NEGRITUDE part 1


The ship came to a sluggish, lurching stop. Gradually, the nauseating to and fro movement reduced, but not totally, for it was still on a body of water, even if it was grounded now by the anchor the captain had let down.
Thus firmly affixed, a small door opened up in it’s belly and it vomited it’s cargo; strong, barrel-chested, virile young men and women with skin as black as burnt wood, curly hair and wide nostrils.

Each one was attached to the others and restrained by means of hand and leg irons, with a contraption holding the neck upright. But there was a little chance for movement, a little, but it was there.

The white traders at the seashore were temporarily dumbfounded. Surely, they had heard tales of these creatures who looked like men, but were black, black as sin.

Curious, one of them stepped forward and licking a thumb, he rubbed vigorously against the nose of one of the negroes close to him to see if the color would come off.

The negro froze, barely moving with the white man still rubbing, increasingly surprised as the color would not come off. 

Overcome with curiousity, Mr. Hardy made the foolish mistake of stepping too close to the black man. In a single fluid movement, flowing like quicksilver, the negro pounced on the caucasian. There was a wicked tearing sound and a sharp cry of agony, then he spat out the ear he had torn clean off the other man’s head. Blood dribbling down his chin, the negro steeled himself for the sting of the whips he knew were sure to come.

Eyes fixed on the horror stricken crowd, he grinned.

Wham! Wham!!

Like raindrops racing one another to dry, brittle earth, the lashes landed in quick succession, and the negro bore it without flinching.

The captain came running, waving his arms wildly; the cargo was precious, slaves with strength such as the negroes had were rare. He had endured a long, ardous journey to get them, he wasn’t about to let foolish men whip them to death before he had a chance to sell them off and make a profit.

What? He did not go to Africa, and brave the heat and mosquitoes because he had nothing better to do, he was a business man. And dead slaves were bad for business. Anyone with a lick of sense knew that.

Meanwhile the man who had been bitten had finally gotten to his feet. With a look in his eyes that told of the fires of hell, he grabbed his neighbor’s sword and raised his hand high…

“Stop!!!” The Captain’s voice rang out, loud and clear. “Stop or by God, I’ll have your head! Have you bought that chap? No? Then what right have you to touch him? Away with you! With all of you!!”

And so saying, he shooed the wounded man and the slavers away. Now the fellow’s back was crisscrossed with welts, but if he was grateful to have the beatings cease, he did not show it.

Instead he fixed his black pupiled eyes on the crowd and said one one. Just one. And everyone present heard it fall from his lips like a curse.

Adekogbe

*The crown rejects the bush. It’s a name that indicates that a prince is not to be involved in manual labor. You see, our dear negro wasn’t just any kind of negro. He was a prince, even far away from home as he was.

From there it was straight to the slave market, for the captain had to make his gain…

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STORIES FROM THE HUNT

Just a moment before it hits its target, one of the hunting dogs caught a whiff of the predator and smoothly slid into action.

With a loud bark that alerts Ogunjimi and probably saves his life, the brave hound launches itself headlong to meet the approaching threat. A heartbeat later, the other hunting dogs follow suit.

It’s a bloody, drawn out battle. Snapping teeth, scratching claws flashing here and there, with Ogunjimi shinning his flashlight and trying to get a clear shot at his assailant with his dane gun.

A chance! Quickly gone. Still anticipating- another, the barest flash of black and BOOM!!!

The silence that follows is deafening. Carefully, gingerly our hunter makes his way to the corpse of the big cat. Limping and whining, the dogs move away.

 With the muzzle of his gun, he prods it. It moves just slightly- quickly he fires again, this time at the head. He prods it once more. It does not move. Now satisfied that it is dead, he fetches a cord of hard leather and binds it’s feet with it. Binds it really tight.

Then the muzzle follows, or really, what is left of the muzzle after the bullet has shattered the skull and torn fur and flesh apart.

The skin of the beast will provide a befitting covering for him. The meat could be eaten or sold to the highest bidder. The claws made into amulets and charms.

Nothing will go to waste.

This is the life of a hunter in the forests of mother Africa. 

Kill or be killed.

STORIES FROM THE HUNT

A fat drop of rainwater makes its way through the intricate gathering of branches and leaves- gathers at the top of a leaf and hangs upside down, suspended for a brief moment before falling.

You can follow it’s shimmering path through the evening air, and it’s subsequent splashing against Ogunjimi’s left eyelid. This was what woke him up.

With a yawn and a stretch, the hunter wakes up. As he moves, he rouses his dogs from their sleep. He gathers his catch and fetches his torchlight. Tries it.

It flickers, coming to life briefly before dying a slow sputtering death. He gives it a good smack and it brightens, steadying, releasing a small focused beam of light.

With the light, he makes his way out of the enclosure, followed by the three hunting dogs. Slinging the day’s catch over a shoulder, he checks the gunpowder in his gun. Satisfied, he nods and slings it over a shoulder too. 

Whistling a merry tune, Ogunjimi and his hunting dogs pick their way home, unaware of the presence of a new companion.

As the happy group moves through the forest, a black leopard trails behind, perfectly camouflaged with it’s blue-black coat, it’s biding it’s time. You see, in the jungle, every predator is also prey to some other beast.

Having gained on them, it’s hind legs bunch, tense for a moment and then the big cat pounces…

STORIES FROM THE HUNT

“When a lion wakes up, it prays just one prayer. Lord, show me the animal I’ll eat today. Then leave us alone.”

High-pitched bird calls echo around the forest bouncing off tree trunks and leaves dripping water. Sunlight cuts little paths through the canopy of leaves, tracing a delicate pattern of light and darkness on the leaf strewn floor.

Twigs and dried leaves crumple and crackle as tiny life-forms continue their busy schedule of eat or be eaten. Which in all fairness isn’t much different from what we larger life-forms do. We just happen to be better at that eating part.

A deer steps out nimbly from behind a tree. Wary, she looks to the left. Then to the right. She raises her nose to the air to sniff daintly, and satisfied, takes a few steps to her objective. A small, crystal clear brook. Gently, ears active for the slightest warning, she lowers her head to drink. This is how it is to be prey. 

A wary life. Always watching, always looking, always ready to run. A moment’s hesitation would be the difference between deer and venison. 

Not to far away, hidden in the undergrowth, lies one of the biggest predators known to nature. His muscles taut, he readies himself for his moment. He knows the perfect time to strike, it is that moment after the deer has had that first sip of water, where the thirst almost drives her mad and she hurries to take even larger gulps.

At that moment, hopefully, she would be temporarily distracted. At that moment, she would be easy. But not a moment before.

Here it is, a slow, careful sip, and… Now!

Ogunjimi releases the arrow he is aiming at the deer, and the breath he didn’t even know he was holding.

The arrow flies true and sinks into her head like a knife into butter. She falls to the ground. Quickly he leaves his place of concealment and goes to fetch his prize. She’s a good, big one. More than enough meat for the next few days. And perhaps he could sell some body parts for extra cash. Chuckling softly, he drapes the corpse round his shoulder.

Hanging from his belly are two dead squirrels, not too far away, attached by means of a rope to a low hanging branch of a tree, is a fat, juicy, bush pig.

All in all, not a bad day. As he gets to the place where he tied the pig, his hunting dogs come running to greet him with yelps and barks of joy. He pats all three on their heads and tells them what a good job they have done today. Then he adds the boar to his burden and slowly, they make their way through the forest, heading for home, rest, and a warm meal to end the day with.

The sky is brightened by a flash of lightning and thunder rumbles in response, the forest going quiet. Dark clouds block out the sun and it becomes impossible to advance further. Rain drops, fat and heavy, begin to fall, splashing lazily against his hunting gear, the meat, the dogs. With the light from a torch, Ogunjimi finds a place to hide to keep away from the rain till it subsides. He drops the carcasses a short distance from where he and his dogs huddle together to keep warm…

To be continued…

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.