FOREVEREVERMORE

ONCE UPON a time in south-southern Nigeria, high up on the misty Obudu plateaux of those dreamy Sankwala mountain-ranges of which we only hear and read, but hardly ever see, there lived a voiceless girl called Iwi.

Iwi loved the air of the mountain-peak, she loved the clouds which sometimes came visiting, she loved the heavened birds that loved these same heights which she also loved; she loved the stars that shone brightly in the evenings, mornings and through the nights.

Iwi, being a little maiden, did not live alone. She lived with her mother, whom she called “Sister”, and who called her “Iwi, my friend”, for theirs was a deep and true friendship. Iwi’s father had also once lived with them and they had been a happy triangle. In those days her voice had still been with her, and her childlike songs and happy chatter had delighted her parent’s heart. Until one day her father died mysteriously, leaving Iwi and her mother to be each all the other had. The day her father died was the day Iwi lost her voice. As though he had taken it with her, try as she might, no sound ever again escaped her lips.

Iwi and her mother could have gone to live in any of the cities in the valleys where life would have been easier for them, but they loved these mountain-highs and preferred to live in hardship but preserve peace of soul. So up in the mountains they stayed, where they sensed their heart to be, and happiness kept them company every day. Together they reared the goats, tended the fowl, cultivated the farms and the gardens of those rare fruits that grew on those high climates, and rarely, but rarely, did they go down all the way to the valley, mainly to the Sankwala market, indeed just when they had to go.

As mysteriously as Iwi’s father had left the earth, her mother died one day, leaving Iwi now all alone upon their mountain home. If her father’s departure had taken her voice away, her mother’s did not bring it back, voiceless she remained.

After burying her mother, Iwi made the decision to continue to live up there where mountain-air, mountain-clouds and mountain-sighs gave back to her the love she gave. But lonely was she now, alone in the world, if we forget the the goats, the fowl and the flowers, and of course the fairies she saw not, although they saw her, and the friendy stars in the skies – all of which we may however not forget. Yet none of them proved able to restore to her her once beautiful voice.

She grew into a woman and grew used to being a single woman on the heights, managing and flowing, but once in a while longing for another human.

One day, like a miracle, who did she see walking there upon her mountains? A hermit, but younger than most hermits are, more handsome than hermits ought to be. If she was full surprised, then surely she was not half as surprised as he was… to find this beautiful woman living, alone, high up there where he’d come seeking solitude, hoping to discover himself in silence. So, shyly he avoided her for the next couple of months, and shyly she pretended too that he was not up there.

But then one morning, like a man must do, he waited for her outside her mountain hut. And when she emerged, he, in the Obanliku dialect of these parts, introduced himself to her and offered her a small basket of wild ụdara which he had gathered early that morning as the sun’s rays were still struggling to break through the mountain mist.

It is hard to say how long she stood there, silent, surprised, staring at him; but however long it was must have been of no consequence, for just as long did he too remain standing there, refusing to budge, waiting for her to reply. The moment was broken when, to her utmost shock, she heard her voice thanking him and then telling him her name. They both smiled as she accepted the basket of wild berries from him and then he turned around and walked away. And she had a voice again, awakened by love.

And so did they gradually they began to stop, to talk, one word here, two words there. And finally, over a year after he first arrived these heights, they began to live together. That he was a stranger to these parts was clear to her, for she heard it in his accent, although he bravely struggled to speak her thongue. It did not matter to her, it only made her love him all the more.

Love and understanding and joy are three things which when they arrive at the same time, in the same place, around the same people, create that thing which words cannot describe. And so it was between Iwi and the young hermit whose name, as he had told her that fateful morning, was Sike. Their love was eternal, immortal, intense – and it never ceased to startle them.

Through Iwi, Sike came to see and understand the Obudu mountains and their lush green forests with new eyes; its moods became a dictionary of new language upon his heart; mist or rain, animals or fauna, plauteaux or gorges, forests and waterfalls, his senses became born again to a world that was part of his native country but which he had never known, for it was so different from the world he came from that he knew he would never be able to describe it to the people of his world, villagers and city-people alike. And the more he discovered nature, the more he loved this beautiful female spirit who was the source of his rebirth. Everything that was special about this place was reflected in her nature – everything that was special about her personality was reflected in this cradle of nature. How could the one be separated from the other? The source of his joy became the emblem of his sorrow.

For just when Iwi came to believe that Sike would stay up here with her, forevermore, he told the truth about himself: he was a servant of his people who had come here to seek quietude and clarity, but had vowed to return to his people when he was done, to continue with his service. He spoke about communal clashes and border disputes, about social projects and missions of hope and other things he was not sure she understood. Without emotion Iwi listened to him and then, with trembling heart, waited for him to ask her if she would come with him, not knowing what her answer would be.

But the request never came. She did not ask him if there was someone else waiting for him in his old life, nor did he mention it.

Now Sike stood outside Iwi’s hut, looked at the sky, and tear on tear fell from his eyes. He’d come up here to find understandings rare, only to end up with much more than he had expected. After strengthening his heart with a silent prayer which Iwi did not see, but strongly felt, he turned to her and said:

“Iwi… I love you… eternally… but I love also the people I have pledged to serve, and I love the service I have vowed to fulfill all the days of life… they need me… and so I must return there where I came from.”

They held each other tightly one last time under the blue skies, tropical avians winging their way over, and he promised to love her… and she promised to love him… foreverevermore…

They parted on that same evening – Iwi remained with his heart upon her Obudu mounain-tops, Sike took her heart with him to his calling.

She never did find out to which constituency he belonged, he never came to know what became of her in the future; but every morning and every evening, both their heartborn, love-borne thoughts meet in the firmaments of Heaven, and their thoughts promise love foreverevermore.

– CHE CHIDI CHUKWUMERIJE.

Read other inspirational stories in:
THERE IS ALWAYS SOMETHING MORE.

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THE SHELL

The sun was setting at the back of the ocean. I could see it from the beach where I was standing. I stood on a risen shoulder of sand, a few paces away from the edges of the sea where the licking fingers of the waves, rippling and splashing, drew back and forth, and back and forth.

The setting sun itself was of the utmost beauty. It was like a magical shield full of life and light, its fire subdued but radiant, warm and red, the beginning of seven colours and a million and one unnameable hues.

They stratified the wide ocean into homogenous groups and, riding on the waves, transferred the sea of water into an ocean of colour. Every wave was a house of tonal creativity. Every cloud above was a surrealistic masterpiece, briefly floated upon the skyscapes of our hearts. Catch me if you can.

Transfixed, I stood, gazing out at the setting sun.

Normally, on the west coast of Africa, looking south, the sun sets, when we face the Atlantic, on the right side of the ocean. But sometimes a curvature of coastal line, a geographical comma, nature changing its mind, like we all do, produces a long stretch of beach where, standing as I stood upon the risen announcement of hilly sand, I, gazing ahead, gaze straight into the setting sun.

And the sun was a stone, nay, actually it was a shell, a little white shell glittering in the sand just beyond the tips of the reaching fingers of the sea.

You should have seen this shell. There was something about it. It glittered white in the orange sand and seemed to be a stranger. More than glittering, it seemed to glow. My imagination conjured up pictures of master craftsmen in the merrealm just off the West African coast of the Atlantic, leftovers from Atlantis. Silver-bearded, golden ebony, nobly finned, hardworking merfolk, shaping and polishing. Then I thought of gently swaying mermaids, wiser than the wisest housewives of yore, with nimble fingers, moulding, weaving, shaping and polishing. And one of them had formed this shell and polished and polished it until it shone.

Then she had flung it out.

The sea was jealous. It had hardly been in possession of this shell, this beautiful white shell that glistened so beautifully in the sand beneath my gaze on the beach. Now the ocean reached with even longer fingers for the shell, my shell.

For, as soon as I laid eyes on this enchanting, pure white sea shell a few paces beneath me, just beyond the rolling waves, I knew that she, the beautiful mermaid who had made it, had made it just for me and had waited for me to appear on her beach today and then flung it out to me.

But like in all things in life, I also had to fight for it, I had to carry out an action which symbolically or really encapsuled my recognition of this thing’s worth and my need for it, my claim to it. That is to say, I had to walk down the risen shoulder and snatch the shell away from the reach of the sea’s licking fingers and possess it.

But a cloud bunched up against the sun for a moment and I remained there, squinting in the direction of the veiled Settingsun until it had been unclothed again.

Then, with a spring, I alighted Risen Shoulder and walked towards the white shell glowing in the orange beachsand.

seashell

The wave was faster, and it came without warning. I guess the sea was afraid, that was all. When it saw me move, it knew I would take the shell and keep it with me forever. Seas, being deep, always know such things, for they rest in the depth of heart. So it mustered up all the strength it could gather at such short notice and lunged at the shell.

In Creation, everything happens within the boundaries of space and time. Nothing is instantaneous, as long as it is a process, a development, a translation from one part, or one form, of space to another. The space here can be innerspace or outerspace. By outerspace I mean the physically tangible and, even if only to an extent, measurable, however vanishingly small it is, and by innerspace I mean the conceptually graspable, however large.

If a thing changes position in space, it also does so in time. There is nothing that does not take time to happen; not even light is that fast.

This means that between the ocean’s beginning to summon up all the strength available to it at that moment and its lunging at the shell, moments must have been bypassed in time by both the ocean and me.

If I had not dallied in carrying out my decision, by remaining there squinting at the cloud that had bunched up before Settingsun, the ocean would not have had a chance because the distance in time it had to traverse in order to overcome the inner and outer spatial distance between it and the shell would have been too long. Its time was too short. Had I moved.

I, however, remained there on Risen Shoulder, gazing thoughtfully at the temporarily veiled sun, thus allowing the ocean, who had read my intention, to prepare for me.

And it did.

For the wave was faster.

I was three steps away from the glittering white shell when it was suddenly swallowed by a swift and smooth beaching wave.

The wave was also a mocker, something like a teaser.

It retreated slowly, slowly into the sea. If I moved just a little faster, surely I would overtake it, thought I. A little faster … faster … further out … further in … I was in the sea. Suddenly I saw the shell again, lunged for it.

I did not realise how deeply in I was until it was too late, I slid in the wet sand, the water was above my forehead. I do not know how to swim. I began to drown. I fought, I grasped, gasped, swallowed, choked, drowned. I heard voices. I heard the ocean’s roar.

I thought I felt a hand, a delicate hand, a firm grip … I could not be sure. I passed out.

In how many seas, rivers and lakes have I drowned? From how many been rescued?

The strong hand was still holding mine when I opened my eyes. I was lying on my back in what looked like a garden. The bare walls were trees side by side, green with pulsating life, the red sun had been replaced by a white one whose blue light hurt my eyes and warmed my heart.

The hand was strong. I turned my head to the side. It was a woman whom I did not know. She was wearing a milky white sleeveless wet gown that clung. Her bare arms were slim and chocolate brown. The strong fingers that enclosed mine were long and fine, the kind of fingers only paintings have.

All in all she was slim, with slight and graceful curves, delicate in appearance. Her face … she did not have the beautiful features of a model, she had the beautiful features of a loving friend, yet I knew her not. Her lips were full and soft, and curved into what looked, oddly, like a proud smile.. Her nose was round and flat, open, a negro nose. Her face was oval. Was she the sun? I could not see her eyes, it was covered by her hair, braided, beaded and woven, which clung heavy and wet to her head, hanging down like a curtain across her forehead and eyes, down to the bridge of her beautiful nose. With her other hand she opened the curtain and hung the braids behind her ears. As she did this, our eyes met. She was starring at me worriedly. It was a strange experience.

“Not yet,” she said, with strong emotion, “You can’t go yet.” I did not hear her voice, because her lips did not move. I only heard what she said.

When I woke up, I was lying on the beach with the white shell in my hand, and it shall be my sign and my memory of your promise. It was dark. The beautiful red sun had set, the orange sands had changed colour, grey was its name now, this beach. We had journeyed through time, and space had changed. But one thing remained, unchanged, even up until today: I’ve never forgotten her proud smile or her face or her eyes or the worried, very worried, look in her eyes.

“Why not yet?” I had asked her.

“Because I’m waiting for you on earth in the future, and we’ve not met yet. We have work together to do.”

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che chidi chukwumerije.
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WAITING…

THERE IS a man in the Nsukka Hills. If you drive past between 7 and 8 pm in the evening and look up with sharpened eyes, you might see his outline. Some say he is mad. Others say he is not. But all know and say that he is waiting…

He is waiting for his love, his heart, who promised to meet him there – thirty-two years ago!

They met by chance and fell in love also by chance. Then came a terrible civil war in the land which forced them to part from each other and disappear in different directions for different reasons. But before they parted they promised to meet one another again on these hills as soon as the war was over.

They stood upon these hills and made the promise. Then they departed.

The war, as all wars do, eventually ended… a full thirty-two years ago. He came to the agreed hills and began to wait. But she did not appear.

He must be sixty now, or fifty, or seventy; it’s hard to tell. He looks ageless. Only his eyes betray an age indefinable with words which, if one were to attempt to but articulate, can only be captured with the expression ever-young.

He believes she will come. He believes that she loved and still loves him just as strongly as he loved and still loves her; and any love that strong does not break its own vows; for if they can be broken, they would not have been spoken.

But people have sworn that she died in the war.

Others declare that they have seen her in a distant land in the west, married and happy.

And yet not a few maintain mournfully that she did indeed come back once, took a look at him from afar, then turned around and walked away again.

Anytime he hears any of these stories, he does not get angry, neither does he laugh. He does not dismiss them offhandedly or obstinately, no. Instead he raises his eyes, sea-deep and dead-serious, to the heavens and keeps them there for a long, long time. Then, finally, slowly, a warm smile would begin to glow on his face as he brought his bright eyes back to bear upon the speaker or speakers, informing them in a voice as unperturbed as the pacific:

“No… she is on the way…“

Those who have met him say he is a nice friendly fellow, jovial and communicative… half-the-time. The other half he is silent and lonely, wondering what could be taking her so long. In such moments, he is sorrowful, thoughtful.

I mounted the hill at the appropriate evening hour to find, see and meet this wonder for myself. My heart pounded. He is truly a legend, a hero, made of that fractionless primevium of which immortals are forged. Thirty-two years and he is still waiting, waiting, waiting for a dream… – can I do that too?

The rising moon was fuller. What would he have to say to me?

I saw his silhouette, like a human mountain, noble and undefeated, backing me, face raised to the moon, breathing, still. I approached as silently as I could, so as not to disturb the solemnity of this magic moment.

As I neared him, I saw him raise his two hands skywards for one steady arrested moment in time, like a victor, his body shuddered; then he turned around and faced me, tears and laughter in his eyes.

“Darling, what took you so long?” he whispered at me…

I had been sure that I would not cry, but now the last chains broke and fell from my heart and I ran to him, fell into his embrace, weeping uncontrollably.

Indeed what had taken me so long? I do not know. Why do we lose courage in the greater and settle for the lesser? Why do we always fear the immortal call of love? Why did I hesitate for thirty-two long years to do the one single thing that I have longed more than every other thing in the world to do? And to thereby fulfil my eternal promise. What had so scared me? The notion of eternal love or the possibility of betrayal?

And all the while he had waited, waited for me, surer than I was that I would return to my destiny…

Love cannot die.

– Che Chidi Chukwumerije.
You can read this and other short stories in my collection of short, philosophical and inspirational stories titled:
THERE IS ALWAYS SOMETHING MORE.
amazon cover copy there is always something more 2015

FRIENDS FOREVER

SOI AND TEMI were friends right from the very beginning, friends forever, friends for life. They explored the ancient forbidden caves together which none may enter who wish to remain unchanged. But whoever enters and emerges alive will never ever be the same again. The thirst for adventure, the hunger for something new, bid them enter these caves, and together they did, like they had, united, entered every adventure before, brother with brother, friend for friend.

No-one ever came to know what they experienced within the caves, no-one, but indeed when they emerged a wondrous change had been wrought upon Soi and Temi. For upon the face of the quiet, philosophic Soi where peace and calm had been wont to rest, there now raged flashing thunder and restlessness beyond compare! But whereas Temi had entered the caves impetuous, carefree and wild, a rested sage with weathered eyes came walking out instead.

It did not take them both long to understand that they no longer got on with each other like they had once done. And all who met them now, who once had known them before they visited the ancient, forbidden caves, could not but marvel at this uncanny development: For save for their faces and save for their names, Soi had become Temi and Temi had turned to Soi. Indeed they might as well have switched identities. But – and here’s the wonder – whereas quiet Soi had interwoven well with carefree Temi, the new Soi, the restless, was a stranger to the new Temi, the silent, and vice versa.

The mystery of opposites, parallels and poles began to dawn on the people; for characters which had once so perfectly blended were now as distant as the poles. And clucking and clacking and clicking-a-clack the elders and superstitioners verily nodded and wisely declared that the knowledge of the ancients can never but never ever prove wrong: None may enter the ancient forbidden caves who wants to re-emerge the same! But neither Soi nor Temi heard them speak, for they were already a-separated and a-gone, the formerly peace-loving Soi to now be a warrior fighting on distant battlefields in the cause of unknown folk; the one-time aggressive Temi to traverse faraway lands, teaching strangers how to love and about peace.

Moments, as they are wont to do, passed by quick in time, hurrying through the modules of mortality; and before the stars had fully registered the change, the warrior Soi, at the head of a battalion of fiery foreign legions, came a-thundering into a land which for long had provoked their warring skills.

Burning and a-looting and a-screaming and a-hacking, they emerged victorious one phase after the other of battle, until they entered the capital where a mysterious sage preached calm and love and gently enjoined peace on all, attackers and defenders alike.

A brief din in the battle… Soi and Temi stood one before the other and neither recognised his brother, for if times change a man, his profession will change him even more.

The softly spoken words of the strange, gentle preacher finely pricked the conscience of the fiery, impatient warrior, for he too well remembered once long ago when he had known them true. But rather than yield to their truth and risk appearing a fool – which he never would have appeared, for it is the fool who resists truth and the great man who bows down – he drew his sword and struck at this disturbing preacher with very mortal mien!

But, lo and behold, the preacher was neither surprised nor unprepared for the attack, for he too could well remember how hard it is for an unrestrained heart to accept that it is wrong, since he himself once upon a time one such brash heart had been. But neither too had he forgotten the ways to fend off a blow, for once a fighter, always a fighter indeed.

He dodged the lethal blow and fled. But the inflamed warrior pursued hard, accompanied by seven of his soldiers.
Hills, plains, woods were met and left behind as the warrior and his horde slowly closed the gap between them and the preacher. Finally, mounting a plateau, they surrounded the fleeing preacher.

However, among the warrior’s seven soldiers, there was one whose heart had been secretly but deeply touched by the words of the preacher. And as he saw the preacher about to be knifed down by their daggers, he suddenly turned on his own men and slew two with a double-dealt blow. In the confusion that ensued, the preacher, seeing his chance, picked up a fallen dagger and turned on the warrior.

Their fight was brief for, wonders oh, the preacher was a warrior too and an even abler one than his once dear friend, the one time philosopher; and now that his death seemed a-near he’d quickly shed his gentle ways and a reckless fighter lay unveiled!

It was only as the warrior crashed down and lay upon the ground, dying, dagger incisions in him, his red blood a-pooling, that the senselessness of his legacy and the futility of his quest, thus ending, arrested and animated his insight. His original self, as from a deep slumber, re-awakened – and he spoke… spoke on futility, stupidity, humanity. The battle ceased and in wonder all parties gazed at the expiring warrior for, in his hour of death, he had re-turned into a philosopher, gentle, wise and convincing.

With dimming eyes he gazed up at the eyes and into the soul of his shocked and startled killer and, in a clear flash, suddenly recognised in this reckless fighter-of-a-priest but his own old gregarious friend, Temi.

“Oh Temi, my friend, oh Temi, my friend.” he whispered with a tender smile, “What Nemesis is it that has decreed that I die in your hands…?”

With hands still a-poised for the final blow, for indeed his old self had true awakened, Temi paused…

A thunderbolt come down from the skies would surely not have shocked him as still as Soi’s still whisper did…

“Soi?” he whispered.

“Temi…” came Soi’s replied.

And then he died.

– Che Chidi Chukwumerije (There Is Always Something More).
amazon cover copy there is always something more 2015

THE SILENT THINGS IN OUR HEARTS

THEY HAD always had an eye for each other, ever since their primary school days. Naturally, neither had ever given even a hint of this to the other, but each had carried his and her own slumbering love silently, unspoken, unsubstantiated, deep within each heart.

The primary school days ended and they separated, each going to a different secondary school. Six years of separation and in that time neither had any idea where the other was. And yet their love continued to grow, to wax soft and strong, tender and untouched and sacred, in those recesses of the heart of which even the mind itself is barely conscious.

Every once in a while she would float into his thoughts and he would remember and vaguely yearn and long… then forget again and continue, like other youths, with the demanding task of growing up – until the next bout of longing.

Nor did she ever completely forget him either. And being genuinely of the deep female gender, her ability to call forth his memory in her heart was even stronger. Often she wandered where he was; was he still alive? Was he fine? Was he in love? Would they ever meet again? Would he recognize her? Did he ever think of her? There was no reason why he should; he had hardly ever looked at her in their childhood days. Foolish me, she would think, dreaming hopelessly…

Thus did the years pass by.

He grew up into a young man at the tail end of his youth, matured by love affairs, ideological battles and heartbreaks come and gone.

She grew up similarwise, and if he had loved deeply, she had loved twice as deeply… and if he had believed blindly, she had believed even more fiercely… and if his heart had been broken, hers had been dispersed, ground, into the winds.

Thus did they suddenly meet again in the university.

Who recognized whom? Who was more – or less – eager to let show the fact that silent, unconfessed love had long smouldered in fiercely hidden embers deep within the heart?

Often he would visit her in her room in the evenings and they would crack many jokes, and slowly came they to also like one another. But if he was seeking company with which to cure his loneliness and erase the memories and after-effects of earlier heartbreaks, then she for similar reasons was reluctant to unite again too quickly with a member of the male gender. It was a subtle cat and mouse affair, nothing ever actually spoken, yet both being fully aware of exactly what was going on – and while these things were happening silently in their hearts, outwardly they continued to crack their friendly jokes.

But tensions build and pressures mount and something somewhere must always finally give. And, for hesitation, the tide untaken at the flood, it sort of wilted and softly broke, the potential lost its momentum, the attraction lost its orientation, and it died between the two of them. Gradually they began to see less and less of one another…

One year then passed, during which their paths did not once cross.

She had meanwhile exchanged her room for a new one which she shared with another female student with whom she had quickly become good friends. But never had she voiced it to anyone, not even to her good friend and roommate, that there was someone whom she silently, painfully, loved. –

And no-one could have prepared her for the shock she got when she one evening opened the door of her room upon a visitor’s knock and saw him standing there. They stared at one another with bewildered looks of surprise on their faces.

And then, from behind her, from deeper inside the room they shared, the happy voice of her room mate called out loudly, brightly:

“Oh, Zubi – hi! Finally… you’ve come.” And, bounding forward with barely suppressed excitement, her roommate turned to her of whom this story is about and, taking Zubi’s hand, said:

“Efe, meet the guy I’ve been telling you about… and, Zubi, meet Efe, my room mate.” –

With pain almost impossible to bear, Efe watched her roommate Awa hug, and be hugged, tightly, by him, Zubi, the silent owner of her heart.

Over the next couple of weeks it became clear to her that Zubi and Awa were in a serious relationship and loved each other deeply.

Nor was there anything for her room mate Awa to know or ever suspect in connection with the two childhood friends, Zubi and Efe, for there was nothing that existed or ever had existed between them, was there?

They were just , as always, two casual acquaintants who happened to have known each other in their childhood days and who, today, whenever they met in Awa and Efe’s room would, as usual, aye, as they had always done, simply crack light friendly jokes with one another.

And if they felt anything else, anything deeper, for one another perhaps, then it spoke not, nor loudly, but remained, silent, as it continued to reside in the deep quiet places within their hearts.

– Che Chidi Chukwumerije.

A HEADLONG FALL

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SHE WAS LONGING for the deep. A headlong fall into the dark abyss. There was something at the bottom, the sightless depths, that pulled her with irresistible power, like a magnet. She stood perched on the edge of the precipice and stared longingly, anxiously, searchingly into the waiting bowels of the darkness and felt the pull, the call. If a hand had reached out from the deep, a giant hand, she would have clutched on to it with hers and gone down with it, down to the source of the great pull.

But she could not. The precipice in its precarious noncrossability, the abyss in its treacherously easy availability, were also a wall. A non-permeable wall that divided her from her longing, bound her to her state.

There was a sunlit meadow behind her and to her ears arrived the twittering of a hundred birds. That was her life. The life of which she had tired. Yet the strings of that life bound her fast. She could not go beyond the boundary of the precipice. The call of the deep would remain unanswered. Her longing would stay unfulfilled. But how could she bear it? How could she go on like this day after day with this pull in her soul without being able to resolve it?

She longed for the deep.

The deep was mirrored in his eyes. His look was the reflection of the deep that was sunk into his soul. In him were the deep and the call of the mysterious magnet down at the sightless bottom of the deep. It was in his voice, in the turn of his head, in his hands and the way they first held her. It was in his slow measured walk and accurate mental deliberations. It was on his lips, it was the low-cut hair on his head, it was around him, within him. It was he.

He drew her with such an intensity, such a passion, that she was perpetually on the verge of crying out, loud, sharp, desperate, wired out of control… yet she did not. Because, most of all, he made her calm.

She first met him one day at the beach. It was a public holiday. May 29th, 2000. Democracy Day in Nigeria. It was the first time this day was being celebrated, amidst controversy of course. The labour union bore down heavily on the president for having unilaterally declared, of all days, May 29th henceforth as Democracy Day, a public holiday. The Upper and Lower Houses had a field day president-bashing. But in the end the day stayed.

Uninterested in political matters, she had gone to the beach on this day with her friend, Hadiza, happy to spend time with the roaring, in the sight and nearness, of the ocean. Born and bred in Lagos, the sea had all her life been her secret lover.

The beach was full. She liked the noise that pressed in on the great hall of silence in her centre. The contrast gave her a kick. Here deep within her the silence. Outside, beyond the silence and hall of silence, the noise, not only of the crowded beach, the overcrowded world, but also of her thoughts which had to think extra loud – or was it extra quietly – extra clearly today in order for her to hear them.

And everything was centred on the waves. They crashed, cracked and thundered… yet the sea of silence remain unruffled, for in the heart of the roaring waves too was the silence.

The silence of the eternal sea of life. Deep space bordered by horizon.

She stood on the sand dune and looked beyond the rising shoulders of the waves and out into the Atlantic. Creamy pale blue and watching you.

What was in there? And beyond it, what?

Stirred by this question, her soul was, like a sensitive gland, activated, perceptive, ready.Before she saw him, she sensed him. The deep was coming closer. The deep!

At first she thought it must be the ocean.

That far place. Horizon.

She looked at it… longingly. But her longing met no response from there. It was not the ocean. It was… it was…

Her heart leaped and she looked around wildly. Never before had the deep exercised such a physical presence. So she was prepared for him when their eyes met. The longing and the yearning. By and by.

A shock wave arose from the deep, the earth at the precipice trembled.
Later he found an excuse to saunter up to them.

He spoke about the beach, the water, the public holiday. He spoke intelligently. He spoke to her. His name was Anosike, he worked in an oil company, he said, played the guitar in his spare time. She got up and they went on a stroll. Patiently they sought out the quietest, most secluded area of the rainforest beach. She put her hand in his. It was large and enclosed hers completely. The sun was high and bright beyond the fronds. Then. Everything has a boundary, if not an end. It was clear right from the very first that he had come to get her. She did not think of resisting. Unhesitatingly, unafraid, she stepped forward and fell into the deep.

And all the while, his voice. It was an unending process.

The ties that had hitherto pulled her back, they were no more. Nothing stopped her. Nothing inhibited her.

Only once, for a wisp of a microsecond, did she remember the sunlit meadow. Then the momentum tilted her gently forward and, headlong, the blood rushed up and she fell…

A desperate cry floated up… and that was the last that was heard of her.

– Che Chidi Chukwumerije.