Is time to sleep…
It is 12:42am. You are awake. So is everyone in the house. Even bubu, the last born is lying still in the dark. Listening. It is hot. The weather, the room, your breath, your skin. Hot with anticipation. The windows are closed. You dare not open them. Outside hoarse voices orchestrate, chanting, “Eyimba! “Eyimba!” A thousand feet stomp the earth. Cutlasses strike each other, ringing into the night, into the hollows in your ears, your bones and your soul, where fear croons.
The heat is prickly. Warm sweat slithers down your body, stinging every invisible cut your nails must have inflicted on your body while battling with mosquitoes. Wisps of smoke find their way through your windows. Your mouth is filled with the taste of rubber and tar from tires burning at strategic points.
You can’t help but think about your sixty-something year old father, who despite being a little ill, is marching with hot-blooded boys through the streets of your neighbourhood, chanting “Eyimba! Eyimba!”. This is the fourth night of terror and there are many fathers out tonight.
You think of the cute guy who lives in the house opposite yours. The law student who is shy to ask your name. How will he defend his client in court? How will he defend our neighbourhood from the one million boys? You know he is marching alongside your father because your busybody sister told you. Your father called him “my son” yesterday.
You think of your lover miles away from you, guarding his neighbourhood. “A man was robbed and killed on the streets of Igando last night” he told you in voice low and drawling from lack of sleep. “The police did nothing about it. We have nobody but ourselves to protect us”.
Mama thinks otherwise. “God will protect us”, she insists. Every night we lock hands and pray. Calling, begging, invoking and commanding our heavenly father to protect us. One million boys sent our neighbourhood a letter two days ago, informing us of their arrival. They are yet to come, so our heavenly father must be marching too.
Gradually, your siblings sink into uneasy sleep. Tossing and tangling their arms in sheets soaked with perspiration. You can no longer hear your mother throwing spiritual balls of fire into every gathering of one million boys. The hoarse voices have long marched away. You pull off your blouse and wipe the sweat from your face. You do not replace it. You just lie on your bed, bom shorts and stark –a shadow in your home.
We were told to stay in our homes to save lives but which is greater, the corona or a band of boys robbing to feed their hunger?
A lone whistle shrills into the night. It is time to go to sleep.
About the Author
Chinwendu Ohabughiro is an avid reader and an occasional short story writer. She is a gemini with lofty dreams and an itch to understand the world around her. Her story “Portraits” was published in Selfies and Signatures. An anthology that depicts the Nigerian life in its many colors. You can contact her via email, firstname.lastname@example.org