*In Fela's voice* I want to tell you a story......seriously I do.

Sunday, 15 July 2012


There is a lump in Tim’s throat, he cannot speak. Almost as chilly as that weird scene from his imagination is the look on Christie’s face.  His docile, mousey Christie has fire in her eyes. She walks out angrily through the front door. He turns around and Ufuoma is walking towards him with Mama Ekene. Tim closes his eyes tight and opens them, hoping he can change his dream but...it is not a dream. Mama Ekene wants to talk with him but she won’t enter his house. She has come all the way from Onitsha to see him. Tim takes one last fearful look at the living room before stepping out. They decide to talk at a buka just down their street. He asks Ufuoma to join them as she had mentioned being hungry.  As soon as they are seated a few tables away from Ufuoma who is gratefully giving her order to the waiter, Mama Ekene asks,
 “Wey Christie?”
“She went out”
He responds irritably. Mama Ekene never liked Christie and Tim is in no mood for idle chit chat.
“Who be this?”
 She enquires pointing rudely at an oblivious Ufuoma. This has stretched long enough; Tim demands an explanation from Mama Ekene. Her pause seems unnecessarily long and this annoys Tim further. He cast a glance at Ufuoma who despite her cries of hunger is playing with her food. Mama Ekene begins to speak bringing down Tim’s life to a matter of the next few hours. There is no doubt about her story, it all adds up. Tim is cold and sweating profusely. For the second time in his life, the second time in the space of one hour, his heart beating hurts.  He struggles to swallow the lump in his throat.  He wills the rushing sound in his head to stop.
“So will you do it?”
Mama Ekene asks, with tears in her eyes.
When Tim is finally able to speak, his voice is a strangled croak.
 “Do i have a choice?”  
Back at the house, Tim watches Mama Ekene stroke her dog gently. They had left the dog behind when they’d moved and Bingo is very happy to see her. The dog is trusting and at ease as Mama Ekene places a finger by his eyes and scopes out the white discarge at the corners of the eyes. Ufuoma is dozing off blissfully on a bench in front of the large mango tree in front of the block of flats which housed Tim. She is totally unmindful of the goats resting just by her feet. Tim cringes as Mama Ekene rubs the whitish substance on a piece of chewing gum foil and stretches forth and rubs the inner corner of both his eyes with the same finger. He shuts his eyes as she tucks the folded foil in her bra.
Tim opens his eyes fearful of what he will see. His scrotum and scalp tighten up as his already cold blood turns colder. Three very old people; two male and a female are crouched in the exact same spot where the three goats had been just a moment ago. They are chatting casually and eating from an earthen ware bowl filled with frothing blood and what looks like entrails. A shrill crow’s cry moves him further into a new realm of fear. He looks up at the crows and the object of their fascination catches his attention. A decapitated human head is hanging from the tree above Ufuoma. The head’s eyes are darting around in fear as it mimics the crow’s cry. Mama Ekene taps him on the shoulder. She looks equally shaken but determined. As they walk towards the building’s entrance, a gnarled old dwarf drags a hand cart into the gutter at the side of the house. Tim’s thoughts race after his heart beat. Will he survive this? If he does, he will never again see life normally.  his heart sinks impossibly farther as they walk into his living room. He is sure he will not survive this. The char burnt figures of a man with two kids; a boy and a girl are standing looking out the window wistfully. Their aura is very sad and angry. At the corner of the room in the same spot where Tim had seen his shadow is another burnt figure of a little boy. He is crying and exudes such melancholy that brings tears to Tim’s eyes.  Mama Ekene lets out a groan of pain as she sees him. He looks up to her and his eyes light up though the tears don’t stop. The burnt figures turn and in the twinkling of an eye, the man and the boy are upon Tim. The man’s hands fix firmly on Tim’s neck while the little boys teeth come down repeated on his calf. The little girl is standing before the crying boy and snarling malevolently at Mama Ekene.  Tucked securely at her waist, secured by her wrapper is a small gourd which Mama Ekene loosens quickly. She tips a bit of the powdery content into her palm. She makes to blow it at the little girl, who darts fearfully away from her sight. Mama Ekene with determination tucks the gourd into the waist of her wrapper and brings out a worn wrapper from her bag. She lovingly tucks in the crying little boy. His smile grows lucent as his tears cease. The world stands still as he is enveloped in a blinding white light. He calls out “Mama” as he waves at Mama Ekene. Motion returns and the little girl immediately shoves Mama Ekene hard from behind as the man and the boy continue with Tim who is struggling on one knee. Mama Ekene stumbles and the gourd topples over. She screams as she watches the gourd smash and the contents spill. She grabs a chair from the dinning and swings hard at the little girl with all her might. The chair lands heavily on the girl throwing her across the room. She lay stunned on the floor beside Tim who is clawing desperately at his throat. He is lying on the floor with the man and the boy upon him. His eyes are popping out of their sockets and little red veins appear around the outer circle of his iris. The man is sitting on his chest and maintaining his grip on Tim’s neck while the little boy is sitting on his leg. He is no longer biting Tim but giving Mama Ekene a snarling malevolent look. Mama Ekene rushes towards the spilled contents of the gourd.  The little boy hurls himself at her. She is slammed into the wall by the force. She yelps in pain and crumples to the ground. Tim’s legs freed, he is once again on his feet and grappling with the man. They all pause as the door is flung open. Ufuoma walks in tentatively. She is instantly scared at the picture before her; also she can feel them, they are here. She looks up as she hears a wild screech just before the air is knocked out of her by the little boy who hurls himself at her, catching her with the full force of his weight in her stomach. She falls down hard but quickly picks up herself. The little boy is crouched at a corner getting ready to hurl himself at her again. Ufuoma wants to run but she can’t. She looks down as Mama Ekene repeats “The ash, the ash”. She places one hand in the ash just as the little boy hurls himself at her. As she falls backwards, she reaches out to the source of the weight on her. The little boy falls just beside her screaming and crying in pain. Her hand print is coal read and smoking on his side. Ufuoma hears his cry but cannot see him.  She looks around in fear and asks mama Ekene what is going on. Mama Ekene brings out the chewing gum foil from her bra and slides it to Ufuoma, instructing her to rub the content inside in her eyes. Ufuoma hurriedly obeys. She screams and burst into tears as she suddenly “sees”.
Christie’s growl is feral as she stands at the door and takes in the scenario. She turns to Ufuoma and screams.
 “Why aren’t you dead?”
 She dives on Ufuoma, the first blow drives Ufuoma to her knees. She screams in pain and terror as Christie rains blow after blow on her.
“I won’t fight you Christiana.  If killing me will appease you then kill me, but I’m sorry. I’m sorry Christiana and I love you and I miss you like mad. It was all my fault, my carelessness, I’m sorry”
 Her crying is pitiful. Christie stops, tears are running down her face as she decomposes at fast forward pace.  The room becomes unbearably hot with an accompanying smell of heat as she points at the door.
“Get out. All of you, and never come back.”
Mama Ekene and Ufuoma struggle towards Tim who is lying half dead on the floor. The man looks down at him and with a grimace which is actually a smile; he pushes the fridge down on Tim. Amidst the crash is the distinct sickening sound of bone cracking as the fridge lands on Tim’s right leg.  Christie gathers her family together and they walk inward as the heats rises in the room. She turns at the door .
“This is our home, do not come back here”. 
The curtains catch on fire as the door is broken down by neighbours who'd heard the sounds from the apartment.

Two days later, mama Ekene and Ufuoma are sitting beside Tim’s hospital bed completing the puzzle.
Ten years ago, Ufuoma had come to Lagos to stay with her older sister and her family.  All was well until her sister’s husband and two children fell ill to typhoid fever all at the same time. On that fateful day on the Eighteenth of December 2000, her sister Christiana had gone to work leaving her to care for her sick family. Ufuoma had put beans on to cook while she hurried to the pharmacy to get some drugs. One her way back, she met her new friends from around the neighbourhood and had stopped to chat. Two hours later, she heard news of a gas explosion and fire at flat 3b Johnson close. With her heart in her mouth she ran back home to witness her sister fight off bystanders and rush into the house to save her family. They were already dead and roasted. Christiana died of asphyxiation three hours later at the hospital. Ufuoma never told anyone that she had been the cause of the fire.

Mama Ekene’s son had refused to be buried. Each time they tried to bring him out of the mortuary, something happened. He had died at the hands of Christie and her family as a warning to Mama Ekene for her snooping around. His spirit had lingered with them and needed to be set free.

                                                               THE END

The new occupant of flat 3b Johnson Street, smiles with relief as she shows her new house girl to her room.
“Tiana, you sleep here.”

Saturday, 7 July 2012


It is a still night. Not hot, just still. Even the nocturnal orchestra is reluctant to serenade the night.  It is a dark, dark night; even the moon is in a mood. Ufuoma pulls hard on her cigarette. She is shaking; her eyes and her throat are dry. She pulls at the last drag of the cigarette as though to a life line. She stubs out the filter on a packet of matches, and then sweeps the residual ash into the match box, followed by the crushed cigarette butt.  Her movement is deliberate but her hands are shaking. She looks at the tray of food and her stomach responds with a reminder that lunch was ten hours ago. She wills herself to ignore the food. She would put it outside the door but the night is unfriendly. She wraps her arms around her bent knees and tucks her chin between her knees. Ufuoma knows instinctively, that she should not touch the food or the water. The aura is all wrong here. The room contains only a single bed with a wafer thin mattress. Even the curtain is a thin piece of cotton. Something is definitely not right. Ufuoma makes up her mind to keep vigil till the early hours of the morning when she would go straight to the park and board a bus back to Aba, where she had taken off from this morning. It had seemed like a brilliant idea when she woke up this morning; but right now with all her heart, Ufuoma regrets. Her intention was to surprise her boyfriend Kunle by arriving into Lagos a day before his birthday.  The idea was to call as soon as the bus got to the redeemed camp on Lagos Ibadan express way, as that is her land mark. She had called and called and called but the message from Kunle’s phone was consistent; the phone was switched off. She had been to Lagos to visit Kunle only once before but she knew she could find his place, so she got into a taxi and off to Ogba she went. She got to Kunle’s place at six thirty pm but he wasn’t home and his neighbour insisted that he had travelled that morning to Ghana. She left Ufuoma to go to church. Ufuoma was tired scared and confused but she chose to wait. She and Kunle speak every day and they had spoken just last night. If he was travelling, he would have told her. Kunle’s neighbour returned home a little after nine o’clock to meet Ufuoma sitting outside Kunle’s apartment. She asked Ufuoma to leave the premises and did so quite aggressively too. The only other person Ufuoma knows in Lagos is her late sisters, former neighbour. She’d hoped that they would let her spend the night in their home and first thing tomorrow morning, she would be off, back to Aba. Ufuoma was standing at the junction waiting for a cab to go by when she heard her name.  The time was a quarter to ten and Ufuoma was hungry and tired. She almost passed out from relief when she saw who it was. Edet was her campus roommates’ boyfriends, best friend.  They had actually tried to match make them to no avail. Even though they had had a passionate night of smooching, it hadn’t gone beyond that. Ufuoma always felt that there was something not quite right with Edet. Edet lives with his parents and they are having a family vigil but he offered her a room at their boys quarters, which Ufuoma quickly jumped at; a bird in hand. Edet’s family obviously have a lot of money. Their home is humongous with two separate guest chalets, a chapel, swimming pool and a boy’s quarters. The boy’s quarter is dark and deserted but beggars can’t be choosers. Ufuoma thought it odd that their bq would be without electricity but she was grateful for a place to lay her head. Edet had assured her that it was okay to smoke since the main house was far away and for that she was extra grateful. As soon he left though, a sudden overwhelming sense of foreboding washed over her and seeped right in through her flesh to her bones. The young girl who brought the meal was obviously sleepy. She dropped the tray and hurried away.

I9th August 2010
Ufuoma wakes up suddenly, so much for a vigil, she had dozed off.  Her heart stops and she can feel a rush a urine welling up in her bladder. While she dozed, it seemed she had been carried out, along with the bed. The night is silent, like someone pressed the mute button. She tries to rise but she is tied to the bed. She looks around as the most abject fear grips her soul. She is in the middle of a large expanse of land surrounded by a dense fence of trees. It would be a grave yard but for the absence of graves. Ufuoma’s bladder empties itself against her will as she notices a strange glowing circle, just inside the fence of trees, coming closer and closer. Ufuoma can feel her life hanging on a string. As the circle inches closer, she realises that they are candles held by people; about fifty of them. They are dressed in black hooded gowns, which cover every inch of their bodies. The candles are black too. Ufuoma is frozen in fear. One of the figures is holding a large shiny bladed scythe; for some reason, Ufuoma thinks it is Edet. “The Lord is my shepherd I shall not want” She cannot remember the rest. A small cool breeze sails past her right ear “he leads me beside the still waters, he restores my soul.......” Ufuoma repeats after the voice until the end.  Suddenly Ufuoma wakes up. It is a dream. She looks at her phone the time is three am. The moon is suddenly out, letting in a stream of light from the slight parting on the curtain. Ufuoma realizes that she has wet the bed. She gets up to change, thankful that her hours here were few now. She wraps her urine sodden clothes in polythene bag and stuffs it in her travelling bag. As she returns to the bed her foot hits the tray with her forgotten meal. The cover shifts off slightly and huge maggots crawl out of the plate.  That does it. Ufuoma picks up her bags and bolts out of the room.  Thankfully, her flight is uneventful. She raps urgently at the door of the security post. The security mans eyes almost pop out of their sockets as he sees her. He looks around quickly before pulling her roughly into his living quarters/security post. He rattles off in Hausa as he shoves her under the bed. Ufuoma does not understand a word he says but she senses that he is on her side as well as being scared for his hide or life; that she couldn’t tell. She can tell though that she is not alone under the bed; but creepy crawlies are a better fate than that which almost befell her. She hears Edet’s voice enquiring if the security man has seen his friend. The security man responds in the negative. A few minutes later she hears the gates open and cars begin to drive out. For what seems like the next five minutes, car after car drive out of the compound. Eventually, she hears the sound of the gate close. Almost two hours later, the security man lets her out through the pedestrian gate.
Ufuoma says a prayer of thanks giving as she walks to the Magodo Estate gate. It is a little after five A.M and the place is still sleepy. At the gate, she sees a buka setting up for the day. She walks in and buys a bottle of water which she sits to sip very slowly, oblivious of the strange looks from the buka staff. Thirty minutes later, she opens her purse to pay and realises that she has been robbed by the security man.  Luckily she has loose change lying around in her purse. Ufuoma remains thankful.  Isheri is not far away from Magodo. She is sure that if she gets to her late sisters former compound, she could get help. It is not something she is eager to do but she has no other choice as she left her ATM card at home. She flags down a commercial motorcycle. He charges her five hundred naira. With her heart in her mouth, she rides to the block of flats where her late sister used to live. Getting there, there are no familiar faces. Ufuoma is well and truly stumped, sure it’s been ten years but the house next door had been owned by the people in it but it is now a hospital. Her phone’s battery is flat out. She finds herself as if by a magnetic pull at the back door of her late sisters flat. There is a young man standing at the door. She taps him gently. “Excuse me please”.
Tim repeats over and over in his head, “The Lord is my shepherd ...” He hears the voice and feels the touch but he cannot take his eyes away from the sight before him. Christie is sitting at the table, animated in a way he’s never seen her. One of her breast is out of her top and bra. The nipple is moving rapidly back and forth as though going through suction and her arms are crooked as though cradling a baby. She is speaking to the chair beside her, or so it seems. On the wall there are clear shadows of a man and two children sitting around the table and a baby in Christie’s arms. At the corner of the room there is the crouched shadow of another little child. Tim turns to the voice behind him. He listens only half hearing as she rattles off some story. He agrees to help her and hands her five hundred naira to pay her bike. As she leaves he turns back fearfully but there is no one at the table. Christie is peeping out the window at the young lady. Tim convinces himself that he must have imagined the whole scenario. Christie turns to him with a look of malevolent anger on her face. “You are really going to let her in here?”


Monday, 2 July 2012


18th August 2010
Tim is late for work and is very much irritated by Christie’s pace. He normally delighted in her deliberateness but today, he is late for work.  He is also dead broke so skipping breakfast, is out of the question. If he doesn’t eat these boiled yams, his stomach would have digested itself by the time he returns from work at six pm. He feels like slapping her but restrains himself. He’ll save it for later when he knows for a fact that he’d have something to celebrate albeit with apprehension. He wolfs down the food ignoring the searing heat on his tongue. The taste of the food helps. Among Christie’s many talents, is cooking. He stops suddenly; a cold hand just ran down his spine. He looks at Christie. She is cleaning the table top cooker. The feeling passes. He swallows the last of his yam and quickly washes his hand in the washbowl beside his plate.  As usual the water is lightly soapy and warm. Christie is a fantastic house keeper. Ever since she moved in with him, his home is spotless beyond description.  People notice immediately they walk into his self contained apartment, how clean it is. The girl was created for work, even her hips which should be sexy, are the quintessential child bearing hips.  He informs her about Tinu coming to see him tomorrow.  She gives her usual complacent nod. He feels nothing about entertaining other women in his home. It is his home and he is doing Christie a favour, never mind that they have this complicated relationship. Christie seems perfect. Why does she leave him cold? In bed she is pliant and what she lacks in skill, she makes up for with a very tight vagina and a high pain threshold.  Why isn’t he in love with this girl and rushing to marry her? All through the bus ride to Obalande where he changes buses, and on to VI where his office is, he thinks about the date and Christie with growing apprehension.