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Everything reminds you of him.It’s not funny anymore. You realize this as you stare at a pale, pretend version of yourself in your tiny hanging mirror. You are about to leave the house for work, and you would really be better off buried deep under the duvet, slowly morphing into a crumpled bed sheet yourself. It has been long enough. You smile ruefully because you keep asking questions about your feelings for him, but it never helps, the questioning. Instead, memory blurs around the edges and you wonder if you didn’t just dream it all up – maybe you were in a coma the whole time, and it never really happened. Today you went to the salon to get your hair done. The hairdresser opened up a bottle of hair oil, poured some into her cupped hand, and rubbed it all over your head. The perfumed scent of the oil filled your nostrils, and choked you with memories of him. Babyyyyyy What now? You left your scent on my pillow yesterday. I can smell you everywhere, it’s driving me crazy! Aww, but I didn’t use any strong perfume or anything… I know, but I can smell you. And there’s this other smell… on the pillow… Oh, maybe that’s my hair oil… I miss you, baby. I wish you were here. READ ALSO: KARMA You snap to as you realize the hairdresser is done, and has moved on to another customer. Hastily you pay up and leave, hoping the madness you fear lives within you has not begun to manifest in public. The following day, you are in the bathroom, your phone blaring from its spot on the bed. The song you are squealing along to comes to an end, and another one starts up. It is Robin Thicke, swearing he is lost without her… you rush out, soap suds dripping down your face, your bare feet almost slipping on the tiles as you rush to snatch up the phone and change the song. It used to be his ringtone, that song. It was how you felt about him then. You can never quite make it through to the end of that song, but you can’t bring yourself to delete it either. That song is a metaphor for your love life; you are done with him but can’t quite let go. So you vacillate between telling yourself you are over him, and wondering what he did that was so terrible. You remember the year when you were pouting and sniffling because, hard girl that you were, you didn’t know how to handle him travelling out of town and being away for months at a stretch. You recall him scooping you into his lap, telling you it would be okay and he’d be back for you. It was the cheesiest line ever, but somehow he made it okay when he took a short video of both of you kissing. It was a deep, clingy kiss and you were still pouting when it was over. It is Saturday night and you are perched atop the decking of the uncompleted building close to your house. You have your earphones firmly planted inside your ears, there is an empty bottle of Matelot not too far from you, and you are clutching a chilled bottle of Romero in your right hand, left hand alternately wiping your wet cheeks and ferrying a slim menthol cigarette to and from your mouth. You think of all the guys who could have been good to you, if only you hadn’t been blinded to their advances. You had saved yourself for him even while you were broken up… Flicking the cigarette butt away, you look up to see the ripeness of the full moon and for a little while you are humbled by the knowledge that life will always go on, the world is full of underrated beauty and hope, and you are but a tiny speck of nothingness in the grand scheme of things. You scroll through your music playlist and get to Robin Thicke – Lost Without You. You take a gulp of the red. And hit delete. And it’s not so bad after all. Joy Mamudu writes in her spare time and whenever she is not too worn out from her day job. She blogs twitter: @msmeddle

Present day – 17/5/2008. It’s your birthday today and you are 25 years old. It’s a Saturday but you woke up trying to remember what day it is. You don’t easily remember because you are weird. You are weird because you don’t like birthdays. You don’t like birthdays because your life has been a sour one for the past 15 years. Your life has been sour because you always lose something so dear to you, on your birthdays. ‘’Today won’t be an exception’’, you say to yourself. You are about to walk to the bathroom when you hear it, that familiar knock which you always hear on your birthdays. That knock which belongs to nobody and to somebody. Knock… Knock… Knock… You walk apprehensively to the door and open it but see nobody. You quickly step back in and close the door with a bang. Then you hear that tiny voice, tiny but very clear, ‘’I told you i would come back, didn’t i?’’. You then realize that it’s about to happen again. You are going to lose a part of you so dear to you, again. It has been like this with you For the past 15 years. You fall to the floor with your back to the door and cry yourself to stupor. 16 years ago – 13/9/1992 It’s your best friend’s birthday today and she is 9 years old, same age as you. Excitement is in the air as the birthday party has begun. Everything is in order; the food, drinks, and the cake. Your friend looks so beautiful in her knee length pink dress with a white bow tied to her hair and her white flat shoe with pink dots on it. She walks around with smiles on her face, greeting her friends. Music is playing and everyone is showering the birthday girl with gifts and birthday wishes. The MC invites her to come and dance. She is not shy at all as she steps on the dance floor. You stand at a distance and watch. You are supposed to be happy for her but you are not. Because, jealousy. Because, anger. ‘’Why should she have all the good things?” you ask yourself. ‘’What is so special about her?’’ Impulsively, you walk into the house to ‘’deal with her’’. Everybody is outside dancing, so the house is empty. All the gifts that she had collected earlier are sitting on the floor of the sitting room. You go into the kitchen, get a box of matches and a gallon of kerosene, come out to the sitting room, pour the kerosene on the gifts and set it on fire. You quickly run out of the house to join the others outside. Moments later, the shouts of ‘’Fire! Fire! Fire!’’ rend the air. Your friend’s house is on fire. Everyone is running around trying to put off the fire. You spot your friend in a corner crying and you smile with satisfaction. Her birthday has  been ruined. The house was not completely burnt but the gifts were. It became obvious to everyone that someone set fire to the gifts. Your friend is shattered and inconsolable. You are there pretending to console her when she says, ‘’Whoever it is that set my gifts on fire and ruined my birthday will always lose something he/she loves dearly on his/her birthdays until the day he/she dies’’. You knew not that her words were serious and that bad karma would come after you. Present day. Those words have been your undoing until today. You have tried so much not to love anyone or anything for some years now because you don’t want to lose them to the cold hands of death. You’ve lost everything. Last year, on your birthday, your house mysteriously caught fire and you managed to escape from it unscathed. Everything got burnt including your younger brother. Karma has really dealt with you. You lie on the floor pondering on the words you just heard, ‘’I told you I would come back, didn’t i?’’. This is strange, because for the past 14 years the words had always been, ‘’I told you I would come back, didn’t i? Well see you again, same time, next year’’. Today, why doesn’t it say ‘’See you again next year.” Maybe             it is because there is nothing to lose this time. Happiness which has eluded you all these years begin to fill your heart. ‘’I have lost everything. I have nothing else to lose. I am free!’’. You get up from the floor with agility, ready to go about your daily business. You enter the bathroom to take your bath, but in the twinkle of an eye, you step on water, slip and fall hitting your head hard on the tiles. You hear it again before you finally welcome the darkness, ‘’I told you I would come back, didn’t I?” Little did you know that today, you’ll lose one last thing which you love so much – your life. Egbo Precious Nzubechukwu was born on 3rd August 1996 in Enugu State Nigeria. She is from Umuagu-Obeagwu Ozalla in Nkanu West LGA in Enugu State. She is the last of five children. She completed her secondary education at Federal Government College Enugu in 2014 and is currently a university aspirant who wants to study Medical Rehabilitation. She lives in Enugu state. She loves writing, reading, singing and listening to music

Ray’s submission was as expected. Having contributed several short stories to Jaguda Quarterly, the young writer’s love for blood and gore had become familiar. A cursory scan of the opening paragraph once again proved the genius with which the writer curated devastation. However, there was something unnerving about this entry. A sinister veil clung to every word, and line after line, the tale built to a tempo too haunting to dismiss. The editor reached for a cigarette, lit up, laid back on the recliner, and began reading the story a fourth time. The mandate was clear: they were to bring his head. The Hyenas understood the task. The legend had been told from generation to generation. They were the privileged ones; the ones chosen to add another glorious chapter to the legacy of the Society. The six of them waited in silence. In a few minutes, they would earn their spots in the Hyenas’ Hall of Fame and become part of the Hyenas’ thriving folklore. The would be immortalized. This was the day the Hyenas had chosen. They would rejoice and be glad in it. Church bored him. The rites and rituals were a drag. For many years he avoided any kind of congregational worship. But this day, he was left with no other choice. He had asked the hand of a retired Archbishop’s last daughter in marriage. There was no way the renowned clergyman would give his blessings anywhere else but in church. “If anyone has any reason why these two should not be joined in holy matrimony, please speak up now or forever hold your peace,” the officiating Bishop announced unrushed, each word reverberating off the cathedral walls. Having never witnessed such an objection he adjudges this portion another banal requirement that ought to be done away with. He desperately wants to yawn, but he puts up an attentive veneer, an art honed from years of practice. After all, he was going to be an Archbishop’s son-in-law. “If there is no one, then we shall proceed,” said the Bishop in a manner which showed he had done it by rote many times. “Before nko,” the groom muttered to himself as the Bishop launched a brief sermon e about the sanctity of marriage. He heard without really listening and waited for the only part that mattered to him. “Do you, Adeagbo David, take Ilekhomon Elizabeth, as your lawfully wedded wife, to have and to hold, from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, until death do you part?” “I do,” he answered with a depth and fullness in his voice, as he looked into the eyes of his pretty bride. She blushed, and cast a glance at the diamond-encrusted ring resting on her fourth finger. The Bishop turned to her and repeated the same lines. “I do,” she replied and the church came alive with a standing ovation. “You may now kiss the bride,” the Bishop shouted above the thunderous applause. That was the sign they had been waiting for. Six of them got out of the mini bus and jogged towards the east entrance of the cathedral. They approached with axes in hand, chanting the Creed of the Hyenas in unison, “…to do as told, to defend as needed, to fight, to die, to kill, to protect, whatever it may cost me, even the ultimate price, to defend the honour of the Hyenas worldwide.” Sighting them, congregants seated close to the entrance sprang up in a frenzy and pandemonium ensued. Soon, the hysteria spread across the massive cathedral like a tidal wave. Horror had come to church. He heard the familiar chant from afar. It was something from his past, from a dark corner of his life he never wanted to relive. He saw them as he turned towards the exit. They look like a Nollywood version of The Expendables: purple bandanas tied across prominent foreheads, taut biceps encased in snug black T-shirts. They look exactly the way he must have looked that Friday afternoon fourteen years ago. Akeem became the Amir of the Muslim Students’ Society, Federal University of Lagos in the latter part of 2002. Smallish and whippet-thin with a brush of goatee on a narrow face, the Amir was respected by his ummah but fiercely avoided by the rest of the student populace because of his aggressive views on campus gangsterism. Sermon after sermon, he berated the evil and swore that given the chance he would do everything within his powers to rid the institution of the menace. That vehement commitment had compelled him into the student union, where he was eventually elected President of the Students’ Union Government; thanks to the massive support of his course mates in Mass Communication –the largest department on campus- and the Muslim student society. It was then they began to call him Alfa Aluta. He couldn’t have asked for a better nickname. Alfa Aluta went after known and suspected cultists with cut-throat ferocity. Many were arrested, some were dismissed from school while others faced legal prosecution and ended up behind bars. Many more were forced to publicly denounce their membership. In one semester, the university was purged. Fellow students cheered him on and the authorities applauded his quest. He became a hero. But he had made enemies amongst the various fractured confraternities. Only one cult group mustered enough leverage to take him on. They called themselves the Hyenas. The rumour mill had it that the Brotherhood of the Hyenas sought to avenge the ridicule their members had suffered at Alfa Aluta’s hands. From a different campus, they set up a strike force of six and went after the unionist. One Friday afternoon, as he left the mosque after juma’at, Alfa Aluta was shot dead. Two quick fire shots to the chest brought him down. The riots that followed his murder were unprecedented in the University’s history. Property belonging to suspects were vandalized and or looted. Cars were set on fire. The halls thought to be housing the culprits were burnt down. Those believed to be girlfriends of the cultists were publicly assaulted. Anarchy was set loose. To arrest the tension, the Vice Chancellor announced an indefinite closure of the campus. And everyone went home. Days later, it was announced that the 6 suspects had been rounded up across four different campuses and taken into police custody. Five of them died while in custody. Only one escaped. Word got around that he was escorted out of the country by a team of police officers. It turned out he was the only son of the State’s Commissioner of Police. It didn’t take long for the Hyenas to gather that it was the boy who ratted them out. The Brotherhood declared him persona non grata amongst the rank and file of confraternities and a pledge was made to ensure the renegade paid for the breach of trust with his life. The editor rubbed his eyes as the familiarity of the story hit home. Memories flooded him with astonishing clarity. He got up from the recliner and peered down the length of the swimming pool. There was no soul in sight. But he knew he was not alone. He could smell death, like the smell of a decaying rat in a stuffy room. “Hi, Davo,” a voice came out of the gloom. The editor froze and peered into the darkness. No one had called him Davo since he had been smuggled out of the country years ago. And no one had, since he returned some 8 months back. “It’s been a while, brother,” the voice said. Six silhouettes stepped out of the shadows. Five of them held small axes, while the sixth was armed with a sawed-off shotgun. David could barely make out the bandanas on their heads. Hyenas! “Guys, please. Don’t do this. Please my brothers…” The eerie slide of metal over metal stopped him as the one with the pump action readied his weapon. Ignoring his growing panic, they began to recite the Creed. “…to do as told, to defend as needed, to fight, to die, to kill, to protect, whatever it may cost me…” He had forgotten all about the finality of the Creed. In that instant, he broke into a run. The pump action went to work. The bullet carved a fist sized hole through his spin and slammed his fleeing form forward against the tiled floor. The shooter stepped close to the fallen man. Ignoring the feverish twitches of his victim’s body, he pulled back the barrel, chambered the next cartridge and pumped another round of shots into the editor’s forehead, splattering his brains all over the floor. Satisfied, they faded into the shadows. They had earned their legend. The text message had just one word: DONE. Fourteen years of pain and vengeance had been finally put to rest. Rasheedah rose from bed, and did ablution. She then threw her hijab around her head and rolled out her prayer mat. She would make prayers for the repose of her dear brother’s soul,the one they called Alfa Aluta, the one who first called her Ray. “Inna Lillahiwainnailaihiraji’un,” she began. A dam of grief bursts giving way to streams of tears. Bankole writes to live. Winner of the Christmas Nostalgia Contest (Naija Stories 2012); Finalist, Farafina New African Writing contest (2013); Gold Winner, Young Lagos Advertising Ideas Festival (young LAIF 2012); Winner, Miami Ad School Scholarship competition (2014); he currently works in Corporate Communications of a foremost Insurance Company. His short stories have been featured in a couple of anthologies including the ANA Review (2013), Of Tears and Kisses, a collection of short stories on Naija Stories (2012), A Basket of Tales, a Benue ANA publication (2015), amongst others. twitter: @banky_writes

Her husband’s dirty clothes from yesterday are still unwashed. The children will soon return from school and lunch is not ready yet. Mama Osas picks up the match box from the trolley close to her television, the cellophane of salt, her container of Maggi and another of ground pepper and heads towards the kitchen. Maybe I go just make yam for them, or small concoction rice. I no get power to cook another thing. She has been sleeping since everyone left the house. Rest only comes in snatches when her husband and children are out. The kitchen is located at the back of the ‘face me I face you’ house, not far away from the toilet. “Mama John, good afternoon o”, she greets her neighbor who is engrossed in the song as she washes the mountain of clothes in front of her, her movements synchronized to the song. Her stove is on a cabinet for easy access because of her condition. Her hand impulsively caresses her baby bump and she smiles. She is carrying a messiah, a savior, the son who will remove suffering from her life. Everything suddenly has been good for the past few months. Her husband refrains from hitting her, scared that he might hurt his son. All he does is throw insults instead of the blows that had been her portion during the other pregnancies. This boy is special, and is to be protected from harm. Someone touches her lightly on the arm. It is Mama John asking if everything is fine. “No mind me jare. I dey fine, I just dey think some things.” She picks up a tuber of yam and starts peeling. “You see as papa Gift take beat mama Gift this morning?” Mama John says. She ignores her. “You dey hear me so?” “Me? Na wetin you talk?” “Where your mind even dey sef? Na wa o. I say whether you no see as Papa Gift take hammer Mama Gift this morning?” Mama Osas rolls her eyes and replies, “I hear o, wetin happen sef?” “Wetin happen? Wetin dey happen for that house wey pass Gift? Me I no even know who that man marry sef, whether na Gift abi na Mama Gift.” “Ehen? So na Gift make am wan kill him wife this morning?” “Yes na. Gift been dey complain say she no wan go wan go school, naim her Mama beat am. Papa Gift wey no know wetin happen for the matter, just hear him pikin dey cry, e no even ask wetin happen, e just give the wife pow for face!” A sudden stab of pain makes Mama Osas drop her knife. “Yes o, na so the surprise sef take catch me. You dey drop knife, me wey almost drop my pot of soup nko? I thank God sha say e nor fall, because for this economy, my husband for just kill me throwaway!” Another stab of pain hits. Experience from having three children tells Mama Osas what is happening. She picks up her knife and continues peeling, faster now. “Na so o. That girl ehn, as she small so, every time her mama go dey cry because of am. Na everything wey she want the Papa dey give am.” Mama Osas grunts. “I even hear say Papa Gift dey touch him pikin,” Mama John whispers. “Na die that man dey find so. Him go just die throwaway. Tufiakwa!” Mama John moves a hand in a circular motion round her head and snaps her fingers to express the abomination. Mama Osas stops peeling suddenly. Athink they tell me say make I begin come hospital once I smell labour make my pikin for no die? She packs everything including the yam peels back into the cabinet. “Mama Osas, wetin you dey do?” “Nothing o.” She remembers that for some reason Mama John is always around when she’s having a baby. She won’t let that happen this time. “This one wey you dey squeeze your face so…” “Na nothing o, na so I dey do my face sometimes o, I no even know why.” Mama Osas returns to her room with hands still dirty from peeling yam and picks up the nylon bag holding her delivery items that had been carefully arranged for more than a month. Minutes later she walks out of her room and jams the door shut, then walks out the compound. She bites her lower lip from groaning aloud as she waits for an okada. One stops for her after a few minutes. “Madam you dey go?” “Yes o. Fate Hospital.” “Hope everything dey ok.” “Just carry me go,” she says. “Na one fifty o” he says, his face changing from concern to annoyance at her tone.” “Ehn? 150 ke? Wetin them dey carry fifty naira?” “You dey go abi you wan talk story?” “Oya make I give you 100 naira,” she says. He kicks his bike in preparation to zoom off.” “Oya carry me make we go.” In ten minutes, they are at the hospital. Mama Osas only finds a two hundred naira note in her wallet and hurries inside without waiting to collect her change. Immediately she enters the reception, she screams, “Labour o! Labour o!” nurses come to her aid. “Na our patient she be?” the younger nurse asks. “Yes, she register for here.” “You no serious o. So if I no register for here nko? You no go answer me abi?” Mama Osas raises her voice, releasing some of the pain she has been suppressing for almost an hour. “Madam no be so, na new nurse be this,” the other nurse says. “She just start work yesterday na im make she dey ask. How your body?” “Na im you dey see so o, make this boy comot for my body make I rest.” “God go do am for you, na small small,” the new nurse says. The doctor on duty came out as soon as he was informed about Mama Osas’s presence. She screams immediately she sets eyes on him. “Doctor my boy wan come out o.” The doctor smiles. “Take her to the labour room and get everything set. Call me when she is ready.” Dr. Esele walks into the ward. Inside, a woman sits on the edge of her bed staring at a newborn inside a crib just beside the bed. She turns when she becomes aware of his presence and looks up at him. He nods in answer to her unspoken query. Everything is fine. *** Mama Osas is tired from pushing for so long. It has never been this difficult for her. A part of her mind reminds the fact that this is a boy, and she relaxes before summoning all her strength for a mighty heave. “I see the head,” Dr Esele says. “Keep pushing.” A baby wails. She’s done it, finally. Her son is here, her world will change for the better. She watches as the doctor takes the baby from the nurse who is going to clean him up. “I’ll handle this myself. This is one special baby.” Mama Osas smiles. The cry of a baby snaps Dr. Esele to the present and he looks at the child being stretched towards him. “He’s yours now, thank you for this precious little girl,” the woman says with a British accent while staring at the baby who is now in the crib the boy once occupied. Dr. Esele starts rocking the boy in his arms so he can stop crying. “Hope she’s fine? No complications?” “She’s fine,” he assures her. “We need to leave now because the new mother will want to see her son.” “Of course,” she says. She retrieves a suitcase from beneath the bed and drops it on the bed. “This is yours, five million naira cash, as agreed.” Dr. Esele drops the baby on the bed and opens the suitcase. His eyes widen at the number of freshly minted one thousand naira notes in one place. “Thank you for doing this for me,” the woman says. “It means a lot.” Gently she lifts the little baby from the crib and cuddles her. “What can I say?” Dr. Esele asks. We thank God.” He locks the suitcase with care and picks up the baby, dressed in a coverall that isn’t part of the things Mama Osas brought. Of course he has an explanation for that already. “This is it then. We part ways to never see again.” “Of course,” he answers. In his mind they have never met. He doesn’t even know her name, she never told him. She walks out of the room and with the baby in one arm and her bag in the other, looking back one last time to ensure she’s forgotten nothing behind. Never again will she go through the ordeal, this is her last child. Never again will she care for a child only to have him die in her arms. One is better off with a healthy daughter, than a sickly son. Linda Orajekwe is a graduate of English language and literary studies from Lagos State University. A social media manager and a Journalist with a certificate in public relations from the Nigerian Institute of Public Relations. She promotes the African culture and literature through her blog When Linda is not writing, reading, beading, sewing or talking, she’s definitely watching a movie or looking for shadows to chase. 

It’s been one of those days. The kind of day that leaves me feeling undervalued, undermined, and feeling that I deserve better than what I’m getting from the tyrants who call themselves my employers. I’m wondering whether I’m actually cut out for the career path I chose, or whether I missed the call when it came to determining professions. I am scared of failing, scared of ending up as an also-ran, scared of letting down my family and myself. I could end up choking to death on these depressing thoughts if I remain seated behind this office desk, so  I decide to take a walk to clear my head. Hands in pocket, earphones plugged, playlist swinging from John Mayer’s “Stop This Train” to The Script’s “Breakeven”, I look for a different perspective, a new distraction, something to save my mind from the drudgery that is paid employment. “Okpa di oku. Okpa di oku!” The call pierces through my earphones, and ultimately interrupts my thoughts. She is selling a meal which is a distant cousin of moin-moin though made from a different plant, and more filling. I stand and stare at her and my eyes meet hers. She walks in my direction, assuming my interest is in buying what she has to sell. A smile finds its way to my face as I inhale the steamy aroma of her stock. It reminds me of the city to which the meal is indigenous, of a phase in my life and of a girl named Oge. I first ran into her three years ago at a students’ conference; one of those conferences where youths gathered for purposes other than the central theme. I needed the distraction; I was in my final semester and my project supervisor happened to be competing with the villain in Maleficient to see who was meaner so I took the trip to ease my mind. Then again, the host university was located in a city of which I knew nothing about except its popularity for coal and limestone and I wanted to find out more for myself. I had been drawn to her wit, and despite her attempts to ward me off, finding my overconfidence annoying, I found ways to bump into her for a better part of the three days the conference lasted. I was in a camera-happy moodand even when she did not want to, she ended up in my phone’s photo gallery. My stubbornness ultimately paid off, and by the time I made the return journey to school, my contact list had a new addition. The four-hour trip from coal country to Ancient sands had Oge’s image dominating my thoughts, and while I faced the last lap of my undergraduate sojourn, I longed to see her again. There was something in those eyes that reminded me of Nse Ikpe Etim, there was the nose I wanted to rub with mine, and there was all the sarcasm I could not get enough of. As Fate would have it, we had a chance to choose the location for the next phase of our academic pursuit, in our quest to become lawyers. I couldn’t pass up the opportunity; I chose Coal City. I got what I wished for, and while that branch of the Nigerian Law School was not the most conducive in terms of infrastructure, there was something to look forward to on weekends. My first official weekend in Coal City had coincided with Oge’s birthday, and I remember telling Clara, a friend whom I had accompanied for shopping at the city mall, to help take my purchases back to school, as I had something ‘urgent’ to attend to. “If I don’t return by 8pm, something is wrong,”I told Clara. I met with Oge at a secluded area of the city mall upon Clara’s exit, and she told me of how her birthday was shaping up to be a bore-fest. I took a ride with her on the mall’s roller coaster and gave her a treat, all too glad to save the day. I returned to the campus by 9pm that day, Clara and my other colleagues wearing huge cloaks of worry on their faces. I was right; something was wrong. Oge was what had gone wrong with me. More trips to the heart of the city on weekends followed, accompanied by long phone calls, but while I flashed all the signals, her heart refused to switch from red to green. I eventually poured out my feelings in black and white, but my application for admission into Oge’s emotional space was turned down. As is the usual reaction when a man’s love is unrequited, I withdrew, cutting off all forms of communication. This did not last long though. Just when I thought I had her out of my head, text messages with the words “I miss you” flowed in. I began to hope again, and laced my love-boots. In my opinion, there was still a chance of being Oge’s significant other. My fondness for Oge began to reflect in my attitude to the city. The “okpa” began to taste better, especially when washed down with a 35cl bottle of Coca-cola. The city lights became brighter, the roads appeared smoother, I fell in love with music from Phyno, and places like Trans-Ekulu, Nike Lake and Independence. Layout began to appeal to me. Heck, I even joined in fervent prayers when the governor of the state was away from the country, unable to perform his official duties due to a mysterious illness. In spite of the long nights out however, red light never turned to green, and in time, I threw in the towel, channelling the energy to my academics. I was however civil enough to provide room for one last rendezvous; after my make-or-mar professional examinations, I delayed my journey home by a few days, agreeing to spend time with Oge in one of the city’s half-decent guest houses. It was in one of those suites that I found out the reason why she had refused to grant a lease of her heart: someone was already in residence. Twenty-months have passed since I last set my eyes on Oge. Communication is infrequent, but nothing, nothing beats physical contact. Technology can only do so much, and phone calls don’t give me the chance to stroke her hair. I miss her to bits, and the feeling is mutual, but circumstances are a lot different now, and wishes remain wishes. Now I don’t plan to steal love away from anyone, but I am just saying that if Oge opened even one of her emotional windows, I would jump right in. I know her heart is someone else’s, but I wouldn’t mind being allotted just a corner of the room, with a little mat to lay on. I get curious;I want to find out just how her brand of lipstick tastes, how flexible she is and how fast her pulse can get. “Okpa di oku! Oga, i-nwe-ne?” I look up. The woman’s eyes nurse hope that I will buy from her. I shake my head and smile, not because her okpa is inferior or not steamy enough, but because I fear that after eating, I just might be tempted to board a bus to Coal City, just to get a chance to rub my nose against Oge’s. This first appeared on Kalahari Review. Ifeanyi Jerry Chiemeke is a lawyer and freelance writer who lives in Lagos. A foodie and enthusiast of the Fine Arts as well, Jerry’s works have been featured on Brittlepaper and The Kalahari Review

By Simi Oba-Pedro Four doctors and six x-rays later, nobody could tell Olori why her right knee hurt like it did. It started off as minor discomfort, then pressure and now, it felt like all the tendons were torn. It was why she always had to recline and stretch her right leg when sitting, like she was doing now in the middle of Murtala Mohammed Airport. Because of the angry, sometimes curious glances she got about her sprawling leg, she had ordered a knee brace from Konga. Olori was on her way to Abuja, and in another four days, Borno. She had been to sixteen Nigerian states in six months, and sometimes traveling by road was the only option. She had come to absolutely detest the sitting for long hours, not cooking her own meals, and even the sightseeing. She couldn’t wait to quit at the British Council in six months when she would have saved enough to open a small studio cum gallery and afford rent on her own apartment. Most of her belongings were stashed at her parents and she looked forward to having furniture she could call her own, a kitchen to beat eggs in and an internal environment she could control. Her flight was being delayed without explanation or apology and she adjusted her right leg and her luggage. Julia Michaels was on repeat in her ears and her chewing gum had lost its taste in her mouth. Water was dripping from the roof and a cleaner had put a bucket earlier to manage the leak. She sighed. This was the one of the main gateways to Nigerian’s economy, the nation’s busiest airport and the roof was leaking right in the middle. The airport was humid as the air conditioners were almost permanently off or faulty. The band of her shorts was damp and there was a fan in Olori’s left hand waving furiously at her face and neck while trickles of sweat slid down her cleavage uninterrupted.She had to come to the airport at least two hours before her flight and expected to leave the airport two hours after landing because it took forever to retrieve baggage and other checked-in items. The excuse was that the conveyor belt system was old and slow. The ethics of the uniformed officials was another shameful matter entirely. Olori’s tail bone whimpered from being stuck in the same position for two hours and she was shifting in her seat when she saw Chris. She had imagined this moment for seven years now, and it was happening on this hot Tuesday afternoon, her almost 33 years old, with rough braids and her top clinging to her body. All of her expectations – the eye contact, followed by stopping in tracks and a clap of thunder in the sky – were cut short as he didn’t even look in her direction. He was walking towards the entrance, dragging his box behind him and had stopped to make a call. He was less than four feet from her and he looked like he always had. He still used Power by 50 Cent, she could smell it. Inertia held her captive ass he watched him. His gestures were animated, his voice clipped as he spoke to whosoever was supposed to pick him. Olori had always expected him to call or at least mail her. She could not accept that he wouldn’t eventually. Hours turned into days, days into weeks,weeks into months and her tears continued to flow. She called him and he didn’t pick up. One night she got drunk and set her phone on permanent redial for six hours. She knew him to be impatient and irritable, but he never dithered. She wrote his parents and his parents wrote her back. She knocked on his apartment door, but it’s either he was never in or seemed to know that she was the one. She mailed him every day for 131 days. She told him about her day, sometimes attaching a picture of a painting she had done. She always apologised and reminded her that this wasn’t constructive; his attitude, his silence. He never replied. He didn’t block her, he just stayed mute. She went to his Faculty, his spot in the library, his favourite coffee shop, visited Francis in the hospital but she never saw him or bumped into him. Francis was in her corner throughout that period, with his left hand set in a cast because of an accident that was her fault. She liked telling the story of their relationship, about how they were friends throughout their four-year study at the University of Lagos, and how he had had a controlling girlfriend. That relationship ended during their National Youth Service Corps year and they became closer. She had been his breakup buddy and sounding board. At the end of service year, she had moved to Onikan to be near the art hotspots: Freedom Park, Muson Centre, Bogobiri house, African Artists Foundation, TerraKulture; and he had gotten a job in Lekki. They went exploring almost every evening and he attended all her Behance exhibitions. She never guessed how he felt about her until he kissed her on Oriental Hotel rooftop after a night of spoken word, barbecued goat meat and a bottle of Baileys. She kissed him back and it was magic. Three weeks later, they were in an official relationship and their happiness was unparalleled. When Chris got a scholarship for his Masters’ degree in Germany eight months later, it took her less than a minute’s deliberation to decide to go to Germany too. After all, her two preferences, Paris and Amsterdam were just train rides away. They could even go on vacations together, she reasoned. FreieUniversität Berlin quickly became home for them. In fact, being away from Nigeria brought them closer because all they had was each other. They both lived in the Student Village near the Schlachtensee Lake although in different buildings. Chris enjoyed his Physics and she breezed through Art History. Chris was the sanguine one, so he made friends and his friends became her friends. Life was perfect for them. Chris was her first boyfriend and he was perfect. He wrote with lipstick on her bathroom mirror whenever he slept over and had flowers delivered to her door every Sunday evening by 5pm. He bought her expensive white nougat chocolate. He was sensitive to her needs and moods, and was respectful of her space and time when she needed to paint. He had held her hand while her belly button was pierced and sat in the hospital reception for three hours when an infection ravaged the wound. He was embarrassingly honest with her, and all her complicated ‘onion layers’ as he called it faded around him. Olori dropped her hand fan as an air conditioner gurgled to life and brought her back to the present. Her phone beeped on her lap and someone bumped into her outstretched leg. She didn’t apologize. The insults aimed at her and the announcement blaring from the speakers about boarding for the 3pm Abuja passengers were distant sounds. Fear, anger and regret through her as Chris turned and met her eyes. She forgot to breathe as she looked at him. Nothing had changed. Chris’s family had come visiting for Christmas. He was born on Christmas day so it was a double celebration. She had met his mum before she left Nigeria and kept in touch. Meeting his dad, two younger twin sisters; Morounfolu and Eniola and his best friend and cousin, Francis was a bigger deal. The twins were 15 years old and the life of the party. Francis was quieter, easy going and pleased to finally meet his cousin’s girl. She ran around to ensure their comfort and planned an itinerary of events to make sure they had the right exposure to the beauty that is Germany and also that they were never bored. She cooked Nigerian meals and took his sisters shopping. One night during the first week oftheir 19-day stay, he had taken her in his arms and buried his head in her hair, thanking her for making his family her family. She cried. It was the day after his birthday, after a lot of cake and peppered snails and pounded yam, after sharing gifts and receiving them that it happened. On the itinerary for that day was a trip to the new Berlin Skyrider Park in Kreuzberg. Olori had been there a month before at its opening and had taken the roller coaster ride. She had put it on the itinerary immediately. That morning, Chris’s mum and dad decided to sleep in and Chris wanted to give her some time alone to bond with his sisters as they would be leaving in a week. Francis volunteered to drive them and it was settled. The thirty-two-minute ride to the park was full of tense excitement as the girls chattered away. The park was crawling with people and there were long queues at every turn. Not wanting to disappoint the girls, she ushered them to the inline tube water slide. Eniola was scared of large bodies of water and refused to go in. Morounfolu decided to be brave on the condition that Francis took the ride with her while Olori took a video with her phone. She had agreed and over forty people gradually teemed into the slide. Olori stood stunned, unable to move, still recording a video as the water slide collapsed twelve minutes later. There were screams from the pool and from Eniola who was standing next to her. She still had nightmares about that day; seeing people drown, seeing people being flung far and apart, seeing metal bend and thrust and slam into bodies. Eniola screamed and screamed. The events that followed happened in a haze. Emergency services went into action and closed off the area. She remembered being sent to the hospital with others for being in shock. Eniola had held her hand in the ambulance, crying and saying she had not seen her sister or Francis. Olori tried to call Chris but she couldn’t find her phone. He found them two hours later, in the hospital after Eniola called him. He rushed in with his mum and dad and Olori closed her eyes. Her hands shook, her skin was clammy as the build-up of emotion clogged her chest. She tried to sleep but the screams and the panic as more people were brought to the hospitals pierced her senses. She tried to remember detail by detail what had happened and yearned for her phone. She never found her phone but she saw the video she shot on the news hours later. After hours of lying still and pretending to be asleep, steady silence took over the hospital floors. A nurse had come to check her twice and she overheard her telling someone that she was still in shock and she needed time to rest. Tears slipped out of her eyes and she tried not to sniff. The cup of coffee she had in the morning continued to curdle in her bladder and the joints were beginning to rebel against the hospital bed. She sat up and was hit by a wave of nausea, she stayed still for a moment and opened her eyes to find Chris sitting in a chair with his head nesting in his palms. ‘Babe?’Olori called out tentatively, her voice shaking. This could only mean the worst. The Berlin Skyrider Park accident was her fault, their undoing. Chris looked up and she read his pain in his red puffy eyes. Chris never cried, this could only mean the worst. Olori recoiled and burst into tears. Chris sat and watched her. She needed to explain, to apologise, to do anything that would make it right but instead her words snuck out of her eyes and rolled down her cheeks. A bitter taste rose from her throat to her tongue, her stomach contracted violently and she rushed through the door marked toilet in her hospital room. She dry-heaved over the toilet bowl for a few minutes before washing her face. She remembered to pee, wringed her hands and took deep breaths to keep dread at bay and face whatever had happened, whatever would happen. But Chris was gone by the time she came out of the toilet. That was the last time she had seen him. Till now. Morounfolu had died from crushed lungs and Francis had his left hand amputated because it had been affected by gangrene. The guilt started to eat at her as she stood at Francis’ bedside and it had not stopped ever since. Painting about it, writing about it, making apologies every Christmas to Chris’s parents and Francis didn’t stop it. Even Eniola hugging her after she was discharged from the hospital didn’t assuage her guilt. They forgave her. They told her it wasn’t her fault before they returned to Nigeria with Morounfolu’s body six days later. Francis had remained in Germany for four months and she visited him every day. She cooked him food, painted him and for him, and read him books. She was there for his physiotherapy and when his prosthesis was secured for the first time. She knew Chris was always around. His perfume lingered in Francis’ room and left her longing for him. Francis told her to give him time and promised that he would come around. Olori wrote his parents, apologising profusely for taking their daughters to the park, apologising for the accident and wishing she could turn back the hands of time. She always asked how Eniola’s therapy was going. She sent the paintings she had done in Morounfolu’s memory. They wrote back, asking about her welfare, telling her it was an accident, telling her to concentrate on her schoolwork and thanking her for writing. There was never any mention of Chris. She stopped writing them after a while. They were far too kind and that turned her guilt meter up a notch. She left Germany two years after the accident. She painted a series of gripping horrific images of that day which she called Her brush strokes told her version of events of the accident and immortalized the thirty-two people who had lost their lives. Her series had put on the radar of the British Council and seven years later, she couldn’t wait to fly under. Chris’s eyes fixated on her and he ate her up. He still hated her. She had killed his sister, and turned his best friend and cousin handicap. He still had not forgiven her and the tremor in Olori’s jaw assured her that he never would. Her phone vibrated on her lap and it was a welcome distraction. She had never learned to cry in style and she blinked back tears while clearing her throat. When she looked back up, Chris was hugging a woman. She was shorter than him and she stood on her tiptoes and kissed him. She smoothened his ruffled hair and disheveled shirt. The ring on her left hand glittered.She also happened to be carrying a baby that bore a spitting resemblance to Chris. They walked out of the airport, hand in hand. He didn’t look back. ‘Last call for boarding Flight Number 2227, Destination Abuja.Last call for passengers boarding the 3pm Abuja flight. Approach Terminal 3 now.’ The blare of the speaker was like a drill in her cerebral cortex forcing her back to the present. She reached into her handbag for a handkerchief and blew her nose. She stood up and made her way to the terminal with her hurting knee and heart. At least, she hadn’t missed her flight. Writing has been Simi’s desperate act of sanity for as long as she can remember. She longs to quit her day job and make literature and photography the centerpieces of her life. This story first appeared in Issue 2 of The Mainlander Publication. You can download this and other stories featured on the publication here

Mainland Book Café invites submissions for the 2016 volume of the chapbook collective in Poetry, Fiction and Visual Arts. Submission closes: 20th June 2016 Send your submissions to Submission Guidelines
  1. Fiction should not be more than 3000 words original writing, along with a short biographical statement (100 words max).
  2. Poetry should be original and properly formatted, along with a short biographical statement (100 words max).
  3. Visual arts can be drawing, painting, photography works. Send along with a short biographical statement (100 words max).
  4. There is not genre restriction and multiple submission is allowed.
Successful submissions will be notified via email and the writers contacted  after the submission window closes. *****
In case you missed it: Mainland Book Cafe unveiled Mashup #1

When English singer and songwriter, Adele, released the sonorous ballad – Hello, little did she know that it was going to caught on like wildfire. Still topping global charts weeks after it release, the song shows no sign of slowing down. And as the song became more popular, other artistes jumped on the trend voicing different covers for the song. But hey, why should musicians be the only ones to enjoy the fun, can’t writers join in too? So inspired by Abiodun (@Maskuraid), for the next few weeks, we would be publishing short story covers inspired by the of the monster hit – Hello. This week, delectable and uber-talented @neker17 takes a spin on Hello… enjoy! You can read @Maskuraid “Hello” short story here You can read @Anabagail “Hello” short story here ***** I just sat there and stared. Blankly. There was a constant ringing in my ears. I wasn’t sure whether it was from the drone of the fat nuns in the choir singing a dirge or from the sweet smell of the burning incense from the altar that reminded me of something I needed so badly right now – a cigarette. I had endured the past week without being able to smoke as freely as I would if I were back in my flat. No one in the family knew I smoked. Anyway, It would have been hard to detect through the layers of expensive perfumes I wore. My signature ruby-red lipstick kept my charred lips well hidden. I was hardly seen without make-up. My nicotine craving was quickly forgotten as the rustle of clothing and creaking of pews made me realise people were getting up. I stood up with the rest of the family. The clergymen files past first, followed by the bearers of the hearse. The immediate family members followed, and I took the rear, as usual. The buzz in my ears continued as we made our way outside to the church cemetery. There, the smell of freshly dug earth mixed with the scent of the incense, was his scent. No, it wasn’t a figment of my imagination. It was his scent. No one else smelled that way. I looked up, and around, calmly telling myself if was the grief (or maybe the nicotine craving) that was playing on my senses. And then. I saw him. Same white kaftan he wore the last time I had seen him….alive. He and I had had a fight. He had driven off in anger. I heard from his friend two years later that there had been an accident. No survivors. I had been too angry to grieve for him. And now he was here, by my father’s graveside. The dead mourning the dead. But, his gap-toothed smile looked too real to be unearthly. I moved closer, the priest’s funeral prayers were became white noise, muffled by the rush of blood to my ears. I moved towards him like a moth drawn to a flame. He held out his hand, ready to take mine as I approached him. In that outstretched palm I saw hope, and a chance to love again. I had gone six years failing at every attempt to find love and now, love had found me. Just when I needed it most. I got to where he was and his smile widened and all I could think of was whether his lips would still taste the same after all these years. “H..hi.” My voice was barely a whisper. “Hello…from the other side.” His raspy voice sounded faraway, like a half-wail, drowned out by shouts and screams from all around me. “Don’t let her fall!” I heard someone yell, just before my cheek connected with the red earth at the bottom of my father’s grave. ***** By Nneka Ezealor – Oladimeji

When English singer and songwriter, Adele, released the sonorous ballad – Hello, little did she know that it was going to caught on like wildfire. Still topping global charts weeks after it release, the song shows no sign of slowing down. And as the song became more popular, other artistes jumped on the trend voicing different covers for the song. But hey, why should musicians be the only ones to enjoy the fun, can’t writers join in too? So inspired by Abiodun (@Maskuraid), for the next few weeks, we would be publishing short story covers inspired by the of the monster hit – Hello. Abigail Anaba (@Anabagail) shares her Hello story with us this week You can read @Maskuraid “Hello” short story here *****

This will be the last time.  But that was the same thing he said the last time and the time before.  Yet,  he is determined never to walk down this road again. He has been remembering the faded memory of his mother too often of recent.  Sometimes she wears a wig like she does in the photo his father has displayed on the mantelpiece and sometimes she only wears a smile with the rest of her body blacked out.  Her eyes tell him everything he wants to know.  Her smile is one of dissatisfaction. Today will be the last time.

They had planned everything.  It will be simple enough, entry and exit will be clean.  This is what bothers him. He hated plans that were easy and straight forward.  The more complicated, the better. But he had neither a choice nor a say in this matter.  He wonders how the rest of the crew will react later tonight when he tells them he is done.  It has been five years. They were fam, blood but he has to stop.

Sting walks into the room, his diamond studs twinkling on his right earlobe like a star in a dark night.  Even if he hadn’t seen him,  he would have smelt him.  He had a distinctive body odour.  That was the first thing that had struck him that day five years ago when he had rolled under a packed “danfo”  to escape the chasing mob. The five minutes he spent waiting out the crowd was enough for him to get used to the smell for lifetime “Ready?” Sting asked.

There were murmurs from around the room and he had an overwhelming urge to tell them he wanted out. He didn’t. “Let’s go!”


They shouldn’t have any problems. They had stalked the target’s social media page and knew he would be away for at least a week.  He still posted pictures of he and his family from their Dubai trip a few hours ago.  He had tweeted at someone that his younger sister would be home. AY had run into her and they had quickly become friends. He will be letting them in.

All they wanted was the content of the safe.  Sting hadn’t revealed how he found out about the safe and its contents. It was worth five million naira. This was the largest heist they had ever been part of and they had to bring in two others to make five.  AY  was one, the other was the man’s driver. The driver lived in the Boy’s Quarters and his job was to leave the gate open and stay out of the way after. The Mai Guard would be praying at this time. They were to complete operations before he completes his prayers.  Nothing could possibly go wrong.

Sting had the gun. He never carried a gun.  Ake carried a knife which he hardly ever used.  They never resorted to violence… There was just this one time, but it was the only time.  He had taken a walk round the compound earlier in the day and he knew the terrain quite well. Once more he felt that tug,  the urge to back out.  He ignored it.

He looks at his watch,  it is exactly 8pm. He can hear the muezin call in the distance as they make it towards the gate.  He was to act as the sentry at the gate, just in case anyone chooses to pay an unexpected visit in the ten minutes they will be in the house. Sting and Ake will go in tie up AY and the girl; get the jewels out of the safe and walk right out. It suddenly occurred to him that he hadn’t asked if Sting knew the combination for the safe …It was too late to ask.

He tried to get his thoughts together.  Perhaps he will go back to school.  At 22 it isn’t too late for him to try to get a degree.  His father had tried to talk him into getting one earlier but he hadn’t been ready.  He remembers that day,  under the danfo when he first met Sting, how he levitated between holding his breath and holding down his morning meal due to the stench coming out of Sting’s body. He should have been in school that day but he had chosen to try out something he had watched in a movie and make some fast money. He had waited out the angry mob and when he wanted to leave, Sting had stopped him, saved him actually, he was older in the game and knew there was always that one person who would not leave with the crowd. The man had finally left convinced that he had vanished into thin air. “Sting,” Sting had said as they rolled out from under the bus and they had become friends from that moment.

The sound of the gun shot brought him back to reality. It had come from within the house leaving him quite confused.  They had agreed no shooting.  The sound of a scream from the house reverberated forcing the Mai Guard to abandon his prayers and start running towards the house. He watched him go,  hoping his comrades will be running out any moment. Instead he hears AY screaming.  It took him a while to realise what AY was saying then it registered.

“Barawo,  Barawo!”

He slips out of the compound as soundlessly as he can and then begins to walk away leisurely at first as the crowd begins to gather,  no one pays him any heed.  He stops himself from breaking into a run, that would be fatal.  He gets to the car.  Ake had left the key in the ignition.  He gets in and drives off slowly.  He would drive towards Seme and then disappear. The only hello they will be getting  from him will be from the other side of the border.

  [color-box] Abigail Anaba is a writer, teacher and thinker. She has been in the writing business for about fifteen years where she worked mostly in the movie and TV industry with writing credits to “Eve”, “I Just Came Back”, among others. She recently published her debut novel, SectorIV. [/color-box]