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’.