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There’s a generous rise in the number of writing enthusiasts all over Nigeria. The passion is tangible but the opportunities are few. For a writer, it is reward enough to have an audience to his written pieces of art, but at some point, financial reward is always craved for and that in itself can serve as an incentive to urge them on into the wonderful world of writing.

As a budding writer, I know how pumped up I felt whenever I came across local contests, I want to give that feeling back to you too.

Flash fiction is what I consider a brain tester. Will you be able to tell your story in 200 words beautifully? What we need are unique stories, something different, something unexpected, we absolutely love cliffhangers and stories that will make the reader crack his brain for days. Dazzle us.

Hafsah Dauda is just a writing blog, where I share all the stories pent up within the recesses of my brain with you, I hope you appreciate that part of me. Do read up and drop comments.

Guidelines:

-In not more than 200 words, write a flash fiction that ends : ‘…. smiling, she pulled the trigger’.

-Open to all Nigerians.

-Send your submission to hafsahdauda@gmail.com

-Please include your name below your write up.

-Submissions close on the 15th of August, 2019.

-Voting begins on the 17th of August.

-You will receive an email with a link of your published story.

-Share same link with as many people as possible and tell them to vote.

-Voting ends on the 22nd of August.

-Top 20 stories with highest number of votes qualify for shortlist.

-Shortlist to be published on the site on 24th August.

-The winner will be announced on 28th August 2019.

Once upon a time, even though I’ve never counted, but I was reading an average of 3 books a week and almost a hundred a year.

I was a chute sucking up all the wordings and meanings and at that time, reading a 200 hundred paged novel a day was a small task. I didn’t care what genre or age group or era it was from, I just read everything. But even then I was also a fiction person. I had tried to read ‘Rich Dad, Poor Dad’ and it did not seem significant to my life in anyway. I could not read inspirational books or biographies/ autobiographies, still can’t. The closest I’ve read was the ‘Subtle Art Of Not Giving A Fuck’ which was a very good read. (Books about creative writing are exceptions)

Then as I grew up, I started getting picky. Some books like Animorphs disgusted me. Some books like high school love stuff became too childish, some Mills and Boons book were too unrealistic, some science fiction books made no sense, some bippity bappity boo books were just lazily recycled narratives. I’d read the first 3 pages and dump the book without ever looking back. That is something I never did during my book gouging stage; in fact at that time I’ll probably start liking a book well into the 100th page but I’d still drag on and read on because well, It was a reading sin to dump a book.

It was that time that I discovered that I’d rather read Sidney Sheldon’s books than John Grisham even though I want to be a lawyer because it wasn’t ‘adventurous enough’ for me. And that I’d still rather read Sidney Sheldon than Jeffrey Archer because his books are so long you’d probably get lost in the narrative half way (except his short stories which I love).

I discovered my love for fantasy books and Sandra Brown over any romance writer. I discovered I liked mystery and suspense but didn’t like the suspense and the waiting period; always leaves me physically tired.

I discovered one genre that not many people know or worse appreciate but I like it because it is so easy-going and fun and some are actually funny- Chicklit.

I love reading the imperfections of the characters of Chicklit novels most of which are by Marian Keyes or  Sophie Kinsella (Chicklit novels adapted to movies are Diary of A Shopaholic, The Devil Wears Prada, Beauty and the Briefcase etc).

I like Fantasy, the Harry Potter kind and Percy Jackson kind. Zarah the Windseeker by Nnedi Okorafor was the first book I read in that genre by an African and it’s still my favorite .

I like books like Divergent and I usually read the books before the movies are released as soon as I watch the trailers. Because the books are usually better.

I love action books  and horror but please don’t disgust me with scenes too grotesque to incite any fear… thank you. To think once upon a time my idea of a horror book was Goosebumps.

Wattpad spoiled many genres for me like Vampires and werewolves, I don’t take them serious now because I feel it’s just another unreadable Wattpad something. Fanfiction is the wooorrsseee *Harry Styles* 😭

I love unconventional books like Alif the Unseen, it’s tech with a touch of Jinn- really unexpected.

Unpredictable books in a good way? Sign me up. Because some authors in a bid to be unpredictable just do the most.

Generally, the books I’d love to read are the ones I’d love to write. So when I don’t find what I want to read on the shelves, I write one.

‘Mirror mirror on the wall, who is the most beautiful of them all?’ But she knew the answer. Jamila was still the most beautiful of them all.

She dipped her fingers inside the jar and lathered on more cream. Maybe if she was lighter skinned, it wouldn’t be Jamila. Maybe if she exercises more it wouldn’t be Jamila, maybe if her hair was to grow longer, it wouldn’t be Jamila. Because Jamila’s beauty was swaying even her boyfriend and she was not having any of it.

But she couldn’t fault her best friend for being so naturally Masha Allah. She could only just admire too. Jamila always had men on her heels. Her aura and looks drew men to her and made women envy her. 

‘They must wonder why Jamila is even friends with me’ she muttered to herself. ‘With this ugly duckling’.

She wasn’t mad at Jamila for getting her boyfriends attention, she had caught him stare in wonder at Jamila many times and she had been silently miffed. But she wanted to keep being friends with Jamila, she at least got some male attention when Jamila was around even if it was vicarious. Besides she didn’t want to see her best friend mad.

But he was going to have it because she had had enough, the fact that they were flirting on the phone was beyond keeping mum.

Jamila was about to come. She didn’t tell her mother this time because the last time her mother saw Jamila, she had a scared and confused look in her eyes. She reapplied the lipstick and patted some powder on it to give it a matte finish, it was too glossy. She wanted to look beautiful, her boyfriend was coming soon and Jamila was almost there… and still a threat.

She saw Jamila through the mirror. She looked beautiful as always. She was wearing makeup too but she would have looked great even without any. She smiled a bit.

‘How far?’ She asked.

Jamila replied from behind the mirror ‘I’m good. Is Le Hub in the waiting here yet?’ 

Jannah pressed her lips together in annoyance. She didn’t like the way Jamila acted as if he was dating them both, but she didn’t like the way Abdul was responding even more… she had read their chats.

Jamila smirked, as if she could read her mind. But maybe she could, Jannah wouldn’t put anything past Jamila.

As if on cue, her phone rang, it was Abdul. 

‘Le Hub is here’ Jamila chirped in delight and Jannah’s frown deepened. She snatched her veil and went out.

‘Hi’ Abdul said with a smile once she settled in the car.

Jannah didn’t respond. She just folded her arms and stared out through the window. She was so angry but she was a chicken. She couldn’t stand confrontation and that was why she avoided talking to bold Jannah about it. 

And for all the fuming she was doing she was loosing the steam now that she was near Abdul.

‘Hey, what’s wrong?’ Abdul asked a frown etched on his face. He should have been used to her mood swings but he still worried when she suddenly turned from cold to loving and from prudish to flirty.

She simply shook her head, then some seconds later as if as an afterthought, she turned face on and started 

‘ Why would you do that Abdul?’

He kept silent, he was trying to think up what he did that was wrong and at the same time trying to see where she was heading to.

‘I know I’m not particularly pretty or anything but you said you loved me, you chased me until I practically handed you my heart and now you are going behind my back flirting with my best friend? Why?’

‘Jannah what are you talking about?’ He asked perplexed. But he couldn’t fool her, in the seconds he was silent she had seen the guilt fleet through his eyes.

She laughed bitterly ‘ And here I was thinking you are the two people I trust most’.

‘What are you saying? Are you okay? Is this some joke or a test? Because it’s not funny’. Abdul cried. She wasn’t listening.

‘No don’t’ she stopped him with her palms. ‘Don’t even, because I saw your text messages and you were flirting with her. You were flirting with Jamila and you were even telling her how beautiful she is…’ she chocked on the tears and words both fighting to come out of her throat. She was furious and depleted at the same time. Couldn’t she have one thing of her own.

Abdul’s eyes were wide. He looked confused and scared. 

‘But that was you. What are you saying. You called me with that number months ago and I saved it and we chatted occasionally on it from that time, I had no idea it wasn’t your number’.

‘You are lying you double timing…’ she couldn’t say bastard. She wanted so bad to call him a bastard but she couldn’t. ‘You were calling her name you were saying Jamila, you were saying you even preferred her to me how could you’.

‘I thought’ he started then stopped ‘I thought it was an act. You said you are Jamila and I said you are because you deserve that name and you even sent me a picture, your picture! The voice notes were your voice. But’ he lowered his voice ‘but you were different’. He kept quiet and really studied her as she furiously went through her phone and shoved it in his face.

‘I have screenshots of your messages and this, this is Jamila’s picture’. 

Abdul didn’t say anything. He couldn’t. She was right, he had been chatting with Jamila. He had been dating two people; Jiddah and Jamila, and he didn’t even know it.

She scoffed bitterly and shook her head.

‘Cat got your tongue? You never thought I’ll find out did you?’

‘No’ he said with a small smile, ‘I never did’.

She looked through the side mirror and scorned. ‘Here comes your beauty queen’. 

And he looked too, and he did see Jamila, the same Jamila he saw on Jannah’s phone. And he must admit, the confidence, the poise, the aura, it was Jamila, but the person, it was all Jannah.

He never knew he’d be with one much less be so close as to contemplate marrying one but his girlfriend, his Jannah, his Jamila had split personality, like that movie Split. She had, he racked his brain to remember the disorder, ‘ Dissociative Identity Disorder’. She was two in order and only Allah knows how many more resided in her.

Jannah left Abdul and went back home. He had admitted and she couldn’t decide whether to break it with him or… it was all so confusing. She needed time to think things through. And Jamila; she had apologized and promised to stop talking to him but she couldn’t be so foolish as to believe.

She stood before the mirror clutching a hairbrush and asked softly like she’d always done since she was a teen when being bullied about her body image almost drove her mad, she whispered ‘Mirror Mirror on the wall, who is the most beautiful of them all’.

And amidst the tears shading her eyes-she could see clearly through the mirror- Jamila looking back, a smug smile splayed on her face.