IN THE SHADOW OF DARKNESS //BY IGBOKWE ‘THE YAKADUDE’ EBUKA

I enjoy my smoke best while taking a walk around campus in the night breeze. My route takes me from the hostel to the old reservoir. Cold air plus vigorous walk plus nicotine hit makes your nerves really crackle.
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The base transceiver station between the Chapel of Redemption and the old reservoir is floodlit so I edge as far away from it as I could. The light kills my buzz somewhat. I hum a tune between drags.
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One cigarette down. As I try to light another, I hear a sob from behind me, in the darkness behind the tower that stood beside the reservoir. A girl’s sob. It sounds totally forlorn.
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That’s a creepy place to cry, I think, striking off in that direction. I catch a glimpse of her in the shadows but she snatches back inside.
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“Get away,” she says in a snot-clotted grunt. She sounds agitated.
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“Hey, look. Is everything okay there?”
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“Leave me alone. What’s your business?”
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Well, excuse me for being a nosy parker. I almost turn back but she sounds pretty hurt and I loathe leaving vulnerable females alone. You see, women are fragile creatures and men are forever duty bound to protect them. The PC crowd of nowadays would froth at the mouth and call me sexist, and yes, I stand guilty as charged. But think, if God didn’t want us to be sexist, he wouldn’t have created dragons that kidnap princesses and lock them up in towers.
“When a woman sheds tears only against a cold hard wall, nothing grows. If she sows on another heart, there can sprout hope and happiness,” I intone. Wrote a little verse in Sec School. It may not get me on the cover of an album, but my game isn’t suffering for it.
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She chuckles and sniffles. “Boys are idiots. Just leave me alone.”
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“Actually, I’m not holding you at all. I’m just standing here,” I say, sticking my Benson in my mouth, and flicking sparks out of my lighter, “trying to catch a smoke.”
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“No!” She almost screams and my Benson falls. “No don’t do that.”
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Every nerve in my body urges me to run but where’s the chivalry in fleeing. “What? No cigarette?”
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“No light. I don’t want to be seen.”
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“Come on, what’s up?” Don’t tell me this dumb girl is here sobbing because she thinks she’s ugly. “Is that why you are here crying? That you don’t look good enough?”
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“Leave me alone.”
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I look around. It’s really late. The luminous dial of my watch says 11.20 and I take my walks this late because I don’t get to see much people. “Come on, there’s no way a girl who sounds like you wouldn’t look beautiful.” Blind flattery may not get me anywhere, but I’m trying for getting her out of this darkness into light and safety.
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“Boys are idiots.” But I can hear a laugh in her voice, full, relieved and eager. Great. “What do you think I look like?”
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“Pretty, of course.” Am I a learner?
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“Shut up. Be specific. My hair, my eyes—tell me.”
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I edge closer to her but I don’t want to spook her. I stop just when I can see the outer edge of her frame. “Dark luxurious hair that reaches down to your collarbone.”
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“Yes?”
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“Eyes like the moon—”
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“Hian, which one be moon again? I don’t want all that Wordsworth rubbish.”
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“Take it easy, na. Olive-shaped eyes with gray pupils.”
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“Hmmm, okay.”
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And so we go. Nose; a nub. Teeth; white, even, with a gap in the middle. Cheeks; dimpled.
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Ears? I’m enjoying the game and to shake things up, I decide to tease her a bit. “I think your ears stick out like teacup handles.”
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“What the fuck?” I jump at the vehemence. “Are you–You fucking jerk!”
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“Wait, what’s wrong with the ear.”
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“Ears that stick out? Who the fuck looks like that?”
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“I think it’s cute?”
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“Then get yourself a fucking pair that sticks out!”
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“Look, chill. Okay, you have a cute pair.”
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“Fuck your cute pair!”
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Suddenly, I’m fed up with this shadow girl. I usually don’t take this shit so I’m a bit surprised at myself for sticking out for this long. Fuck I came out here for a feel-good smoke; I owe as much to my lungs to at least feel good. I turn around.
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“I’m sorry” she says. “Please don’t go. Please.”
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I stop. This is usually the final nail in the coffin of the chivalrous. “I won’t stand for any more bitching, okay? It’s too late for that.”
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“Okay,” she says. “Please continue.”
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“Sure?”
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“Yes.”
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So we continue. Neck; slender. Hand; long and graceful, with pianist fingers. Skin; desert sand color and silky smooth. Boobs, with some flushed hesitation. I swallow. Full, I say. Generous. She laughs a trill. Waist, slim. Bum; she has an hourglass figure. Legs; Naomi Campbell. What’s she wearing? I think black lace panties but say white sleeveless gown with floral patterns. I don’t know what this game is leading up to but she’s laughing now, no trace of her earlier sadness. Here we are, two strangers being friendly in the shadows.
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“Thanks a lot,” she says when we finish. “It’s my life you saved.”
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“Oh, it’s nothing,” I say. “I’m glad you are happy. Your tears were well sown, wouldn’t you say?”
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“You don’t know the half of it. I can almost forgive you for giving me ears that stick out.”
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“Still going on about that?” She doesn’t reply; she only trills. She’s coming out now, a tall girl in a light colored sleeveless dress. Something in this picture nags me. “What’s your name?” I ask.
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“Just call me Chioma.” Her teeth flash in the dark. “Pleased to meet you.” She ambles away and I follow.
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“Hey, wait up. I’m Samuel.” We are now close to the spill of light from the transceiver station, at the edge of the darkness. I freeze, unable to move. She stops and turns around a bit.
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“You have uncanny powers of prediction, Samuel. A spitting image of your imagination I am, wouldn’t you say?”
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She was. I try to speak, but my words are caught in my throat. Something, I cant place my finger on, is terribly wrong with this picture.
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She turns on gyroscopic hips and sashays along the foot path towards the library. When she is s a little way off, I step forward, but I can’t, I’m being obstructed by a wall. Or am I being pulled back by invisible hands. I strain forward, groaning with effort, but I’m bound firmly in place.
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You can’t leave us, you see, a voice says.
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I wheel around. There’s a riot in my chest. I stare into the darkness but I can’t see anything. “Who is it?” My voice is shrill.
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“The antithesis of light, the negation of color, the common pool of the formless dark, we welcome you to the brotherhood of shadows.”
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I look down at my hands. They are black and flat, defined only by their borders etched by the light around them.
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“My hands. What’s wrong with my hands?” I reach up and touch my face. I feel nothing defined. I am black and featureless all over. I am dissolved in a black world of madness. “Let me go! Give me back myself!”
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“But we cannot, dear brother. You should know by now. We cannot let you into the world of forms, for only that which has form can lend form. And you have given your form to one of ours, thus becoming one with us.”
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I will myself to leap out of this nightmare that binds me, but I can move no further that the boundary of light. I scream but when shadows scream, it is no new thing, they scream all the time. But we never hear them. A shadow’s scream overwhelms our senses and it slips from our awareness. It is their most subtle sounds that bait us, reels us in when our curiosity is snagged. I scream even though I can sense from the shadow consciousness about me how futile it is, but I scream to free me from my mad energy, I scream to rebel against that which is that cannot be, should not be. I scream until I have spent the scream in me.
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Then they pull me in, my new strange brotherhood, this ocean of blackness that spills around and rushes to clutch onto forms whenever light appears, the stream that connects all but affects none, aware but powerless. The brotherhood which attends to form once light touches form but eventually returns to the common pool when light leaves. The form divides into entities but the shadows are ever one.
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But I’m not. I’m only visiting and they know it and I know it. Here today, there tomorrow, I move as I will. I am different; I choose where I go, at least within the bounds I can move.
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And I lie here, in wait, patiently.o

3 thoughts on “IN THE SHADOW OF DARKNESS //BY IGBOKWE ‘THE YAKADUDE’ EBUKA

  1. Pingback: Top Horror Stories by Nigerian Writers in 2015. | thedarknotes

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