint of Kevin’s teeth. She closed her eyes and could almost hear the gnawing. Both Mummy’s advice and Auntie Clara’s admonitions rang in her ears.
Iman’s breathing stabilised. “It’s alright,” she said out loud. She even glanced over her wounded shoulder to the backseat. “I’m taking you to the hospital.”
The roads were busier by the time Iman reached the gate of the bungalow Auntie Clara had gifted them on their wedding day. Iman got out of the car to push open the black iron gate and drove in. She parked at the back and dragged the body to the kitchen. She had barely closed the door when she heard Kevin moving behind her.
“Kevin,” Iman huffed, her hands smarting. “Come and help me . . . he’s for you.”
Kevin appeared at the kitchen door. His teeth sank into flesh the moment an exhausted Iman dropped the body to the kitchen floor. A harsh scream rang through the house as Kevin bit and tore.
Iman struggled to her feet. She had to stop the screaming or the neighbours would hear. She grabbed a knife from the drawer and, without thinking twice, jabbed it into the man’s throat. Spurting blood hit her in the face; she would never know whether it was due to her or Kevin’s attack.
This was what her husband had become. Iman’s head swam as wave after wave of nausea hit her. Yet she couldn’t tear her eyes away from the scene before her. She held the nausea in, unsure whether she was as disgusted with Kevin as she was with herself. He didn’t even let her cook it first.
(2) Don’t expose your husband’s weaknesses to your family and friends. It will bounce back at you.
“Auntie Clara, Kevin is cheating on me.”
“And you’re sounding so calm?”
The truth was that Iman had already gone through half of the “13 Stages of Finding Out If Your Husband Is Having an Affair” as suggested in her favourite lifestyle magazine. Past crying and self-loathing, Iman was now very angry.
“I already cried when I told Mummy,” Iman replied.
“And what did she . . .” The poor data reception in the house cut Auntie Clara’s sentence.
Iman held her Samsung phone against her ear and walked to the living room window where reception would be better.
“I didn’t hear you, ma.”
“I said, what did she tell you.” Auntie Clara’s voice was impatient. She already knew how Mummy was.
Iman sighed, “. . . that it’s in a man’s nature and that I should bear . . .”
Auntie Clara didn’t let Iman finish talking. “Both Kate and that boy are unfortunate beings! And you, you’re the biggest idiot of all. I know you’re not calling me because you want to end that useless marriage.”
Auntie Clara was right. Iman absorbed her words because they were true. Best friends with her mother since their days in university, Auntie Clara had always been a second mum to Iman. Where Kate was yielding and conforming, Auntie Clara spared no words. It was often a puzzle that both women were friends.
“I don’t want to be a divorced woman,” Iman tried to explain. She hated that word “divorce” and all things attached to it. Having been married for barely two years, that would never be her portion.
Auntie Clara kissed her teeth, drawing out a long hiss.
Iman persevered, “I just want him to be faithful. I want him to love me, only me, forever.”
There was a pause on the other side. Iman had expected questions; maybe even a stern word or two, but this silence dragged on till it started to frustrate her. Surely, Auntie Clara understood what she was talking about. She must know what lay veiled in Iman’s words. It was something they knew but never spoke of: never cross Auntie Clara, or you would suffer illnesses that modern science couldn’t explain. Iman still remembered that one time a family came to beg Auntie Clara for mercy because she had supposedly got her witch doctor to put a curse on their relative.
When Auntie Clara finally replied, her voice was low: “Are you sure about what you’re asking?” She had read through the lines and didn’t need any explanation.
“Yes, ma.” Iman breathed a sigh of relief.
• • • •
It was not exactly sleep paralysis, but sometimes Iman would be acutely aware that she was dreaming even while she slept. When she was in this state, she would be unable to move. Very rarely, Iman would feel something touch her or breathe down her neck. Tuesday morning, she felt a dull yet sharp pain on her waist. When she finally managed to open her eyes, she found Kevin trying to eat her.
Iman bolted out of bed and out of the room, slamming the door shut behind her. Her heart was trying to beat its way out of her chest. Standing in the dark hallway, Iman leaned against the door she had just shut behind her. Kevin was not running after her. Tentatively, and with her head pounding, Iman opened the door. Kevin lay on his stomach on the bed, the sheets peeled away to reveal the back, broad shoulders and tapered waist that Iman knew intimately.
Was I dreaming? Iman tiptoed back into the room towards the bedside table where her phone had spent the night charging.
Did he look any different today? Why would he turn on me? This had happened before; twice now since that day. Iman grabbed her phone and left the room. She hit speed dial before she closed the door shut.
Auntie Clara picked on the first ring. “Didn’t I tell you I’ll be in Dubai?” Her voice was loud enough to let Iman know she was displeased. “Call me on Wozzup!”
She had hung up before Iman even had the chance to say hello. She had forgotten Auntie Clara was travelling. Iman made her way out of the house and did as instructed.
“Hello ma.” This time Auntie Clara gave her the chance to speak. “How are you?” Iman asked not because she cared, but because it was Auntie Clara.
“I am fine, my dear.” Auntie Clara replied. “How are you? How is Kevin?”
“I’m okay.” Outside the bungalow, Iman paced. “. . . but I’m not sure about Kevin. He tried to eat me this morning again. It’s like he’s a zombie.”
And just like that, bad-tempered Auntie Clara returned: “Will you shut up, mahaukaciya!” she huffed all the way from Dubai. “I have warned you never to use that word: your husband is not some caricature from an American film.”
“But . . .” Iman tried to talk, but Auntie Clara wasn’t letting up.
“Have you been following the rules?” Auntie Clara demanded. “Remember when we went to visit Prof, he outlined what you needed to do. You wanted your husband attached to you. There you have it.”
Auntie Clara ranted on. “I personally don’t know why you insisted on marrying the useless man. Do you remember how the bastard couldn’t kneel down to greet me when you introduced me? But he knelt for Kate, as if you didn’t spend your formative years with me. Am I less of a mother because I didn’t give birth to you? Now you’ve secured him, you had better train him well . . .”
Iman blocked Auntie Clara’s words, holding her phone away from her ear. She tried to remember the rules the so-called Prof had advised she follow, all to ensure that Kevin was wrapped around her as tightly as one would secure the knots of a wrapper to their waist. Something must have gone wrong somewhere, but Iman didn’t know what.
When she retraced her steps to the bedroom, Kevin was awake. He was sitting on the bed; his hands were propped on his knees and he was holding his head. Kevin looked up when she walked in. He was distraught as he pulled Iman close and lifted the tank top she wore, revealing Iman’s slightly rounded tummy and the imprint of his teeth on her waist.
Iman bit sharply on her bottom lip as Kevin’s alarmed eyes caught hers. He remembers.
“Baby, what is happening to me?” Kevin asked.
She wasn’t going to answer. Instead Iman pulled him into a hug. This was her responsibility.
(14) Don’t forget to check that your husband looks smart.
Why wouldn’t Auntie Clara just agree,
that Kevin was no longer a human being?
That the dark skin she loved so much looked green.
When hair won’t stay on a head,
Going bald may prevent the stares.
Even at that, people didn’t seem to notice,
that being married to a monster was hopeless.
They would surely blame the wife,
So Iman bought makeup: some foundation and some powder.
Let people not talk about her life,
And say that she wasn’t taking care of her husband.
(19) Never be too busy for him.
Kevin used to call around eleven a.m. to remind Iman to bring lunch for him. Like clockwork every weekday, Iman’s phone would play Runtown’s latest song, “Mad Over You.”
“Hey baby, lunch in an hour?” She could hear his smile through the device when she accepted the call.
“Fried rice and peppered chicken coming up,” she would reply.
This was a habit that remained even when he stopped calling. Iman knew exactly when she needed to start heading towards the two-room office Kevin had rented for his startup in one of the many shopping centres that littered Abuja. That Thursday, Iman walked into his office in Wuye and was greeted by his skinny secretary.
Florence pulled her aside before Iman reached the door to her husband’s office. “Excuse me, aunty.”
Immediately, Iman’s head spun. Not only did she detest being called “aunty,” but she was sure that Florence was about to quit. Iman placed the food container on the front desk, eyeing it to ensure that none of its contents had spilled.
Florence pulled her outside before she spoke. “Aunty Iman, how are you? How is everything?” She leaned against the dusty balcony railing while Iman started sweating in the unbearable heat.
“Oh, everything is fine,” Iman replied hastily. Realising Florence was just as nervous as her, Iman decided not to beat around the bush, “What’s going on?”
“Madam, I’m worried because . . .” Florence looked over her shoulder towards the open front door of the office that showed Kevin’s closed door.
Shit! She’s found out.
Iman bit her bottom lip hard. It was a testament to how times had changed that dark thoughts immediately crossed her mind. Would I have to kill Florence too?
“. . .Oga keeps looking at me as if there is something wrong with me.” Florence’s words rippled through Iman’s thoughts.
“What do you mean?”
Florence rushed to explain, as though to divert the obvious route the conversation was heading. “No, I mean, yes . . . you know, I actually feel scared sometimes. Like . . . like he wants to eat me . . .”
At that, Iman actually smiled. It was silly of her to think that history was repeating itself.
“What? Oh. Why on earth would he want to eat a human being? Don’t worry about it.” She laughed as if that hadn’t become routine over the past month.
Florence joined her laugh. “I know that doesn’t make any sense. He just seems a bit different than usual but . . .”
“Don’t worry,” Iman repeated. “I assure you, he’s fine.”
She tossed those last words over her shoulder as she walked through the doors into Kevin’s office.
“Hey.” Kevin started rising once she entered. In reply, Iman threw the food container at him. It hit his chest and landed on the floor with a thud. There was a splash of red on the pink shirt that covered Kevin’s chest where there hadn’t been any before.
“I have warned you to keep yourself in control.” Iman’s whisper was harsh. “Do you want people to know?”
For the life of her, she didn’t understand how people didn’t already know. Kevin was gaunter than before, despite the fact he could eat a human body in three days.
“You shouldn’t any attract attention,” she warned him. “Just focus on work, and when you’re done, come home to me.”
The silence in the room stretched until Kevin replied, “Okay, it’s not a problem.”
The next day, Iman had Kevin give Florence a severance letter which Iman had spent the night typing.
(10) Sex is very important to men. No man can withstand sex starvation for too long.
She couldn’t sleep in the same room with him anymore. The last time, Kevin had bit her hard enough to draw blood. Now her doctor was convinced Iman was a victim of domestic violence. The truth was much worse. Earlier that day, Auntie Clara and Mummy came to visit. Kevin acted normally, even engaging Mummy in conversation when Iman pulled Auntie Clara into the kitchen.
“You seem to have things under control,” Auntie Clara stated. Iman showed her the latest bite mark on her thigh.
“Jesus!” Auntie Clara exclaimed.
“I told you something was wrong,” Iman said through gritted teeth.
Auntie Clara shifted her shoulders and shook her head. “It’s because you haven’t been following the rules,” she insisted. “When last did you have sex?”
“I can’t have sex with a zombie,” Iman protested.
“He is not a zombie!” Auntie Clara raised a finger in warning.
“That night, didn’t Prof cut him with a knife? Kevin looked so still.” Iman wrapped her arms around her middle. “We left him there for three days.”
“Listen to me, Iman.” Auntie Clara reached for her shoulders. “You should follow the rules. If not, things will end badly. Have sex with him. I have something for you. Wait here.”
Iman leaned against the kitchen counter. It was supposed to be easy: give her a husband she could control. That was the only way to stop him cheating. Iman didn’t ask for him to become a flesh-eating monster who only sometimes listened to what she said. He was like a disobedient dog.
When Auntie Clara returned to the kitchen, she was holding a tiny bottle about the length of her thumb. Within was a substance that looked black and oily.
“You should see Kevin talking normally with Kate,” Auntie Clara said. “Obviously, you’re doing something right.”
Iman hadn’t yet told her about the changes to Kevin’s diet. On this kitchen floor, they had both killed an innocent man.
“See this oil.” Auntie Clara held it up. “Just dip your finger in it and insert it into your vagina. It’s like magic, it’ll make you wet and aroused.”
Auntie Clara pushed the bottle into Iman’s hands. “I’m sure the zombie nonsense will stop once you have sex with him.”
• • • •
Years ago, Iman had had a falling out with a former colleague because, in a casual conversation, Iman had mentioned sex. This was a faux pas, because her colleague’s boyfriend was in the room.
“Please o,” the colleague exclaimed while glaring at Iman: “I’m a virgin.”
How was Iman to know that her colleague’s boyfriend was being fed lies? Iman didn’t ever consider that she would become that woman until she met Kevin. Kevin liked good, modest, cultured girls. Iman had changed so much for him; twisted her personality out of shape. Now that Kevin was supposed to be under her control, why couldn’t he change for the better?
Iman placed a bit of the oil into her vagina. She was to wait for thirty minutes, so she sat down on the bed. She had somehow fallen asleep, but was soon awakened from dreams in which soft lips traced had her nipples and firm hands had rubbed her clitoris. Hazy with lust, she left the master bedroom and headed towards the guest room where Kevin was locked in.
Opening the door revealed a sleeping Kevin, just as she had ordered him to. Iman approached the bed. Just as she’d noticed since the juju spell, Kevin was erect.
The term came unbidden to Iman’s mind. But according to Auntie Clara, he wasn’t dead, so what she was about to do wasn’t abnormal.
Iman reached down between her thighs to draw out her wetness, and then she straddled Kevin. As she rode him, Iman tried not to focus on how good this felt. It was simply what was necessary to keep Kevin under her control. Yet Kevin felt different, and his hardness just wouldn’t let up. For the first time, Iman felt an orgasm that came from deep within her.
Even when she climbed off of him, Kevin was still hard. Although she still tingled from the aftermath of her pleasure, caution stopped Iman from sleeping beside Kevin. Her step was lighter as she locked the door to the guest room again and headed back to the master bedroom. Iman headed to the bathroom first to clean herself up. She shouted and fell to the floor when the first wad of toilet paper carefully dragged between her thighs showed black stains.
(28) Fruit of the womb is a blessing from Heaven, love your children.
Wondering how it happened was rhetorical.
He was not a zombie after all.
According to Auntie Clara, Kevin should be healthy too. Iman no longer woke up to him trying to eat her and—with Iman looking over his shoulder—he performed his duties well at work and with outside company, although his nefarious dietary habits remained.
A smile graced Iman’s face, but it lacked any mirth. A visit to her doctor had assured her that everything was well: the baby was moving normally and was healthy. A grim image flashed through Iman’s mind: her baby crawling among the bones she had buried in their backyard.