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Bí ẹ̀mí bá wà, ìrètí ńbẹ.

As long as there is life, there is hope.

***

Some years ago, he had watched a documentary about soldiers and the trauma they faced in the battlefield. One of the soldiers, an amputee, mentioned that life after war was almost unbearable. He said something curious, though. He said that even though his left arm was gone, he sometimes felt a sharp pain in it.

Odion had asked his father at the time about this curious phenomenon. He still remembered the warm smile on his face, amused at his son’s unbridled curiosity. His father was in the study at the time, working on a paper. He wore his faded nightgown that was surely older than Odion. His reading glasses were fastened onto his head. He gestured for his son to sit on his laps.

“It’s called Phantom Pain, Didi. It’s—how do I explain this now—the pain you feel once a part of you has been cut off from the whole. Nobody is really sure why it happens, but it just does.”

Odion felt like that now. His parents, an integral part of his life, were gone, but the loss still hurt him. He had always found it funny how emotional pain could manifest itself physically. His chest hurt. It felt like there was a huge gaping hole that could never be closed.

He had been crying on a cold iron lunch table, grieving his dead parents who he found out he had killed because of a cures he’s borne all his life. When he raised his head up, he found out that it was already Noon. People were now walking in and out of the shops, eager to beat the mall’s rush hour.

Odion loved observing people. It gave him something else to focus on, a distraction from his own dark plight. He watched a couple walk out of a store with a brightly lit sign on the top that said, “GAME.” The woman was dressed in bright colors and appeared to be in her early twenties. She had a small afro and wore circular glasses. Beside her stood a tall lanky man dressed casually in a shirt and a pair of jeans. What really caught Odion’s eye, though, was the little girl tottering between them. She looked about two or three years old dressed in a little pink pinafore. She smiled with her rosy cheeks. Odion smiled faintly at the small family. They reminded him of a better time, a peaceful time. A time when his parents were still alive. A time when he was happy.

Okay, enough of that. He had to compartmentalize these feelings and push on. He needed the clarity of mind to seek out who was behind all this. His parents won’t die in vain.

And if the world was in danger, he’d probably save it along the way. Probably.

“Are you quite done?” The green eyed boy asked in exasperation. Odion jumped. He’d almost forgotten about him. He looked a bit tired after all this time. It seemed as though the magical powers it took to keep them both invisible had suddenly begun to take its toll. Beads of sweat were coming down his face, and his fists were clenched, his palms already turning red. Sango did mention that the gods were getting weaker, so maybe this was a—.

“You’re a god aren’t you?” Odion asked while pushing the food away from him. Play time was over. He needed to start moving. “You don’t look like one, but you are, aren’t you?”

The boy rolled his eyes and placed his two legs on the table and crossed them. “Well, it took you long enough. You’ve been moping around for god-knows-how-long.”

He took one grape from the palatial spread on their table.

“And to answer your question, yes, I am a god. An amazingly dressed one at that.” He said this as he gestured at his clothes. Odion suddenly realized that he had somehow changed his clothes into a bright green kaftan adorned with golden orbs. The trousers were made of a black fabric that Odion couldn’t quite identify. His shoes were bright green and shone with a somewhat ethereal glow.

“And how are you doing this?” Odion asked as he gestured towards the glimmering green orb surrounding and obscuring them from view.

“Amazingly,” the boy answered as he flashed a toothy grin, the same one a predator would give to a nice juicy prey. Odion didn’t know what happened then but something in him suddenly tingled. His whole body seemed to be saying, Danger, danger, run away. Now that he was alert, he could feel it all over his body. Whoever this guy was, he was bad news.

Odion began to stand up. “Thank you for the meal and company, but I have to go now, I have a que—”

An invisible force knocked him back into his seat.

“I didn’t tell you we were done,” he said calmly. “I have a proposition for you.”

“Who are you?” Odion asked, fear creeping into his voice.

But then, something happened. A voice from inside of him answered, a deep baritone voice that Odion knew was familiar.

He is Eshu, a dangerous cunning being. Be wary of him.

The boy/Eshu tilted his head sideways as he stared thoughtfully at Odion. Odion was almost scared he had heard, but Eshu just continued. “I’ve been following your journey since you were a child. The easy life was really not the path that you were meant to have. But I can give it to you. I can give you the peace you so clearly want.”

Eshu waved his hands, and a green fog rose up from the earth and obscured all of Odion’s senses. It smothered him until he welcomed the oncoming blackness.

When Odion woke up, he felt sore all over. It was like he’d walked ten miles. He opened his eyes and tried to sit up but failed. He looked around and realized where he was. It wasn’t possible. There was no way this was happening. He pulled aside his favorite Spider-Man duvet and went to the bathroom. His heart stopped.

He was twelve years old again.

He was in his old house again.

Then, did that mean—

A soft knock came from his door. Odion whipped his head around. He looked down at himself and saw he was clad in grey pajamas. This was getting weird.

The knock came again.

“Come in,” Odion shouted.

Odion splashed water on his face quickly and left his brightly lit bathroom. His dad was already seated on the bed. For such a large man, he looked nervous, scared even.

“Odion,” he said, “I’m about to show you something, and you absolutely cannot tell anyone.”

“Even Mum?” Odion asked. His voice had also changed. He sounded a lot younger and more cheerful.

“Especially her,” he replied. Then with the caution of someone revealing a dangerous weapon, he brought out a rectangular box. He opened it and Odion gasped as he saw the beautiful translucent pearls.

“Today’s our fifteenth anniversary, and I got this for her. Do you think she’ll like it?”  Odion nodded fiercely and his dad let out a gasp he probably wasn’t sure he was holding in.

“Breakfast is ready, boys,” a feminine voice called from downstairs.

His father quickly got off the bed and composed himself. He gave Odion a sideways look before he left. “Brush your teeth and come downstairs quickly, so she won’t think anything is odd.”

Odion stared at the door for some time after his father had left. Both of his parents were alive? What was going on?

He went to the bathroom, brushed his teeth and made his way to the door of his room. He took a deep breath and turned the knob, then made his way downstairs. He dragged his hand against the white walls, something his mother warned him not to do. On the staircase, pictures of his family were arranged in chronological order. He peeped one where he was still a baby, droopy eyed between his smiling parents. Another one was with his mother holding him, beaming as if to say, “Look, I made this.” He smiled. These were better times.

Before he even entered the kitchen, he could smell the acara frying in oil and his stomach rumbled in response. He took a right turn and pushed the double doors into the kitchen to find his mother, busy behind the cooker while his father was busy setting the cutlery and plates on the kitchen table. They both did their jobs without bumping into each other, working in unison like the gears in a machine.

“Good morning mummy,” Odion said as she dished food on a plate. She turned around and her face made Odion’s chest clench. Her face always had natural glow in the mornings. Her long dark hair was hung in a ponytail that accented her round brown face.

“Good morning Didi,” she said, “I hope you slept well.” Didi sat down and looked at both of them. It had been years since he had seen their faces like this. Not marred in blood and darkness in his memories but just them, in their brightest forms. Didi saw his father fumble through his pocket as he looked at his wife nervously. “Honey, I, uh, got you some—”

Didi didn’t know what his father was going to say because at that moment, everything paused. The whole world seemed to be at a standstill. Didi looked around, alarmed. “Mummy, Daddy, what’s wro—”

“Nothing is wrong, Didi,” a smooth voice said from behind Didi. He looked behind and almost fell off the chair. A large bald man in a dark green suit had suddenly appeared behind him. He looked unfamiliar apart from a striking feature. His eyes were a striking green color. The same color of leaves in the early morning.

Eshu walked towards his father and plucked the rectangular box from his father’s frozen fingers. He opened the box and brought out the pearls, which he playfully displayed. A malevolent smile on his face.

“Look at all this,” Eshu said as he gestured around him to the now frozen world, “I can give you all of this and more. I can keep you in this frozen world while your body will be in a dream state. I can give you your parents.

He walked towards Didi. The heels of his shoes calmly hitting the tiled floor. He came behind Odion, his cold fingers brushing against Didi’s shoulders. He leaned in and whispered into his ear.

“You can have it all. You can live out your days here and all you have to do is sleep forever. So pick, young warrior. Would you rather rest in endless sleep and stay here with your parents or would you rather wake up and welcome that mundane and harsh reality you call your life?”

With that, he crushed the pearl necklace between his fingers. They clattered on the floor.

The sharp sound filling the air.

***********

#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

Chapter Six

***********

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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