Anxiety, Coping System, Descriptive, Emotion, Late Night, Pain, PenPractice, Thoughts, thoughts, writing

Grey Clarity on a Cold Evening

Life is funny, sometimes. A downright comedian when you truly begin to see how it operates. How it flows and ebbs. How it pulls and pushes. A Joker, to be succinct.

And whenever I said this, I’m generally met with momentary confusion and awkward reluctant acceptance especially after I add the caveat that I have at a ready for situations like this.

“Life is funny sometimes because all you can do is laugh… Because if you don’t laugh, well… then it breaks you down.”

Isn’t it interesting how one of the most important, underrated emotions that no one seems to talk about is “Disappointment”

I personally think its one of the stronger negative emotions. Not anger or frustration or pain or grief.

Disappointment. /dɪsəˈpɔɪntm(ə)nt/
sadness or displeasure caused by the non-fulfilment of one’s hopes or expectations.
to her disappointment, there was no chance to talk privately with Luke”

Its a Thursday night (as of this writing) and I’m sequestered on a table at the corner of a beautifully decorated hall to celebrate a friends traditional Nigerian wedding.

The colours are cool; Purple, adorned with white flowers sets and green flowery background around the couples’ chair. A dance floor, white with gold trimmings with the print names of my friends. The music is loud and inviting. Different notes, different tones and the adults are all enjoying themselves in the centre, dancing their night away in joy and laughter.

The joy I feel for my friends, the couple, is immense. Its been a while coming, especially with how the pandemic has derailed everything.

And it is in this immense joy, that I find myself being disappointed.

Disappointed with plans.
Disappointed with Life.
Disappointed with people.
Disappointed in things.
Disappointment like grief.

This, ever-expanding sea of apathy and diet nihilism that I’ve fallen into but I’m not drowning. It’s not choking me. Instead, it wraps itself around me like a breathing apparatus. I can see through the ripples. I can breathe through the tube in my mouth. My movements are delayed but I’m not bound or restrained against my will.

And its because of this disappointment-like-grief that I have to laugh in the face of life being life. In the face of life being volatile. Because if I can’t laugh at the intricacies and idiosyncrasies of life, I lose the only defence against the apathy in front of me.

And that’s the one thing I can’t allow.

After all, if life ebbs and flows like the sea then I’ll be eventually washed up on a beach somewhere. Preferably with a cocktail in one hand and my wife’s hand in the other. Some summer wear to enjoy the season and a hammock so that we can gaze at the blue. And life would be good again.

Until the next tidal wave hits.

Black History Month, Descriptive, Emotion, Fiction, PenPractice, writing

A Good Death – Part 5

I looked back at the building in the distance, my face empty of all emotions. The journey to the building and everything that had happened in the corridors of the building weighed heavily on my heart. 

After my brother’s death at my hands and my axe, Ogun had tapped his finger on his armrest once more, shaking the both of us. He was dead. I was not. But somehow, that made me worthy of god’s blessing. 

“You have proven yourself,” the shaman had said, suddenly appearing out of nowhere. “And now, you will be a warrior like none other. A warrior like mighty Ogun himself.” 

I had simply nodded then. I don’t think there was anything else I could have done. My eyes had remained on the lifeless body of my brother as his blood spread over the smooth metal floor of Ogun’s throne room. 

“Now, you must return to face the Raga!” the shaman had said. 

I had turned to face her, my hand tightening on the axe lodged in my brother’s head. Before I could react, she shouted a word and waved her hands towards me and I was suddenly thrown through a passage, out of Ogun’s room. 

By the time I hit the ground, I was outside the building. 

On my belt was my small name-day knife and the axe I had used to fight and win. Perhaps that was supposed to be god’s blessing. I wasn’t sure. It didn’t make sense. And for a while, I didn’t want it to make sense. 

Perhaps if I could treat everything as a fever dream, I could fool myself to wake up eventually. 

I tore my eyes away from the building and looked down the road that cut through the forest we had journeyed through to reach Ogun’s temple. The road looked long and windy but I knew somewhere in my heart that it was the way home. I glanced at the four other children that had been spat out from the veil across the temple entrance. 

We locked eyes but didn’t speak. There was nothing to say that hadn’t been said on their faces. The sacrifice was steep enough. 

I sighed and looked away from the haggard faces next to me and took a step onto the smooth road leading home. Perhaps it was all just a fever dream and I was returning to the waking lands. 

The village was in flames when we exited the forest by the mahogany tree. Cries and shouts of help filled the air immediately. The buildings I had grown up with were burning down and before we could move from our spot, we watched as the village elder ran past us before collapsing on the floor. 

One of the children with me moved forward to check the elder before stopping as blood began to gather underneath his unmoving body. We all understood what that meant. I broke away from the group and began running towards my house. 

Perhaps I could find my parents and escape the burning village. 

I ran, my legs propelling me forward faster than I had ever traveled in my life, through the burning village to my home. The cries and shouts of help were now mixed with the sound of steel and a strange sound that reminded me of thunder. 

Just as I turned the corner leading to my house, I heard a man shout in a language unknown to me just as the strange sound filled the air once more and I stopped. Ahead of me, dressed in strange clothes was a monster of pale flesh and piss-colored hair. The Raga. 

My hand felt for the axe on my belt and I yelled in rage as I ran towards the monster brandishing my axe. The monster turned slowly, suddenly aware I was behind it but before they could react, my axe removed their legs from underneath them and they screamed in pain as they fell to the ground. 

I spun, knocking the weapon from their hand as I stood over them, my small frame contrasting against theirs. The monster locked eyes with me, blue gems sparkling with anger and pain and it began to crawl away from me but I denied it the escape. 

My axe caught in the light of the sun and the monster flinched, bringing their arms out to shield themselves but it didn’t matter to me. I raised the axe up and brought it down as my mind flashed to the memory of Sogo’s death. 

I split the monster’s head, blood and head matter splattering on me. The monster’s arms fell to its chest and, placing my leg on its chest, I freed the axe from their body. 

I looked at the unmoving frame of the monster before turning and rushing to my home. The house wasn’t on fire but there was a sense of dread hanging in the air. I couldn’t see anyone at the entrance of the house and with the village burning and a few in battle against monsters, I couldn’t help but worry about my parent’s wellbeing. 

As I moved to circle the house, I gasped as I saw two bodies embracing each other close to the side of the house. There was a monster standing above them, brandishing its strange weapon at them. 

The monster snarled and said something in their strange language before the weapon cracked like lightning in the sky. Raga. I screamed as I began to run towards it. The monster turned to face me, recognition sparkling in its eye but it didn’t hesitate. The weapon in its hand spoke and I felt something hit me in the chest. 

The force was enough to stop me for a few minutes as I looked down to find small metal pieces pushing against my dark skin. I looked up at the monster and back at my chest as the strange weapon spoke with thunder once more. My body jerked backward once more, another piece of metal pushing against me. 

It was then that I understood what Ogun had done for me. 

I heard the monster say something that sounded like a curse and it pulled my attention back to them. The monster lowered its weapon, pushing some metal pieces against the side of the long spear. Without waiting, I used all my strength to throw my axe towards the monster and they reacted far too slowly to stop it. 

The axe head sunk into the space between their neck and shoulder, and after a cry of pain, the monster sank to its knees, meeting my gaze. I walked up to it, removing my axe from its neck as blood spluttered out. The monster was dead. I was alive. 

I turned to face the bodies of my parents, unmoving as they embraced each other in death. Hot tears leaked from my eyes as I looked at the axe in my hand. Blood dripped from the axe-head as if it too shared in my sorrow. 

That was the last time I cried. 

I forcibly removed the axe from the body of the Raga resting on the rock he had died on. My father and the tribe had called them monsters. Perhaps they are. Perhaps not. It stopped mattering when I stopped counting the bodies that fell to my axe. 

As far as they were concerned, the monsters of years past were nothing more than a different tribe. One with far more resources and power to wipe out the tribes it saw inferior to it. 

Years of battle and hunting had shown me a lot but did nothing to dull the ache in my heart and the hunger of the axe on my belt. They were the enemy. The disease that had scoured the lands of my people, reducing them to nothing but forest dwellers even as they flourished in the lands of our fathers and forefathers. 

Perhaps they didn’t all deserve death. Perhaps not. As far as my weapon and I are concerned, the Raga cannot exist while I do. Not while the rest of my clan sleep in the terror that they might not see the next day. 

The children of Ogun call me a great warrior but I hate the title. It fills me with memories I would rather forget. After all, my father used to say a good death was the end of a great warrior. 

I don’t want to be a great warrior. I am not searching for a good death. Until I end the Raga with my own hands and this cursed axe by my side, I don’t plan to die. 

Not one bit.

Black History Month, Descriptive, Emotion, Fiction, PenPractice, writing

A Good Death – Part 4

The earth shook ever so slightly and I came to. I was lying on my side and I think I might have fallen asleep whilst I knelt and waited for a response from my god. Still, what caught my attention were the candles that lined the small space Sogo had left me. More importantly, in the space where I had killed the animal, there was a small bowl of spiced meat still steaming hot. 

I looked at it as my stomach grumbled but I didn’t move to touch it. Not yet. Excitement filled me as I considered my brother’s return from facing whatever was chasing after us in the passageway. 

So excited was I that I pushed my head through the veil to find myself in another section of the structure. While before, the space I was in was to the side of the wall of the passageway we ran through, this time around, the passageway was directly ahead of me. If anything, it was like the space led to the passageway itself. 

I retreated back into my space immediately, silently praying for my brother to return. But I knew it was futile. Deep down, I knew the truth of the situation before me. I knew I was alone. 

My eyes fell on the spiced meat and I cautiously, using my knife, cut pieces of the meat before placing them into my mouth. My stomach groaned in appreciation and I made small work of the meat in short order. 

Once I was fed, I left the comfort of the wall-space and stepped into the passageway. It was a mistake. The moment I was free from the hole in the wall, I watched in amazement as the corridor widened as if belching and then came back together. And when I looked behind me, the wall I had come from was gone. 

Still, the passageway was lit with torches on the wall, bathing ahead of me with light. With the hole gone and my safety removed from me, I moved forward with my knife held out. I wasn’t sure what to expect but I knew I could die at any moment. 

As I walked through the torch-lit passageway, now and then, I would hear the sounds of running, roaring, and screaming which were promptly silenced in short order. My young mind then tried to suppress it but it was futile. Somewhere around me in the building, my friends were dying and I couldn’t even see them to help. 

The passageway led me straight on for hours, the tense silence punctuated by the death of my friends, and my waterskin was beginning to run low. Just before it emptied, the passageway opened up to a big hall like the one we had seen at the entrance of the building. 

I gasped as my eyes took in the hall. The hall was square in shape with two large fireplaces burning in the center of the room. The walls were covered with weapons of every type, gleaming in the light of the fire. Tall metal spires rose from the ground and went straight into the sky until I couldn’t see them anymore.

There was a deep growl and my eyes shot back down as I tried to locate what was making the noise. Ahead of me, crouching next to a massive chair were two beasts as large as the temple in the tribe. I yelped and brought my knife hand up in front of me, ready to fight, though I knew it was foolish. 

Their large red eyes glowed in the brightly lit hall and I felt malice in their gaze. Long tongues unraveled from their open mouths as they began to pant in unison. Their fangs were long and sharp, sharper than anything I had ever seen in my short life. 

One of the beasts got to their feet and moved forward, sinewy muscles tensing and flexing as if to make it known to me that I was at the end. Spittle and drool leaked from the monster’s mouth as its mouth widened into something akin to a grin. 

I was rooted to the same spot, my body unwilling to move. I was staring death in the face and my body accepted what was coming, regardless of whether or not I had a say in it. 

Just before the beast got close, a sudden bang stopped the beast in its steps and it glanced back at where it came from. I followed where the monster looked and it was then my heart dropped. In my shock and terror, I had missed the person sitting on the large chair in-between the two monsters. 

From the sheer size of the throne, the figure was taller than anything I would ever see in my life, and seeing him immediately reminded me of the mahogany tree. An earthy scent filled the air around me and for the first time since I left the village, I was brimming with energy. 

Sitting calmly and regarding me with cold silver pebbles that were his eyes, the figure raised a finger at the monster and called it back to his side. The monster snarled at me before walking back to its master. 

I knew who it was I was standing before and I prostrated on the ground before the monster had even returned to its position next to the throne. 

“Mighty Ogun, son of-”

“Quiet!” a voice whispered harshly into my ear. I turned my head a little to see the shaman lying next to me, wild eyes staring into mine. 

I bit my lip as the shaman rose to her feet and walked forward to approach the god on the throne. 

“Is he worthy?” she asked. 

I waited to hear a reply but nothing came. Instead, the shaman started laughing. I heard her steps return to me and I waited to learn what the god said when she barked at me. 

“Get up!”

I rushed to my feet in haste. 

“Ogun has called you a coward because you hid while your brothers and sisters fought. You are not a warrior,” she said, a cruel smile plastered on her face. 

“I didn’t know I was supposed to fight, Ma,” I replied, doing my best to not look at the god. 

Her smile dimmed for a bit, replaced with anger as she raised her hand to slap me. I flinched but before her hand touched me, a booming sound shook the room and I looked up to see the god had tapped a finger on the armrest of his chair. 

The shaman paused and turned around. The smoke from the fireplaces began to drift towards the god, settling just at his feet. Slowly, the smoke got thicker and thicker, darkening as it did so. And then, I noticed that the smoke was beginning to harden and move until it took the shape of a person. 

The shaman gasped and wheezed a laugh before spinning to face me. 

“Quick. Get a weapon. Get a weapon if you don’t want to die,” she said, ushering me towards a wall in haste. 

I ran to the nearest one, my eyes taking in the swords, machetes, warrior blades, shields, and axes. Without thinking, my hand closed around a weapon and I dragged it from the wall. As the weapon came free, I found myself being transported back to the center of the room, directly across from the smoky figure. 

As if spurred on by my weapon, the smoke settled into a shadow figure holding a long blade of its own. Another booming sound filled the room and the dark figure ran towards me with the weapon held high. 

My mind flashed to all the days my father had dragged me to practice fighting with my brothers, despite my protests. The weapon in my hand went up to block the shadow figure’s first attack and the ringing sound of metal against metal shook me. It was then I noticed I was carrying an axe. 

I grunted as my attacker’s leg caught me in the chest, sending me back. My leg caught something on the floor and I fell, luckily dodging my opponent’s next attack as the sword came swiping down towards me. 

Suppressing the pain that I felt as I hit the floor, I rolled away from the figure’s consistent attacks. The shadow figure moved towards me, brandishing his blade high above him and I returned the gesture, kicking him in his ankle with all the strength my small body could muster. 

The figure’s leg didn’t give away as I hoped but it was enough to make him stumble as it mixed with his movement towards me. I used the chance to return to my feet and hefted the axe in both hands. 

The axe’s metal frame seemed to grow colder as the shadow figure spun around to face me. I heard the figure curse in the ancient tongue of my tribe and I frowned. I glanced at the shaman or where the shaman was but she was nowhere to be seen. The figure ran towards me and I tried to put my father’s lessons into practice. 

I kept my distance as the figure attacked, doing my best to dodge each swipe and slash from their blade. With the figure’s height and reach better than mine, it meant I couldn’t attack as I wanted without getting closer to him. But it also meant that if I made a mistake, the blade would end my life. 

As I dodged and blocked with the axe, I couldn’t help but replay the figure’s curse in my head. Something about the voice sounded familiar but I couldn’t place my finger on it. The word had been shouted out and it had sounded human except if a human had a voice of metal. Still, I couldn’t erase it from my mind. 

Perhaps it was Ogun’s way of testing my resolve. Perhaps he chose to put me against an amalgamation of my tribe’s warriors to see how well I could protect myself.

I blocked another attack from my opponent before using all my strength to push them away from me, tripping him over as his leg hit a rock by the floor. If Ogun wanted to test me this way, then I had to put my all into the fight. My grip tightened on the handle of the axe and I shouted a war cry my father said he used whenever he fought against the enemies of the tribe. 

“Give me a good death!” I cried, my voice cracking under the gravity of the sentence. 

As my war cry filled the room, I ran with my axe and jumped to attack the shadow figure on the floor. For a moment, time seemed to slow down. The axe-head swung down towards the shadow figure’s head and in that brief moment, the figure’s identity became clear to me. 

Sogo’s eyes locked with mine and he looked at me with a pained smile on his face. The realization hit me far too late to stop my attack, with the weight of the axe propelling me on. Slowly but surely, I watched as the axe embedded itself into my eldest brother’s head.

Black History Month, Descriptive, Emotion, Fiction, PenPractice, writing

A Good Death – Part 3

Walking through the veil of the structure was scary, especially with the deaths of Seun and Kunle still on my mind. Sogo looked lost and haunted, and I think I understood a bit of what he was feeling. He had promised to protect me and the others. And yet, he had lost three of his younger brothers. 

Once we passed the dark shroud covering the door of the structure, we entered a large place. So large, in fact, that I couldn’t see the roof. Instead, looking up showed me the night sky which didn’t make sense. It was sunny outside and yet, I could see the stars in the sky. 

The shaman ordered us to stop then, before counting us. I counted along with her and stifled a sniff when I realized we had been cut down to just twenty. We went from fifty to twenty in just about a week. I could hear the girls in the group start to cry softly as it sunk in. Sogo’s eyes were red but he didn’t cry. 

When the shaman was done counting for herself, she told us to sit on the floor by the entrance before she disappeared down a corridor to the right of the entrance. We sat quietly even as a heavier burden rested on us. Some of the boys and girls cried while the rest just remained silent. 

I thought I would cry. I hoped I would cry. But I didn’t. I just watched and waited and silently prayed for when we would return back to our parents. 

The shaman returned after a few minutes, dragging a long wooden platform on stone wheels. On the wood, was a large drum that gave off sounds of something swishing inside it. Next to the drum was a bag that shook and squirmed. 

She stopped the wooden platform in front of us before walking to stand in between us and the items she brought. 

“Behind me,” she began in a wheezing voice that never rose higher than a loud whisper, “is water for your thirst and food for your bellies. But I must warn you…” 

The mention of food made everyone’s stomach protest but her warning tone quieted us as quickly. She moved forward towards us and brought a finger to her lips. 

“You must all be careful now,” she said. 

“Where are we, ma?” a small girl, younger than me asked.

“We are away from the world, Ajoke. We have come to ask the mighty Ogun for help,” the shaman answered. 

“Will he listen?” Sogo asked, his voice cold and edging on dangerous. 

I saw the grip on his warrior blade tighten and I touched his knees before glancing back at the shaman. Her eyes fixed intently on him and a cruel smile formed on her lips as she pointed at my brother. 

“Remove the hatred in your heart, Sogo or you will die before the day is finished,” she said to him. 

My brother frowned for a moment before relaxing the grip on his sword. His look of defiance didn’t soften. Instead, I saw his stubborn face harden. Her smile widened and I worried she was going to kill him immediately but she laughed instead. A frightening guttural laugh echoed in the structure we were in. 

She walked to the platform and opened the drum of water. She cupped her hand and took a sip from it before turning to face us. 

“Whatever you do in this space, remember… The gods are not your fathers or mothers. They do not like you, nor do they care for you. Worship them as you have and perhaps you will see your family again.” 

After that, her hands shot up above her head and she screamed in a loud shrill voice that shook the air and made my heart beat fast. There was a ripping sound, like someone’s cloth was being torn and in that instant, the shaman was gone. 

For a moment, we all stood in without a sound as the darkness around us seemed to dim as if it was creeping closer to us. And then, Sogo ran forward towards the drum, dragging me by the hand. He put his face into the drum, followed by the waterskin he carried by the side. Then he pushed my head into the drum too before I was pushed away by the other children. 

Soon enough, all twenty children were running forward towards the drum to drink some water while I tried to catch my breath. As I sputtered and gasped, the bag next to the drum squirmed again and the binding at the mouth of the sack came loose. 

Suddenly, soft white fluffy animals shot out and began hopping away from us in speed. Sogo was already up by now, chasing one of the animals down a strange corridor. I rushed to my feet and raced after him. By the time I caught up with him, he had the animal by its long ears and he smiled tiredly at me. 

“Look, Jide… We have some food!” he said in excitement before breaking into a short laugh. 

I smiled back at him widely, before glancing back to see if the others were lucky in their chases. Except there was nothing to see behind us. The laugh died on his face as we both stared down a long empty corridor that got increasingly dark the farther it went. 

“Sogo…” I said, fear gripping my heart. 

A sound traveled down the corridor, something akin to a roar and I shivered from top to bottom. 

“Brother…” I said again. 

Sogo put his hand on my shoulder and pulled me back slowly to stand behind him. 

“When I say so, start running okay?” he whispered. 

The sound repeated itself, louder this time and the air in front of us shook like it was a cloth in the wind. I shook with it, relieving myself without meaning to. Sogo pushed me faster behind him. He grabbed my hand and spoke quickly. 

“Start running,” he said and we began running down the corridor. 

As we ran, I could hear the sound of something chasing us from behind but I didn’t stop. I couldn’t stop. Sogo kept pulling me ahead shouting that I keep running. And I kept running. 

But we couldn’t outrun whatever was chasing us. If anything, the sounds and roars behind us were getting louder. 

Suddenly, there was a small opening ahead of us. A small space was carved into the wall of the corridor. Sogo stopped as soon as we got close, pulling me as I tried to keep running ahead. He pushed me into the space and removed the waterskin from his shoulder before handing it to me. 

Then, with a brutality I didn’t know my brother had, he broke the neck of the animal he had been carrying before handing the animal over to me. 

“Wait here, Jide. I can’t fight and protect you at the same time. Hide here. I will kill the monster chasing us and come back for you,” Sogo said. 

“No. Don’t go. Please stay,” I protested but he shook his head hastily. 

“Jide. I’ll be fine. I promised to protect you. Be quiet. I’ll be quick,” he said before running his hand through my hair and disappearing from my sight. 

So I waited. 

And while I waited, I thought about how my brothers had died so carelessly, both in the forest and in the river. I thought about the whole journey. I thought about the shaman’s words and her disappearance. But her words rang in me a bit longer. 

“Whatever you do in this space, remember… The gods are not your fathers or mothers. They do not like you, nor do they care for you. Worship them as you have and perhaps you will see your family again.”

I looked at the dead animal next to me and it occurred to me that I wasn’t hungry. That I hadn’t been hungry since my brothers were drowned and killed in the river. I remembered the mahogany tree back home. And I remembered how much the structure had reminded me of the tree. 

Slowly, I dragged the body of the animal and laid it in front of me. I removed the small sky rock blade my father gave to me for my main day and positioned the tip just above the breast of the animal. 

I remembered what the shaman did during such sacrificial rituals and figured I could try and do the same. I figured, if I could play the shaman in my childhood games then maybe I can do it for real. 

The black blade pierced into the animal smoothly and the red color of life burst out of its body, splashing on my face and my lips. A warmth enveloped my hands as the blade sunk deeper and I found myself trying to breathe. I thought my hand would shake at the taking of life but it was steady. 

I removed the blade and sunk it deeper before using the sharp side to widen the cut in the animal. Just like the shaman would do, I removed all I could from the inside of the animal and laid it in front of me. 

Then, I changed my position to kneel. 

“Ogun, of might and iron, please accept this sacrifice from your servant,” I whispered in a level voice. 

I didn’t know what to expect but I bowed my head with my hands outstretched towards the entrance of the small space. 

Then I continued waiting.

Black History Month, Descriptive, Emotion, Fiction, PenPractice, writing

A Good Death – Part 2

I never understood how deep the forest was until I began marching through it with my brothers and some of the other children from the tribe. We had left the morning after my father’s retelling. 

If only I knew that was the last time things were going to be normal. I would never have left. The prize was not worth the effort or the process it took to attain it. The Raga are monsters. 

In front of us, leading the fifty children of Ogun, was the Elder’s second wife. She was the acting shaman of our tribe, the priestess by which we prayed to our god, Ogun. She, along with her husband, told us what our god required from us each year and we would do our best to meet it. 

It was a surprise when she began the journey as our leader but soon enough, the surprise waned. Tearful goodbyes and last hugs with our parents were the only things in our minds as we navigated deeper into the forest. Soon enough, all we saw were trees and visions of trees. 

Over us, the sun went down and a full moon replaced it in the sky. The forest was bathed in the blue light of the moon and the shaman, Okoye, lit torches for the eldest of the children to carry. 

On my belt, I wore the knife my father had given me for my seventh name-day. It wasn’t the best-looking knife but the handle was covered with the fur of a bear father had killed and the blade had been carved from a black rock that fell from the sky, according to his account. 

The wooden handle was cut from the mahogany tree at the center of the village, an act that was only permitted by the shaman and no one else. 

“The tree is the gods and the gods keep it,” mother had explained. 

The knife was in my hand now as we walked deeper into the forest. All around me, my brothers and friends had their weapons in hand. Some were carrying bows and short knives, while others had machetes and warrior blades. Those were our elders. They were the ones who weren’t quite warriors yet but had begun their training. And Sogo was one of them. 

He locked eyes with me, his dark brown eyes catching the light of the torch in his hand and he smiled at me assuringly like he always did. He sheathed the blade back on his belt and ruffled my curled hair with his free hand. 

“Don’t worry, Jide. I will keep you all safe from whatever comes our way,” he whispered to me before gently pushing me on. 

His words settled my restlessness and I nodded and pushed forward with the rest of the children. We had no idea where we were going, except that we were to keep walking until the shaman determined that we had walked far enough. 

Still, we kept walking. Around us in the dark, animal noises filled the air and increased the tension in the group but the shaman didn’t stop. If I remember correctly, she even sped up as if trying to get to the destination in time. 

At a point, our slow creep through the forest had turned into a run and by the time she told us to slow down, we were panting for air and begging for water. We didn’t get any, save from the already emptying waterskins the eldest children carried. And yet, the shaman didn’t stop. And along the way, we lost ten from our group to exhaustion and thirst. 

We were lucky in this regard, my brothers and I because father had taken it upon himself to train us to go on for hours without rest or water. I still don’t believe it was because he expected this to happen but I was glad that the training kept us alive. Largely. 

Sometimes, Elder Okoye would allow us to rest, but only for a few hours before the journey started again. 

Day turned to night, which turned to day. And then the cycle continued. Hunger gnawed at us and thirst clawed at our throats but the shaman didn’t stop. She just kept moving like she was unaffected by what we were feeling. Perhaps she was. That is something I will never find out.

Regardless, Deji, my five-year-old brother, didn’t make it past the fourth day before he collapsed on the floor for good. 

It was on the seventh day that we finally got the chance to stop. 

By this time, blisters had formed underneath our feet and it was increasingly difficult to focus on moving. The shaman didn’t stop but she slowed down a bit and we took some rest from it. The sun had risen for the day and it bathed us with its warmth which felt oppressive in our thirsty state. 

And yet, there was something about it. Something strange. As thirsty, tired, and hungry as I was, I couldn’t help but feel like there was something wrong with the day. I wasn’t sure if it was the sun, or the way I felt, or how far the shaman appeared to be from the group. 

I mentioned it to Sogo and he frowned before hobbling forward faster to catch up to her and as if on cue, the shaman began to run. The rest of us tried to catch up with her, struggling as we increased our speed but by the time we went through the group of trees that she passed, we had lost her. 

And gained something different. 

As we passed through the trees, we burst out of the forest into a large clearing that seemed to stretch from end to end with no more trees in sight. The ground was different, hardened and yet, smooth and cool to the touch. Cautiously, we all exited the forest and stepped on the strange ground. 

Ahead of us, was a structure, unlike anything we had seen before. It stood taller than most of the trees we had walked past in the forest but the more I stared at it, the more it reminded me of the mahogany tree back home. 

Looking at it filled me with an intense sense of dread that increased with each second. The entrance to the place was open but even in the light of the sun, it just looked like a black cloth had been placed across it. Like a shadow veil that we will have to cross. I blinked as I noticed a ripple in the shadow veil. 

Like someone else was present in our vicinity. I took a step forward without meaning to and tried to be sure that I saw someone beyond the door. 

A shout of celebration broke my gaze with the veil and I looked down to see a river bank separating the strange, smooth road from the building. 

At once, all the children rushed forward and I found myself running along, my mind suddenly filled with the thought of water on my lips and down my throat. Kunle and Seun had jumped in already and were swimming in it. Sogo was just behind me, along with a few other children as we raced towards the water. 

I was a step away from the water, already filled with playing children when I froze and looked up once more. 

Across the river, standing at the other side, was the shaman. We all stopped, even those in the water. The shaman looked down at them and shook her head in disappointment. Before we could do anything, all the children in the river disappeared under and they didn’t resurface. 

Slowly, to our horror and immediate understanding, the river changed from the bright blue it was, to a deepening red. In that instant, I had lost both of my brothers.

Black History Month, Descriptive, Emotion, Fiction, PenPractice, writing

A Good Death – Part 1

When I was young, still wet behind the ears as I ran around the mahogany tree that grew in the middle of the village, my father used to tell me stories about his days as a warrior of our tribe. Back then, it made little sense to me, the stories. His eyes would water and his mind would wander about his glory days and how he wished he died a good death. 

He was still a warrior during these retellings, though the grey in his hair contrasted against his ebony skin. It was a sign that he was growing in age. 

Each retelling of his ‘glory days’ began with his return from the hunt. Every week, my father and a few of the other tribesmen would come together and go out into the forest to hunt for the tribe. Sometimes, the hunt would take days and the whole tribe would worry, waiting with bated breath.

And yet, the mornings of their returns always coincided with the rising sun and they would enter the village, bathed in the golden light of the sun god, their skin rippling as if dripping with Sango’s blessing. I used to believe that spirits walked with them whenever they returned but such is the mind of a youngling. 

Still, the hunters would drop their kill at the center of the village, underneath the mahogany tree and our tribe’s shaman would come to separate it, with a portion reserved as a sacrifice for our gods. The elder would rest a hand on the hunters, whispering a prayer on them before dispersing them to their wives and loved ones. 

On those days, my father would rush back to my mother first, carrying her off the floor and showering her with kisses before taking her inside to discuss. To discuss. That was what my mother called it. I know better now. 

One day, after their ‘discussion’ was finished, my father sauntered out, sweat still dripping down his skin, and gathered us together. I was the third son of five children. All boys. We were the pride of my father and I could see that, even then when I knew of little. 

My father took a seat on a small stool, just outside our hut, and my brothers and I sat around him, eager to hear what new stories he had to tell us. My mother came then, as she always did, to hand him a bowl of some ripened fruit punch and he emptied the bowl into his mouth before speaking. 

“Have I ever told you this one story…” he began and we drew nearer almost subconsciously. 

“Have I ever told you this one story about the time I first faced the Raga Tribe? I have told you about the skirmishes of Ogun and how all these smaller tribes sought to fight us and encroach on our lands. Those fights were easy. Not challenging in any way. 

“So much so that even Ogun did not interfere or assist us. He let us fight on our own merits because he knew there was nothing the smaller tribes could do to hurt us. And he was right.”

My father’s hands went to the wooden beads linked around his neck and he fingered it gingerly. The beads were in different colors, ranging from red to dark blue that mirrored the endless sea. 

The manner in which he began, made it seem like our fight with the Raga was completed but I knew different. Even now, in the comfort of our new home, stories of fights with the Raga were common. Still, as children, we were never told about who the Raga tribe were and what they wanted. 

Now and then, a few warriors of the tribe would head out to assist another tribe in resisting the Raga’s invasion. We rarely saw the warriors return. 

They were our enemies and eventually, we would have to fight them when we became men. 

“But the Raga Tribe… There was something different about them,” he said solemnly. 

Worry lines deepened on his face and for an instant, I stopped seeing my father, the warrior. Instead, I saw my father, the man. His face hardened as he stared into the distance, the scar on his right cheek catching the sun’s glint. He flared his nostrils as if taking in a lasting breath before taking time to look at each of us in turn. 

I remember frowning then, unsure of why my father was acting unlike himself. In his retellings, there was usually a smile plastered on his face as he told his stories. Sometimes, he would get on his feet and show us the attack he used to win a fight, or how he positioned himself to catch his enemy by surprise but this time, he just sighed and continued. 

“It was before you were born…” he said, nodding at my younger brother before pointing at me, “…and it was just after your first year.”

“We got word that some of our former enemies, the Fishing tribe to the south, had met an untimely end. Word of a stronger tribe moving along the coast in search of a new home. The Elder called a council and assembled the warriors together to tell us what we must do.” 

He dropped the bowl to the floor, close to his feet and I glanced down to see my mother, sitting next to him, refilling his bowl. She flashed me a sad smile and I frowned. 

“The elder said we must be ready to defend our tribe if the time comes. Which went without saying. But there was a tremble to his voice. Something was bothering him. Still, we answered that we will do what we must and he dismissed us.

“A week after that meeting, the eastern tribe… our Enemies, the Hanaya, were destroyed by this mysterious invader and it was then we understood that our time to fight was fast approaching. I was a warrior captain now so I made my men practice even as I laid traps in the village in preparation for the mysterious invaders.”

He paused and drank from the newly filled bowl before handing it back to my mother and gracing her with a smile. She smiled back at him in appreciation, the little indent in her cheek deepening. 

“It was in the middle of my trap-laying that the elder called me and told me that we must attack the Hanaya village after sunset. I questioned the decision, finding no reason for why we had to be the aggressors until the elder told me what his scouts had seen.”

“What had they seen, Papa?” my eldest brother asked. 

My father looked at him and leaned forward a little even as his voice went quieter. 

“Monsters,” he replied. 

We all flinched and he chuckled as if expecting our reaction. Still, he leaned in further as he began to describe them. 

“The scouts saw monsters who stood on two feet as we did, but their skin had no color,” he explained. 

“No color?!” my younger brother exclaimed.

“Not a drop. The monsters had pale skin, like goat’s milk. Their eyes shone with blue gems and the hair on their head was yellow, like a lasting sickness refusing to leave. The scouts said that they carried an unknown weapon in their hands, one that spat fire and hot metal.”

“A weapon that spits fire and metal? How did you beat them, Papa?” My elder brother asked. 

My father looked at him and then at the rest of us. His face became grim as he took the bowl from his mother and emptied it into his mouth. 

“We didn’t. Not in a straight fight. Like the elder suggested, I gathered a group of warriors and set out to do what must be done to stop their spread. At night, under the cover of the shadows, we made our way down to the Raga. We thought as they will be sleeping, we will just take them before they wake up. We were mistaken,” he explained. 

“From the top of the hill, we could see the lights in the village, glowing like numerous fireflies in the distance. I should have turned back then. I knew in my heart that it was the right decision but I took it to be fear. So, we went down.”

My brothers and I drew in closer, our minds completely captured by the story. I glanced at my mother to see her grab my father by the leg and he looked at her, a flash of sadness crossing his features. 

“You see, in the short time they stayed at the Hanaya tribe, they had built tall slim houses that stood as tall as trees in the forest. We were unaware the Raga had seen us before we even saw them,” he said, leaning closer to us and dropping his voice a little. 

“We had lost before we even knew it. I lost the warriors with me that day. The men that I called ‘brothers’. I watched as their lives all got snuffed out like fire torches.” 

The silence at that moment was oppressive. On normal days, when my father would retell his war stories, my brothers and I would be joking with him by now, laughing as he played out how he won against his enemies. We didn’t do that this time. 

My father sat back straight and took another bowl of fruit punch from my mother and emptied it, before whispering a word of thanks to her. She smiled at him before refilling it, though she didn’t hand it over to him yet. 

“None of you have asked me why they are called the Raga tribe,” he said in a solemn voice. 

No one spoke for a moment. Then, I asked the question. 

“Why are they called the Raga tribe?”

My father fixed his gaze on me intently as if he was looking into me. 

“They are called Raga because when we faced them that day, we walked into a line of the monsters awaiting us with their metal weapons. And as soon as they saw us, there was a loud sound from their weapons. Their name is how I remembered the weapon sound.”

He stood up from the stool and crossed his arms as he regarded the five of us. For a moment, I saw a glint in his eyes that looked like tears but I thought I was seeing things. He extended his hand towards my mother without looking at her and she handed the bowl to him.

My father took a sip from the bowl this time around before handing it to my eldest brother, an act he had never done before. 

“Drink. Today, you all become men,” he said. 

My eldest brother, Sogo, looked at my father for a moment before drinking from the bowl, after which he passed it to Kunle and then to me. I drank it, feeling the heat in my throat as the taste of the fruit punch mixed with my senses. I could see why my father loved it. I could also see how much I didn’t. 

After my youngest brother had drunk his share, my mother took the bowl from him even as my father commanded us to rise to our feet. He kept his gaze on us throughout and it’s only now that I think I understand what might have been going through his mind. 

Perhaps he was trying to sear our faces in his mind so that he wouldn’t forget. Perhaps. 

Anxiety, Emotion, Fiction, Love, Pain, PenPractice, Poem, thoughts

Lie To Me

“He loves us…
Can’t you see it?

Him professing his every love for us
Without even trying to make us official
Because we’re already official,
Can’t you see it?

All the midnight trysts,
Hotel visits,
And subtle holidays,
The nicknames, fake names and
Fake appointments.

Why else would he try so much,
If we don’t mean so much to his enjoyment?

He called us his ever after,
Always after,
Everything else in his life
So that he can spend time with us.

If that’s not love,
Then what is?”

“It’s alright…

We’re alright.

I mean, we’re not happy
But we’re not sad,
We’re just ‘there’ dealing with issues,
Not so different from anyone else, right?

It’s not a big deal,
Not even a deal at all,
Just human with human emotions
And dark thoughts filling the ether

Other than which,
We are pretty standard
So no use talking about it
With someone else
Or even yourself in the mirror.

It’s alright…”

“So what?
She broke up with us,
So what?

She doesn’t deserve us,
If anything, she’s lost us.
Lost access to the magnificence that is us,
The sheer brilliance that we offer.

I mean, sure, we might not ‘love’ again
But what is love anyway?
What good did it do us?

Its a useless emotion.
A weak feeling professed by idiots
And we’re better off without it.

I mean, sure,
some Hearts might be broken along the way
But as long as we get our fun
What business is it to us?

We don’t need her.
We have us.

We are alright… right?”


I Am Actually Bored…

…and it is with such boredom that I have come to realise a few things which are suddenly playing over and over in my head like a cheaply made, gruesome horror movie… 

Boredom sucks.

That state where you have no clue what to do with your time, so you sit by the TV or by the Laptop and watch as you age away doing absolutely nothing worthwhile… The time where you suddenly get lazy, unmotivated, hungry, slothful…even your brain refuses to do work so you end up indulging in stupid, foolish, mind-wandering, finger-typing, internet-trolling that you eventually regret as soon as the boredom regresses. 

Yeah, Boredom sucks…

Worse yet, Boredom is probably one of the most dangerous things out there that the majority have refused to notice. And I say majority, because heck, I just finally figured it out today. Boredom makes you do things, say things that frankly, are not you. You indulge in a craving for mischief that more times than not, you can’t really explain why you did it, except for the fact that it seemed to assist in killing time. We get so into the boredom that we shirk duties and hobbies and knowledge only for us to regret that later on in the future. We’d miss opportunities and chances to work towards the success we love to dream off, only so that we can relish in the YOLO moment we think will help us enjoy/utilise our boredom. We break hearts, make lies, destroy lives because we have nothing better to do.


It might not happen physically…

but ladies and gentlemen.

Boredom kills. 

Think about that.