It was in the early 1990s during the war in the far east of Africa, and soldiers were deployed from all other African countries to defend their sister country. It was one of the mornings that marked the beginning of the season, accompanied by chilly mornings and hot and sunny afternoons, followed by cold or chilly evenings. The corners of streets and alleys were overflowing with people who smelled of mentholated balm, wearing layered outfits with ashy knees, feet, and elbows, lips shining from cheap lip glosses. And it was when a woman in her late thirties lost herself to the emptying feeling of her husband’s absence.

She could not go on living; she couldn’t keep her body and soul together, merely hanging on a weak thread about to be cut. Now that his scent has vanished from his side of the bed, from the pillows and the bed sheets. Even as she refused to lay on his side of the bed, hugging his pillows so tight that if they weren’t lifeless, they would have choked and worn his shirts to bed. These rituals haven’t helped anyway but she kept on with them. Little did she know that this sleep, the peace that she craves would never come. Maybe not soon. There’s something about how what you chase, eludes you until you stop.

Isn’t love supposed to be a peaceful, calm storm, the rapid heartbeats and subtle, soft touches? This doesn’t feel at all like peace. Was she not the one who wished for that love that moves your insides, the 3 a.m. conversations, late-night rides, and wild adventures, a love that rocks her world even if the tides are against the course of her life? Just like this moment. And so, some nights when the moon shines without restraint, she whispers to herself to soothe her lover and take her daydreams to him.
She thought about her kids who are like lifeless pets to her and how she should get better for their sake so when Kola returns soon, he wouldn’t meet her like this.


When Wande’s mother forgot to pick her up from the playground, she didn’t get so angry to her surprise. She is used to her mum living like they exist. This morning, she had forgotten to take them to school and make them lunches. She had whipped something from the leftover food her grandma had brought a week ago. She had also left her lunch money and homework in her study on the table that hadn’t been wiped in months but was covered in dust and fingernail scratches. Her mother sleeps during the day and Wande sometimes wonders if her mum has lost the sense to distinguish between day and night. Sometimes when she starts to remind her of things to do… her words fizzle out as her mom stares into space all day unaware of her presence.

Now she’d have to pick up her little sister she thought to herself as she ran down the dark alley, hoping Sade hadn’t been picked by a randy old man or a weirdly looking or seemingly sweet old lady. She muttered a quick prayer for safety as an eerie wind blew, whistling indistinctly and goosebumps rose on her arms. The hairs on her arms stood as if they could defend her against the evil that lurked in the shadows. Wande felt like she’s on an unending journey, like she would never get there and would keep on walking and walking down this road till the end of time even though the playground is just a stone throw now. She walked and ran at intervals, wishing her mum was a better mother to them, that she was not distraught since her father left for the battlefield and hasn’t returned. Isn’t it absurd that she never for once thought that her father is probably dead, buried in a shallow grave in a war-torn country thousands of miles away from home. Or wrapped in the arms or bosom of strange women who are just after temporary pleasures? Maybe her sweet dad has been captured by infidels? But she feels him strongly every morning she wakes and with every breath she takes in her spirit. He is alive, still breathing.

Wande ran as fast as her legs could carry her, dashing into the playground dimly lit by the shining moon. She frantically searched under the park benches, the merry-go-round, the rusty slides and even looked up in the trees. She panicked and stood transfixed on the same spot with a death stare for a minute. Where could Jola have been? Maybe the Bellos’ picked her up alongside their feisty daughter. As her thoughts kept running wild, Wande found her sister in a foetal state curled up on one of the park benches; the one her mother spilled their cold ogi when she discovered they had not taken a sip from it at lunch break. Her sister must have cried a lot because there was a streak of dried tears on her cheeks. Scooping her sister up, Wande staggered under the weight of her arms and walked hastily back home in the dark of the night, praying they got home unhurt.


Life as the Sanya’s knew it hasn’t been the same ever since their only son and child didn’t return from the war front. The news flying around has been that the soldiers are back to their families but Sanjo is not home yet. Maybe he couldn’t find his way home or this home isn’t home to him. Pa Sanya never believed he would ever suffer this much anxiety in his old age; he envisioned smoking his cigar overlooking his yard while waiting for his daily round of hot egbo and porridge beans. But now, he couldn’t smoke his cigar, he could only clutch his old Bible with the dog-eared pages still overlooking the yard and waiting for his son.

His wife didn’t seem fazed, she seemed to be living in denial struggling between illusion and reality. It appears as if she is drifting in the space. One time, she dreamt she had wings and flew tirelessly across seven oceans and seven rivers looking for a lost piece of jewellery. She woke up to owls hooting in the dead of the night. It was 1 a.m. She staggered to the bathroom and scooped cold water from the yellow basin onto her sleeping eyes. She went back to bed and within seconds she was back in the dreamland floating. Her arms flailed as she struggled to make sense of where she was. The cold running river brought her back to the present, the reality of the other world where colorful winged fairies danced on tree branches. And everyone grows old in the blink of an eye. She prefers this world to the one where her son is missing, this enchanting world she had told Kola about.

Here, he flies with her sometimes and they sit on the rocks that sink in the flowing river watching the sea animals in their world. Here, there are no warring countries and Kola is not entangled with that crazy woman who holds him and has captured his heart. Here, her son is hers and hers alone far from the stares and touch of strangers. She will keep him as long as she breathes in this world. No one, not a soul can touch his soul. Unlike the premature attack on her other children. Her gifts from the gods, tiny little toes and fingers with their ever-shut eyes. She began to imagine how grown they would have been if they had stayed. If only they had stayed. She would have given them the world but they hated her, hated her womb, and hastily ran back to their colleagues in their world. She should wake up and find her child. It’s time she took matters into her own hands not waiting anymore for God’s time.


It’s been 21 days, and Kolapo is still lying under the rubble of the war, stuck between the crushed red bricks which was once a decent habitat for the dismembered bodies. He could feel his swollen eyes and his hair matted with human blood. The last thing he remembered was a loud, booming bang, and total darkness as he slowly drew his last breath. Maybe not his last, who knows? Now as he struggled to keep his battered eyes open, he could taste steel, oil, dust, and gunpowder on his tongue, he felt his hot raspy breath on his upper lip. He staggered as he tried to think of where he could quench his thirst, and then he fell.

He woke up an hour later, arms tied down staring into a ceiling darkened with soot from lanterns. He shivered as he felt a cold shaky hand on his bruised lips. It seemed the old woman who lived in the abandoned house near the market square survived this war. He tried to sit up but was held down by a jute rope wound around his chest, arms, and legs. The woman told him he was burning with fever when she found him collapsed on the road, the road that once tolerated thousands of feet now aching for those ruthless feet as it has been abandoned. And so, for 6 days he stayed in the hut with the old woman as she fed him cold porridge, herbs, and tree barks brewed in hard water.

Kolapo would never have imagined it would take this long to figure out how to fix the relationship with two of the people he has ever loved. His mama always wants to have him all to herself. Had she forgotten she had a husband to take care of? His father. A loving man who deserves the world and gets nothing from his wife, who will never stop fawning over her ever-dashing son till the moon fails. This sometimes creeps Kola out. He’d wanted to scream his lungs out to his mama to change but you cannot blame a woman who had had eleven stillborn before he decided to stay and not be distracted by the callings of his counterparts in the other world. If only she would rest now and savor the gift of the present.

Once when he was eight, mama had told him stories of how she had met his siblings, 11 of them, in her dreams. They played suwe, carefully cracking open sun-dried almonds to avoid crushing the nuts with white stones they fetched from the river. Sometimes when the sun goes down, they scoop blackish mud from the shallow ponds and make a paste to splash on buildings with collapsing walls down the mountains. These children would run when they heard growling behind the castles. Then they would run in scattered lines back to where the light lives, laughing and giggling in their happy land.

His mama said some of the castle-like buildings belonged to the great kings of this world who had passed thousands of years ago. These castles with tall walls that once housed royalties, beautiful women adorned in coveted gold, and slaves in chains and cages; now collapsed like the Ozymandias. Kings who lived here took their subject’s wives, banished their husbands, and claimed their children. Kings drank wine and ate meals from the skulls of their enemies. Kings who slaughter albinos. Kings who buried prophetic children alive. Kings fought wars and razed downtowns and villages. Kings who died and requested to be accompanied by their chiefs to the land of no return. Ancient kings; the gifts that keep giving. Sometimes Kolapo believed he was probably a descendent of these raging, ravishing kings, that their impetuous blood flows through his veins. But his mama never told him that, so he isn’t. He hoped he could see this world and probably stay to feel what these children feel. Maybe he can mend what’s broken in his own family when he returns.

So, the next night before he surrendered to the god of sleep, he saw himself floating in the space without hold and he couldn’t feel his body. He felt lifeless and alive at the same time like a ghost trying to figure out where they belong; this world or the other world. Seems his wishes are being granted at this moment. He is ready to face this. But will he survive? He thought as a wave of terror washed down over him. He landed with a loud thud in the thick rainforest and stayed on the dew-drenched grasses till he could stand. Strange air whooshed around him and almost knocked him out in a second. Trees so tall they reach the white clouds with branches overlapping that they form a giant canopy over the earth. There is something about this place, something sinister yet so calming. This is not the place in his mama’s stories. Or is he simply just in the wrong place? Or did it change over time? Did the creatures and infamous child-like beings find another abode? Why aren’t they the first to welcome him?

And so, he began his journey into the unknown. He walked, searching and searching until his bones grew frail and his heart couldn’t take it anymore. And at the southeast end of the thick rainforest, stood a shining light, bright as the sun, blazing hot that it could dry a flowing stream in an instant. He heard cheerful giggles and laughter of children from the far distance, hastening his steps he stumbled on a tree stump, and blood trickled from his big toe onto the silvery white sands. Grunting, he continued walking towards where the light shone without taking a second look at his newly acquired injury. As he got closer to the enchanted places he’d heard about in his mama’s stories, he sensed a calmness within him.

Life is a dream from which we all must wake before we can dream again.









Photo by Jr Korpa on Unsplash