Nkechi stared at the blank screen on her laptop, with her eyes widening as fast as her heart was sinking.

The blank screen stared back with a dreadful finality.

“Oh God no no please not let it be so”, she muttered to herself, as her fingers frantically chattered away on the keyboard in a desperate attempt to bring her screen back to life.

After a minute or two of her fruitless attempts, she got up and paced around in the darkness of her small cluttered room in consternation. How could this happen without any warning? After all, the last time she looked, the battery was at least 80% full. And she had not been doing anything intensive on the laptop except switching from screen to screen and catching up on the latest news and gossip on the internet. How could switching screens cause the battery to go flat?

Or wait, she thought, pausing in mid-pace. Maybe the document would still be there when she powered the laptop up again. Feeling once more buoyed up by hope, she got up, grabbed the laptop, rushed out of the room and hurried downstairs to the flat of her neighbour, Mr. Onitiri. Normally, she tended to avoid him, because he had something of a lecherous eye and was always making over-familiar comments when they passed each other in the compound they lived in. But these were desperate times, and Mr. Onitiri had a generator.

Thirty minutes later, she was trudging back up to her flat, laptop tucked underarm, feeling completely deflated. After enduring her neighbour’s unwanted attentions, she had finally got him to let her plug in her laptop to a wall socket. But the laptop had blithely revealed that the document had not been saved. Even more shocking, the versions she thought she had saved days ago were gone, gone, gone. She entered her flat, went to her room and stood staring into space.

Then all of a sudden, she slammed the laptop on the table and started screaming and waving her arms in rage. “Stupid internet! If you had not distracted me with your stories of what was happening with D-Banj and Genevieve, I would not be in this wahala now! Stupid laptop! I paid 40,000 naira of my hard earned money to buy you, and your inferior battery just packed up like that! Stupid PHCN! Big for nothing company that cannot guarantee power even for one hour a day.” Nkechi carried on in this manner until she had cursed everything even only tangentially related to the disaster that had befallen her, then she slumped down in despair in a nearby chair, head in hand.

She thought about the work that had been lost – a story which, ironically enough, was about two sisters who suffer a personal loss as their parents die when they are very young. She had spent days working on that story; she had exhausted herself creating the storyline, the characters, the universe. She had hoped to submit it to a competition that was closing in a few days, but now, it was as if it had all never been. She could not bear the thought of having to redo all that work again. Why did this have to happen to her? She shook her head and sighed, near to tears.

The worst thing was that something had been telling her to save, save, save the document, but every time she would get ready to save, either she would remember that she needed to add an important detail before saving, or she would be distracted by something else. Even worse than that was that she had practically finished the story by the time her laptop failed her; she had felt that she would just do a quick round of the gossip sites before finally saving her work and wrapping everything up.

As she lay slumped in the chair, one of the sisters spoke to her.

“So is that it? Will we be denied the chance to come fully to life because you no longer have any wish to write?”

Nkechi murmured a request not to be disturbed.

“Why should we not trouble you? Do you not think we want to live as a full life as you do?” added the other sister.

Nkechi thought that she must be dreaming.

“You are not dreaming”, they chorused. “You have conceived us in your mind, so we exist. But we want our story to be told so we can live fully in the minds of others who read it.”

Nkechi sat up straight. If the story was vivid enough in her mind to make her think that the characters were talking to her, then maybe it was a story that was worth being told. Come to think of it, the original story had some defects and could probably do with a re-write. For example, the wicked uncle was not unsympathetic enough. And she needed to put more detail into describing the elder sister’s primary suitor, who would come to be a major character in the story. She flipped open her laptop, booted it up, created a new document and typed in

“United in Life”

Then with a grim smile, she clicked on ‘File’ then ‘Save’.


30 thoughts on “Unsaved” by Tola Odejayi (@TolaO)

  1. Tola.


    How many times did I call you?

    Na wa o. See grammar. ‘Tangenially’.

    Thank God for Webster.

    Anyways…your story is something. I didn’t bother to look for errors ‘cos I know who’s work I’m reading. No flattery.

    But it felt as though I had read something like this…either a character speaking to it’s creator or a dead sister speaking with her other half…here on NS. Can’t remember which.

    Anyways…nice one.

    1. Thanks for the compliment, @Seun-Odukoya.

      I think the story that you refer to was this one written by @Kiah.

      1. Oh-Kay.

        Thank you.

  2. Confirmed, he is back! I knew those last few posts with your name wasn’t you.
    You do well!

    1. @Kaycee, I’m glad you liked the story, but it’s OK if some of the stories I write (including the last few that you didn’t enjoy) aren’t to your liking.

      1. Diplomat.

        Which political office you wan run for?

  3. “Unsaved.” Hmmm, there I was thinking that TO has metamorphosed into a shepherd of the flock. :)

    Great piece.
    I have been in Nkechi’s shoes. Not the most comfortable pair.

    I liked the positive ending.

    1. Thanks for the comment, @rhema.

      I prefer the flock doing its own shepherding (or at least, choosing their shepherd carefully. :) ).

  4. Hmmm…capturing the mind of a frustrated writer. That’s a really ‘tangential’ angle you took. At least, I used your work to improve my vocab.


  5. Check this
    ‘Do you not think we want to live as a full life as you do?’

    What was that?!?!

    1. @Babyada, I’m glad you liked the story.

      However, I don’t understand your confusion about the quoted phrase.

      The sisters think Nkechi lives a full life.

      They want to live a life as full as Nkechi’s life.

      1. ‘Do you not think we want to live as a full life as you do?’ I think d confusion is with the use of ‘as’, the expression should read ‘Do you not think we want to live a full life as you do?’

        1. OMG, @Petunia007, you are right!

          I had intended to write “Do you not think we want to live as full a life as you do?”, but the Typo Devil took over.

          @Babyada, sorry – my eyes have now been opened. :(

  6. This almost perfectly captures the mind of a furstrated writer and the drama that goes on in his or her mind in the course of writing,lovely

    1. Thanks for reading, @Anderson-Paul.

  7. Ugo Chime (@Flourishing-Florida)

    There’s no story here! Itz like u just knocked 2geda tots and forced it into a story. U could have had a good thing going with the xters who wanted their story told, made the story abt them, flesh them out and really tell us something. As it is, u focused on Nkechi who has nothing meaningful to say other than whining. I’d recommend you rewrite this, and pay more attention to “telling a story”

    1. Thanks for reading, @Flourishing-Florida.

      Your comment raises an interesting question: When is a story a story?

      Must a story be a minimum length of words or have a minimum amount of events to qualify as being a story?

      I don’t think so; for me, all that matters is that a story has something that engages you from the beginning to the end, and leaves an impression.

      So perhaps my story did not engage you enough, and that’s fair enough – there’s no such thing as a universally loved story.

      But I don’t see the need to rewrite it; for me, the story was only ever intended to be about a writer who loses her work, and to digress to the story of the sisters would be require writing a DIFFERENT story – not the story I have written.

  8. The Baba himself.

    This is wonderful. I like the fact that you took something that would pass for the ordinary/frustrating and worked it into this entertaining and well crafted piece.

    That said, I think Nkechi’s rant after the power failure was unnatural. Read that portion aloud playing the role of a frustrated person and you wld find it to be as I have said.

    Great Job!

    1. Thanks for reading, @Chemokopi.

      I’d like to hear more about why you think the rant was unnatural. Personally, I don’t think it was – different people react to disastrous events in different ways – but what would you think she should have done?

      1. @Tola: Ranting is ok but my problem is with the way the rant was crafted.

        Here goes the critique in detail.

        “Stupid internet! If you had not distracted me with your stories of what was happening between DBanj and Genevieve, I would not be in this wahala now.”
        I feel if Nkechi was really angry (screaming and waving her hands connotes that), she won’t have the time and confidence to verbally accuse the laptop of something she was directly involved in and desired (stories on G and D). That can happen in her mind though, because we have less control over our minds than our bodies. Such statements are made when you have the kind of anger that allows you the luxury of sarcastic laughter (as if you are mocking the problem); or when you are in the company of friends and you guys can afford to laugh the misfortune away. However if she had said something like “Stupid internet! Oh God, why was I even reading these useless stories about Dbanj and Genevieve! Now I have allowed this useless laptop to mess me up!”, it would have seemed more natural. The truth is humans are very good at self-effacement when they are alone.

        “Stupid PHCN! Big company that cannot guarantee power even for one hour a day.” I don’t think any Nigerian alive would scream ‘stupid PHCN’ when in a fit of rage. In relaxed talk yes, but not when very angry; the bond the word NEPA has with our subconscious is not easily broken. Plus NEPA is far easier to pronounce which comes in handy in a fit of rage.

        Of course this is my own perspective. I may be wrong but this is how my mind’s eye saw it.


      2. Wow! my “mind’s eye” played a cruel joke on me! All these while I had been reading ‘stupid internet’ as ‘stupid laptop’ and only found out after posting the preceding comment.

        Accordingly, sieve the first part of the critique.

        My sincere apologies for that slight error of judgment.

        1. No problem, @chemokopi. I appreciate the time you spent in commenting on the story.

          I did wonder whether I should use PHCN or NEPA when writing the story, but I think that you are right – most people still instinctively think of NEPA (at least when thinking of power outages).

  9. I love the spookiness in the last paragraphs….very creative. Perhaps, if this story tells your personal experience , I hope you’ll post the story about the two sisters soon :D

    1. Thanks, @Aghoghosam.

      Sorry o – no story about two sisters will be forthcoming. :) I barely have enough time to write these short stories as is.

  10. I could do the magic with Recover Myfiles Software….an aside please. Well, of course when saved a priori.

    Permit me to say a “beautiful stories!” Yes, a….

    Knitted aptly like by a weaverbird

    Good to save always ctrl + s at the fingertips,
    Never give up = Good moral.

  11. Writers will definitely identify with this. And the title is such a double entendre. I hear that Jesus Saves too, I mean, his documents…. :)

  12. Tola,
    When I read any story from you, I read with extra eye for detail. In one of the earliest quotations in this story, you put your comma outside the quote when it should be inside. An oversight, I guess.
    Beyond that minor blip, this is a well told story. I don’t expect anything less from you, anyway. b

    1. @Da Writing Engineer, d comma usage depends on weda u re using American or British English

  13. This happened with an important Coursework last year. Ha. No be small thing.
    Nice one…

  14. this got my attention……….NICE

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