He swiftly made a U-turn, blindedly ran into a large stagnant water that just completed stretching out a cycler wave. Before he realized himself, his legs had gun deep into the muddy water, splashing on his uniform. Nevertheless, he made his way out of it, paced into the nearest street and hid behind an electric pole like a soldier dodging from a direct bullet. Not only did his temperature increase, even his heartbeat took a different pace. Anyone who sighted him in such posture would think a ghost was after him, not knowing that he fleed from the sight of his mother and her visitor, if not a suitor. Suddenly, the man drove out before he found his way into their house. Mrs Ukachi, the mother, looked at him from a cushion found in the sitting room, waiting for his greeting, but the expression on his face sang a different tone.
“Hi, mother” he tried to brighten his face because he saw his mother’s, glowing with joy from the depth of her heart.
The mother dictected the pretentious act. “What’s wrong?”
“Nothing, I should be asking what’s making you so happy?” he sat down.
“Well, we need to talk”
“You know i have been alone for a long time now..”
Ken interrupted. “Alone? But I’m with you”
“No, not that, son. I mean my love life.. Uhmm..” She became emotional. “I want you to understand that i loved your father very well, but i need to move on. To cut it short, how would you like to have a stepfather?” Mrs Ukachi stared at the son to know his reactions. Already, Ken’s heart had left his thoracic region coz, if actually, the mother wanted to remarry, would it be Mercy’s father, the father of the girl he’s dying for? So he ran into a deep thought, feeling his heartbeat as if he found himself running again for a hiding place. “Ken?” the mother’s voice brought him out from the peregrination of hallucination.
He swallowed hard. “In as much as you’ll like it, I’m okay with it too, mother.”
Mrs Ukachi smiled. “Though I’m still looking forward for his proposal”
“What’s his name?”
Ken finally got what he wanted. It became clear to him that Mercy’s father who bears the same name, drove out from their compound not long ago, and most of all, the reason for his mother’s happiness was the person. Therefore he became not only devastated but also intoxicated by the whole thing. He wore a factitious smile. “I’m happy just as you are, mother” he hugged her and left to his room.
The next day at school, Heartland Collage to be precise, as students kept coming through the school gate, Mercy, who stood with a friend saw Ken with few students coming through the gate. Their eyes met, so she hopped he would come, running to talk to her but the young boy didn’t even look at her again, talk more of running and talking. He walked straight to his classroom while Mercy became disappointed. It continued that way even inside the classroom. Ken remained absentminded though nobody knew that something was bothering him coz everybody thought his usual self took the best part him. Mercy occasionally looked back just to see him even in the presence of a teacher. Obviously, she was beginning to fall for him. Immediately the bell was rung for break period, she looked back but never saw him again.
Inside one of the rooms found in the library, Ken sat with his colleagues in a circular form. A round table with the map of land of zero rested before them. Jade took the lead, while Fred, Esther and Ken listened.
“The only place I think the diamond could be hidden is on the abiotic part of the Ecosystem such as here” she pointed at a place on the map.
Fred stretched his neck. “Water? Aquatic habitat?”
Esther leaned forward. “When diamonds are placed in water, they create a unique vortex; they bring in a very complex molecular structure and the full spectrum of light that will cut through old patterns and bring issues in need of resolution to your attention. So i object to your thought”
“How do you know this?” Jade asked her.
“I learnt from Mercy. She said her mom told her that..”
“Wait!” Ken interrupted promptly then all gazed at him. “Which of the Mercy, please?”
“Mercy Nnanna, the one in your class. Why asking?” Esther narrowed her face.
“She has a mother?”
Fred became fedup with a wild look at Ken. “Are you fucking kidden me? Did she fall from the sky? Of course she has a mother!”
Ken became mad! Clearly, Mr Nnanna had been lying to his mother, and cheating on his wife too! All this while, he thought the man was a widower. How would he tell his mother this? Also, how would he keep such a secret to Mercy especially now they wanted to get the best part of their feelings? “Excuse me” he stood up unabashedly and walked out from his colleagues. All shout and statement by Jade for him to come back proved abortive.
“Ken, the competition is tomorrow!” Esther added. Yet he never looked back.
Ken entered into his classroom to pick his bag, for he couldn’t stay at school anymore. Immediately he opened up his locker, he saw a written note which he picked up. All students had gone for break, so no one was inside the classroom. Ken read the note thus: “Yes, be my diamond prince.” Mercy walked in that moment in a way she slowed down in his presence, both, staring at each other.
“Thanks” Ken broke the silence.
Mercy smiled. “Where are going with your bag?”
“Home.. sorry.. uhmm.. Library, we are studying for tomorrow’s competition”
“Good luck” she walked out, smiling. Her beauty once again caught Ken’s eyes, thus rendering him speechless and dumbfounded. Suddenly, he realized himself and went back to his colleagues instead of going home, for his anger had been kindled by a princess.
The entrance into the land of zero had a magnificent beauty. Two large sliding holes through which one can enter could be found at different angles. Two large projectors in which people inside the land can be seen with hung on a large metal. Opposite them was an auditorium where audience watch the competition on the projectors. Already, top state personnels had made themselves present, even parents and teachers from both Heartland collage and Kings Collage. Of course Mrs Ukachi, Mr Dennis and Raymond could be seen among the audience. Mercy also made it with her mother. They had come to watch their children, if not till the end, but to see them slide into the land of zero.
Promptly, a man in suite moved towards a standing microphone. He welcomed the audience and called upon the competitors. Cheers, clap and whistle became the next pandemonium in the auditorium as they began to come out one after the other. Mrs Ukachi jumped up in joy when she saw Ken. “Make me proud, son!” she shouted, likewise other parents and supporters.
Group A, the competitors from Heartland moved to one of the sliding holes. They were Jade, Fred, Esther and Ken. While group B, competitors from Kings collage moved to the next sliding hole. They were Wisdom, Sandra, Paul and Gina. Wisdom and Jade glared at each other, the same way the parents glared. Ken’s eyes met with Mercy’s then she waved at him once again.
“Who is he?” the mother asked her.
“He’s my classmates and also my friend” she replied.
“I see” the mother nodded. “He looks gentle”
Mercy remained quiet still looking at Ken which the mother noticed and went silent too.
Meanwhile, Ken had not discovered a way to tell his mother the truth because it gonna break her heart. He glanced at her again to see her rejoicing then pitied her, for she never knew she was dating a man with a wife.
“Ladys and gentle men” a voice came from the microphone. “Here begins the competition. Two pots of diamond are hidden in the recreational land of zero with all features of an Ecosystem. Today, we shall know of the smartest team who will first find its pot of diamond! They will go with nothing but the map of the land. Let the competition begin!”
Hearing that, Mr Dennis and Raymond left the place to go finish theirs in the high court of law. While their children finish theirs in the land of zero. To the very sight of audience, all the competitors slid into the land, each group through each sliding hole. They never knew that they were sliding into their doom……
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