I shivered as that knowledge left me terrified. Freedom had never felt so dramatic and painful! Just as I thought of how amazing it felt to be all alone at the forest top, a silhoutte of human flesh whizzed past me. I screamed out in pure fright. 'Not another group of armed men again'? I wailed in my mind. I wasn't sure I would survive another round of captivity and brutality. Then, I heard a voice say, 'I'm the driver!'
'The driver?' I shrilled in panic or was it in disgust? But definitely not in sympathy or solidarity. I knew deep within me that the commercial bus driver who dumped us in the middle of an express road couldn't have had our good intentions in mind. He'd wanted us robbed! If not, why would he be the first to abandon the bus and flee into the jungle leaving the passengers to be mauled by the gunmen? I hissed as I looked at him.
By now, I was so exhausted physically, mentally and emotionally. In other to confirm my suspicion of conspiracy between the robbers and the driver, I posed a question at him while I kept my ears out for a possible return of the gunmen who couldn't have been too far away.
'Did you see the armed robbers?' I asked the driver who by now had taken off his shirt and was stabbing at some insects chewing on his flesh.
His reply was the proof I needed. 'No. They didn't find me' he whispered, as he danced uncomfortably on one feet.
'How come they didn't find you?' I asked as I couldn't believe that he was born lucky. 'I hid very well.' He confessed. More like they spared you, I thought in my heart. How could such hungry, wild, result driven, dare devil armed robbers who held the entire express road hostage for over four hours combing the forest with a fine-toothed comb have missed a tall fellow, named the driver?
Ignoring the driver, I looked at my leafy surroundings. I conjured up a comfortable mattress in my mind and laid down on a massive black hole at the root of one humongous tree. Four hours before, I couldn't have imagined taking up residence in the dreaded jungle. But after enduring several hours of shooting over my head, a severe round of beating and machete cut on my shoulder, the thick, dark forest beckoned to me for safety and dear comfort.
So I laid down on the bare earth amid fresh leaves, twigs, tree trunks and unseen
At the point when I put my head down on the hard root of the tree, I told myself that I wouldn't care if a snake crawled up and threatened to give me a nice bite. It would have been one more torture to endure. But lo and behold, as soon as I laid my head to get a few minutes rest, I was on my feet again.
Yes, the unbelievable had happened. While I thought that the wild animals like the wolves, lions, snakes etc. would be the daunting challenge as I make my bed in the forest, I never imagined that the little red ants or whatever ants they are called would put me through another round of blood suckling torture.
Apparently, I wasn't the only victim of insect attack! The driver was also stripping and dancing around in pain. So, even though he was spared the brutal attack by the armed men, the unsympathetic ants, didn't spare him! For that singular torture, I was grateful.
I slapped my arms, my legs, my back and I scratched my head, pulling at my hair to get rid of the offending little ants. Nothing worked. It was in the deep recesses of the jungle, being beaten hands down by blood suckling ants that I made a solemn vow not to end up in hell...
'How will hell be?' I asked myself as the pain fired from my head through every single pore in my body. 'I don't want to find out'. If I make it out of this place alive, I must follow Christ all the days of my life so that Heaven would be sure. If what that experience offered wasn't hell, then...
After what seemd like forever, the driver and I walked away from that ant infested zone in the forest in search of the other passengers. I honestly feared that they may have been killed. And so we walked further into the jungle, we kept walking...
After awhile, we began to see one passenger after the other in the deepest part of the forest.
Each one was wary, not trusting if the approaching human form was part of the robbers. So we had to identify ourselves as passengers before joining the slowly forming group. At this time, some resourceful and responsive passengers had made a clearing far inside the jungle. And we all gathered together. The women were allowed to sit on the logs of wood the men had felled or found on the earth.
As we gathered together, everyone burst into a chorus of thanksgiving to God. We counted ourselves and we found that no one was killed, but every one was
In fact, the huge, male passenger that sat beside me at the front of the hiace bus before the robbery had a horrific gash of wound in between his thumb and forefinger. As we took a look at his injury, it was rapidly swelling and looked raw. He recounted his own brush with the vicious men.
He had apparently hidden successfully in the forest and hadn't been found. Then, the armed robbers held a lady they had found hostage and threatened to rape her if the men didn't come out of hiding.
He told us that because he had witnessed a robbery where women had been raped several months ago in the south-southern part of the Nigeria, he swore that never again would he allow women to be raped. And so, he came out of hiding to save the lady that had been captured by the gunmen. He recounted how he had been aggressively attacked with matchetes by the gunmen. It was when he raised his hands to protect his head from the machete cut that he got the horrible cut.
When we heard his bitter tale, we thanked him for his bravery, unselfish instincts and heroic act. I didn't have the strength or the willingness to recount my own personal traumatic experience out on the road. As we huddled around the freshly made forest fire, we sang songs of praise to the God for sparing our lives. We totally ignored the various frightening sounds of the wild...encouraging one another that morning was near...
At that time, I'd no fear in me of the dark or of the forest. I'd been thoroughly passed through scorching fire... Nothing can be worse than this, we encouraged ourselves. But we were wrong...
In part 4, you will read about the dreadful noise that kept us awake, watching the bleak sky, praying desperately for the slowly dawning morning.
This is my personal true life story.
Our Promise...is to deliver an intensely emotional experience you'll never forget.