THE SEVEN BROTHERS FROM SOKOTO

THERE WERE once seven brothers from Sokoto who were in everything contrary. They were of contrary mentality and of contrary belief. And, returning from worship on a Sunday morning to find their family home raided and burned yet again in another stab of religious violence, they finally yielded to the plea of their dying father to leave him there in their ancestral land and move south to a place where they could build safe lives for themselves.

Being contrary as they were, the brothers decided that this was the best opportunity to actualise a dream they had always borne deep within their hearts. They decided to find the sea. This was a monumental decision, for the desire to get to the sea had long been the professed desire of many a soul from their corner of the country, for all kinds of different reasons. Now they decided to find it and get to understand this mysterious pull. They knelt down solemnly before the dying Namah, their father, he blessed them with the sign of the cross; and then after one last tearful embrace with Awabe, their gracefully ageing mother, the seven brothers from Sokoto left the large rocky hills and wide arid plains of their homeland behind them as they set off southwards to find the sea.

KERMA, OR THE FIRST BROTHER

They journeyed for a long time. They passed towns and villages and towns again, then came one evening to a village which at first seemed to be empty. Curiously they made their way towards the village square where they found the entire community sitting around a storyteller. The storyteller was an old man who in his youth had travlled far and wide, seen many wonders, survived many adventures and accumulated many memories in his soul. Having arrived, in his travels, the twilight of his life, he parted generously with these memories, cloaked as stories, sharing them with grateful listeners who repaid him with money, clothes, food and, most precious of all, smiles. His old age thus became too a beautiful experience of which he would one day tell, cloaked as a new story, in a new life when he came back to the earth.

The seven brothers from Sokoto were welcomed into the audience and listened to what the storyteller had to say today. Was it providence? For upon this special evening, the old storyteller was telling the village folk about the sea, the immeasurably great sea at the other end of this large country. Magnificent was the sea, he said, and powerful, surging like the roaring of angry giants.

The diminutive, bald-headed chronicler sighed, looked far into the distance of his memory, and added in his surprisingly strong voice that the sea was close to indescribable. It needed to be seen in order to be understood, believed. It was vast, vaster then minds could grasp, and at its outermost boundary, far beyond reach, shone the line of God’s light.

Nor was the sea empty. It was bordered by strange hollow stones called sea-shells and populated with creatures of all types and sizes – he tried to describe fish ten times as large as human beings, and multiple-limbed creatures, and beastial hunters more ferocious than lions. The pictures he painted were gripping. In colourful language he tried and tried to describe the character of the sea, in perpetual motion, never still, water coming and going forever, rocking back and forth.

The listeners were mesmerized. What kind of water was this?

But that was not all, said the wizened old storyteller; there was more, much more to be said about the sea, but it was getting late… he would continue the story the next day. With great effort he stood up, his folded skin, stubborn like old brown leather, reluctantly stretching into its imitation of an upright form. The people were disappointed, they groaned, yet nobody complained. They all loved the storyteller and followed him at his pace.

The seven brothers prepared to travel on before the sun set completely. But Kerma, the first of the seven, was suddenly seized by a contrary ambition. He was a student, a learner, by nature, and had been gripped the deepest by the words of the storyteller. Solemnly Kerma announced to his brothers that he was going to stay here with these villagers and listen to this glorious storyteller who unveiled the sea to him. He could not understand why the others were travelling on. Did they not know that here they would realise their longing of finding the sea?

Nothing that any of the others told him could make him change his mind. Bluntly Kerma blocked his ears to their words and maintained his stand: Here he had found the sea! –

BANDI, OR THE SECOND BROTHER

So his six brothers turned their eyes to the road and sojourned on, hungry for the sea, their appetite whetted by the storyteller’s tales. Further south they travelled, seeking the sea. They crossed boundaries and hills and then one day they came upon a mighty river, the grand River Niger!

How were they going to cross it? They thought and searched, but saw neither boat nor bridge. They then set off down the banks of the river until finally they saw some of the inhabitants of a rustic little village. To them they revealed their mission, explained their present predicament – they did not know how to cross the river.

There were indeed a few bridges across the river, answered the very curious villagers, but they were few and far between. The next one was further yet down the river. Together they all walked along until they got there. As they were then about to cross the bridge, taking their departure from the helpful villagers, whom they had however also paid for their services, one of the villagers mentioned in passing that this river actually eventually flowed into the sea.

Into the sea?, cried Bandi, the second of the seven brothers.

Yes, the villagers said.

Bandi was a true adventurer by nature. Having understood that this river flowed into the sea, he made the decision to buy a boat and navigate the flowing river to its end, the sea. This he revealed to his brothers.

They reflected upon his words individually. His ambition made sense. And yet…! – they had set off to find the sea, and by walking south they would arrive at the sea. This here was a river, not the sea; nor were they trained mariners.

They bade their restless brother farewell and continued towards the sea. Let Bandi be content in his belief that in the river lay his possibility of finding the sea. Every man has his free will, let each man be free. –

AZEKA, OR THE THIRD BROTHER

The remaining five brothers journeyed on. On their path they met many a city, each full of attractions new and interesting. Unable to resist the temptation to explore, they lingered a little in each new place before they moved on. It was not long before they, upon entering a certain city, found themselves in a marketplace of arts and craft. There they came across a group of people admiring a giant-sized painting… a painting of the sea!

The five brothers halted in wonder and gazed at this beautiful painting of such extraordinary beauty. This was their first time of ever seeing the sea, albeit a painting of it. The sight stunned them! It seemed as if they were standing at a mighty window, gazing out into eternity. And as they stared at it in awe and wonder, the third of the seven made his own decision.

Azeka was a quiet person, he did not talk much. Opening his wallet, he extracted the exact amount of money demanded and bought the masterpiece. When his brothers asked him what he was doing, he told them that with this painting his ambition had been fulfilled. How glorious… could they not see it?

They could not. Silently shaking his head to himself, Azeka walked away from them to build a quiet house for himself away from crowds, and hung his painting on the wall where he could see it everyday. Now he would forever have the sea with him. For the quiet, introspective Azeka, the painting was the sea. –

DIRI, OR THE FOURTH BROTHER

Four brothers were left. They progressed on, further south. The vegetation, climate, landscape changed as they plunged deeper into the tropics.

Eventually they got into the city that was the gateway to the last western stretch of the south, leading to the sea. Soon they came upon a place they learned to be something called a club. The name plastered upon it was what arrested their attention – “Big Sea!”

They stopped, their eyes thoughtful, and looked in. It was a recreational establishment with a very large swimming pool in which many children and adults swam and made a lot of noise. The most impressive thing about this water was that, for some strange reason, it was actually in motion, rocking back and forth the whole time, like the storyteller had once described. How was that possible? Was this the sea?

For the first time, all four brothers were confused. Then the fourth, Diri, a somewhat physically fragile, but fun-loving and sociable character, wearied from the long march across the land, suddenly made his decision. Yes, this was the sea!

Buying a pair of swim trunks, Diri happily jumped in and joined the people playing in the pool. –

SENCHI, OR THE FIFTH BROTHER

The last three brothers, however, remained doubtful that this was the sea, however much like the sea it looked, and silently they journeyed on… until they arrived at a land of which they soon learned that it bordered the sea, and which called itself a land of aquatic spleandour.

It was not long and they began to intermittently happen upon strange hollow stones which they were told were sea shells. Lots and lots of them. And laughing triumphantly, Senchi, the fifth of the seven, a brilliant-minded man full of scientific curiousity, picked up the shells and began to study them, declaring:

“Look! I have found the sea.”

Without saying any further word to his brothers, he walked away, picking shells.

Had Senchi gone mad? –

CHONOKO, OR THE SIXTH BROTHER

His brothers could not wait to find out… the sea was too close. They left him and hurried ahead.

Now there were only two left. They walked and walked, walked and walked, tirelessly. Finally they got to the edge of the mainland and gazed across the lagoon at the island. Or rather, the seventh gazed across the lagoon. The sixth only gazed at the lagoon itself..

Chonoko’s senses swirled. Joy erupted within him like a volcano. He could smell the ocean very strongly… he saw shells everywhere… he felt the soft sand… marveled at the sight of the lagoon, water everywhere… and he began to weep with deep emotion. Were these not the promised signs and wonders?

After all these months of traveling, of seeking and persevering in faithfulness, at last he had found the sea. Gratitude welled up in him, gratitude to God. Chonoko, a deeply religious fellow, sank down to his knees and in a trembling whisper uttered words and songs of praise to his faithful God. Then, full of a mixture of trepidation and excitement, he dived into the lagoon and happily began to splash about. –

PENI, OR THE SEVENTH BROTHER

But the seventh… he looked at his brother for a long time and he looked at the lagoon. Everything seemed so right. Then his eyes arose and he gazed in quiet curiousity at the little bridge that stretched over the lagoon, from the mainland to the island…

What if?…

And quietly Peni began to climb the bridge, and he walked across the lagoon and stepped upon the island.

Gradually he progressed.

As Peni moved forward, his thoughts travelled backwards in time, back to his arid northern homeland of few trees and fewer rivers, the thick bushes that crowded around his father’s household well. He remembered the mixed emotions with which the seven brothers impressed upon their memory for the last time the old faces of Namah and Awabe, their father and mother, as they took their leave. He remembered their determination to find the sea, the cameraderie which had united them as they set forth upon their way. And he remembered his six brothers who were now no longer with him:

The first, the knowledge-hungry Kerma, who joined the listeners of a story…; the second, the wild and adventurous Bandi, who began to sail a river…; the third, the dreamy introspective Azeka, who bought a man-made painting…; the fourth, the fun-loving Diri, who joined sunny pool-swimmers…; the fifth, the brilliant man of science Senchi, who started picking shells…; the sixth, the gratefully believing and religious Chonoko, who dived into a lagoon… –

And he the seventh, Peni, he knew there was, there must be, something more. So he kept on walking. He stopped not, looked neither left nor right, just kept on walking… walking… walking…

On and on.

First he heard the roar… and then, rounding a corner as he emerged from inner streets… suddenly… he saw the Sea.

For a long time Peni stood still, breathless, and looked at it. The sea was glorious, more magnificent in real life than any story or painting could depict, grander than any river or pool.

He breathed out and at once the shock of the attainment of his goal, of the encountering of the sheer size of it, fell away. He inhaled the rough sea wind sharply and let it out again as a cry of joy that pierced crudely the loud shout of the ocean. A silent, wordless prayer of gratitude fortified his heart.

And then Peni put his quivering little boat upon the sea and set sail towards the Horizon.

– Che Chidi Chukwumerije.
From my book, available on all Amazon stores: THERE IS ALWAYS SOMETHING MORE.
amazon cover copy there is always something more 2015

THE WHEEL OF FORTUNE

wheel of fortune 1

TWO MEN in search of fortune.

Said the first:
“I will stay and farm my father’s land!”

Said the second:
“I will go and find the Wheel of Fortune, and I will turn it in my direction, and I shall possess it and I shall wield it, and I shall be a controller of happenings, a decider of destinies.”

Said the first:
“You will come back and beg me for a little plot of land on which to farm.”

Said the second:
“You will seek me and plead with me to turn your fortunes around with the Wheel of Fortune.”

Said the first:
“You cannot find the Wheel of Fortune. It is not a physical thing that can be grasped with the hand or seen with the eye. It is a power which started as a concept. It is everywhere.”

Said the second:
“It is a power which started as a concept and ended up as a wheel, a physical wheel that can be grasped with the hand and seen with the eye. I will find it and I will place a firm hold on it. It shall be mine. The Wheel of Fortune. Fortune!”

Said the Spirit of Fortune:
“The sooner you start, the better.”

road 1

The years have gone by and still he seeks. Through fortune and misfortune, through pleasure and pain, he seeks the wheel of fortune, that he may become a controller of happenings, a decider of destinies.

Said the first:
“The years have passed. Fortune, which smiled at me in the first few years, frowns now upon me. The harvest is meager. The earth sits hard upon me. Where is my friend who went to seek the Wheel of Fortune? I must find him. He will surely turn the wheel in my favour, and the winds shall turn in kind.”

Said the second:
“The years have passed. My wandering feet thirst for rest, my restless heart for peace. I have searched everywhere, in vain. I must return to my friend. Surely he will find for me a little plot of land where I can seek my fortune and fulfil my destiny.”

Said the Spirit of Fortune to the first:
“The sooner you go, the better.”

Said the Spirit of Fortune to the second:
“The sooner you return, the better.”

They met again upon the Highway at the halfway point between the going and the returning.

Said the first:
“My friend, have you found the Wheel of Fortune now? For you must turn it my way. The soil is unyielding, the farm is fruitless.”

Said the second:
“No, I have not found the wheel of fortune and was just on my way to you, that you may find me a little of your land where I may seek my fortune, for the road grows weary beneath my feet.”

Said the first:
“But you assured me that the Wheel of Fortune is a findable physical thing.”

Said the second:
“And you assured me that the land would one day support both of us!”

Said the first:
“The land is a deceiver, now I know. It is the whore of fortune and his worthless plaything! I shall go now and find the Wheel of Fortune. Then shall I own the land.”

Said the second:
“Oh, my friend, but you err. Fortune has no wheel. Myths have given birth to this belief. The land is the key to fortune. The land is the wheel of fortune. Possess the land and you have grasped fortune’s wheel.”

Said the first:
“I have turned the land several times, sometimes with my pitchfork, other times with a multitude of other implements such as my shovel, my hoe and my fingers, but not once did my fortune lastingly turn, although I turned the earth repeatedly. Sometimes the winds turned, briefly, but fortune never really. Thus I act with full clarity today. You can have the land if you wish. I shall find the Wheel of Fortune and I shall posess it and I shall wield it and I shall be a controller of happenings, a decider of destinies.”

Said the second:
“When you return to me, begging me to return your father’s land to you, I shall not do so. For it is now mine! Bear this in mind.”

Said the first:
“When you come to me, pleading with me to turn the Wheel of Fortune in your favour, I shall not do so! I shall abandon you to your fate. Bear this in mind.”

Said the second:
“Oh, you fool, why will you not come that we may together plough the land?! Two pairs of hands will soften its heart. There is no physical Wheel of Fortune! It is a power that began as a concept.”

Said the first:
“Fortune is a person. He bears a face and owns a wheel. I shall find him and I shall take the wheel from him. Then shall I turn the wheel against him. My wheel.”

Said the Spirit of Fortune to both:
“The earlier you proceed, the better.”

parting_ways 2

The years passed by like the wind, and old age crept upon them. The land softened and yielded rich harvests, but Fortune and his wheel refused to be found.

Said the first:
“I am old and grey. My days are numbered, my memories rich and poor. I shall return to my father’s land and there shall I lay down, for I do not want to die upon the road.”

Said the second:
I am old and grey. My days are numbered, my memories many and few. I shall set off again after the Wheel of Fortune, that I may turn it and prolong my life and reactivate the youth in me. If I die now, all is lost and I shall be buried upon another man’s land. But if Fortune, who has smiled at me through the land, permits me now to find his wheel, then I shall change the course of my future.”

Said the Spirit Fortune to the first:
“Hurry, hurry, time is.”

Said the Spirit of Fortune to the second:
“Hurry, hurry, time is.”

Their paths crossed again, this time at the junction that leads everybody on.

Said the first:
“Why are you here? Have you not mastered the land which for you is the wheel of fortune?”

Said the second:
“I am tired of you. Please, move out of my way. Your father’s land is there. You can have it if you wish. Die on it; you are old enough for that now. I will have nothing to do with it anymore. It has brought me nothing but comfort, and prevented me from seeking the Wheel of Fortune, which was the ardent spiritual goal of my youth! Look at me: now I am an old man.”

Said the first:
“Then you shall die upon the road. I hope somebody finds you and buries you. I shall conclude my earthly wanderings there where I belong.”

Said the second:
“Rest in peace. Adieu.”

And then they parted ways, never to meet again upon the earth.

Said Fortune:
“Another twist, another turn,
And life goes on…
If they ask, or seek, or yearn
All I can do is turn and point them on…
The path they must go themselves –
The change they must work themselves
The moment they must grasp themselves –
The seeds of fortune they must sow themselves –
I am just a referee…

“Though men pass me by a thousand times
Never do they recognise me;
Nor is it necessary, as long as they heed
The Inner Voice in them that speaks to me.

“For I must obey, I must obey…
And place what they ask for upon their way.”

—–

– Che Chidi Chukwumerije.

INSOMNIA

THERE IS a frenzy in the air. The world is dark and bloody like an ominous sunset. The land is full of cogitation. Everybody is fired up, wired up, wound up like an electric train, toy trains on their permanently defined tracks. There is a sad desperation in their every chug and hoot, in their every wailing whistle, a longing for a freedom that will never be, must never be, because this freedom, freedom from these tracks, this prison, would mean the end of destiny, the termination of purpose and of life.

This is the continuum in which I live. A dark and dirty cocoon. But who dares to break out? Who dares risking the encountering of the recognition that, truly, all one might be is a toy e-train on toy tracks mounted on a table in the children’s playroom? Who shall risk this dare, in the hope of finding another reality, the celebration of birth of butterfly?

A longing, hard to define, was long the taproot. The root of roots and hope of hopes. The dream unremembered in the clamour of urban dawn. Generation gap after generation gap. Yawning emptiness. Your blood is much too soggy. It weighs you down and is choking you to death, dear continuum. You are more than city, more than state, more than country, more than region, subregion, continent or subcontinent, even you are more than world. You are continuum. And I hate you. Hate you for holding me, for binding me, for being an extension of me and a limitation of me. I hate you because I hate loving you. I love you but I don’t like you. I hate loving what I don’t like. I hate hating you. I wish I could stop hating you and start loving loving you. I am afraid of you. You make me sick. You make my heart beat with a deep quietness that I know to be peace.

Why? Continuum of urban disconnect, why? When the sun rises you will wake me up from my insomnia and refuel me with your frenzy. I flee into the deep.

– Che Chidi Chukwumerije.

HARD TO GRASP

ONCE UPON a time, a man woke up and gazed upon a thought hanging in the air above his bed.

And the longer he looked at it, the more it confused him. And when he looked away, he forgot it.

Through the day it disturbed him, a memory he was trying to remember, but could not remember what he was trying to remember. But this he remembered: I am not who I think I am.

So this thought – I am not who I think I am – stayed with him for many hours, each as long as a decade, as he tried to fathom its meaning. Verily, it became his very name. His very aim.

Many hearts. In which one lies the answer? So he broke them open and left them behind, ravaged, the sought unfound.

He is written about in the books of men. His character has been copied and reproduced in stories down the ages – the raging, ravaging beast that consumes hearts and upturns nations. In truth he is a tireless seeker, and always giving. In shrouded truth. Love and peace cloaked in battle and tears. Shredding hearts to pieces with merciless thirst. How many times has he altered history, chasing the mirror? Thus has his troublesome picture been painted before him repeatedly. Thus too does he see himself, hours later.

But all I want is to find the key. Burning Flame, you are not who you THINK you are. This thought nags in him. Remember.

I am a warrior. No.

I am a lover. No.

You are a bridge. Just be.

Just be.

There! There it is again, the morning-thought, hanging once more in the sky above his mind. Hard to grasp:

Just be.

– Che Chidi Chukwumerije.

MUSICIAN’S MORNING

guitar in bed

EARLY IN the morning Anosike practised the minor chords on his box guitar, his best friend, whom he called Freedom. His soul was full and empty. He gripped the strings with his heart and gradually played, first arpeggio-style, then a-strumming, slowly changing from one chord to the other, one key to the higher.

Each time he caused the strings to vibrate, each time there arose sound from the instrument, a breath of calm seemed to sink into his soul. He did not want to stop.

By the time it began to grow bright outside, he had gone through only a third of the exercise. With a sigh he dropped Freedom lightly on his sparse, rough bed and arose.

For a few moments he remained motionless on his feet. His chest rose and fell, lightly. A look of gentle, dreamy reflection was trapped upon his face, a hard, rocky face with full lips and a strong, pugnacious forehead. He had an angular skull, radiated an intense and awkward, almost overpowering crude handsomeness. His observant grey-black eyes were turned inwards, his profile was angled towards the window.

It dawned on him again, like it did every once in a while, that destiny is like a skin. It wrapped itself around you even ere you arrived. It encapsules, encloses, protects and undermines you. Captures you. Teleguides you. It limits you. It links you to your world. It is hard to shed and hard to change. It lasts a lifetime.

cocoon 2

Once again a wry smile was his reaction to this ever-recurring moment of recognition. A wry and sad smile. Yet it was a smile of amusement. No wonder snakes shed their skin. His humour was sometimes dark, sometimes light. He suddenly remembered that he had written something into his diary sometime in the middle of the night, something about train tracks, cocoon and the birth of butterfly. He remembered the feeling of the struggling butterfly. He reached across his bed, lifted his diary, opened it and read it again. Everything came back, the nocturnal stab of clarity that subsequent sleep had temporarily blotted out. It was the same recognition that had just come back again in the skin analogy. Now he felt calmer.
He emerged, composed, out of his reflection and went into the bathroom. A normal prelude to another abnormal day.

This was how it always started – with music, unfinished, and a startling recognition that would fill him all day long. This was the cycle of his life.

An awakening musician.

– Che Chidi Chukwumerije.

BEING DIFFERENT

UNRAVELLING THE mystery that is my own soul, I pondered and sought; I wondered about my beginning. Woman and man in a garden. Which garden? East or west? Home is best, they say.

So I went home into my spirit-man and discovered an a different person dwelling within, staring back at me with my own face but not my own eyes.

“Different person,” I asked him, “Who are you and what are you doing inside my heart?”

But he only returned my gaze without giving an answer, and I sensed that I must find the answer myself. Myself? But who is myself?

The mystery took shape, deepened, arose. I wandered from pole to pole. But each time I thought I had found my goal, I saw the different person inside my heart again, looking back at me with my own face but not with my own eyes.

I wanted to scream, but my heart rejected this. I lay me down to sleep, but sleep ejected me. So on and on I wander and sojourn, on and on I go, seeking to unravel this mystery that is simply my very own self.

And each time I think I have found the answer, I see him again, a different person inside my soul, staring back at me with my face but not with my eyes.

Who are you, I wonder, you stranger in my soul?

What are you, why are you, so different, so alien, so silent, so bold?

– Che Chidi Chukwumerije.

An excerpt from "The Lake of Love"

The Lake of Love: A Philosophical Journey

As he descended the plateau, he exalted in nature. He saw the azure-blue skies stretching protectively above his head, and around him he saw beauty unveiled. The green of the grass was of a tone he had never before quite seen. It seemed to have a restorative effect on him. The flowers were beautiful. Multicoloured, as if a rainbow had exploded in the skies and the little splittings of colour had showered themselves upon the fields. Was this real? He thought back to the world of men. Had he ever seen anything so beautiful? No. Not ever. Not once.

He strolled through these fields briskly. Much as they delighted his eyes and watered the garden that was his soul, he could tarry not even for a single second. His eyes were focused yet detached. Paradise was still in front.

And then there was a lake…

As he approached the valley …. suddenly and for the first time, he noticed a lake that nestled right in the heart of the greens, stretching wide into the woods on either side, but perhaps only about forty or sixty strides across. He hesitated for one second, his eyebrows lifted. He had not seen the lake from the top of the plateau.. He had not been looking into the valley, but only up at the Land of Bliss.

But only for a moment did he hesitate. His strides picked up speed and certainty once more and he headed straight for the lake. After crossing seven seas, amongst other things, a little lake was not going to bother him in any way now that he was so close to the Land.

As he neared the lake, it suddenly dawned on him that nature seemed to have changed. It appeared to have come alive. Suddenly the grass was whispering, but whispering what? He could tell not. The leaves were talking, but talking to whom – to him, or simply to themselves? The wind sang a song, a wordless song, and from the sides of his eyes he thought he could catch the flashy movements of little things. Almost like little human beings. Little human-like beings? He swung his head sharply on all sides…nothing. Only the green, beautifully decorated fields. The enchanting woods.

In him something began to stir. He knew that there was a discussion going on in nature, a conversation, an exchange of opinions…or, wait, a message?
Again Scimarajh hesitated. He wanted to find out what was going on around him. Or, rather, a part of him wanted to – the curious part…or, is it, the cautious part? But the larger part of him, the adventurer who had surmounted high and low, the seeker who had journeyed tirelessly, was impatient.

Move on! The command thundered forcefully within him, borne of a long–persevering hunger, a long-unfulfilled desire. So he tore his attention away from the mysterious, imperceptible activity going on around him and quickly took the last brisk strides that brought him to the edge of the lake.

The lake was silent. Motionless. Clear as the surface of a perfectly-polished mirror. Still.

Scimarajh gazed at it, equally silent, equally still. His mind ticked. A deep seriousness, immense and grave, settled over his beautiful countenance.
There was something about this lake on which he could not place his finger. Something mysterious. Something as yet unfathomed. Unravelled. And yet, why did he get the impression that he had seen this lake before? He looked at the lake and the lake looked back at him with his own eyes, his own face, his own self. Who knows himself? Scimarajh?

But other thoughts than these occupied him. How deep was the lake? How safe? He was not deceived by the apparent calm of the lake. The last months and years of his life had brought him danger in all forms, at unexpected turns, and he had learned to take nothing for granted. Not even a little lake.
He looked about. Nature’s voice had increased in volume. So Scimarajh calmed down. By his feet lay a long, thin pole. He picked it up and, holding it at one end, slowly immersed it into the water of the lake. Nothing. Presently he revolved his hand, stirring the water and all the while peering pin-point sharp into it, tense and concentrated.

After a long time of testing and watching, investigating, checking and waiting, his body slowly relaxed; the skin around his eyes, formerly tightened, smoothened out again and he let the faithful pole back out of the lake, carefully replacing it back down by his feet where it had formerly lain.

The lake was safe, just like any other.

Now that he had become satisfied of that, his movements again became brisk and sure. Speedily he took off his garments, knelt down in the soft, mossy grass and folded them. Then he opened up his little back-pack and gazed with delighted eyes at its contents.

Three beautiful precious stones, his sole possessions and objects of his deep love. He had acquired them laboriously through his long, long journeys. And he guarded them with all his might, for without them he would never make his way into the Land of Bliss. His former teacher, the Master of the Sea, had told him so himself. And he was going to present them to the King of Joy when he finally made his entry into the Land of Bliss.

He could not suppress the cry of joy that escaped his lips as his heart soared in these thoughts. Then he came back to the moment. To work! To work! Quickly, but very neatly, he folded his faithful garments one more time and arranged them inside the back-pack. Then, arising anew, he strapped the pack unto his back and prepared to dive in. He concentrated.

Suddenly he heard it. Loud and clear!

A voice.

“Do not dive into the Lake of Love!” –

Scimarajh started up, whipped his head around, saw nobody. He looked and looked. Nothing stirred. Nature had quietened again. Had he heard wrong? He listened hard and heard absolute silence communing with itself.

The silence filled him like a wave.

His head began to swim. Not for a second did it occur to him to immerse himself in the feeling. To know what it was. Rather he resisted it. What?, he thought. After getting so close?! … No way! …

He shook his head vigorously and sharpened his eyes on the silver-surface of the lake. I must have heard wrong, he told himself repeatedly, remembering the mirages he once used to see in the deserts and the imaginary sounds he once also heard in the forests when tension was high. It must be the same phenomenon, he assured himself, and the nearness of the end of my journey is making me dizzy.

In his heart of hearts, however, a contrary intuition stirred, but he drowned it with the clamour of his thoughts, and his desire.

Bent at the knee … tensed his muscles … breathed in … and dived in …

– Che Chidi Chukwumerije.

THE OLD POET

amazon cover copy there is always something more 2015

THE OLD poet stood silently upon the highest peak of the Jos plateau and sensed, for the first time in his long life, that it was time to finally put into words the yearnings, the stirrings and the recognitions that had ravaged his heart through the course of his life’s wanderings.

His eyes were raised to the sky, but he saw sky not, nor cloud, nor bird, nay, nor sun, for he was blind. As blind as blind can be. So who shall write down his poems on his behalf? – With a heavy heart he descended the Shere hills, his faithful brown mongrel, leashed, leading him into the valley.

It was two long unbearable weeks later that he encountered Bingel, a young boy, stout of body and heart and perpetually serious, strolling, eyes hooded, in these savannah fields. He stopped. He stopped too:

“I see you not, yet know I that you but a child still are: Your step, though slow, is untempered… your breathing, though measured, is free. Yes, though I see not, indeed I know that though you be young, at heart are you a man; for your step, though untempered, is slow, and your breathing, though free, is measured.”

The young wanderer looked at this old poet who said things he almost understood.

“And what do you want from me?” queried Bingel.

“Once I was a youth like you, wandering through these very same fields, pondering true over those very same questions that course right now through your heart! The answers I found, I did not understand; the answers I would have understood, I did not find. Thus had I to journey through life, learning through experiencing, finding not by thinking but by acting. And now that I, aged and blinded by life, stand before you today, it is with the ironic recognition that I have learnt nothing new in my old age which I did not already silently know in my youth, but now the knowledge I have, I understand, because the knowledge I would understand, I have. And yet the strange gap remains: I am still not complete.

“Above that, a certain peace eludes me still for I yet must ink into readable words the river of thoughts flowing in my soul; but how can a blind man write when he cannot see what he once could see when he could not write? Thus has destiny brought you to me today, my friend, to be my hand and to be my eyes, to write down on my behalf what I shall dictate to you, all I have to give, which is nought but that already in your own ancient heart, my son! This might sound strange to you now, but I am the answer you came here seeking today, for there are no accidents in life.”

Now the youth Bingel gazed long and hard, long at the old poet and hard at the ground, and then slowly began to speak:

“I fathom not one word which you have spoken, yes, not one. And since you say that all you know, already I know too, and yet I experience thus that I understand not what you say, then truly you have erred and I am not the one you seek! A blind man cannot see and so cannot see me! I cannot write down words which are alien to me and which will perhaps render me just as blind as you are, hobbling askance in lonely fields day and night, speaking double-sided words unconstruable to all but you.”

And so saying, the young philosopher walked off and walked away, the tremulous pleas of the old poet dying away unheeded behind his upright retreating form.

The blind old poet found no-one to write down his heart’s poems on his behalf and, just as he had lived with them, died with them veiled, untilled, still deep within his lonely heart.

Jos 2

The young boy grew up, still trying to understand those same strange, vague longings that took him into those lonely savannah fields in his youth. However, like the old poet, he found answers which were no answers, but only newer questions. And so, just like the oldman-poet, he experienced a very turbulent earthlife – one in which violence, bigotry and lack of understanding among the peoples grew from generation to generation. A life which, by its end, had made a poet of Bingel and rendered him blind too – full of the urge to write in words the poems weighing bright in his heart, but hoping for a willing hand to be his needed tool.

This morning he stood upon the very same peak on which, eighty years ago, the old poet had once also stood, and understood the very same strange and simple things the old poet had once grasped, for he had also become a blind old poet. For him too, the gaps remain and he is conscious of his incompletion.

Slowly he descended the Shere hills of the Jos plateau with his dog, his only companion; silvery tears glistened in his sightless eyes as he painfully remembered a friend he met, decades ago, on these very same rustic, primeval planes.

And so did I meet him, broken, upon his knees, blinded and in tears – the old poet. I stopped… And then made to continue, but he held me with his trembling old hand. And…

“What do you want from me!?” I demanded.

Gently Bingel began:

“Once I was a youth like you, wandering through these very same fields, pondering true over those very same questions that course right now through your heart! The answers I found, I did not understand…”

– Che Chidi Chukwumerije.
Buy the full collection of stories here: “There Is Always Something More.”

REMEMBER THE SUN, LOOK UP –


image

ONCE UPON a time, there was a bird.

It flew and flew for a long time, over great distances, over lakes, mountains and forests, over deserts, countries and valleys, over vast oceans and across mighty fields of thought.

One day, as it was flying over such a field of thought, it looked down and saw a little girl playing in the red-brown soil of Owerri, a small town in south-eastern Nigeria. Dressed in a short, tie-dyed west African boubou and skipping merrily on bare feet behind her father’s house, the little girl threw thoughts up into the air, bright blue and yellow thoughts, the way other children throw up ribbons and balls. And when the thoughts went into the air, they would take wing and fly high into the sky, so high up that not even the bird could see the height into which they soared.

One by one they would then, after a long while, reappear in the visible firmament as they began their downward flight to the girl. Upon their descent the thoughts were bigger, brighter, more beautiful, and they all bore a crown on their heads. This the bird could see.

By the time the thoughts returned to the girl, her father’s house had washed away and she had grown into a woman, a young and beautiful woman with a silent sorrow on her face, a deep question in her eyes, a lovely, innocent yet knowing smile upon her lips. For in the period in which her thoughts had flown to heaven, many men and women had loved and left her. Some had loved her too little and some had loved her too much. But none had loved her enough. Now she stood there with the universal question in her heart; the search for her destiny.

A song. Beautiful was the song that came out of the bird, descended along with the woman’s returning thoughts. One by one, her thoughts alighted on her breast, folded their wings around her like in an embrace and dissolved into her. As each thought disappeaed back into her, her eyes became brighter, the sadness upon her ebony features faded away, little by little, the question gradually disappeared, and she gradually grew up… until the last thought had reunited itself with her, and she stood there, tall, pretty, mature, clear.

Then did she hear the song… the song of the bird… it pierced her heart like a bird’s beak penetrating into the heart of a wild honey flower and told her wild and gentle stories of things forgotten and remembered. Like the sunflower her heart exploded open and she looked up…

And she saw the sun!

And while she revelled in the sight of the sun, for since attaining adulthood she had not noticed the sun anymore, the bird flapped it’s wings again and flew on, flew away. By the time the woman, filled with the sun, looked around in the sky for the source of the lovely song that made her look up in the first place and awakened her to the sun…, the bird was long gone.

Once upon a time, there was a bird… on and on it flew, over fields of thought and gentle growth. Simple is her song:

Remember the sun, look up –

– Che Chidi Chukwumerije.

From my book of inspirational short stories and anecdotes:
THERE IS ALWAYS SOMETHING MORE
amazon cover copy there is always something more 2015

THE WILD-HORSE MOUNTAINS

In the Distance, mysterious and magnificent
There spreads a group of towering mountains
Who, in total appearance
From left to right, in shape and aura
Looks like a wild horse,
Frozen in mid-gallop.
And there is a legend, aye there is
About the heroic wild-horses
Who, long, so long ago
Had guarded these mountains
So that nobody had been able to come near them
Or of mounting these towering rocks
Nay, Mountains.
Beautiful wild horses. Killer-beasts of different colours
Guardians of this mysterious mountain-range
From an era immemorial. – – –
Finally, an earthquake split off the Wild-Horse mountains
From the rest of our land
Such that it now floats, an Island
Barely visible miles out into the mysterious ocean
And called by everybody “The Island of Wild-Horse Mountain”.
Are the wild horses still there? Guardians!…?
What have they guarded for so long?

Seven people on one boat,
Trapped by a violent gale at sea one summer evening,
Decided to quickly beach on Wild-Horse Mountain Island
Before the sea wrecked their boat
And killed them.
Now you must understand that the legend
Of Wild-Horse Mountain
Is just a legend.
It is possible that this small island with its rugged mountains
Has ever floated right there in the ocean
And that it was all never a part of our mainland
And that no wild horses had ever existed.
But the legend claims that the Wild-Horse Mountain
Had once been on land, our land, guarded by wild killer horses
Until an earthquake turned it into a floating island
So many aeons ago.
Nobody really believed, but you know how it is:
Everybody likes to repeat legends.

It was the Silence
That first struck these seven people
When they landed ashore.
Immediately, they were gripped by a tension
And an uncanny excitement
Which they could not comprehend.
The gale at sea suddenly died
Yet they remained on the shore of the island
Gazing up in awe at the Wild-Horse mountains.
These people were three couples and one lady,
Seasoned Adventurers
And, all of a sudden
They decided to explore the mountains themselves
To see if they would find any relics
Perhaps bones or any other things
Which might perhaps substantiate or contradict
The old Legend.

So they began.
They moved in a group towards the mountains.
But night fell
And they camped and slept.
In the morning they began to search –

There are seven mountains that make up this breath-taking range,
And in six days they had explored six mountains
And found nothing. –
On the seventh day, they mounted the seventh
And, over half-way up,
Heard a strange sound below them… and,
Looking down,
Saw the entire valley suddenly
Populated by horses nobler than the noblest steeds,
Silent as tombs, with angry fire roaring out of their eyes,
Watching them…!
The ancient wild horses; the beautiful legendary killer-beasts.
Alive.
It was eerie. They seemed to have come out of nowhere.

In a flash, the wild horses
Charged up the mountain, towards the intruders.
Looking up, the humans saw a light glow on the mountain-peak
And it occurred to them suddenly
That it was a race to the top.
They just knew it!
If they got to the peak before the wild horses
Then they would be left to live…
But if the wild horses caught up with them
Before they got to the summit
Then they were each dead and gone for life.

So the race began.
Up they sped, faster and faster
Empowered by the threat of death
And the possibility of victory and life.
But the wild horses, too, continued to gallop their tested
Way so quickly and surely up this seventh mountain,
Pursuing them deathly,
And still they were all silent.
But if the horses were wild
And if the mountains looked like a wild horse
Then surely these virgin mountains were also wild.
Only now did the intruders
Suddenly understand the true meaning
Of the name Wild-Horse Mountain.
Suddenly, like a very wild, untamed horse
This seventh mountain bluntly refused to be mounted.
Ever and again it bucked
And threatened to throw
The human beings down, into oblivion.

And then…, the near inevitable happened…
One of the humans missed his footing… and fell!
He rolled into the path of the merciless wild horses
They tore him brutally apart…
His partner, seeing this, lost her balance
And pummelled down to her death too…
One by one, singly and yet in pairs
They all began to slip, stumble, fall
Thrown by the bucking of wild-horse mountain.

In the end,
Only the lady made it to the top
While the three couples fell back and died
Pursued by wild horses,
Betrayed by a wild mountain,
As all mountains, how ever tame, are actually very wild.

At the peak
She found that the light glow was in truth a path.
On it was a proud Stallion, calm,
Who had eyes that were almost human.
She mounted him
And he bore her grandly down the winding
Gently-sloping path that led into the very heart
Of the entire Wild-Horse Mountain Range…
Unexpectedly they came across the
Green Valley.

Her breath caught in her heart
As she beheld the precious treasures
The unbelievable Prize
Which the wild horses had so faithfully
Guarded from that time unremembered:

She saw a colony
Of magnificent winged horses,
Each exactly as she had always
Imagined Pegasus would be,
Only even more beautiful were these…

For the first time ever, one of us
Encountered the valley of life
Where the winged horses had been
Slowly evolving over millennia.
There, deep inside the gentle heart
Of the Wild-Horse Mountains
Guarded faithfully by unchanging unwavering
Wild killer-horses
Without fear, without question
Aided by a stubborn mountain.

Their leader’s name was Sram.
He spoke to the lady from the land of men.
She mounted him, he beat his wings, and, together
They visited awhile the Land of Tomorrow
Where, one day, the Earth will also be…
And noble animals will roam the earth again
And noble human beings will bestride the earth anew
And the winged flying horses
That the lady saw in the valley of life
Will make a friendly abode with humans on earth
For a long time
Yet to come.

When next you see a wild horse
Do not try to tame it
But remember:
That wild streak in her
Is the sole guardian
Of a beauty
That yet sleeps, silent,
Within the heart of every human being.

– AKA TERAKA.