Fiction Fiesta: This Way, to Dreamland (1) by Chuks Obinna

I saw the fear in her eyes when she ran up to me and held my arms tight. I had no idea who she was, I’d just come to fetch water by the public tap – and I hated this because the tap was in the middle of a large compound and people always sat around that area, as if their business in life was to watch everyone who came to fetch water, especially the new teacher.

“Please don’t let him hurt me anymore.”

Her eyes were filled with tears and her lips quivered. She was perhaps eighteen or older than that. Her dark hair was long and unkempt. She was beautiful, but beyond that beauty, I could see pain. A pain which probably had something to do with the marks on her body, the slashes on her arm and the cut on her left hand. She’d been beaten, several times. I didnt have to be told.

She continued looking at me for a few seconds and then I heard the man’s voice.

“Where is she?” the voice thundered and I looked up. He was a big man, hard set and dark. He had a belt wrapped around his left hand, and a wooden cane fixed in the other. That was the moment I knew I had to do something.

“Get behind me,” I instructed and she hurried past me, brushing over to safety.

The man marched on and from the way he narrowed his eyes and pointed the cane in my direction, I knew he’d seen the girl.

“Hey, you! I can see that stupid girl behind you.”

“Where is she?” the voice thundered and I looked up. He was a big man, hard set and dark. He had a belt wrapped around his left hand, and a wooden cane fixed in the other. That was the moment I knew I had to do something.

He was soon standing in front of me, his breath reeked of alcohol and his eyes were red.

Now, I’m not a fighter or a hero with a military background. I’m just a school teacher and a guy who came to fetch water on a cool evening, but I know when someone crosses the line.

When I was a boy my father told me that a courageous man won battles before they started. He said to me, “don’t ever let anyone see your fear, for that’s when you become invincible.”

When I was a boy my father told me that a courageous man won battles before they started. He said to me, “don’t ever let anyone see your fear, for that’s when you become invincible.”

And so I stared straight at this man, our eyes locked in a fierce staring contest, and I let the words running through my head flow right out of my mouth.

“Leave her alone.”

The man’s eyes flashed and he hissed, spraying more of that alcoholic breath my way. My eyes burned seriously; his breath stank so bad I almost left the girl to her fate – but I steadied myself.

“Oh, so you’re now the new one using that trash eh?” He spluttered and I remained quiet, aware of the people beginning to lean over balconies and peer through windows, watching the latest drama. It was a large compound after all, and in my short three months there I’d witnessed countless fights and arguments, including one between a couple who ran around shamelessly and very naked, or the one with a little boy and a neighbor’s dog.

The last thing I wanted was to be the focus of any gist or gossip, but the girl’s whimpers, and that hurt look in her eyes, changed my mind.

The man shifted closer and pressed a finger against my chest, poking at it, obviously daring me to fight back.

I didn’t react. No one wanted an escalation–actually, that’s not true: the many neighbors around certainly wanted a fight, but not today.

“What has she done? Why do you want to hurt her with those?” I looked at the cane and belt.

His eyes narrowed and he grunted, waving the belt for me to admire as if to say ‘this has your name on it’, then he spat and staggered to the side.

I think that was when I noticed how drunk he was; I hadn’t noticed that stagger and sway to his walk, or the way his feet brushed up dust as he walked, but it was there now.

The man mumbled some words of gibberish, spat again– and I seriously expected to see that spit sizzle and burn up the dirt – before waving his hands in the air and announcing, “I’ll see you inside, witch. You can stay with your new boyfriend. In short, marry him… but don’t you dare come into my house!”

He turned around with so much difficulty, pulling up his sagging trousers which I’m sure the belt had come from, and then staggered away.

I could almost feel the cloud of disappointment in the air as the man walked away. Some of the neighbors went back to their various businesses–gossiping, cooking, or whatever things nosey neighbors do–but a few remained and watched me keenly, perhaps curious about this ‘new boyfriend’ accusation that man had tossed around all so lovingly.

I turned around just in time to see the girl walking off. Taking two quick steps, I reached out and held her hand.
“What was that all about? Who is that man?”

She sniffled and wiped the tears off her eyes while avoiding my gaze.

“My…my father.”

Her voice was low and broken.
“Your father? He…did that to you, why?”

She managed to look up at me. Her eyes…there was something about it; some kind of mystery. They made me want to learn more; to ask her to talk to me, but she looked away almost immediately and walked off in the direction the man had gone.

I didn’t think about her as much as I thought I would; I was a busy teacher, with lots of test sheets to grade and a few lesson notes to draft.

I went outside my apartment that evening and sat on the low steps, smoking. Every man has a vice, I always say; mine was cigarettes. I’d started smoking as a teenager and it’d just stuck. Ironic for a teacher who taught basic science and the risks of lung cancer and whatnot.

It was cold that night. I liked it. I was too engrossed in watching the fading red glow of the cigarette in my hand to notice the figure stepping out of the darkness to my right.

“Good evening, sir.”

I heard the soft voice and I turned sharply. Now, here’s the thing about this ‘sir sir’ stuff…I hate it; it makes me feel old. I’m just twenty-four. ‘Sir’ can wait till I was an old and wrinkly thirty-something-year-old.

The cigarette deftly switched to my left hand which disappeared out of view as I stared at her.
“Good evening,” I responded and she smiled at me, her eyes on the cigarette I thought I was hiding.
I shrugged. “Bad habit.”

“It’s fine. My father smokes too.”

But I’m not your father and I don’t beat you, I wanted to say.

“I hope he didn’t hurt you again?”

She came closer and stood by the steps. I also stood, since looking up at her made my neck hurt.

She shook her head. No, he was asleep now and so she’d decided to come and thank me.

That was nice and all, but I still kept my eyes open and looked around for any inquisitive neighbors.

“What’s your name?” I asked trying to take in her beauty under the faint light of the moon. Her hair was not as rough as before, combed neatly but unpacked, and she wore a blue top over a black skirt. She looked…normal; not that girl I’d seen hours again, whose pain had tugged at my heart.

She twirled her hair with her fingers, looked up at me and opened her mouth to speak when a harsh voice cut through the night. That harsh voice.

“Amaka!”

She stiffened.

“Where is that witch? Amaka!” The voice called out again.

She gasped and that flash of fear came back into her eyes.

“I have to go now. My father, he’ll be really mad at me.”

I reached out and tried to say something, but she’d already hurried off into the dark.


Chuks Obinna is a 23-year-old final year student studying engineering. He loves books, and he loves writing even more. He enjoys music, reading books, and nature –because it spurs his imagination–and of course, writing. Chuks blogs at thebizarrewriter.wordpress.com

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