The Day the Sky went Dark in Mid Morning….

sky dark

It is a situation of the weevil and the beans.  I know that now. If you can’t get the weevils out you destroy the beans…

 

We are the beans my father, mother, my sisters, all of us the villagers- the ones who work hard tilling the land and fishing to earn our living. Those people- the bombers are the weevil amongst us, the people with long flowing robes which appear wider than anyone else’s perhaps to conceal all sorts of weapons. They are the weevils that live among us. The ones who have bore holes into us and shield themselves with us.

 

The other people; the ones the government gave authority to get rid of the weevils. They believe the Beans and the weevil have been so mixed that it is better for them to destroy the beans so that the weevils get destroyed with it.

After what happened the other day I would say they have succeeded only they failed in their success. They destroyed the beans but the weevils managed to wriggle out.

 

——

Things weren’t always like this. There was a time we had peace, when all we did was pray, eat, sleep and procreate. We would all gather in the evenings, the women on mats spread in the compound. The men under the large tree which almost every compound had, some smoking Rothmans, others chewing Kola nuts. Everything started changing or at least I started noticing the change the day Uncle came for a three day visit. 

 

Uncle was my father’s brother, he lived in Abuja; the place where Mama said they had houses that were as tall as mountains and lights with all the colours of a rainbow. She said it was a beautiful place that also had an ugly part. She told me uncle lived in the ugly part. I had asked why and she had said uncle was poor that the government didn’t pay him well enough so he had to live in the filthy part of Abuja. I had asked Mama why Uncle didn’t move to the village instead of living in a filthy place and she had told me to ask uncle myself when I see him.

 

 

—–

The day uncle came, it was in the morning. He brought a newspaper like he usually did and after he had greeted every one in the house. I went to meet him in Father’s sitting room. It was a ritual; anytime uncle came around he would bring a newspaper with him. I would sit and watch as he read waiting for him to say something about what he was reading. He would watch me come in but he won’t say a word until he was through with the paper.

 

“That’s a country” Uncle suddenly exclaimed in English.

That was something I admired about uncle that he could speak English fluently. He went to school; father said that is the problem. But I don’t think it’s a problem, I want to go to school too, I want to be like Ruqqayatu and be a minister of education. When I get there I will make sure every parent sends their children to school. Corper Kalu the village teacher said I was the most brilliant and that my future is bright. I believe him and I want to realize my dreams. Mama believes that too but papa thinks I should just marry Maliq and settle down to be a good wife.

 

“That’s a country” Uncle exclaimed again.

I wondered what it was that was so exciting in the paper but I couldn’t talk yet not until he put down the paper.

“Shettima, I know you are a bright girl, listen to what I read here.” He said removing his huge glasses and placing it on his laps.

“See America is a great country, you can hate them but they are still great.”

“They caught those bombers, Allah be praised.” He added raising both palms to the ceiling.

“Which bombers uncle? Did they bomb America?” I asked surprised

“Yes, Shettima.”

“Two boys bombed America but they caught them.”  “They have them.” he added his eyes twinkling in excitement.

“You know Shettima, these things happen here everyday but no one catches them.”

“We know these people but we can’t even report them. If we report them they kill us.”

“True, Uncle. We have them in the village. They wear wide flowing gowns, their eyes……

“America is great, Shettima. I want to live there someday.” he said his eyes taking on a dreamy look.

 

 

—–

Later that evening I told Maliq about what Uncle read in the paper and his comments on it but he said I should him pay no heed that America is the great Satan.

“Where did you hear that?” I asked suddenly suspicious.

“That’s what Akeem said.”

“Maliq, I thought you promised you will no longer listen to Akeem or even talk to him?”

“I don’t.” He replied fidgeting.

“Maliq don’t lie, you must have to have heard that.”

“I overheard it, Shettima. Let it go. You are a woman, you shouldn’t be questioning me”

“Maliq” I exclaimed lifting up the edge of my veil to wipe my face in case I wasn’t seeing well.

“That’s not something you would say normally. Without doubt you have been spending a lot of time with Akeem.”

“Shettima, I would leave if you won’t give me peace”, he said standing up from the bench.

“Maliq you may leave if that’s how you would talk to me.”

“I thought we agreed that we would not act like villagers, that you would respect me. We agreed that I will be your only wife, we would never fight, you would be a senator, and I would be a minister. But you are changing now Maliq. It’s just one week that we didn’t see each other and you have changed this much.” I added giving him a disbelieving look.

 

“I know we said all that, I still want to be a senator but certain things have to change first in this country. Allah must reign supreme.”

“Maliq, when did you start talking like this? Akeem wears a big flowing gown. Have you joined those people and what’s that you have been hiding behind your back?”

 

“Nothing” he said still standing. “It’s just a letter Akeem asked me to write.”

I looked around to see if anyone was paying us attention. It was in the evening, a time when the women will bring out mats and sit while the men gathered under the tree in the compound.

Maliq and I are not allowed to touch but I needed to grab the paper in his hands. Checking carefully to make sure no one was watching us, I made to grab the letter in his hands but he walked away before I could.

I watched him leave wondering if the next time I see him he would be wearing a wide flowing robe too.

 

——

The government people came two days later, it was the morning Uncle was supposed to leave. Mama and I had woken up early to smoke the fish we would take to the market in the afternoon. She had just told me she was with child and I had jumped up in excitement.

“Mama this baby will be my child.”

“How, Shetti?” She asked smiling

“Mama, I’m fourteen now, I am old enough to be his mother.”

“That’s true Shetti but you would be busy with school, uncle wants to help you get into a secondary school in the state capital.”

That’s good news Mama. I replied referring to the baby she was carrying.

 

I looked at her dark face and wondered how excited she must be. She had been unable to conceive after she had me so I knew this must be great for her. Father’s other wives had numerous children; Mama was the only one with one child.

 

“Sit down Mama; let me turn the fish, from now on I won’t allow you to do any work.”

“No Shetti, I have to work to stay strong. You know……..”

Her last words were drowned by the sounds of sudden gun shots. We were used to hearing gun shots but there was something about this that was different.

I looked at Mama and drew her arm immediately.

“Mama let’s run for the house now” I screamed as the gun shots became louder

We ran towards the house, suddenly there were people everywhere all running in different directions, screaming on top of their voices. The gun shots kept sounding louder and louder. We ran inside Mama’s room and I lay down on the floor telling Mama to do the same. Corper Kalu had told us that lying flat on the floor was the right thing to do when there is a shooting going on. I didn’t want Mama to lie on her stomach because of the baby so I told her to lie on her back.

 

The sounds of the gun shots were so loud that we had to shout to hear each other.

“Allah protect us” Mama chanted non stop

I kept saying Amen even as a thought came to my mind that perhaps Nigeria wanted to be great like America and catch the bombers amongst us. Another thought followed it immediately telling me that that couldn’t be it.

 

We continued to hear wails, gun shots and cries outside. There were sounds of running feet and I could also hear the sound of people falling to the ground. I wished I could go to the window and see what was happening but I was too afraid to stand up.

“Allah, protect Shetti, protect me.” Mama was screaming now.

“Mama, there will be no problem. I’m sure they came for the men in wide robes. They won’t touch us Mama. We are innocent.”

“Are you sure Shetti?” she asked drawing me into her arms.

“Mama I’m sure.” I struggled to say.

 

___

Mama smelled it first.

“Shetti can you smell smoke. Houses are being burnt” she exclaimed. “We need to get out Shettima” she shouted above the thundering sounds of the guns. She tried standing up but I held her firmly.

“Mama if we go out, they will shoot us.”

“They will?” She asked, tears streaming down her face.

“Yes Mama, I think they will.”

“But who is burning our houses”? “Can it be the government people?”

“No Mama, they won’t do that to us. We are innocent citizens. They are here to protect us.”

“So do you think it’s the bombers?” “Do you think they will burn their own houses, their father’s compounds knowing their people are here?”

“No Mama, I don’t think they would do that.”

“So who is burning houses Shettima?” “It’s certainly not we the terrified villagers.”

“Mama I’m confused too” I said wrapping my arms tighter around her.

“Let’s just say AYATUL KURSI a prayer of protection.” I said clutching her palms in mine.

The sound was like nothing I had heard before. I had been in the state capital once during a fight between the government people and the wide robed people and the guns hadn’t been this loud. I suddenly wished it was all a dream and hoped someone would wake me up.

We started to say the prayers clenching each other’s hands.

We were still praying when we heard shouts in the third room to ours; the one where father’s second wife lived. We heard screams and gunshots and I felt a wetness run between my legs. I opened my mouth to continue praying but I couldn’t. I was shivering all over from fear, my throat was dry and no word could come out.      It dawned on me, we were going to die. Everyone in my father’s household.

Mama stopped praying and wiping her eyes, she said “Shetti stand up, we are leaving. I would rather die trying to escape than wait to be burnt inside the house. The whole village is on fire, it would soon get to us. That was Bisiriyu’s voice I heard just now, I fear she is no more.”

I had no wish to argue with her any longer. It seemed certain that we will die and it might be good to die trying to escape. We both stood up, walked quietly to the back door that led to the bush behind the house and started running towards the bush. I couldn’t look around as we ran but I could see smoke and bodies everywhere. The village is gone I thought. Mama and I ran blindly without a care in the world, our goal was the bush, safety.

I didn’t hear Mama scream, it was the sound of her fall that I heard; I made the scream that was supposed to come from her throat turning around to see her unmoving body.

“Oh no,” I screamed kneeling down beside her.

I didn’t see the gun man or the raised gun before I fell and the world went black.

 

——

Some people came yesterday to help us. They brought drugs but they didn’t bring food. We have drugs but we are hungry. The drugs can only help a few as most of us need more than drugs. They said the government will bring help for us soon. I don’t believe that, I have no faith in them. Was it not the government that brought us into this situation I asked Hajia Turai who lay beside me. She didn’t reply me, she merely nodded.

 

The people who came had turned the village school into a clinic and had brought flat beds which the wounded were placed on. There is no one I know here, Mama is gone; I haven’t seen Maliq, my father, uncle or any of my father’s wives or children. They are probably dead or even somewhere around but I can’t walk around to find them.

 

The people say they have no relationship with the government, that they are just a society who likes to help. We are grateful.

The doctor came to the bed where Hajia Turai and I lay and looked at my bad leg. I asked her if they will cut it, she says I should not think about that yet. But I am thinking about everything, how just yesterday I had a mother and an unborn sister or brother. I’m still crying.

“Will I still be a minister?” I asked Hajia Turai after the doctor left

“You can still be Shettima.”

“Not with one leg Hajia, not with one leg. I replied sobbing.”

“Shettima, please don’t cry, you will just probably have to use a wheel chair because of that shattered leg.”

“Hajia, if I was in America and they cut my leg, will I have to be a beggar?”

“No you won’t have to. They will give you another leg, a man made one that will work like the one God gave you.”

“Okay.” I replied turning away from her. “Now it’s clear why uncle wanted to go to America.” I thought my vision clouded with tears.

“It was a curse to have been born here.”

 

©Toyin Fabunmi April 2013

photo credit: google images

Disclaimer:

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents either are products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events or locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

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19 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. FlutePlayer
    Apr 25, 2013 @ 16:56:53

    The day is yours.

    Reply

  2. Tahir Sherriff
    Apr 25, 2013 @ 17:55:15

    Brilliant piece, touching and very inspiring. You’ve bought me with this one. Nice work.

    Reply

  3. olumidefabunmi
    Apr 25, 2013 @ 18:58:36

    Can’t believe tears dropped from my eyes after reading this story from d brain of a genius, a master piece of genius,innovative,touching,inspiring,so prous I have you…….this is just a write up form a rare genius….don’t know what to say again….

    Reply

  4. Damilare Awe(@acoustichannah)
    Apr 25, 2013 @ 19:23:36

    I am stunned, dazed and in tears! This is just Fantastic! The Voice of so many people! Good one sis!

    Reply

  5. ustyn
    Apr 25, 2013 @ 19:48:43

    so touching,yea its fictional bt its d reality we r living in atm,may God help us

    Reply

  6. unsocial butterfly
    Apr 25, 2013 @ 19:49:45

    What a piece! This article gives an insight to what the northerners are going through, those who have absolutely nothing to do with insecurity over there. This proves that there are some who don’t want any of this, who want to go to school, get married, have a career &co-exist peacefully. I like shettima, she sounded smart,responsible its sad the way things turned 4her.but that’s life. May God protect Nigeria

    Reply

  7. @ikeamadi
    Apr 25, 2013 @ 20:43:03

    More wisdom.

    More grace.

    So much meaning.

    Keep writing, dear. Keep writing. Keep writing with a purpose. I feel purpose in your words.

    GOd bless!

    Reply

  8. DB
    Apr 25, 2013 @ 22:00:09

    I’m feeling feverish with pains filled up in my bowel. I can’t just cry with the moving description of your write-up. This is so sad, thanks for capturing it in a very empathetic way. God bless you.

    Reply

  9. oscarpoems
    Apr 26, 2013 @ 01:13:05

    This is touching. As I lay on my back and type, I shiver. I drew a mental picture while reading, I remember what my younger brother said about Maiduguri when he went for his Orientation Camp two years ago. From very bad, to very worse it has all turned.
    May every lost soul rest in peace, and everyone who has lost something find comfort.
    Good work Toyin, God bless you

    Reply

  10. Alee
    Apr 26, 2013 @ 05:22:09

    I’m quite short of wrds..
    I felt d pain nd d unshed tears as I read..
    Its a unique piece.
    I luv it!
    Kip it up.

    Reply

  11. monebi modupe
    Apr 26, 2013 @ 07:10:28

    Toyin oooooo.in all truth,this story couldn’t av been better said,and did a tear just dropped frm my eyes?o yes it did…welldone dear.we just hope for that better nigeria dat would care to seperate the beans frm d weevils.

    Reply

  12. abe temitope
    Apr 26, 2013 @ 13:49:35

    Oh my God!!!! U a gift from God!!!!

    Reply

  13. saymalcolm
    Apr 26, 2013 @ 23:38:44

    Goodness me! This is one hell of a brilliant piece. The form, the plot, the voice of the narrator, the message – PERFECT!

    You’re good. You’re too good!!!

    Reply

  14. 'Deolu
    Apr 27, 2013 @ 08:56:28

    Transfixed! Toyin, you have my email send anything I have something to discuss with you

    Reply

  15. Ezitonye Peace
    Apr 27, 2013 @ 16:21:10

    am so impressed,dis writeup has its hand on d pulse of our nations fear.its so real.thanks again Toyin,i want to be like u wen i grow up.lol.that is if i have d courage to bring my work out of d closet.kudos.

    Reply

  16. persiux5
    Apr 28, 2013 @ 14:42:56

    This is Awesome Dear

    Reply

  17. acne
    May 05, 2013 @ 20:05:53

    whoah this weblog is great i really like reading your articles. Stay up the good paintings! You know, lots of people are searching round for this information, you can aid them greatly.

    Reply

  18. lista de email
    May 11, 2013 @ 17:50:10

    wow amazing article, it touches me from within! lista de email lista de email lista de email lista de email lista de email

    Reply

  19. olalohunpe
    May 14, 2013 @ 10:41:06

    Toyin, you are an amazing writer.

    Reply

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