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Ebe onye dara ka chi ya kwaturu ya.

Where one falls is where his god pushed him down.

***

Emeka snarled and the others snarled in agreement. When he spoke, his voice was different. It was raspier. If broken glass could somehow possess vocal abilities, it would sound like him.

“Where is it?” he asked while slowly walking towards Odion. “Where is it?”

Odion had faced dangers in his life, but there was something different about this one. He felt hollow on the inside. It was like his very soul had been ripped out, and now there was nothing left. He had nothing left, and the knowledge of that shattered him. It broke his very being, robbed him of every incentive to even live. It was a feeling so encompassing that Odion didn’t even realize he’d been punched—right on the jaw.

He stumbled on the cold ground, one hand to his mouth. His brain was still trying to register this when a kick seemed to come out of nowhere. It blinded him momentarily. All he could see was a bright light. Then the darkness creeped in again, and he could see properly.

Emeka—or what used to be Emeka—stood there, grinning with unrealistically sharp teeth. They all wore dark clothing that was torn at odd places, not that any of them seemed to mind. Behind Emeka and his gang, the sun seemed to be peeking from the darkness, and it was sending out tendrils of light that made the sky glitter. Odion would have considered it quite beautiful if he wasn’t going to die at that moment.

“So you’re an Ogbanje, like me?” Odion asked.

Emeka cocked his head to the side as if pondering a serious issue, then—surprisingly—he laughed. It was a cruel, sordid sound. Then he saw a movement behind Emeka, almost a shadow. It was probably just a trick of the light. Emeka had stopped laughing by now and was now using his clawed hand to clean his eyes. Well, now he knew. Ogbanje could cry.

“You’re a case, Didi.” Emeka said with pure disdain. Then there was that movement again. He was sure now that he wasn’t imagining it. This time the shadow moved swiftly and took one of Emeka’s minions with it. Emeka was oblivious to this and kept his focus on Odion. Odion muttered something in response. Emeka was now standing over Odion, looming over him like a giant. “What did you say?” he asked. He was clearly not used to this kind of insubordination from anyone he was speaking to.

“Don’t call me Didi,” Odion responded as he stood up from the ground. He was now standing in front of Emeka and fully appreciate just how tall Emeka was. He could literally look down at Odion. From the corner of his eye, he could see that the shadow had taken out every member of Emeka’s gang and was headed towards Emeka. He had to keep Emeka’s attention on him.

“All these years, I kept you around. I gave you shelter,” Emeka said with anger. “And this is how you repay me? By hiding things from me? And who told you that you were an Ogbanje? How stupid—”

He would never know what Emeka was going to say next because at that moment, a glimmer of a shadow spread across his neck, and his head turned upwards at an odd angle. Odion almost looked to see what Emeka was inspecting, until he looked closer. Emeka wasn’t looking up. His neck had been broken. His body, now lifeless, slumped down on the ground to join the others. The shadow and Odion were now the only ones that stood.

“Oh, oops, let me slip out of this,” the shadow said as a boy who looked like he was his age, slipped out of the shadow like they were robes. The boy looked familiar, though Odion couldn’t remember ever meeting him. He was bald—which was odd—and was wearing a green T-shirt and black jeans with sandals. He had broad shoulders and an athletic build, but he looked like he was also strong. His eyes had a sharp color and he radiated a kind of aura. Sango had radiated a kind of calm strength, but this boy seemed to radiate pure chaos and anarchy. Just being around him made Odion’s darkest thoughts come to life. Odion knew now without a doubt that this boy—even though his looks said otherwise—was a god. After Odion’s recent encounter, he was strongly encouraged to be reproachful of strangers offering help.

“Who are you?” Odion asked with suspicion.

“Why so angry?” the boy said. “I did just save your life. Ogbanje, sad folk. Come let’s go somewhere else. This place is depressing me.” He stretched his hand out to Odion. His hand was adorned with rings on each finger. Odion knew he should be more careful, but then again, if this boy had wanted to kill him, surely he would have done it by now? Besides, Odion was tired and hungry and exhausted. He needed to rest and eat before he collapsed.

The moment he took the boy’s hand, the world turned sideways and the alley peeled away. Suddenly they were in some kind of mall. Odion remembered this place as his body tingled with memory. This was where—

“The Palms” The boy announced with outstretched arms that reminded Odion of the statue of Jesus in Rio. “It’s a great place, everything you could possibly need.”

It was early in the morning and not many people were around, in fact it seemed that only shop owners were here. The stores were all lined in one big row. There was a food court and a seating area. The theatre was upstairs. The last time he was there, he recalled seeing an ice cream store. What was it called? Vanilla Royal? Or something along those lines. The boy was moving like he owned the place and entertaining Odion with mindless chatter he could do without. There were two entrances. They had come from the one furthest from the food court. The place smelled like food as always. But when they arrived at the food court, all the stalls were closed shut with iron railings.

“They don’t open this early, let’s just—” Odion began. Then the boy snapped his fingers and green sparks flew. Magic. Odion flinched reflexively and suddenly the whole place flared up in bright lights. Odion used his hands to protect himself from the glare. When his eyes grew accustomed to the light, he put his hand down and realized that all the stores were now open, their machines moving autonomously and making food from ingredients that seemed to come from nowhere.

Odion looked in wonder as the smell of food wafted into his nose. It had been so long since he’d had a good meal. If any of the other members of staff noticed, none of them approached the two teenage boys casually sitting in the food court at dawn. Once seated, the boy stared at Odion with an intense gaze. His eyes were almost mesmerizing, taunting him to look back. The boy snapped his fingers again and food flew in from the stores, flooding the table. Didi didn’t need to be told twice to eat. He stuffed food in his mouth, not even bothering to savor the taste.

The boy didn’t eat, though. He just sat back and watched until Odion paused to take a drink from the Coca Cola bottle beside him. “So, you found out about your parents?” the boy asked without any premise.

Odion pushed the food away and hung his head while murmuring an affirmation. He had tried not to think about them for a while but suddenly the weight of the truth was crushing him. He felt lost and tired and alone. The boy carried his chair and moved beside Odion and stroked his hair while Odion began to sob.

The boy kept on muttering, “It’s not your fault, it’s not your fault.”

Odion wasn’t even surprised by the tears, Ogbanje could cry after all. The boy just kept on muttering, looking sadly at Odion with those eyes. Those sharp green eyes.

 

***********

#TFOG is a weekly series published every Monday. Catch up on the entire series by clicking on the links below:

Introduction

Chapter One

Chapter Two

Chapter Three

Chapter Four

Chapter Five

***********

About the Author:

Anthony Azekwoh is a seventeen year old Nigerian who graduated from Whitesands Secondary School and is now in Covenant University. He started writing at the age of thirteen and since then some of his work has been published online and in his secondary school’s annual publication in which he won the first prize for both fiction and poetry. He won the ACT Joint Award in 2017 for his story, ‘The Fall of the Gods’, which is now nearing completion. He is currently writing a series based on the stories and folktales from various Nigerian tribes and spends his spare time painting and reading.

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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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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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