THE OTHER DWELLER by Frances Ogamba

THE OTHER DWELLER by Frances Ogamba


by Frances Ogamba

Lana is dead.

But she has etched rooms in our present, in the intricacies that braid our realities. She breathed her last underneath a duvet, curled up and cold beneath a covering, a seeming enclosure, perhaps this was why she went on finding crannies to get stuck and burying herself in them. At first, our rooms hummed a song that was as rhythmic as the claxons of vehicles from the gridlock in the morning hours. The songs were repeated at night, monotonous; they rapped at the windows of the three-room bungalow and clambered in and encircled the bedposts and the reading tables and pushed really close enough to fan our nostrils.

There are four of us. We share the same mother, but different paternity. One of us is dark-skinned. One of us is small of stature and has two navels. One of us squints when staring at remote things. One of us is me.

Often, we hear scurrying, sprightly and brief, it disappears the way it comes. Something unlatches our doors and blasts in a gust of wind. The clothes in our wardrobes quiver as though shrinking away from our touch, as if a pair of hands squeezes them first before we can.

Lana was our maid. She laid the table and brewed our tea. She bustled in the kitchen and made soup treats that heated up our taste buds. She loved peppers, that one, our Lana. When we finished the dining, Lana swung in and picked the plates. She made the beds just as we were about to crumble into them. She was swift, as she is now, living in our walls, whispering, surviving in airless passages.

We got Lana into our employ after our mother went to bed and swallowed her last breath. While we mourned, we needed help with the laundry, and cooking. We made a post in the town paper and a plump, light-skinned woman knocked at our door a day later – Lana. She owned neither a man nor a child, so every of her moments was forsworn for our convenience.

Our walls breathe recurrently, rising and falling like a heart. Someone dusts the floor before we ever reach the broom. Somehow, our plates get cleaned and put away. Something walks right into our rooms each time we unlock our doors, inhabiting the rooms before we march in. We scare at first, and then it feels so convenient that we relax into this comfort of being cleaned after. We tell no one, or how do you tell about a hand that depresses the button on the water closet just as you stand from the toilet seat, pushing your effluent into a sea of wastes? How do you explain the clean floors when you haven’t lifted a mop in months?

“We should visit a seer and know what all of this means,” the dark-skinned one says.

“In some stories, this whole thing stops the moment we go to find out anything,” the one who squints when staring at remote things says.

“It is beginning to get uncomfortable,” the one who is small of stature and has two navels says.

None of us visits a seer.           

The worrying dies off.  When we tell one of our friends, she says that we needn’t bother because these things happen a lot around here. We don’t say who we think it is. All we know is the woody fragrance that was Lana’s pastime, and how it is still sprinkled in the air of every room.


We cannot recall how long Lana has been dead, or the time spanning her service years between living in her physical body and in our walls. One day, she, while channeling her soul and her fury into keeping our rooms clean, spills water on the floor in error and one of us slips on it. Then there is some tongue lashing as we scold the empty air. This would have cut across as ideal if Lana still moved about in her blue uniform and flat shoes, her large eyes twinkling in embarrassment, except that now she is a feeling, a presence. There are more chidings thrown to the wind for someone’s dirty footwear, for the unpolished walls, for the bathroom curtain left hanging downwards for too long. You’d think when you heard the reprimands that Lana is still with her body, seated on her favourite stool in the laundry room.

Something appears to reverse in time right after this thrift. We return home to enmeshed clothes spilled all over the house, trailing across the floors like droplets of some liquid. The beds seem to rid themselves of the duvets, every surface shudders as our breathing hits the walls. We hear Lana when the plates clink and litter the kitchen floor when our boots go unlaced, and when the electric light bulbs dim and irradiate the rooms instantaneously. When this hurricane of activities passes, there is a steam of defenseless ease spread in all the rooms.

We seek the seers. The first seer says that the house we love, which perches on the cleft of a highland, overlooking a small neighbourhood with more houses than people, is haunted by the dead.

Does the dead not go home to the dead?

“No. There’s no other home for the dead except amongst the living. They loiter and bury themselves in their favourite things, rooms, and people,” the seer says.

Why is Lana happening to us?

“She worked for you and died in your house. There’s no other place for her to go.”

She seems hostile now.

“You took her services for granted.”

How do we undo it?

“Give her some time. Spirits are often surly and may delay granting absolution.”

The second seer asks us to break eggs at the doorways and make the egg yolk splash on the sills. He assures us that the mischiefs of the dead will go away after the ritual.

Nothing changes and we do not leave. The walls have on them the green paint which we love, and the sands of the yard graze our heels with a time-long familiarity. What we do is immerse ourselves into our present, find a pattern in the heartbeats of the walls, and make wisecracks about the clothes that walk away from the hangers after a force pulls and loops and knots them around things. We stop cleaning and arranging the house too, and align our lifestyle to the activities of the other dweller, our Lana.

The neighbours call us ‘weird’ and point us out to their children as the adults to never go close to. The whole thing is as disconcerting as it is normal.

There is always a rip in the air, we hear the slit loud and sharp. There is always a buzz, like an undertone, the severe intake of breath never quite escapes our hearing. There isn’t complete silence in our heads. How can there be when our pots clank against one another, and our toilets are filled with flush sounds as if a whole sea is out and crimped in our rooms, lashing out at us?

Source: From the Rebel Issue (October 2019)


FRANCES OGAMBA explores varying themes in her writing. Her short story appears in the 2019 New Weather for MEDIA anthology. Her nonfiction piece, The Valley of Memories, won the 2019 Koffi Addo Prize for Creative Nonfiction. She also won a joint first place for the 2019 Syncity Ng Anniversary Anthology. She is on the 2019 shortlist of the Writivism Short Story Prize, and the 2019 longlists of OWT short story prize and the K&L Prize for African Literature. Her stories appear on Enkare Review, Munyori Literary Journal, and Arts and Africa. Few of her stories are interspersed in Afridiaspora and the 2016 and 2018 Writivism prize anthologies, Dwartonline and YNaija websites. She is a workshop alumnus of Writivism 2016, Ake fiction 2016, Winter Tangerine 2016, and YELF 2018. She works as a content developer from Port Harcourt, Nigeria.




by Efe-Khaese Desmond

Alero sat amidst the animated blackness. The only source of light sprung from the tranquil screen of a computer device, which stood on the wooden table, observed by a tall suntanned stool.

Her palm scrolled through her unmade hair, drawing irregular searching patterns. It found the source of the itching and massaged with the strength of her annualry. This sent a stimulating feeling through Alero’s mass of sordid flesh. She wrestled her finger between the kneading that soothes the itching and that, which turns the tingling into a suppurating sore. She fought the urge and let her hands lay static between the fabrics of her trousered thighs.

The screen brightness of the laptop dimmed a pale white.

Alero knew this to be a forewarning of the system’s screen saver – a slideshow of pre-stored photos. Pictures, which will dissolve into memories. Memories. Hurt. She was crawling reflexively to the device to shut down its proposed blitz on her passions when an image of a young smiling boy appeared on the display.

His peculiarities were a set of teeth that threatened to pop out of its enamel as he clasped a basketball between his hands; a sweatshirt, the number 19 scribbled on it, and a pair of black tracksuit pants. One would have precisely deduced the base of his delight but for the bespectacled Alero who stood behind him gripping the handlebars of his motorised wheelchair. She was wearing a complete lawyer’s outfit – a dark robe that contained a white long-sleeved shirt, topped by a funny looking cap. It was the day her child had wagered that if his team wins the Paralympian games, she would don her legal costume to celebrate his victory.

Alero gave off a burst of maniacal laughter. Her voice rippled across the thin striped walls of the small room. The echoes, in turn, ricocheted to her, moulded with teary whimpering.

It has been two years since she allowed the metonym of her wig and gown to sail with the winds of fate in order to write her book. A thing she picked up after reading an article on the therapeutic effect of transcribing one’s feelings into words. In effect, hers were worthy of a book. Although she had been downing the therapy, the healing has refused to make an early rapport. It was like walking a tight rope – you know what is on the other side, but what befogs the mind is the downside – the apprehension of tumbling down. The years have been poured into a cause built on a chasm of uncertainty and loss, which wove through the lives of her family like the fabrics of spider knots.

Two years, yet, she still struggled to find the right grains to shape a model of her curse. The curse that takes the form of virtual motions and shadowy insignias, continually plaguing her to transcribe her early intimacy with dead bodies.

Alero punched a button on the laptop. The screen came alive with excitement.

“Set your ears atop the lifeless form of a cadaver”, Alero recited, “Feel the soft sounds of life sip slowly from form, and watch with a most satisfying feeling…”

These were the opening lines of a new chapter. The words sound almost macabre, she mused. On the other hand, her mind had mutated into that form. The fear of the loss of her son had somewhat warped her psyche from the breasts of typical thoughts.

It began when Alero was newly possessed with the aporia of leaving the legal practice, and she had told her husband atop the tenderness of bedroom pillows. He had set out the next morning and returned with a near facile speech on how her decision would disintegrate the income of the family, especially with the condition of their son, who was selectively needy. Alero had tried but she knew her husband could not understand the recurring nightmare she had been having. She only fed him her distant gaze and the arch of her back as she walked away. 

Alero had nodded, perspired and went to her laptop to draft a resignation letter to her law firm. She addressed it to the human resource office and since then had not gone to work. Not when she received interrogatory emails, not even when these mails transmogrified into teeming knocks at her door or when they downsized into tiny bytes of text messages nor plethora of missed calls.

She found comfort in the darkness, and voice, on her computer’s keyboard. It helped when she typed those words but when she read them back to herself and they brought back images to her head, she would abstain for days and release these shrouded words out of its cocoon, in slant watery anecdotes – her eyes becoming the pen, and tears, the lines.

It was during this phase that her husband wheeled their son out of the home. By way of an overdue jeremiad, he sent a message about how her newfound hobby has become inimical to the well-being of their son. He did not say further on this but went on to give a notice about how he will file for custody if she does not change. Those were how the words came across even though he had used something as nocent as “…if amendments are not made”. Alero knew this to be a penance for defying him but she did not care. Her love was for her son. He was being exhibited between a conflict founded on self-importance. But Alero had not responded.

Her phone chimed. 2:25 pm

A reminder. It was time to visit her esoteric therapist, Kaycee, who was being inhabited at the state’s prison facility.


Fortunately, the drive took more time than she predicted. This gave her a chance to think about the origin of her ‘sessions’ with Kaycee.

He had been one of her clients with a case of murder and a possible death sentence in proximity. In truth, Kaycee had not committed the killing but had only been a negligent pharmacist who misplaced drugs in the right bottle. This caused the death of the young boy.

Kaycee had doused all the humility he could muster as he told her the emotional turmoil his life had been spinning in since the loss of his children to the overseas. They neither contacted him nor were they considering it. Alero had empathised with him and fought to upturn an impending verdict of murder to manslaughter. Nevertheless, she could not save his license nor the next 16 years of his life. Although, he was grateful that she had preserved it.

He was an old man, in his mid-50s, and the visits started as a friendly call to check on his wellbeing in prison. Still, when her troubles were born, the table was transformed into a therapy session where she simply talked, and he paid attention. To him, it was an escape from the angular life of prison, for her, it was a conversation with a person who would listen because he had to, despite any perceived sentiment he might harbour.

Alero soon arrived at the prison. Turning the 2004 Toyota Camry through the old prison gates, she viewed the chief warden handing out instructions to the subordinates. The chief warden must have seen her car drive into the compound because just as she stepped on the doorframe, the warden saluted. She smiled. He thinks I am still a lawyer.

“Madam”, the man called out in his accentuated tongue, “Welcome o. How is the family?”

Her stomach did a tumble

“They are in God’s hands”, Alero managed to reply

“Hmmm… okay”, the warden beamed “Eh you are here to see our doctor àbí?”

They called Kaycee ‘doctor’. He had told her a remarkable experience. When he was doing his baptism – the part of telling them about what he did to warrant imprisonment – they could not phantom who a ‘pharmacist’ is. He had had to explain it in the light of a ‘doctor’ description. The latter appeared to have stuck better and stuck well as a nickname.

“Yes, I am”

“Okay. Kingsley”, he called to a younger officer “Go tell doctor sey him get visitor”. The designee hurried off to do his senior’s bidding “Madam”, he turned to Alero “Oya put your bag for that locker make this boy carry you go where you go siddon”

A few minutes after, she was in the faintly lightened waiting room. It had a flinching fluorescent bulb with half of its illumination in the darkness.

Kaycee soon came to join her. He was a well-built man for his age. Alero had no fear that he will not survive his term in prison. The oil that wheeled her visits was processed because of his perceived loneliness. He was looking untidy and sad. Alero wanted to hug him. She had tried, one time, but was rebuffed by Kaycee who said he did not want word to travel that he is weak. Alero could not connect the ley lines so she had let it be.

“How have you been?” Kaycee inquired, his eyes searching the answer on Alero’s face


“Jul?” he pressed on, the lines on his face already toning with strings of concern

“Eh? I’m coping”, her voice came out in a whisper.

Kaycee looked over his shoulders. The guards were not visible

“Why you dey whisper? Police no dey here na”, he jested

“Sorry”, this time it came out loudly “I have barely said a word to anyone for the past four days. I guess I am still finding my voice”

Kaycee let out a sharp sigh. He felt guilty about mocking her predicament

“You still dey write that book bá”, it was not a question

“Hmm”, Alero said, with a static nod

“So how far, you don finish?”

Alero did not reply

“Hello, I am the one in prison here”, Kaycee bellowed sharply

“What do you want me to say?” She retorted with a strain in her voice

“I asked you a question”

“I am not done, okay”, She said begrudgingly


“You know why”

Kaycee took his hands from the table to lean on the rickety chair. Then he folded his arms across his chest to observe the woman in front of him.

“What are you writing about? At least, that I don’t know”

Alero paused then. This was the first time he was asking her about the subject matter of her troubles. Despite the repetitive visits, Kaycee had not earned the badge of her friendship – the insignia that allowed him into her nightmares. She looked away as if to retreat from the question, but she knew he would not allow her. The silence was not an answer either.

“It’s personal”

“‘Personal’ as in it happened to…” his finger, pointing at her, complementing the sentence “or personal as in you don’t want to talk about it?”

Blank stare


“Yes, what?”

“All of the above”

“So what are you doing here?”

“I don’t know what to do”


“Finishing the book. I want to finish it. I really do, but I just can’t find the right stones to mount the building”, Alero muttered rapidly

Another blank stare

“Kaycee, time is ticking”

“I know”, he replied “and that is why I have six words for you…no seven”, he babbled, then he moved on to count his fingers

“Who cares, just tell me”, Alero demanded

“Get your hair out of this mess”

“What mess?” Alero probed, puzzled

“This mess”, his hands motioned to signify all of her.


“Yes, you”, Kaycee motioned again, “you sit down in your darkroom, and you reminisce about the blackness around you. You think about your husband and the impending loss of your son. You reek of regret about your decision to leave the legal profession. Forgetting that time walks on lighting feet and the sooner you move on the better for you not to be trampled. No one leaves a profession like Law in Nigeria, except they are pursuing a higher calling. Get your hair out of this mess and think forward, Alero”, Kaycee concluded breathlessly.

Alero marvelled at Kaycee. This was the first time he had ever scolded her for the tides of her life. Other times, he had just sat there and listened. She had been content with that or she thought she was. This newfound trait in Kaycee was shrouding. Intimidating.

“Okay. I will put that in mind”, that was all that came out, as the guard banged the door to indicate that their 5-minute tête-à-tête was over

“You had better. Come here”, he outstretched his hands as the guard knocked on the iron door.

“But I thought you said you don’t want the guards to think you weak”, Alero uttered slyly as she moved to the imprisoned man.

“Who said the hug is for me?”


This time Alero was in squalor. She could feel it; something was with her beyond what the eyes could comprehend. The hue of the room was a still nothingness merged with a vantage observer, or observers, stowed away, invincible. She knew there were spectators of this darkness.

“Who is there?” Alero asked the threatening gloominess

Her voice did not come back to her, although it felt like it was let out in a barren room. It was as if a huge hollow jar had been opened to swallow her echoes – as if something was denying her even the companionship of her own presence.

It was in the likeness of her writing room, yet, a structural flaw betrayed it.

Alero stretched her hand into the thickening air and groped for a wall or anything solid. Her hand caught on the stiffness as she clawed away, ripping at it like posters on a street wall. She kept tearing at it in search of a wall, a door, or anything concrete she could hold onto. When this failed, Alero tried to retrace her steps back to where she once stood. Just as she reclined backward, she hit something hard. The wall where she had woken up. An arduous malaise filled her temple. Had she advanced only a step?

Alero closed her eyes briefly and when she opened them, she made out the highlight of a door few paces from where she stood. It was either the darkness had cajoled up the door or the shape of her eyes has become allied with its rich contours.

She advanced, this time keeping track of how many paces she was away from where the door was mounted. Thankfully, she was moving closer to it. A few steps passed and she was dispersing her fingers across the doorframe, searching for the lever. Just as she was about to move it into opening, her ears became fixed on a quiet call behind her, which almost immediately became a fusion of different stages of wailing. While one cried out her name in a fit of benign erudition, a gentle one, with a tinge of motherly composition, seized the first syllable of her name, dipped it in the crevice of her throat, and let out the last syllable in a rocketing pitch. Another, a gruff voice wailed like that of a big man. A timid one, like that of a child, called out too. They were all calling out her name.

A sweetening sensation enveloped her as she stood there absorbing the effect of the grotesque spectacle. It carried the smell of resin and another familiar odour. This one tumbled into her nostrils and surged her memories into a forgotten time. The smell usually held strong around the figures of dead bodies. This awakened a feeling in her, a feeling of dread that these voices were warning her; inviting her, calling out for her not to go through the door. The voices became faint as her hand pushed the handle down to open it. She could not will it to do otherwise. Then she noticed that her body was not the one performing the action. Either someone was prodding the door from the other side of the door had an animated likeness.

As the door slid open, the sensation heightened and rolled into a whirlpool of dread. The stench of cadavers grew with a rocketing geometry alongside the detail of the room.

Alero saw an array of stretchers by the end of the wall, seated as if hypnotized. She would have attempted to move back but for the young girl who was walking towards one of the tables. The girl wore a pale nightgown and her black hair has been twisted into a cornrow with multi-coloured beads sticking out from its ends. Alero recognised this girl, even though her back was turned to her. It was someone she once knew. It was the young Alero spreading over two decades.

And she knew what the girl was about to do.

She called out to her, to stop her, but her words became strangled in her throat. Then it began to fall back into the pit of her chest.

Alero choked.

A tightening in her chest was preventing her from alerting the young girl. From averting her young eyes from what is underneath the covering. She still struggled to call out. But the girl’s hand was already on the head of the stretcher, lifting the covering of a bulging pile. The girl raised it and she saw it – a disfigured skeleton of what might have been a man rested on the head of the stretcher. This bone slowly took the form of flesh, filling up the indenture on the macabre form. Flesh became a whole face and the whole face appeared to be her mother, lying still atop the stretcher. The face then began to decay in tiny pieces, slow motion of horror.

A scream erupted from the nether, the observer, then Alero woke up on the floor of a small room. Her laptop laid stock-still a few feet from her head, undamaged. She picked it up and wiped the base with an opened palm. The pulsating light from the laptop stole a sigh of relief from her lips. Her hands quivered, not from fright, but eagerness. As she touched the keyboard in the darkness of the room, the voices in her head became her light.

Source: From the Rebel Issue (October 2019)


EFE-KHAESE RINSE DESMOND is an award-winning writer whose stories mirror the issues he feels are not given enough recognition. This makes his works transverse from a virtual paedophilia to the enigmatic mind of a child stammerer. His hobbies are seasonal alongside his interests. Nevertheless, he is passionate about animal and societal welfare and the value of true feminism. Desmond was the Winner of the April edition, Brigitte Poirson Poetry Contest 2019. He was first runner-up at the African Poetry Contest 2017 and was recently shortlisted for the Chronicles Short Story Prize 2018. 




by Ìyàndá Abimbola

This story begins with you standing at your father’s doorstep on Indigo Street almost naked.

It is raining and the sun is shining at the same time, so you say, God is confused.

Because houses on Indigo do not have colour, fences, or doors, neighbours see into one another’s life dealings so that if you stand by the mosque beside your father’s house facing straight, you will see a brothel, lined with those indigenous girls and women of riotous colours, ranging from really skinny ones__that you often imagine how they find their voices under huge men who come to fuck them__ then to the really thick-ass women__designed with horrible inks in the name of tattoo__whom you often picture if boys from the railroads side don’t get lost to between their folded vagina.

You have looked into their room so many-a-time while growing up, so you learnt that to be called a slut: you need a body that will feel everything except arousal when a man pays you for sex, a retarded foam stained with several dry fluids and ejaculations, condoms, and some dangerous pills.

However, houses in your street preach self-expression and that’s one thing you adore about it but you hate that it doesn’t practice it because Orange, the girl whom you share bunk with in College tells you that security only helps with you being protected but protection is not required if there is no chaos in our heart, or wars in our head.

She says you are exposed to danger the most when you are secured.

So, core self-expression turned something you seek in several rooms in Indigo but never did find one, girls don’t love girls in this street where you belong. It’s a punishable crime, and a deadly sin too. 


Indigo Crescent is sandwiched in between railway stations and a market area.

One of the railway stations is where your father works as a tutor, and an operator.

Your mother, a devoted Christian who collects house paints all her life__for a reason known to herself alone__is 6 years older than he is, but he commands respect all the same. At work: with mutiny and non-conformity, and at home: with love and tenderness. But your mother says her husband smells of burnt black oil in bed, and his palms on her skin feels like rusty burglary she always wants to escape, so she seeks solace in collecting paints and reading Christian prayers.

Oftentimes, you wonder if your mother’s voice really belongs to her, or if she has any hidden in her throat at all.

 One fateful evening when your mother sat in her room reading quietly some verses of Psalms, your father rushed out to pick a call.

Over the phone, you could hear rumbling sounds, to steadily increasing chugging sounds, then to hunks sounding like a forlorn call, while babies’ cry and crowd jostles puncture the windy coverage at intervals of dialogue. Your father didn’t call out a name before you figured out it was a call from the railway station.

You know what life there looks like: boys who are just finding strands of hair between their legs sit in burnt and abandoned trains oftentimes and share tales you think they never have.

Some of them smokes, and yes, some girls have kissed and taught themselves how to make love before, but they didn’t die that night, they died later because they were caught and still didn’t conform to hating each other’s bodies, your father was part of those who killed them.

Well, such is the life you live in a railway station; chaotic and untender and you don’t expect anyone from there to be different.

Your father started his conversation with several yelling and fierce gaze on the phone but it soon seemed to end in shock and pitiful gestures.

There was a letter from the governmental agencies, they wanted to privatize some railway stations.



You remained in your room that day listening to Charlie Puth’s Marvin Gaye.

Tunes blending in atmosphere of emotional sincerity and it reminded you of the day you first kissed Orange, peacefully.

It happened 7:45PM that night, you were meant to attend the “live, and let’s live” Awareness in Rainbow Randy Hall in College.

She had kissed you a day before, but you didn’t reciprocate the language of her lips on yours.

You feared torture, you feared shame, you feared insults, and you feared death. But that night, you felt the melody of her skin, and you decided to drown in its rhythm.

For the first time, you kissed a girl without fear, and you felt like the houses and rooms in Indigo: you suddenly had no fences, no doors, or some forms of security, but you had a colour, and you wore it so bright on your skin that night.

You remembered how you have always admired Grey when you were very little and innocence was the air you breathe.

You sat beside Grey in the train on your way to school one day and you looked at her fair thighs with admiration and lust, you thought it would have been a life more beautiful in Indigo if its streetlights current have been tapped from Grey’s vibrant thighs.

You managed to rest on her bare shoulder and smell it, her scent so good you wanted it to turn into river so you may drown in it, you continued to look at her glossy, too white eyes. You were smiling and just wanted to fall asleep inside them.

You love Orange because she is fierce. She helped you find your voice and even taught you how to use them like arrows, she asked you to carry your colours and never to be afraid of wearing them on your skin, but Orange died before you began to speak with the voices she left in you.


The market area was silent that day really, that you could call it a cemetery, and so was the whole of indigo and the railway stations. There were half burnt tires and broken bottles, screwdrivers with blood and not oil on their mouth, and some bodies no one would identify, on the ground.

Your father had been sitting at home for several weeks, standing and sitting, sitting and standing; he was impatient and not convenient.

He was really calm now and he seemed to have stopped sexually abusing your mother’s decent body because she had reduced reading her Christian prayers and had totally stopped collecting paints now.

Your father was dismissed from work some weeks before now, he did what no one has ever done before in Indigo, he led a protest; that led to a riot, then to crises, chaos, then death and silence.

Your mother was in her room, and she would find her voice that day, she first came out to empty all of her buckets of paint to the gutter in front of your house, that gutter leads to the market area, to the cemetery behind it, further to places you have never been to.

At first she poured out Red paint, then Orange, Yellow paint, then Green, then Blue comes, before Indigo and Violet followed, the gutter looked like it now has rainbow in it, and the water would carry it to the market area, to the cemetery, and further to places you have never been to, and the whole houses in Indigo might find colour(s).

Your mother said something after she poured her last bucket of paint

It looks like something that’s been hidden in her throat for a long period of time. She said, “Prepare for darkness when it’s late.”

Then she went back into her room, lay in her bed and sleep like something that looks like forever.

So today, the end came to meet everything, including this story, with you remaining at your father’s doorstep in Indigo street, hoping it stops raining so Rainbow may at least come.

Source: From the Rebel Issue (October 2019)


ÌYÀNDÁ ABIMBOLA is a poet and a writer. He dives into creative writings for self-expression; expressions driven by a host of things that ranges from griefs and pains that come with boyhood, coping with loneliness, despair, and all of the blissful scars he finds on a woman’s body.

If he is not in between pages of books weaving another creative piece, you will find him seeking embrace in the abyss of a lady’s warm thighs or listening to sad songs. He writes from Lagos, Nigeria. You can reach him on Twitter: @AbimbolaJnr, IG: @iyanda_a_broken.door, & Email




by Caleb Okereke

Two nights ago, Rasheed kissed me. Outside the safety of his bedroom, out in the open streets of Birnin Gwari where motorcycles whizzed past and traders hurried along, he took my hands, kissed me and I knew some things would change. 

It was not the first time he had done it, pressing his tongue firmly against my lips, eyes wide open, and hands fondling my erection.  It was not the first time we had been wedged stiff in the web of passion either, too drowned to let go of each other, but this time was most peculiar because he had done it outside, jeopardising our safety.

Of course, he knew what would happen had anyone seen us; they would yank us away from each other, eyes scarlet from disgust, chests heaving and shoulders squared. They would say “Yar Kishili” or “qazanta, abomination” and drag us round the main market to his Father, the Cleric who will receive us with disappointment in his eyes. 

He would call it “Sodomy” without flinching and someone from the crowd instinctive into the ways of our Kaduna people would read from the Quran:


“Of all creatures in the world, will ye approach males,

And leave those whom Allah has created for you to be your mates

Nay, ye are a people transgressing-”


The crowd would shake their heads and arm themselves with stones, and Rasheed will clench his teeth, he would lean over and whisper in my ears “Bilal, I fear, I am afraid” and I would not reply, because I will be afraid too.

But Rasheed knew these things, he knew. We had played the scene in our heads a thousand times, so often that we felt it had already happened, like a scene from our past life. We rehearsed the tenacity, with which we would face the livid crowd, the courage with which we would say, “I love him and I can die for him” and the uproar that would follow.

He said most times, that I would chicken out, that I would refute my love for him. He said, “Bilal, you don’t have mind” and “Their faces will scare you”.

We laughed about it, about my chickening out; we always found things to laugh about, things to tease each other about. Perhaps it was because we felt we did not own our lives, because we felt the real owners were around the corner, like sentinels, stones tucked in their breast pockets waiting for our big day of death and we wanted to savour this little time.

Nevertheless, I did not tell Rasheed that it was he who I feared would chicken out; that in my imaginations it was he, his terrified twenty-year-old form, who looked into his Father’s eyes, into the disappointment and hurt, into the brief flash of tenderness and hated me.

He would say “You lie, Bilal, nothing can change my love for you” plant a kiss on my cheek and then increase the volume of the radio. He would lay my head on his chest, hum a tune, play with the hairs on mine and yet I know I would sense the agony in his voice like I did two nights ago when he kissed me.

“When will you leave?” He had asked, arranging his clothes in his wardrobe.  He would sort them neatly into organised groups, so that he knew which cloth he would wear to Prayer the next Friday and which he would wear to evening lessons.

“I don’t like being unprepared” was how he justified his actions as if people who did not act that way were somehow unprepared. But Rasheed had the meticulousness of stylish women, he was too conscious of his appearance; he bothered when he had not permed his hair for weeks and asked for my opinion on dressing even though he knew I knew little about fashion.

He worried that the collars of his favourite shirts were discoloured and frowned when his hair crept out of his carved hairline after four days. “I have too much hair,” He would say and I would tease him about how I liked them, how I imagined the hairs when we were apart and I touched myself.

 We had just finished lunch of boiled plantains and pepper when he asked when I was leaving.

“Soon” I said, “I have to be in time if I want to catch the bus to Makarfi, Baba warned me to return early”

“But you can go tomorrow?” He said, “Can’t you? It’s easier to travel on Sundays?”

I shook my head and stared at the Arsenal logos that adorned his wardrobe, at the Jersey he was slotting in that had his name inscribed on it.

“No, I cannot, my first cousin, Mansurah, the one whose bean cakes I said are sweet-tasting, is getting married this weekend”

“Okay” He said, and I sensed the agony in his voice. I knew the agony, I knew him long enough to know the agony.

We sat for long on the edge of his bed, his hands wrapped tightly around mine and the receding afternoon sun bounced in golden strips off his mirror. We listened to the Hausa broadcaster on 97.7, Alheri FM for whom Rasheed had a soft spot because of how clearly he said “Barka da yamma Good evening” when it was time for his show although I assumed it was because he was the only one who had carried the news when a gay man was lynched in Yobe.

I was going home to Makarfi that evening, we would resort to calling when we had enough money to buy airtime, texting about the things we wanted to do to each other. We would recommend novels to each other and read from our copies of Giovanni’s Room over the phone.

We liked the character David, the reserve with which he took on the world, Rasheed thought him a little too afraid of himself and I did too but I never said, because it was hypocrisy, a certain two-facedness to accuse someone of being afraid when I was just as afraid too.

It was not my going home that worried him, it was not the first time I had told Baba that I wanted to spend a few days with the Cleric and his Family and gone home after. It was not the first time I would walk to the bus park at Birnin Gwari and he would wave at me until our bus was out of sight.

But in two weeks, I would go to the University in Zaria, I would ride on one of the big buses that read UNIVERSITY SHUTTLE, my life would become a blur of packed classes, rush for seats and midnight reading. I would make new friends and do new things, but he, Rasheed, would be stuck here, in Birnin Gwari, where the sun would remind him of us and the rain likewise.

He would stare for long at the places we kissed, nostalgia flecking the whites of his eyes, his throat tightening, but I do not know if he would be smiling in optimism, or sobbing in loss, yet I knew, I did not want to lose him.

He would smile (I knew this) in fond remembrance staring at the bench in the veranda of their six-room bungalow where we had sat on his birthday reading to each other our favourite quotes from Giovanni’s room.

“I remembered that life in that room seemed to be occurring beneath the sea, time flowed past indifferently above us, hours and days had no meaning” was Rasheed’s favourite; he said it was the honesty about it, the simplicity and knottiness, all at once.


Two weeks later, I sat beside a grumpy old man on the bus to Zaria. He was a staff member at the University; non-academic staff and his unruffled and collected nature reminded me of my Father whom I had left behind.

“You will like it at the University,” He said to a half-listening me “Especially as a Medical student, you will really like it”

I nodded because it was rude not to reply when an elder was speaking, because Father had trained me better than that. However, my mind was far away, farther than the grumpy old man with cigarette-stained teeth speaking to me. My mind was farther than my parents who had walked me to the park and armed me with the tales given to one who left home.

My mind was with Rasheed, the boy who completed me. In the twitchy and disturbed environment that was the bus, I thought about him, about serenity, tranquillity, and at that moment, I realised he was home.

I met Rasheed when I was seven, we had just moved to Birnin Gwari from Yobe and Mother said his Father, the Cleric had invited us for a welcome dinner.  Baba disputed with this, he said we would not go, said he did not understand the friendly gesture and my little sister, Salimah for whom Baba had a soft spot tugged relentlessly at his night robe.

We had gone eventually, driving the short distance in Baba’s Mazda in the pouring June rain. I was not sure if it was because of Salimah’s pestering, Mother’s warnings or simply because Baba had wanted to go, simply because Baba was like a wall of brick and his first reaction to anything was defiance.

But he had laughed the loudest during dinner, he laughed when they talked about the Governor Ahmed Makarfi who had assumed office for a second term. He laughed at the uncertainty of the Kaduna people, compared them to the Yobe’s who knew what they wanted, laughed at the Cleric’s imitations of politicians, tried some himself, and in those moments, I forgot it was the same Baba who had wanted us not to come.

Eight-year-old Rasheed was sitting there at the table, scooping mouthfuls from his bowl of Masa, laughing at his Father’s imitations and smiling occasionally at Salimah and me. His Father said then that he was a Hafiz-one who had memorised the entire Quran and Mother had looked at me, anticipation clouding her pupils, wishing she had something to say too.

“Brilliant” was what Baba said when Mother talked about Rasheed the next day at our house before he added “Fine child” too and then “Beautiful family”

“They have invited us for dinner again next Friday,” Mother said as she ironed Baba’s clothes and this time he did not complain.

It did not take long before dinners at their home became the order of Friday nights, sometimes we brought our own food, Brabusco or Pate in shiny Thermos Flasks and the Clerics wife would smile at Mother before accepting the bowls. 

Their house, a six-room bungalow with high ceilings and a gallery that was convenient for our meetings. There were murals on its walls, framed quotes-“So what if this life is not perfect? It’s not Jannah“Being a Muslim is about changing yourself not changing Islam”-in its lobby and gaudy lanterns on its stools. It looked like a miniaturized museum, like a home cut out of a scene from Haroun and the sea of stories

There where doors that led to other doors, the majority quaintly locked as if they had never been opened and Rasheed’s simple warning of “They are my Fathers rooms” warded off the ones that clicked slightly when pushed.

It did not take long either before I became best friends with Rasheed. We attended the same school, prescribed to us by his Mother and we came home together, I arriving home first and he walking forward.

We stole minutes away from the Family during dinner to count the comics he had in his bedroom, ran our hands along the edges of the frames in the lobby and made jokes about them. We licked ice from the freezer in the kitchen when no one was looking, mimicked the prayers from the Catholic Church beside the house and made comics of our own in his jotter.

Baba was proud of my association with him, I knew, and so was Mother. They perhaps felt that by associating with a Hafiz, I too might become one; perhaps felt that it was a trait, like Vaseline that could be rubbed off on another.

An accountant at the water corporation was what Baba was, warily counting wads of naira notes from taxes, water levies, and arranging them into neat piles. Saying “Trade union” and “Our rights” in the manner influential people said them. He earned respect amongst the indigenes for this; he was the only one, who drove a 2001 Mazda, the only one who had seen and touched more money than they ever would although none belonged to him.

“Eccentric” was how Rasheed described him on his eleventh Birthday when Baba did not give him a gift. “Your Father is very eccentric, they say it in the Mosque and at the market, he is a no-nonsense person”

I had not known what the word meant then and so I had not known how to react, but I smiled lightly and helped tie balloons on the balcony railing. That night, I looked up the word eccentric in my Longman dictionary and a smile creased the corners of my lips.

My relationship with Rasheed did not become unusual until the year he turned fifteen. I was fourteen; we both were seniors at our junior secondary school; rolling in the waters of youthful exuberance, starting to masturbate to images of Spice Girls and Christina Aguilera in our school bathroom and just realising that sex was not how we previously thought.

I started to notice him more, started to notice the girls that noticed him. I noticed that he ate his rice with little stew—I would later tell my Mother that I wanted to eat rice this way too—and that his hair was a clean-shaved afro, not Gorimapa like the rest of us boys those days. 

I liked the way he read his passages during English class, carefully articulating “Brussels”, “Budapest” so that they started to sound like shiny things, perhaps jewellery or glitter rather than cities; liked how slowly he said my name “Bilal” as if he read deeper meaning from it with every enunciation. 

He had a way of making things beautiful, Rasheed. I did not like Nazifi Asnanic’s song, “Jai-Jani” until he sang the words to me one evening in his bedroom, brushed off the amicable way with which the songwriter wrote until he pointed it out to me.

 It was as if things did not become beautiful until Rasheed acknowledged them; as if he was an immigration officer who stamped beauty on things.

Our conversations those days became about girls with big breasts, boys who had touched these big breasts, ample hips and girls who let boys lift their pinafore for them to touch something. It was later that I would sense the disconnect in his voice when he talked about girls, but not then, there was no way I could have sensed it then.

He was Rasheed, the wiry boy with a mild stutter, Lipton-coloured face and eyebrows drawn delicately, too delicately as if God had had too much time on his hands when he created him. I was not like him; I was not as handsome as he was, not as brilliant; and so more girls were after him, more girls wanted the “Kora” boy with a brain.

“Laila is in love with me,” He said to me once about a girl in our class “But her breast is not so big and I don’t like it”

“You and big breasts” I replied, I could not have known then how wrong I was.

Two days later, he reached out to touch my erection when we were watching TIME IN CHINA on the big colour television in our living room. Baba and Mother were out of the house, and Salimah was playing a game of TenTen outside with the neighbours.

“You are huge” was all he said, quickly removed his hands and stared back at the screen as if nothing unusual had happened. He did not explain what his fiddling meant or what it did not mean; he did not apologise or say that he wanted to feel it once more.  There were things about Rasheed I would never understand, things about his bluntness.

We never mentioned the incident again, we never talked about it, we resumed talking about girls and about big breasts as if somehow by not talking about it we could pretend it did not happen, pretend it meant nothing.

 The first time he slept with Laila, I was the first person he told.

“You should get a girl to sleep with,” He said after recounting his unguarded experience “I could arrange one for you” 

I shook my head “Who says I want to sleep with girls?”

He laughed, “Oh, you want to sleep with boys shay?” he laughed again, this time louder and added, “Of course not Bilal, I would shoot you myself if you are a fag.”

. That was why the first time he kissed me, one evening after makaranta and behind the mosque, he apologised quickly, too terrified to look into my eyes.

“I am sorry Bilal,” he said, “That was a joke; don’t tell anyone about it, please, it would never happen again.”

However, it did happen again, this time even longer than the first and in the safety of his bedroom.

In later years when we are together, I would think that he had kissed me then because I had wanted him to and that he had sensed this longing, I would be brave enough to ask him one night after a round of heated sex. Had he noticed how keenly I stared at him when we took showers together? “It was a candid longing,” I would say. “Somewhat fascination, nothing tied to sexual attraction.”

Did he see the hearts I made over his name in my copy of LISTLESS where a character was named after him? He would blame it on none of that and say that he had kissed me simply because he wanted to.

But not that day in his bedroom when the radio blared a soft song, not when I was fourteen and he had kissed me again after promising not to. He had perhaps realised that I wanted it as much as he did then, and so he did not stop at kissing, he clasped me close, played with my rising erection and a muffled moan escaped his lips. 

We kissed many more times after that; kissed and played with each other in confound fascination, as if our bodies were puzzles, we were just starting to piece together, or riddles given without explanations that had just recently surfaced. 

But we did not talk about it, we never talked about it, perhaps because we did not know the right words to describe what we were doing or because we felt that talking about it would draw us to the realisation of what it was and we did not want to meet this realisation, at least not yet.

Our conversations remained about girls and big breasts, about our resentment for gay people, about how they were going against Allah’s will and how they would perish. 

“I like you Bilal, take off your trouser” was how he asked me to be his boyfriend months later and sixteen-year-old me yielded, wholeheartedly.

“It’s time for Angelus,” the grumpy old man said to me. He was a Christian, Catholic.

Our bus was meandering its way through narrow settlements with familiar sights, small houses on large land expanses, veiled women sitting in front of makeshift stalls, hawkers parading trays of Kokoro.

“Zaria is not so far away now,” someone had said earlier. “Only this driver is too slow. If he keeps at this rate, we would not make it before night fall” 

Haba kai!” Another passenger had answered, “Shuru! It is better he drives this way and we get there with our lives in our palms” and the grumpy old man had nodded approvingly.

But that was before it clocked 12:00 noon when he leaned towards me and said “It’s time for Angelus” as if I were a fellow catholic before producing his rosary from the breast pocket of his shirt with certain pride sprawled on his face.

He was one of those people who believed religion made them sophisticated, somewhat chic, who were grateful for its existence, one of those people whom religion made relevant.

I imagine him at his local church in Makarfi with shiny steeples like antennas to God; staunch Christian, pointing out to the Priest who drank beer with the heathen, refusing to bury a church member who owed dues, and saying “Holiness” “Purity” with the assuredness of one who believed he had attained it.

“Moving” was how Rasheed described the Catholics the first time I watched them pray the “Angelus” at the parish beside their house.

I was sixteen, our figures, clumped at his bedroom window, watching the large bell toll and all activities within the churchyard cease; it was months after the first kiss we shared, months of longer kisses and longer held stares.

 “They all stop to pray, no matter what they are doing,” He said with the sincere fascination I would only recognise years later when he encountered Giovanni’s room. He was fascinated by the Catholics, by the stainless white on their Priests and the crispiness of the mass servers.

He talked about their brief masses, the wispiness in the voices from the choir, about the Catholic Women Organisation meetings that held after church and when Easter came, we watched them during the Stations of the Cross- a demonstration of fourteen phases Jesus passed before he hung on the cross.

We recited the lines with them, we said, “We adore you, O Christ and we praise you. Because by your holy cross you have redeemed the world” and the first time we had sex, we had done it just after the sixth station.

He had been atop me, riding softly and steadily with such expertise that I did not bother to ask later how he had known what to do, moaning loudly too, without fear that it felt as if he had done it before. 

He said “ban da kuka, do not cry” when the pleasure translated to pain and I wondered if it was what he had told the girls he had done it with.

I would think about this sexual encounter years later when I start school in Zaria, I would think about it and feel the wetness seeping onto my thighs.

Stations of the Cross became a name for our sexual positions, He said, “I learned a new station” or “we should try this station” when he stumbled on a new position from Kama Sutra secrets or the Playboy magazine’s he hid in his wardrobe wrapped in newspaper pages.

“But Kama Sutra does not have anything for boys who do boys?” I said once when he told me of a new station, with the courage in my voice that rose every time I had to label what we were doing.

He called the new station “Bandoleer”, his favourite-as I would come to learn later. The woman would lie on her back and lift both knees on the chest of the man who kneels facing her pushing himself in.

“We will apply it like that” He replied.

Our usual style was the missionary-he lying flat on his back with parted legs and I sliding into him-It was the only style we knew spontaneously. The second station was when I sat atop him instead of riding him, so that he could stretch to take my full length in his mouth.

He had shown me the picture of a red-haired woman riding her man in Playboy a few days after his eighteenth birthday and asked if I could pull it off. 

“Yes” I said, not because I could, but because with Rasheed, ‘No’ was never an answer. And he knew this, hell he knew.


I did not speak to Rasheed in my first weeks in Zaria. The first time he called; a day after I had arrived to ask if the University was beautiful, if I liked my hostel, what the weather situation was. Our conversation had ended because he said I was sounding “bored” and I challenged him that I was merely tired and that it was irrational for him to think that I would know the answers to the questions when I had barely been in the school, he never called again. 

I imagined him those mornings as I got ready for school, taking long showers in the stately bathroom where we had made love twice only- because we feared someone would run into our naked curled up selves, looking through his wardrobe for his favourite shirts. And whenever I listened to the Hausa broadcaster on Alheri FM, it was because I knew Rasheed listened too.

My roommate, Ekene, talked about my fascination with the station, with the Catholic student’s fellowship, about how keenly I watched them during Stations of the Cross.

“Every time you like watching these CSF people when they are doing Stations of the Cross, I know you miss home, better concentrate on medical school O” He said once when he caught me watching them although I had a test the next day “But you are not a Christian sef,”

 That was he, Ekene, he coloured his diction with “Sef” “Biko” “Just Negodu” and countless other Igbo expressions that had previously never sounded so beautiful to me.

“A doctor friend once told me that migration was a key factor in many ailments, he said many healthy people got sick at the airports of new places,” I replied, hoping my answer would quell his assertion. I did not tell him that the friend was Rasheed; that he was not a Doctor and that he had read it up in one of the golden pages of the books that graced his room table.

“Just negodu, what are you saying, Bilal?” He asked, “Who is talking about that one?”

“I am saying it’s okay to feel bad about moving on, about leaving a place, it’s okay to feel bad about a new life, but we welcome it anyway. Allah has given us a blessing, we accept it, no matter what it does to our hearts, to our souls, we welcome it. We don’t put people before Allah, we don’t put our personal selves. Allah ya haramta.”

I said, and I knew from the confused look on his face that he did not understand what it was I spoke about, I felt a little victory at this. I knew I had let go.

In Zaria, I spoke to Baba on the phone and received parcels from Mother. I could not come home for the short Christmas break because they thought it unnecessary to travel the distance for five days only.

One night, three months into school, and few days to my semester exams, I received a call from him, Rasheed. The University of Lagos had accepted him for admission the week before and he thought to call me and share the news, he said.

“It’s a diploma program” He said also, and I wondered how he could speak so casually, how he could call me to share good news when we hadn’t spoken in months. Did he not feel the things that had changed, the new disconnect? Did he only feel the things that remained the same? Like the effect of his voice on me, how it tingled my skin.

I listened to him gush about how excited he was, about his father’s new car and the revival programme the Catholic Church beside their house was organising as though we had never grown apart.

I did not tell him that I had a new girlfriend; that she had asked me a few weeks ago if I had ever been in a relationship and I had not known how to answer, that we had never had sex because I was too terrified, I could not tell him these things.

“I am so happy for you, walahi” I replied.

Ina sonka, I miss you,” He said, and I knew then that he longed to close this space, that he was sorry for not calling, for not being there. I did not reply, I did not know how to. I did not miss Rasheed. It was this thing distance did, I was learning to say nothing if I could not say no.

Ekene, my roommate was eating boiled plantains and pepper and the scent wafted to my nostrils reminding me of the last time we had been together and had the exact meal for lunch, the last time when he had kissed me outside his house.

 I giggled softly. He wanted to know why. It was nothing, I said. It was not the time for memories.

Somehow, it made me feel better, that he too was leaving, that he too would have stories to tell if we ever spoke on the phone again, it balanced the narrative.

And although, I did not know exactly what Lagos meant for him, for us. I did not know too if “us” was something that still existed. 

I, however, knew it meant many things, Lagos. It was compunction and belief, faith in things we did not understand.

“Goodnight,” he muttered softly, and it felt as though there was disappointment in his voice. He was going to bed. He had to leave for Lagos early tomorrow. “Allah ya albarkace

“Sleep well,” I said

“You too,” he replied softly.

Source: From the Rebel Issue (October 2019)


CALEB SOMTOCHUKWU OKEREKE is a Nigerian journalist working out of Kampala, Uganda. He has written and produced features from across sub-Saharan Africa for Aljazeera, African Arguments and Catapult. Caleb was selected as the Best Technology Reporter at the 2018 Media Challenge Awards. He is a student at Cavendish University Uganda where he is undergoing a Bachelor’s in Journalism and Communications, a Bahati Books UK author, and a 2019 MCI fellow.

UNRAVELLING by Michael Emmanuel

UNRAVELLING by Michael Emmanuel


by Michael Emmanuel

By the end of this story, you might know what I am, – and though I could lay claim to the genetics of my body as justification, or I could walk you through the afternoon of my third year in secondary school, when Miss Sandra fondled my breasts, or we could review what Naza did to me as a freshman, how she made our bodies one, how she spread me like a curtain and said love was two bodies finding each other, and when I asked, what are we, and she said, happy, I could not be more joyful, and, when Papa said he wished I had not been born, I hit him and left – they would be hopeless efforts to describe the rebellion of my body against myself, and I hope by now you know I do not know why.


MICHAEL EMMANUEL is an Associate Editor at Praxis Mag Online. He lives in Lagos and is currently a Chemistry student. He was shortlisted for the 2017 edition of Okike Prize for Literature in the prose category, and his works have appeared on Brittle Paper, Kalahari Review, and Praxis Mag Online. Most recently, he won the Quramo Writers’ Prize 2018. He can be reached on +2348171256013 or at

A STRIDE INTO A FAINT HOPE by Emmanuel Charity

A STRIDE INTO A FAINT HOPE by Emmanuel Charity


by Emmanuel Charity

When Geoffrey first saw his mother crying, he thought he was imagining it. He blinked thrice to confirm his sight and rushed to where she was at once. Her gaze was fixed to the distant space, and she did not seem surprised by his presence when he stooped closely beside her. She was sitting on an old stool, her sobs consistently slow. She reached out often to the loose end of her wrapper to wipe her streaming tears. 

Geoffrey moved closer to her, “Mama…not again. Mama…” He knew she would not say anything, not when she was still sobbing. He put his arm around her gently and patted her shoulder consolingly.  Her blouse was torn by the shoulder, revealing only the threadbare on the opening, its original bright red had faded into a dull maroon. She had worn it along with a few other blouses for a long time now, but it was obvious that this once red blouse had outdone its destiny on her part. Geoffrey covered it with his palm and looked away, she would certainly wear beautiful dresses when things got better.

He tapped her gently by the arm to see if she was done brooding, but she remained still, and except for the occasional sighs she heaved, she said nothing. Her eyes were sunken from worries and tears.  Geoffrey hated to see her in this mood and he always tried to prevent it. He patted her more consolingly and rested his head gently on her shoulder. It was early evening and it was mildly cold outside, the moon had coyly withdrawn into the dark clouds, and everywhere would have been enveloped in gloomy darkness, but for the twinkles of the stars. Safely in the arms of her son, Geoffrey, Shenente’s mind drifted slowly to the beginning of everything when things did not seem too bad until it became worse and complicated, and she ceased to be a mere spectator of her life….

 ***   ***

It was seventeen years ago when Shenente’s hand was first sought for in marriage. She was the third and only surviving child of the three children her mother bore and being a beautiful damsel, suitors had come earlier than usual seeking for her hand in marriage. Barely two years into marriage, Badji, her husband, changed from being the gentle and caring man she was familiar with. Initially, Shenente thought it was only because his palm trees did not yield much produce that year, which resulted in the financial setback he suffered that accounted for his change in attitude, but it did not seem entirely so after a while. At the time, she already had Geoffrey who was barely four months old, after four successive miscarriages.

First, Badji stopped providing food for the family. Shenente went begging from neighbours and later resorted to cultivating a little garden at the backyard of the house to survive. Before long, survival depended lesser and lesser on the little produce from the garden and she soon went into farming maize and other such produce on lands that were meant to be built upon, whenever a land was being prepared for construction, she moved to another.

The first time Badji asked her for food during that period seemed like a mere joke. Earlier that day, she had felt so weak that she could not go to the farm, and when hunger struck, she enlisted the help of a neighbour for a little foodstuff. Grateful, she prepared the food quickly, but before sunset, the bowl was emptied, and she knew she was going to sleep hungry especially as Geoffrey had not been weaned. It was later that evening that Badji arrived, demanding for food. ” Woman! You heard me correctly, ko? I don’t want to repeat myself, kinji? I’m waiting for my food, and now.” She sat still, wondering if it was all a joke, even waiting for the end of the joke was painful enough. She adjusted her wrapper before she spoke up, “All day long you leave me alone with the kid promising to return soon, only to disappear into thin air…”  before she finished talking, she found herself on the ground screaming, “Wayo! What have I done to you? Oh! My ears, Badji…” With her hands on her left cheek, she received some more thunderous slaps, then swift but firm kicks until she could not hear herself scream.

She laid there on the floor willing herself to cry, but she could not find the strength. She heard Geoffrey’s shrill cry, and wondered if he was hurt too, but she could not move her head in his direction to confirm her fears. Just then, Badji advanced towards her again. Fear gripped her. “Help… before he kills me, help….m……pls.” A few neighbours had gathered and were pleading from without, asking for pardon on behalf of the offender. The very instant Badji heard their voices, he went wild. He went to the room where he kept his digging equipment, he picked one crooked long stick with thorny edge along with a cutlass and went out to meet them at the entrance of the house. Before he got very close, the small crowd had got wind of it and were swiftly dispersing.

One man, Gajere, who first took to his heels while letting out the cry for others to run, was mistakenly stepped on and had his slippers pulled off by a young girl who was also on the run for her life, “Ya…wayo! Wayo!” he screamed as he went back swiftly to put it back on. Upon bending down hurriedly to put the slippers back on, his weakly fastened trousers and dirty boxer pulled downwards, exposing nearly all of his buttocks. He sighted Badji angrily coming closer.  He let out a sharp cry, left his slippers, and ran dragging his trousers by the waist, while pulling up his boxer beneath. He kept shouting; cursing the unfortunate girl who pulled his slippers, promising that if he got off Badji’s hook that evening, he would never in his life go out to attend to any cries for help thence forth. Luckily, he escaped narrowly, and as was his nature, circulated a well-concocted false account of the story to the community before daybreak.

After their dispersal, Badji simply went into the room, while Shenente laid helplessly in the sitting room with Geoffrey crying and tugging at her blouse as if to wake her up. The same thing happened the following day and next. As she could not bear the pains any longer, she took to the advice of Maimu, her confidant. In the days that followed, whenever Badji returned home and demanded food, she provided it to avoid rounds of beatings. The hardship, however, was borne by Shenente with a degree of perplexity and harsh reality, and as if the burden was not enough, she soon found that she was pregnant.

For days, she sought for the right time and mood to inform her husband on the new development. Then one evening, after he finished eating, he asked why she wanted to talk to him. “Actually, I’ve been wondering how to tell you this,” she paused to catch her breath and tried to sound as softly as possible, “I’m ermm…pregnant, and as it is, I think it’s important to rest more and…”  “Who got you pregnant?” He looked her over disgustingly and stood up, ” You’ve got no mouth to answer, ko? Ciki din, who owns it, stupid?”  Shenente was too dumbfounded to reply, he kept looking her over angrily as if to find the foetus in her stomach. This was what she feared, and it was happening now.  She stood up quietly to avoid any verbal conflict, but he grabbed her hand roughly just in time and dealt her a slap across her face. It blurred her vision and left her lightheaded. She fell. He consistently kicked her fiercely, ” Get up, answer me! Answer me!! Do you think I’m joking with you?” Shortly afterward, she did not feel anything and everywhere seemed too dark to see through. She passed out.

The following day, Shenente woke up to the smile of a middle-aged woman whom she recognized as one of the local nurses in the community. ‘’ I knew you would wake up around this time. How do you feel, now?” She tried to reply, but the sharp pain in her head kept her back. The nurse felt her head with the back of her hand and nodded as if to say everything was going well. Badji stood at a distant corner in the room, a penitent look written all over him. When he heard the nurse talk with Shenente, he moved closer to the bed and gently held her hand, “Sorry. Errm… how are you feeling now?” Shenente stared at him for a long time, expressionless and closed her weak eyes. She had lost the baby.

“I came around to check on you several times, but your husband refused to allow me or anybody in.” Maimu started upon sighting Shenente in her compound. She reached out for a stool and balanced an old bench resting on the wall beside her door. ” Yes. He told me specifically about your visits and how he prevented you from seeing me.” “How are you now?” Shenente shrugged before she found an answer, ” Better, now.” But Maimu did not seem convinced, she moved closer to her, examined her for a moment and shook her head slowly, “You were badly wounded, Shenente. You have to do something about the situation you’re in,” Shenente kept looking into the distance as if she did not hear anything. ” you better do something about the situation you’re in.” She repeated affirmatively. Shenente sat on the stool and sighed deeply. Her face was swollen and her left eye had nearly completely closed up. Maimu reached out for her hand, patted it gently and shared the known silence. “What should I do? Will I kill him to solve my problem?” Shenente managed to say after a while, breaking the silence. She stretched out her legs tiredly, her wrapper had come loose, but she ignored it, allowing it to roll slowly away from the knot, revealing a yellow underskirt. Her wrapper looked dirty, the pink Ankara with cream- coloured flowery design had changed to a pale purple and light brown. She rubbed her eyes, pursed her lips and continued shaking her legs slowly, her mind obviously faraway. “Has he spared you your life to solve his?” Maimu asked calmly as though she had said something else. “If that will stop the problem. lf that will make you get the peace you deserve. You lost a baby, you just did.” She looked straight at Shenente with furrowed brows, her eyes roamed angrily, seeking something she could not find. “I don’t think so, Maimu.” She could not understand the sudden anger in Maimu now, and the sneer on her face at her response left her clueless. “Really think, Shenente. Think. You just lost a baby. Anything but a man who can put you to death by physical violence or other means.” Shenente looked away and tied her wrapper loosely. The discussion was not obviously leading somewhere comforting. ” I thought Badji would continue to demand food these past few days like he used to, but he hasn’t.” She said, finally. “Which could have generated rounds of beatings. Gaskiya, God saved you, but you might need to save yourself afterward. God has done His part.” Shenente looked at Maimu more closely, she looked so distant and different, as if she was suddenly possessed and she talked like a goddess who was addressing a spirit that remained invisible to those around. She did not look like the same person who had been offering the pieces of advice before in a very consoling manner. The two sat in silence, it was a different silence and it seemed like they were sharing their thoughts.

Occasionally, their silence was disrupted by their deep sighs, and their eyes met. “Let me see what I can do at the farm, Maimu.” “Ina? You cannot go to the farm today. Go and have your rest, I will send some foodstuff to you later. You have to be fine, first. ” Maimu reached for her leg and squashed a fly, her eyes showed that she was disturbed by something invisible, and it was not the fly which she directed her anger at. ” Thank you, my Mother Theresa, God will reward you favourably.” That was what she called Maimu whenever she received something so timely from her.”Amen, go and have some rest, Shenente.”

When Shenente got home, she went straight to the room where Geoffery was laid, he was still sleeping. She heaved a sigh of relief, grateful she had not left him crying all the while she was at Maimu’s place. She stood pondering over all that happened at Maimu’s place. What was Maimu suggesting as the next line of action to end the problems she was going through? Her mind raced at the thought of ever retaliating when she tried to picture it in her mind’s eyes. A lizard crawled in, nodding and looking stealthily around for which turn it should take, it picked up a piece of corn and swallowed it hurriedly, revealing a tiny red tongue, nodding as if to confirm that it tasted great, then it headed for the door leading to the passage. Shenente sat looking at the lizard mindlessly, just then, Geoffery woke up crying. She picked him up tiredly and slid her left nipple into his small mouth, but he did not suck it quickly, as usual, he kept his mouth open and did not hold the breast until the milky juice dropped into his mouth. The instant he tasted the milk, he sucked hungrily at the nipple and Shenente pressed it farther into his mouth. Whatever caused his hesitations which she noticed recently whenever she breastfed him, she was yet to understand, maybe he wanted to be weaned, she thought, briefly. She would go and see Maimu when she felt better. For now, she needed to rest, fatigue racked her entire body, and she wondered what it was that made her think she could do any work at the farm initially, it must be very wrong.

The moment Shenente stepped into Maimu’s compound a few days later, she knew something had gone amiss. The compound was in a state of disarray and she itched to know. The old stool was lying on its side and it looked like it had been flung across by somebody angry. The one-legged bench which was usually placed slantly across the wall was lying carelessly on the ground and the part of the bench which served as the only leg of the bench was pulled outwards. This was unlike Maimu. She looked around for more signs, the ground which had sand finely spread across the compound was scattered about with footprints like it had been wrestled on. Obviously, some persons had violently trampled on it. Shenente moved closer, her mind racing. Fear seized her when she did not get the usual response from Maimu after her usually loud salutation. Just when she was pondering hastily on what could have happened, she heard a faint voice call her name from within the house. “She…nen…te…”  It was so faint and distant as though it was a voice tired from a long journey calling from afar. Apart from that, it must have taken the person a lot of energy to have muttered her name a second time. She felt a slow movement on her toes and looked down. A little cockroach had crawled on her left foot, it walked very slowly and stopped as if indecisive about where exactly it should go. She shook it off swiftly and headed for the place where the faint call came from. As soon as she touched the ash-colored curtain to go in, she noticed a bloodstain in the middle. It stood there in all its brightness, the patch formed the shape of a flying bird at the centre. The curtain looked very dirty with stains from charcoal and dirty hands. She stopped briefly, wondering whose blood it was that made such a scary sight, then she heard someone mumble from within, it was not her name, it was of pain and agony. She moved the curtain aside hurriedly and entered the room. The lighting of the room was too dim for her to make out anything at first, but after a while, she saw on her left a turning stick and a broom flung carelessly on the ground. Besides the only wooden chair in the room, the cover of a yellow bucket was lying on the ground too. On her right was a bunch of loads hurriedly packed into a faded green wrapper. Some clothes and shoes were scattered on the side of the wall dividing the room from the other room. As she was moving towards the adjacent room, she saw Maimu crawling very slowly and painfully on her stomach. She had been batteredly beaten, and blood oozed from the side of her head. Shenente dashed for her, “Maimu… who did this to you? Who?” Tears rolled down her eyes when she saw the difficulty with which Maimu tried to speak. Her eyes were closing up and her upper lip was badly swollen and on her left cheek were traces of fingers from slaps. “Help…help! Somebody help!! He…lp!”

In the only emergency ward of Bikini hospital, Shenente sat watching the consistency of Maimu’s breathing as instructed by the nurse. Not long afterward, she heard Maimu mumble something. She moved closer and inclined her ears near her mouth. “Kajur did it to me…” She closed her eyes painfully and continued, “He came suddenly in the morning, yesterday, asking me to make love with him to see if I would conceive this time.” Shenente patted her gently on her arm as she tried hard to lie on her side. “I asked why his concubine whom he left me for had not conceived for over four years that he left me, without a trace. He…he said she too probably had a problem conceiving. “She winced and paused briefly, “Do you blame him? He’s the only son of his parents that’s why he’s so desperate and even confused… And all I did, all I did… to be thus beaten was that I told him I could not bring myself to make love with him, yet. With that, he asked me out of the house…I agreed and… and… I asked him to give me two…days…days…to pack out. I was packing a few things the following day…. when he pounced…pounced on me, trying to forcefully have his way…when I refused, he dealt me blows…” Her voice trailed off as she painfully closed her eyes and tears streamed down her swollen eyes. Shenente reached out to wipe off the tears amidst her sobs. “But I fought, Shenente… I fought back. He too left with scars.” Maimu painfully forced one of her eyes open slightly, she was looking at Shenente. “You need to fight for your freedom, Shenente. Don’t sit and… and… just…watch your life passively…do something. Do something. Something for…for…the sake of yourself first…your well-being….and your son.” Suddenly, she groaned loudly. She stretched with a great force and jerked with her mouth open. Shenente screamed with hot tears running down her cheeks. “Nurse! Nurse!! Help!!”

As Shenente headed home heavy-hearted with the news of Maimu’s death late in the evening, she reminiscenced on all the times she had shared with Maimu till their parting on her death bed that evening. Life was so unfair to such a strong woman who stood her ground even when unfriendly situations put her down. She stopped at her neighbour’s house to pick Geoffrey, but she learnt that Badji had already picked him. As soon as she stepped her feet on the veranda of her house, she knew something was wrong. She felt it. She heard Geoffrey crying, but it was not so audible. Something cautioned her against rushing in or shouting. She moved quietly towards the window of the room and peered to see through. There, to her horror, she saw Badji forcing his member into Geoffrey’s mouth. She saw the discomfort Geoffrey was going through and the innocence in his eyes. A fit of uncontrollable anger rushed through her as she headed for the kitchen. It was faintly dark inside, but she gropped angrily for just anything and before long, she touched the pestle in its usual position. She picked it up and headed for the room. Badji saw her just in time as she stepped into the room and pushed Geoffrey aside, violently. He fell and cried out loudly, his small mouth dripping with sperm. Swiftly, Badji flung his boot at her. She staggered. But she was too determined to let go. He took slow steps towards her while their eyes locked, “Drop the pestle. Drop it, now! Don’t be stupid, woman.’’ “It is you who should not have been stupid, Badji, but you’re also wicked. Wicked! Wicked!! Wicked!!! Wicked!” Hot tears were streaming down her face as she held firmly to the pestle, trembling. Badji kept coming closer. She did not want to miss this moment. In a flash, she ran quickly to the place he was standing and hit him hard on the head with the pestle before he could grab her hand. He fell at once. She hurriedly carried Geoffrey and ran as fast as her legs could carry her, out of the village before daybreak.

She learnt later that apart from the state of coma in which she left Badji, he had been indulging in hard drugs earlier, which had caused an impairment in his brain and he had little chance for survival. Since his death seven years after, Shenente had not been able to get over everything and she broke down in tears uncontrollably whenever she thought of it. She had been staying with her aunt in a village faraway.


***     ****

Geoffrey tapped her gently again to see if she was done brooding. She took his hand in hers and squeezed it weakly. She was no longer crying, and her sobs had stopped. The moon peeped slowly from behind the clouds and beamed forth its bright light. Geoffrey helped her up and gave her a warm embrace.

Source: From the Rebel Issue (October 2019)


EMMANUEL CHARITY is currently a 300-level student of English Language department, University of Ilorin, Ilorin, Kwara State. She is a passionate reader and writer. She enjoys cooking, teaching, travelling and playing the keyboard. One of her greatest aspirations is to positively and richly influence everyone she’s privileged to come across; to make them have a sense of worth regardless of what and who they are.

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