THE SCREAMS IN THE SILENCE by Samuel Oladele

THE SCREAMS IN THE SILENCE by Samuel Oladele

THE SCREAMS IN THE SILENCE 

by Samuel Oladele

The get-together venue was two-hundred kilometers away. Slouched in the front passenger seat in Michael’s Audi, I pictured my obituary glued on every wall in my street. GONE TOO SOON. Perhaps I was seconds to my obituary with that cigarette smoke curling out of Michael’s mouth?

I gawked at him. Cigarette hanging between his lips, his cheeks sucked in. A gush of camphor-white smoke surged towards the windscreen—the smoke drifting towards me. I held my breath, watched it dance out the window. One, two, …, seven, I started counting until all of it was out the window, and, open-mouthed, I inhaled, the car air safe again.

“Remember I’m allergic to smoke,” I wanted to say, but he knew already—no need reminding him. I wasn’t ready to deny a man his latitude to smoke in his car. If he tossed out the cigarette after telling him, it would be because he pitied me. I never wanted pity. I’d rather die than be pitied. But I wasn’t ready to die.

I had people I loved too much, people who would starve themselves for months if I were dead. My girlfriend would surely have a heart attack and, for a year, cry herself to sleep. She would even die single. Our relationship was five years old. Letting go would be like cracking rock with one’s head. And Rebecca, my younger sister, would be left alone in this world. I was her only living family.

I was not ready to die. I yearned for a family, kids I’d watch cartoons with and watch grow, a wife I’d cuddle at night and share aspirations with. Until I achieved these, I was going nowhere.

 

“Tunde. Sir, T.” Michael darted me a glance. “You’re still that guy, that I-don’t-talk-much guy.”

I nodded and faked a tight-lipped smile.

He took the cigarette from his mouth. Out of the window went a dense smoke. “Anyone you can’t wait to see at the get-together? All those our babes have grown now… and married. Perhaps we can hook up with the singles.”

“No.”

“You and this your Reverend-Father-boring-attitude. I hope you don’t die like this.” He chuckled.

He turned up the car radio volume, and a rap song blared out. He rocked his head back and forth, gibberish pouring out of his mouth. Not once had I heard him rap—he was a good singer, yes, but not a rapper—in the three years, we shared a bunk in boarding school. But a lot had changed within the six years we had graduated from secondary school. Even smoking was new. His dark cracked lips too.

I edged my face toward the car door, breathing harmless air, eyes on the leafless trees sprinting backward, their leaves sprawling dry below them.

 

There were moments I had wanted death to swallow me. Moments I wished I had been nonexistent. But not this moment. This sad, sucrose-sweet life had cut me a thousand times. And more. I was never a happy person. Perhaps neither a happy baby too. My childhood was terrible, chunks of solitude and rejections here and there. On many occasions, my dad, a drunk, said to me, “I never asked for this,”—pointing at me—”but you came… with your sickness. Had to marry because you were growing in your mother.”

Once, my mum left me at a supermarket. She came back three hours later, said she was having a bad day. My mum was a sad woman. I must have inherited her sadness. The only time she was happy was when her only friend, Mrs. Ibrahim, this chubby woman who cried when she laughed, visited.

My parents were always traveling. Lagos today. Abuja tomorrow. When they were at home, they quarrelled a lot, Mum raining curses on him or throwing her high-heels at him, Dad calling her a prostitute. Because they were always fighting, the four of us were never in the same place. Either Rebecca, Mum and I, or Rebecca, Dad and I. Never the four of us. Mum took us to church on Sundays, the fun park on Christmas, Mr. Biggs on our birthdays, and Dad drove us to school.

I always prayed they leave the house so that it could be peaceful. But it was never peaceful, never felt like home. When they weren’t home, miss Seyi, the house help, took care of us. She was a small woman with a temper that broke into yells and insults if we went outside to play, or asked her to change the TV channel to a cartoon channel, and if she was having a bad day, she lashed our buttocks with her whip.

Only my room gave me peace. So I was always there, shunning the world sliding by outside my bedroom, studying my school books, reading Charles Dickens and J.D. Salinger, tucking away the rest of my childhood from my parents’ rejection, from their quarrels, from Seyi’s yells and whip.

 

The Audi slowed. The butt of a fresh cigarette was between Michael’s lips, lighter lighting the other end. Smoke spurted out. Cars dashed past us, vanishing beyond the horizon, where the sky rose into a stretch of blue and scattered clouds. A puff of smoke sailed towards me.

My silence scared me, for it would kill me. Like several occasions, I had chosen silence again. In boarding school, I once sat in class and watched three girls, who were my classmates, slap Rebecca. She was heading into my class to see me when one of the three girls standing by the door grabbed her wrist.

Couldn’t she greet? They asked her. And before she could answer them, each of their palms slammed against her cheek. Rebecca staggered, then held the door, before scurrying away. I wanted to stand up. I wanted to yell at those girls, but this was a boarding school. If I did, Rebecca would become a target. So I remained on my seat, updating my geography note.

Two days later, she grabbed my wrist as I was walking out of the dining hall. On her wrist was a small bandage. Those same girls had told her to frog-jump in the girls’ hostel, she said, and when she refused, they broke a tree branch and flogged her. She stared at me, perhaps waiting for me to act like a big brother to defend her.

“Sorry,” I said. “I will talk to them.”

But I never did. Rebecca kept telling me how they snatched her provisions, how they whipped her bareback, how they cursed her, yet I did nothing. My inaction vexed her. For a whole session, she shunned me. And gradually, we became strangers. Strangers tied by blood.

Another of my not-speaking-up moment occurred one August afternoon, a year ago, in the market. I was buying some foodstuffs. About three open-fronted shops from me, a lanky man in babariga stood behind a young lady checking out bunches of plantain to buy. The man peeped around, snatched a brown purse out of the young lady’s handbag, and trotted away. Thief, I wanted to scream. I wanted to run after him, to grab his neck, to wrestle him to the ground. I wanted to be a hero. But I was not a hero. What strength did I have? What if he had a knife in his babariga? What if he stabbed me as I’d try to grab him? What if… So I stood there instead, looking like a rabbit. Minutes later, the young lady fumbled through her handbag and scattered everything in it on the ground, searching for her purse.

 

Of all the times I had not spoken up, someone should have strangled me for this one. It happened two years ago after my parents passed away. The loss was hard on Rebecca, for she had forgiven them of their neglect. She was always at home on weekends, playing chess with Dad and cooking with Mum. She sent me pictures—she and Dad, cheek to cheek, a chessboard on a glass stool in the background; she and Mum in the kitchen, open-lipped smiles across their faces—thinking I would also forgive them and come home. She never stopped sending me pictures until they died in their house after a fire accident. I should have been there for her after their death. Perhaps if I had, she wouldn’t have attempted suicide. Thank God she survived.

 

There I was still sitting next to Michael, next to his cigarette smoke. I edged my face away from the car door and faced him. The aftermath of Rebecca’s suicide attempt invaded my mind again: how pale and gaunt and tearful she was when she told me she never wanted to lose me. I never wanted to lose her too. I had to speak up. I faced Michael.

“Michael,” I said.

He turned and blew a dense smoke toward me. The smoke curled into my nostrils, into my mouth, went through my airways. He was befouling my airways. I clutched my chest. I was drowning inside.

Air. I needed air. I started coughing. Wheezing. I fumbled for my inhaler in my jeans pocket. I pulled out. With trembling hands, I uncorked it, pushed it into my mouth. Thrice I pressed. Salbutamol flooded my mouth. I pressed thrice again—another flood of Salbutamol. I was still wheezing and still trembling.

Michael was talking, but I couldn’t hear him. I pressed the inhaler thrice again. Pain surged through my chest. Weakness quaked the whole of me. The inhaler fell. Michael held my wrist, and the feeling of his cold palm dwindled. The world around me dimmed, then blurred. Light petered out. The world vanished.

I woke up later to pairs of worried-looking eyes hovering over me at the roadside. The air was warm in my nostrils.

“Give him space! He’s awake!” Micheal was on his knees, his palm under my head. He held my arm, and I staggered to my feet.

Still feeble, I averted the strange eyes, my back to everyone. Michael thanked everyone as they went back into their cars, before leading me into the Audi, walked to the driver’s car door and climbed in.

“Why didn’t you tell me?” He fastened his seat belt.

“But, you already know.”

“I forgot. You should have reminded me.”

I stared at my phone and double-clicked the screen. The screen lighted up—no mobile signal.

“I’m sorry,” he said.

He pushed the car key into the ignition, started the engine, which roared to life. We continued on our journey.

The Audi was now speeding like a hurricane wind, the trees moonwalking. Sun rays streamed into the car. The car air was now fresh and nontoxic, though the stench of cigarettes was still present.

Michael kept apologizing. He kept darting me, sorry looks, those looks I loathed.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Samuel Oladele, an Applied chemist, graduated from Usmanu Danfodiyo University, Sokoto. His fiction has appeared on Virtual Zone Magazine.
MAKE IT GREAT, AGAIN by Othuke Umukoro

MAKE IT GREAT, AGAIN by Othuke Umukoro

MAKE IT GREAT, AGAIN

by Othuke Umukoro

So here’s the story folks. Number one, I am the least
anti-Semitic person that you’ve ever seen, in your
entire life. Number two, racism, the least racist person. 1

Sadly, the overwhelming amount of violent crime
in our major cities is committed by blacks
and hispanics-a tough subject-must be discussed. 2

If you look at his wife, she was standing there. She had nothing to say. She probably — maybe she wasn’t allowed to have anything to say. You tell me. 3   They are not our friend, believe me. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people. 4

I’ve been treated very unfairly by this judge.
Now, this judge is of Mexican heritage. I’m building
a wall, OK? I’m building a wall. I am going to do
very well with the Hispanics, the Mexicans… 5

 

Oh, look at my African-American over here. Look at him. 6

 

Sorry haters and losers. 7

References: 
  1.  Comments made by Donald Trump during a news conference at the White House on February 16, 2017.
  2. Tweet from June 5, 2013 @realDonaldTrump.
  3. Trump calling out a Gold Star Muslim family (Khizr Khan & his wife Ghazala Khan) during the presidential race in 2016.
  4. Donald Trump insulting Mexicans and kicking off his presidential journey.
  5. Trump attacking U. S. District Judge Gonzalo Curiel who was presiding over the Trump University lawsuit in an interview with CNN on June 3.
  6. Donald Trump at a June 2016 campaign rally.
  7. Tweet from August 5, 2014, Donald Trump applauding Rush Limbaugh on the 26th anniversary of his broadcast career.

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Othuke Umukoro is a poet & playwright. His demons have appeared, or are forthcoming in The Sunlight Press, Brittle Paper, AfricanWriter, Eunoia Review & elsewhere. His debut play Mortuary Encounters (Swift publishers, 2019) is available here.
When bored, he watches Everybody Hates Chris. He is on Twitter: @othukeumukoro19
HOW BODIES BECOME FLUID by Ibe Obasiota

HOW BODIES BECOME FLUID by Ibe Obasiota

HOW BODIES BECOME FLUID

by Ibe Obasiota

Shortlist (Top Six) of the 2019 Kreative Diadem Annual Creative Writing Contest (Flash Fiction Category)

I)
Love is a verb with wings; a free verb that makes itself into a ghost; a dark spectral that walks into our midst and sits. Love is the thing that catches our bodies between its palm and we lie there, dying out into new thresholds or dying altogether.
The first time Uju gives herself to Kachi, she says it is because she wants to satisfy a yearning; because for once she has found a man she has not outgrown, a man that is willing to think first. Kachi is not like Wole who says he fears for the man who would inherit her intelligence or like Francis who attributes her purity to her virginity. It happens in a discussion about a dead classmate and Bernth Lindfors’ criticism on Cyprian Ekwensi. They are in Kachi’s room. It is a dimly lit apartment with two small beds arranged side by side. The walls are painted a solid grey and there is only one window. Two louvres are missing but there’s a net coloured in dust. The other bed belongs to Kachi’s roommate Obiora who is never around or is always leaving when Uju comes around. Uju takes time to think about this and she concludes that Obiora is simply thoughtful. On the wall, there is a picture of Achebe’s carved from an old magazine. The picture is in black and white and there are little cuts on his cheek or put correctly, the paper. Below, there’s a quote that says: I believe the English Language is able to bear the weight of my African experience. The quote is written in Kachi’s cursive handwriting and he says it is a paraphrase of something Achebe had said. Kachi says it is one of the most brilliant things he has heard. Uju suspects it is him consoling himself. She suspects that his inability to speak his mother tongue would be the reason he terms it brilliant. Sometimes he says he is an incipient bilingual. Uju doesn’t know what he means and she doesn’t ask.
Uju lies on her back on Kachi’s bed. She looks straight to the ceiling of his room. She stares at the little black hole in it and she thinks it is a consolation of the fact that Kachi is a struggling man like every man out there nowadays.
‘I think Bernth Lindfors is another bitter white man who thinks he is wise enough to tell Africans what to write,’ Kachi delivers in one swift manner. It is like something he has rehearsed, something that he has said more than once.

‘I’ve only read Ekwensi’s Akin the drummer boy, Kachi,’ Uju says back.
‘Do you think it is a good book?’ There’s persuasion in Kachi’s eyes when he says it and it makes Uju bulge.
‘I think it is a fantastic book,’ Uju says back even though she remembers nothing from the book except Akin’s name that is of course in the title. She looks away from the ceiling just in time to see Kachi’s face break into a full smile. Another expression that slowly creeps into his smile is etched on his face.
‘Can I kiss you?’ He mutters quietly. He doesn’t wait for an answer when he claims her lips in a long kiss and she moans into his mouth. Uju hears him call someone that she believes is Obiora. He mutters something about Obiora not coming home and him making it up. 

II)
The second time she gives herself to Kachi, it is because she realises that bodies are like things that can be transfused for healing. Like saline solutions. Like blood. There is something about blood that scares Uju, that reminds her how weak bodies are; how bodies could easily become fluid; how a small wound that emits blood makes the flesh around it go away; how if our bodies are attacked by too much pain, it all becomes fluid and passes away.
It reminds her of the time her younger sister is hit by a stray bullet in Eight Miles Market and how she bleeds out from the doctor’s mouth into words that begin with ‘we are sorry’ and end with ‘the body’. She wonders how bodies could easily dissolve, how if she says my body, it holds so much life but when the Doctor had said the body, it was death itself.
This time she decides to transfuse some of her into Kachi because love to her is a thing that can be packed into tiny containers called bodies and placed on the shelf of another body. This time it is because Kachi is not the winner of a short story prize. They are in his room. One minute, Kachi is holding his phone and scrolling through his news feed and the next minute, he is throwing his phone to the edge of his bed. The picture of them on his home screen flickers off. If not the situation, Uju would think it was calculated because anger enough would send the phone off to the ground. Kachi picks up his pillow, flings it to his door and mutters something about how difficult writing queer stories were. He keeps pacing his room, occasionally rubbing his head and doesn’t decide whether to sit or walk.

‘ I didn’t get in,’ he says. His voice breaking.
Uju moves to hug him when she whispers a small ‘next time’ into his ears. She could feel his body convulse in her arms and she could also feel him shake silently.

‘I worked hard for this one,’ he says as his voice breaks into a sob. ‘You work hard for everything,’ Uju wants to add but she doesn’t. ‘I really did,’ he continues.’ I even had to borrow a laptop. I should have won it. I should have written better. I should have….’ His voice melts into a cry that rests on Uju’s shoulder blade. Uju does not know when everything moves from soft consolation to them testing surfaces. They are rolling off Kachi’s bed into Obiora’s bed and finally settling into a frenzy of wild kisses and scattered clothes. This is the time Uju’s body becomes a panacea for Kachi’s illness; the time when she gives up a part of herself on the altar of healing; the time when she subjects her body to perforation because love makes one do such things. Because scars are artifacts of love.

III)
When Kachi leaves a part of his pain inside Uju, that abstract thing called pain metamorphoses into a human. It becomes a living, breathing thing within her. But when a part of a person lives in another, the depositor would have to nurture it like tender elements and watch it hatch into fine living things. If the depositor doesn’t, that part of him becomes like untamed things. Things that do not metamorphose completely, that have missed a stage in the cycle. It is this thing that Uju tries to avoid when she decides to pull out the part of Kachi that he couldn’t take with him when he left. She decides to lose the baby.
Everything ends at 8pm on a Wednesday night. It ends with a simple phone call. It ends in Kachi telling her that she did not help him or that she was intellectually weaker. He says she doesn’t understand his interests. She was too unlike him. These words made Uju think only of loss. There are various things that follow a loss. Sometimes it is an instant death of parts of one’s soul. Other times it is the metallic taste of depression on one’s tongue. It could also be a desire to carry out an exorcism, to ward off all the memories that precede a loss.

Tonight, Uju tells the taxi driver to stop two streets before her house. This is the first time she does this. She finds that her heart wanders. She wonders whether the man approaching with the black hat could see her heart step away from her chest. She also wonders whether the boys who whistled at her as she walked past could see the evidence of the thing she was carrying inside her. She wonders whether when they hurled insults at her, they knew they were insulting the thing inside her too. She also wonders whether this strange man and his hotel room could feel the pulse of the thing inside her. She wonders whether the man she is lying on top this evening knew that two minutes before he entered her and she unconsciously called Kachi’s name, she had decided to abort Kachi’s baby.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Ibe Obasiota Ben is a Nigerian. She is a graduate in English and Literary Studies of the University of Calabar. She has won the African Writers’ Award 2018(Flash fiction category). She is also a gender critic and sometimes an editor. One will always find her reading or writing.
TO PULL A LION’S TAIL by Boloere Seibidor

TO PULL A LION’S TAIL by Boloere Seibidor

TO PULL A LION’S TAIL

by Boloere Seibidor

Shortlist (Top Six) of the 2019 Kreative Diadem Annual Creative Writing Contest (Flash Fiction Category)

Two days ago, there was another cold-blooded murder down Wellington Drive, riling up trepidation in the city.
What bothered him wasn’t the killings per sé, but the killer; a seemingly smart assassin. The victims—particularly ladies—were stripped naked before strangulation with their wrists slit open, and bore a neatly clipped paper, with a number inscribed on it, patched to their forehead with blood. These numbers, he’d surmised, bore a significance. What that could be, scared him too.
All these he’d narrated to his wife, Yemi, last night, made her neglect dinner. He understood her fears; they had a teenage daughter too.
His assistant, detective Rena, who’d been recently transferred down from the Uyo’s SCID, also lost her crave for nicotine, she stabbed her half-burnt cigarette in an ash bowl. Perhaps he should remind her this was the garden city, and to expect more, viler, mishaps.
His phone rang, jolting him from his disconcerted thoughts. A frantic Yemi was on the receiving end. He excused himself, and returned minutes later.
His expression, full of angst, gave him away.
“What is it?” Detective Rena frowned.
“It’s my daughter. . . she hasn’t returned.”
“From?”
“School.”
She chuckled and checked her watch.
“It’s 8:45, Bakpo. Something’s wrong.”
His skin grew ashen against the keen spikelets of the harmattan breeze. He quivered.
“I know. . .”

The drive home was incautious. He’d asked detective Rena to come along. . . just in case. He found his daughter by the veranda when he arrived. On seeing him, she sprung to her feet and rushed forward. She was safe!   His relief was insurmountable.
As she drew close, he noticed she’d been crying. On her forehead was a red blot, and her blouse was stained with blood. His pupils dilated as his body’s mechanism built a reaction.
“What happened, Rose?”
She cried in heavy torrents, shaking her braids.
“I’m. . . fine, daddy.”
“Tell me! . . .there’s blood.”
Detective Rena tried to calm him; an abortive attempt.
“Rose!”
She sniffed back sobs then finally conformed. She led him to the parlour where he found Yemi lifeless on the floor in a small blood pool. He grew ashen. Numb. Perhaps he died that instant. Detective Rena moved closer and retrieved the paper on her head.
“Number 8,” she said softly. She didn’t know when she offered him a cigarette; she didn’t know what else to do.
* * * * *
Four days later, with the intervention of officer Yakubu Jed, a police general, the killer was found. His last killing seemed hasty, and his DNA imprints were caught.
“If it’s any consolation,” the general said to him during a lunch he merely poked at, “he’ll rot in prison.”
He nodded and acknowledged condolences from nearby colleagues.
He looked up when he saw Detective Rena running in, covered in sweat.
“There’s been another murder.” She breathed.
The general froze, looking from one stricken face to the other.
She lifted a small paper, “number one.”

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Boloere Seibidor is an undergraduate at the University of Port Harcourt. Boloere was born, brought up, and writes from the city of Port Harcourt, where she still resides. She is inspired by virtually all things; from music, to paintings, to people.  
Her poem has been featured on SprinNG, and her other poems are upcoming on other online magazines. Her story was shortlisted for the 2019 Kreative Diadem Annual Writing Competition, where she won honourable mention.
When somber, she listens to Ed Sheeran and James Bay. And at the grimmest hours of the night, Boloere enjoys reading/writing suspenseful stories.
Meet her on Instagram @b.s_vinnie
WHAT IS YOUR BODY by Onyekwelu Chiwenite

WHAT IS YOUR BODY by Onyekwelu Chiwenite

WHAT IS YOUR BODY

by Onyekwelu Chiwenite Kingsley

 

Shortlist (Top Six) of the 2019 Kreative Diadem Annual Creative Writing Contest (Poetry Category)

And he throws my body open, the way you
move into a river
when someone is drowning. And my body
is a dark room filled
with rotten birds that spit blood through their
wings.

He says I want to love you.
He says why won’t you let me love you?

But there is something rising into my tongue,
it tastes like fire,
it tastes like knife blades slitting my skin into
halves. And in my
body it’s drizzling I can’t find my voice.

He says you have to understand.
He says you have to let me in.

And my body bursts apart the way a river
flows out of your
mouth, the way a song drowns inside your
throat. It’s bleeding
and soft and filled with pain.

He says what is wrong with you?
He says lie down let me love you.

When your body is a pathway, you build walls
inside it to obstruct
the steps of sleepwalking men. But what is
your body when it is a country?

What is your body when he spreads you out
like a map to
claim a whole nation for himself?

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Onyekwelu Chiwenite Kingsley is a Nigerian essayist, poet and storyteller. He studies pharmacy at Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka. He holds a certificate in essay writing from Lifesaver Essays, Oakland, California. He was the 2nd prize winner of the Newman Writing Contest, 2017. In 2019, he made the top-100 poem list for Nigerian Students’ Poetry Prize, and was shortlisted for the Kreative Diadem Annual Writing Contest. Chiwenite was recently shortlisted for Christopher Okigbo Poetry Prize 2020.

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