2017 AMAB/HBF Flash Fiction Contest | Short listed Story - Uchenna By Amanda Madumere | The Arts-Muse Fair

A man squats by the edge of the house, hands working as fast as they can. Hands working iron against concrete slab. He is etching the words as fast as he can, etching them as deep as his will: here lies a man w- just then, a scream is heard from inside the house. He dashes into the house.
He began to board public buses, ditching his neatly tailored suits for khaki trousers and large formless shirts. He grew out his beard and began to dye his graying hair black. He knew the Federal Agency for Idea Dispersion and Control would be tracking him. He was trying to hide from them. They had emailed him on the first day of the year to remind him that it was his speculated year of death. They had ended the email with: thanks for your prospective cooperation. He had seen what happened to people who tried to die with their ideas. That Saturday evening in his Enugu home as he and his wife watched the news; reporters from all the news networks in the country sticking microphones bearing different news network logos in the face of the stone-faced man that is the director of FAIDC.

‘We rounded up the offenders and justice was served,’ the director said, ‘no body hides from the agency’.

Rumour had it that a large pit had been dug somewhere and the offenders were buried alive in the mass grave. Those who tried to crawl out were shot dead.

The day his wife told him she was pregnant he could not believe it because even though his formulation worked for millions of women in the continent, it didn’t work for her. The year she turned thirty-eight, menopause set in even though she had been on the Menopause Inhibition Therapy for years. So when she handed him that tiny device that read positive, he cried. He cried from joy. He cried also because he knew he hadn’t much time left; his life was going to end soon and he was going to become mere capsules of disjointed stories and a gallery of digital photographs to his own offspring. This realization broke him. For days, he mourned himself on behalf of his offspring. And on the final day of his mourning, he went to his wife:
‘I’ll give her my ideas. I’ll give her my ideas no matter what it costs me. We’ll call her Uchenna.’

Stunned, ‘Her??’


Things hadn’t always been ugly. Although the former administration had come up with a strange policy –they had started to disperse ideas based on physical appearance. Babies who looked more appealing to the eyes were given lighter ideas, and babies who looked less appealing to the eyes were given heavier ideas to make up for what they’d grow to lack physically –civil right activists were quick in tackling the strange policy, writing petitions and rallying, because babies do not always grow up with the same physical appeal they had at birth. The policies were soon reformed.

When the new administration came into power, things started to get ugly. The agency began to accept bribes from the wealthiest people in the country to secure the heaviest ideas for their offspring. Babies of poor parents who could not afford to bribe the officials were left without ideas. The agency actively came after scholars, innovators, intellectuals, artists and inventors. People like the doctor; he had come up with the formula that made women evade menopause. He knew there were some wealthy people in Abuja who were already biding on his idea, waiting for him to die.

His wife was in labour. Deep breaths, the midwife said. Deep breaths. Deep breaths. He was frantically pacing the compound.

‘He will come. Here,’ she said to him, emptied the contents of a transparent flask into a small glass cup, ‘have some water. It will calm your nerves.’ It was the Mbaise woman who had taken them in the night he and his pregnant wife fled their home. The Agency had raided their house that night, while he and his wife hid away in the cellar. That night, after the raid, he and his wife got their things and fled. She had gotten the midwife and the witch doctor that is to extract his ideas.

He could not hear her. We did not stop pacing. He was waiting; waiting for the witch doctor the Mbaise woman had contacted from Ogoja. When the agency began to collect bribes, witch doctors began to create traditional methods of harvesting ideas. The agency found out and began to abduct these witch doctors. The abducted witch doctors would never be heard from again.

Finally, a middle-aged man walked into the compound. It’s the witch doctor.

‘You time is almost up. Let us hurry and harvest your ideas.’ He makes towards the house.
It’s a stillbirth. The doctor’s lifeless body lies in the room next to where the witch doctor stands, carrying in his hands the dead doctor’s heavy ideas, almost scalding his palms. The dead doctor’s widow sobs quietly, the dead baby in her arms.

‘Such a waste,’ the witch doctor says, wrapping the dead doctor’s ideas with a piece of wrapper, ‘this heavy idea’.

‘I know someone,’ the midwife says, pausing to pull out a file from her bag and flip a through a few pages, ‘a farmer’s wife. She had a daughter today. The baby has no ideas. They couldn’t afford any.’

‘Then take me to her’.

The woman kneels by the tombstone, her weave falling over her face. She plants a kiss on her palm and places her palm on the tombstone. ‘Thank you’, she whispers, placing a stalk of red rose on the tombstone. She pulls out some tall weeds to reveal the rough engraving on the tombstone: here lies a man whose ideas will thrive long after he is gone.