My prose was recently featured in a literary magazine, which is interesting because prior to that time, I had never been featured in a literary anything - magazine, journal, blog - anything. So it's quite a good development. The story was good enough - it talked about mob mentality, which is interesting because it is going on at every corner these days, I once wrote on this blog about the Jungle Justice Mentality. This is a story about it. The writing however, was not all that, to be absolutely honest, but it was manageable, I guess. Here goes, It was first published in Nigerians Talk Litmag:
I was hungry; I had not eaten in days. My stomach kept on reminding
me that I was soon going to die: making increasingly loud noises, like
the type a grinding machine that needs some oil makes. I had no choice.
I set out to get something, anything that could at least hold my
stomach for the meantime until a miracle happens. I tried begging, but
trust Nigerians; they would not mind someone giving them some money, not
to talk of giving something to a beggar. I received responses like
‘nothing is wrong with you.’ And ‘go and work.’ The truth is that I can
work, in fact, I used to work, but there has not been work: ever since
the government closed the normal route to the market. Now, people who
came to shop, took the back road and therefore parked their cars near
themselves. Our business of helping shoppers haul their goods into their
cars with our barrows was now quite dead, so there’s no work.
I saw the woman, I monitored her, when her lover came she dropped her
small bag that contained all her recharge cards and all the money she
had made today, so far. Ah! I am sure it was a lot of money o, the way
people usually rush her recharge card, I am sure she uses some kind of jazz,
because she is not the only one that sells around, but people buy from
her more than anybody else, maybe it is because of the way she looks,
she’s very pretty and her back is something else. Anyway, as she dropped
the bag on the bench, I thought: this is my chance, if I am smart
enough, she will not see me and nobody will catch me. She was laughing
with her lover, he must have been deceiving her, maybe he was telling
her that he would marry her and she probably believed everything,
I was very close to the bag, I made sure I observed everywhere to
make sure nobody was looking and when the coast was clear I snatched the
bag from the bench where it was placed on as though the bench had power
to resist, then I started walking away, walking normally, I did not run
so that people would not suspect that I was a thief. I thought that I
was home and dry; that I had escaped, and then I heard her voice.
‘Thief… Ole… he has stolen my money.’
That was when I began to run, I didn’t hear any footsteps behind me, I
knew I heard her shout ‘thief’ but maybe she was not even looking in my
direction when she shouted, maybe she was referring to someone else,
because I was sure there was nobody behind me. Just as I turned to
confirm that she was not referring to me, I felt a big stick strike my
jaw violently and down I went, how could this happen? There was nobody
running after me, or, so I thought, there were multitudes of people
actually. Probably it was the hunger in my belly and the anticipation of
food that dwarfed my ability to hear properly.
is happening to me right now is not a joke. Several heavy sticks have
been split on my head, my face is red from all the blood that has seeped
into it through the injuries, I am barely conscious. This people want
to kill me. I know I was wrong to steal, it’s only just dawning on me
that I could have found some other, legal means of getting money instead
of trying to steal. Still, is it enough to kill me? Is it enough to
take my life? I am begging them, I am crying. I am trying to explain to
them that I was very hungry, but they are not listening.
The girl’s lover has brought a tyre; they are planning to set me on
fire. ‘Ah, please. Please I will never do it again. Forgive me, please
now? Please I promise I will not steal again.’ I shout.
Somebody in the large crowd of vicious humans that has enveloped me says ‘I get kerosene, make we burn the idiot.’
Oh God, why me? What have I gotten myself into? Why did I have to
take that bag? Is this how I will die; is this how my life will end?
God, where are you? Help me now? They are pouring the kerosene over my
body, I can’t even see again. The fuel is burning my eyes.
Hey you, are you in the crowd? Help me now, please, I promise to
never steal again, Will you not help me? You are just going to stand
there and watch me burn?
Wednesday, 30 April 2014
Imagine that they had been looking forward to going home to their parents, their siblings – brothers and sisters – their families. That they had been itching to start their WAEC and get it over with, that they had suspected, too, that their school was unsafe and they had feared that something frightening might happen, but they brushed their fears aside — after all, they had only their final exams to go and they would be free, free to go home, home, where it was safe, where there was nothing to fear.
Imagine that they were sixteen or seventeen or eighteen at most, just beginning to figure out life, just beginning to think of themselves as young adults, trying to work on their confidence, learning to tell boys ‘no’ and laughing at them with their friends, in private. That they had planned out their lives. Imagine that some of them wanted to be medical doctors as being a doctor was cool, imagine that they wanted to go to the university, that they wanted to study hard to become somebody in life. Somebody important, somebody that would be reckoned with.
Imagine that they had a hard time, in the first place, getting enrolled into secondary school as perhaps, their fathers may have thought that they were better off at home, with their mothers, learning how to cook, how to do the laundry, how to be submissive to their future husbands, how to be good wives. Imagine that they fought, cried all night, begged their fathers to take them to school, went on hunger strikes.
Imagine the day that they were kidnapped, bright maybe, like any other day in Chibok. That the sun rose in the morning from the East, the way it was supposed to, that they woke up and prayed to their God to guide and protect them. That they prayed about their forthcoming final exams and hoped for the best. That they went about their morning activities as they always did – normally, without fearing that it could be their last day of real freedom, freedom they could feel and believe in because they could see it, because it was present.
Imagine the terror that engulfed their minds when they began to hear gunshots, when they began to hear noises – shouts of people they knew. Teachers’ houses being razed into nothingness, into the gray dusts of ashes, of used char.
Imagine what was going through their minds as they were being ordered into trucks, piled in like a bunch of inanimate things, like industrial sardines, lifeless. Threatened with guns the length of human hands held firmly centimeters away from their forehead. Imagine their thoughts when the trucks started to move away, out of their school, a school that they had fought to get enrolled in. Imagine their tears as the trucks drove past forests. Those beady, sad, painful tears of uncertainty.
Now, imagine their disappointment having been abducted for two weeks with little or no hope of being rescued. Imagine what they are thinking right this moment. Perhaps they had hopes at first, but their hopes are being replaced with uncertainties, their hope is waning as the minutes are winding into hours, hours into days, days into weeks. They may never see their parents again, their siblings, their families, their friends.
Finally, if you dare, imagine what is being done to them right as you read this — the carnage, the gore, the lust. Just try and imagine what those girls are going through this very minute, because I can’t.