Category Archives: Tales

#3 Forgotten Series- Fallen

Her flowers blended with the fallen leaves that clothed the field. It seemed like they had only touched the slab a moment ago, but she could barely see the yellow petals which stuck out so elegantly from the stalks she’d cut. The autumn nakedness put her solemn offering to shame, making this place of sorrow somewhat beautiful. She clutched at her stomach through the thin black dress, the only one of the shade she owned. It was almost inappropriate how light and frilly it was, brimming with life, while everything around her uttered words of death. There was no one else in sight, a fact that somehow put her at ease. She was not accustomed to the conventions of mourning.

Taking a hesitant breath, she shook her feet free of the shrubbery that had layered it. She grasped the sides of her party frock firmly as she lowered herself unto the concrete. This was the only way she could do it. She bit her lips as she thought of what to do next. She supposed that tears were in order, but she could not summon them. Pinching her sensitive eyelids had always worked when she was a child, but that continued deception had strengthened them now. Crying itself would be the greatest deception. She ran her finger softly over the raised grey surface, feeling the dents in the name she’d always said so quickly. Now she had to stop and remind herself of how the words sounded. She moved her lips softly, mouthing the sounds that made up this person she’d once loved. They felt foreign against her rosy cheeks.

In the filled desolation of that place, her mind began to wander. To times and things that they’d shared. She smiled as she remembered something that had once made her laugh. Slowly, her face hardened as she struggled to pick out the punch line. What was it? Ah, it was gone. The memories had already begun to fade. Some day, she’d forget that she had laughed at all. A soft wind blew at the hem of her dress, bringing her back to this place. It was so quiet here, a silence that lured her to speak, to fill the air with worthy things. But nothing came. Sitting there at a loss, she turned to the back of the field and stared hard at the grey van parked in the distance. He was awake now, and was looking at her in expectation. It made her smile.

She returned her glance to where she sat, and focussed hard again to find words to fill the space, but nothing came. In her determination, she reached softly for her left ear, struggling to take off the stud that decorated it. Grasping it tightly, the metal point protruding, she leaned forward to touch the face of the slab, and frowned deeply as she crafted her message. The grating sound annoyed her, and she had to work hard for it to show. As she stared at the finished word, her heart eased. Standing up and dusting her dress, she beheld it one last time. Her flowers were now buried under the conviction of autumn, the season when many things would be shed. As she turned to meet the one who was waiting, her dress flowing inordinately, she realised that sometimes, bye was enough.

Ayiba and “The Tease”

Hello Everyone,

It’s been a while! I have a special delivery today 🙂

The new issue of the very innovative online medium, Ayiba Magazine, is finally out. The issue is an ode to African Women. And my piece, “The Tease”, is in it 🙂

This piece is one of my favourites, because it was inspired by a beautifully life-changing event for me.

On International Women’s Day,  I went to see Angelique Kidjo and Fatoumata Diawara, both amazing African musicians, in concert. And it was everything.

I watched Fatou dance barefoot on stage, tossing her scarf and swinging her braids, with more power and passion than I have ever seen. This woman moved like she was music itself. Angelique Kidjo, who is much older, was no different. I watched them move so freely, even aggressively and unattractively at some points, with no concern for who was watching.  They were confident enough to do exactly what they wanted, and let that be all. In that moment, I understood what it meant to be a strong African Woman. And the realisation even brought me to tears. (I’m such a dweeb).

So, “The Tease” was  based on this. It’s an ode to these women who unwittingly became my role models. It’s an ode to MY definition of what it means to be a strong African woman, which is to be a “Tease”.

Please read “The Tease” here:

http://issues.ayibamagazine.com/the-tease/

Also, check out other works in the Ayiba Mama Africa Issue:

http://issues.ayibamagazine.com/mama-africa-issue/

P.S. I made a drawing to go with it. Unfortunately, it didn’t fit the dimensions of the website. So here it is:

The Teaser

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I hope you like the piece, and that my little story didn’t bore you! Please let me know what you think 🙂

Thanks for being here.

Love, love, all the love,

Inktippeddreamer.xxx

The Story of Three Guns 3/3

“So tell me about the second one”. I was excited now. A good interview needed flow, and this one had it. Debo dropped the first gun from his lap, and picked the one closest to me. “You know… for your article… you may want to know that these are called AK47s.” I looked down and smiled. It was actually really stupid that I hadn’t asked. “The spe-ci-fics.” Debo said slowly. “Didn’t they teach you that in South Africa?” He cocked his head. “You know, I don’t blame you for being angry. But I’m on your side.” Debo laughed at this. “The only thing on my side are these A-K-forty-sevens” he hissed. “The only reason you’re safe is a side called my kind side…my calm side.” Right. “So… about the second one.” Debo wrung his hands. “You know, this country is shit”. I wanted to smile. This guy really didn’t hold back on the shittiness of things. “Why do you say so?” He sat back. “Because there I was, being an armed robber… the vermin of society” he said that in a funny voice, obviously imitating someone. “There I was doing damage, with…those guys out there.” He pointed to his friends who were still sitting on the concrete slab outside. Is this what they did all day? “And one day, I swear…you know, on my life… I swear that through this very door… a guy came walking in who was running for governor.” I sat up. This was really getting good. “And, you know… He was rounding up guys like me… As security…” He said that in a funny voice as well. “For the campaign. You know? To mobilise people and all that nonsense.” Debo began to laugh. “I couldn’t believe it man! I was hosting a big man!” His hands lingered on his face. “And you know what his right-hand guy brought me when he left?” Debo pointed to the gun he was now cleaning with a cloth. “And you know… I felt proud… Like some… some bastard child… It was like my father spoke against me in public, right, and then came to hug me in private”. He smiled. “You know. This country… It’s shit… Because it accepts people like me.” He started smiling wider. “Actually…you know what is on my side? It’s…it’s the greatest fuck-ing count-ry ev-er…That’s what’s on my side.” Leaning forward again, he asked, “who have YOU got?” Shit. I didn’t know.

“The third one.” Debo spun it around on its axis. “You know, I can do a lot of cool tricks with these. Do you want me to show you?” My impatient side couldn’t be calmed. I couldn’t let him get distracted now. “Actually, I’ve got a deadline.” Debo stopped spinning it. “Right… I’m some prostitute or something…an ash-e-wo…And you get what you need and leave right?” This guy has wit. I smiled. “It’s the job, my man. You don’t stay to embrace your victims when you steal from them, do you?” Shit. I said that before I could think. Debo laughed. “Good one”. He looked at the third gun. “How new do you think it is?” I had no clue. “Just guess”. How the hell was I meant to know? “One year?” Debo laughed. “Way off, man! I bought it last week”. Oh. “So why did you decide to buy a third gun?” Debo started spinning again, obviously insisting on showing me tricks, whether I liked it or not. “Have you ever heard the term, lau lau spending?” I laughed when I heard that. That was what Uncle Chuka would say when he informed us that we had been paid for the month. He would usually accompany it with some outrageous music video dance move. “Well”, Debo started. “When we started to do well in this career…,” A career? This boy must be kidding. “We realised, that when we got all dressed up, no one would know we were robbers.” I was confused. “Why is that a bad thing?”I asked. It’s not really a thing of pride to steal, right?  “Be-cause”, Debo said slowly, mocking me for not getting it, “other robbers would steal from us”. Wow. The irony was endearing. “You know”, he continued, “this place has no fucking loyalty. Everyone wants… So they take…You take. I take. We all do”. He stopped spinning. He got up. The swiftness of his motion scared me. “You know who the winner is?” He asked me, his height intimidating. “Who?” Debo straightened out his shirt, kicking the guns back in position and flipping the rug back with his foot. “The winner…is the guy who steals the most… And then stops everyone else from stealing what HE took.”

It was late when he walked out, and I followed. Taiwo was waiting for me, as he would. “Make sure you look in tomorrow’s paper”. The guys laughed. But I knew they would check. When I reached the office, Anu was packing up her things. “Thanks”, I said. “Who is he?” I asked, certain I knew the answer. “My brother”, she smiled. I sat down to write the story that would obviously write itself. The Story of the Three Guns.  Lagos had a song. That’s for sure. And its beat was often heavy as hell.

The 3 guns

The Story of Three Guns 2/3

I walked past the boys, into the building that had obviously been abandoned, perhaps after a fire. I would have to get my trousers cleaned after this. Standing in the sprawling room, I looked around for any sign of a Debo. The room was empty, except for the far left corner, where a tattered rug lay on the ground, weighed down by a wooden chair. I squinted to see the boy who sat quietly in the chair. “Debo”? I asked. He looked up, leaning forward in a hurry towards a bulge in the rug. “Na who you be?” He asked forcefully. “Anu sent me”. At that, his face softened. I took this as a positive first step. “My name is Lawrence, and I am a writer for The Daily Report. Do you know it?” Debo’s face was not giving anything away. I needed to rethink my method. “I am writing about violence in Lagos. Can you help me?” Debo laughed. “You want me to show you what it feels like?” I straightened up. “No. Telling me about it would be enough”. He turned to look at the wall, as if he was thinking about something. “I’ll talk. Anu sent you, so I will talk”. Another lesson I had learned from field reporting was to be humble. So I walked towards the gaunt-looking boy in the chair, and lowered myself to the rug. I made sure to stay clear of the bulge that imposed threateningly under it. “So, what do you know about violence?” Debo stared blankly past me. I tried again. “What experience do you have with violence?” He didn’t say a word. I was already starting to get impatient, this was not working out. I didn’t have his attention. There must have been a reason that Anu sent me here. Debo’s eyes were now focussed lazily on the bulge in the rug. I breathed hesitantly. “What’s under the rug?” Debo looked up at me, a smile spreading across his face. “Do you want me to show you?” I felt uneasy. This report had to be done. I looked around quickly. The Camry was still parked outside. I offered a quick nod. In a smooth motion, Debo picked an edge of the tattered rug, and flung it upwards in my direction, sending dust flying in my face. After coughing for a while, cleaning my glasses and making a mental note of the state of my trousers, I looked up to see it. It made me quiver. Laying on the ground were these large black guns, nesting around what seemed to be boxes of bullets. “A-are they all yours?” Debo nodded. “But they are the same type.” I didn’t know anything about guns, but they all looked identical. “Why do you need three of the same make?” Debo’s brows furrowed. “Because each one is different.” He looked down at them. “They each have their own purpose.” At that, I took out my tape recorder. I guess there was a story here after all. “Whenever you’re ready”, I offered.  At this, he smiled. “No, it’s when you’re ready”.

This boy has good wit. “So, which is the first gun?” Debo pointed to the most worn,  the smoothness of which was interrupted by dents and gashes. “You know, I wasn’t always like this”. The boy said this wistfully, now sitting with his hands underneath him. “What do you mean?” He brought out his hands and turned them over. “These hands, you see them?” I nodded. It was always safest to play along, even with rhetorical questions. He continued. “When other kids had palms covered with ugly scars from caning, I never even had one. I mean… I was never caned.” He looked off again. “I was such a good kid”. “What changed?” Debo looked me in the eyes. “Where did you go to university?” for some reason, the question made me uncomfortable. Perhaps it was the way he asked it, eyes unwavering. “I studied in South Africa”. Debo nodded as though he approved, or had thought as much. “You look like the travelling kind”. He wandered off again. “My university. It was so shit, you know? There everyone was… hugging me when I got in, and I remember thinking, how are they so sure? You know?” I nodded. “It was shit. Like, who spends seven fucking years at university? For what? You know?” I nodded again. He needed my approval. “So I dropped out, once I could no longer take the stupid strikes, and the shocked faces of my older friends that couldn’t find jobs when they graduated. Like, like… they expected something different.” He scratched his neck, the gun laying as evidence on his lap. “But I knew, and… I didn’t do well, you know…My dad. He…he was so sad. But I was so fucking angry. All. The. Time…” He shook his head, and looked straight at me. “People like you always win.” I shifted in my seat, uncomfortable at the accusation. “So I dropped out, bought this gun, and decided to steal from people like you… Because you stole from me.” I was thankful that I had emptied my pockets at the office. “But you could blame the govern…” Debo held his hand out. “Stop.” He looked sharply. “Here… YOU are the government. People… People with privilege.” I was struck by the depth of this kid. This was some good stuff.

Debo in a corner

The Story of Three Guns 1/3

“Go faster Taiwo!” I was frustrated, rummaging through my briefcase hurriedly as the driver made hazardous bends around the chaos of Lagos traffic. The disorganised cacophony of noise that the streets of Lagos produced every day had, after so many years become the melodious gift of a busy city. The screaming of bus conductors informing potential passengers of their route; fused with the trade of customers negotiating with impatient street hawkers; harmonised with the undulating sounds of horns and road-side insults. This was the Lagos song, and I had learned it by heart. I had no time to listen today, as Uncle Chuka had given me an impromptu assignment. Evans, one of our star reporters, had suddenly decided that he was better served working for our rival newspaper, and had unceremoniously informed Uncle Chuka of this. Our editor-in-chief, after announcing at the top of his lungs that this was such a travesty, had proceeded to counsel Evans about the sense behind his decision. This was obvious by the way he could be seen through the glass walls holding the young man’s shoulders paternalistically. So he was “Uncle” Chuka. Because he gave us the misplaced sense that The Daily Report was more of a family than an economic unit. Evans had obviously stopped believing this.

Uncle Chuka had made his way to my cubicle, his tie four inches below where it had been this morning, a bundle of files in hand, and a sorry smile on his face. I had already seen him coming- the weight of his heavy steps were a warning. Of course I would be the fall-back guy. I had developed a reputation for getting things done, and that was a double-edged sword. Here was the time it stabbed me hard, letting me bleed a raging workload. I was lucky that I had finished my special report on family planning the day before. Still, I made a play of it, running my fingers through my hair, and stroking my chin pensively. I had to get entertainment wherever I could find it. And I wanted Uncle Chuka to remember better that I had come through for him. I opened the heavy files to find etched on the first page, the words, “Violence and the Lagos Youth”. Evans’ work to date seemed to be indicative of his mental state- it was confused and lacked focus. The files were piled high with random articles on gang crime and area boys, but no actual writing had been done. I had exhaled worriedly in my realisation that this task could be more than I could hope to accomplish in a day. The issue would go to print at 3am, as usual. Where the hell was I meant to start with this? A source. A source. It seemed like I was thinking out loud, because Anu, the new girl, had looked at me decisively and said, “I know someone”.

So we drove. From the comfort of the Lagos office to the confusion of “the troubled towns”. That’s what we called it at the paper. It was the collective name for any area that seemed to produce only bad press. Any area to which a visit felt like a preparation for something scary; for which we had to streamline our appearance of privilege, and roll up our sleeves like we were about to dig. It was indeed digging, because we had to get the words out of people to whom words came less easily than ourselves, or people who would rather not share those words with us. We knew we were out of touch, so obviously they did too. Taiwo had begun to slow down. I glanced down at the address Anu had written. This was the place. Taking off my blazer, I gave a cursory look at the decrepit building decorated with ashen walls. This was no war in Gaza or riot in Libya, but Lagos held its own share of scary reporting. “Wait here Taiwo”, I instructed as I descended from the Camry. He always did, but it was good to make sure. Three boys about the age of 19 sat lazily on the concrete slab that extended before the building. One of them caressed what looked like a cigarette between his blackened lips as he made light rings dance in the sweltering heat. “Good day. Who is Debo?” I said to no one in particular. The one in the middle made a motion to the building, indicating that he was inside. I had learned early on in my field reports, that trying to speak pidgin, the local version of English, insulted the intelligence of the people who could see that I was nothing like them.

Looking out

Five Bangs

The boy was no longer at ease. His little feet revealed his fear, failing to move in line with the excitement of the others. Here was something pretty, and amusing. His three friends scurried along, lighting up those bangers-the explosive little sticks that brought terror and titillation in equal amounts. They ran with the thin red sticks hoisted above their heads, ready for attack, huge grins fixed firmly on their faces. Then, at the right time, they would hurriedly fling them from their grasps, to the feet of an unsuspecting victim, who would be startled by the loud bangs around him. And then more running.  This was how they always heralded the holidays- the easiest of traditions…But he was no longer at ease.

As he stood there, feet stuck to the ground, he was overly aware of everything around him: The sparks of rainbow lights that popped up and momentarily coloured the dark blanket of sky above; his friends whose hearts raced faster than their feet as they dished out boyish revenge. And the five bangs as each little stick hit the ground. Bang. Bang. Bang. Bang. Bang. He was too familiar with this game, and its less comforting versions. Bang. Bang. Bang. Bang. Bang. Like the sounds he heard around him that day when there was nothing to celebrate, and it was still quite bright outside.

Bang one. Came from a stick quite a lot bigger than these ones. Like those he wielded in his brother’s video games. Bang two. The force with which his mother pressed his head to the ground. Bang three. The shouting from dark men whose words were not heralding a merry Christmas, or happy holidays. Bang four. The thuds of heavy feet against the concrete as people ran for cover. Bang five. The dizzying heart beat escaping from his chest, betraying a rhythm only dealt by fear. No amusement here. He felt the legacy of the five bangs in the car afterwards, as he ran his stubby fingers through the traces they left.

“Join us!” The boy was startled back to the present. He wiped a stray tear as he watched the children act his age, wishing he still felt the same. It was the unwelcome death of something familiar. Inhaling deeply, he unstuck his feet and walked back towards the front door, causing his friends to pause their merriment. “I’ve heard enough”, he shouted as he went inside to start something new.

five bangs

Running to the World’s End- Final Part

That night, Denzia chose to walk home than take the train. Her mind was heavy with thought. She had felt invincible for the last ten years because she had a rare gift. She translated her power to protection, from the normal concerns of humanity, like death. Besides she’d always tapped her heart, and that had convinced her of life. But if her Mayan foretelling ancestors were right, then her heart beat revealed nothing. She felt powerless. As she walked through the narrow path that cut into her street, her eyes turned to focus on a poster that softly fluttered in the wind, but was still stuck against the wall. Its movements moved her. She was confronted by a sign. The poster was promoting a marathon to be held on the 21st of December 2012. The event was called “Running to the World’s End”, as the race was to close at the final transition between the 21st and the 22nd. Denzia mused at this. She had never run before, but this was such a beautiful idea. If the world was indeed going to end, then it would be a perfect way to go. Not running to the end, or away from it, but just alongside it, in the midst of her own achievement, until she would be swept up by the same grey cloud that would consume everyone. She also liked the idea of being normal, for a little while. Of running with thousands of people who were just as scared as her, and who she was now equal to in not knowing or seeing any more than what her eyes could show.

Over the following nights, Denzia left her door closed and her blinds shut. Even if her vision wasn’t grey, there would be nothing to tell her clients. It wouldn’t matter if they would be able to afford their dream house, or if the man would be chosen for that program. It was pathetic to think of what could have been, if the world decided to stand for a while longer. So she drained her room of that horrible incense smell, and went back to sleeping in her favourite position. Sleeping was all she chose to do, because her dreams were always in colour. They lured her to strange new worlds, and told her of life’s mysteries. She struggled to get up on the morning of the 21st. She thought how funny it would be if the world imploded even before she arrived at the race. It would be a waste, because the most dramatic moment for a mass exodus of life would be right on the cusp of a new day. It would be a time that teased with the hope of a future as everyone would begin to feel safe, and then brought forth the despair of finality. That would be the most appropriate, wicked way, because the end of the world was itself a wicked, wicked thing.

Denzia got ready, feeling that it would be the last time. The last time she could look in the mirror and smile at thoughts of being called “Denzia the Divine”; the last time she would behold her caftans neatly stacked in her wardrobe as a symbol of her craft. She would be free from being trapped in the untold futures of strangers, but she would be freed into something much less endearing. Inhaling deeply, she put on the most appropriate items that she owned, pushing her thick locks in a scarf. She picked the stress ball from her table and put it in her pocket. It was a memory of her former life, of the normalcy to which she was now returning. It also reminded her of a time that her visions came without a seeing thing. So it would spur her on to unexpected achievements, like running the race as well as she could. On the train to the field, Denzia felt the insecurity that normal people were prone to. She was surrounded by people who were dressed in the right running gear, with the right running shoes and clothes. But there Denzia sat, hair wrapped tightly in a scarf, in an old t-shirt and bell-bottomed trousers, wearing converses she had bought a decade ago when she was painting her store. It wasn’t such a divine sight. She was struck by just how many people were running this race. And then it made her realise how quietly her life had passed, as she discovered by accident what many had directed their thoughts towards for weeks.

As the train pulled up at the field, hundreds pushed their way out of the bustling energetic vehicle, into a field of grey. There stood thousands more: mothers, daughters, grandparents, all laughing or crying. But nothing in between. These moments that were left were made for strong emotions. Fathers mounted their young children affectionately on their shoulders, while mothers were swamped with the weight of their babies in slings. This race would not be one of blind competition, as they usually were. It was to make all these people feel that they were not alone in being afraid. And so they stood. Denzia among them, waiting in a line for the starting bell to go off, and hoping that they lived to hear the closing one. As it sounded, people started to run, in one great mass of movement. Some ran quicker than they could sustain to feel the breeze blow strongly against their faces, while some other just walked in hand with their families, savouring the moments of togetherness. Denzia was slower than most, as her body confronted her for this strange choice. While they ran, everyone seemed to keep alert for signs, or wonders, or sounds, that would usher in the end. So they moved, all in their own way. It was a long and hard race, and Denzia struggled to breathe. She was sweating through her scarf, and her thighs were throbbing. It also did not help that her converses were causing her blisters. Sometimes, she had to stop and tap her heart to be assured that she was fine. And she kept going. Time passed till it became the wicked time- the ten minutes before the crossover to the 22nd, where the hope and lightness was apparent. People were smiling around her, and some began to cry tears of joy, giving thanks to the universe for holding on to itself. Denzia was not convinced, and waited on the wickedness.

She could see the finish line at a small distance. Most had already finished, and were just standing with their eyes closed and hands linked, waiting for the final bell to go. Denzia was in so much pain that her vision became blurry. The end of the world might bring her body comfort now. As she limped to the finish line, she heard the closing bell go with a greater conviction than any sound before it. The field was torn into a place of screams and laughter, and of even faster movements than during the race. The world had survived. Denzia tried to breathe but her lungs failed her. She tried to tap her heart to assure herself, but she felt the beat slow down. In the midst of the joy, she was dying. This was why she could only see grey, and Mother Divine had seen grey of her- because her part of the world was ending. Perhaps Mother Divine had known. Maybe that knowledge was what filled her many silences that night. Denzia fell to the ground with her finger lightly placed on her heart. She smiled faintly as she realised that she really wasn’t normal, as she never wanted to be. Normal would be living and dancing. Laying there surrounded by laughter and relief, her world went dim. The moment that she could not tap anymore was the moment her heart stopped beating. Such symmetry of time. The stress ball rolled from her pocket to the feet of a little boy who picked it and began to play. And the world went on around her, like she should have known it would.

Running to the World’s End- Part 2

The following week sent Denzia reeling into uncertainty. Her visions every night were either a thick cloud of deep grey, or a flash of patchy and incomprehensible images. She tried everything. She walked around the room with incense she’d found in a divination store that was supposed to clear up troublesome signals. She slept in a new position, laying on her back than on her side, because she read that her former position built stress. She even let herself channel her deepest and darkest memories as a catalyst, like her last days with her husband. But all that brought her were tears in her eyes, and customers who feared that their future were that horrid. She could no longer speak the words that confessed her unknowingness, so she would just shake her head in disappointment, and return the money. She felt so powerless. This was her craft, and she was losing it. Some of her clients would lose it too. One man got so angry at her inability to say whether his fiancée would cheat, that he slammed down one of her wooden chairs and sent splinters flying everywhere. So, she was left with a broken chair and a broken ego. She had to see Mother Divine.

Denzia wrapped herself warm in one of her caftans, and locked the shop doors. It was a cold night, but there was no coldness that could match that of her mind’s eye. She had not seen with it in so long, that she doubted whether it was still there. When she arrived at Mother Divine’s, she was sitting quietly in the back room, obviously done with customers for the day. Denzia hurried to her and sat by her leg. She had grown so close to her over the years, that she knew she would give her good insight. “Mother Divine, I feel lost”, she said as she held her hand. “What is the matter, my seeing daughter?” That shook Denzia. “It is that I can no longer see.” Denzia took her hands back and held them firmly together. “For a week, I have struggled with my seeing thing, but it has left me blind”. Mother Divine stayed quiet for a while. She was obviously deep in thought. “Do not be afraid, child. There is a reason for this.” Mother Divine got up slowly. “I will look into your future”. This scared Denzia. Tapping her heart had sustained her for a while, but she knew she wanted to see more. She was just afraid of what would be shown. Mother Divine led her to her divination area, and brought out her crystal ball while Denzia sat down. She was biting her lip and pulling at her hair. She laughed to herself as she realised that she was acting just like her own customers did. She was normal, like she used to be in that office. Mother Divine had different rituals than Denzia before she could see. She would touch the sides of her temple with the tip of her forefingers, and then she would feel the ball with those points, pressing it firmly and looking upwards. She was also deathly quiet, and it left the room feeling heavy. Denzia awaited her fate. As Mother Divine’s eyes met her’s, she knew she had seen something.

“Wh-what did you see?” Mother Divine did not break the stare. “Nothing, my child. Nothing but a grey cloud”. That was something indeed. “What does this mean, Mother Divine?” Mother Divine sat back as Denzia became filled with anxiety. “There is a reason”, Mother Divine spoke slowly. “Have you heard of our divining ancestors of Maya?” Denzia knew she should have bought that book in the divination store on the history of their craft. She felt embarrassed. “No I haven’t”.  Mother Divine went silent again. “Well, have you heard about the 2012 apocalypse?” Denzia was embarrassed again. She shook her head slowly. She had not watched television in ten years, since she started divination. She felt like it did not work with her image, to have a device blaring a comedy show, and then turn it off to look into the depths of her clients’ futures. Obviously Mother Divine seemed to be very good at adapting to modernity. “Well, my child, I think this may explain why you can only see grey, and why I could only see grey of you.” Denzia was confused. “You mean our ancestors of Maya can?” “Yes Denzia. I believe so”. Mother Divine sat with Denzia and told her all about the Mayan civilisation, and how their chosen performed the craft of divination. “As our tool is the crystal ball, theirs was a calendar.” Mother Divine went silent again. “The time they plotted all those years ago, on their calendar, ends in 2 days.” Denzia felt shaky, like a child. “What does that mean Mother?” Mother Divine always took her time. “Many believe that this calendar is to warn mankind of the world’s end. You see, the Mayans were powerful in their craft. They were lucky to be in a time with very little distraction, from dangerous politics, and television.” Mother Divine laughed, the first time Denzia had experienced this. “So their mind’s eye was clear, and with it they drew this calendar.” Denzia was nervous. How could she have missed this? “So, do you think they are right, Mother Divine? Do you think the world ends in 2 days?” Mother Divine went quiet. “I think, my daughter, that with the greyness we both saw, they may very well be.”

Running to the World’s End- Part 1

She did it the same way as always. She would rub the round seeing thing from its sides into the middle. Then she would focus on the area that she had dented the time she was in the deepest throes of a vision. She would stroke it back and forth till the clear ball would begin to reveal a secret message that only she could see, first of thrashing colours, and then, telling images. Sometimes she would hum deeply, but this was just to focus when she was in the midst of anxious clients that were breathing too loudly. “Well, what do you see?” the fretful woman asked as she held on steadily to her husband’s hand. She looked older than her likely age, with soft wrinkles that would soon become aggressive, telling of her failed trials at conception and her last-resort desperation of coming to a fortune teller. Her anxiety was probably heightened by the pitch-blackness of the room, with only a glowing light shining mysteriously over Denzia’s face.  But that mood-lighting was a staple of the trade. “Will we have a child?” Denzia hummed and rubbed, but nothing came. All she could see through the ball was a magnified picture of the couple’s scared grip. This had never happened to her before.

She remembered how, in a life that seemed so far away, she had a normal job, with files that littered her desk. She would sit in the room full of little cubicles with phones blaring off the hook, and her mind would constantly wander off into a place where all was quiet. Back then, she used to hold on to the stress ball that she’d found in a little trinket shop, and use it to keep her mind far away from this place that she despised. As other marketers ran around the room and made numerous calls, she could be found reclining in her chair with her eyes closed and the stress ball in her hand. She remembered the day her phone rang to tell of her husband’s demise. How she shocked the teller with her calmness. She had seen it coming already. It was a knowledge with a clarity that scared her, of the way and the when. So she had mourned silently before she was told, not understanding what she knew, but being convinced of its truth. She had to mourn because she knew intuitively of time and fate. So she loved him harshly and wholly in that last week, humming songs that they’d danced to back when they used to dance. That very day, with her stress ball in hand and a little glisten in her eye, she walked out of that space for the last time. She went straight to Mother Divine. She had heard stories about her from friends who had gone looking for answers and miracles. One day, she had actually received a flyer in her post, and mused about how, even these people that lived in thoughts of the future had to tolerate the commands of modernity and promotion.

Mother Divine had smiled at her so warmly when she arrived, as though she was not a stranger. This familiarity made Denzia quiver with an anxious excitement. She knew about her. Mother Divine sat her down that day, and explained the history of the world through the wonders of divination. To see greater than plain-eyed vision was a gift that only a few were given. It was a calling that Denzia had no choice but to respond to. It would be all that could ever fulfil her. Mother Divine told her of their future-seeing relatives around the world, and how the craft was defined by different tools in each culture. Some used cloths; others used animals or cards; and some others could just close their eyes and see. Those were the most powerful. Mother Divine explained that their clan used the clarity of a crystal ball. Denzia sniggered at the predictability of this, but stopped when she realised that Mother Divine was no longer smiling. Mother Divine explained how she was the caretaker of all the crystal balls that had the power to be seeing things. So she held Denzia by the hand, and took her to a back room where up to fifty balls were piled neatly on a shelf. She had to pick the one that would be her companion on her divination journey. So she chose her seeing thing. It saw her through opening “Denzia the Divine” on the boardwalk; it saw her through the laughter of her peers because she knew it would turn to fear; and it saw her through the lives and revelations of numerous clients. But her seeing thing could not see her through her present problems.

“Well”? The anxious wife inquired. Denzia furrowed her brows. “I’m afraid I can’t see anything”. She retreated from her ball as though it had burnt her. “Wh-what does that mean?” the man asked in a panic. “I really don’t know”. After she let out her disappointed customers, full refund in hand, Denzia closed the blinds and sat on the floor, worried about this happening. She had always thought that her only limitation in fortune-telling was that she could not see her own future. That was the same ailment that inflicted all diviners. It was a terrible thing to obsess over, that people who knew so greatly the value of seeing the future, could not see their own. But then again, the life of a fortune-teller was plagued with such utter simplicity, that one could safely assume a continuity of customers and their unending questions of whether they would succeed, or be promoted, or get married. As Denzia sat, she tapped softly against her heart. That was the only way she knew to look into her own future, by how steady her heart was beating. Its strength assured her of more time with more heart beats. That was enough.

Searching for god

The sound was something incestuous. He stared at his offending palm, propping it up by its brother as if for inspection. It was almost as though he was the victim, as little needle pricks of pain pierced hastily through his open hand. His tears streamed to match hers, revealing a sensitivity that was misplaced against his brute force. She had gone quiet now, only breaking her code to release the deepest of sighs. The silence left him feeling unsafe, although he had fought this dreadful battle for its sake. He looked up, confronted by the sight of her cheek, softened in the place he had met it. Filled with regret, his lips circled the open air, meeting and parting with no result. The death of words was his only legacy. He watched as she retreated from him, flattening herself against the brown walls, letting it caress her back. He had finally achieved the space he needed to reign. This was the last step in his transformation to something god-like. But it felt so bloody incestuous.

When he’d met her years back, he was sprawled out lazily in the park, and her height had cast a deep shadow over him. He’d been trying to redress that imbalance ever since. His displeasure had grown with every octave that her voice would rise over his; with every decision she’d make for them that had stuck; and with every instance that she’d interrupted him before their friends, to assist his arguments. She was selfish over a throne that she had taken by force, when his back had been flat on the ground. Yet, her selfishness had taught him how to be a man, in the most powerful and undesirable sense. So, slapping her was almost a rite of passage. And it felt right for one split second. It was like he could stand straight and let his hands linger coolly in his pocket. But there, standing before his subject, her brown hair tousled over her face, matted with salty tears, he saw that he could not be a god without her devotion.

Suddenly, as if stung by a radioactive realisation, he ran to her side. “I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry”, he held her hair tenderly with his harder hand. Smoothing over her softened cheek with the affection of a dozen kisses, he got up and headed towards the blue door. “I’ll fix it”, he whispered, knowing that the silence would carry his words. Once he closed the door, he was confronted by the bite of a cold winter. Now his hands were forced to linger in his pocket in a wholly different sense as he walked determinedly past people, and things. In winter, everything seemed so moderated, the cold forcing people to move with the greatest simplicity. Reaching his destination, he rapped hard against the great oak door through his almost frostbitten knuckles. That door had been one of his first and strongest memories. It opened slowly to reveal the face of his childhood priest. “Felix, come in”. He entered the large hall, feeling the warmth of the surrounding candles that were always lit devotedly by Father.

He looked up at the altar to behold a huge wooden cross, an artefact that he remembered clearly from the catechism days of his childhood. So he walked towards the front, completely ignoring Father, as if guided by the presence of a greater being. This was why he had come, to bow to a greater god than himself, to be humbled for once and for all. “Why are you here, my son? It’s been years since I’ve seen you come down this road instead of walk through the market square.” Felix wrapped his arms around himself, both because he’d always been intimidated by Father, and because his tightly wound hands would symbolically keep the shame within. “I want to continue where I left off with religion, Father. I’m in search of something big.” The priest directed this bumbling man to sit with him in the closest pew. “From what I remember,” Father mused as he stroked his chin, “you stopped at receiving communion when you were twelve.”

Felix looked down in shame, unwilling to meet the Father’s judgement. “Yes, Father, that is right. I was disappointed by the bread. It wasn’t as filling as I had expected.” Father burst out laughing. “I knew you were always so simple. Don’t worry, God needs all kind of soldiers in his army.” Felix shifted in his seat, “what army? Who has already enlisted?” Father laughed again. “You never paid attention in class, did you? It’s an imaginary army of believers.” “Oh.” Felix loosened up. He’d always had his concerns about war. “So”, Father continued, “all you need to be a confirmed soldier is some more catechism classes,”… “yes”,…”a white outfit”… “yes I have one of those”…”and a warning that you’ll get slapped”… “huh?” Felix stopped. Father sighed. “It’s usually a light pat to symbolically confirm you as a soldier, but I tend to get lost in the powerful moment and hit harder.” Felix leaned forward in his seat, stroking his face and slowly beginning to smile. He had found a greater god as he desired. But he’d also been pushed towards redemption. A slap just like the one he’d dished out today would force everything back in its place, and he’d feel something close to Lesari’s softened cheek. “Tell me more Father”, Felix said, as he submitted to the presence behind the hundred lights. “I’m finally listening.”