nines (6)

In darkness, shards of glass will shine like tiny stars. They glitter around me, making the petals on my skirt come alive. I feel like I can hear them, a soft shimmering, like the sound of tiny bells. Or is that the taste of blood in my mouth? Metal tastes the way it sounds, metallic, like the smell of blood. I try to listen harder, taste deeper, I try to differentiate. The car shrinks into an airless box, and my lungs hug each other. Somehow, I manage to crawl out through the hole that was the wind shield before it shattered into a thousand tiny stars.

It’s quiet outside, so quiet, even the whispering wind is loud. A path appears at my feet, like a trench carved into the earth, long and crooked. The sand is cold, and my bare feet sink into it. There is no moon in the sky above, but the trees that circle me cast shadows on the ground. A light wind whistles past my ears and rustles through the dry leaves on the ground. With every step, the path seems to narrow between the moulds of earth swelling from both sides.

Like a black light, a shadow glows in the distance. I walk faster, and the shadow becomes a man dressed in white. He appears to be in a hurry, and on his end, the path deepens and rises above him. I recognize him, the way his head moves along with him as he takes each step. I run after him.

“Daddy, please wait for me,” I shout. He stops and turns around. I run into his arms.

“Daddy!” His clothes are cold against my cheeks.

“Lamosi,” he says quietly.

“Daddy, don’t go” I tell him.

“I left you in the car, why did you follow me?”

I look up at him, and there are pale white circles where his eyes should be. I turn around to run, but he grabs my arm. His hand is so cold. I felt a chill in my bones.

“We have to hurry Lamosi. They are waiting.”

He points at a blinking light that has just appeared in front of us and starts pulling me with him. I could hear my heart beating wildly in my chest. I start screaming. I try to pull my hand away, but his grip is solid. I feel fear like nothing I’ve felt before. The light is so much brighter and seems closer. With all my strength, I pulled my hand out of his grip and everything melts into complete darkness. I start falling. Everything echoes loudly inside my head. The darkness envelopes me until I can’t breathe, and I land on my back with a thud.

I open my eyes, and the first thing I see are the white blades of the ceiling fan chasing each other. The sheets beneath me are damp with sweat, and my heart has not stopped pounding. I am in my room, on my bed. Somebody is knocking on my door. I feel my head spinning as I get up from the bed. My mother stands on the other side of the door draped in black. She touches my cheek.

“Lamosi,” she says. 
I look at her face. Her eyes are puffy and red and the bags underneath are heavier and darker. She has just finished crying.

“Ma,” I respond. I can hear my aunties and the women from her unit in church singing a hymn in the living room.

“He was in your dream again,” my mother says, wiping my forehead with the edge of the black wrapper she unwraps from her waist.
 I nod.

“‘Did he try to take you again?” I look at her. She looks tired. I want to lie but fear is a thing that cannot be disguised.


She sighs. “Lamosi, you will talk to pastor Paul after the service. He has come? Yes. Everything is ready. We were waiting for you. After the service, he will pray for you. Are you ready?

“Yes mummy,” I lied.

The moment I entered the living room and saw the open casket on our dining table, which had been pulled to the middle and decorated for that purpose, fear filled me like a hot liquid and burnt a hole inside my heart. Fake flowers are everywhere and I want to just run away. But it’s too late. The women from church and my uncles have already formed a circle around the casket and they walk around it singing. Somebody pulls me in, and I’m suddenly part of the circle. I try not to look down but when I get close enough, curiosity overwhelms me.

His nose has pieces of cotton wool peeking out, and his lips are pressed together like he is smiling. I pause, one foot barely touching the ground, a bereaved crowd piling up at my back. My father is dressed in a clean white tunic, and his fist is clenched, as if holding on to something. My throat goes dry and I step back.



Post image is an adaptation of an image by Nadja Varga via Flickr

About the Author:

Portrait - SuleMariam Sule is an Edo girl who flies regularly but not in a plane. She is a wandering writer and tea lover. Her first short story ‘Yarn’ was published in the Ake review 2015. She was a resident writer at Ebedi International Writers Residency, March-April 2016.

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I'm finishing up a phd at Duke University where I study African novels, which I believe are some of the loveliest things ever written. Brittle Paper is the virtual space/station where I play and experiment with ideas on how to reinvent African fiction and literary culture.

7 Responses to “Fear is a Thing That Cannot Be Disguised | by Mariam Sule | An African Story” Subscribe

  1. Innocent Chizaram Ilo 2016/08/05 at 8:03 am #

    Creepy in a lovely way!

  2. Farida 2016/08/05 at 9:57 am #


  3. Iyanu 2016/08/05 at 10:11 am #

    Beautifully crafted.

  4. Gwen Suehunu 2016/08/06 at 2:38 pm #

    This story is beautiful!

  5. Aneru 2016/08/10 at 5:39 am #

    Exciting and lovely theme. Kudos.

  6. Adeleke David 2016/08/15 at 11:44 pm #

    Although I struggled to translate some of the words to images in my mind, I still enjoyed the story.

  7. Gavra 2016/09/27 at 1:16 am #

    Accurate, in every sense of the word.

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I hold a doctorate in English from Duke University and recently joined the Marquette University English faculty as an Assistant Professor. I love teaching African fiction and contemporary British novels. Brittle Paper is the virtual space/station where I play and experiment with ideas on how to reinvent African fiction and literary culture.

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