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The Big Read: SAVE MY SOUL

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I pulled my luggage along the squeaky floor of the lounge, my flight had just been announced for boarding. With my eyes mostly on my phone, I boarded and made for my window seat by the left aisle of the plane. A dark-skinned lady, with the manners of an introvert sat right next to me. I switched my phone off, then switched on my good-boy mode.


Several minutes after, we were yet on our way. I looked at my watch and wondered about my schedules on arriving Abuja - the cosmopolitan city of Nigeria big men. I had friends to visit, but mostly business to attend to. Behind me, a restless child kept asking her mom why we weren’t flying yet. The mother had no answer.

I took out my phone, switched it on and went through my Twitter and Facebook feed. The lady sitting next to me buried her head in a novel. I had tried making light conversation earlier, but she just couldn’t get out enough words comfortably to keep it going. Maybe my looks were overwhelming, or the dank heat of the plane just made everyone irritable and reserved. Imagine the crew saving fuel on air conditioning, while we sat and baked like doughnuts.

I pushed back and allowed myself relax. Practice was hectic and I seldom got time off to relax. Just then a symphony wafted through the speakers, followed by the voice of the flight’s captain announcing in an exaggerated porshe accent the usual instructions – be seated, buckle up, phones off. I felt my way on my seat for my harness and strapped myself in. In under an hour, I’d be bustling round the heat of Abuja.

I stirred in mid-sleep, slowing opening my eyes to take in the plane' interior. I had slept off. As my eyes and ears grew accustomed to where I was, I sensed a slight discomfort in the air. The lady next to me looked at me with what looked like dread in her eyes and I remember thinking to myself, oh she is probably not used to flying. But it wasn’t that simple. The plane was going through heavy turbulence.

I felt the plane rock hard and bounce severally in an air pocket. Over the speakers, we heard the captain announce that everyone stayed in their seats and buckle up as we were going through turbulence. I could hear short burst of prayers getting louder in the plane. The child behind me was in tears, and the mother tried unsuccessfully to calm her down. I wasn’t disturbed. At least not yet.

I turned to assuage the fear of the shy lady next to me. In calm tones I informed her these things happened, but we'd be over it shortly. Just then I noticed her eyes widening as she looked at a point just past my shoulder and through the window. I turned to look and only then did I really begin to worry. The engine on the plane’s wing by my side of the window had smoke rushing out of it. “I think we are going to crash”, I said, more to myself than my neighbor on the plane, just before everything went from bad to a nightmare.

The intercom came on once again. “This is your captain speaking. We'll have to make an emergency landing right away. Please stay calm and remain in your seats.” As soon as the announcement was made, hell broke out. The crew walked around trying to get people to settle down while trying to look calm and unconcerned themselves. The smoke was rushing out even more and I could feel the plane lose some altitude before sharply banking to one side.

Cabins flew open and some small luggage’s and carry-ons thumped to the floor, hitting some passengers sitting directly under the overhead boards. A woman cried out, a business looking man place both hands on his suitcase and sat straight. The child was crying again, this time bawling out loud yelps of fright. Her equally frightened mother could be heard struggling to give her child a calm even she did not feel.

The plane was fast loosing height, almost like a free fall. The crew members were now equally seated, having briefly outlined emergency proceedings for getting off the plane. The plane started rattling and I could hear people crying and praying all around me. I was way too much in shock to immediately process what was going on. Another sudden and serious bump threw everyone up and out of our seats, just then the oxygen mask came down and I quickly struggled into mine. I felt a warm and burning pain on my right hand, turned and saw that the dark-skinned lady was holding on tightly to my hand with her nails digging into my flesh at great pains to me. But that pain was triffle.

I could feel my stomach rise up into my head. I zoned out for sometime, oblivious to time, sound and sight. I could feel the earth rushing to meet us in the plane. A din broke the reverie, an alarm-like sound was on. I could hear screams, people asking for parachutes or the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob to take the ‘wheel’ and save his people. I nerved up and looked out the window, I could barely see a thing as black smoke was everywhere and the fog was thick. “Is this the end?” I asked myself.
I understood at that moment what it meant to have one's life flash right before his eyes. As the plane lost more height and balance, I felt sicker and grew numb. This was inevitable, I thought. I was going to die. We were all going to die in this misfortune aboard a plane. With me so much seemed to be approaching an end. I could see an old lady take the picture of a young man, perhaps her son, with tears dripping down her face. A couple clasped each other, resigned and slobbering. The mom behind me was now crying even louder than her daughter. Life was just so much more important with our mortality under threat.

I sat there, bumping and rocking with the plane while my thoughts wandered. I worried about my family and how they’d react to news of my demise. The picture was grim. I allowed myself worry over those God had put in my care, what was going to happen to them when I’m gone ? How would they cope ? How would my friends, my real friends, deal with my passing ? All our shared aspirations and dreams of a fulfilling life together suddenly disrupted by a plane crash probably brought on by the poor maintenance culture of the airline company I’d patronised.

Ambitions! Intentions! Aspirations! All up in flames. I thought of my plans and projects for my people and how this meant I may never finish up the work I had begun to fulfill in the lives of my people. How would my 'other-friends' react ? In glee, I thought. They may put on a show of sadness and commiserate with my family and supporters in public but privately celebrate the passing on of “that stupid brat”. I had been threatened anyway by many of them through their cohorts and deatj-peddlers, so my death would earn them respite from the audacity of my calling.

A part of me wanted to be a Job. I wanted to question God and be rebellious. I wanted to question the wisdom of giving me a heart of service if my life would be shortlived and those who had become dependent on me stranded by my absence. But I refused to succumb to that persuasion, choosing to let things play out as God deemed fit to permit. So in what I presumed to be my final moments, I made peace with God, myself, asked for forgiveness from whoever I may have hurt and forgave those who hurt me.

I could vaguely make out the landscape beneath us. There was a thunderous noise. The smoky wings snapped and broke off, leading a trail of smoke upwards and to the tail of the plane. The plane nose-dived and we were thrown over again in our seats, heading for an impact with the hard earth with zero chance of survival. I closed my eyes in prayers. I opened them sharply when I heard a loud bang and ripping sound. The doors of the plane had just blown open and the rushing wind was pulling people off their seats and throwing them off the plane. Two persons out already in the invisible sky. My terror multiplied. This was happening.

We continued on our free fall even as more and more people were blown off the plane screaming. I was in pains from what I was beholding, and the sound of horror around me. I held on tightly to my seat, determined not to be blown out of it. I stared chanting the Jesus mantra, “Blood of Jesus, Oluwa o, Blood of Jesus, Oluwa o”. I felt my shoulders shaking very hard, and a tiny voice saying, “Sir, sir”. I was confused….

….. drenched in sweat, still saying, “Oluwa o”, Oluwa o!, I woke up. A hostess and the shy girl were staring at me with such a look of concern that I couldn’t help blushing. The relief was intense. We had arrived safely and I was awake from the dream that felt so real. I thanked the two ladies who had just broken the spell of an unpleasant dream and made my way out of the plane and into the city of Abuja. HE saved my Soul. It was a dream.


Pelumi Olajengbesi Esq.
President
ABUJA PEN ADVOCATES

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