Fiction ~ I have cut this futile cycle to start all over ~ Terkule Aorabee (Snr)

Pic: Aminu S Muhammad

            The possibility of their seeing the note was doubtful. Even as I lay on my bed, I could hear the aggressive exchange of gunfire across the River Buruku, less than five kilometers away. I knew that some of the rattling voices were theirs. What irked me most about the whole show was the thought of finding myself trapped in a hole like a rodent once the enemy crossed the river.
            I found myself in the middle of the inter-communal conflict but was forbidden from fighting; I was a long-distance arrow, not to be used for small hunts. My service to the community was only to use the pen and my mind in intellectual warfare against her enemies. This position of seeing the action yet not able to participate when one’s age mates were at the heart of it all created a crack in my sanity. They would come home marching victoriously, or on the shoulders of others as corpses, heroes. Could this have been what lured Chris Okigbo to the front, abandoning the pen warfare?
            Adzuh rode past on his rickety motorbike. Besides my intense hatred for old automobiles and their cringing cacophony that bores through my forehead into the brains, the sound rekindled my suspicion that some evil schemes with the aid of technology are constantly hunting humanity.
            Nguveren! If only they knew what she meant to me, I think they actually knew and were deliberately bent on seeing me mad. For the first time in my life, I got a girl who confessed her love for my intangible effects. Moreover, she was right here and at the end of every session of academic battle, I would finally come back to her to release the safety catch of my emotions, loving without the fear of love antics. I hated hide-and-seek love. They blackmailed and framed her for stubbornness. They knew too well that she refused to do it in the name of the Lord.  I loved her coconutism, softening only to own inner convictions and stiffly resisting external whims and caprices. That is what they called stubbornness. They had preached to her against falling in love with an ugly poor boy and offered to fix her up with the pastor’s cousin. Some came behind as individuals after they had left as a group.
            “Are you that cheap?’’
            ‘’What do you mean?’’ she asked
            “Give me too”
            Now, I am between the Devil and the deep sea of moral sin and insanity. The triune sin of doing it with younger men’s wives at the time they were at the war front. Iveren is particularly notorious for her appearances. Only this morning, she came for the third time in two miserable days.
            “I saw your wife. She came here looking for you with her long neck,” she mocked.
            “Is that meant to be a compliment or an insult?”
            “No, no! But I am sure you won’t actually marry her.”
            “Your husband has gone to battle and people would talk if they saw you here,” I warned.
            “I’m used to their talk. Why did you deceive me? You sneaked away without waiting for me in the town as you promised.”
            I kept quiet. The best way out of this fix is to travel back to Jos where Ngoundu had asked me to stay and read for our pent up exams. However, Jos too is a battleground. To get around the town you learn how to navigate the nooks like Beiran Daji paying a visit to Beiran Birni. Baba too told me just yesterday that the crisis has wrought him of all finances and cramped his business. The conflict over land has consumed both wealth and souls. I would have to wait until it was over if it was to be over.
            “You have rioted at school and you’ve been sent packing to come into the waiting arms of war,” Iveren changed the topic, giggling with mischief.
            “We only demonstrated. I mean, they demonstrated.”
            She let the statement pass; maybe her mind was pondering on another idea. I cursed the fasting Muslim students and the freshmen for the completely insane act. I hated narrating the story as I hated being associated with the uprising itself. Why start a protest so that even when the demands are met, you change the demands to another set?
            “Like our people from Taraba who ran away from the Jukuns to come home to fight their brothers, Mbashian in a place where they hoped to have peace; you have moved from crisis to crisis and can’t find peace. These insane crises and greedy clamour for land are all over the place.”
            “Yes, how frustrating,” I replied, “frustrating!”
            “It is hot here; you have fans there,” she said, attempting to interpret my unease. Her talk and continued tempting presence were killing me. Sometimes I hate someone prompting me to talk.
            “That’s why I wish I went back. Here, there is no light and no money to buy dry cells and cartridges. I do not listen to good music, except the rattling rapping of Guitarboy; death music. They have money to buy all these firing cartridges.” I replied.
            She giggled and fingered her lips.
            “One good thing about music, when it hits you, you feel no pains,” I echoed Marley.
            “They don’t dance communal dances and inter-clan kwaghhir competitions any longer. They only fight,” she said, still giggling. She fondled with her fingers as one would to knitting needles.
            “When Guitarboy hits you, you drop dead. Moreover, our politicians buy cartridges for us to fire at each other. You know that we support the Horse and Mbashian voted for the Bird. These politicians are lunatics. The members of parliament use the constituency development allowances to fuel crises.”
            “The Bible prophesied it all: Brother will rise against brother; father against son; Nation against Nation and general acceleration of other evils,” she said, parting her legs to reveal dazzling white undies to prove that all sins and evils were only a righteous fulfillment of the Holy Book. My head whirled into a stupor. I managed to assemble a confusion of thought: These people can cause even wars, deaths and instigate evil just to make the word of God true when it is already true.
            “It is truly hot here. Why don’t we move the chairs out to the mango shed?” I suggested.
            That did the magic. She left finally. I moved a chair as fast as someone would wake up from a nightmare. I took it under one of the mango tree sheds behind my room and sat there head in palms contemplating. Nguveren was not here and no magic could bring her. I hated the bottom-peddlers here, these nymphomaniacs. I felt the hate ramming against the walls of my sanity and threatening to shatter my reasoning. If only I could listen to good music, it would soothe my soul the way it soothed Saul.
            I started singing ‘Sun is Shining’ as I drummed my chair to the beat. After a session, I laughed out loudly. The whole business of singing and drumming made me feel like Tsegeri the lunatic, beating his sides and commanding an unseen battalion of soldiers. The guffaw objectively spontaneous and unprovoked made me feel more insane as it echoed in the hollowness of my mind, lapping against the chaotic void. I must ask people their opinion of my sanity. If they confirmed my insanity, I will commit suicide. I cannot have people pointing at me as I sit or move: Look that is the Madman. He calls himself Prof. He went mad because.... The yearning for Nguveren came so strong; whining and scratching like a dog against the door of its prison. I had to release the craving before it tore my senses to shreds.  She was still very far out of reach. In absence of any good thing, you do a bad one. No, I did not subscribe to that philosophy. My shirt clung to my frame tenaciously. I resolved to tear the symbol of my captivity to shreds. However, that would still mean to ignorant onlookers as the unveiling of my long hidden insanity.
            Then, Mama came with her tirade, accusing me of my father’s callousness and being brought up by him to see her as insignificant. As a parent, she saw nothing wrong with holding a key to my room and getting in and out at any time. She saw nothing wrong with pipe-smoking visitors sharing my room and sleeping on my bed. I had told her that at my age, I needed some privacy. As she talked, I sat mute and mentally projected myself to the end of her tirade.  The end came at last. She had her way unabated and was rather disappointed that I did not fuel her monologue with a response.
            “Come and see.”
            She led me to the thatched hut, which served as a barn and store for harvested crops.
            “I told your father to mend this,” she pointed to the rafters, “but he only went about gossiping about me. Now the termites have finished eating the thatch, very soon they will start with the rafters...and the house will crumble...”
            I looked at the rafters. Termites had started working on them from the inside and they had already lost their shapes. The roof would cave in any day.
            “When the rains come, where will I keep the yams, corn and cassava?” she asked and left without another word.
             Blacksmiths, grinders, drummers and other multiplex chaotic noisemakers invaded my wavelength for what seemed to be millennia. I did not know how to do it. My father was quite busy with meetings; scheming and planning the strategies and logistics for the war. My friends were involved in the execution. If they were not at the war front, perhaps they would have helped. Mama forgot all these but not the fact that it was shameful for one’s mother’s barn to crumble.
            I had a halter ready for such situations. I went into my room in a dizzying stupor and rummaged the sides of my travelling bag for the rope to hang myself. I found it; I found the Bic I had bought for two naira. I probed further until I found four sheets of foolscap sheets. When students run out of fund, they run to Mama Put to eat on credit under the ‘Book-Me-Down’ Policy. I decided to book my insanity down.
These bloodless lines flowed in An Alternative to Suicide.

Terkule Aorabee (Snr) attended Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria from 1989-1992 where he obtained B.A. (Hons) Literature. He co-founded the Creative Writers’ Club of ABU Zaria in 1991, he served as the Secretary General and editorial board member of the weekly Writers’ Bulletin. In 2018, he was among the 20 West African writers selected after a keen contest to participate in Story Making West Africa, a two weeks children story writers’ residency organized by the British Council in collaboration with African Storybook Initiative of South African Institute for Distance Education (SAIDE) held in Abuja.  He has facilitated the writing and translation of illustrated children storybooks on in several Taraba Languages. His poems and short stories have been published in Kuka, Journal of English Literary Association, 1992, ABU Zaria, Poetry from ABU, edited by Mua’zu Maiwada, 1995, and Ebedi Review, 2016.  His children storybooks and translations in Tiv Language can be read on African Storybook open license digital platform, .He is currently the Director Education (DE) heading the Examination Unit, Education Resource Centre (ERC) of the Ministry of Education, Jalingo. He is married with four boys, Terkule (Jnr), Lyambee, Vyangel and Vyandeh.