Setho had been fruitlessly searching for a job for three years after leaving the university. To say life was frustrating for him would be an understatement. He had tried so hard to find one but everywhere he passed, he hit a brick wall. He met an old friend from junior high school and after telling his plight, his old pal introduced him to a trade he himself was involved in….. scamming. He gasped in disbelief and disappointment at the beginning but his fears were allayed somewhat when his friend explained that his kind of scamming did not involve the use of blood money or ‘sakawa’ or anything of that sort. It just involved the use of the ‘adwen’, the mind.
“The mind eh?”, he asked. “Just the mind bro. Look at me very well. I was just like you, probably worse. I have been in this mind business for just two months, two months! And now look at me”, his friend said, turning around so that Setho would properly look at his Ralph Lauren shirt and Gucci jeans. Setho caught a glimpse of his friend’s gleaming Rolex watch. “Just two months? What have i been doing with my life Oko?”, Seth asked. “Probably just wasting it my friend. Just look at how old you’re looking”, his friend remarked sarcastically. The words Oko said forged themselves into a jack knife and shredded Setho’s heart into small pieces, the sizes of kelewele.
“O charley, but you too, have some restraint with your words eh. Things are hard for me but chill”,Setho,”at least be empathetic.” Oko laughed sarcastically and sort of apologised. After that, he asked, “Are you more bothered about what I said or because what i said is true? Anyway, i would teach you to fish. This job as i said earlier makes use of the mind. You know what people fear most in this world?”
Setho thought for a second. “Death?”, he asked. “Look at you! You see you’re not that dumb afterall. People fear death. So why don’t you use that knowledge to your advantage?”, Seth said.
“Cos that would be unfair?”, Setho uttered. Oko frowned. “You i can see you want to remain in the poverty”, he said, turning to leave the scene. Setho held him and begged him to stay. “Sorry sorry, go on. I’m listening please”, he apologised. Oko continued. “As i know and you also said, everyone fears death. Imagine that? The thing that’s most assured in this life is what we fear the most. Euphemistic isn’t it?” “You mean ironic?”,Setho tried to correct.
Oko got upset again with Setho. “Aboa! You know literal devices but i have the money”, he blurted angrily. Setho apologised again and begged him to continue. Oko continued,”Okay, i make my money strategically, i call it the SCT. SCT meaning Scare and Collect Tactic. Call someone, scare them enough and wait for money transfer notification. I cannot say everything here. Let’s go sit somewhere private.”
Days later, Setho felt he was ready for business. He had been under Oko’s tutelage for days and he felt definitely ready. First, he had to visit a busy mobile money shop, keenly listen to the customers as they give their phone numbers to the operator, write down as many numbers as you can, select a ‘victim’ and start work. ‘Victim’ selection was perhaps the most daunting of all. The temperament of the victim, amount of money the victim deposited or withdrew from his or her account, demeanour, how the person speaks and their looks were of paramount importance. He had watched Oko get a 300cedi transfer the day before and despite all the promptings from his conscience, he knew there was no turning back. What has his conscience given him after school? Nothing!
Setho decided to use one of his very old sim cards for his trade. After going through the process of selecting his victim and all, he placed the call. As the line started to beep, his heart rate increased. The line dropped. He breathed easy now. “Whoa….this isn’t child’s play oo”, he thought. After taking three deep breaths, he called again. Someone at the end of the line picked.
“Yes, who is this?”, the voice asked. Kofi backed away from the phone momentarily, cleared his throat and with all the acting skills he could garner and spoke in a hoarse voice. “Allo, am i talking to Cynthia? Cynthia Twumasi?” The line was silent for a moment. “Allo!”,Setho called again. “Yes, yes this is Cynthia, who are you and what can i do for you?” Setho recited some incantations he made up and said, “Ma name be Gbagbatome and i be powerful spiritualist. Cynthia eh…you get enemies o. Plentey plentey enemies. Yua friend just getting up from here. She bring me yua photo to killing you. I almost killing you spiritually eh but the gods say i should waiting small.”
Setho heard Cynthia sigh at the other end of the line. “Someone wants to kill me? Who and why?”, she asked. “It is eh, not importante rat now. I was just about kill you when the gods gave me yua number. They say you be special woman. So make i aaa give you option. Erhhh either you send me money to call back the spiritual arrow wey i send back to me or better, or better, make i send the arrow to da person wey she wan kill you. You understand what adey talk?”
Cynthia replied,” So you mean the spiritual arrow is destined to come hit me where i am presently and when it does, would it be painful??” Setho was taken aback briefly but held his own. “It would hit you..and you would die without knowing.” Setho noticed he had spoken a clean sentence in English. Afraid that his cover would be blown, he threw in a couple of pidgin. “You go die oo. You go die sudden sudden.”
There was a long pause, then Cynthia said calmly, “I think i would prefer that.” Setho’s composure was thrown off gear for a second. “What you are saying? You want to die?”, he asked. “Yes i want to die”, Cynthia replied,”As we speak now,whoever you are, i am holding a revolver to my head. (She turned the cylinder of the revolver. It revolved for a while before she stopped it abruptly with some dexterity) The only problem now is that i don’t really like my bedsheet to be stained with so much blood when they come for my body.”
Setho instinctively hanged up. What the heck did he just hear? The lady he wants to scam with the fear of death already wants to die? This wasn’t in the script. Whew! His phone rang. It was Cynthia. He yelped in fear and cut the line. As he was thinking about what just happened? He had a text alert which read, “Hey Seth Mensah, right? You’re surprised i know your name? I would have lied and said the gods gave me your name. Well, an electronic god did give me your name…Trucaller app? Have you heard of it? You better call back or i would write a letter with your name in it and accuse you of threatening me with murder.”
“Lord God of mercy!”, Setho exclaimed, sweating profusely at this point. “What on earth had he gotten himself into?”, he asked himself. He had heard the unmistakable sound of the revolver and he knew it was real. He called Oko, his scamming teacher. Nothing broke his heart more than hearing “The number you have dialled cannot be reached at this moment.” Cynthia called again. His hand shook as he picked the call.
“Yes. Cynthia i’m sorry”, Setho started. Cynthia laughed at the other side of the line and asked ,”So you speak good english now? Anyway, i really want to die right now. I was hoping to kill myself quietly but when you first called, i thought it was just someone idly calling. Then you called the second time and i was like wow, maybe this caller wants to play audience to my suicide. And then i picked up and heard all your gibberish and i was impressed you know. You Ghanaian right? You did so well with the strange accent, are you an actor?” Setho was silent. A harsh voice erupted. “I said are you an actor?!!!”, Cynthia asked angrily. “No madam, no please. I am just an unemployed idiot who followed wrong advice. Please i am sorry”, Setho replied.
Cynthia calmly said, “You know in my life, no one even looked at me for a second…my parents even. I have no friends, no one i can call family, i don’t even have enemies to call my own. I have always always Seth, i have always been alone. Really, it’s tiring. I’m tired Seth. That’s why i want to leave. I wanted to leave silently when you came, i realised i did not have to leave alone. You are the audience i need to see me off. I don’t know why but i feel i have the attention i needed, the attention i have always asked for but never got. So thank you. Stay on the line and hear me breathe my last please. That’s all i ask. If you cut the line, i would write your name and get the police on your heels. You know they can now always find us with phone numbers, right?
Setho had no idea the lady he saw that morning at the mobile money shop was planning suicide. She looked pretty and well groomed. She looked like someone who would have a lot to lose if she dies. That was one reason he selected her. The other reason obviously was the amount she had deposited in her account. It was quite substantial. Setho tried to advise. “Cynthia, you don’t have to kill yourself. Life is more important. It would get better. Trust me i have been there. I have had moments where i have wished to end it all. I have suffered insults and depression due to unemployment but i believe it would get better. Maybe not today, but tomorrow. Hey why don’t we meet and talk?”, Setho tried to reason with her.
“Bye Seth and thanks for your time”, Cynthia said almost inaudibly. Setho felt the unthinkable was just about to happen. His eyes opened widely and he loudly called out, “Cynthia! Please!” But then he heard the loudest bang in his ears. It was so loud he dropped the phone like it was a hot metal. He held his ears in pain and felt a tear streak down his cheek. This prey he chose was wrong ‘meat’.