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1897

This is NOT a fairytale, this is not some sweet story to tell friends at a tea-party. This is the story of a people, who lived and bled and died like you and I. A story of ignorance, of anger and the tragedy that follows these two, like fleas on a dog no one cares for.

It began many years ago… when the land was still green and the old gods looked down from free skies on a distant kingdom in the year of our lord 1897…

Lt. James Roberts Phillip lead his men through a dense vegetation on their way to Benin city. He had with him two hundred African porters, a drum, fife band and ten British officers.

You see, Omo ‘n’ Oba Ovonranwen, King of Benin, had ceased supply of oil to the Itsekiri middle men, who he believed had been cheating his people.

At the time, the great kingdom of Benin was the principal supplier of the much coveted oil palm to the rest of the country- so this act, well, it didn’t go down well with the British Colonists and one of them, the Consul General of the Niger Coast protectorate, a most despicable fellow named Ralph Moor sought a way to bring the Benin Empire to heel. Some believe the hard-headed Lt. Phillip had been misinformed by Ralph Moor who was at the time on holiday abroad with his family.

No one knows for sure why the expedition was launched- was it one of peace? Or of simple vanity? Or was it one of war? We would never know, because this expedition had gone against the Oba’s warnings to Ralph Moor’s stand in and Lt. Phillip had disobeyed. They were met at the border by a troop of warriors. They had been warned not to come.
THEY SHOULD HAVE LISTENED.
None were left standing.

Back in Benin City, the Iyase stood proud and tall before his Oba to answer for his actions. It was the white man’s mistake, he claimed. The white man’s actions were an insult to the sacred laws of the land and the gods. The Oba knew he could not punish him, for man must pay homage, first to the gods, then to the King.
Furthermore, the Iyase had cunningly involved Ologbosheri the Oba’s son-in-law, and a formidable warrior in his schemes. The Oba was at an impasse. Make no mistake, he knew the gravity of what had been done and what would follow. He resigned himself to fate, knowing well that this single act done in the heat of anger could finally do what the colonialists had sought to do before but failed. Topple him from his throne. An invasion was imminent.

Meanwhile, Rear Admiral Rawson began preparations to invade the Benin Kingdom. He brought with him 1,200 British soldiers and several hundreds of locally recruited blacktroops. He claimed he would avenge the BENIN MASSACRE. The tragic deaths of Lt. Phillip and his men paved way for even worse tragedy. An atrocity driven by ignorance and hate, tempered by a tool that would later get it’s name in the great war of nations- propaganda.

Unified in it’s blood lust, the machine began to work, chugging away like a train at the rails, spewing lies and hate. The Benin kingdom was painted as a monarchy of fetishes and rituals, it’s King was painted as a despot who butchered his own people as sacrifices to heathen gods. False witnesses were called and graphic descriptions of senseless slaughter were given.

The invaders marched forward, their boots pounding the earth like the rhythmic beating of skin drums, in three columns they came, to lay siege to an ancient kingdom.

The Sapoba,
The Gwato,
And the Main…

Their arrogance cost them dearly- the Gwato was ambushed at Gwato, the British annihilated in their sleep.
The commanding officer was killed.

A wary King sat on a heavy throne and dared to hope, but knew better.

The Main column won it’s victory, ravaging the countryside. A trembling naval surgeon confided in the pages of his diary…

“We shelled the countryside and cleared it of the natives. As the launch and surf-boats grounded, we jumped into the water… at once we placed our maxims and guns in position, firing so far as to clear the bush were the natives might be hiding. Our black troops with the scouts in front and our maxims do all the fighting. No white men were wounded; we all got off scot-free.”

February 18th
After ten long days of bitter fighting, the columns of ‘Sapoba’ and ‘Main’ entered the once free city of Benin. It was here that they committed the most brutal of their acts.
The city was looted,
It’s people were stripped, beaten and killed.
The women cried for their men,
Mothers… cried for their daughters.

The British entered the Oba’s palace only to find a vacant throne. Ovonranwen was forced to flee with his chiefs and a handful of his men. After the looting, raping and pillaging, the British set fire to the city, and watched it burn against an African sky.

900 bronze statutes were taken from the Oba’s palace. Over 2000 religious artefacts carted away from Benin city. Countless women and children were taken as slaves, a people, their history and heritage were sold into foreign lands for mere profit.

The evil consul general arrived weeks later to pay the Oba his final humiliation, declaring the land of his ancestors the property of the white man. Chiefs who had no hand in the “Benin massacre” were charged with it and put to death.

Perhaps out of guilt for his role in the fall of Benin, Ologbosheri, the Oba’s son in law mounted a guerilla war against the British to restore the Oba to his throne. He was caught, and two years later, was hung. The Oba himself was sentenced to exile, and a stooge named Obaseki put in his stead.

And so it happened this sad tale of woe, beginning in 1897.

Adapted from Okiojo’s chronicles, Panaramic Comics

REDEMPTION part 2

I know Anu said not to look for her, but in his one thing, I can’t respect her wishes.


It hasn’t been easy, and I have spent a lot in time and finances, but I know where she is now. Or where she will be by 5:45pm tonight.

The thing is, after she left me, Anu went back to her old ways, standing in street corners and getting picked by strange men. I always went after her but somehow, someway, just as I got there, she’d be gone.

But I never gave up.

Even now, I’m still after her. The thing is, life is hard as a prostitute. It’s no easy life, the life they lead. And Anu found a terrible vice which she clung to with the desperation of a man drowning. Drugs.

 And now she’s in serious debt to the biggest drug pusher in this country. His real name, nobody knows, or perhaps those who know would  rather not attract his attention by showing it.

Irregardless, he’s known as ‘the dark one.’ People whisper it and look at you sideways if you ask about him. Those who offend him have a habit of going missing. Government officials, policemen, even soldiers.

Mysterious deaths trail his rise to power and his location is rarely ever known beforehand. He simply pops up somewhere and vanishes again.

But today, I know where he’ll be. At exactly 5:45pm.

And that brings me to the reason why I’m been chaffeured into the seediest part of town in a taxi.

There’s a small hotel not to far away, named ‘birds of paradise’ and that’s where I need to be by 5:45pm sharp.

The taxi pulls up and I alight. Quickly I pay the driver and glance at my rolex- 5:42pm. I’m just in time. Quickly I cross the street and enter into the building.

It’s dimly lit, with smoke clouding the ceiling, everywhere is hazy and strobe lights are flashing. It’s not the kind of place I would frequent, but I’m a man on a mission and as such, I’ll do what has to be done.

Anu is in trouble. Big trouble. Her supplier works for the dark one, and she owed him a whole lot of money. So he told his boss what happened and then he came for her. He licked Anu off the streets and initially planned to do away with her. But then he had an idea and decided to have an auction instead. So he’s​going to sell her off to the highest bidder.

She’s a pretty woman, well versed in pleasuring men. For any of the crime lords that show up, she’ll be a good catch. All they have to do is simply bid high enough.

I have also come to bid.

Just as I get a seat, a bright light comes on and Anu walks onstage. As she walks towards us, seated in a ring at the end of the stage, the spotlight follows, showing everything. My breath catches in my throat and I have to struggle a bit to breathe again.

That’s my wife, dressed in nothing but a short dress and makeup. The dress is tight and clingy and it’s obvious she’s not wearing anything underneath. Her hair is all made up to look pretty but her eyes tell the truth. Even from way over there I can see the pain in them. She knows what she has gotten into.

Someone comes on stage after her. He’s of medium height, a vague dark shadow only distinguishable by being darker than the other shadows that form the background.

“Gentlemen, this is the moment we have all been waiting for. I’m giving out this young, delectable sweetheart for a price. But only if it’s reasonable. If you want her, then let your money speak for you.”

There’s abiut thirty seconds of silence while the men take it in. Then a voice rings out.

“I’m willing to pay fifty thousand naira.”

Quickly I speak up “One hundred thousand naira”

“Two hundred!” Someone from the back.

Soon the price goes up to a million and gradually people drop off till I’m left with the gentleman from the back. He shouts “I’ll pay one million, five hundred thousand naira for her.”

Fairly desperate, I reply “I’ll pay three million naira for her and I’ll pay now!” The room goes quiet. We don’t know exactly how much she owes him, but we all know it can’t be that much.

I hear whispers

“He’s mad. Three million for a woman?”

“I hear she’s even a prostitute. I could get another one on the street for far less.”

“Yes, but you can’t keep her can you? This one is for keeps.”

“Why does he want her so bad? He’s not even one of us.”

“She means something to him, I can tell.”

There’s a satisfied chuckle and then the dark one speaks up for the first time since he made the introduction

“Any other offers?” I hold my breath. No one talks. 

“Three million it is then. Sold. Please come with me.” I release the breath I’ve been holding and follow him. He leads me into a small room. Then he sits and offers me a seat. There’s better lighting here, and I can see him clearly. He’s nothing spectacular, an easily forgotten face. Just one among thousands, but this man has the one thing I want most in this world.

He extracts a pack of cigars from his suit pocket. He offers me one. I decline. I don’t smoke. The door opens and Anu comes in followed by a thug.

“Here it is” says the drug pusher. “Now make good on your bid.”

“Can I have an account number?”

“Of course. Tade?”

The thug gives me a piece of paper. Quickly, I get my phone out and make the transfer. A few seconds later, a phone beeps. The thug produces a small phone, looks at the message and nods.

Oga the alert just came in.”

The dark one nods and says “You can have her.”

Fifteen minutes later, I’m flagging down a taxi.

A year later…

 It hasn’t been easy. I had to check Anu into a rehabilitation center. She cried everytime for a whole week and her eyes were red each time I came to visit. Soon she was clean and drug free. I also had her checked and treated for a few STDs. Luckily enough she didn’t catch anything that couldn’t be gotten rid off.

When she was through with everything, she looked like her old self again. And I asked her if she would  mind coming back to me.

On hearing that I intended to still keep her as a wife, she fell to my feet and cried a whole lot, begging for forgiveness. I was moved to tears too and soon joined her on the floor where we hugged and cried and hugged some more.

But a last, she’s back home, once again in charge of her business- I had someone manage it in her absence and proud mother to my two wonderful kids.

REDEMPTION part 1

Do you know how it is when you really, really love someone who doesn’t love you in return?

Someone who doesn’t care?

Let me try to explain it to you. It’s something terrible. They hurt you, but it really doesn’t matter, because it’s them.

Its like gripping a sharp knife, and it’s cutting you to the bone, and you can see it, feel it, feel the blood trickling down your wrist, your arm. But you cannot let go, because losing them is a fate worse than death.
Anuoluwapo.

When I met Anu for the first time, it wasn’t really the best of first impressions. I was driving past the red light district a few blocks from my house- a necessary evil, the only other alternative being to take the long, arduous road that trailed the back of the estate, an extra 35 minutes of driving, not to mention the fuel consumed.

Some of us who owned property in the estate had picked offence at prostitution taking up residence at our front door and time and time again, we petitioned the government to have them do something about it.

We kept getting the same answer

“We’re working on it.”

But then, the girls weren’t too forward about what they did, they didn’t call out to customers or build brothels nearby.

They just stood outside, striking seductive poses in skimpy clothes, waiting patiently for business. When someone interested came by, he’d pull up to his pick, they’d bargain through a lowered window and when a deal is struck, she would get in and drive off.

Being a busy person, I often return home by 7 or 8 in the evening, just in time to witness the start of the skin business. 

On that day as always, I drove slowly past, careful to dodge the people milling about and picking girls up when I saw a girl sitting on her own in a corner. Unlike the others, she wasn’t up and about. For some reason, that drew me like light draws a moth.

I pulled up and killed the engine. 

“Hi. Why are you on your own?”

“Nothing. I just like it here. Do you want a girl for the night?”

“No. Not really.”

“Oh.” She sounded so disappointed, I felt I had to make it up to her someway. So I checked the glove compartment and gave her a small bundle of cash. She collected it and counted it then turned to me with a big smile

“Ten thousand naira? That’s a lot! Thank you.” Then she turned coy, eyeing me from under lowered lashes as she hid the money in her bra

“Are you sure you don’t want some company? I can make it worth your while you know. I’m really good. Everyone says that.”

I smiled and handed her a business card and a pen.

“How about you write your number here and I’ll call you if I need you.”

She gladly took the pen and scribbled her number across the back of the card. From somewhere, she produced a stick of gum and started chewing it.

“Call me.”

“I will.”

Over the space of two years, I got to know Anu as more than a walking fleshlight. We talked a lot over the phone, and she often confided in me. Busy as I am, I always have a listening ear for people I call friends. Anu’s case was no different.

Gradually we became close. And one day, I asked her out on a date. She agreed. By 5pm that evening, she alighted from an okada (a commercial motorcyclist) in front of the eatery I invited her to.

She was dressed in a very, very, short dress. So short in fact, it covered almost nothing. Quickly I gave her my suit to wear. She gave me a dubious look and I coughed softly

“It’s cold inside.”

“Oh. Okay. Thank for the suit then.”

It indeed was cold inside, but it wasn’t the real reason for me giving her the suit. As she followed me to our table, men turned to stare at her. They were almost drooling.

But we had a quiet uneventful dinner. Time, as it is wont to do, flew from us. Before you could say Jack, it was late and she had to go.

I offered to drop her off. When she got into my car, she took off my suit and started to unzip her gown and loosen the clips binding her hair.

“What are you doing, Anu?”

“I’m getting ready. Aren’t you planning to have sex with me? I’ve done it in cars before, you don’t have to worry about me. Just adjust the seat so you can-”

My hand wrapped around hers shut her up. Leaning forward to look directly into her eyes, I said slowly

“Anu, I’m not planning to sleep with you. I mean it.”

“Why are you so nice to me then?”

The question hit me like a runaway train. Different thoughts and emotions swam in my head and I stuttered.

“I, I think I’m in love with you.”

“Harold. You’re a business mogul, a respectable person. What would you want with me?” Her voice broke.

“I’m just a common whore.”

That night I took her home and we talked for a long, long period. She finally admitted to loving me but quashing it, because she felt nothing productive would come out of such. I assured her that she was worth a lot to me.

Anu is a person. A beautiful person. She has been through so much, and she’s a bit jaded and distrusting of people but deep inside, she’s sweet and caring and in her own way, better than a lot of the girls that walk around with their heads up in the clouds like they’re not as human as the rest of us.

Gradually we started dating. We eventually got married. A small quiet court wedding. My friends raised hell over my decision, some honestly thought I had gone mad. Even now they think it was insane of me to have done what I did. But I’ll do it all again if I had the chance.

Anu moved into my house and became my wife. I changed her wardrobe and got rid of the skimpy clothes, remainders of a past that no longer bound her. I bought her jewellery and dinner gowns. I bought shoes and sandals from Italy and Paris.

Nothing was too expensive. Then one day she told me she was pregnant. I almost died of joy. When she put to bed, it was the most beautiful baby ever. A chubby little angel. I named him Oluwagbemileke. or as we called him around the house, Leke.

Four years after Leke, Anu got pregnant again. When she announced it, I was so ecstatic I kissed her right there on the kitchen counter. 

“Daddy, why are you using your mouth to touch mummy’s mouth?”

That brought us back to earth real quick.  I ‘discovered’ a box of biscuits and soon distracted the boy. A few months later, Oluwafunmilomotodarabi was born.

It was all nice and dandy, a picture perfect family. Anu had a thriving business as a makeup artist and my business was going good and strong.

Then one day I got back from home and met a note on the bed.

Harold.

Thank you for everything you’ve done for me. But I can’t continue this life we’re living. 

I need excitement. Thus marriage is nice, but its boring. I need to feel like a woman again. I’m leaving. I’m not right for you.

There are a lot of other women out there, respectable women. Go after one of them and settle down.

Please don’t try to find me.”

ALONE?

Remi has a simple, easily predictable lifestyle. 

As a working class woman, the  official closing time from work is 5pm. So once it’s 5 on the dot, she’s done for the day, and thats it.

  With about 15 minutes needed to pack her things together and get to the parking lot, she’s always out of the company building by 5:15pm.

She immediately turns right, and driving at a constant speed of 50kph, it takes her 20 minutes to get home. Exactly 20 minutes.

Everyday.

And then she pulls into the driveway, gets her house keys and walks up to the porch, house keys in her left hand. By 5:37pm on workdays, she’s to be found in front of her house, unlocking the door and slipping inside.

She doesn’t go anywhere on weekends, except when she has to replenish her store of foodstuff and that occurs every third weekend, during the market days.

You see, Remi’s life is quite nice and cozy, comforting in it’s consistency. So today, like every other workday, she’s at the door by 5:37pm, just turning the lock when she hears a rustle. She doesn’t pay it much attention, infact she doesn’t pay it any attention. She knows the neighbours have a pet of some sort, and it’s most likely the animal was slinking about in the decorative shrubbery. Nothing to bother about. How much damage could it do?

It’s at that precise moment that she feels the touch of something cold and heavy in her side. Involuntarily, she is rooted to the spot, quaking with fear. Her eyes travel slowly downwards and she finds a gun pressed nicely to her waist. Like it wants to give her a big hug. Muzzle-first.

Shielded between her lithe frame and the stranger holding it, the gun isn’t obvious to anyone nearby, and besides, she hadn’t gone to any trouble trying to establish any level of camaraderie with her neighbors.

They wouldn’t even notice if she went missing. The thought hits her like a brick between the eyes. Unbidden, a hot tear makes it’s way out and trickles down her cheek.

The stranger holding a gun to her side orders her with a rough voice:

“Lock the door and come with me, no funny business now. I don’t want to have to do anything stupid.”

Docile, fearful, she obeys, twisting the key in the lock and hearing the sharp ‘click’ as the tumblers slip back into place, the door once again, locked.

With that sound, all hope abandons her.

She’s walking quietly towards her car, destination unknown when she sees her new neighbor wave to her. He’s a handsome, muscular young man, about the same grade with her. Sometimes he waved to her when he saw her over the shrubbery. Often he’d shout a greeting. But she’s​ never replied a greeting before, and not replying one now wouldn’t be anything new. She prays fervently in her heart that he notices something out of the ordinary. That he calls her back. Anything.

But nothing happens. She’s in front of her car now. When suddenly she hears

“Hello sir, do I know you?” She turns quickly. It’s her neighbor and he’s talking to the stranger.

“No sir, you don’t. I’m Remi’s brother, and I need to take her back home.”

“Back home? She lives here.”

“I mean ‘home’ home. Our mum is sick and she’s been wanting to see Remi for so long. It’s been a while since they’ve spoken. So I’m taking her home to see mummy.”

Time passes as her neighbor considers this tale. Meanwhile Remi is firmly chanting in her head- Please don’t believe him, please don’t believe him, please don’t believe him, please don’t believe-

The neighbor nods, apparently satisfied. So the stranger steers her away from safety. Her eyes widen.

Suddenly, like a cat, he pounces at the stranger and knocks him down, slamming his hand once, twice to the ground. He loses his hold of the weapon. Then his head follows, with one heavy hit against the pavement, the stranger is unconscious.

“Call 911. Do it quick woman, before he comes around.” Even as he talks, he’s producing something shiny from his pocket. It’s a pair of handcuffs. He snaps them around the strangers wrist.

Task complete, he turns to give Remi a long hard look. 

“I’m Chibuzor by the way, your new neighbor. It would do you a fair bit of good to be more friendly to people in the future.”

Soon the police men arrive and bundle the suspect. Chibuzor exchanges a few words with the officers, they salute him and come for her. A few questions and then it’s all over.

Later that week, she gets the details. The stranger was interrogated and the police are able to get his house address. They get a warrant and go in for a search. His house is covered with photos. Photos of Remi. Leaving her car. Entering her car. Eating at a restaurant. Talking to a guy. The guy’s face is peppered with holes, holes made by something being jabbed into the picture repeatedly. There’s a pencil nearby. The photos are all tagged with time slots. 4pm. 3:13pm. 12pm.

When she sees the picture evidence, she confirms that yes, at that precise time, she was doing just that.

But that’s not even the most disturbing thing. Far from it.

In the bedroom, there’s a full wardrobe of clothes, all her exact size. Shoes too. And underwear. Fancy, lace stuff. The windows are  covered with thick red drapes. There’s scented candles at every point in the room. Small heart-shaped pillows litter the place.

There’s a sheer nightgown laid on the thick king-size bed in the center of the room. It’s almost transparent, doesn’t really cover anything.

In one of the locked drawers, they​ find a wrap of cocaine and several packs of condoms and lubricant. Several ‘toys’ are there too. Things would have gone real bad for her if she had been taken back there. But she got lucky.

Thanks to a neighbor who just wouldn’t mind his own business.

PAID IN FULL part 2

AKIN

Panting, I turn the corner and fling open the door to the house. There’s nothing much, just a jumble of clothes scattered all over the ground. The exact same way I left things. I practically tear off the shirt in my haste to get rid of the evidence. Squeeze and drop on the ground. I pick one of the shirts in the ground and pull it on.

I can hear the faint sounds of pursuit, quickly growing in volume as the mob from the bar incident approach my place. I take a deep breath and walk outside. 

My plan? I’ll simply find somewhere to hide and then join up with the mob. Together we’ll yell and scream and finding no one, eventually disperse.

Hopefully, no one would remember my face- the lighting in the bar was dim.
On the way out, I bump into Oluwadamilola, and I keep going.

OLUWADAMILOLA

On my way to a friend’s, I remembered I promised to give her a carved wooden bracelet, which happened to be at home at the time. So I had to turn back for it.

On my way in, I bump into my brother Akin. His eyes are wide with fear, his breaths quick and shallow. Without explanation, I know he’s in trouble. He won’t meet my eyes and mumbles something about being late. I can hear a crowd coming close, it sounds rowdy.

It sounds like they’re hunting someone. 

Now alone in the small one bedroom apartment that I share with the only family I have left, I can see the blood soaked shirt on the ground, proclaiming to all and sundry the truth of my brothers current situation.

I can hear the crowd now. Sounds like they’re in the street. Soon they’ll start bursting into rooms and searching. Surely someone must have seen my brother.

He’s most likely doomed. Unless someone does something. I move close and pick the shirt. I’m just buttoning the last button when someone forces his way into the room.

AKIN

It’s been six years now.

Oluwadamilola, my brother, took my crime on himself.he was beaten to an inch of his life by the mob. He said nothing in his defence.

They handed him over to the police. Driven by guilt, I ran from pillar to post​, trying to find a way to get him out of prison. I failed.

He was charged to court. He admitted to the murder, and got sentenced to death. I couldn’t take it and I shouted out that I was the guilty party. I did it. I was the man they wanted, I killed the victim.

The judge dismissed it as a nervous breakdown and I was bundled out of court.

With tears in my eyes I watched my brother die in my stead.

My life has changed. A lot.

I have a job now, a well paying job. I try to make my life have ​a meaning. I speak to juvenile delinquents warning them of the error of their ways. I volunteer for all the community service initiatives I can find. I’m now a respectable person, a ‘pillar of the community’.

To some people, I have it all. Money, respect, status in society.

It doesn’t matter. I would give it all up, my life even, just to have my brother back.

PAID IN FULL part 1

AKIN

Everyone calls me the village rascal. Me? I’m not bothered. I can’t care less what anyone thinks about me. Okay. Perhaps that statement isn’t completely true. There is one person whose opinion actually matters to me. That one person is my brother, Oluwadamilola.

It’s funny, seeing us together, you wouldn’t know he’s my brother. He’s a direct opposite of everything I am. While I’m short and muscular, he’s tall and lanky. I’m as black as the bottom of a clay pot used to the searing heat of a charcoal fire, he’s fair complexioned. I’m loud and aggressive. He’s quiet and peaceful. I can start an argument in an empty room, he detests raised voices.

Kpom! Kpom!!

Someone’s at the door. I lift my head up, listening to make sure it’s my door. The sound comes again, and this time, I’m sure. I move to open it. Standing there is Okon, childhood friend and fellow riff-raff.

“Akin, let’s go to madam Smooth’s bar.” His face splits in a wide grin. The thought of alcohol is the only thing that makes Okon smile. The only thing. I swear the boy is even more useless than I am. And that’s a terrible thing. But then, I also happen to have a deep seated respect for a cold, sweating bottle of ’33’ export lager and so I fetch my shirt and pull it on. Snagging the flip-flops from the backyard, I’m ready to go.

We make our merry way to madam Smooth’s, for a bottle or two and a pinch of trouble and excitement.

An hour and a half later…

Things are a bit blurry. Bottles litter the top of the table where I’m seated. Some of them are rolling about, spilling drops of alcohol on the dusty floor. There’s a small plate containing catfish bones which are all that’s remaining of the peppersoup we ordered a while back. At this point,I’ve had enough of stuffing myself. A bit of trouble would be nice, you know, I can use the exercise.

Something tickles my nostrils and I turn to see a lady swish her way past. She’s wearing a shimmering black gown that just calls me. And calls me. And calls me.

I take a deep breath, inhaling and enjoying the heady feminine perfume that follows her passage like froth in the wake of a fast ship. 

Suddenly someone steps in, rudely blocking my view of that nice-

“Keep your eyes in your head, filthy cow.”

What? Who is this one?

“Infact, I think you should apologise to my girl for staring at her like that.” The bar goes quiet, drunk and half-drunk patrons twisting and turning to get a view of the unfolding drama. But I want no part in it, so I ignore him and grab another bottle from the pile before me. I touch the cold, slender neck to my lips and suck-

WHAM!

The fool slapped me! He slapped me?! That’s unacceptable. Before I even know what I’m doing, my hand shoots​ out, grabs an empty bottle of lager and my fingers wrap around the neck. Then from there, it travels with its prize to the floor. It’s a hard cement floor, underneath all that dust, and the impact shatters the lower half of the bottle, leaving me with jagged, sharp edges. A weapon. I swing around to face the man, this idiot that dared to slap me.

I see the daring in his eyes, he’s daring me to go ahead. Despite trembling with rage, I finally get ahold of myself and start to turn, to settle so I can continue to drink the precious lager, and then the fool has the effontery to smile.

Without thought, I swing the broken bottle into an arc, one that ends in the soft flesh of his belly.

In some sort of demented slow motion, I watch the broken bottle tear through cloth and flesh, a wide crimson gap opening in it’s wake.

Blood spurts from his torn belly, all over me. All over my hands, my shirt. Marking me as his murderer.

While the heat of anger rapidly cooling, I hear Okon’s voice as though from far away…

“A-A-Akin. What have you done?”

The broken bottle, now soaked and dripping with blood falls from my limp fingers to fall to the ground…
To be continued…

FRIGHT NIGHT

On my way home, I decided to use the shortcut. Nobody sensible uses the shortcut. Just those who are either extremely brave or extremely moronic. The extremes. The shortcut is a dark alley, one so creepy it scared people off even during daytime. But it cuts my journey short by twenty-something minutes, which is the amount of time it takes to walk down the street and turn to continue the journey home. And there was a match I’d surely be late for if I took the long normal road. A really good football match.

I’ll leave you to judge which extreme I fall under. 

I took the shortcut. Halfway through I heard a rustle. I quickened my footsteps and soon was out in the open.

A sigh of sweet relief. I was so happy I made it out the alley safe and sound that it took me a full minute to calm down and notice I wasn’t alone. Someone was following me. Someone from the alley. I started walking faster. It kept up. I started jogging. It did the same, and of course I did the next sensible thing.

I ran like hell.

“Ahhhhhhh! Somebody help me!!!” I could hear a mad cackling sound as the creature chased me down the road, panting heavily and making wet, smacking sounds. I got to the big tipper garage. Bad luck, all the inhabitants had gone to pray. It was abandoned. I kept running. It kept chasing me.

I cut across the garage and came out under a streetlight, my house was just a few feet away. I could make it. I got to the door and pushed it. It was locked. I banged on the door, no one answered. “Where DID EVERYONE GO TO?”

It caught up with me. ‘It’ turned out to be a tall, thin haggard looking fellow with a week old beard and filthy prison clothes. He held a stick in one hand. And now that he had finally caught me, he stopped cackling and looked at me intently. Then licked his lips and took a step towards me.

Images and stories of prison rape flashed in my head and I let out a totally manly whimper.  He took the last few steps separating us with one giant stride and poked me in the chest with the stick. I might have wet myself at that moment. 

He said just one word. “Bloop.” And then he took off down the street, cackling and yelling like a madman.
The next morning, news spread around the neighborhood that the asylum not too far away had lost one of it’s inmates the night before. People were advised to lock their doors and keep their children close by. He did not have a history of violence, but when dealing with the insane, who could tell?

That afternoon, he was caught and the van passed the front of my house on its way back. He was sitting in the back, peeking out through iron bars set at face level when our eyes met. And then he winked.

IJAPA CHRONICLES; SIGIDI

In Yoruba folklore, the tortoise was a wily trickster. Lazy, always up to no good and especially fond of porridge, he often got himself into one  misadventure or the other. This is a story of one such misadventure.


A long, long time ago, when the world was young and animals walked on two feet, Ijapa the tortoise was terribly hungry. Really, really hungry.

He had severe hunger pangs. And this was entirely his fault. You see, during the farming period, while other animals went to the farms to plant crops, he lazed about, whistling tunes and chasing fireflies. He always had one excuse or the other for not working.

“The sun is too hot”

“The ground is as hard as iron.”

“My hands hurt, and handling farming implements are torture.”

Previously, he sold out portions of his farmland he inherited from his late parents, from time to time and from the proceeds, fed himself with food he purchased from the market. But eventually, the farmland was exhausted, leaving behind only a small, miserable plot that no one wanted to buy.

And these were the circumstances that led to the situation he found himself in. He had visited for a while, eating at friends’ places during mealtimes till they grew weary of him and began to avoid him.

He had run through his entire bag of tricks and come up dry. So he went wandering to the forest, perhaps he would be fortunate enough to discover some fruits and nuts to eat.

He walked the length and breadth of the forest and turned up just a few palm kernels and one ripe mango. He sat below a palm tree to eat them. As he was eating, he remembered a spell he had learnt during his travels ( he was well travelled and had gone to places on land and in the sea that no one else had) and decided to try it out. It was a spell to animate palm trees.

Weak with hunger, he began to sing-

“Dance, palm tree dance,

Round and round, let your trunk swirl,

Round and round, let your leaves go,

Dance, palm tree, dance.”

As he sang, the palm tree danced, moving from place to place, and when he stopped, it stood rooted in place, just another palm tree. 

Ijapa smiled. He had a plan. He got some leaves and branches, feathers and twigs, tied them around his palm tree to make it look scary and poured some chicken blood on it from the branches to the roots till it dripped. Satisfied with his craft, he hid himself among the topmost branches and sang the spell, leading it towards the marketplace. He was just in time for the evening market. 

Just as the market women settled down to begin to sell their wares, the palm tree came dancing into the market square. Everyone took to their heels. You must understand, it wasn’t like anything they had ever seen before. A palm tree twirling and spinning, dancing with its roots out of the soil, dripping blood and covered with feathers. 

It looked horrible. It was a sight to put fear into the hearts of even the bravest of men.

When the market square was clear, Ijapa stopped his spell, got down from the palm tree and ate to his heart’s content. Then he took some more food and hid it in the palm tree. Then he sang his spell and spun back to the forest.

He repeated this act, day after day, driving the villagers almost mad with fear and terrorising the the markets. Eventually, they ran to the palace to beg for help.

The king sent his bravest guards to stand by the entrance to the markets. Soon enough, the tortoise came spinning to the marketplace​. He saw the guards and let out a guttural roar that shook the earth and made straight for them. Their strength failed them, their courage shattered and they took to their heels. With the guards gone, the villagers followed quickly after and the tortoise was free to once again, plunder the marketplace.

Tired and desperate, the villagers went back to the king to tell the tale. And he dismissed them, promising to find a solution to the problem. He thought and thought and decided that since brute force had failed, perhaps it was time to try trickery. So he privately called for the best carver in the land and had him create a lifelike statute of a man seated and watching from the strongest iroko tree he could find. Then he made him cover it with sticky tape and set in the centre of the village square. This man he named ‘Sigidi’

Soon afterwards, the palm tree came dancing and everyone as usual, went running. Everyone except sigidi, who sat in the market square watching. The tortoise tried all he could but nothing scared sigidi. At this time, it was almost fully dark and he wanted to eat so he got down and accosted it.

“Why are you not afraid?” He roared. “Are you better than everyone else?”

Sigidi, of course, said nothing. Ijapa saw this as extremely arrogant and so landed it a huge slap. His hand stuck to it. 

“If you don’t release my hand, I’ll deal you an even heavier blow with the other hand.”

Sigidi said nothing.  So Ijapa made a fist with his other hand and struck. It also got stuck.

Now very angry, he kicked the statute. Again, he got stuck. Now beyond reason, he kicked with his other foot. It also got stuck.

“If you don’t let me go, I’ll headbutt you.” He threatened. “I’ll headbutt you so hard, you’d die.”

Sigidi again, gave no response, and so Ijapa headbutted the statute. He was stuck. At this point he realized he was entirely in his opponent’s hands and so he began to plead. He begged and begged, but nothing happened, he was still stuck and that was how he was when the next day arrived and the villagers found him. They went to report to the king who had Ijapa make a full confession. The remaining food items were recovered and returned to their rightful owners.

But Ijapa was left  in the marketplace day after day after day, till the rains began to fall, and eventually the tar softened enough for him to wriggle free.