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TELL A STORY

The rush of air was a like a tantalizing taste of something he would never know. The draft surged into the room through the mangled spot on the window’s netting, wafting to and washing over his face. It lifted the hairs inside his nostrils, relieving his nasal senses of the onslaught of the rank smell of lingering perspiration, excrement and fear that pervaded the insides of his cell.

The prisoner felt a prick of tears in his eyes as he took a deep inhalation of the fresh air. The taste of freedom that he had been denied since his captors threw him into this cell surged through his mind. The hope of one day regaining it fluttered alive in his heart. He held on to the hope with all the fierceness of a child to a toy.

The night was cool outside, and the air that filtered in held a promise. And he breathed in and out, staring out through the aperture on the netting at the promise he hoped to one day reclaim.

– Walter Uchenna Ude.

*

So an acquaintance of mine, Ife Olujiyigbe, did this on her Facebook Timeline last year, and after observing the creative juices that flowed all over that post, I felt inspired to repeat the exercise.

It’s basically this. Look at the picture above, interpret it however you like, and tell us a story of what you have seen. The story may come in prose or poem, whatever literary genre you feel comfortable expressing. Your words have to blow our minds away. And the stories that blow the furthest (one for prose and another for poetry) each wins the modest prize of a three thousand naira airtime from any network of choice.

The exercise will last the rest of the week, and will close on Saturday January 31st. Hopefully, the judges won’t feel too overwhelmed by the beauty of the entries, and be discerning enough to pick a winner on Sunday; the winner who will be announced the following week on Monday February 2nd.

So, guys, go on. Tell us a story.


About shakespeareanwalter

Walt Shakes(@Walt_Shakes) is an award-winning Nigerian writer, poet and veteran blogger. He is a lover of the written word. the faint whiff of nature, the flashing vista of movies, the warmth of companionship and the happy sound of laughter.

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52 comments

  1. AHA! ama be here to read great works. Carry go guys. Me sef go be external judge, self appointed. no time! 😀

  2. Mama told him not to go out to play. Lunchtime was over and it was time for siesta. The chatter and happy laughter of the neighbourhood children rent the early evening air. The din sailed in through the window in his bedroom, causing his heart to ache as he lay on his bed, trying futilely to sleep.
    Then he gave up, got on his knees on the bed and stared out longingly at the playtime of the other kids. Mama said he should not go out to play. She said nothing about wanting and watching through the hole on the window’s netting.

  3. “We’re safe here,” he murmured.
    The inside dark, musty, filled with the sounds of hearts pounding.

    “HELP! AARRGGHH!” they screamed.
    The outside bright, arid, riven with terror and the promise of no tomorrow.

  4. yaay!

    free airtime for data … lool … lemme goan find my journal

  5. This hole, this blasted hole. I have been staring at it for the last two hours and I still cannot believe that this tiny hole is the only evidence we have. This ‘evidence’ which is as good as useless. The tears which I have been holding start falling freely as I begin to accept the fact that the bastards did a damn good job. Looking into the parlor and seeing umma being comforted by half of our family members, seeing the looks of desolation on Amina and Jubril’s faces are all proof that Abba is dead. Dead!!! And the only proof we have to show is this tiny hole, and the bullet which was deeply rooted in what remained of Abba’s head as he watched the news last night.
    I begged him, hell, we all begged him not to contest for the gubernatorial elections but he ignored us. “The people need me”, he said. Well, the ‘good’ people won’t have him anymore. The ‘good’ people are the ones who came to confirm that he was dead. The ‘good’ people are the ones who will find a replacement for him before the week runs out.
    I wish I could patch this net, this hole. The police say we shouldn’t but I am tempted. This used to be my haven, I used to read in this shade but now all I can do is look at the barbs of the net and see my Abba’s face as it exploded from the gunshot.
    – Shughar, 2015

  6. Deep to deep
    we exchange stares
    and sigh in unison
    there goes it all

    The silence is loud
    everyone can hear it
    all we can do now is wish
    from nothing, to nothing.

  7. We submit here?

  8. It should have been a hopeless situation. The bullet-hole on the window reminded him of that. But self-pity is not an emotion Emeka entertained.
    It shall be over soon, we shall overcome

    In these times of war, when death ruled the day, and hunger the night. The rivers overflow with the blood of innocent children. The now familiar stench of death pervaded through the atmosphere. Lifeless bodies layed on the ground, bent in unnatural positions. Death had become an acquaintance.
    Chaos
    It plagued the land, death by her side. By their hands was brother snatched from sister and sister from brother, husband from wife and wife from husband, mother from child and child from mother, yound from old and old from young. O cursed land!
    Uncertain Times
    The bullet-hole in the window, a grim reminder of their plight. Only two days ago, there was five of them. Today, there’s just him. He felt the lonliness crawl on skin, dissolve into his flesh and reach for the deepest part of his heart. Like Cattle in Shambles, his loved ones had been slaughtered.
    Hope
    It filled his mind with passion. It opened his eyes to see the light, shining ever so brightly at the end of the tunnel. And so he surged on every morning, everyday with renewed strength. Hope, the promise of a new tomorrow, a better tomorrow, where ties remain unbroken, men weep not and women mourn not. For him, it was the promise of a new home, a peaceful home. Where he shall without fear, along with his unborn children and their children utter the words “Nwa Biafra”

  9. Walter, am I limited to one entry?

  10. Issorai. Getting ready.

  11. THE DARK ROOM by Chiedozié Dike

    Victoria Island, 1965

    Victoria Island, 1965

    There’s something ethereally artful about a silhouette, this silhouette; the coordination of light and shade throwing into profile the face of this man I do not know, his figure, the shape of him, enlivened by shadow and cast on a backdrop of yellow light spilling through a crack in the door from an adjoining room. I can see his face, and in my head it the semblance of a Grecian god of whom odes are composed and incense offered, the sort of face I found carved in stone all over Italy on a hard-won summer-holiday in my last semester at Cornell last year; the venerated profile of the alpha-male.
    I stand at my window, the generously-wide picture-window of my new apartment in one of the most-recently completed high-rise tenements in Victoria Island, which I could only barely afford with an advance on my salary, and I watch, framed by curtains sewn, hand-embroidered and parcelled to Lagos from Port-Harcourt by my mother as a house-warming gift; enthralled by this faceless stranger, his profile thrown in relief by the light that threatens to overwhelm the dark room where he stands, doing god-knows-what with hands that are swallowed by the darkness, his silhouette visible through the drape-less window that faces my apartment from across a cobblestoned road.
    I have been standing on this very spot for half an hour or so, watching this stranger who is, as far as I know, unaware he has an audience; wondering what he’d feel like, imagining how his lips would taste, and if they would fill my mouth. I think of his strong hands –hands that I have never seen –on my breasts, moulding them, kneading my nipples; I think of holding my fingers to his chest, feeling his pulse, tracing the lines of his perfect face, a face that, though formless in my head, takes on the essence of every last man I have ever desired. I want this stranger, I think with sudden ferocity; I want him in my bed tonight, now!
    You must think me crazy, or perhaps, a whore: a woman of neither virtue nor morals; and to all that, I would say: yes. I am a liberated woman, a self-conscious atheist whose allegiances and virtues are only to a secular state. I am very much different from the young naive girl from Aba who set out to America five years ago for an Ivy League education, and I am aware of this in the way I am aware of my womanhood, of the curves of my body and the lingering eyes of men; most especially, of the effect it has on me: knowing how my body affects a man, that his eyes linger because I am desirable, and as such, powerful. I am very much aware of this change in myself, an absolute mutation, like say a butterfly larvae morphing into a carrion bird, and I am more aware that I am hardly the same person anymore. Perhaps that’s the reason I have been putting off a visit to Port-Harcourt, where my family now lives, for fear that all those who knew me would hardly recognise me, and worse yet, that I may remember what I had been like and feel ashamed of who I have become. But in this instant, it is stimulating, and even to some degree, liberating, to watch this stranger’s profile from across the road in what is fast becoming an after-work past-time –I have been watching him this way, every night, for the past two weeks –and I try now to piece his life together, the life of this man I have never met; to create an eclectic personality for the flexibly-defined face existing in my head.
    What does he do in that dark room every night? I wonder. Hmmm…. Work? In a dark room? Why would anyone work in a dark room? Could be he’s a spy, I think with an internal laugh, my love for Leon Uris’ spy-thrillers having the better of me, but this is a little game going on in my head and I see it through, half-heartedly mulling: yes, it could be he’s a spy for the threatening Republic of Biafra, sent to the nation’s capital on a reconnaissance mission. Or maybe he’s a spy-handler…
    This is my imagination running wild and the idea of it is positively ludicrous, but the human mind is a tricky thing, you see, and without realising it, I have already begun seriously considering the possibility. There has been an increasing air of tension in the country for the past year, what with the agitation of Colonel Odimegwu Ojukwu and his underlings for the secession of the south-eastern part of Nigeria to form the self-determined Republic of Biafra, the purpose of which, I honestly can’t wrap my head around. But this lack of understanding and flat-out irritation with the idea, I must admit, isn’t so much informed by a bird-eye’s view as it is by my self-preservation: I mean, what would such a new republic mean for me and the professional roots I am already setting down in Lagos; what would the new Biafran state hold for an investigative journalist other than bogus promises, and irrelevance? Who would care for scandal when they have a new life to build? Who would, for their sanity, disbelieve a government that has sworn to take them to the promised land, a land for which they would have given up everything and would rather make work or die trying, even if it means living in denial, because otherwise what recourse would they have; failed by their Moses, to whom would they run?
    But it’s all nonsense, I think now with severity; this rubbish about him being a spy-handler. I try to imagine it now, a black man with a Yoruba accent in a fedora and overcoat, silver-pistol holstered at his hip, pocketing a telegram and tapping out messages in Morse code. Needless to say, this is a very laughable image. And then it hits me: he is photographer! That has to be it! He spends his evenings in the dark room developing his films. Oh, how could I have missed it!
    I rush into my bedroom and throw open my wardrobe, thinking what to wear of all my dresses. Nothing seems good enough: they either seem too godmother-ish or too maternal or too formal or too slutty or solely night-club appropriate, and I fling out dress after dress, creating a heap on my bed and a mess around it, until my eyes fall on it: a yellow crepe dress I bought on a whim at a department store on my birthday last year and have never worn. It’s perfect! Somewhere between informal and homey, not too low-cut, revealing just enough above the décolletage and never more fitting for an occasion as it is now.
    If you are wondering what I am doing and why the attendant urgency…well, I am going to seduce this absolute stranger from across the road, of whom I have only seen a silhouette in the past two weeks, and the realisation that he is a photographer proffers my opening. The thought of it, what I am about do, leaves me with a surge of something potent and dizzying in the pit of my stomach, the sort of sensation I get when I push the needle on my car’s speedometer till it feels like it has a mind of its own, or when I’d give blow-jobs in alleyways to middle-aged white men I’d met in bars who mostly had pale circles where their wedding rings should have been. I might have graduated Cornell with a degree in Investigative Journalism, but what I really learnt in school was that a woman can have as much sex as a man, can objectify as much as she is objectified, can give as much as she takes, and be unashamed about it. A woman can own her sexuality and not be prudish or squeamish about it, refusing to settle into the double-standards of society that dictate different rules for women from men, and while some folks may describe me as a feminist, I am not corny enough to imagine that the manner in which any one woman chooses to conduct herself and live her life can bear on the destiny of womenfolk all over the world. To be honest, I’m not much interested in the feminist agenda, which is largely unheard of it in these parts, except in ways in which it might directly affect me, in ways in which it might work like a battering ram on the glass-ceiling, sending shards like icicles downwards to pummel undeserving men who would otherwise be promoted over a better woman. Beyond this, I am not self-deluding enough to presume I am any more than a little girl who’d gotten caught up in the dazzling suction force of American culture in the 60’s: drugs, boys, sex, and disco. I am nobody’s role model; hell, I wouldn’t even want my daughter to take after me –or want a daughter for that matter. In the words of Richard Allbright, a white colleague of mine at the Daily Tribune and one of my casual boyfriends, I am a “man-eater”; Richard who burst into tears when in response to his declarations of love for me, I had casually informed him that I only slept with him because I fancied his accent. Ours has been a somewhat strained professional relationship since, but I think his description of me is a tad too melodramatic. Calling me a femme fatale should be closer to the truth.
    I check my made-up face in the mirror, comb out my Afro-do, trace the smudges of lipstick around my lips, and then splashing on some cologne head out of my flat and across the road, the sharp clacking of my stilettos on the terrazzo stairs an accompanying beat for this crazy, little adventure I am embarking on. My mother would have a heart attack if she knew.
    Fifth-floor, eastside of the building, third flat to my right off the main stairwell; check! I knock at the door, and cupping a palm around my mouth, test my breath: smells like Listerine.
    The door swings open reluctantly and a dark man is standing before me, clinging guardedly to the door. ‘Yes?’
    I feel disappointment settle like a stone in the pit of my stomach, stunned, disillusionment hitting me like the in-step of a military-boot to my crotch. This isn’t at all the face of my imagination! This is neither the face of a god nor anywhere near it. This is an unremarkable, tribal-marked face I wouldn’t deign to kiss at my horniest.
    I can turn back right now and walk away to go drown in my bath-tub, but I don’t know if it’s the shock of a let-down unprepared for or the force of habit: my cultivated persona of aggression around men, or perhaps a desire to save face, that propels me to gently push this stranger aside and let myself into his flat. ‘It is not gentlemanly to leave a lady in the hallway’ I state tersely. ‘Didn’t your mother teach you that?’ The last bit I say in a milky tone I’ve known men to always read self-serving meanings into.
    ‘Who are you, and what do you want?’ He snaps. He doesn’t sound like he’s in the mood for games.
    ‘I was told you’re a photographer and I need a photograph of me taken.’
    ‘I am not a photographer’ he says, ‘so could you please just leave…’
    ‘What is that then?’ I hurl back, feeling insulted, motioning to a chunky Polaroid camera discarded unceremoniously on a coffee table, as I do, taking in the room, noting the objects lying around.
    He doesn’t respond at first, but right now, my battered confidence and certainty of sex appeal are the furthest things on my mind; my investigative-journalist antennas are buzzing, noting that something is terribly off about this room that has discarded in corners, school bags and lunch-boxes, and yet holds no pictures of any one child on its walls.
    ‘I don’t owe you any explanation’ he gives off again in that hostile tone, and even more severely says: ‘Please leave now.’
    ‘Okay’ I say and make to go, thinking to say something sassy, something demeaning, but overwhelmed by the chill creeping up my spine. Something is going on in here, I decide, something evil…and I have to find out what. He is holding the door wide for me to leave, but instead of walking towards him and out of it, I turn and make a dash for the dark room, the room in which I’ve watched this man from my flat for the past two weeks, and once in, I preternaturally find the light-switch and slap on the lights and my heart starts to thunder in my chest, threatening to burst through.
    On the walls of this room, a kitchenette, are hundreds of pictures, pictures of little children, both male and female, in several phases and poses of nudity; photos of little faces bloodied beyond recognition and caught on camera in the unmistakable grimace of death. In the sink, and plastered on the white-tiled walls, are streaks and splatters of blood, and what looks alarmingly like a human-eye. I feel my head swell to dizzying proportions; my eyes falling on a rolled-up, bloody tarp hurdled at a ninety-degree angle. It takes a little over a second to take all of this in, you see, and overwhelmed by an uneven mixture of fright and rage at the scene that’s crystal-clear in its ramifications, I whirl around to face the man where he’s standing, my no-longer-faceless muse of the past weeks, who is still by the door, unmoving.
    ‘You sick, sick bastard!’ I scream and make towards him, tears fogging my vision. ‘I would make sure you’re arrested and you rot in jail for the rest of your miserable life! You are going to be diced and chopped and hung from an electric cable till you bleed out, you’ll see!’
    I don’t know why I think he would let me go, that I would walk out of the flat and away to fetch the police, that he would recognise my superior Ivy League education, and the fact that I am of the elite class, and wouldn’t dare to touch me; but I am honestly surprised when he slams the door shut before I reach it, locking it and pocketing the key.
    It takes one look at his deadpan face, their bottomless eyes, to realise what he’s going to do to me, and with this realisation comes a self-preserving desperation amplified by the certainty of death. I turn and I try to run, even as his hands yank me backwards and settle like a vice around my neck.
    For the briefest second, I see my younger self and she’s shaking her head slowly, dismally, as if to say: this didn’t have to be your destiny; you didn’t have to gag and shackle me; you didn’t have to be a bad girl…
    You could have been across the road now, curled up in bed, alive, asleep… If only you’d been a good girl, you wouldn’t be sleeping forever…
    At least, you die pretty, love… You die pretty…

  12. DEMOCRACY SOLDIER…

    The plight of a jobless Nigerian graduate who ended up as political thug. I call him “Democracy Soldier”

    Nsini sits astride the wooden bench in-front of Mr. Richard’s shop, squeezing desperately with both hands into his parched throat, the chilled pure water sachet Mr. Richard handed him immediately he sat down. The sun was mercilessly scorching the whole afternoon, burning deep into his skin as he perambulated the streets of the city. Warm sweat dripped from his head in torrents, across his face and plastered his shirt to his back.
    Having taken some gulps, he sat lost in thoughts so oblivious of Mr. Richard’s prying eyes. He slacked his red flowery tie and folded the sleeves of his white shirt which has seen days on his back and was gradually becoming thread bare. With his right hand, he wiped the sweat on his brow and the droplets form a little pool on the floor beside his dust coated shoe. His mind raced, making a recount of the numerous offices he combed on foot from morning till late afternoon without success. Tears welled up his eyes and trickle down on the white flat file encasing his credentials, on remembering the insults hurled at him, mostly from people who could hardly express themselves in English. He could still hear their harsh voices resounding in his head.
    One of them told him to take his certificate back to the University for a Job… “How can they give you a certificate without a job? Go back to them jare…it is either they give you a job or you return their certificate”…she jeered at him.

    It has been eight fruitless years of job search since he graduated with a 2nd class upper in Petro-chemical engineering from The University of Uyo. There is hardly any office in the city he has not submitted an application but he doesn’t understand why he can’t get a job. His search seems endless and always met with a brick wall, either on grounds of lack of experience or an outright “No vacancy” response. After one year of National Youth Service, Nsini has watched helplessly as his hope wanes to a near halt. His lofty dreams of a promising engineering career now seem unrealistic as each year went by.

    Sitting motionlessly, his face looking forlorn and drawn, he muttered…”God, what have I done wrong to deserve this? Why is my own case so different from others? Look at all my mates; they are far better and well placed in life than me, even Mfon that could hardly pass any exam without my effort…he has built a house, bought a car and will be getting married in a few month’s time. What have I not done? From riding Okada to doing all kinds of menial job I can lay my hands on…is it prayer and fasting? What have I not done?” Bowing his head in despair he sat, not knowing what next to do.

    Mr. Richard tapped Nsini lightly on the shoulder as he was buried so deep in thoughts and didn’t hear his footsteps as he approached. Startled, he quickly wiped his teary eyes as Mr. Richard lowered himself onto a stool in front of him. “My son”…he began, “life is like the uncertainty of the weather. Sometimes it shines and sometimes it rains; that it rains today does not mean it won’t shine tomorrow. I know of your plight these eight years but I still believe that if you don’t give up, you will smile very soon”.

    “Ette Richard…how soon is soon? Eight years…eight yea….”

    “Don’t worry Nsini. Be thankful to The Creator for life. It is usually said that “As long as the neck is alive, it will wear ornaments”…son idem nte owodeen. Go to the house and rest, you look tired and you must have trekked a long way today.

    With these words of encouragement, Nsini reluctantly rose and thanked Mr. Richard for his kindness. With mixed feelings he trudged on towards his father’s compound.

  13. VILLAGE POLITICS

    The canon boomed…shattering the silence of the sunny afternoon of Abasi Nduehe village. Birds fluttered in fright and took to flight from tree tops, dispersing in different directions. It is one of those quiet afternoon that is identified with the planting season, where most household spend long hours on their farms.
    The canon had long ceased but the curiosity it aroused lingered. Many responded to the sound of the canon by circling their hands around their head and exclaiming “Nwana nsa-o” others replied “Idiok mkpo aka nsan nsan” and threw their hands in the direction of the neighbouring villages, hoping that the evil be warded off to other places.

    What could cause the canon to sound, they asked? The last time that canon boomed, it brought so much grief to Abasi Nduehe village, when Bassey Ufia Ntekim, the first medical doctor died in the prime of is youth and was brought home for burial. Atribe the herbalist said that” when a medicine man dies of a protracted illness, it must be the handiwork of the gods” From then on; the sound of the canon spelled doom and brings cold shivers down the spine of the villagers. On this fateful afternoon the sound of the canon signalled the beginning of the end and the villagers didn’t even know it.

  14. And I am like what the heck am I going to write with this picture…
    Moving at the speed of light different thoughts ran through my mind.
    It’s fear of height a horror of the deep, but it is unfathomable to me that this is happening
    I look through the opening wishing you would come back to my arms… But they have taken you away.
    I have all our love letters taped to the ceiling, my sleep is the end of our flies their warbler keep rolling.
    Salivating for your spiraling warmth hoping I would get that every morning. Your mom is here, your aunt is here trying to wake you from this unending sleep. Aisha you promised we will be together forever.
    Though it’s like a dream but am awakened by the cry and noise of people nearby..
    This hole won’t be patched cause I will always come and peep through it hoping you will surely come back. Love you dear Aisha.

    Ramsey Eugene ifeanyi Iloanaeke

  15. First entry… Testing 123…

    He meandered his way through the darkness, searching for truth, light… anything. His mind travelled back to Arkansas. To his Grandma’s porch. He had just gotten the tools to fix the damn hole everyone grumbled about when it all happened.

    “Danny!” He heard his mother call. “It’s time to turn in for the night, they gonna put off the lights and air soon.”

    “Yes mum.” He muttered half-heartedly and waved good night to the darkness in the distance that had become his only source of joy in exile.

    The hot air blew against his face as He strode along the red sand on Mars surface and approached ‘the towers’ that housed earth’s only survivors; ‘The chosen ones’ like Sam the philosopher had said. What they were chosen for though, the self-acclaimed philosopher had no idea why.

    Like an Exodus plague, most waved the early warning signs when the gigantic comets crashed into the Atlantic. Blamed it on some mumbo jumbo astrology crap. Weeks later, Asia was a 100 foot crater and that’s when they realised shit was real. Next was Africa, then Europe and finally America moments after they had fled in a giant rocket.

    God was angry… The Ecosystem is shutting down… Aliens are attacking were some of the numerous ideologies professed but it didn’t matter anymore, it was all gone. All that remained now was a black hole where a beautiful spherical ball of life used to sit. Danny crept into the lights beaming from the towers that donned the red Martian skies and housed earth’s affluent.

    “Danny?”

    “Coming mom!” He yelled as the siren that signalled lights out swallowed his voice. He entered the steel basement entrance and its automated doors crashed behind him. The black hole couldn’t be seen through the barricade but he could still feel it… Could still sense it… Probably if he pinched himself really hard, He would wake up back in southern region of the United States of America and see himself skipping towards his grandma’s patio with a box of tools in his hand to fix the black hole that threatened to engulf everybody.

  16. THE STORY ENDS
    It’s happening. The tempting breasts of the lady on screen and alluring moans coming through the headphone is starting to cause a gradual quickening of his vitals. He is lost and he strokes faster and faster. It is in the heat of this moment, when his eyes are closed and he is struggling to get his juices out that he feels a sharp blow. He dies briefly and resurrects to find two hefty, masked and dangerous looking men. He wants to run but is hindered by the thick rope that binds him to his wooden chair. He is naked and ashamed. He knows they found him ‘doing it’. He hears them talking about the perfect punishment for him and his mind is racing. They laugh when they sense his fear but their laughter is quickly vaporised as they begin to talk. They mock his manhood. One says, “See your brokos”, he also says, “so na this tin give our Lucy Belle?” He cannot believe his ears, “Who the fuck is Lucy?”, he asks himself and just as he wants to protest that he does not know who Lucy is, he feels the blows, they come in simultaneously. He cannot see the one who said, “I go punch your eye if you talk shi-shi” but he knows the tone of the voice is deadly. He forces a moan and a plea. He feels another blow, but he won’t stop begging. He would die anyway. He swallows his saliva which now has the metallic taste of blood; his blood. The smaller man – the one who would not be a match for him on an ordinary day – says to him, “You wan die?”, emphasizing on the word ‘die’. The other man says, “Your own don finish today”. He sees the hatred in their eyes and he knows for sure that he will die.
    He feels another blow and this time, finds himself face-to-face with the lady he was watching on screen. She is licking her finger and seducing him. She is telling him that she wants him. A sharp pain jolts him back to reality and his heart beats fast. He looks down at the pool of blood below him and gasps in shock just before he passes out. His penis is gone! He can’t feel anymore, he can’t hear anymore but even in his sleep, he knows that this is where the story ends.

  17. They say love is blind
    The bastards lied…

    Trampled on…
    Beaten…
    Spat on…
    Humiliated beyond remorse… Love didn’t save me.
    The net tells my story to anyone who cares to listen
    Love is but a myth and you would do well to believe me.

    * * *

    His family wept at his feet
    His body still and pale from inactivity
    It is hard to imagine him quiet, gentle and calm
    Death was by far the best state for him
    Cos in my turmoil, I called unto God
    I dawdled in anticipation of a reply
    Sobbed gently in between his blows and prayed when he was asleep
    Alas, no response came and my suffering ensued
    All hope was lost
    And I readied myself for my daily bashing at the hands of the one that wed me
    Every night… Every day
    Until the Grim Reaper intervened

    * * *

    The hole in the net lingers still
    Its sacrifice forever etched in my memory
    My entire body yearns in gratitude to it
    Cos it prevailed when I thought all was lost
    I never had interest in guns or bullets beforehand
    They were but a bit of nature I had no interest in
    Until Death adopted it in unison with my net
    And sought to deliver me from oppression
    The result proved itself superior to my husband’s fists
    More decisive than his jabs
    More penetrative than his harsh words

    * * *

    “You killed my husband”; his mother had yelled
    She had rushed for me to strangle me
    But was held down by the men
    I wiped the crocodile tears off my face
    And flashed a smile at her
    If only she knew I wasn’t the guilty one
    And the culprit lay a mere 10 feet from her
    Gently spying on the happenings in the living room
    Surveying the occupants with its ever cycloramic eyes
    Protecting me…

    * * *

    It has been months since then
    I did my rounds earlier today
    Cleaned the hole and got rid of the spider weaving a home for itself along its entrance
    The Grim Reaper was my helper
    My only friend
    If ever he would come visiting again
    I would rather he had a straight entry
    I wasn’t going to let anything deter his entry into my home
    Not now… Not ever

  18. This thing dey worry somebody o!

  19. QUICKSAND

    “They shot him! They shot him! They shot him!”

    “Calm down, madam. Be calm.”

    The Police officer, who seems to be the head of this response unit, holds me as I blurt out the one thing I have been repeating since they arrived few minutes back meeting me bent over the body of my husband, weeping and inconsolable.

    “Explain slowly what happened madam. Calm down and explain. Slowly.” His voice has a soothing at odds with the meanness of his face.

    I sniff and explain. Slowly.

    ***

    “I am sorry” I blurted, my cheek smarting from the slaps he had given me.

    I blinked rapidly where I cowered, my vision blurry. Lights filtered into my eyes enough a minute later to see him seated on the lemon chaise lounge, his face in his palms.

    “Big Apple, I really am sorry.”

    “You killed her, right?” He said the words slowly.

    I flinched. Each syllable cut my heart into a thousand pieces. I stood, my dizziness increasing. More from the words than the slaps.

    “What do you want from me, Anita? What?” His face was still in his palms.

    I had no answer.

    Femi – Big Apple in his political campaigns – was a good man. I deserved everything he did to me.

    I had told him I killed what would have been his first child while he was away campaigning.

    He looked up at me, but his eyes were far away.

    “I want you to have a happy life. I want the guilt to remain on my conscience, Femi.” I meant it and he knew.

    His hand moved to wipe a tear rivulet that had formed on his face, defeat was etched on his face. I could picture him carrying the child. He was calling it ‘her’ already. Femi would make a great father.

    “I’ll give you a better child. A healthy one.” I couldn’t believe I said that.

    He didn’t either.

    “What! I do not want a better child. I want her!”

    “You have always been unreasonable, Femi. I cannot give birth to a ‘sickler’!” It was his turn to flinch.

    He stood and began to pace.

    “Anita, you are the devil yourself! When I was in doubt as to our eligibility to marry, you were the one who kept saying God is the one that gave us the go ahead to be husband and wife and as such will take care of our incompatible genotypes. I consistently doubted, but you kept assuring me like a woman of great faith. I relied on your faith! I had faith because you made it sound so possible! Now, I have lost my family’s support because I believed and refused to heed their well-intentioned idea not to marry you! You were too loving, too believing, too forgiving. I thought you were the best thing since ATM. I was wrong.”
    He paused for breath. Femi wasn’t a man to keep up a tirade. I waited for his next words. A dam had broken in him and he was keeping nothing back.

    “Your secret is out. You enchanted me with all you had because you needed me. You needed me to pay your way through your nursing degree. You needed me to help your poor family from my father’s wealth. You married me to be your gold mine in life. I knew all of that, you pathetic daughter of a poor, hopeless wretch of a mother! I am your life in case you have forgotten. Now, you have achieved your life’s dream of marrying me. And now, because the scan says that child had an SS-genotype, you think you can lose that faith so conveniently and decide which child you will have for me or not? Smell the espresso woman, you can’t! I own you! I decide what you do! You have made the only decision you are capable of making: marrying me. I make every other decision. I decide everything. I own your life! I am your life!”

    Saliva spewed as he paced and raved. His neck muscles were taut. He ranted on but I could only hear babbling. My dam has broken too.

    He was right. I needed him. I needed him to make me the woman who could give him all the love he deserved. I needed him to educate me to be her. I needed him to make my mother be at peace that her daughter is in good hands. He was partly right; I wanted to marry him, but that was because I really loved him. But, he didn’t own my life. No.

    Femi wanted his ‘daughter’ so much. And his daughter he would get.

    I ran into our room while he paced. He must have thought I was too ashamed because I heard him shout after me:

    “Come back here! I am not done with you, shameless bitch!”

    I came back under a minute. Femi’s gun in my hand. He had gotten it when he began his political career two years ago. I pointed it at his face.

    He froze in mid-babble. His eyes were on me, wide and very afraid.

    My voice was calm as I spoke the last words he’d hear:

    “Your child is alive, safe in her mother’s womb.”

    The shot I fired blew his face away.

    ***

    “You said you didn’t see anyone?” The Police officer asks when I told him what happened.

    “I couldn’t have sir. Like I said, we were sitting on the sofa together; he heard a sound by the window and went to check what it was. I even told him it was the wind blowing the window. The next thing I heard was a bang and my husband falling, his face a mess. I screamed and screamed but our neighbors won’t come for fear of being attacked, I guess.”

    “Ok, madam. Just calm down. We will make sure we bring whoever the culprits are to justice.”

    “You really must sir! They can’t get away with this. Is it a crime to want to serve one’s country? Is it a bad thing to want to be a politician? I am afraid for my own life too sir. What if they thought I saw something?
    WHAT IF THEY COME BACK FOR ME????”

    “Ok, madam. You will follow us to our station now and we will have a chat with the DPO. He is a good man. I am sure he will provide protection for you till our investigations are over.”

    “Thank you sir. Thank you. God bless you. Anyone that says you will not live to see you children become great will meet God’s judgment!”

    I pat my stomach as I say the next words:

    “I am carrying his baby.”

    That seals it. The look on the Officer’s face says it all.

    ***

    As we make our way out of the secluded bungalow that is our house, I take another look at the window for the hundredth time that evening. Shooting your husband is easy. Setting up the murder scene to fit your cover up story isn’t so difficult either: break the glass window from the outside with a stone, tear the window’s net with your hand to make it jagged. Then call the police. And wait.

  20. My name is Aishat, This is my story!
    That fateful afternoon, my Mathematics teacher Mrs Fatima was in class. It was the last subject for the day. I was no longer listening to her because I was so filled with the thoughts of my elder sister’s wedding. “She will definitely be a beautiful bride” I thought to my self. She was getting married to Baba’s friend as a second wife.
    Then i heard a loud bang.BOOM!!! I didn’t know where the sound came from. IT WAS SOON FOLLOWED with sporadical gun shots. I saw men with big guns like the ones Baba have been describing to us, where used for war. It looked like a RAID. Baba told us that Baga was under raid by some raiders. Our town was a peaceful town!!! We were all peace loving muslims!!
    “Who will want to raid us”. I asked my self.
    I saw everyone running, my fellow students fleeing in all directions. I didn’t know which way to go. I hid under my class teacher’s table. I was hearing loud screams and soon they were not heard any more. I started peeping through the window which was close to my hiding place, I was too afraid but i still wanted to see what was going on so i would tell Baba when i get home. I saw students whose faces i could remember been loaded into trucks!! The men where dragging some of them into the trucks and some were been killed. I just couldn’t understand where they were taking them to.
    ‘Why are they killing some and taking some away’? I asked my self.
    Baba, always told me that only a wicked soul will take the life of a fellow human. Fear gripped me so hard i couldn’t hold back my tears. I saw our play ground filled with bodies of my play mates and the body of Mrs Fatima was on fire. I suddenly heard their trucks start and they were driving off chanting and singing victory songs. I felt safe and was crawling out of my hiding place. Suddenly i heard my window shatter.

  21. THE WAGES OF SIN (AND ORIJIN).

    You were drunk that night, the smell of champagne on your breath cloaking the fact that it was actually too much Orijin that was making you steer the car through the streets with an explosion of speed and nerve-jarring recklessness. Olamide was on the radio, rapping about his goons, respect and loyalty the rewards of the hustle. And you were bobbing your head to agree with every bar, even though you couldn’t understand most of the Yoruba, you understood enough.

    You were drunk and the wind was roaring, or maybe it was all in your head. Maybe there was no wind, maybe there was. Maybe the laughter wasn’t from anywhere in the car but was only the wind slithering through the trees and giving them voices. Laughing voices.

    As with the other times, when you had doused your soul with too much Orijin, your talking sickness came back.

    “ Hey, break.”
    “ Calendars.”
    “Mumu boy.’
    “ Follow.”

    The words came in jumbles. Random snippets of thoughts that were forgotten immediately they escaped your lips. The car roared through the darkness, the wind roared in competition and gloating voices throbbed sad, sad echoes that seemed to mock, The Orijin no reach. You wanted to stop the car, find the nearest bar and douse the nostalgia and unhappiness with that drink you had become obsessed with since that evening when you had returned from work and saw the letter. You wanted to brake, get out and scream so loud and hard it would send every prick of pain barelling out of you, taking the shape of clouds, maybe dark clouds, floating skywards like a wish or a prayer and blending with the sky and turning to bright clouds when tomorrow morning came.

    Instead, you floored the accelerator, your body finding an eerie comfort in motion. Breakneck motion. Neon boards and brightly-lit houses rushed past you like the world was a movie being played in fastforward. The digital clock on the dashboard said it was some minutes past eleven. You didn’t notice it, your life no longer revolved around time. It was wake, wallow and wring corks off bottles then go out to look for more bottlecorks to wring in Despairvile.

    Why, Temmy, why?

    She had told you she loved you. Even in that letter where she said goodbye. But why love someone and leave them? Is there a law against loving and staying? Against holding on for a little while longer? The questions swarmed your mind and gnawed at your skull like armies of soldier ants whose line had been interrupted by an offending foot.

    Your vision blurred, you thought it was the drunkenness but it was tears. Biting, blinding tears. Anger filled you up, warming your stomach, filling your mouth with bile. Your feet pressed harder on the accelerator and the car roared through the night in response.

    You approached a bend that would take you off the main road and onto the street adjoining yours. Somewhere in your subconscious, you understood you needed to ease off the accelerator, to slow. But you keep going. Alarm bells and flashing red bulbs started going off in your head, but the power of the Orijin in your system gave you a feeling of sheer invincibility.

    You reached the bend. You swerved. The car went out of control. It careened off the road, the tires made awful slushing sounds on the concrete. The car tumbled then flipped over. You hit your head hard against something. You vomit. The car came to a stop and you lay there, your head on the steering,waiting for bright lights and angels singing Swing Low, Sweet Chariot. Instead, you felt something trickling from your head to the floor. Blood. You opened your eyes, a bit disappointed to be alive.

    The engine was still running, you swerved back onto the road, shaken into sobriety, you drove home. Very slowly.
    *

    The sun reminds you of her when you wake. Of her unwashed breath in your face, her soft voice doing a number in your head, Arise and shine, baby, for the light is come and the thirty-two of the Lord is shinning upon thee.

    You wonder if she is lying next to him right now, mouthing the same words into his ears.

    Rage makes your hands start the trembling. But the pounding in your skull tells you there will be/should be no bottles today. There is something about this pain in your head(last night’s Orijin? The flipping car?) that sobers you up enough to ball your hands into tight fists and fight away the carving for Orijin and blood.

    You get out of bed and walk to the bathroom. Every step makes your pain pulses throb. Your pee is sickly gold. It triggers another memory, of her laughing in the shower as she watched you pee and saying, See golden weewee. We don hammer today.

    The tears came again. Angrily, you swiped at them. You finish peeing and zip up. The bathroom mirror catches your gaze and holds it. You need a shave and forty days of sleep. you walk back to the room and lie down.

    You need help. You can’t run away from it now. There’s something in your heart that burns and tears you from the inside. And you know you can never get rid of it by drinking twenty cans of Orijin. You can never get rid of the voices in your head chanting, Kill am. Kill am. Kill am. Kill am with maniacal frenzy.

    Temmy betrayed you. She told you she didn’t love the boss, Issei. Him no even fine, see him cashew-nut head sef. She had said she didn’t want to offend the man by turning down his dates. Make I just chop the mumu man money small, make dem no sack pesin for nothing. And the next thing was a goodbye letter on your table and her copy of the key under the welcome mat.

    It’s not what you think, she said.

    The voices are louder now. You stagger out of bed and out of the house. Your car looks bad, you get into it anyway, buckle your seatbelt on reflex and drive. You just drive. You turn up the radio, hoping the music will drown out the voices. But there’s no music, what you hear is a sermon. Today’s Sunday.

    ‘ For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God…’

    You are not listening anymore. A new voice has entered your head. Its chants are not as loud, forceful and insistent, but it crowded out the others. The wages of sin is death
    .
    You stop driving and sit behind the wheel, staring through the cracked windscreen but seeing nothing. Hearing something.

    The wages of sin is death.
    *
    You worry about how to get the gun past the bulletproof door with its metal-detector. The security guard smiles a greeting at you and presses the green button to let you in. The door slides open and you enter with baited breath, then it slides closes and the other door leading into the banking hall opens.

    You believe it is a miracle. You believe it is a sign from God.

    You are not supposed to be here. That bastard, Issei, had gotten you transferred to another branch of the bank. So he could have her all to himself. The bank is already full, with people lining in three rows to process their Monday transactions. You look around, but you cannot see her. You walk past the lines, take a left and approach the office marked ‘Manager.’

    ‘Hey you,’

    You don’t turn, don’t stop. You keep walking, the trembling is back, the voices are back.

    ‘ Stop there!’

    You couldn’t resist stopping by a joint on your way and downing three bottles of Orijin. The familiar feeling of invincibility is coursing through your veins.

    ‘You! What’s that in your hand…hey… a GUN!’

    The cry is followed by the sudden blare of alarms. You don’t even realize the gun is now in your hand. Around you, the sounds of frenzied footsteps hints at the
    pandemonium behind you.

    ‘Mary,’

    You turn. Temmy is standing and staring wide-eyed at you and then at the gun then back at you. Behind you, you hear a door open, you turn and see Issei, standing by the door with his face clouded by confusion and then fear. He moves suddenly, slipping behind the door and slamming it shut just as you raise the gun and fire.

    The bullet tears through the glass, spider-web patterns appearing around the hole. You hear him fall just as you hear a voice say, ‘Hands up.’ And then there’s a roar and you feel something slam into your back, jerk you forward and take your breath away. You hear Temmy screaming your name, the sound seems to come from a long, long way away.

    You lay there, waiting for the sounds of voices singing, Swing Low, Sweet Chariot, trying not to breath because your chest hurts and wondering over and over in your mind with feverish paranoia: didikillhim? didikillhim? didikillhim? didikillhim? didi…

    “Swing low, sweet chariot
    Coming for to carry me home.”

    You smile and close your eyes. It’s time.

  22. Mbagwu Amarachi Chilaka

    It was the final day of the audition. Sisca and I sat at one corner of the hall rehearsing the songs we would perform for the final stage.
    We made it to the seventh and the last audition.
    I took pride in my ability to sing well. I have been one of the best in the other stages and I knew Sisca wouldn’t have made it if it was not for me. I remembered how she messed herself up on stage the last time we performed in a friend’s birthday party. Although, she was good and had a very nice voice but she had no confidence in herself.

    ” Contestants number 009…”

    It was Sisca and me.

    With pride bodly written on my forehead, and smiles wet from pride, I gaited majestically to the stage. I dashed the judges a beautiful smile, there were four of them- a male and three female judges. I loved being the centre of attention.

    ” Hello!” said one of the female judges with smiles. She was beautiful and had the kind of smile that could wake the dead. I guessed she was beginning to like me already because she had her eyes on me.

    ” Hello!” I replied still wearing my smiles.
    I saw Sisca’s lips part but no words came out from them. I could read fears boldly inscripted on her forehead. I knew she was going to mess up again. I smiled.

    “What’s your name?” She asked.

    ” My name is Xilla.” I answered.

    ” My name is Sisca.” I heard her trembling say.

    ….
    “We would be singing.” I replied.

    “Goodluck!” The female judge said.

    The instrumentals started and I began first and then, she followed.
    It was a song I composed a year ago and I had her learn the lyrics.
    The stage caught her even though she tried to free herself from its arms. I watched her try to fight off the fright.

    I finished singing but the instrumentals continued playing. I hadn’t planned for that, I couldn’t choose the right words to fit in. Just then, I heard a voice singing. I turned to look and it was Sisca. She had conquered the fright. Her voice had gained more strength. Her eyes were shut and tears streamed down her face as she sang;

    ‘ I believe that one day,
    Like the eagles, I willl grow wings,
    And fly over that fence and soar higher,
    Higher, higher up in the sky.
    I will be more than what you think of me.’ Her words evoked my tears and they crowded my eyes.
    I stood, dumbfounded and lost in shame as the judges watched her in awe. I wondered how and where she had gotten such courage from.

    She stopped singing as the instrumental ceased.

    “You did well Xilla. You did well Sisca.” Another female judge said.

    I tried to smile but couldn’t. Smiles dared not pay my face a visit.
    I looked at Sisca, she wasn’t smiling too. She wiped her eyes with her palm.

    “I noticed something…” said the male judge, “…One of you is good and the other is struggling to be. Did you two really prepare for this? Are you two really together?

    ” No!” I snapped. I had been waiting for that question. I needed to get rid of her. I know I was the good one here. I had performed on stage many times and got compliments. Hundreds of people had told me that I inspire them whenever I take charge of the microphone.

    The male judge looked at me, smiled and shook his head sideways.

    ” Are you two together, Sisca?” He asked her.

    ” Yes we are together.” She answered in a tone close to whisper, with tears still crowded in her eyes.

    ” We are not!” I chortled and then said to the judges, “… Our coming together was never my opinion. Actually, she gave the opinion of singing with me but I never accepted it.” He smiled again. It was the second time he was smiling at me. He was the only one who had smiled at Sisca more than he had smiled at me, but that never bothered me, I had three of the female judges, they had been smiling at me.
    That the judges watched her in awe as tears flooded from my eyes didn’t mean she would win this.- I said to myself. Afterall, a ‘yes’ from just one judge, the male, won’t make her win. She needs over two ‘yes’ from more than two judges.

    “Xilla,” he called getting up from his seat, “… Just one person is good to go. What if you are the good one here?

    ” Like I said earlier, I’m here on my own, and if there’s a winner, it should be me. I composed the song myself.” I said as smiles beamed my face.

    ” Good!” He said and turned to direct same question to Sisca.

    ” I didn’t come alone and so, we two are good to go. I would be glad we won.” She said with a face that looked like a smile had never taken a stroll on it before.

    ” I’m on my own and so are you.” I said and smiled wryly to her.

    “Okay!, he said, “… This contest was organised by a young woman who had passion for singing but never got the opportunity to do what she loved. She was never opportuned to pursue that dream and she organised this to help our youths to do what they love. We are not just looking for beautiful voices but voices that sings with passion, voices that can speak emotions one can see, voices that can cause the eyes to shed tears, voices that can convey messages and speak to the minds of people. You are good, you are smart, but Sisca has that voice. She’s the good one for me.”

    I couldn’t say a word. I stood like a statue, watched and listened to all the rest of the judges praise Sisca.

    My heart pounded with an intensity that made my body quake. Tears crowded my eyes and flowed, forming a wide enough pool on the ground. My nostrils widened and sucked up all the air in the hall and sweats strolled down my face mixing with the tears, and my neck. My palms became wet.
    I turned around to look at Sisca, she wasn’t smiling, she stood in shock and tears poured out from her eyes.
    An embarrassing stinge stained my face as one of the female judges rose from her seat and ran to the stage to console her.
    I had missed an opportunity to study in the Passion Art School. My dreams have been shattered. Mother always told me that failure comes with pride. I had lost it all, my respect, my happiness and my friendship with Sisca. I had lost it all. I had raised the hopes of my dreams so high and let it fall. It did fall. My dreams fell and broke into shards.
    Pride had cut open a wound that can never be healed.

  23. **** Testing my pen *****

  24. One Second, One Story

    Time seemed to stop.

    It was a frozen tableau. I could see my wife turned towards me, one hand slightly raised towards me, the other clutching the car keys, her brow creased in dawning apprehension at the loud bang. The light from the TV flattered her lovely face, and in that moment, I felt regret. I wished I had loved her more. I wished we had gotten round to having kids. I wished I had never ventured into investigative journalism. I wished I had never discovered the truth behind the lost oil money. I wished I hadn’t ignored the threatening calls. I wished….I had time to say goodbye.

    I drew a breath to do so….and time moved.

    The bullet passed through the door and the last thing I heard was the sound of breaking glass and my wife’s scream.

  25. Dead Man Walking
    I think I am the only surviving virgin in the class. No, don’t give me that look, this sort of thing usually happens when you have a protective mother who is a deaconess at the church and a stoic father who is an elder. But I am about to fix the situation.
    I took her face in my hands and kiss her lips, gently. Her name is Mma and she was indeed one of the prettiest girls in school. Fair, plump in all the right places and crowned with a lovely hair, she was every boy’s dream.
    Peter (who had been devoting time and effort to teach me the art of love making) had said that it was crucial I start out all gentle and lovey-dovey. I rolled my tongue over her lower lip and she opened. I let the tongue duel begin while my right hand left her face and to her blessed chest where I find that lovely curve. I was in heaven. I wondered why something that they said was so wrong, felt so right, so good.
    It was then that I heard the scrape of slippers against the ground. I pulled my hands away and my eyes flew to the window with a hole in the netting. I waited for all of five seconds, with our hard breathing charging the room and blood coursing through my body to my loins. Five seconds; that was how long it took libido to win over reason. My lips returned to hers, this time more urgently. Soon, our clothes were torn off and I found my way in. The curse was broken. All those talks about keeping myself for marriage and keeping the temple of the Lord holy…. Well, those lessons with Peter paid up and things were going so well, but that is usually when bad shit happens, right?
    I heard a tinkling, the sound of the key turning in its hole. Excitement turning to fright as I found out clothes and handed some of them to her.
    “Chim o! My God! So it’s true.” Mama called as she entered the room.
    And that’s how everything went south, starting with my libido. I held a piece of clothing – I don’t know if it’s hers or mine, I didn’t care – in front of me and out of the corner of my eyes I saw her do the same.
    “So this is how you disgrace me and yourself? This is how you disappoint God? Efu mu! I am finished! I didn’t believe it when Afam ran to the shop and told me that he had seen you in here, kissing a girl.”
    A strong wave of shame washed over me. My eyes misted when I looked into hers and caught her looking at me like…like she had caught me doing “it”.
    “I am sorry, mama.” I said as a single tear ran down my cheek. I wondered what would happen when she told Papa. And I knew that I was a dead man walking.
    Illuminatus; 2015.

  26. ‘It was your witch of a mother that bewitched me into marrying you!’

    ‘Oh come off it, Akpan. You know fully well that if I didn’t marry your sorry broke ass, no one else would.’

    ‘If the ass was so sorry, why did you jump for joy on the day I proposed?’

    ‘Forget that thing o. All na acting. Idiot like you…’

    ‘Shut up dia! Rubbish. It’s not your fault. Isn’t it because I haven’t bundled up your baggage and shoved you out into the streets? Empty container like you! If I had used your bride price to buy a plot of land or an okada, I know where it would have taken me by now.’

    ‘Akpan…!’ Her voice sounded teary as a cloud of gloom descended upon her tiny frame.

    ‘Oh. So now you wan’t to cry ehn? Cry now, wet the floor. At least if the cry of babies cannot be heard within these walls, those of an adult may fit pretty well. Cry on, cry baby.’

    Rebekah slumped over the living room couch. Her body shook vigorously as heavy tears escaped their glands onto her bare cheeks. Akpan had stormed out through the front door, as usual, the bar down the road his probable destination.

    Santana and I stood glued to the spot, torn between feelings of sympathy and mockery. We had come to watch tonight’s episode of our new neighbours’ wars through the old gunshot hole in the window as soon as we heard Rebekah’s shrill voice go up. It still was a mystery how tenant after tenant had lived in this house without changing the nets at least.

    ‘The notorious breed of mosquitos that live in this our area must have gone in through that hole, bitten Rebekah and blocked her womb!’ Santana once said amidst hysterics.

    But tonight, we would not return home cackling. The bullets of Akpan’s words had hit us too, as Santana, my sister,was just getting over a stillbirth.

    • Don’t i just love the writer in you? Yes, i do love you. Seriously, reading this gives a sensual pleasure. An almost sexual pleasure.

  27. Trapped.

    Bent over on all fours, you hear the footsteps recede and the door grunt to a close, locking you off again, from the outside. Ignoring the sparks of pain shooting through your body, you crawl towards the light, slime leaking down your thighs. Dull light streams in through the dust coated window netting and ear pressed against the wall collect the sounds from beyond. The bark of orders, the reports of a gun going off, the lusty cheers which announce the death of someone or something. The pain is a stab through the anus as you try to sit against the wall. You should know by now, that your body rebels against sitting down every time the door opens -then closes. Teeth clenched, you ride the wave of pain and drag yourself up. Being erect is a relief or something close and you realize it doesn’t hurt as much as it did in the beginning. In the beginning, you curled into a ball after each ordeal and cried yourself to sleep, praying not to awaken. These days, there are no tears to shed having dried up like the ball of hope lodged in your heart that has shriveled into nothingness, emptiness.

    You look out into the clearing beneath the dogonyaro tree where the sun plays hide and seek, its rays darting here and there amidst the fluttery canopy of leaves. There in the shade, dozens of men stand on prayer mats and face the sun, palms opened to receive Allah’s blessings. They stand, bow – forehead on the ground, buttocks lifted upwards – stand and stand again, finally rolling up the mats to stack them around the tree. The gathering breaks into groups and disperse, leaving the space free for the band of boys that congregate beneath, led by the man called Shittu.

    This is the moment you have been waiting for. Under Shittu’s command the boys arrange themselves and begin to practice, wielding their machetes this way and that, flushing under the hot sun. Something is about to happen, you can see it in the hurried movements of men and the way they form a scattered circle around the boys, cheering them on. You wish that you can be out there with them, soaking up the kolanut-stained approving smiles of the older men; wish that you do not look the way you do.

    Soon, Shittu picks out one of the boys and whispers to him, pointing at a stack of guns on the ground. The boy walks away from the training and you watch him approach, rifle slung across his chest. Something about the walk, right shoulder dipping downwards and the knees knocking against one another stirs your mind till a name pushes past the fog of memories. Sani! You stand on your toes – in spite of the pain and strain to catch a clearer glimpse but all you see is a flowery shirt flapping out of sight as he goes beyond your visual periphery.

    Sani. You mumble it like a prayer, as if in doing so, he will materialize before you, an apparition of protection. If he were here with you, you would not feel so afraid whenever the door opened but then, you do not wish this fate on him. A rifle is more fitting on him you think, as memories engulf you .

    Sani who first started calling you Amina after he wrapped your sister’s hijab on your head and said, “Wallahi, Ahmed resembul girl.” Boy by mistake, someone had called out then, saying that Allah turned you into a boy because your mother cried for one after having had six girls. Sani who was so fond of you, he beat up anyone who wasn’t family that dared to make you cry. You remember how much he hated secondary school but only joined for two reasons; you and the free lunch and made your classmates stop laughing at your stutter when he broke Gambo’s nose. Always, your father wished you had half his strength to be useful in the farm and your mother called him son even though he had his own mother. Sani who was plucking mangoes for you when two men jumped out of the bush and ordered you both to follow them, rifles prodding your backs. He had kicked the man who slapped you when you started to cry and cursed and scratched till he was held down. The angry man had cocked his gun and aimed at Sani’s head before someone called out from the bush and said, “kai! no kill am, that one I strong well well.” Sani who held and told you not to cry since he was with you when the truck drove away, carrying you and other boys far from the place you called home. Sani who would not let you go when a bearded man in white jalabia pointed at you and ordered you to come out of the line of frightened boys, urine trickling down your legs. Sani whom you saw through your tears, crying for the first time when two men wrenched you from his grip and dropped you at the feet of the bearded man whom you would later come to know as Alhaji .

    You sigh, inhaling dust motes swirling in the air like your sorrow and it is then you notice the fly fluttering above you, caught in a spider’s web. You stand on tiptoe and try to cut the strands of the web so the fly can escape but your fingers do not reach that high. You search for the spider and catch it scurrying beneath the lone glass pane in the window to slip into a cobwebbed crevice. A bike zooms past, drawing your attention outside where you notice one boy undress, pulling his caftan above his head. Alhaji walks into the clearing and you watch him wrap something onto the boy’s chest but you can’t see clearly since he has his back to you. A key turns in the lock and you stiffen against the window, eyes closed. The clatter of plates tells you it is your food arriving even before a voice says so and you exhale, tension finally thawing when the door locks again. You open your eyes just in time to see the boy climb onto the bike amidst applause but the scene unfolding outside no longer holds your interest.

    Today you do not rush immediately to the plate, perhaps it is the thought of Sani still being alive and around. For a moment the image of the rifle around his fifteen year old neck and the effortless way he carried it flashes through your mind and you smile, thinking how childish the wooden pistols you both played with at home must seem to him now. You wonder -as you walk towards lunch- if he has killed anyone yet. You wonder if he knows you are here. You wonder…

    ***

    It’s been three days since you saw Sani walk past and you have started to think that maybe he is dead and what you saw was his ghost or someone else you just wanted to be him. More people have invaded your body too than you care to count. Alhaji must have given them permission because in the beginning, you belonged solely to him. You remember the first guard who used to serve your meals and how his head had split open from Alhaji’s bullet when he was caught with his hand on your penis. You fear that maybe they can sense your death coming and want to make sure you serve your purpose till the last breath. These days, you have lesser control over your bowels and fevers attack nightly, you pray for death when a new day finds you still breathing.

    You are lying in a puddle of excrement, shorts pooled at your ankles when the door opens, but you do not move not till hands lift you to a cleaner spot and begin to wipe you clean with a wet rag. You are past caring because in the last dream you had, you were sinking in the river, a skeleton wearing a hijab. You know death is near.

    When the voice orders you to bend over, you assume the pose on all fours, waiting. Nothing happens after a zip slides open and trouser hits the floor; all you feel is wet hands on your back.
    Knee dan, chuk am insai dia! The voice orders and you hear heavy footfalls approach, flashlight beaming. Hol am like dis! Wet hands grip your pelvic bones that jut out and you feel no pain when a penis slides in and slips out because it is smaller than all that have gone through.

    You remember what Alhaji said the first night he tore through you. He had said you should be proud to be the vessel through which he would be kept pure enough to continue with the mission. You wonder if this new initiate has become pure having dipped himself in you. Sannu, you hear the voice say as warm liquid spurts and trickles down your thighs and soon they are both laughing. It is the sound that triggers your memory and you utter the name that has been on your tongue for days.

    Sani? It is a question that cuts off the laughter you know to be his, having heard it for the past thirteen years of your life.

    “Eh, Amina,” he answers just before the other voice orders him to leave the room. For the first time since you were wrenched from your brother’s grip, you laugh. A harsh sound that sends you into a coughing fit as the door closes, leaving you with only a spider for company. Curled into a ball, you wonder if you are the fly trapped in its web. You wonder too, if you are dead or alive.

    $ß.

  28. HIGHER BIDDER

    His eyes widened at the computer screen.
    It couldn’t be.
    He smiled, something sinister. He wanted to stand on his chair and dance a jig or something, he wanted to whoop as loud as he could and punch the air with his fist. But he didn’t. He couldn’t, after all he was still within the office premises and even though everywhere was empty, the cameras might pick his movement and suspect something.
    He had just struck gold, the information on his screen was worth…what? Well, he knew his story was about to change.
    What should he do about this info? Turn it in? Or sell to the highest bidder?
    Mark pretended to think about it, even though he knew that beneath it all, his greed was larger than life.
    It wasn’t a question of whether he should sell, it was who would be the higher bidder? NPP or APP?
    Which political party was willing to grease his palms with just enough cash?
    In all his years of being an investigative journalist, it dawned on him that he had made more money from the ‘investigative’ part than the actual journalism.
    He had promised Izzy something sweet this year, she had been nagging him to resign his job. She said he didn’t make enough money at it. Now was the opportunity to prove her wrong. He would sell this information and maybe retire on the proceeds, for now. Then he would keep a low profile, because with what he knew, his life was worth something too.
    Thankfully, he had contacts at both political parties ; one of the perks of being a journalist was that you knew people. And they knew you.
    Quickly his fingers moved over the keyboard and he typed the message and sent simultaneously.
    He waited, eyes skimming the pop-up on his screen. This was a freaking gold mine and naturally he was supposed to take it to his boss or take it public, do something heroic for the nation, but was the information worth anything when publicized? Would anyone thank him? Would they give him a medal or money?
    He shook his head to clear it. This was the best thing to do. Maybe not the right thing but the best. For himself and his future.

    He waited for the reply.
    “What info?” came from his contact at NPP.
    “Something you’d really like to get your hands on. Something the public shouldn’t know. Something regarding oil. Something big.”
    He didn’t want to give away much and yet he wanted the info to sound juicy, he wanted to dangle it in front of them so they would bite.
    “Confirm info.” the message was from APP
    He frowned. These ones were usually harder to bait.
    Immediately he made a decision. He took a screenshot of the information and sent. That was safe. They would not doubt him now and besides APP was the richer party, he would absolutely love to do this business with them.

    He didn’t count the minutes that passed as he sat glued to his system. His hands shook with excitement, anticipation of wealth. He also did not notice the blinking light on his phone.
    The last thing he heard was the rasping sound as the bullet tore through the netting and buried itself in his ear.

    He fell face flat on the keyboard, his eyes lolled back in his head.
    He did not live to see the black-clad intruder enter, pull off her mask and kiss him lightly on the temple before carting his computer away.
    “You should have listened to me Mark. I’m sorry.” Izzy whispered before leaving.

    Mimi. A. ©

  29. ****Huevo Day****

    It’s dark and warm … and moist.
    We’ve lost count of days and hours. In fact, ‘time’ seems a strange thing to us. We do not know what it is anymore, except of course, on ‘Huevo’ days.

    I’m not certain how many of us are here but rumours say we are in millions. All of us, locked away in this Prison. The phrase ‘NOT HUMAN YET’ is scribbled across the entrance of the prison in thick human blood. Surrounding the prison is a lake of dark murky human blood, thick with tissues and body parts.

    I look through the tiny openings on the window and imagine what could be. The life with human beings. The life in a real society where one can properly exist and live… and love. I’ve tried three times but I always find myself back in my own very cell- Vas Deterens T1 of Not Human Yet.

    I await another chance. Another Huevo day. The game is simple. The doors will be open and we’d all be allowed to swim through the murky lake. The first to reach the Huevo on the far end of the lake is allowed to go. Allowed to live. Allowed to find the chance to love and be loved. After the first reaches the Huevo, the rest of us inmates would drown and find our way back into our respective cells to await another Huevo day.

    I am a sperm cell, locked up in a prison, wanting to come alive. ‘Huevo day’ is the gloriously brave moment sperm cells swim to reach the huevo or as some call it, the egg. Huevo day is salvation. It is the first point of making a baby. You may call it fertilization. I call it an escape into life.

    I can feel thrust after powerful thrust of the gatekeeper. He’s reaching a climax. Huevo day is here.

  30. STUNNED

    I saw him, he was not me but he was me.

    I would have gone for the front door, I wanted to surprise them so I headed for the backyard. I would go in through the kitchen.

    With the stealthiness of a cat I meandered through the garden shrubs but suddenly came to a halt. The voice I heard streaming from inside, strangely familiar. I couldn’t have heard it because its owner cannot be inside the house.

    So I made for the closest window but stopped only after few steps. The hole in the window, it wasn’t there when I had left the house ten minutes earlier.

    I took another step, “oh shit!” I cursed as my left foot hit a stone and as I leapt in anguish, the right landed on a piece of glass. Broken remnant from the shattered window.

    “Oh Shit!” the words flew out again as I pulled out the piece of glass from my foot.

    “My shoes?” the question came of its own volition. I had shoes on when I left the house, where did they go?

    My eyes popped out of their sockets as I stared at the piece of glass on my hand. Clean as a clean sheet, no drop of blood, totally dry. I raised my right foot, examined its sole. There laid the open wound, a deep gash but no bleeding.

    “Oh shit!” again the words flew out. I crushed the glass on my hands and felt the pain seeped through every fiber of my being.

    “Oh shit!” the words rushed out, as I noticed I didn’t bleed. Again a deep cut lay on my palm, I could see the whitish tissue but the redness of blood absent.

    “Oh shit!” I repeated as I raised my head and my sight beamed like light ray through the hole in the window to see him.

    Same black skin, same well tattooed beards, same lush lips, same flat nose.

    But I am here outside, the me inside the house is not me.

    That moment he turned, his eyes met mine. Daring me to blink, his face stoic, a certain uncertainty hovered over him like flies over feces. Then a smile, a most evil smile crept across his face. Revealing his teeth, the same gap tooth in my mouth and the dimples appeared on the exact spot they would appear on my face when I smile.

    “I am you now” he said, his mouth not moving. But I heard him clearly, he was ten feet away, in a room of crowded bodies eyes still fixed at mine. I looked through his eyes, peered at his soul and saw mine. But I am outside, so who is he, the me that is not me?

    James Becks Robert

  31. RENTED NIGHTS

    The frequent nightmares keep draining my muscles like my anger does sometimes. But then, the numbness I always feel does not come from the nightmares; it comes from the fact that after the nightmares the first thing I open my eyes to is the same cause of my peaceless nights – the frazzled chasm of our window net. Even the wind pushes on the net scares me as though the hollow I see in my sleep, on the head of the man I have known to be my father was also fissured in my heart.

    The hollowness that takes me back to that very day when Papa and Mama were making their usual argument and something whistled pass my ear like a heavenly whisper. But it was not a heavenly whisper because it struck Papa to the floor and created a hole that till the net was changed, would hunt my nights with Papa’s blood flooded eyes opening at every end of the shift.

    Mama, the little light in my dark room said it was the bedrock of my acceptance.

  32. shakespeareanwalter

    This comment officially marks the end of the contest. Any further entries beyond here are welcome, but will not be considered. thanks very much, guys. This has been incredible, as well as a learning experience for me. I’m so glad I don’t have to be the judge of all the brilliance I’ve read on this post. lol

  33. Walter, are you sure you want just one winner? Co, I’m torn.

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