Your father was resting on the recliner when you walk into the parlour, his smoking pipe dangling freely from between his lips, bloodshot eyes staring numbly into open space. Thick, black smoke was oozing through his ears and nostrils, whirling and rising against gravity, taking forms that resemble the ghosts of rebels he had slain at the warfront. His fingers, meticulously counting the 438,000 hours he’s waited for his gratuity after his years of selfless service to his fatherland.

When you were younger, you’d sing melodies to him, sitting at his foot – his other leg had been amputated after it was blown off by a landmine. The doctors had said he was lucky to survive. You didn’t want your survival to be determined by luck, that’s why you left. And with each day, your skin grew tougher like the bark of the baobab tree in the village square until you were not sure what hardened you more – racism in your foreign refuge or the anarchy you left behind.

You tip-toe carefully past him to the backyard where your mother is boiling water for a sacred rite, the kettle unevenly balanced on the open fire of dogmas, the flames looking like they could burn forever. You see the sweat flowing down your mother’s neck, forming a river at her feet. You will it to quench the fire but where it meets the flames, it forms magma that burns her feet. She opens her mouth to scream but a flying jet above drowns her voice.

The jet drops palliatives within the lens of the media. A crowd, all looking like your mother, congregate to search for missing limbs and corpses of abducted children. In their midst, a passionate renegade detonates an explosive. You hold your mother by the hand, trying to pull her to safety but the thick skin you have grown is apathetic and she slips out of your grip.

You watch her burn from a distance, her feet crumbling first then her bones crackling. Her stomach bursts to reveal prejudice covered in greenish slime, chili-hot hate speeches she had swallowed and a dark, ashy graphite looking like crushed hope. Her stomach formerly a blanket of silence, now dissolves quietly into a debris of another story waiting to be told, now forgotten.

You hold her ashes under your gaze, afraid to go close. A splinter of her thighbone had scarred you on the arm. Somehow, that spot softened enough to bleed and it makes you want to tell a story. You wonder who’ll believe you, wishing you had allowed the flames to swallow you too. You blame God for burdening you with the story of a survivor.

Ahead, a reporter tells the world it was an accident, another says it was a plane crash. By the time you’ll get to speak, you’ll have become a propagandist, a distortionist with several phobias attached to your name. You drag your feet away from the scene, hoping that your spirit finds enough resilience, and your tongue enough courage to testify.











Photo by Soroush Karimi on Unsplash