Having the knowledge that the teenagers had met their doom and cannot come out from the land of zero alive, the governor sent troops to go find them in other to cover his iniquity and look less suspicious. The troops came back with a negative report which escalated more cry in the city especially the two schools from where the students were picked from. Mr Henry stood in front of his office, looking at the clamoring parents. What would the poor man say? Likewise Mrs Chinyere, the principal of Kings collage. Mrs Ukachi, Ken’s mother, laid on the floor of the auditorium, the entrance into the land. She swore never to leave until she saw her son. Of course, other parents lamented too.
In the prison dining room where Mr Dennis, Wisdom’s father, was eating continuously with other prisoners, a breaking news came from a large television that hung there. That was the governor, standing in his power and authority saying, “I pledge to bring the kids back. They are the first set of people who utilized the land after construction. We never had it in mind that it’s equivalent to an evil forest. We shall strive to bring them back as ..”
“Oh my God!” Mr Dennis hit his hand on the table thereby vibrating the plates of food found there. He stood up, walked out from there to his cell where he wept bitterly for his son. “He never wanted to go, he never wanted the competition. How I wish I declined the email. My poor boy, out of selfishness and desire to bit Raymond’s family, I sent him to his death. How I wish I’ll see him again. Please, forgive me” he wept bitterly.
Again, Mercy went into her room. She couldn’t believe her feelings about the competition was right. Knowing vividly that she won’t see her friends again especially Ken, was still like an illusion in a jungle fairytale. She placed her two hands on a window protector, remembering Ken’s unstable character under the palm tree and how he read the poem as if it was meant for him. Remembering all that, she began to smile and shedding tears too. “God, please, protect them” she prayed. Just then, the mother walked in to see her drying her tears. Therefore, she embraced her in consolation.
“I know they are your friends, God knows best” she patted her back.
Mercy said nothing but found the body of the mother, comforting and conducive.
Back the the land of zero, the interior of the mountain entered through a door by the teenagers was like an ancient shelter lived by ancient beings. Though it was dark but burning sticks hung on side rocks at every interval, illuminating the place. Wisdom picked one of them for clear visibility. Seeing him, others carried theirs too.
“This place is systematically planned.” Wisdom broke the silence, while he heard the echo of his voice repeatedly.
“Yes, Ken said it is a set up by the government or governor” Jade clarified.
“Does anybody know that election is near?” Fred asked rhetorically. “I guess this is one of the ways the governor wanna make sacrifices to succeed on the election”
“Exactly”. Wisdom supported.
Paul hissed. “Fools, so a land can’t be deadly naturally. Must you guys blame government for everything?”
Esther stopped, walked up to him, making sure her light shone on his face very well. “What type of mannerless man are you? Your words are disrespectful and hateful. I wonder how such a person like you qualified for this competition?”
Paul smiled fictitiously. “Talking about who’s not qualified for this doom, Wisdom should be mentioned. Moreover, I’m more intelligent, smarter and knowledgeable than any of you. We shall see that with riddles; the smartest gets saved while the loser dies, only then will you know that I’m more qualified” he giggled.
Meanwhile, Wisdom had come closer to them, pulled Esther back saying, “Let him be”
Esther disdained Paul before going back to her position, but Wisdom stayed back, waved his light over Paul’s face. Anger could be detected from his voice. “Why I kept quiet all this while is because I don’t find talking to a fool like you useful. And let me warn you, if you dare touch me or anybody here again, I’ll make you take your own head in your hands” he waved the light again over his face then walked out. For the first time, Paul felt his might coz it circulated within them like the presence of the holy spirit. The voice of his words and fearless attitude sent a drilling and thrilling emotions to all of them. No one was able to utter another word.
Nevertheless, after walking for a while in the rocky environment like rudents in a hole, they came to an opened place where six riddles appeared on the rocks, each bears the name of the person who would answer. The writings were like liquid fire burning on rocks.
“Everybody, think fast and answer your riddles or you die” Wisdom instructed immediately.
“Sweet! Here we know who is who” Paul chuckled. He faced his riddle which says, “I can be flipped and broken but I never move. I can be closed, and opened, and sometimes removed. I am sealed by hands. What am I?”
“You are a deal!” he answered then waited for his time to expire. When it did without anything happening to him, he rejoiced.
Wisdom faced his riddle too which says, “Once I’m 24. Twice I’m 20. Three times I’m inappropriate. What am I?” his time began to tick as he thought very fast. Just before the last count, he answered saying, “You are the later, X” he was saved.
Esther read her riddle thus, “There are 500 coffins and 500 men who need them. The undertaker asks the first man to go to every coffin and open them. Then he tells the second man to go to every one and close it. The third one goes to every third coffin and so on. How many are open?” She began to think.
“Get the it wrong, bitch” Paul’s voice echoed.
“The answer is 22” Esther got it then disdained Paul.
Jade got ready for hers which says, “It’s shorter than the rest, but when you’re happy, you raise it up like it’s the best. What is it?”
“The thumbs” she answered sharply. They all looked at Fred and Sandra to answer. Unfortunately, they couldn’t make it. They fell down and died instantly……
The wave of a river carried Ken to the shore. He was not only wet, but half naked too. Sooner did he begin to cough out water from his mouth with his eyes closed, but when he opened them, he saw an old man standing with a staff……
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