Minutes ago, I left what is probably the seediest hotel in the world. I don’t mean seedy in that sleazy ‘people only come there to have sex’ way. I mean seedy in a ‘why hasn’t the government stepped in to demolish this place’ way.
Last night when I arrived, I spent 15 mins at the gate haggling about the room rates. I finally got the man, manager slash security guard, to drop the price from ₦1,500 to ₦800. But that was before he showed me the room.
Before he pushed the door of the room open with his foot and explained that the door didn’t close unless you propped it shut with something from the inside.
Before he wiped the ashes from the bedside table with the sleeve of his shirt smearing the grey dirt across the cracked top, making more of a mess.
Before he draped the torn and stained bedsheet over the lumpy mattress with a flat middle, insisting the bed must be made before the room was given out.
I asked him how much it would cost to sit in the front office for the night. He laughed thinking I was making a joke, then explained that I couldn’t because his brother who was in a wheelchair stayed in the office. He swiped his hand across his thighs as he explained, to show that his brother’s legs were amputated.
An apologetic hotel manager, a handicapped brother, how many more cards do I need to complete the full cast of horror movie characters? A hooker with a heart of gold, a priest who has lost his faith?
He finished prettying up the room and as he left, I gave him ₦500, daring him to ask for the rest of the money. He nodded without saying a word and left.
Too afraid to turn off the lights or look inside the bathroom, I moved all of the furniture against the room door and waited for the morning.
At about 2 am, I heard voices outside, one female and one or two males, then footsteps. They cut across the yard, their feet crunching on gravel and headed towards my room.
Stupid stupid me. With the lights on, I had drawn attention to myself. Might as well have put a sign out on the door saying “Naïve Stranger inside. Free victim. Murder at will”
One of them while banging on the door, felt it budge and started pushing against the barricade. I pushed back from the inside, straining quietly.
The female voice said something, there was a responding grunt then they all left, their footsteps trailing along the building towards the end of the hallway.
Minutes later, I heard squeaking of wheels go past my room heading after them. And that’s when the chanting started.