To be. Or to be…
Free. Only free?
True to spirits never seen
In love with a heartbeat barely felt
Eager for next
Not forgetting what’s been
Eyes shrouded in mystery;
Remembering what’s seen;
What is sin?
Who decides what?
Makes choices – dependent on no one
No one. Nothing.
Don’t ever second-guess yourself. You disrespect God that way.
Last year in December, I released a short story compilation titled ‘For Days and A Night‘, an e-book that received unexpected accolades from several unexpected quarters. I didn’t expect the kind of reception it got – and I was content.
And then a friend of mine said; “you know what? We should shoot a movie off this book o.”
I thought he was crazy. But he sparked something in my head and we chose the very first story in the book. We worked on the script, argued, fought – and the next thing you know; I’m on a ‘set’ watching a story I wrote come alive.
Now don’t get excited o. It’s not some ‘Steven-Spielberg-Universal-Studios-big-budget’ something – it’s not ‘Nollywood’ sef. Imagine a movie set lit by smartphone torch-lights.
Bottom line though:anything is possible. The only limits we have are the ones we create ourselves. A woman told me; “don’t say the sky is the limit. There are footprints on the moon.”
We weren’t professionals, we didn’t have money – but we had passion. And we rallied round an idea. And whether ‘fantastic’ or ‘lame’ we took what we had and did something. That counts for a little, no?
I apologize for the sound and picture quality. We will do better next time.
Without further ado; I present you a short film off the e-book For Days and A Night: Idle Chatter.
I really am grateful for my friends, the cast, the crew, my team – God really blessed me with some of the greatest guys anywhere in the solar system.
And to you, dear faithful reader. You’re the reason. Thank you.
Big things start small. Go start something. Stop reading now now and GO!
Innocent woke up screaming and kicking like a drowning man.
It seemed to him that he had been having the worst nightmare of his life. But he woke up, and the nightmare continued.
The woman, now wearing blue jeans and a black blouse was sitting on a chair watching him. The moment he came fully awake, she jumped up and looked at him in fear.
“Are you awake now?” she asked, sounding an interesting mix of ‘concerned’ and ‘afraid’. “Can you start leaving? My husband…”
Innocent sat up, fiery grip of hangover headache replaced with the cold grip of fear. There was no rational explanation for what was happening to him, and it was too pat to be a setup. Still…
“Henrietta, how can you be talking like this?! I am your husband! We met on our way to camp in 2003…Nasarawa. We played around for a bit – and then became serious in 2005 after we…”
The woman suddenly burst out laughing. “Oh oh! So, you and my husband set this up abi? Hehehehehehehe!” she laughed, sounding relieved. “Oya, where is he?”
Innocent stood up slowly, quickly clutching the towel as it started to unravel from around his waist. “I don’t know what you’re talking about,” he told the still-chuckling Henrietta. “I did not agree with anyone to set you up. I am your husband – Innocent Asuke.”
She laughed again. “I thought you were going to say ‘Idibia’. Are you sure that’s not your name?”
Innocent didn’t see what the joke was. “Henrietta, do I look like I’m joking?”
She looked at him. “You’re not my husband. Do you want to see the wedding certificate?”
Innocent shook his head. Looking around him for the clothes he had discarded earlier, he started to wear them slowly. When he was fully dressed, he took his keys and phone from the bedside table and dumped them in his pocket. Then he picked up the toothbrush he’d dropped earlier and placed it on the bedside table in front of the picture, the picture whose glass he had smashed. He did not look up till he was done, and even then he did not look at the woman.
“Are you leaving?” she asked him. When he did not answer – just walking past her towards the living room and the exit, she said “How did you get in sef? When did you get in?”
Innocent did not answer, walking slowly towards the main door instead. When he got there, he pulled out a bunch of keys and easily opened the door. He stood at the door and regarded her with calm coldness.
“Henrietta Omuna,” he began, noting with pleasure how her eyes widened at his use of her grandma’s pet name for her, “I don’t know what’s going on, but I’ll see how long you want to keep this charade up for. And then…”
He walked out of the door and shut it behind him. He looked around him to be sure he was in the right neighborhood, and nodded on recognizing his landlord’s grey Toyota Camry. In fact, maybe it would be better if he just spoke to the man…
“Hey! Who are you? Who are you looking for so early in the morning?”
Innocent looked towards the direction the voice was coming from and spotted a portly man wielding a wooden cane walking towards him. It was his landlord of course – except there was no indication that the man had seen him before.
He automatically started backing away, realizing how awkward it would be telling the man the same story he had just been telling Henrietta. He mumbled something about ‘wrong address’ and slowly made his way towards the gate a few meters away.
He would have made it to but for the fact that Henrietta chose that moment to open the door and yell “THIEF!”
Not waiting to see what the landlord’s reaction would be, Innocent broke into a run. He actually took a moment to appreciate the joke of his situation; running for his life from his house – or at least the house he paid rent for, before he flew at the gate full speed.
Fortunately for him it was open, and he ran through hoping the neighbors wouldn’t be interested in the commotion. Most of them should be at work anyways…
That was as far as he got before the truck smashed into him.
True Fear III: Stormy Days
“Who are you?” the woman asked again.
Innocent, all traces of his headache receding folded his arms and looked at the woman. “Na joke you dey joke abi you don dey madt?”
Slowly, she stood up and tightened the towel around her body. She was still trembling a little bit – but it was not as bad as it was in the beginning. Innocent repeated his question, but this time he added her name.
“How do you know my name?”
He looked at her, trying to see if there was a smile lurking around in her eyes – or at least another clue that would indicate to him that there was something going on. But you don’t live with someone for five years, day in day out and not at least have an idea of the kind of person they are deep down.
There was nothing about the woman’s mien or demeanor to suggest she was anything but serious.
Innocent didn’t know what to make of it.
“I don’t know who you are and I don’t care. But do you know what will happen if my husband finds you here like this?”
His heart thumping loudly in his chest, Innocent shouted, “Henrietta, are you mad?! I’m your husband!”
The woman shivered. “You?! My husband?!” She shook her head slowly. “Look, please don’t put me in any wahala. I beg you in God’s name – I have never been a bad wife…” she stopped talking as Innocent turned and stormed back into the room. “The door is not there o!” she yelled as she followed him.
Innocent did not answer. Instead, he walked to the bed, snatched up the picture frame on the bedside table and handed it to the woman hurrying up beside him without looking at it. She took the frame from him and looked at it, and then handed it back to him. “Look,” she said.
Sour taste of unexpended adrenaline in his throat, Innocent looked at the picture that had been beside that bed for the same amount of time he had been married to Henrietta. It was a picture of a bride and groom, holding each other and promising each other forever with their eyes. It was a picture of what is hailed as one of the happiest days in a woman’s life, the day she officially becomes one with her man…
Except ‘the’ man in this case; the man in the picture was no one Innocent knew or had seen before.
Obviously, it wasn’t him.
He felt as though the ground was shifting underneath his feet and he put out his hand to steady himself. The small frame fell from his hands, and as though from a distance, he heard the woman’s tiny keening cry…
And everything went black.
True Fear II: The Darkness Before Dawn
The woman took one look at him and screamed.
Screaming women are not exactly a strange occurrence in Nigeria. Actually, there is a whole lot for women to scream about around these parts, both in happiness and otherwise. What made the whole situation, well….weird, is the fact that this was a wife who was screaming at the sight of her husband.
In the morning.
He had known Henrietta since NYSC days. They had met at the park in Jos, and they were headed to the same Nasarawa camp. Talking throughout the journey – they were fast friends by the time they got to the camp. One year later, they were best buddies. Romance had not occurred to either one of them then.
But as it is with life and related stuff, they somehow found their love lives intertwining and then, one fateful night after watching Stop Loss at the Galleria, he had suddenly kissed her, expecting to be slapped or something more dramatic. But after her initial hesitation, her lips had clung to his and she sagged in his arms. They just took it from there.
That was five years ago and they had been married for three of those years. And while she had her faults and flaws – same as everybody else, and they had no children yet, she was a wonderful wife to Innocent.
They loved each other.
So it is therefore understandable. Innocent’s reaction, that is.
His jaw became unhinged literally. As in, it left the safety of his mouth and dropped. It fell, hit his chest, bounced and returned to its original position, closing with a soft ‘click’.
“What is it?” he asked the woman who was looking at him as though he had worms growing out of his ears. He started forward, intending to reach and hold her – but she screamed a few decibels louder, running a red-hot suya rod through his already-burdened hot-fufu-laden-brain and effectively halting his advance. Her scream was a keening sound that tore at the fabric of his sense with jagged iron teeth.
“Stop! Henrietta, for the love of God, STOP!” he yelled, convinced his head was going to fall off. The loud scream was cut off as abruptly as power supply, and the woman stood in the doorway, cowering in fear. “What is wrong with you?” Innocent asked.
Voice trembling and vibrating as though she was talking into a working fan, the woman answered, “W…what do you want?”
“What do I want?” Innocent replied stupidly, blinking like a frog suddenly caught at the edge of a pool. “What do I want?” he said again.
“Is it money?” the trembling woman asked. “Is it…” she shook her head as the words stuck in her throat. “Please, please just don’t hurt me,” she said from slumped position against the door.
Innocent reached her in three strides, grabbed and shook her fiercely. “Are you crazy? Henrietta, are you mad?!”
The woman pushed him away from her and backed out of the room, well-developed bosom heaving. “Who are you?! How did you get in here? What are you doing in my husband’s towel…and…and how do you know my name?”
Like the way a high-powered fan blows away clouds of Raid and other related things – her words blew away the fumes of alcohol that hung around his brain. His knees trembled and threatened to spill him on all fours – but he ignored that and stared at his wife.
“Henrietta….?” his words ended in the air like the plaintive wail of an abandoned puppy. The woman, a bit calmer held the towel against her body and asked again.
“Who are you?”
They say the only thing to fear is fear itself.That fateful morning, he found out otherwise.
Innocent blinked like an owl caught in sunlight as he woke up slowly. For some seconds he was completely disoriented, and then it all came back to him in a rush. The promotion…the congratulations…the surprise party…the Hennessey…
He was supposed to be at work. He sat up suddenly – and winced, grabbing his head. It felt as though three wraps of Mama Put fufu were resting on his brain.
As he staggered off the bed, a small jingling soundinsistently inserted itself into his consciousness. He stopped, wondering where it came from – before realizing that the sound too had stopped. It started again the moment he started to move again, and it sounded like it came from below him.
He looked down – and was surprised to see ‘grey’ where ‘brown’…or at least skin color was supposed to be.
He was still fully dressed in his work clothes from the day before. He groaned out loud. Which kain…
Wincing out loud as he felt another jab from the hot iron in his head, he started to pull off his clothes slowly, trying to remember exactly how drunk he had been the previous night. No be today I start to dey drink Henney na, he thought, roughly pulling the stripped tie from his neck. And why didn’t Henrietta wake me?He turned to the bed, intending to ask his wife just that. Her side of the bed was empty.
She wouldn’t be in bed at this time of the morning, he reasoned. But where she dey? Almost immediately, he heard the tinkling of water splashing from the bathroom and smiled. There she was.
He wrinkled his nose as he pulled off his soiled shirt, grimacing in distaste. He smelled as though he had taken a dip in Alomo Bitters and Ogidigba at once. This is…this is curious; he thought. I definitely did not drink this much.
Emptying his pockets of keys and phones and loose change and wallet and – he put everything on the table beside the bed. And then he took off his shoes and every last bit of clothing, dropped them among the small heap he’d created, and then swept the clothes towards the silent laundry basket that stood in one corner of the room. He was reaching for the towel hanging above it when singing broke out from the bathroom. His lips stretched in a smile that slowly became wider as he recognized what she was singing. Brymo’s Good Morning.
He reached for his toothbrush, distractedly noting that its head was looking frazzled. Shrugging, he slowly walked towards the bathroom, fingering the day-old fuzz of hair around his jaw. He didn’t need a shave. Not yet.
The bathroom door opened as he walked towards it and Henrietta appeared, wrapped in a pink towel and patting her face.
“Hey,” he said. “Why didn’t you wake me…”
The woman took one look at him and screamed.