I was at high school in Limuru, Kenya, at the time. The Grange School, where I schooled, was suckled by the maternal bosom of the countryside.
It was a scene of native, disturbing beauty. At times, the moist Limuru air was sluiced by avian song as floating seas of cobalt sky played host to liquid gold bursts of sunshine.
One night, I was playing cards in one of these “dorms” with some classmates. Because the school unwound uneasily on a rolling slope, this particular dorm was at the top of the hill while my dorm was at its foot.
What separated the two dorms was about 100 metres, give or take, of grassy expance.
Anyway, I was playing cards...and losing. Badly. So I kept on playing in hopes of reversing my losing streak and winning at least a game.
But, as I kept at it, I found myself scratching an open wound of loss with even more loss. By the time I was down to my 1,000th defeat, it had gone midnight and my pals wanted to sleep.
So they sent me door-ward with a shoving goodbye while I loudly insisted on the very last game, like some addict craving a fix.
The door was slammed shut in my face. I opened my mouth to plead some more but, an instance after, the door bolted from the inside. I was out on my ear, I thought to myself.
Before any bitterness could get the better of me, I realised how creepily dark it was around me. Sure, the dorm security lights threw illumination here and there, but these patches of radiance only made the surrounding darkness even more audible.
I peeped around me and could see that the classrooms were moodily obscured by the night. The trees rustled as the breeze played the mystic chords of a nature set to a silence that lullabies the world to sleep.
I started walking back to my dorm, all alone. It seemed like a mile away. My heart was beating hard. Fear was pounding at the walls of my breast as it expanded and contracted to Mr Universe/Mr Puny-verse proportions.
I kept on walking. Soon, I had passed the main building.
My heart was still throbbing like a drum kit at a sold-out rock concert as the instrumentation of the night’s menacing tranquility seemed to tune my fear to a deafening pitch.
And just as my adrenaline reached bumper-anxiety levels, I heard a sound coming from the hedge behind me.... near the main building.
So, I slowly and stiffly turned around to see what was up. The sound started building in intensity as the hedge was about to explode!
Turned full circle, I stopped and watched the hedge....it was noisily astir with movement. What’s going on? I asked amid the uproar of a riot of nerves. An answer was not long in coming.
Before my eyes I saw a smokey haze of a person, emerging out of the hedge. He, it looked like a he, towered over me. He seemed in a rush and so didn’t look sidelong at me as he strode forth.
His strides covered a lot of ground fast. And just as suddenly as he had erupted from the hedge, he melted into the main building wall and was gone!
It all happened so fast that it took me a moment to register. When I finally got my wits about me and settled down, I realised I might just have seen a ghost!
Frightened out of my mind, I stood super-glued to where I was. My heart had stopped going ‘Dadum’ as it sank like the Titanic in an ocean of fear. I was frozen in time.
Then, I made a snap decision. And soon, I was sprinting down towards my dorm so fast that my facial features had set in one place!
Suddenly...Oops…I slipped and took a major spill. Rolling a little before stopping...face down to the ground. I was spread-eagled on the floor. Yet, there was not a moment to lose. I thus sprang up and started running for the world record again!
This time I kept going until I almost went right through my dorm’s front door! Not daring to look over my shoulder to see whether I was followed, I fumbled the door open and leaped inside.
Then I shut the door behind me and flew into my bed. From behind my beddings, my teeth chattered noisily as I gripped my blanket with two desperate hands. And waited.
I lay on my bed, panting and unsure whether that grey figure would come to my room just to say boo! The whole night, I just lay there wide-eyed, horrified.
At the crack of dawn, the night retired from its shift as day took its course. In the cold light of day, I stepped outside my room, looking here and there to make sure the ghost was nowhere to be seen.
The coast was clear. I then trotted to the dining room for breakfast as the incense of my hot breath faded into the morning sky.