The World Lies

By Samuel Oladele

They said, our hearts will always be an empty auditorium,
a void planet lost in endless darkness.
They said, our minds will always be a burning house,
a wounded confused soldier running in the wilderness.
They said, our hearts and heads will always be
Iran and Iraq, two brothers scuffling.
They said, our eyes will always be defected lights
bulbs left with little to behold.
They said, our faces will always be a stain on the
world, a dying lake.
They said, our bodies will always be a hut in the
middle of estate houses, a dirt the world dumped.
My grandmother has always told me that the
world will call the sun a graveyard because he
is a scientist who never admits to be fallible.
The outgoing doctor, my neighbour, says
lab coats are light blue.
The world is a colour blind doctor, too perfect
to get lens for its eyes.
I am a planet with two suns and an atmosphere
too strong to worry over a body of plausible words.

 

Samuel Oladele is from Ondo state. He is a student studying Applied Chemistry at Usmanu Danfodiyo University, Sokoto. He loves to write and to read.

CROCO WORLD

By Larry Onokpite

I am never thirsty
I gave up that chance hastily
No regret on this sacrifice
Everything would suffice

King of fluids
High class residence of water
Peacefully inhale juice to a nap
Liquid plentiful: life beautiful

Satisfaction will remain our master
Mattering not you marine or earthly
We are slaves of incompleteness
At least materially

Self-acclaimed king of fluids
Never satisfy
Catching, crushing, masticating
Ruthlessly whipping to stillness

Weaker friends are my feeds
Point after point I spy above marine
Plotting my next feast
The king I am mostly wins

I began to brag in fullness
Carefully escaping that cheat of nature
Water commander; territory destroyer
Attacking slowly: devouring in speed

Seeds sprouting in my abdomen
They won’t survive in my giant kingdom
Need soil: need someone’s space
Before I kinged fluids; I begged soil

Who can be proud of a weak king?
Overthrow and death are near him
Pride is our most decorated vanity
Only if you knew how you became?

Should I really be king?
Pride blinds us once we become
Ungratefulness updated in our being
Drop that ego: your cargo will sink

I deposited my eggs ashore
Brilliantly sealed their tomb
A tomb-womb
Dying to live again

Not long enough though
But those days stole my good peace
I gallivanted solemnly ashore
Digging up my princes and princesses

Oh pride! You killed my children already
I didn’t even get the favour to teach
Bluntly refusing to thank the soil
They quickly travelled into their realm

Before I returned home
These tiny creatures were on already
Demanding power and dominance
Never to remember how they became

My feet itching: mouth shivering
But how much must we teach?
What can be learnt from silence?
We are beings patterned in experience

Age trapped me: my kids grew strong
They smashed well: I eager to teach
When a group of weaker friends appear
They were always confused and couldn’t kill
They found a way to burn their pride

I laughed at them skillfully
When they saw many: they starved
When our pride fails us
It doesn’t notify nor apologizes after

I remain king of fluids as I think
Perhaps a confused king
We are greatly impaired;
Kiss a healing humbly
The faith of fate!

Larry Onokpite is from Delta State, Nigeria. He considers reading and writing as great forms of spirituality. Larry previously published A Collection of Mantras and Ululating on Afreecan Read.

A HORSE IN A BIRTH

By Dominic Ayegba Okoliko

The sunlight could be said to be angry. Earlier, it had stood high hovering like a hawk ready to take its pound on a prey. Although now the evening had crawled in gradually, the warmth from the day’s sun could still be felt.
“Áñyá bi ϙmá ki nà’godà, àgo ch’okàhàh!” Arome whispered to himself, or he thought he did.
“Ehm, Arome, come. You’ve started again eh!” Arome’s gaze was fixed on something both distant and oblivious to the other kids playing in the front yard, so he didn’t notice when his friend walked up to the balcony where he stood, leaning against the rusting protectors of the house. “Will you explain yourself?” Ayo said, patting Arome on the back. “And please come back to us here. Your ancestors aren’t ready to welcome you home yet.”
“It is a wise saying from the Igalas.” The words fell off his lips in an undertone. Then turning slowly in Ayo’s direction, he continued, “it means a horse gives birth so that it can stretch its waist but the waist has stubbornly remained strong”. They both fell into silence as if to let the silence speak more about what he had just interpreted. Arome’s eyes remained frozenly fixed; not on anything in particular though. “Talking about the saying reminds me of an incident with my Mama.” Arome picked up again. “You know how Mamas are concerned about their children. They can go a great length to ensure the faces of their kids beam with smiles as often as possible.” It dawned on Ayo that he was in for a reminiscent discourse. He had known Arome for barely six months now. During this short time, they have both learned to be fond of each other and could easily come across at siblings.
They both walked backward and slouched unto a bench that lined the wall. Ayo took a closer look at his friend again. He noticed his face beam with smiles as the fellow spoke in his usual bits and pieces, the way a hen eats. “There was this day. It must have been a holiday time; that period that is loved by most kids.” Arome lowered his face from the distance to hold his friend’s attention as he continued. “We had plenty of time for play and childhood naughty games. My siblings and I, together with other kids from our neighbourhood had taken turns to do unmarked and unmeasured relays around the house for a great deal of the morning. It was a glowing morning. However, as the noon approached, our tummies began to chorus with funny sounds. As if rehearsed, we all crawled at once to where Mama was in the backyard attending to her chores. She had been busy preparing her Akpo for sales at the Ede market the following day”.
“Ehm, Akpo. What is Akpo?” Ayo interjected. “It’s a cassava product used mainly in processing fufu. I know you go to Iya Oloja to buy it a lot these days.”
“Oh yes. What do you expect of a bachelor like me?”
“A poor one for that matter”, Arome added. Currently, both young men fed from little contract jobs they got once in a while in the Sogal city. Since they both returned from Youth Service in the South-Eastern part of Aboland, they had been in search of a good paying job. “Point of correction, a bachelor with swags. You’re looking at the next billionaire in Aboland”. Arome smirked at his friend, spreading his thick lips which allowed for a display of his teeth. These teeth had been his selling point, they made him very admirable.
“My younger sister intoned the hunger song”, Arome resumed his story. “We all joined her to complete the A Cappella: ‘we’re hungry Mama’. Mama quickly abandoned her work and brought out some beans, announcing: ‘we shall have moimoi for lunch then!’
‘Ehen! Moimoi, great idea’, I responded with the blush of a girl in love”.
“Yea, I can imagine that”, said Ayo. “This love affair between you and moimoi no be today oh”.
“Mama immediately put to task some beans she had collected from the storeroom.” Arome continued his talking, snubbing his friend’s remark and causing him to recoil back into his shell. “With serene dedication, she soon had it ready for the grinding mills. In those days, there were only a few of the mills in our neighbourhood and one would have to walk about 3 km to access the nearest. Mama called out to my sister ‘Ojima, please take this to Agbo’s compound and have it grinded’.
“Ah, mama, is it only me here?” Ojima replied grumblingly. OJ, as we fondly call her, later went for the errand while the rest of us kept other things going. About an hour later, all things were set awaiting OJ’s arrival”.
“Eish buddy, that’s a long time of waiting for your tummies’ love”. Ayo interrupted again.
“Ayo-mi-de!” He called out with a big grin on his face, giving each syllable its own weight. “Damn it. You don’t have to say my name as though you’re romancing the words” they both bursted into laughter.
“When she finally came however, our eyes could hardly believe what we saw.”
“Who’s it?”
“Ah, Ayo! OJ of course. My sister. She was all tears and had her whole body drenched in a mixture of mud and grinded beans. You could mistake her for a young lad out on a festival of colours. Upon seeing her first, I called out: ‘Ah, OJ, what’s it? What had happened to you?’ Mama soon sprang from her place in the kitchen calling out. “Ęnę lę ke? Ojima. ele le le le! Ę ñwu lę ke?” (Who’s it? Ojima! What happened to you?)
“When OJ became calm enough, we learnt from her that while she was returning, she had dodged a drifting Okada into a terrain of muds along the pathway and found herself tripped. At once, we knew our hopes for moimoi that afternoon were dashed. It was then that Mama heaved a sigh of disappointment, saying: ‘Áñyá bi ϙmá ki nà’godà, àgo ch’okàhàh!’.
“Ah! Ore mi! Sorry for your lossi-oh! But ehm, what has this got to do with the long face you had when I came by. You were looking 40 years older than your age”
“Hmm, my brother! I just got back from the bank oh” his cheeks flushed with worries.
“Oh yes. You told me when I rang you earlier. Isn’t it the Reyna Bank branch by Oribi round about?”
“Yeah. I was there to rectify the bank’s app on my phone – the one I had before was malfunctioning and had failed me in completing financial transactions”. Ayo who felt sympathetic for his friend said: “Eya! And I know how you feel about being up there, friend.”
“Exactly. But instead of giving in to that familiar hatred of being in the bank, I kept singing to myself while on the way, ‘it’s just a simple single issue. You should be out of there soon buddy’. Did I know that I was going to confront a pale drama that would make me sigh my Mama’s sigh?”
“‘Your account is frozen’. Those words shot straight from a girly lady across the desk pierced my loins too bad! ‘But how come?’ I reacted in bewilderment. I followed it up with series of exasperating interrogations that yielded back and forth responses. At the end, they left in me more cause for disappointment and annoyance.”
Ayo further learnt from his friend that the reason for freezing the account was because the bank could not verify his residential address.
“It is the usual practice sanctioned by Central Bank oh.” Ayo remarked.
“Ayo-mi-de. My worry was not about the Central Bank’s order or its application to me. It is about this particular bank and how it carried out the order without due process. Is this not a slap on Baba Due Process whose reign is doing everything to ensure discipline in all creeks of our land? Did you know that about a month before this incident, I had walked to the same branch of the bank to notify them of a change in my address and to request updates of my details with them? This was entirely initiated by me as a move to prevent any ugly episode arising with my account. The staff promised to have it verified and effected.”
“Ehm, maybe they tried to locate your place and couldn’t. You know how I complain about this our Sogal city. Authorities have done little to give proper identification to new suburbs springing up here and there. Ours isn’t left out you know?”
Arome was sweating and becoming impatient. “No.” He stretched out his hand and waved his friend to silence. “Not at all. They didn’t do any search. As they fed me, some contractors were used – isn’t it Sogal? Do you not know how this thing works? How could they trust some fellow’s words without checking it out? These guys could have been somewhere cooling off before feeding them the lie.”
“Ayo, the problem here is communication. What has come over our banks? They see no fault in sending you a text message whenever there is a bank charge to be deducted but not on this kind of issue. Did you know that the silly bank took in my deposit early this morning? So much of a frozen account! I actually did that to allow me to do smooth transfer into my little sister’s account for her school fees after I would have rectified my mobile app. Don’t I look like a horse whose act of giving birth had failed to ease its waist pain?”
“Man! I feel you. I do bro.”
“Come to think of it, Ayo. How much of ease has banking brought to lives in Aboland?
“Ehm, Arome. Sorry about your tit-for-tat experience with Reyna Bank, but surely, you can’t raise that question.”
“Ayo-mi-de, why not?”
“The Aboland banking sector has gone through lots of refinements that have made it a formidable force influencing social economic change at different levels today bro”, Ayo answered him.
“You remember Gov. Charlie Solugo’s recapitalisation and consolidation of financial sectors in 2004 right?” Arome listened on with a puzzled face. “Did we not learn that the exercise ushered in the emergence of stronger banking system in Aboland? The official account has it that by the end of the following year, the financial system which had about 89 fragile banks was forced to produce 25 banks positioned to serve Abos better. And you may recall yet another reform; the one which targeted corporate governance in the sector. E-ehm. It was undertaken by Gov. Salahu Lami Salahu, the now Tonga of Kario Kingdom. While the Soludo’s reform weeded weaker banks, the latter thrashed perceived ineptitude in financial corporate governance in the banking system.”
Arome briskly rose, took some steps back and forth. “I know about these reforms of course”, he vented. “I also know that some commentators have credited them for some improvements in the area of corporate governance and risk management, lending capacity resulting from the consolidation exercise, and the confidence level of investors and customers.” Ayo felt encouraged, and perceiving that he was winning in the debate, he spoke once more. “Even the e-banking of which you’re a fan; wasn’t it a fruit from the reforms? More people now use automated teller machines (ATMs), point of sale (POS) systems, mobile phones and personal computers for banking transactions.”
With a mischievous laughter in his voice, Arome responded: “you have your facts right friend. But there are not all that there is to an efficient banking system my dear. Despite increased presence of deposit banks in Aboland, a good number of the populace are still either wholly excluded from banking system or rarely utilise the system due to inconveniences associated with banking services in our country. Amongst many issues with the sector, inadequate coverage is a big one. On February 17, 2012, His Royal Highness, Salahu II revealed this in a lecture at the University of Warwick’s Economic Summit in the UK. At the time, he was still the governor of Central Bank of Aboland. He reported that there were about 24 deposit money banks with 5,789 branches and 816 microfinance banks in Aboland as at December 2011. This makes the total of bank branches in our country at the time to be 6,605. If you do your maths well, that leaves you with one branch to 24, 224 persons. We can safely assume that little has changed since that time really. If that’s true, there you have it bro; many banks in Aboland have their branches overburdened.” Ayo fell silent as it seemed to him that his friend had taken on a larger figure.
Arome went on talking about how it was still a common occurrence to walk into banking halls in Aboland and find pools of customers jolting, sometimes unruly to transact bank businesses. Often times the queues in the banking hall would snake around, curving many times before extending to the outside of the bank building. He considered the weight of loss of labour hours for the numerous able men and women who were often trapped in the unfortunate lines. There are also personal queasy feelings that individuals experience under such ‘avoidable’ conditions. “Ayo-mi-de, this is where my aversion towards visiting the banks lies!”
“Ehm, Arome you are right. But is this not the reason why the advent of e-banking in the country is considered a wonderful relief? Now people can make financial transactions from the comfort of their homes, offices, playgrounds and anywhere using internet-enabled gadgets. Is it not awesome to be able to use ATMs 24/7 for business transactions without having to face banking hall nightmares? My dear, we’ve made progress oh.” Ayo felt his voice again but his friend would not let him speak further.
“You are right friend. After all, e-banking has become a global picture of banking system today and we ought to be proud of the feat Aboland has made in this regard. However, these hopes you painted earlier are poorly met in our country. Consider the ATMs. They still enjoy limited distribution across the nation and this causes almost a replication of the exasperating queues in our banking halls. In cases where you have two or more of the machines, only one is made available to serve customers no matter their numbers. Is it not safe to conclude then that the banking halls have lent their nightmares to the ATM stands?”
“As a matter of fact, I’ve added it also to my list of ‘places to avoid’”.
“Ehm, in that case, you’re left with internet and mobile banking then?”
“That’s correct Ayo. And it was the same reason why I went to rectify my mobile banking app with Reyna Bank. But you are not to think that we’ve gotten internet banking alright yet. Internet usage is limited by internet subscription, IT skills, including mobile phones, remember? And on both areas, many Abos are still disadvantaged.”
“Even if those things are there, Arome, I won’t trust the internet for any financial transaction. I don’t want someone to milk my account dry in a blink eh.”
“I know that fear Ayo. But trust me the security issue isn’t as you fear. Rather, the problem I have observed with some of the bank apps concerns policy frameworks that create bottlenecks for end-users and poor technical designs that sometimes make banking apps very user-unfriendly.”
Ayo exclaimed, “ah, you sef! you have become too critical of everything in Aboland; give them a break abeg-i! We are getting there oh!”
“If we are to get there, Ayo-mi-de, I am convinced; our banking sector still requires attention especially as it is a focal economic institution with enormous influence on the wellbeing of our ailing economy. The banking hall decongestion is crucial but so also is finding effective means of making various e-banking services endearing. We need our ghost ATMs too; they are not supposed to dress bank premises like corpse on a parade. Make deposit ATMs more widespread. Sort out mobile and internet banking to become more user-friendly and develop POS to be readily available at point of sales.”
“Now that you mentioned the POS”, Ayo re-join his friend, “I was shocked to learn from a cashier at a private hospital I visited recently that I must pay N 2,000 to use the device. If the service cost is that high, very few people would want to use it I suppose.”
“That’s what I’m saying ore mi”.
“There’s more to be done really.”
“E don do Arome. No finish the small garri wey I drink with this your talk talk jor.”
“It’s OK. Now that you talked about food, let me go in and do some quick fix before I lose my stamina.”
“Now you’re talking, I’m right behind you buddy”.

Dominic Ayegba Okoliko is a nascent Nigerian writer from Kogi State. He enjoys stories and love spending time creating some. His other interests include poem, humanitarian work and social science research. Some of his works have appeared in Words Rhymes and Rhythm, Nigeria News24, and Poemhunters. Dominic works with Human Rights and Conflict ‘Resolution Centre in Abakaliki and can be contacted via okolikoda@gmail.com or on twitter @Ayedom1

BURNT BREAD & SURVIVAL SONG

By Abeiku Arhin Tsiwah

You always ask, why is life
An olden photograph
that evolves with time and gives away
her innocence to sultry, to little things of colour
when life itself is a cosmic writer of poetry
denied of ethereal exploits in space.

Blue flames are hard to light in the heart
so is an unattractive thigh difficult to please
the eyes that sleep with the morning sun.
And life itself is a dwindling tear of a dead child
staged by coups de’ tat and mobbed by silences.
The soul faces time with a piece of hook
like a fisher-boy seducing a mighty ocean.

You know how to survive a rapturous sin
like apparitions do to living bodies who
Prevent them from returning to their beloved.
But if bread is life for survivors in turned memoirs
then is smoke for believers
Who swim the present to childhood
to learn lessons forming
Skeletons of their new age

Abeiku Arhin Tsiwah performs poetry with The Village Thinkers, Ghana and serves as the poetry editor for Lunaris Review, Nigeria. Tsiwah, an international award winning poet and author of Afro-conscious heritage writes from his fatherland – Cape Coast, Ghana.

Painted Lady

by Onuora Ilodibe

Vanessa Cardui
Sometime in July noticed her presence
Upon blooming verdant lush thistles
Like thoughts prickles
Morning dew glisten off rising sun
Some things are natural as they come
Aesthetic and fragile
A touch of spectacle to reflect upon
Abreast with nature you will hear her call
Clicking sounds and whistles
Unspoken words but sounds mellifluous
Strumming every cord to piece-up a song
Morning she comes painted lady colourful on thistles thongs
As a boy she snapped my love
Playing in the tropical woods
Little do I know of her life cycle
She would last a day or two
Floating beautifully the thin air
Her multi-coloured wings.

Onuora Ilodibe is poet, MC and a writer from Nigeria. He has a BSC in Geography and Meteorology. He currently works and resides in Lagos, Nigeria. His love for poetry dates back to his childhood days, and has written ample of poems which include Uwa Abiara and Long John.

SCREENSHOTS

By Anthony Dim

Episode Three

As always happened whenever you were late for work, your mind wasn’t focused on being comfortable. In a danfo bus that backfired along the Second Mainland Bridge you were sandwiched in-between two round-faced robust market women who both smelled of fresh pepper and tomatoes, and spoke in sleepy voices about how stupid the bus driver was, to have meandered in the midst of bigger buses, to have speedily swayed in and out of wrong lanes until the passengers began to curse and swear at him in sharp tones.

Too much stretch marks around their arms like thunder strokes, the observation flashed your mind. As if inviting you to share in their disappointment, the one on your left turned to you and said “shebi? This driver no good. I no talk am?” your lips were pursed, you wouldn’t respond, and you couldn’t hide the frown on your face. They didn’t know how much you wanted to gather your scattered thoughts, they didn’t know about the threatening text message you had received from your boss at the office. It read: “Chinedu I don’t think you really love your job”, and it was shortly after Kemi manifested the best of her foolishness on facebook. Thanks to Mama Chioma who pleaded with the other women to allow you go to work. As for Kemi, you thought she could be brushed up and enlightened, but your efforts for the last three years were as wasted as pouring water into a basket.

“What is paining him?” the woman said in Yoruba, snarled and cut her eyes at you before turning to the conductor to ask for her change. You couldn’t tell whether the dots of sweat on her snouted nose were as a result of heat, or because of anger. But why should people be angry about other people’s anger? What is her business in this situation? She wasn’t even worthy of your attention in the first place. But you struggled to keep your calm. Well, you had become angry about her anger as well. Anger is contagious. You looked towards the opened window and watched other vehicles that sliced past on the other bridge that faced opposite direction, but your heart was pounding as fast as the heavy winds rushed in through the window, at your face.

It would be impossible to pull your phone out of your pocket, so you couldn’t see what was happening on facebook, you would have been rumpled into disappearance in the middle of these women if you had been a piece of cloth, so you felt thankful that the situation in the bus had not been the worst it could be.

On the marble-paved corridors at Oladele Insurance Company building in Mary Land you felt anger squeezing your nostrils, wiped sweat from your face and neck with your kerchief, moving briskly to your Boss’ office while tucking-in your shirt. The secretary had flung a “good morning” at you, the receptionist had waved, the uniformed security men had given you a thumbs-up sign at the gate, you responded to none of them, their faces had all seemed passive and vague in your retina. You knocked on your boss’ office with so much gentleness.

“Come in”. In the air-conditioned office your boss was slumped to her desk, facing a computer on her right, surfing through the internet. And when you noticed her new hair-do, it reminded you of the hair-do Kemi had on her head yesterday when you noticed her shadow in the toilet “Good day ma. I am very sorry for coming late, the traffic was too much…”

“We all travel on the same roads Mister Chinedu so don’t give me that crap” she said cuttingly, not facing you yet. Refreshing a web page she gasped. “I am fed up with marketers like you really. I am really fed up. Chief Odinjo wanted you in his office this morning at half past seven to discuss business. You, you don’t respect your employment do you? I was to give you a signed appointment letter here before you set out. I got a call from his secretary just now…he won’t be in office after eight. He really wanted to work with us”

“He didn’t want to work with us. He wanted to work with my body, inside my clothes. He wanted to poke me” you said “chief is gay. I heard. He is a homo”

“And does it automatically mean he wants to sleep with you?” she retorted. “Because he’s gay you expect him to want to explore everything under trousers and shorts that pass by? Don’t stereotype people. Don’t be stupid! You’re really foolish Mister Chinedu. Foolish! We don’t need the sexual orientation, we need money. When you work in the UK where I had been, you’ll know that what you have just said is arrant nonsense, Nigerian nonsense” she turned off the computer screen and turned to your direction with a penetrating stare, her hair-do made her come across as very firm, like a bespectacled hawk, and it kind of matched her authoritative urban voice.

“Oh-my…what happened to your shirt? You’re sweating, you look terrible. You look disheveled” she said evenly, her eyes shone as she examined you from toe to head.

“I was robbed on my way to the office ma” you looked down, fixed your gaze on her see-through socks which were visible from under her desk. You felt grateful that you had indeed looked terrible, and had told such a creative lie without needing time to sort it out between your ears.

“Oh my goodness! I am so sorry” her tone softened, it made your head feel soft. “You really should have a day off…such a trauma” she took off her glasses “These hooligans in Lagos! What did they take from you? Did they beat you? Do I call the police?”

“Oh no ma, they took nothing from me. Don’t involve the police. I fought my way and took off”.

“I am giving you a day off Chinedu. You shall be going to Chief’s office when next he makes an appointment with us. And try to grow up, Chief is not a goat”. You wondered whether you had heard her correctly, a day off? She faced her table and flipped a file open “You are not handsome by the way. My gay friends don’t like people with excess forehead” she added as you made your way to the door. Your phone beeped, a message from Kemi: “Have you checked your facebook?” Your head hardened again, then you remembered the women in your compound who were probably waiting for your return, to ask you why you had screamed the moment you peered into your phone screen.

“Madam, I don’t mind working today. Am not going home, I will stay”

“But you can’t be looking so terrible in my office Chinedu, you’re a marketer who represents our interests. I won’t let you represent us at any firm with this rumpled shirt of yours and sweats around your buttocks area” she pointed at your shirt with a pen in hand. “If you don’t want to go home you can go relax in one of the empty offices. Johnson will be here at twelve. He’ll do the rest of today’s job”.

You lurched out of her office and headed straight to the empty office near the secretary’s, phone in hand as you peered into your phone.

“This is the biggest disgrace in the world” one of your friends had commented on the screenshot, it was Uchenna. So many reactions ranging from laughter to surprise. Your motion felt terribly slow as if you were walking on fine sand. You blocked all friends who had written mocking comments, then blocked Kemi on facebook. You would call her to tell her it was over between the both of you, you would tell her unapologetically that you do not want a foolish human being for a wife.

On facebook, Kemi seemed to have moved on with her life, as if nothing had happened. She had shared Prince Jacon’s status that said a Nigerian character named Olanna had been included in Game of Thrones, with a caption that read “Proudly Naija”. Prince Jacon was a mutual friend, she should have known that Prince Jacon had a great sense of humor and wasn’t passing the status as news, Kemi was terribly foolish! She even wrote a comment afterwards that read “I pray they add omo Yoruba inside next time. Me am happy sha”. She got comments from her fellow fools who professed they were proudly Nigerian. And you realized that even on facebook, birds of the same feathers still flocked together”.

You sank into a sofa in the unused office, feeling tired and sleepy even though it was barely ten in the morning. The secretary’s phone conversation was coming through the wall, you heard her clearly saying something about girlfriend catching a boyfriend shitting. Sleep varnished from your eyes, you inched forward from the sofa, craned your neck against the wall, she hung up.

You sprang from the sofa, dashed out of the unused office and stood by the door of the secretary’s office which stood ajar. “It is really a disgrace. Even the fiancée, I don’t know why she treated him like that. Telling people on facebook” she was speaking to the albino receptionist who was known as the official gossip-general in the company, and you didn’t like him for this. “Why should her fiancée do that?” You couldn’t hear anymore, it was enough. Enough of the defamation! Enough of their gossips! You pushed the door wide open and walked into the room, unbuckling your belt. The receptionist took cover behind the secretary who seemed rather shocked.

“Surprised? Don’t give me those stupid looks Mrs Ejenavi” you snapped at her “Don’t you shit? Look at that idiot behind you who goes around punching the noses of people’s dignity. Idiot! Unemployment has made you a receptionist – don’t you shit? See me see trouble o.”

“Mr…Chinedu-” he said, scratching the silver hairs on his head

“-C-mon shut it. Just shut up your dirty stupid mouth because I am about to flog it. I go beat you en, I am ready to be fired” your voice echoed, hovered around the large office with its whiff of anger.

“Mister Chinedu what is this supposed to mean?” she had pronounced it “Shinedu”

“If I am hear pim from you again en, I flog ya breast” you said to the secretary who still looked astonished, and her astonishment astonished you a little. Your leather belt was raised in the air, dancing like the koboko of Fulani herdsmen, then a security officer rushed in and gripped your hands. The secretary looked rather angry, not fearful as you expected she would. She pulled her suit forward, neared you “Are you mad? Mister Chinedu are you mad? Is it not enough that I greeted you in the morning and you didn’t respond?” her head shook in disgust. Now everything seemed to be happening fast, members of staff had started pouring into the office, gathering around you in the restlessness that resembled the frenzy of mosquitoes darting here and there when attracted by lights.

“I am going to sue you for defamation” you said awkwardly to her, struggling against having your hands tightly held back by two security men. They overpowered you. Chills ran down your spines when you saw members of staff give way for your boss who walked into the office, holding a white envelope. She heeled the door shut behind her.

“Can someone explain what the problem is?” she looked dumbfounded “I…I don’t get it” her head shook, her hair-do was ready to fall off, now you knew it was only an exotic wig.

“Madam I honestly don’t know whether Mister Chinedu is mentally stable. Something is wrong somewhere” the secretary spoke up “I was having a conversation with the receptionist” she gestured to him behind her “about a friend who cheated on his girlfriend and his girlfriend made it known on social network. Facebook. Her name is Grace” she paused as if to summon enough saliva to lubricate her throat, her chest heaved “then this man just jumped in from nowhere, I don’t know whether he has an experience, like he thinks I was talking about him or something”. You were filled with self-loathe, you could slap yourself over and over again. The secretary had said cheat and not shit but she pronounced it shit, people who grew up in Warri were known for exchanging “Ch” for “sh”. In a wave of resentment you felt dazed. “Finished” was the word for the day again, so there was no need of changing your whatssap status.

Madam I take God beg you” you turned to your boss, dropping slowly on your knees.

To be continued next Saturday

Episode One

Episode Two

Anthony Dim works as content supervisor for Afreecan       Read literary community, Kwa-Zulu natal, South Africa. He writes fiction and non-fiction. He lives in Marianhill.

The Question of My Birth

By Minenhle Nomalungelo Khumalo

(This story is based on a grand lie)

Episode One

“I stayed longer than I needed to, even though the air hurt in my throat and I could sense the creature was always near. Still, it was good to be there with our sister again. You know very well that sisters like us cannot stand to be apart for long. I stayed long enough for her to examine my body and to question my birth.”

 

Weirdest Lulama,

I have been meaning to write to you for a while now. But every time I think of you I start to feel the strain of a tear forming in my eyes, my temples pulsate in a rhythmic pain, and so do my treasures. I have countless stories I want to share with you; too many of them sickeningly true. But, my time, sister, is nearly up so I have picked one. So here you are, my bizarre beauty, a short story in a long letter for a wonderfully weird woman:

I went back to see our sister. I was not sure it would be safe to go but I went back anyway. It was a last minute decision. When the opportunity to visit her again arose I hesitated a very long while. I watched the day grow long and with the passing time the potential trip grew in its dangers. I imagined all that could go wrong, convinced myself of my insanity for even entertaining the idea, and then got on a train headed West. It did not take very long to get there. I got lost along the way, since it had been a while, but my heart still knew where to find her. She was there, as always, with the non-born girls, just as small and fragile as I remember. They both greeted me warmly, but Phoebe was less excited to see me than Leo. Leo had pissed herself in excitement and jumped into my arms, bottom still dripping with urine. Our sister, as you might imagine, slowly cleaned the piss from the floor with her own hesitant excitement. It was not until she was done that she greeted me. She grabbed me by the hand, led the way into the room we shared when we were younger girls, and told me she had dreams about the day I was born. You must know why I went back, Lulama. We sisters cannot be away from each other for too long.

I stayed longer than I needed to, even though the air hurt in my throat and I could sense the creature was always near. Still, it was good to be there with our sister again. You know very well that sisters like us cannot stand to be apart for long. I stayed long enough for her to examine my body and to question my birth. She separated my hair and served me sour beer. Phoebe and Leo played by my feet counting my toes in a quiet concentration. Our sister told me, as she’s said before, my birth is the question that must always be asked. I believe her now. After everything that has happened, it must be true. I must ask the question for all of us. So I have decided to return to the Regal office to be re-gestated. In fact, I am in pre-gestation, waiting for a receipt notice, as I write to you. However,  the story I am really trying to tell is of the events that happened after our sister told me of the question of my birth. The fonder memory of what happened at our sister’s house that day makes it easier to tell, but, I have procrastinated that story enough.

I went back to see our sister and because of that she has been re-covered. She is gone. I should have known better than to let the creature know two sisters were together in one place for that long. I was prepared to defend her, but when it did not arrive while I was with her, I thought it had somehow missed my presence. I was wrong. And The Father has done his job, as he always does.

When I felt I could not possibly safely stay with her any longer, I left for the train station. As I was getting ready to board, I realized I had lost my identification code. I lingered at the station a while, watching the train leave knowing I could not enter the Regal office for re-gestation without my IC yet also knowing how impossibly dangerous returning to our sister would be. Especially so soon. But our sister was clear. Our circumstances have made it clear. The question of my birth must be asked. It must be asked as soon as possible. So I made my way back to her. I went back again! You must know I had to go back. Despite the dangers of the creature and the unloving power of The Father, I have to follow the directives of the sisterhood we have all shared.

I hurried back but the creature had made it to her before I did. I do not know how. Perhaps it was provoked when it sensed my return. Or it was always waiting to pounce once I left. I do not know. I do not accept either. Outside her quiet doorway I stared at the creature. It’s wide white face was focusing it’s grey eyes on yet another one of our sisters. Its metal body covered in the dust that rose as it did it’s painful work. This one looked old, and had an opening on its side that was leaking of our sisters’ blood.

Where her body lay, there grew a strange hairy flower I did not notice before. A soft green stalk, bearded with purple whiskers that were clustered on the flower’s rounded top.  The Father had already poured the concrete over her body. A part of me denied that she was even there under it. I knew it was her there but I could no longer sense the familiar animation of her hair. She had been re-covered. The concrete had set. The Father was finished. That was it. The dust had already started to settle over her hard form. I can not make sense of how it happened so quickly.  I walked around her body, gave it a bearded flower and took one for myself. The creature placed my identification code on the road near by and in that inexplicable mercy, I was reminded, yet again, that the question of my birth must be asked. Perhaps the answer will also tell me why the creature will never fight me, why it gently lets me pass every time it consumes our sisters. Or why the Father is only ever there to re-cover when he has the power to save our sisters’ lives. At any rate, I gathered my IC and began to make my way to the Regal office once more.

The sight of our disappearing sister was cloudy in my eye as I looked back on her and the creature. Even after I turned my head towards the way ahead and even when I boarded the train, the cloudy spot where the sight of her body caught my eye refused to clear. I had to work hard to ignore my cloudy right eye so I could concentrate on the task at hand. I had to relearn the ability to smile. It took all my energy, but, I had to turn my lips up in favor of the Regal office over our sister or the shaking blur of her body in my vision. I had to be thankful for our sister’s re-covery if I had any hope of re-gestation. I could not betray their ownership of our bodies if I was to use their technology to understand and answer the question of my birth. The question of all our sisters’ deaths.  The question of my birth must be asked. As the first sister, I must ask it for all of us.  Who are these white creatures? Why do they prey on our bonds of love and why has the Father been helping them?

I must go now. More later.

With the love of our sisterhood,

Eva.

Minenhle Nomalungelo Khumalo s a South African born Afro-futurist, Marxist Biblical scholar and professional skeptic who is based in the United States. She is currently a teacher-learner in interdisciplinary studies, focusing on the intersections of social-science, fiction/fantasy, scripture, and religion. Her hobbies include smashing patriarchy, challenging racism, and riding bikes

 

 

SCREENSHOTS

Episode Two

It felt surreal watching four angry women approach you while you had a child in your hand who was drenched in tears, his nose ran.  You had only slapped him but he was crying alarmingly like a rubber bullet had been shut at him. This almost irritated you.

You felt betrayed, and you couldn’t explain why it was betrayal you felt.

Mama Chioma was ahead of other women who were approaching. Only then did you realize that then ten-year old Obiora whom you had slapped was her fourth child. “Chinedu what is this?” her voice had never sounded so sour, arms shook like it had a life of its own, she quickened her pace towards you. And very much like Patience Ozokwor in her rueful-but-revengeful mood, there seemed to be a shadow under her eyes “tell me it is not true biko nu. You were slapping my child under my very eyes” she said, stooping low to read your eyes and her child’s. Your lips were pressed together in silence.

“Tell me it is not true that you were slapping my child Chinedu” she untied her wrapper from above her breast and tied it around her waist. Now the other three women had gathered around you, it felt like a sugar-to-ant relationship. You were to be consumed for breakfast, their sharp stares seemed to perforate holes into your skin.

“You must kill me today Brother Chinedu” the little boy on noticing his mother’s anger, began to scream although you had taken your hands off him. Now he held on to your fists shouting “kill me, kill me, finish me” bending his head against your left arm like a charging ram. You would wash a mighty leather slap across his face if those women had not enclosed you. “Pounding” was the word that spoke to you at that moment, you bit your teeth against each other, he must be really stupid.

“Oya leave him osiso” Mama Chioma hoisted Obiora onto her back “We will make you slap him back today. He’s not the one to beat you, mbanu” she said, her breath was noisy like she had eaten too much pepper and was breathing through her mouth.

An angry defensiveness creeped into your tone when you said “haba, how can you do that?”

“It’s like you don’t know what’s up” another Igbo woman said, she pronounced it “woozuop”, her voice like the young half-dressed women that sang choruses for Fela Kuti on stage. You didn’t know her name, she seemed new in the neighborhood.

“Madams” your voice caught in your throat at this moment. You searched their eyes for understanding. It wasn’t only mother hens that were spontaneously and stupidly protective of their children, it was mother-everything.

“I can explain” your tongue was a little heavy in your mouth as you started to rise, straightening your rumpled shirt. Your eyes had fallen on Mama Chioma’s watery fat arms tattooed with stretch marks “I am Madam….sorry” you weren’t sure who was speaking, the world was spinning. “Your children offended me”

“-what did they do?” She cut you short, asked Obiora to leave her presence. You were about to begin your story but your voice was lost in the woeful shouts of the other women “jobless maaan, child abuser, toilet abuser, wulululu” they clapped into their mouths.

One of them pulled you by the scruff of your shirt, your belt pulled by another hand. Then you heard a cock crow tear across the compound as if to usher you into the tragedy that was about to happen. But someone had just called you toilet abuser, so they knew. They knew, everybody now knew, this was the ‘second coming’ for you, you could hear the trumpets of destruction and rapture in your head already, you felt faint. With hands held up you tried to ward the women off as they were stretching their hands, making choices of where to slap you. Your scalp had received two feminine slaps already.

“Your children have pornography tendencies” you finally shouted, the women fell silent and left your shirt. But your front pocket had come off at the seams; it dangled like a loosed tongue.

A trepid-looking woman with big breasts that had downward slope seemed particularly concerned. She had a strong churchy hair-do: tangles of black thread that strongly snaked into one another like stubborn branches, the tightness pulled her shiny forehead to catch the rays of the sun “Oh my Master Father of Abraham and Jacob and Isaac” she said evenly as if to cry, chest heaving.

“God forbid!” Mama Chioma said, snapping her fingers at you. She invited the other women to be calm and listen to you. But first she shooed the kids scattered across the compound to go into their flats, assisted by the other women.

“Chike and Ekene…” you said

“-Mechieonugi.This children should finish going inside the house first. This is adult talk” Mama Chioma snapped. She grabbed you by the wrist and led you to a bench that lined a fence which was dotted by green algae, near the public tap.

“My husband has gone to work already. He would have harvested one of your teeth” another woman was still charging, facing the sun as if addressing nobody. You glanced at her as your lips turned down in a sneer. You wanted to announce it here and now that you had seen her bring a strange broad-muscled man to the house when her husband travelled to the village, and had sent Ekene to buy her a condom. But the situation at hand was complicated enough.

“What nonsense k’inako?” Mama Chioma was impatient. She smelled of sleep as she drew her face close enough for her breath to fan yours. “You don’t have to enter into his mouth Madam, take it easy” another woman said.

“This man is only insulting our children and us. He is not telling us the truth” the trepid-looking churchy woman said. If peacocks could speak (likely in foghorn and fat sounds), they spoke like her.

“I am trying to draw a parallel between teenagers peeping into toilets, and having a wish to watch pornography ma”

“God forbid” Mama Chioma snapped her fingers again at you, her face crumpled. You wanted to rearrange her face with your hands and tell her not to look so horrible.

“Ekene and Chike were watching me popooing in the toilet”

Hiebey!” Mama Chioma quipped, hands thrown to her chest.

“Can you imagine! It was so painful that I almost began to cry. I’ve never gone through such a thing before. I almost thought it was pile” You felt out of place, you shouldn’t have told them in the first place, even in so much details. But it was the only way to save yourself from this mess and get to your place of work. You were ten minutes late now.

“Mama Chioma this was the ordeal I went through. Ekene and Chike were peeping me in the toilet, mmuwa”, you didn’t mention Kemi’s name.

To your surprise Mama Chioma’s face stretched into a tight smile that said “I understand”. She nodded knowingly. You were confused.

“So you are the one he was telling my husband about” she said. Mama Chioma who had been concerned about neighbors who had similar experience, knew enough not to laugh.

Adim very very sorry for this disgrace” she said, her head shook in a remorseful bow, she reached out to take your hand in hers. “But you shouldn’t have beaten my child, Chinedu. You should have gone after Ekene and Chike instead-”

“-E-ehn just hold it there” Ekene’s mother cut in, boiling with hands raised like a traffic warder, to silence Mama Chioma.

“Is his buttocks the most confidential thing in this world? If he had survived a car accident and had injury on his buttocks, will the doctors not open it and plaster it? All church prayer groups who visit the hospital will see it as well okwia?” both her hands had been on her laps

“Oh yes” the other women concurred except Mama Chioma.

“People forget nakedness when tragedy strikes” the trepid-looking woman added. You gave her an angry glance, she shrunk into silence. The impossible thought of unscarfing all the women and scratching their foreheads against one another like railway stones came to you. Your phone beeped aloud. It was a missed call from your manager at the office, and five missed calls from Kemi. As expected, an sms appeared immediately.

“Baby check your facebuk page, I hope you will find a place in your hat to 4give me. I want the hole world to know that am sorry, that I love you like kilode.” You brightened your phone’s screen and peered at the sms again.

“I hope no problem?” Mama Chioma asked, perhaps she had noticed a line of surprise and worry drawn across your forehead

“No problem” you said. You refreshed a new page on your phone, seven notifications on facebook.

You had been tagged with a photo by Kemi: a screenshot of the sms conversation you had had with her the previous day, the last sentence being: “We are finished. How could you have been watching me shit, with two small boys? Kemi where did I go wrong?” You refreshed a web page because you couldn’t believe your mind.

She had added a caption that read: Please help me beg my baby to forgive me. I know I am offendful, e sanu mi” and it had received forty three comments, your eyes became blurry, tongues a little heavy.

You gripped the phone with all your fingers, look up to the sky and shouted “Jehova God” with tears in your voice. The phone dropped, your hands tightened into fists. Three of the four women sprang from the bench and came to gather around you again, led by Mama Chioma. They seemed so concerned and worried. The trepid-looking one mopped in a distance, you couldn’t hear what she was muffling because everything felt mute and distant.

To be continued next Saturday

Read Episode One

Anthony Dim works as content supervisor for Afreecan       Read literary community, Kwa-Zulu natal, South Africa. He writes fiction and non-fiction. He lives in Marianhill.