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

 

 

Nkem


by Nwanne Agwu

You had known her since you began your kindergarten classes in the school. A normal classmate was what she was until you began to admire her.

Every evening you would go to the shop to help Mama out and sometimes, she would go home to rest for the day. You had read that stress caused stroke and you told Mama to always rest. Whenever you met her doing some chores, you would cajole her and make sure she left the work for you.

Mama knew about Kasie, the girl you had been friends with since grade ten. ‘She is now growing into an agbogho,’ Mama would say. ‘Make sure you both don’t do anything wrong.’ You knew you would never put your thing into hers, you only held hands and talked about what you had heard, about the proposed change which you preferred corruption to. About Naira’s depreciating value towards the Dollar. About fuel scarcity and the Dictator’s, sorry, President’s childish and non rhetoric speeches. You always laughed at the President’s accent  because he talked as if the words were so hot and he had to keep his mouth open, for the air to go in and cool them while he spoke, he sounded so hollow.

Her father was a University professor who had invited you to his house, after you had helped him take the bag of garri and tin tomatoes he had bought from your store, into the boot of his car. That was when you began to admire Kasie. She was chocolate-skinned with big eyes that made you think she could see what you thought. Her lips were pink and you had to ask her if she applied lipstick, the type that your cousin would always line her lips with and begin to rub her lips together, releasing them as though they were sticky. Her breasts were gradually increasing and you were amazed to hear that she hated using relaxer on her hair—she preferred her afro. Her legs were straight, so straight that you began to compare which was more straight between yours and hers.

Her leg kept you warm during the cold mornings of the rainy season and the harmattan. You both removed your socks and made your feet touch, caressing each other. You would stop and lean your leg on hers, you always looked at her face to see if she smiled or not. You knew she didn’t know you looked at her from your isi-anya. Sometimes she would lean on your shoulder and you had noticed that her body felt so warm that you used to ask if she had fever, until the day she told you that that was her normal temperature. She in turn joked that you were cold blooded, because your hands felt cold. You wished to become as warm as she was. You wished for the day you would sleep with her, sometimes you were frightened if you will be shy about her seeing your manhood that day; it was so big. You had heard your friends talk about how the girls moaned and cried as they were thrusting and withdrawing, and the way they jerked. They walked home through the akwuna lodge, the place where harlots lived; no one called it a brothel.

You hardly thought about other girls because that was something you should never do, but whenever you thought about kissing, sucking and having sex you made sure, you didn’t visualize Kasie in your mind’s eye, it was done only with other girls in mind.

Kasie was a different girl, you always walked her to the bus stop before you joined your other friends. She was one of the most important reasons why you always looked forward to Mondays during the weekends. She made your weekdays, adding a certain sort of flavour to your life. You had begun loving unrelaxed hairs and her ideologies and her thoughts were always yours. You knew what she could and couldn’t say. You would watch her mount an okada, before you would turn to go home, sometimes you both walked till you’d reach the junction of your street.

She waved bye as you turned to leave. But you were not feeling alright. You wanted to walk home with her. Something was happening inside of you, something that seemed listless and unfathomable.
‘Whrrrrrrlll…tsssaah’ You heard it, the sound of a crash. Kasie and the bike rider lay on the road with blood on their heads and legs and and hands and mouths. Blood was flowing. You could see as it gushed like water from the yellow plastic container you used to fetch water. It was as if sacks of sand were tied to your calves, you could barely move and you could not even think. You couldn’t believe that it was the same Kasie you had just talked to that lay on the road. Only then did you know why a man who was suddenly met by a fierce lion would only stand and look in fright; your mind ran away. Some kind hearted people helped to get a taxi which conveyed her and the okada rider to the hospital. You were in the taxi with some other woman. You didn’t walk home with her—you were driven to the hospital with her. She was unconscious.

Nwanne Agwu is a Nigerian writer and poet. He is an introverted extrovert, a teenager, so shy. He has published at Brittle Paper, Flash Fiction Press and Pengician. His poem was among the top ten entries for the Chinua Achebe’s Iconic Ceremony, Awka, 2016. He lives in Abakaliki and blogs at nwanneagwu.wordpress.com

The Awakening

Joe took another look at the crumpled paper in his hand, reviewing the instructions he got from the satanic website. He had rehearsed all the instructions as any mistake could be the end of his life or worse.

What could be worse than death? He thought to himself.

“Four red candles.” He read, as he glanced over to the candles placed carefully on the floor. Then marked them off the list.  So it was detailed on the website.

“A standing mirror, salt and chalk.” Heaving out a sigh of relief that everything was complete. As long as he had the salt and red candles, he’d be safe.

“Find a place of religious significance. Any place with faith symbolism would be ideal for the ritual.” He was going to use his room, where his scream could he heard if things go south. But that would be against the rules. So he chose St. John’s cathedral instead. A cathedral where he was dedicated, the cathedral ha now become a relic as its walls were riddled with dirt and age. He found the isolation convenient for his nocturnal task.

Arranging the four candles in a perfect square just as instructed, with the crisp white chalk line which connected them and placed the mirror inside the summoning area. His hands were shaking, making it hard for him to hold onto the paper containing the instructions very well. A nervous swell of energy erupted in his chest. He had memorized the rituals, studied and done his research. Now was no time for second thoughts.

“If you successfully complete the ritual, He will grant you one request, any of your heart desires. Choose wisely!”

Joe smiled to himself, he sprayed salt around the summoning area as a barrier. Creating a non-disjointed circle. The reward of this ritual surmounted all doubts. He crumbled the paper into his pocket, reviewing the instructions would only deepens his anxiety. He sat waiting, as he took another look at his watch.

11:50pm; Few minutes more so he could begin.

“The ritual must be done at precisely midnight. Too early or too late wouldn’t count.”

The wind rumbled outside, disturbing and quaking the doors of the chapel while unsettling the window curtains. He repeated the rules in his head to reassure himself. Another look at his watch, it was 11:58pm.

Joe knelt down beside the candles and lit them, they flickered and snapped in the breeze but remained strong. With deep breath, he grabbed the knife and drew it slowly across his palm just like in the movies. Only it seemed to hurt more than the actors let on.

“Let a few drops fall inside the summoning area, then summon him.”

“I summon you here with this dedication. Show yourself!” With those last words, he let more blood drop. Unlike in the practice session, the blood flowed and formed a tiny pool that defied the laws of gravity as it bubbled before his eyes. He shook off the fear building in him, the ritual must continue.

“Show yourself!!” Barely were the words out of his mouth, a dark shadowy face appeared on the mirror; grinning widely. The face was hard to discern but it was dark and scary. Riddled with scars and fresh flesh wounds that still seeped blood. Joe felt a cold pit of fear settle solidly in his stomach.

“Who summoned me?” Came the deep, gravely sinister voice.  It didn’t come from the beast’s lips, but from the air around Joe. The whole building vibrated, or just his legs did.

“First, Never speak your name. Else he will use it to control you. He will own your soul for ever.” The warnings replayed in his head. Joe’s mouth dried at the thought of how easy it was to have made such a mistake. It scared him.

“You have been summoned, and I will instruct you. Speak your name.”

“Who are you to think you can order me, mortal?” The words came out bone aching, vibrating through Joe’s body.

“Do not answer his questions, They are all a trick to capture you in his games and unending web.”

“Speak your name!” Joe gritted through his teeth.

The demon stretched his hand, stabbing through the surface of the mirror and entering this world. His cruel claws shone in the candle light. The smell of rot and decay followed quickly after, threatening to make Joe throw up. Joe checked the summoning area to ensure the barrier was still intact, and it was; New waves of courage entered him.

“He will try to intimidate you and scare you, but as long as the barriers are intact he will not be able to touch or harm you. Adhere to the guidelines for your safety. Believe nothing he says, he exists only to lie!”

He would be fine. The barriers were all intact. The red candles still lit, the salt marks still un-jointed.

“I have summoned you, and you will obey my commands. Remain within the summoning area. I command you!”

“Really?” Asked the beast mockingly, chuckles emerged as he pulled himself slowly through the mirror and into reality.

“Remain within the summoning area. Speak your name, I order you.” Joe forced his last bolt of courage into his voice but it made the demon laugh all the louder. Now standing at his full height, the beast looked down on the pale figure before him.

“You can call me Joe.” Joe froze as he heard his own voice through the air. His mouth fell as his eyes widened.

“You have meddled with something you do not understand.” The voice again deep and roaring, but now mimicked disappointment.

“B-But I never told you my name.” Joe stammered, his fear blurred his senses.

A roar of laughter filled the air. “You think I need you to tell me your name?”

Casually, the demon stretched, muscles and joints popped and cracked like it had been centuries since he last moved them. Joe began shifting backward, and scampering in fear. The candles slowly snuffed themselves out.

“But,” Joe gasped as his hand scrambled for anything that would aid him in survival, “But I followed all the instructions!”

The creature paused to survey the assembled items; The chalk square, the candle arrangement, salt and mirror he just stepped out from.

“You certainly did.” His arm slot forward and took a trembling Joe off the ground, slowly raised him till he met his eye level.

“Who do you think wrote the ritual in the first place?”

Blessed Abraham is a budding writer, an Electrical Engineering student from Akwa Ibom state. Loves movies and having intriguing conversations. You could reach him and read more of his short stories on his Facebook wall: facebook.com/edidiong.inemesit.7