Chimuanya stared at the green curtain billowing softly from the cool breeze that Thursday evening. The pillow underneath her head was as flat as the novel beside her. Her small flat, on the fourth floor, smelt intensely of putrid meat. She suddenly couldn’t take it anymore. There hadn’t been electricity in the house for three weeks, because she had not paid her NEPA bill, and all the food in the small rusty fridge had become spoiled. She had used up all the money in her account as consultation fee for the prophet that Mama Janet, her downstairs’ neighbour, had suggested. This prophet is the most powerful in the whole of Delta, Mama Janet had said.
Chimuanya had been so eager to go because, after seeking for mundane explanations to her truckload of troubles for so long, she was finally ready for a quick supernatural solution. She, however, became consumed with fear as Mama Janet led her to the white temple that was purposefully hidden in a strange forest on the outskirts of Asaba. The prophet, Almighty-Jah-Anointed as he was called, had requested for the most ludicrous things for a purification ceremony; snake skin, horse’s hooves, four long sticks (pankere), a bell and of course, twenty thousand naira. When she asked the significance of these things, Jah Anointed had said, “The spirit husband that is following you is attracted to the snake spirit inside you and we have to destroy the snake spirit so he can leave you alone. The horse’s hooves will help you to run faster than your enemies. We will use the holy cane to flog out any remaining evil spirit in your body.” The ceremony was done some days after that, at a river bank, with a small congregation who wore white wrappers and rung bells inharmoniously. She was flogged till there were angry red welts on her back and buttocks and till she was convinced that she was delivered.
Yet, there she was, lying on her mattress three weeks later; hiding from her landlord, divorced and jobless. She had quit her nursing job just a year after marrying Raymond because he wanted her to be a housewife. She hadn’t minded at the time because she never really liked being a nurse. She had decided then, that she would be a full time writer. For a while, things were good; a happy marriage, a published novel and various awards. Then, the downward spiral began five years into the marriage, after a series of miscarriages. It reached a negative climax when her rich husband, of fifteen years, divorced her for being, “A wild worldly woman who had destroyed her womb because of all her abortions and had seduced her publishers with her tight trousers.”
She listened to the soft music of nature from her window; the voices of the trees, the birds and the wind, all coming together for a brilliant harmony. Her burglary proofing had fallen off some days before, during a heavy rainstorm, but she had no money to fix it. Not that she wanted to; she had come to the habit of sitting on the ledge, till the sun settled in its amber glory, thinking of an ending to the novelette.
She glanced at the giant yellow notepad on her reading desk. Writing had been her refuge, her peace and she couldn’t point exactly when it had become such a chore. She was already two months behind on her deadline and her publishers would drop her if she didn’t complete the book by the week’s end. She read articles on How To Overcome Writer’s Block and 10 Easy Steps Out Of Writer’s Block on the internet and they made it look so easy. Still, the block didn’t budge and it frustrated her to the point of tearing her spongy faux-human hair weave from her head, which she had done the day before. She picked the notepad and her pen and sat on the ledge. The pen slipped from her hand and fell freely down the four-story building. She watched it fall; no inhibitions, just pure freedom, till it shattered on the concrete ground. She wanted to be like the pen, to go to a place of no inhibitions even if it was for a little while. She wrote on the last page with her spare pencil.
Last Chapter: Asabe will find Ruth hanging from a noose tied to the fan in their shared off-campus apartment. She would cry for days because she hadn’t seen the signs or worse yet, she had been too engrossed in trivial matters to notice them. She will run to Ruth’s boyfriend for comfort and they will fall in love.
She crossed the paragraph off the notepad and let the pencil fall from her fingers. She watched the motion again. She put the notepad down and stood on the ledge. When she was just seven years old, she had seen her mother do this and wondered if it had hurt or if it was just a momentary flash of pain before the end. Unlike her mother, she heard no voices; she just needed to do it because she had no more stories to tell. No one needed another forty-one year old homeless, barren, has-been writer roaming the streets of Nigeria.
This wasn’t the first time she had thought about it. Each time, it was something different and afterwards, she would caution herself and say, “Nigerians don’t think like this.” This was the first time, however, that she had taken any action towards it.
She closed her eyes and took a deep breath. “Maybe the evil spirits will finally leave me alone,” she whispered to herself. The breeze was strong against her face and she felt like she was about to fly. And in a way she did. With her arms outstretched, she placed one veiny, poorly-bleached foot over the ledge…