“It’s important to remind ourselves that we are not alone” – Interview with Tobi Nifesi

“It’s important to remind ourselves that we are not alone” – Interview with Tobi Nifesi

Alexis Teyie

“It’s important to remind ourselves that we aren’t alone”

– Tobi Nifesi

Tobi Nifesi is a fiction writer whose works focus predominantly on socio-psychological issues. To date, he has authored three psychological thrillers: “The Burgess Theory,” “React,” and “Domestic.”

In his recent chat with Kreative Diadem, Nifesi discusses the connection between mental health and isolation, as well as what it means to be creative in the midst of a pandemic.

Enjoy!

KD: Tobi, for those meeting you for the first time, what are the top three things you want readers to know about you?

Tobi: Sure, three things:

  • I’m a writer who shares stories and essays about sociological issues.
  • My fiction writing process is highly influenced by Dan Brown’s writing process – most of which includes a ton of research on historical and symbolic subject matter.
  • Like most writers, I have struggled with writing consistently. However, by engaging in small daily habits outside of writing, I am learning more about the nature of consistency motivation and applying those principles to my writing process. When I have completely figured it out, then I may be bold enough to share with other writers. Actually, I hope to – one day – teach the next generation of writers about the technical and psychological aspects of creative writing.

 

KD: In your works, there is a recurring theme that draws attention to mental health, what role does isolation play in proliferating mental health issues?

Tobi: One of the common phrases that mental health awareness campaigns and activists use is ‘You’re not alone.’ It is so common that I can almost, always, predict that a version of it will be used in any mental health ad campaign I come across. Regardless of how cliché it may sound, it is a necessary statement. It is important to remind ourselves that we aren’t alone because that is what we tend to think when we are in pain.

Like physical pain, the emotional and psychological stress that comes with mental health issues feel – and may actually be – very personal. This idea is amplified when we are in isolation. Isolation convinces us that no one else is going through or can understand or can help us deal with our version of pain and stress. This is the role isolation plays in proliferating and worsening mental health issues.

So, it is important that we remind each other that we are not alone. There is someone else who has felt or is feeling a pain or stress similar to ours. Even if no one understands our pain, there is someone who cares about and is rooting for us, in one way or the other. Our shared experiences can help lift each of us out of our seemingly personal pain. 

It is important to remind ourselves that we aren’t alone because that is what we tend to think when we are in pain.”— Tobi Nifesi

KD: As a creative, I believe it’s not strange to seek solitude in order to stimulate creative juices. Was the global compulsory holiday a blessing in disguise for you? Can you imagine what creative minds would have made from the lockdown?

Tobi: ‘Global Compulsory Holiday’ is a nice to put it. However, I can barely classify it as a holiday because I know several writers and creatives around the world have been under some form of stress during this time.

Personally, prior to the pandemic, my work was mostly remote. When the pandemic came, a lot didn’t change for me in terms of my working conditions. So, it wasn’t really a blessing in that sense. If anything, the blessing in disguise – from all this – for me is the opportunity to learn more about worldviews and social behaviours. During this time, I’ve learnt more about the nature of globalization today and the sociological effects of being separated.

I think there is a good percentage of creatives who may not have been productive or inspired so far during this pandemic – and there are those who may have been. There is no right or wrong group to be in. Yet, I hope that by the end of this pandemic, most creatives and writers would have learnt at least one thing that can make their writing a little bit better or inform their stories, essays, poems or whatever they like to work on.

Tobi Nifesi

KD: Tobi, you have authored three books —psychological thrillers — in the past three years, are you working on a book now and what is it about? Where do you see yourself in five years?

Tobi: At the moment, I’m in the very early stages of developing a story concept for my next book. So, other than the fact that it will be a psychological thriller, I don’t have much details to share about that. In five years, I hope to have worked or be working on a social commentary or documentary that raises social awareness about vulnerable populations in Africa.

KD: As an author in a world recovering from the scourge of a pandemic, what are you going to do differently and why?

Tobi: This is such a good question but I may not have a great answer. Despite the pandemic, my priorities and goals as a writer haven’t really changed. However, I have a clearer idea of the stories that matter to me. I intend to work more on them.

 

I appreciate the opportunity to share my thoughts with you. Thank you for the interview.

Source: From the Isolation Issue (September 2020)

THE CHURCH: A BASTARD OR A LEGITIMATE CHILD? by Nicksha Mwanandimayi

THE CHURCH: A BASTARD OR A LEGITIMATE CHILD? by Nicksha Mwanandimayi

brown concrete cathedral

THE CHURCH: A BASTARD OR A LEGITIMATE CHILD?

by Nicksha T. Mwanandimayi

According to the Oxford dictionary, ambivalence is the state of having mixed feelings or contradictory ideas about something or someone whereas equivocation is the use of ambiguous language to conceal the truth or to avoid committing oneself. I think it’s fair to say that if you have read a couple of John Grisham novels,  watched CNN or Fox News since Donald Trump became the American president, you would be aware of phrases such as “Separation of State and Power,” “The First Amendment,” or “ Bill Of Rights.”

On the other hand, if you have lived on the African continent like I have for all my life, unless you studied law you would probably have no clue regarding the extension of power between the Church and State. What about Bill of Rights? In Africa, depending in which state you are in, the law and religion exist parallel with each other.

The state’s treatment of the church the world over is ambivalent. Routinely sidelined but recognised in the middle of a crisis especially when all hope seems lost, the church is like the bastard child in medieval England. Historically, the bastard was commonly referred to as a whoreson under normal circumstances. However, when the conditions required it, a post factum legitimisation of the whoreson would be convenient. The state’s treatment of the modern church isn’t much different from the way England’s history views William the Conqueror. With deaths and infection rates skyrocketing I read the following from the Vatican News, “Prayer is our greatest weapon against the virus.” Well, you had me fooled; I was convinced that someone said, “Science was our greatest weapon.”  People better start making up their minds. A month later after prayer had seemingly tarried against the virus, despite it being our “greatest weapon,” in the British Journal of General Practice, Charlotte Sidebotham had this conflicting attestation, “In the COVID-19 battlefield, language is our greatest weapon.” First prayer, now language? What is our greatest weapon against the virus then?

In a world void of absolutes, it’s easy to get lost and be blown aside by every wind of doctrine. On 8 April 2020, despite the Namibian Constitution unequivocally declaring the nation as a Secular nation, President Hage Geingob called for a day of prayer for the protection and welfare of Namibia against Covid-19. Having put the country under lockdown prior to a declaration of a state of emergency President Geingob requested, “churches who wish to participate, to ring their bells at 12h00 Noon on this day. All Namibians who wish to participate must unite in faith, humble themselves and lift their voices to pray for the protection and welfare of our country.”

Namibia wasn’t alone as Southern Africa’s biggest economy also followed suit with President Cyril Ramaphosa also announcing a national day of prayer on Sunday, May 31, in which all religious leaders and members of faith-based organisations were invited to pray for the country which had been hardest hit in Africa by the Covid-19 pandemic at the time. It is imperative to note that just like the former; South Africa is also a self-proclaimed secular state according to its constitution. It just so happened that South Africa was bracing for the worst and the bastard child whom the constitution unequivocally refuses to legitimise and give a voice was the first to receive a post factum legitimisation in times of crisis.

Namibia wasn’t alone as Southern Africa’s biggest economy also followed suit with President Cyril Ramaphosa also announcing a national day of prayer on Sunday, May 31, in which all religious leaders and members of faith-based organisations were invited to pray for the country which had been hardest hit in Africa by the Covid-19 pandemic at the time. It is imperative to note that just like the former; South Africa is also a self-proclaimed secular state according to its constitution. It just so happened that South Africa was bracing for the worst and the bastard child whom the constitution unequivocally refuses to legitimise and give a voice was the first to receive a post factum legitimisation in times of crisis.

What about the world’s greatest superpower with its infamous “Separation of State and Power?” On 13 March I found out there was such a thing as a House Chaplain when I watched a C-Span broadcast of Rev. Patrick Conroy leading the House in prayer primarily in response to the corona virus. Post factum legitimisation of the bastard child again? It seems as if the state had a love-hate relationship with the church. Not that the church hasn’t had its fair share of global dominance in years past. I always choose to live by the notion that you never judge a doctrine based on its abuse.

Everyone says children are sweet and cute, yet you would be considered a sadist if you were to judge a child based on their weak moments. The slimy vomit, unashamed excrement and yes, they intentionally wet their pants but for the better part they are the source of inexplicable joy. In our children we see a hope for a better tomorrow, and we are willing to fight tooth and nail for that whimper snapper. We endure sleepless nights through tantrums but giving up on a child isn’t an option. 

Unlike any child, the church is less than two millennia old and has made its fair share of mistakes. An orphaned child who had to watch the brutal and gruesome murders of her family, the church through faith, zeal and tenacity defied these odds to become a powerful domineering force to reckon with. However, the church erred along the way. In the modern world, if a church were an individual, they would be an inspiration to many, a yard stick of endurance. I dare say if the church was a child in the United States then they would be classified as the typical success story of the American Dream. Enduring beatings, hardships and historically verified persecution; the church also erred in its conduct. In society very rarely do we judge individuals based on their weaknesses but their strengths. We remember Abraham Lincoln, Benjamin Franklin and all great men for their great accomplishments even though statistically speaking they failed more times than they succeeded. However, their successes outweigh the sum of their failures. At the onset of the COVID19 Virus, the church was a haven and believers and nonbelievers alike found common ground through prayer. Some prayed out of fear, some out of faith, some did not have a clue, however people were united through faith against a common enemy.

 

Remember how in the aftermath of September 11, 2001, in the United States when an old school evangelist, Billy Graham was called upon just three days after the attack to bring hope to a nation and a world gripped by fear? Addressing millions of Americans and hundreds of millions the world over at the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C. Graham an embodiment of the values of the church and its teaching, quoted the Bible, Psalm 46:1  ‘God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore, we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea.” Hope restored a form of closure to believers and non-believers alike, the church was a unifying force on this fateful day.

In times of crisis when all hope is lost, the law seems prima facie and with death staring in our face in the brink of extinction, humanity seems to always call upon the church.

brown concrete cathedral

On March 14, 2020, President Donald Trump in his speech cited 1 Peter 5:7: “Casting all your care upon him, for he careth for you.”  He further went on to say.’ “Let us pray that all those affected by the virus will feel the presence of our Lord’s protection and love during this time.  With God’s help, we will overcome this threat.” This calling on the church is bipartisan in the United States of America and in countries with a faith-based majority. The ambiguity though is in the detail. If the church is deemed to be the key cog when in crisis, why is its position in politics and in society ambivalent? If the church is essential amidst tragedy, why is it deemed a non-essential when it is time to rebuild? Often relegated to the back burner and ridiculed, paraded and deemed a necessity when the enemy strikes.

As we head towards the re-opening of the economies the world over, the very church which was called upon to fast is seeing hordes of individuals celebrating the reopening of restaurants and pubs whilst it’s deemed nonessential? If our scientific innovation mixed with the “weapon of prayer” were essential to the little progress we have made, why do restaurants and pubs supersede churches in the hierarchy of essential services?  One could even say to deny the church as an essential service is a disregard of human rights. Interestingly enough, people can be entrusted with going to the gym, attending pubs but are denied to gather in places of worship under conditions that are more favourable. 

History teaches us that for better or for worse, every time the church experienced persecution revival broke loose. The church is far more intricate than what people think. Whilst science offers tangible solutions and seeks corporeal answers, to most people in society the church is the source and nourishment of the incorporeal. The church isn’t as archaic as most progressives and liberals seem to think. The church didn’t catch up to science but science to some extent caught up to the church. The church knew, as evidenced in its earliest texts that our existence had a beginning and that space, time and matter are interwoven after all “In the beginning God created.” With a “scientific solution” to the current COVID Pandemic insight, the bastard is relegated to the pastures with the sheep whilst the legitimate sons ponder the future of the kingdom. As the prophet seeks to anoint the incumbent king, the bastard watches from a distance awaiting his time because as history continues to teach us, his time will yet come again. The bastard may yet be called upon to play another ballad for the incumbent king with his harp. The legitimate heirs will continue their equivocations. Regardless of the law’s ambivalence on the importance and role of the church, whenever a crisis arises the church owes it to itself to be a source of hope and throughout history when calamity strikes and the shepherd boy is called upon to play his harp and lyre, seldom does he remain silent.

Source: From the Isolation Issue (September 2020)

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

NICKSHA T. MWANANDIMAYI was Born in Harare, Zimbabwe in 1985, a recipient of the Junior Budding Writers Association Award, he was featured in local magazines and was editor of The Johnian Echo. He published “Epitaph: Memoirs of a Cymbal,” which was ranked 16th in the Poetry genre on Amazon on 6 January 2020.

QUARENCIA by Aisha Mohammed

QUARENCIA by Aisha Mohammed

hallway with window

Quarencia

by Aisha Mohammed

Sometimes, I remind myself that I am only 18, that I have an old woman’s mind. That the spirit living inside my body is too impatient as it waits for my age and spirit to align. I know I am old. I accepted it a long time ago and this coronavirus pandemic has aged me even more.

My brother and I spent the first weeks in oblivion, unaware of what was to come. Zaria is a place frozen in time. I guess this is how local governments in Nigeria are supposed to be. Growing up, my life was woven around state capitals — Lokoja, Benin and Abuja. It explains why my hometown feels out of sync whenever I am in it.

COVID-19 was still a western problem. Esther and I would laugh about it with the rest of the members of the study group we joined at the beginning of the semester. We would mock the people of the west, their panic buying of tissues and their hysteric rants on twitter. We reduced their pain and the deaths the virus caused to mere hysteria. We did not care, we referenced the Ebola outbreak, the west didn’t care about it then. That’s what we were made to believe. It was easy to believe this. How could the descendants of colonizers care about Africa? It didn’t make sense to begin caring for somewhere you perceived a waste land, only good for raw materials.

Three weeks pre-COVID-19, I volunteered for the first-ever university SDGs summit in Nigeria. It had been a success. I was happy I got to be a part of it. Just after I came back from the mid-semester break, my lover called after deserting me a few days before valentine’s day- the worst day of 2020 I had ordered a cake and wanted to pay for it, only to find out my bank account had been wiped clean of all of the money in it, including the poetry prize I won. I would spend the rest of the year wondering and questioning bank records and my memory on how I could have spent 20,000 Naira in a day. Then, there was the two-week strike, a needed break from the overwhelming schedule of the third-year law schedule. My old spirit was as free as the wind. I attended Open Mics in Samaru, ate ice cream and walked barefoot to my hostel from the gates of Kongo campus on some days. I watched the third season of “Stranger Things” with my brother and befriended solitude. It was a strange friendship because I never thought I would experience such faux happiness. My small room on the second floor of hostel 3 became my haven, although solitude held me prisoner I never wanted to leave. I could move in and out of the room whenever I wanted. My spirit was able to fill up my emptiness with new experiences.

hallway with window

The coronavirus arrived in Lagos on the second day of the USDGS, a day after Murkthar said,

“Coronavirus coronavirus that’s in Lagos already, it’s on a danfo bus to Zaria sef” and we all laughed, we didn’t talk about the magnitude of damage it would bring in, perhaps some of us thought about it, but we assumed it would be another Ebola. It would remain in Lagos and become a Lagos problem. But the virus didn’t stop in Lagos, it became our problem, the federal government shut down schools and places of worship and I had to pack my purple suitcase to prison. I was supposed to spend the weekend in Kaduna with my lover. My father called, and I had to travel on Friday, no farewell ceremony to Kaduna or the lover.

Prison (Abuja) is a soulless place. Its tall skyscraper towered over the hills, and the rocks bordering its edges, serving as walls around the sprinklings of shrubs and greenery spread unevenly between and around the clusters of buildings and hills. I did not like what this place did to me and so I hated coming back to it, but it was home. This place ripped a hole in my chest with its smooth roads and pristine buildings. This time though, I came back slightly excited, resting from my busy schedule seemed nice at the time, the good sleep and proper food I had access to, was something my weary body needed. But two weeks in prison, I no longer had the choice of leaving my house to eat ice cream or visit any of my friends. I was forced to learn to distance myself from people. To be alone occasionally. February whispered to my spirit that my mind wasn’t okay. I began to relapse. Up until then, I never thought I had an anxiety disorder. A school counsellor once told me that I might have one, but I never gave it much thought. I would spend the days after in the pool of frequent panic attacks and finally, I would agree with the counsellor.

I eventually found a way to sate my spirit. I got a new counsellor; I got her contact from a friend on the team of She Writes Woman. A movement created to give safe spaces. I told this one everything- the pregnancy scare that almost became an abortion and my abuse at 13. I started praying properly again. Luckily, I started this during Ramadan, and I could no longer procrastinate and push Fajr prayer to 12 o’clock. My spirit stopped craving freedom; it came to terms with sitting in the semidetached flat on Chingola Street for long periods. It wasn’t easy sating my spirit, it didn’t like mingling and preferred solitude and being in the same house with 5 other people 3 younger than I am didn’t give me this. I had to always be there. I was responsible for everyone’s wellbeing; food, emotional support and my father’s daily fresh ginger tea. Controlling my spirit made my mind more stable I worked diligently to sew up its loose ends. One night amid the rising COVID-19 cases and insomnia. I realized what had broken my mind in the first place. After five years, my mind was no longer a puzzle of unnaturally scattered pieces.

Source: From the Isolation Issue (September 2020)

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

AISHA KABIRU MOHAMMED is a law student who spends most of her time writing and volunteering. She is the 2019 winner of the Andrew Nok Poetry Prize. She enjoys literature and watering her plant, Godiya.

FALLEN SCABS AND DRIED SORES by Ohaka Thelma

FALLEN SCABS AND DRIED SORES by Ohaka Thelma

pexels-photo-4867670.jpeg

Fallen Scabs and Dried Sores

by Ohaka Thelma

 The prevalent bustling in Òkè-ìlá was driven by fear and the constant need to survive.

Mama Ayo walked briskly in an attempt to get home before six pm. Her bag of food items was light enough to be clutched to her side with both arms. She was aware that they could be stolen, which would mean water throughout the next week for her family.

She greeted her neighbour and proceeded to enter her home, she could hear her children noisily playing a game called Ten-ten.

“Ayobami!” She called for her first child.

“Yes, mummy?” The 15-year-old ran to her.

“Put these things in the kitchen and boil water. Where are your brothers?”

“They are inside playing. Mummy, is it Eba again? Let us eat rice na.” Ayobami pleaded with her eyes.

“Rice? Don’t you know we need money for other things, ehn? Abi, you don’t want to resume school again?” Granting their desires was essential, but their education was the most important.

“No, I want to go to school. I’ll go and boil the water.” She sighed and left, wondering when her education would stop hindering her wants.

Sirens wailed at a distance, informing everyone what time it was.

8 pm.

Mama Ayo shook her children from their slumber.

“Wake up, wake up. Ayobami stands up and wash your brothers’ faces.”

Ayobami wiped her face filled with confusion. “Mummy, what is happening?”

“It’s time for the weekly inspection, let’s go.” She ushered them outside the house. Neighbours were already outside, their faces clouded with fear.

A loud screeching sound was heard accompanied by a man’s voice on a megaphone.

“Good evening everyone, please remain at the front of your houses. If any family member is not found there, consequences will follow.” Everyone knew the drill. Since the outbreak of smallpox in the past year, the army deployed soldiers for routine checks nationwide to weed out the infected persons and move them to an isolation camp.

When the search ended, Mama Ayo was happy. For every inspection her family survives, her fighting chance increases.

“Ah, Mama Ayo. Did you hear what happened in the Oladele family?” Mama Sade, her neighbor, asked her before she returned inside.

“What happened? Did they take anybody?” This was everyone’s fear in the village; if one person was found, more people could get infected.

“They took one of the children oh, the mother has been crying since she begged them to take her too. It was very sad.”

“It is well. I just pray they find a cure soon. “See ehn, if they take me to the isolation place, I will never take any cure they give me. Who knows if it will kill you faster sef.” She wasn’t surprised at Mama Sade’s beliefs, she heard most people talk like this in the market.

“But what if it can cure you and your children?”

“And what if it kills us faster? Abeg oh! My cousin in another state told me they are doing something called vario-something, do you know what it is? Mama Sade always had the happening news.

“No, what is it?”

She moved closer and reduced her voice. “They will cut you open and infect you with smallpox on purpose! Can you imagine? Olorun maje!” Her shoulders shook in disbelief.

“Ehen? But why? Will the person not be infected too?”

“My dear, that’s what I asked too, they said it will make you immune to the virus. They think we don’t have sense, they want to make us die faster.”

“Ah, it is well o. May we never experience it.” They chorused ‘Amen’ and returned to their homes.

Mama Ayo was infected with smallpox.

At first, she thought it was malaria as the symptoms were alike; she sent Ayobami to buy some herbal tonic, but when she began to notice red spots on her tongue, it was clear what it was.

Knowing that her children could get infected, she decided to report herself to the isolation camp.

What about her children? She thought long and hard about who to keep them with, someone who would take care of them on her behalf. She concluded that Mama Sade was the closest possible candidate.

She asked Mama Sade for a favour that would allow her children to live on the little savings she had. She entrusted Ayobami some amount of money for emergencies of any kind. Mama Sade felt sorry for her, but didn’t judge or try to influence her decision. Mama Ayo then sat her children down and informed them of her condition and that she was going to get treated, they all cried and eventually agreed. Still, the youngest of the Ayo’s insisted on following her with tearful eyes.

Only after promising her safe return was she allowed to leave her children.

She arrived at the isolation camp the same day she set out. It looked like a military base as it was heavily fenced with barbed wires. It was a terrifying sight. A bright light appeared on her face blinding her momentarily. She hid her face in her arms to protect her from the brightness.

“Who goes there?” A loud voice questioned and made her jump with anxiety. She saw a man kitted in soldier’s attire.

“Good evening, sir. My name is Mama Ayo, and I came to report myself here, I think I have smallpox.” She watched as the man’s expression changed from fear to shock. He probably did not expect anyone to come willingly, but mama Ayo didn’t live for her, she needed to stay alive for her children.

The soldier ushered her into the gates and left her with some other soldiers. She was taken to an area with dozens of makeshift corners scattered around. It seemed as though each corner was supposed to be a personal space of some kind. Her information was collected; she was given a bag of living items constituting materials for sleeping and bathing, the basic types.

A health worker clad in a surgical gown assigned her a corner with a bed. The beds were far from each other and the entire room was structured in a maze-like way, so that you couldn’t see anything from the entrance. As the health worker left her, she also noticed that she couldn’t see other people’s beds — bricks were used to block the sides; it was probably to prevent them from interacting with others.

She began unpacking her things and wondered what her children ate for dinner and how they were coping without her. A figure appeared before her. It was a young woman dressed in clothes that resembled the ones she was given. She was probably a patient too.

“Good evening.” She smiled.

“Good evening,” Mama Ayo replied.

“My name is Olamide. I saw when you came in, we were curious about you since it is not yet time for the night inspection. Were you caught or what?”

“No, I came myself. I have symptoms of smallpox.”

The woman, ‘Olamide,’ looked at her in disbelief. “You came by yourself? Why? You could have hidden or bribed them.”

Mama Ayo laughed. “Hide where? Bribe them with what? I do not have the means for any of those. Besides, I came here to be cured.”

“Cured? You’re funny o! Who told you there is a cure? You don’t even know anything. We are being left here so that when the disease kills us, it will be easy to throw us away. You just came here like a sacrificial lamb; I wish you knew the truth before coming. I would rather die in my own house than being abandoned here.” “Well, I believe what I believe.”

“Hmm, okay. You didn’t tell me your name.”

“You can call me Mama Ayo.”

Mama Ayo had spent a week but was not getting better. The rashes on her skin had spread over the parts of her body and become bumps. The others looked worse than she did. As they waited for death, they sang hymns.

Everywhere seemed solemn as each day went by but she kept her faith strong. Suddenly, there was a loud bang, followed by loud footsteps. Mama Ayo couldn’t see anything or anyone from her bed, so she assumed it was one of the younger ones playing around. She hummed a song from her childhood and used the bedside table as a drum.

“Mama Ayo! Mama Ayo!” Olamide rushed to the front of her corner. “It has finally happened!” She placed her hands on top of her head.

“What has finally happened?” “The cure o! They said they have found the cure to smallpox, and they will give everybody here. Can you imagine? Just like that, not even to ask us-“

“Calm down.” Mama Ayo stopped her venting. “Who told you they found it? How do you know it is true?” She didn’t want to base her hopes on a rumour.

“One of the patients has a sister that is a doctor here, she told her a cure was coming soon, and she should not tell anybody yet, but one of the children heard it and told us. This one is true, ehn, it is not a rumour. I swear.” She placed her index finger on her tongue and put it in the air. She swore it was true.

“Okay, if it is true, I am so happy.” She smiled at the thought of seeing her Ayos again. Ironic that Ayo also means joy. “But you’re not looking too happy with the news.”

“Ah! I’m not happy at all. What if something happens to us? They want to use us like we are experiments. I’m sure it’s the white men that brought this cure, they want to eliminate us and it is not fair.” She was slowly becoming hysterical and Mama Ayo noticed that her condition was actually worsening like hers.

“Olamide dear, calm down. This cure may be an advantage for all of us, and we are going to die anytime soon, why don’t we just try and have faith that we will be cured? “She attempted to reassure her as she was fond of her.

“Faith? Mama Ayo, you need to face the reality that we will probably all die with this disease.” She turned left and right to check if anyone was within earshot “Some of us have planned something to escape this place, we’re gathering people. If you want to leave, just follow us.”

“There are soldiers around, so how will you escape?” Mama Ayo knew it was a suicide attempt, the only way is if they were handed the keys which was unlikely.?

“One of the men knows the soldiers, he will help us escape. I’m so happy; I can’t wait to go home.” She looked blissfully ignorant, and it was sad.

Mama Ayo knew the night for the planned escape. Before that night, the isolation center was quiet. Conversations occurred in hush tones. She feigned ignorance, feeling sorry for them. The day after their escape was the day the cure was to be administered, or vaccine as one of the nurses called it.

The next day was warm. Mama Ayo packed her things because she believed she would be leaving after being given the cure. She hoped and wondered if the fugitives made it in one piece, the previous night. Hours later, a health worker selected Mama Ayo and a few others to be escorted to the clinic by soldiers, some people looked frightened like they were off to a slaughterhouse, but she was happy.  

Before they arrived at the clinic, one of the women screamed, everyone turned to her wondering the reason for her sudden fright, she pointed in a direction, and they were met with a horrible sight. Bodies were piled on several wheelbarrows pushed by some soldiers, and she instantly knew it was them. All of them were dead, none was spared, and as unfair as it seemed, this was how most of them would’ve preferred to die, especially Olamide.  Mama Ayo thought of how truly their ignorance led to their early demise, despite the fact she was ecstatic for the cure, her heart tugged at the waste of lives, she felt somewhat guilty for not being persistently convincing to them. Maybe if she actively prevented them from attempting the escape, she may have succeeded, they would’ve resented her but at least they would be alive.

With another glance at the dead, she entered the clinic, thinking of her three joys.

Source: From the Isolation Issue (September 2020)

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

OHAKA THELMA is a fiction writer that has been writing since 2018. She has an educational background in Banking and finance from a reputable university in Nigeria. Her works are extremely diverse in genre and could be found in sites such as Medium and Wattpad.

WHERE ARE WE by Doose Ahua

WHERE ARE WE by Doose Ahua

woman in green and white stripe shirt covering her face with white mask

Where Are We?

by Doose Ahua

I take a break from scrolling through my Facebook feed. Every post has a #COVID-19 #quarantine #isolation or #socialdistancing tag. I go to the water fountain and refill my water bottle. I have come to love the sound of the water flowing into my water bottle. It’s a refreshing reminder that I still have things to be thankful for. My appetite has decreased these past few days, but I drink a lot of water to prevent the headaches. It helps. I go to the window and part the curtains just a little bit. I don’t like how the rays of light pierce through from outside, reminding me that I have to stay inside. I take a gulp from my water bottle, remembering that last day when everything took a different turn. 

The silence was intense, disturbing. The sky seemed darker. People had been running helter-skelter, groping for things they were almost losing. Someone knocked the big bowl over and water rushed down the narrow path, taking tiny pairs of shoes and other items littered about with it.  A toddler sitting by the mango tree called out “Mama! Mama! Mama”. His voice was shrill, but the panic in his eyes even louder. It broke my heart, even now.

His little sister stood, wide-eyed, hands akimbo, wondering what was causing the chaos and panic. A man rushed out of one building with a pile of books. He looked like he had a white-collar job. He opened the backseat of the SUV parked by the tree, threw the books inside and slammed the door shut. He hesitated, unsure of going into the car. He threw a glance in the direction of the building he had come from before he jumped in and drove off. The three ladies, coming from a distance, were apparently oblivious to the chaos on this end. Suddenly, they stopped, took off their heels and raced in the direction the SUV had gone. A wig fell off. She slowed down, turned back to pick it up and continued running without bothering to put it back on her head.

I sighed when the boy’s mother came and picked him up. I remember, her head wrap had fallen off her head and her wrapper hung loosely about her. She used the edge of her head wrap to wipe his tears and clean the wetness that was trickling down his nose. Then the wrapper fell off leaving her in a black satin slip. She flung him on her back, picked the wrapper and strapped him securely to her back. Once done, she lifted the basket that was still filled with the goods she had apparently intended to sell that day. She balanced it on her head, grabbed the little girl by the arm and hurried away. The little girl slipped and fell on the muddy path. Mother yanked her by the arm and kept going, half walking, half running. The patch on her yellow dress from the red sand and water looked like a patch of blood. 

The sound of sirens was deafening. The vans came into view eventually, three of them. They sped past going in the opposite direction the SUV and the three ladies had gone. I still hear the sirens every now and then. I am not sure if it is coming from my head or from outside. I glance at my watch; it is almost noon and it is dead silent outside. I let the curtain fall, walk away from the window back to the spot on the couch that has become a warm dent just over the past three weeks. I pick up my phone. I sigh, wondering when I’ll see people outside my window again.

Source: From the Isolation Issue (September 2020)

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

DOOSE AHUA is a Nigerian. She considers home wherever there’s a bed to sleep, food to eat and scraps she can make things out of. She is a compelling storyteller. She believes stories are an ensemble of the bits and pieces of our brokenness and in writing we find connections, we create bonds, build relationships and heal not just ourselves but the people who relate to our pieces, our world. She understands stories as a weapon of enlightenment, liberation. She also relies on creative writing as a very helpful outlet for dealing with personal issues. Literature is one of the many aspects of art she is passionate about. She currently works as an Art teacher at Dakar Academy – a missionary school in Senegal where she guides students in developing and nurturing their creative abilities and using the same expressively. Her friends describe her as quiet, thoughtful, creative, always smiling, strong and kind. She aspires to share stories that people can read, relate to and heal where there is hurt. 

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