NNEOMA IKE-NJOKU’S NOTE ON CRAFT

NNEOMA IKE-NJOKU’S NOTE ON CRAFT

close up photo of gray typewriter

Nneoma Ike-Njoku’s Note on Craft

As part of the Notes On Craft series, I (Olakunle Ologunro) reached out to a number of writers and asked them to share a piece of work that is most significant to them, and what they think other writers can learn from it.

Here’s Nneoma Ike-Njoku’s pick: Atonement by Ian McEwan.

Atonement by Ian McEwan is one piece of writing that has greatly influenced me. The book does so many things so well, like weaving the bildungsroman structure with a war narrative and having a protagonist with a strong, distinctive voice. I first read it at around thirteen or fourteen and remember being deeply moved. At its heart, it’s a story about a writer, which perhaps is a cliché for a writer, but it’s also a story that gets to why many writers do what we do in the first place. We write to understand ourselves, our lives, our pasts, and our world. For what writers can take away, McEwan’s attention to language and sensory detail make this novel an easy one to immerse oneself in.

You can read an excerpt here.

workplace with laptop and opened diary

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Nneoma Ike-Njoku was born and grew up in Lagos, Nigeria. Her short fiction has appeared or is forthcoming in Transition Magazine, The Winter Tangerine Review, The Kalahari Review, and NANO Fiction. In 2016, she won a Miles Morland Writing Scholarship.

A FEELING WITH NO NAME by Chiamaka Ejiofor

A FEELING WITH NO NAME by Chiamaka Ejiofor

A FEELING OF NO NAME

by Chiamaka Ejiofor

A Feeling of No Name – First Runner-up of the 2020 Kreative Diadem Annual Creative Writing Contest (Flash Fiction Category)

Maura sat in the therapist’s office that smelt of exhaust fumes and feminine cologne, and had the paint peeling off the walls like scabs falling off a dried-up wound. It made Maura think of healing. She looked out through the window, at the tarred road. The sun was high in the horizon, pouring down rays like streaks of pale fire, creating huge mirage pools on the tarred road. Pools of blood. Maura was sure. Her baby’s blood. 

“What a comfortable chair, isn’t it? To share uncomfortable problems” the therapist said, tittering, as though she was approaching a lunatic whose madness she knew was growing malignant. 

Maura smiled at the therapist who seemed to be hiding behind her large spectacles. Maura started to say something, but the sharp pain in her abdomen, just where her Caesarean section scar was, pressed her lips shut. She closed her eyes. She felt her head swoon. It was engulfing her, she knew, that feeling with no name, that feeling that catches her unaware, takes her in its palms and dips her into a pool of numbness. Like sleep paralysis. 

But this swoon, this feeling that makes her hands tremble, and her teeth clatter, until she bites her tongue, tasting blood; it did not start here. No. Not in the therapist office. Not on that tarred road with mirage pools of blood either. 

***

It started the day Maura turned eighteen. Maura, hot-blooded and a believer in anything with a romantic overtone. Marcel had told her on the eve of her birthday that Eighteen meant ripping oneself off the cloaks of childhood and painting adulthood on the canvass of one’s dream.

She lay on his bed, snuggled in his arms after they had eaten suya with cold Fanta at a local bar to celebrate her birthday. Her eyes following the haphazard dance of dust from where a thin beam sneaked in through the keyhole, as she listened to him saying how much he loved her, his eyes watery, and Maura thought of love as some kind of liquid emotions one could bottle up and place on shelves. As though Marcel saying “I will give you all my love” meant he had a shelf of these bottles and would anoint her with them, one after the other, until she felt a slippery ache in her groin. So when she felt that swoon, that numbness, creeping over her as he ripped her clothes off her lean body, she did not think of giving that feeling a name. 

She did not think of giving it a name also, a few weeks later when she realized that the smears of liquid love Marcel had anointed her with had coagulated into a budding being inside of her. 

She called his phone, her throat aching, a swirling sensation in her head, as though a turbine of regret was turning through her, to tell him that the pregnancy test strip had displayed the dreaded double line. But he called her stupid, his voice blending into the ache in her throat and the swirl in her head, that was when she felt that swoon engulf her again, with each of his words— Didn’t she take the morning-after pill? Didn’t she know he was a student and not ready to be a father? How was he even sure he was the one? Isn’t she a naive, cheap thing that never keeps her thigh shut, anyway?

That day, Maura realised that this liquid emotion called love that seeped from one lover’s genitals to the other, to soothe an aching groin, could also scald. Like water when it got heated up. 

And like water, love could also drown, when it flowed in torrents from the most ingenuine lips. Maura became sure of this when some days later, Marcel appeared outside her hostel gate and shoved a pill wrapped in too bright aluminum foil into her hands. It would be the last time she would ever see him.

At first, Maura was wary of taking the abortion pill. But she thought of the stigma of an unwanted, and worst of all, teenage pregnancy. Of her widowed mother breaking down in tears, lamenting how she had failed her, how she had come to the University to chase after things in trousers rather than chase after her studies. So she took it, praying the custodians of sins would forgive her.

Perhaps she was forgiven because after a week of cramping pain in her womb, the baby still nestled inside her. So Maura started to think of motherhood, to google topics that felt surreal to her. Pregnancy care. Labour. Breastfeeding. And later, she bought a book on single parenting.

The day her mother called, whining over the cracking telephone line, to disown her for bringing such shame, was the day Maura walked into a nearby hospital to register for antenatal care ignoring the sneer of the nurses who muttered malicious words about little girls who won’t keep their bodies holy. 

Maura planned her motherhood. She bought mosquito netting and shawl for the baby. She cut her old clothes and turned them into baby clothes.

After she put to bed, she would wake up early to feed and bathe her baby, before going to lectures with the baby strapped on her back. She would start a petty trade after classes and save enough to enroll him in a kindergarten when he turned two. 

But there were things Maura did not plan.

Things like giving birth through a Caesarean section, which was like wearing a permanent emblem of motherhood, tattooing her sacrifices for this baby on her skin.

Things like her mother forgiving her, the dimples on her mother’s cheeks sinking deep as she embraced the baby, saying “he is my husband come back. Eziokwum. He is your father come back, Maura”.

Things Like her baby dying, a few days after he turned one,after she had celebrated a little birthday party with the neighborhood children from the proceeds of her petty trade.

It happened on the day her baby, Obinneya, called her mamma.

That morning, after she had bathe him, and was kissing his wet, warm belly, making slurpy sounds with her lips that made him giggle, he called softly ‘mamma’.

So when later that afternoon she went to the market to get some goods for her petty trade, she got him a toy car, a gift for calling her the most fulfilling word, mamma. 

On her way back, the traffic was horrible. Cars blasting horns and drivers shouting impatiently at one another. Obinneya was whining. He was hungry. So she decided not to board a bus, and flagged down an okada that would take the one-way, to evade the traffic.

She did not see the trailer. She was sure the Okada man too did not, else he would have diverted into the pedestrian lane. It happened too quickly, that collision. All she heard was the screech of tyres and hoarse screams she later knew to be hers, and the feeling of being thrust in the air,then felt her back hit the tarred road with a thud. She did not notice the stickiness of blood on her forehead until she heard Obinneya’s voice, muffled, muttering from somewhere inside her, mamma, mamma. 

When she lifted herself up to look around for her baby, what she saw— a bloodied pulp distorted under the front tyre of the trailer— was not her baby. Her baby could not be that crushed figure with head split open under the tyre, and thick, cream-colored splatter of the brain splayed on the tarred road; and red, red fluid gathering into a pool and rolling lazily into the nearby gutter. That was not her Obinneya.

She pinched herself hoping to wake up. Yesterday, she had seen a spider crawling in her room, and had not killed it. Spider was an augury of bad dreams. This was a bad dream. But when she looked up at the sky and the blinding rays of the sun hit her, she knew it was not a dream. She had never seen the sky in her dreams. 

***

“Panic attack,” the therapist said as Maura opened her eyes. 

“What?”

“You’re having panic attack. What is your trauma?”

What I feel has no name. Maura wanted to say. But instead, she stood up and walked out of the therapist’s office.

Inside her, she could hear Obinneya calling, mamma. She started to walk, briskly, as if chasing the mirage pools that kept on moving further as she approached them. She kept on walking till the sun retired, stealing away the pools and replacing them with silhouettes of what Maura thought to be a toddler. She continued to walk into the darkness, ignoring the ache in her joints, chasing the silhouettes as she had chased the mirage pools.

Maybe it was a compass to direct her to wherever her child was. 

Maybe she would find Obinneya.

Photo Credit: Photo by João Paulo de Souza Oliveira from Pexels

SING ABOUT ME I’M DYING OF THIRST by Daniel Ogba

SING ABOUT ME I’M DYING OF THIRST by Daniel Ogba

young black man behind tree branches

SING ABOUT ME I’M DYING OF THIRST

by Daniel Ogba

Sing About Me I’m Dying of Thirst – Winner of the 2020 Kreative Diadem Annual Creative Writing Contest (Flash Fiction Category)

Everybody for Odogwu lodge hear am that night…

*

Eduboy first came to my room one sunny Sunday afternoon, a wry smile tugging the corners of his lips. Him dey prepare correct jollof for him babe, come discover say him Maggi don finish. Abeg, if I didn’t mind, I fit run am one Knorr cube?

He scratched his head, one foot inside my room, the rest of his body outside. He wore black-and-white checkered banana republic boxer, nothing to cover his muscled chest and abs. His upper body glistened with sweat. Omo, I was tripping, no lies. Normally, I’d have stood up from the bed, walked into the small kitchen, grabbed one cube, and passed it to him. But, e be like say something possessed me; a whole Eduboy was at my door, asking for what? Ordinary Maggi? Of course, I didn’t mind. I told him to enter inside the kitchen and take it himself, top counter by the right. He smelt of smoke and spices, and it pleased me. He didn’t waste any time. Just walked in there and, before I knew it, out.

I’d never imagined Eduboy the kind to near a cooker, no. 1 fresh boy like him, so I jokingly said, “Lord knows how your food go taste.” It was the first I’d spoken to him officially, asides regular guy hwfar.

Eduboy chuckled, then, before he left, replied, “you go confirm na.”

I did confirm, at quarter past 5p.m., when someone rapped twice on my door, Eduboy. He came bearing a full-lipped smile, with a covered plate of jollof.

 

“Dude, thanks for saving my ass,” he said. “I owe you one.”

*

Everyone in the Art faculty knew him. The Eduboy, everyone called him, including lecturers. Especially lecturers.

The first time I saw him inside school was after GS class. One of his goons was celebrating. They all rounded the guy, stoned him sachet water. But something stood out. There was this particular guy in the circle who, out of nowhere, popped a bottle of Andre and wasted it on the celebrant’s head. The crowd crazed instantly. We were just walking outside the building, me and my guy, when he popped the second bottle. I tapped Alain and asked who the show-off-dude was.

“You no know am? Him dey our department na,” Alain said. “Eduboy na a veeery big guy.” With an emphasis on very.

I’d never seen him, not once, in any class gathering. It was during second year. I would see him a couple more times in lectures hanging from a window or sitting on the boulevard outside. And then he’d disappear. Within that time, I watched him with the interest of a scientist observing a species – the way he bounced, his feet lifting off the earth with each step, the way his trousers slouched a little below waistline, exposing sparkling white underwear. Where he regularly lunched (mostly 11:45 restaurant ), the boys he hung out with (people I’d not occasionally find myself in their company; dudes with serious levels), and babes that gyrated to his honeyed smoke aura.

Eduboy never wore a shirt twice to school, I confirmed. He didn’t even overdress, just moderate senior man attires. But his drip was on a steady. From Calvin Klein to Versace to Burberry to YSL, all his shirts repped this or that brand. He changed clothes like nylon. It was his kicks for me, though. There was one time in 300 level he wore this molo-molo black Air Max 720 to class, for mid-semester.

He arrived late for the quiz. The lecturer, a moronic man, ordered him to the podium, wanting to disgrace his ancestors. He had his hair tinted brown, so it gave the man ranting material. Lecturer called him nincompoop, imagine. Eduboy’s eyes darted like a hawk’s, I know he must have felt like slapping that man. I did, too. But I was focused on his kicks. When the lecturer shaa dismissed him, Eduboy walked straight to his seat, picked up his bag, and bounced. He didn’t return for that class. He didn’t write that course. Energy!

Later I’d googled Air Max 720 price; I was shook, to God. The amount tensioned me. Somebody wore forty-f**king-five thousand naira just on his legs, me what did I wear? Kito sandals. Even the Season 7 I owned was secondhand pass-down.

 

What did Eduboy do that I couldn’t? G+? Prostitution? Were his parents ritualist billionaires? Lord knows. Me, I just knew I wanted to be his paddy.

young black man behind tree branches

*

I didn’t know Eduboy was from Aba, till someone casually mentioned it during football training. It was my team against his, they were whooping our behinds like mad. There was this courting he gave me, and I just tumbled like a brakeless Volvo.

Someone said, “Onye egwu, nwayo, na your brother be that.” He looked back and smiled. After training, he walked to me, asked if I was really from Aba. I said yes. And Eduboy threw his hands up, pulled me into his chest, his Arsenal jersey drenched with sweat. He embraced me tightly, and called me nwanne.

Eduboy would call me his nwanne that day and other days, and a refreshing calm would set over me. Perhaps it was the lightness with which he said the word. Nwanne. A renewed assurance that I was his own blood, his person. That he wouldn’t do me anyhow. I believed him.

We got really close and shit. He’d crash in my bed, I in his. A bit out of context but, I discovered Eduboy couldn’t sleep without his lights on.

*

In his room one night, he dragged kush while I played PES. A Kendrick Lamar song vibrated the walls, his favourite jam. He passed the joint to me, eyes a wild red. I said, thanks but no thanks. He did not pressure.

Eduboy started rapping along with the music. He leaned in to me, his face covered in smoke clouds and half neon-blue light. He put a hand on my face, and recited along with a woman’s voice on the track, dragging the words out of his throat;

“Young man come talk to me… /Why are you so angry?/ See, you young man are dying of thirst/ Do you know what that means? That means you need water/ Holy water.”

I got the chills. He was obviously high, but with his hand pressing my face, I wanted more. Next thing, he was passed out on the bed.

That night in my room, I went online, downloaded the song, and played it till morning.

*

Forget all that fancy hard man stunts, na smokescreen. Truth be say, Eduboy was lonely and scared sh*tless. But this our world no get use for soft men, so he had to man up, had to don the mask and be ‘fine.’ That’s how the world expected you to be. Fine. He invented versions of himself for our sakes, and because he was in such a desperate race against time.

When I asked about family, Eduboy said he preferred to not talk about them. Later he told me. His mother finally died two months back. Not like she did live even. But before then, his father left them. Dude remarried to get his life going, he was a public figure.

He told me — and he did warn me not to tell anyone — what took his mother was coming for him next. And, although he didn’t know how long he had left to stay, he knew he wouldn’t ever face it like his mother had; wilting, powerless, annoying box-machines ever beeping, counting down till the very here moment. No. He had decided his fate in his head. It wasn’t a pleasant one, but there was no alternative. Eduboy cried like a child when he told me.

It was new, the Eduboy I experienced that day. I didn’t know how to relate, so I just held him and told him we’d get through together. Nwanne to nwanne.

*

You fit change a man’s heart. But his head? You can try, only there’s so little you can do. And Eduboy get coconut head. True true.

 

I was in my room when I heard it that night. A pop sound, like somebody dropped raw egg. I ran outside to the verandah, other tenants too. Someone pointed a flashlight from the fourth floor, where Eduboy’s room was, and we all saw it. Omo, I was too shocked, even though I knew somehow he’d do it. I didn’t know what or how to feel. I only felt my legs sinking deep into concrete. My heart slipped into my stomach.

The only thing I remember hearing, before the high-pitched ringing in my head, was a girl screaming from across, oh my God oh my God oh my God what the f*ck?

Photo Credit: Photo by Blac Bear from Pexels

FALLEN SCABS AND DRIED SORES by Ohaka Thelma

FALLEN SCABS AND DRIED SORES by Ohaka Thelma

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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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