Shadows spill out of the rooms onto the corridor and reach out for fluorescent bulbs arranged in series from one end of the corridor-ceiling to the other end – entry to exit. They tug at the wires, gently, never rooting the wires entirely out, so that the lights just go dim and suddenly bright again. As the lights go dim, a little boy takes form at the exit. The form gets slowly more distinct the dimmer the lights go and wisps out as suddenly as the lights go bright again.

Two days ago, it happened.

It happened yesterday.

Today, it’s happening again.

If some patient seated on the other side of the table had narrated this sort of tale to W., the new doctor-in-residence, she would have written on her pad, just two words: visual hallucinations. The session could end up with the patient being expertly judged as schizophrenic. But here, it was her this was happening to! She was the one seeing doppelgängers and clawing shadows!

She hurried out of the facility, an asylum built to tend First World War soldiers dented by the war. It was dark and the rain drizzled outside but she walked through the cold drops, across the parking lot to her car and made to drive home. Today, she switched on the radio; maybe its voices could help shout down thoughts screaming in her head and raced the car in an attempt to outfox tailing shadows.

Speed and the radio’s electronic voices gently took her fears from her and as her nerves un-frayed she shut her eyes and stepped harder on the accelerator, it was a kind of ecstasy and she desired more speed, desired a faster healing.

She was oblivious of a little boy ahead who stood alone in the middle of the road and as she opened her eyes, every voice – hers and the radio’s many voices – morphed into one huge scream as she ran her sedan into the poor boy.

She clutched the bed sheets tighter as she with the scream emerged from the nightmare into the real world, jolting her sleeping husband awake.

The director shouted: CUT!



Work continues tomorrow. One must be up by 4 am. X looks out through the window at a Pepsi.

A heavily turbaned man enters and seats right in front of X. It’s a view-blocking turban. The bus continues to move again but not for too long. It gets stuck in a traffic jam, again. Some noise arises from someone seated in front. It’s a view-blocking turban so X can’t correctly figure out the perpetrator. Soon, a woman’s voice rises and takes over. She keeps yelling at the bus conductor. Something about the poor state of the naira notes she was given as change. She hurls expletives rapidly at the poor boy whose response does nothing but to further incense her, almost tipping her into a stammer.

Nobody, not even the bus driver, is paying either of them attention or so it seems until Turban attempts to pacify the more volatile of the duo: the woman.

It’s the month of fasting, the month of holiness apparently and he appears to be a cleric: an imam or so his four-inch goatee seems to tell. He’s a wise man; he tells the woman that the bus conductor is just like a son to her, that she should consider his actions exuberant: the actions of a butterfly who thinks itself a bird…She latches onto his first few words with an air of justification, wags a studded finger at the conductor and yells:

If my last child, whom this stupid boy can’t be older than, dared what this conductor just did I would dish him a dirty-stinking backhand slap, one that would turn him deaf in both ears.

Turban, wise indeed, lets go of a Yoruba proverb:

Àgbà tí ò bínú lomo ré n pòsi. Ìyá wa e fiyè dénú (Our mother, temper justice with mercy. He is loved by many, the elder who subdues his rage)

With this entreaty, the woman’s soaring voice gradually peters out. Quiet returns to the bus. Until the bus conductor who’d largely been the less noisy of the two starts to grumble increasingly, something about him not being able to fathom how shameless elders abound everywhere in Lagos these days.

Hey! hey! gbé enu e dáké níbèyen o! (Hey! hey! shut your trap right there o!)

Turban quickly yells at him, just in time to stop the woman from starting another tirade. He obeys promptly.

X sighs. It’s 9.26 pm.

Home is still a few kilometers away. The traffic jam stays jammed.


He hurried out the back door, stopped a few yards away from it and paced the ground outside uneasily. A woman’s voice was hurled after him; it promised to serve him due retribution once he entered the house again. He was mum, his shoulders made his speech as he shrugged in defiance. No one talked for a while and everything seemed calm except for stones kicked about by his restless feet and dust raised as he paced the ground like a fugitive. He later sat on what used to be a living section of a living tree’s trunk, eyes darting furtively now and then. There was peace. Until his grandfather crept out of a wall of bush behind which he’d just dispatched the excesses of his aged life and bitterly expressed his distaste for the boy. You are wasting yourself! granny cried. The old man then picked up a bucketful of water that had been left to warm under the blistering sun and headed for the small square of corrugated metal sheets that served as bathroom. His voice – Bastard child! Child with a bad head! Ne’er-do-well! – rose above the splash of waters as they fell on his head and ran down his face onto the square patch of cement that he stood on.

The words settled splat on the boy’s head.