“Agbako Was Here” – A Short Story by Gbenga Awomodu

Mickey, the middle-aged black mouse pokes its head out of the tiny hole burrowed into the floor. Similar holes dot the four corners of this dingy room at the Kru Kru prison. Wary of the sole occupant of the room, it pushes forward, surreptitious and whiskers-alert. Only the staccato drop of water from the leaking roof can be heard as it joins the puddle near the centre of the room.

Until only three weeks ago, when the occupants were two, it was difficult, very difficult, to steal crumbs from them. That Monday morning, two prison officers, a man and a woman, marched to the entrance and called Pius, the older of the two inmates, out of the room. They slipped the handcuffs onto his hands and led him to the hangman’s noose. He never returned.

For a week now, the rat has made away with Agbako’s meal – a paltry loaf of bread and some watery, half-done beans. Agbako has refused to eat, but only stares in the dark. Every night, all he sees are strange things as Pius’ ghost visits him. In those apparitions, Pius never smiles…

After three years in prison, no one bothers to visit Agbako anymore. Even his wife, he heard, has run off with an Alhaji and left his children in custody of his widowed grandmother. The nightmares wouldn’t go, or even move an inch. Last Sunday, he was told he would finally be hanged today.

Continue reading here: BN Prose: Agbako Was Here by Gbenga Awomodu

Guest Post: Time Machine: When You Wake Suddenly in 2024…! By Lanre Shonoiki

Imagine living in 2024...

I really miss pencils; as I dare not an item on my check list as I run my hands over the paper-thin, colorful hologram that assaults me with the present hour’s tasks. My Google-6 account has finally come through with a source for the “pseu-me” I have hunted for so long. Now, save a little “paper-work” Babat1de’s day-old demand was all but met; to the very last detail.

A fat male hispanic e-alias in his mid-twenties, with a history of crime, prison tattoos, an artisan-grade educational (maybe a PhD in Engineering); yet rich. Even in the apparent world, the last specification had proven hard to tie in with the others, taking all of thirty minutes to find someone willing to part with such a rare avatar. Luckily, a 12 year old hacker in Sudan had kept one from an e-crash, and now offered it on the black market for 2000 Globelli; twice the cost of all the other items I had to deliver before returning to deep-sleep. An antique 2011 Apple I-pad and a Montblanc Timewalker were timeless pieces, but this “pseu-me”; the best deal I ever closed. It’s amazing what sells these days.

I tap in the sale and wait a millisecond for my account to run up in one currency as the only other trickles away; time. Live-time now rivals Gulfstreams in price, following the 2024 reaching and breaching of the critical atmospheric oxygen stats. Active living is now being rationed to preserve what was left of the human race after two-thirds of Europe and Asia died of asphyxiation. I’m barely two days out of deep-sleep, but my joints are doing much better than the last time. I’d worked through mild arthritis to secure three days of live-time after four months of DS. Even for a woman, I’m blessed to get that long, given that my child-bearing days are over and Waino (my e-country) didn’t think my 30-year-old body exciting enough to raise funds from the millionaires that could afford half a year alive. I smile… I’ll rise above them soon.

Six o’clock, I log on to my pending divorce and lightly hug Se7un’s “pseu-me”. It’s hard remembering what he actually looks like. I watch the sexless arbitrator software red out the terms in a voice more human than the last one’s. Parting with Tu3de had been a little hard and the ex-arbitrator’s droid-like tone hadn’t helped much. It had made me imagine myself at the gates of hell, awaiting my final transition; my divorce from joy. Solace would have helped then, but I need none now. Se7un is a jerk… A rich one I couldn’t have resisted in such hard times. Promises of living three months a year had convinced me I could make it work until I realized all he wanted was my daughter. No, not her body; her mind. See, UNICEF had rated her “genius” at birth, earning her 100% live-time in that she was adjudged one of the few that could undo the woes of humanity. Se7un had only come to hack her off me… end of story.

More than I love my daughter, I know she is my freedom. Should she live up to her ratings, I get to “live” for the rest of my life. And she was close… Her most recent “pings” put the actualization of her time-machine model a few months out. Smiling, I pick my pen to write her, laughing at the irony of the new world. I’d always imagined the inventor of the time machine would read and write… She never writes back… She can’t. –GN!

Photo credit: www.colemanzone.com

Ababuo: Another Night in Lagos

By Gbenga Awomodu

Night falls upon us

Photo Credit: Tosin Poluyi

“Ababuo!” Mama’s voice tolls from the back yard. “Aba-buo-oo…!”she calls a second time, then a third, her voice now approaching a crescendo. “Mama… I’m coming!” Ababuo crawls out of the old rusty bed, accompanied by the jingling of tarnished springs, dislocated out of joint. Tired and still sleepy, she yawns and squints in the dark room. She feels the side of the bed, and the window sill for the torch. Outside the window, the day has suddenly sung itself into evening. The evening comes in slow steps, its star silvery and solitary on the girdle of the early night.

She saunters out of the door, into the dark night which now engulfs the backyard like the devil’s parcel. She staggers and navigates the delicate path to the kitchen, amidst rooms unconventionally scattered on both sides of the tiny passage. She walks somewhat unsteadily like a blind man feeling his way. She is led by a glimpse of the red glow of kerosene lantern down the path and the beam of light from her torch.

As she draws close, the sweet aroma of peanut soup wafts along with intrusive smoke from the cramped dingy kitchen. “The soup is ready. Let’s make the fufu.” Mama pours the boiled starchy cassava and plantain into the giant, wooden mortar and pounds it into a glutinous mass, stirring to the limits of her endurance. She dumps a cup of the mixture into a wet bowl. Ababuo shakes the dough until it forms a smooth ball with sticky, slightly resilient consistency. She serves the fufu on five platters alongside the peanut soup. She takes Papa’s dish – the largest of all the platters – into the living room, and makes for the frontage where Papa and her two siblings are seated.

Under the moonlight, Papa, a poor pensioner and head of a family scraping by on a single income, shares banters and stories from the good old days with friends. The kids in the compound listen, enthralled by the golden gloom of the past and the bright-hued hope of the future. She walks at an even clip towards her father and whispers to him, Papa your favourite is ready. Papa brings his Ghana-Must-Go story to a close and excuses himself. Suddenly, power supply is restored to the street. Everybody, young and old, diffuses into thin air.

Two hours later, darkness descends on the community! The television flickers into nothingness. Ceiling fans whirr to a stop. Ababuo sighs, gasps, and laments as she reaches for the match box. She lights the kerosene lantern and her candle, opens the windows, and lifts the curtain for a release of fresh air from the street. The air is raw and pointed. She studies strenuously for another hour before the candle chills out. She cringes with pain in her heart. The stifling room heats up.  Smell of fossil fuels laces the air. At 12 am, the wail of a trio of power-generating engines in the compound gives way to the loud singing from a church, four blocks away. Ababuo slips under the clammy sheets. She catches a glimpse of her Ghana-must-go bag as she tries to find sleep on the wafer-thin mat. Every occupant in the room has rivulets joining into streams on their forehead.

Many times, she wishes Papa had left when her people were forced out of this country. She has learnt to see in the dark and think through the noxious fumes. She dreams of success in final high school exams and hopes of a bright future. She surrenders to a fitful sleep.

(c) March 2010

Guest Post: Time Machine by Lanre Shonoiki

Bike Man

Bike Man on the Island

Granted, this sounds like another lofty claim, but had I never made use of this appliance myself I wouldn’t have believed it too. Its operating mechanism starts with an air-splitting chortle; as though the gods are mocking our attempts at twisting the hands of time. The transition platform shudders under my feet as the contraption kicks to life and assumes a rhythmic rumble. My eyes are fixed on the dial running up the radial calibrations on the speed gauge. Slowly but surely, the air around me starts to rush by, gaining speed and finally nearing the regime of a cyclone. I raise my palms to my face; they’re sweaty. So are my ears under the nearly deafening shield of the helmet I was made to wear. Yet, I still hear the steady buzz of the power engines; though unsure whether through the vibrations underfoot or those near my ossicles. My heart is racing, my mouth is dry. I can feel the air sweeping back the fur on my arms as it dries my eyes to the brink of pain. The solace I find in the backward rush of the clear blue sky overhead is not enough. I’m as scared as a cornered stray dog…

But the okada man couldn’t be less concerned about my situation. He hums a local tune a few decibels above the revving of his bike’s engines as he weaves deftly through staggered rows of traffic-jammed cars on Ikorodu road. Save for the horrid look on my face, Neil Armstrong would have been jealous of him, me and our little time shuttle on our intergalactic journey. Oh yeah! We did bend time. While other commuters waited at bus stops for commercial transport that rarely arrives in good time, I was fast approaching my destination; the JAMB office. It was past noon and I had to get my little sister’s result slip ready for the post-UME exams slated for the next morning. Necessity had finally pushed me over the mountain of excuses I had for not patronizing commercial bikes. For one, the fact that the cost of these jolly rides always encourages peace talks between the walls of my pockets discourages whimsical ascension of the soft leather seats. Worse still, there is the occasional mishap when a misdirected bike spills its load -passenger and rider irrespective- onto the road and probably into some innocent by-standing NEPA pole… or occasionally, into the hungry tires of a moving trailer. Ew!

Never mind though, the busy businesswoman who has to reach Ikeja from Victoria Island in 30 minutes isn’t complaining. Neither is the UNILAG student who has an 8 o’clock lecture on some Monday morning in the first few weeks of resumption for a new session. On the machine, he’s over both Herbert Macaulay and University Roads in 8 minutes, notwithstanding mud splashed from yucky puddles onto his new True Religion jeans, notwithstanding the occasional burn he suffers when his trousers ride high and his right leg kisses the hot silencer… and OMG! The dirty helmet!! If the privilege of not riding confined in some ramshackle bus with hard, wooden seats is not enough consolation, then the vainer benefit of sometimes sharing a bike with a well-endowed chick might just be… Or far more fulfilling, the fact that while he cruises towards a seat in front in a class of 200 (with no Public Address system), towards a sure 3% of the requisite 65% attendance for writing examinations and away from the assault of the overzealous midday sun; Lanre, his prudent, meticulous and safety-conscious classmate has to wait on the campus shuttle queue… for another 45 minutes.

Lanre Shonoiki is a final year Chemical Engineering student at the University of Lagos. An avid reader and freelance writer, he lives in Lagos.