Unfortunately there will be no updates on Channel 1 or 2 this week due to an ongoing project I’m working on that is past its deadline. I apologize and I hope you will accept for now – a Static submission!
The working title of this story is Bakemono (Japanese for Monster) and it’s a YA Nigerian fantasy, I guess?
Interestingly enough, I was just reading today about how African writers need to move their fantasy stories away from rural settings and it’s something I strongly agree with… except in this story I started a million years ago where I gave myself a free pass to take it back to the village (or township or what you may) because
1. I’ve actually never done a Nigerian story based out of a rural area and
2. I’m cool.
Anyways, it’s unfinished, just a beginning – and a part of me is not convinced that I’m done with it.
What do y’all think? Should I finish this?
There was a time when I thought my life was boring.
There was never much to do for a fifteen year old in Lagos. I did the same things everyday, went to school, talked with my friends, came home, ate, did home work, watched TV and went to bed. On weekends there was more TV and chatting with my almost boyfriend A.J. (if he would just ask me out) online. There were just a few malls to go to and just a few cinemas too with several hours of traffic before each. All my friends and I ever did was watch TV and chat online.
I would often lie on my bed in my room, the blinding sunshine pouring in through my window, creating burglar proof shadows across my face and body, seeming to suggest I ought to be outside doing something, but what? I imagined the dullness of my life as a real pressure covering me like a heavy blanket and pushing me down into my mattress.
Sunshine meant nothing. Blue skies meant nothing. The music playing from my ipod speakers was all the same and every hour of every day was eternal. I was sure that one day the pressure would be enough to push me right through the mattress and I would disappear right into its soft darkness.
After my Dad died, I would often look back on that feeling with disbelief. Who was that girl with the easy, normal life? Friends to gossip with? A cook to make her favourite meals? Xbox and Wii games to play with her brother and an ongoing flirtation with a relatively popular guy? Was she really me?
Could that ever, really have been my life?
It’s usual for a death in the family to change one’s life radically. My Dad’s death was no exception, causing a seismic shift in my life that altered everything around me. In the week that followed the day he didn’t come home, all sorts of things I had never noticed became startlingly obvious. Financial troubles, the strain between my parents, the estrangement between our family and his.
No one ever spoke to me or my brother directly. We were shuttled around from family friend to family friend so we would not witness the tense battles going on in our living room between my Mom and her late husband’s family. But we always came home at night and since the day he didn’t come home, it seemed like my hearing had been tuned to the particular frequency that my Mom wept at. It didn’t matter how quietly she did it, I could hear her through walls.
Sometimes, Aunty Grace, her best friend would leave her own family to spend the night at our house. It was from their midnight conversations that I learned what I knew of our situation.
Apparently we were poor. We had been for some time. Also, Dad had been in trouble at work and that had something to do with why we were poor. Also his family blamed my Mom for his death. And my Mom believed that my Dad’s death was a suicide. These things I kept to myself, freezing them in a bubble that I stored inside to be examined much later when it didn’t feel like I was stuffed with cotton wool.
For a time, my brother and I continued to go to school because no one could think what else to do with us. It was a complete waste of time. Nothing any of my teachers said stayed in my head. Even when my friends talked to me, their voices always seemed to come from really far away.
My friends. I liked my class. We were not the smartest division of our form but everyone was friendly and the juniors rated us as some of the coolest seniors in school. I was friends with everyone but then I had particular friends like Simi Denloye and Meimunat Abdullahi who I’d been thick with since JSS 1. They were the ones that I did all my gossiping, confiding and dreaming with. Now they were the ones I couldn’t talk to.
I didn’t even know how to. I couldn’t find my own feelings to express and the things I was learning gagged in my throat before they could reach my mouth. It was easier not to talk at all.
But then how silly it made everything else seem. I could no longer view Mei’s illicit romance with Dayo that had to be hidden from her parents with the same grave and momentous sense of drama that I once had. I could see they felt uncomfortable bringing it up around me too which was hard because that had been our main thing around then.
I think they got a little frustrated with me after a while. They didn’t know what to say around me and I didn’t know how to help them. It was probably a relief for them too when Mom stopped making us go to school.
She stopped coming out of her room.
Akan (my brother) and I watched cable TV from morning to night. Sometimes I would get up to cook us all something (usually noodles or something that could be done in the microwave oven) or to go and take a shower if I felt too icky.
Sometimes I would just lie on my bed and face away from the window and the stupid persistent sunlight.
Our house was very quiet. Time had stopped. There was some comfort in that.
There was a wake and a funeral, both closed coffin. Then there was a small stiff reception after the funeral. Then it was done.
Everyone left except my father’s brother Uncle Marcus from the States. No one had seen him in over 10 years before he showed up for the funeral. My Mom took him into the kitchen and they had a long, hushed conversation. Akan brought out the Xbox and began to play while I watched.
When they finally stepped out of the kitchen he was still playing. Uncle Marcus smiled at me with sad eyes that were older than my Dad’s had been. He rubbed Akan’s head and then he left.
My Mom sat down in an arm chair and stared at the CG characters leaping about on the big flat screen TV then did something that shocked me profoundly. She retrieved a cigarette and a lighter, seemingly from nowhere, and with the easy grace of one long used to the practice, lit up and inhaled deeply.
As she exhaled a tense stream of smoke she had our attention.
“Regina, Akan,” she said smiling at us through the smoke, “how would you like to move away from here?”
Her question was rhetorical because the arrangements had already been made. We couldn’t stay at our house anymore. Even our things had to be sold.
Akan, who has always been a good younger brother if a bit on the stolid side finally showed some passion when threatened with the loss of his gaming consoles. He actually became a little hysterical and I had to convince our Mom to let him keep the Xbox along with several of his favourite games. He reluctantly let go of the rest and refused to talk to either of us after they were sold.
I went through a similar process. My computer, my precious Bose speakers, my dvd collection and a large portion of my clothes, shoes and bags all had to go. I was allowed to keep some favourite jeans and tops, a couple of formal outfits and my one traditional outfit; an Ankara dress. I also got to keep my mp3 player which along with my phone was an intrinsic part of me.
I didn’t fight. I had just been told that what was left of my nuclear family was going to be torn apart for the rest of the foreseeable future. Lugging all the trappings of my former life around was not high on my list of priorities.
That day, my Mom had told us that Akan was to go off with Uncle Marcus and stay with him and his family in the states while she and I would be retreating to the place my mother came from.
Because it was all happening so fast none of it seemed real. The house was gradually emptied. Akan and I were officially removed from school.
Simi and Mei and even AJ came to see me. Simi cried and that made me cry too. Would I never see them again? It was too hard to believe and I don’t think I really did. Even when we hugged and cried, a part of me sat just beside us watching it all like it was a movie of me. Mei gave me her second favourite charm bracelet to remember her and for good luck and Aj…
AJ took a long walk with me around our compound and we talked about everything except us. He even made me laugh. As we walked I kept catching him watching me and when I did he would blush and look away, his eyes shining with what he was afraid to say. Doesn’t he know I’m leaving? I thought inside, frustrated…