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She pressed and held so that the honk of her car will rally with that of the ones around, maybe then, the traffic will clear.

She could will all the cars away, she knew she could. But she did not. She wanted- needed- to conserve her new found powers because of course it was bestowed on her by more than coincidence… it was a gift of fate for the greater good.

Lala knew the world was in imminent danger. The signs where there, of things; bad things approaching from different dark crevices.

It was obvious in the shadows that moved anti-clockwise, against the sun,defying light.

It was evident in the children born with their eye wide open, open even in their mothers wombs.

It was apparent in the gait of the trees, more rebellious as against their gentility. Nature was brazen and brash; a tree trunk extending to make her trip, then the winds howling in laughter as she falls.

Somehow, she was the only one that saw them, she was the only one that felt the change so when she told her mother, her mother merely grimaced and looked away staring into the empty sunburnt evening.

Lala had had enough. Surely, doing something to prevent her from having a heatstroke amidst an ungrateful traffic in a state that will get mad at you for dying because you have caused more traffic is part of the greater good.

Eyes closed. Breathe hitched. Zen mode. Concentrate.  It took 10 minutes… it gets easier and faster by the moment. Wielding ones power, like a talent takes practice… Lala was getting a hold of hers.

The traffic had dispersed before her and she easily maneuvered, her heart in her throat, her fists clenching the wheels till she felt like she’d puke. She could do it, she had the power of telekinesis. She could move objects using sheer mental power and that…. that had to be the most heady thing.

She was glad she made it home before fainting. The mental exercise had drained her of all energy and she needed sugar or an energy drink to re-charge. She’ll take red bull, then she’ll tell her daughter all about it now that she had confirmed that she was indeed superhuman.

It all started in the lab, as a scientist working in a high facility government lab, she dealt with major chemicals, and she believed in major abilities but she had never for once thought she’d accidentally develop an ability though it might be that her strong mental believe had attracted that bug to her.

The vision of that multi-coloured, shimmery bug with eyes that looked like they could see right through people and straight into the future hit her again, this time, so hard she had to promptly sit on a sofa.

She wondered-not for the first time- how it had made it’s way past the barricade, past the heavy duty doors that shut so tight even air had to hiss away. The place was highly sensitized and well-lit, surely something as big and colourful as that should not have covered that distance unnoticed.

But fate… laws of attraction… her innate instinct to help must have had a hand in gaming it all. The sting was so sharp and sudden she fainted. That was when she  died, perhaps for a second or its split,but her heart had skipped a beat, maybe two and it had been jolted back to life only because on her way down, the complex chemical she was working on had spilled and burnt deep into the sting that it had prompted her heart to beat. And when she awoke, she woke up a new human.

She could see patterns in life, she could see thought processes. She could see the life in things people think are inanimate not knowing that they retain the hum of life of their raw nature. The furniture still hum with the trees essence, the cars still have elements of steel, so does every other thing; that was why controlling them became easy for her- because she could feel them, connect to them, communicate with them, will them and they bent to her will.

She didn’t hear her daughter come in. She was so in tune with every other thing she started losing touch with humans… they were far less interesting.

‘Mama you look pale’. Her daughter looked at her worried. Her daughter worried unnecessarily.

Lala smiled weakly.

‘I’m okay. How are you? How’s school?’

But she didn’t hear how school was, or how Nana was selected to represent the school in a science tournament, or how Nana’s best friend was caught with a boy and flogged before the class, or how Nana really needed money for a new uniform, because she was communicating with TV vibes and she would have moved it but for the fear that Nana will freak out.

When she opened her eyes, it was night and her daughter was nowhere to be found, she had slept off. There was a plate of yam and beans porridge on the table, Nana must have made it. Her poor child must be confused and lonely but some matters require sacrifice.

‘Mama are you sure you are okay?’ Nana asked again after checking up on her mother to see if she was breathing. Her mother had been delusional since her father left them for her mothers older cousin but it had become worse lately.

Lala didn’t flinch.

‘It’s okay to think about him. But please we have to move on’. She pleaded. She was desperate for her mother to pick up the pieces of her once colourful life again.

Lala tilted her head towards her daughter and smiled ‘Who? It has always been the two of us darling’.

She was, it seemed, stuck in a stage of calm denial- not of the act of betrayal (it would have been much better) but of the existence of Nana’s Dad. It scared Nana to no end.

Then something moved in Nana’s periphery. She turned to catch the object fly out through the window. Her mother caught her looking and smiled.

‘ I was wondering how you’ll find out. It was so hard keeping it to myself for so long. Now you know’. Her smile was so wide, it was the happiest Nana had seen her since the incident.

‘Know what? What are you talking about Mama?’

‘I know it may seem like there’s a plausible explanation, but it’s just that! I have the power of telekinesis… and yes I just threw out that verse through the window with my mind’.

‘Mama!’ Nana half-whispered in an ill-attempt to keep the alarm out of her voice, ‘Mama that was a bird’. And a tear fell from her eyes.

How do you react to physical illnesses? Do you ignore physical pain, tell your loved one to ‘man it up’ when he has a killer headache, decide to treat yourself when you have diabetes? Or do you go to the hospital and seek professional help.

Now how do you react to psychological diseases? Are you aware that mental illness do as much harm to you and your body as the physical and many physical pain are in fact, a manifestation of the pain that is lodged up in your brain seeking a way to get noticed and treated.

Mental health awareness, in developing countries especially, is just gaining momentum after wreaking harm for years unattended.

Recently in Nigeria there is an appalling surge in the number of suicide and suicidal attempts, murder of spouses, relatives and strangers, terrorism activities and other life threatening acts. Are you aware that over 70% of these acts can be attributed directly (as in the case of suicide) or indirectly (as in the case of terrorist attacks) on mental ill health.

Psychopaths, sociopaths, people with borderline personality disorders and other personality disorders walk, work and live among us (they might even be us), but the lack of awareness on the signs to watch out for and when to get help can make the disorders worse to the point of making them dangerous in the society.

Depression spreads it’s tentacles far and wide, more so because it has found a suitable environment for growth in Nigeria fed by lack of awareness, shunning, pressure, frustration stemming from work, home, marriage life, studies or standard of living.

The lack of empathy makes it that much harder for patients to reach out and the stigma makes it worse when it comes to seeking help. But no one has ever stigmatized people for seeking help with cancer, so why is cancer of the mind any different?

What we need to understand is that mental diseases are diseases like any. What we need people to know is that having them is okay and seeking help is an act of courage. What we need from people is to research, know about the importance of mental health and what to watch out for, know the many different personalities and disorders, observe the people around them and give them a should when they need it.

Because your mental well-being means so much more than you think. It means the world.

Submitted by Aisha Hamza

  I arrived at Tara’s apartment a little past eight p.m. She enveloped me in a warm hug and led me to the lavishly set dinning area where candle lights were competing with porcelain dishes . Sitting down, I allowed my eyes roam on the body hugging sequined dress that flattered Tara’s beautiful body. I might just propose tonight.

  Tara excused herself and went into the kitchen. Suddenly something moved from the shadows and surfaced in form of Tiara. She didn’t give me time to recover from my shock as she said “long time no see Ayo”. There was no way my ex from hell was sitting across from me. Too shocked to say a word, beads of perspiration gathered on my forehead.

“Tiara, I see you’ve met Ayo already” It was Tara’s honeyed voice. What in the world was going on? I mused. Tiara flashed Tara a smile. 

    “Ayo, this is my twin sister Tiara”. The universe must be playing tricks on me. “Remember the two girls on the night of the 27th, 2008. Your boys and you. Remember the rape Ayo”?
It was Tiara speaking.
I looked up and saw Tara holding a gun. “It’s payback time Ayo”. Smiling, she pulled the trigger. 

This story was written as an entry to the Flash Fiction contest hence the theme but unfortunately, due to technical issues, it was not received.

Writers Bio

Aisha Hamza

Aisha Hamza is an ardent and growing creative writer who is passionate about stringing words together. She is a poetic soul with the pen of a word artist and hopes that some day,her name would be written in gold amongst a legion of renowned writers.

A 7 year old boy in primary 3 is making his mother’s stomach tie into knots in worry that he might be a perpetual slow learner, because it is such a terrible thing that he just cannot seem to string letters together in his head and read them aloud as words, she fears he may be dumb.

The 7 year old receives the lashes of his mother’s harsh tongue and most likely a few slaps but try as he may, he can’t read.

It would have been better if school would be his safe haven but the pressure in school surpasses that of home because in truth, his problem started in school when all the students instantly create sentences in a fantastic manner and write with the average speed of an infant where he can’t even seem to read not to mention write.

He feels his esteem eat away like leaves attacked by unrelenting pests. He can’t even be free because the other kids look at him and think he is dumb, especially when the teacher deems it right to punish him for being ‘slow’ and compare him to other students thereby subjecting him to being taunted.

There goes the confidence of the boy and the beginning of his self-doubt and manifestation of other problems most of which will be mental all because of the ignorance of the learning environment in matters of mental health. In another society, it wouldn’t be a big problem to understand that the boy has a learning disorder called dyslexia which makes reading a herculean task to his brain and which may or may not recede and completely disappear with age. And in case it does recede, the ridicule will still linger.

A scenario similar to this that I know of happened in a school in Kaduna, hundreds of scenarios similar to this that we may not know of are still happening all over.

I’ve been meaning to write this proposal for a while but I had to target a willing listening ear first and there’s no better one in a position of power than Gov. Nasiru Ahmed El-Rufai.

Over the years, he has proven that Kaduna can be a role model educational reform system and is ever ready to attend to anything education. It is on this basis that I write this.

The inclusion of mental health studies in the curriculum of secondary schools will not start in the classroom as the classroom is a teachers territory therefore, it is subject to a teachers knowledge. That is why it has to start with the teachers.

It is my suggestion that all teachers of government schools be trained in the basics of infant and common adult mental health disorders where the signs and how to handle people with such cases will be taught extensively even if for a week.

Again, every private school should be tasked with training their own teachers be it a mathematics or foods and nutrition teacher and all schools must have a trained Guidance Counselor(s) who is to work directly with a government body.

It is after this foundation has been laid that it will be plausible for mental health to be seamlessly taught in schools.

The rise of psychological disorders and diseases is alarming and the main reason why it’s festering on the society is because of ignorance of the majority of the members of the society who chose to condemn rather than redeem.

I believe it is wise to ‘catch them young’, by teaching the future generation about the complexities in personalities and how the brain works in diverse ways which will be a sure way of promoting and fostering tolerance and understanding among them and most importantly, it will mean tackling mental health issues head on.

It is my plea that this suggestion is heard and worked upon by not only the Kaduna State Governor but all those in power and all those who have a say so that majority of Nigeria’s problems (which is due to deep and raging frustration that has been left unchecked) is put in check.

After careful consideration of all entries by three judges, three top stories have been chosen out of 36 delighful creative pieces of fiction.

Congratulations to the writers of the stories. The absence of your name does not discredit you as a writer, it just means there’s always room for improvement. 

And as a writer who will eventually face the world, it’s all about trying till you make it. I hope this will serve to strengthen your writing spirit to make it. Therefore congratulations to everyone for being brave enough to put his/her writeup out there.

Winners List:

1st Runner Up- Rabi Lawal, Entry 4 (N2,000)

2nd Runner Up- Oyeniran Tofunmi Eunice, Entry 15 (N3,000)

Winner- Ruqayyah Saghir Nabage, Entry 14 (N10,000)

Honourable Mentions:

Annie Ifinedo

Hauwa Hala Nuraddeen

Ishola Ubaydah

Jesutofunmi Fekoya

Dela Azojani Adeorike

Yunusa ibrahim

Gift Ukay

Aisha Mahmud

Watch this space for more contests and mentorship opportunities.

Thank you for your participation.

She dipped the kitchen towel in a bowl of hot water and placed it on her hand. She winced as the heat seared through her tender flesh. There was a cut and several small injuries on the back of her hand and she couldn’t let anyone see it, especially the people where she was going.

She placed a band-aid and covered the small cut around her knuckles with foundation, she was wearing a long-sleeved gown to shade her wound from prying eyes. People, always trying to establish your life is not perfect like theirs.

She wasn’t going to address the cause of her pain until she’s back. He was probably on their matrimonial bed still asleep, but she had to get up, because she had to work, because she had to feed the family while he slept like a bunch of rotten bananas.

She checked her watch, frowned at how the small hand had ticked clockwise faster than she had wanted and hissed. The lecture wouldn’t deliver itself, she said to herself. Domestic violence, it seemed was a much sought after topic. Battered women where having none of the bullshit anymore, and she was proud. She stared at her bruised hand, she was proud of them.

Iridescent flowers that have already started darkening by the edges, that was what they looked like. Their faces lighted up in understanding and agreement as they stared ardently at her, eagerly sucking up each word like a child with an insatiable appetite of milk.

She shivered slightly at the sight of the innocence painted on their faces, innocence that for some, has already started getting tainted with a dark paint. She needed to save them; from themselves and from the others be it their parents, partners or the society… or all.

And so her voice got stronger with each word, with each message, with each example stating a hundred and one reasons why a woman is the owner of her body and why no one, can take that away from her.

‘The word ‘woman’ has, for a long time been taken to be synonymous to ‘weakness’, and that is why the girl child has been conceived of weakness, birthed by weakness and brought up in weakness. It has been drummed in our brains for so long we begin to believe in that and that is why when our husbands batter us’ she cringed at the thought of that ‘it is taken for granted and blame is heaped solely on us, the weakness’ her voice dripped of passion. She needed them to understand that they needed to stand up for themselves, she needed them to understand there in the grand looking assembly hall of the school of the elite children before it was too late.

‘But not anymore’, she went on. ‘The modern woman is strength and power. She understands that she is human before woman, she understands that she is woman and therefore priceless, she understands that dowry is not a ticket to torture, she understands that she is the owner of her body and she will fight to see that every other person accepts same’. She concluded.

The thunderous applause made her jolt a bit in fright. She stood stunned as the crowd of young secondary school girls and teachers stood up and cheered.

It always happened like that and that was why they scouted lectures so much from her for whenever she was delivering a lecture on violence against women, she was never herself. She was a woman from fifteen years ago who had been dragged and man handled, slapped across the face and told to shut up or the knife glistening in the dark will be buried within her. And she had to stifle her scream and lie for hour-like minutes until the deed was done and her innocence, gone. The most painful part being she knew who it was, and she knew he was a coward as only cowards hit women.

She smiled and lowered her eyes as if shy. The rage of being a victim had subsided and she was back to herself.

The admiration in the eyes of the female students and the profusely stated appreciations were enough for her. Her job was done.

She didn’t want to go back home. She didn’t want to face him or anyone. She just wanted to drive away, far away, but she knew she couldn’t, she knew she had to face her worse nightmare who shared her bed every day for 5 years.

The moment she pushed the door open and heard the sound of feet shuffling, she knew he was home. Where else would he be? Useless man.

‘Come here’. Silence.

‘I said come here’. Now with obvious annoyance.

She felt the rage creep back in. He always had that effect on her ever since he decided it was a good idea to rape her. Little did he know, he fucked with the wrong girl.

10 years after the rape, she had bloomed into a beautiful woman,and he had thought that she had forgotten as it happened a long time ago. And so when she did everything young ladies were prone to do to get the attention of men they liked, he had succumbed and had fallen prey. Some months later, they were married, what he will come to discover was her plot for revenge all along.

She had made his life a living hell from the first year of their wedding. She had made him lose his job, distanced him from family and friends and basically made him dependent on her so that all the power were in her palms, the palms she used to batter him all day as she relieved that dark night that awakened the monster in her.

Her fists were still sore from the punch she had given him last night and she could see him visibly shake as her palms curled to fists.

‘Bloody coward. I hope you tell this story to your fellow weak men who hit women’. She spat out in disgust and landed him another punch.

Meet one of our Judges, Inufin Ayomide D’great. He is a poet per excellence who has excelled in and mastered the art of making English conform to his writing whims.

Owing to his writing prowess, Ayomide has recently been profiled by Wikipedia as a globally recognized poet.

Some of his 12 achievements are:

* 2004 Goshen Boys & Girls writing competition (runner up)

* Best orator and winner 2015 Professor Atinmo oratory competition, University of Ibadan

* 2016 MidasMinds Literary Inc winner Short story category

* 2017 PCG Dynamite Awards Overall best poet, most creative writer, best Poetry collaboration

* 2018 runner up Poetry & Prose Hood Valentine competition

* 2018 PCG Dynamite Awards Overall best poet, most creative writer, best Poetry collaboration, King of the year, Poem of the year with the poem *Ayo has a boyfriend*, writerolic of the year.

The list of the top 20 stories to qualify for the judging stage is ready. The list was compiled following five-day the voting process where some stories had almost 300 votes to their names.

Shortlisted writers for Flash Fiction Writing Contest:

1. Dela Azojani Adeorike

2. Stephen Ezennwa

3. Jesutofunmi Fekoya

4. Hauwa Hala Nuraddeen

5. Umeh Prisca Ijeoma

6. Deborah Johnson

7. Nana Khadija Yahaya

8. Mary Emmanuel Bawa

9. Eniola Balogun

10. Idris Ayanfe

11. Chiziterem Chijioke

12. OYENIRAN TOFUNMI EUNICE

13. Ruqayyah Saghir Nabage

14. Yunusa Ibrahim

15. Gift Ukay

16. Ishola Ubaidah

17. Annie Ifinedo

18. Rabi Lawal

19. Aisha Bint Mahmud

20. Khadija Musa

All 20 shortlisted stories were beautifully relayed but only three will winners will be announced on the 28th.

The judges will judge based on story line, theme, how well the rules were followed, diction, punctuation and many other factors.

2nd Runner up- N2,000

1st runner up- N3,000

Winner- N10,000.

May the very best story win. Best of luck to all.

The relationship between myself and I is a love-hate one. I love myself, I absolutely do but there’s this lady, her name is ‘I’, she resides somewhere- I’m not sure where but I think it’s either my brain, my mind or my body. Sometimes I think ‘I’ is my shadow but then she lingers even after I can see no visible shadow. ‘I’ is more than the physical or tangible, in fact the fact that she’s not tangible makes her more powerful.

‘I’ is annoying, she annoys me to no end because she is too dauntless and daring and adventurous and she lands me in trouble all the time. Are you looking for bad advice cookie? That’s ‘I’. And she nags so much I find it hard to ward her off so to make her keep shut and have her off my case, I just go along with it… bad decision.

I want to lose weight so I try to cut down on food portions and avoid ‘bad’ food and even when I see a super juicy and cheesy chunk of junk, I direct my mind away by myself, but not ‘I’, ‘I’ redirects me. She comes with this super therapeutic voice and goes ‘do you really want to do this to yourself Hafsah? Do you really not want to indulge in this piece of edible luxury? You only live once you know’ and she is sooo good like an expert siren, I usually end up trailing her demands.

And later when I’m drowning in the guilt of it, she sits cross-legged on a plush chair by the side of the grey cube room that’s my mind and smirks to herself. She’s usually writing on a notepad- that’s one thing myself and ‘I’ have in common- and I think she’s scoring herself. By now it will probably read: ‘myself’ 7- 10834893 ‘I’.

‘I’ doesn’t like letting go of people so even when I have a crush on a guy and I want to move on, ‘I’ pushes me to just check his Instagram page one more time for updates, ‘It helps with the healing process’ she says. But she’s lying because I end up stalking him for three more hours….unhealthily.

‘I’ is (am) a hoarder. Like when she tells me I need stuff I don’t need. She’s like ‘Hafsah we are going to need this in the future, keep it’ and the future comes, and it goes and we never need it but we’ve kept it.

And she even hoards memories, some good ones- I must give her credit- but she hoards even the unnecessary, bad ones and that makes her hold grudges like an expert in the field of grudge keeping (there’s a pun lying here somewhere).

For example there’s a family gathering yeah? And I see that cousin and I’m approaching her because I want to catch up and… ‘I’ actually stops me. She says ‘remember when you were 4 years 7 months 1 week old and this cousin flicked a lit up match at you and it burned your arm? You still want to talk to her after THAT?!!! And the memory comes back anew, I feel the pain of the matchstick sizzle on my arm and I make a 360 turn away from the cousin. ‘I’, you are here on banned from interfering with my family life ever again.

When I learn a new song (which is usually some few lines), I don’t like letting ‘I’ know. Because when she gets hold of those lines, God in Heavens! It takes the whole spirit of the Earth to make her stop endlessly chanting them like a breathing mantra. And it annoys me because it’s stuck in my head every moment! But ‘I’ enjoys it. She just loves tormenting me.

You think you have naysayers? Mine resides within! This lady is my worse critic. Everything I do is subject to judgement. I can’t try to look pretty in front of the mirror, ‘I’ will start dissing me. And if so help me God I try to dance or worse sing, ‘I’ contorts her face like she’s smelling poop and grimaces, I’ll have to shamefully stop. That’s why I don’t like taking pictures because ‘I’ calls each of them ugly save one or two. Because of that, I may take 100 pictures and two days later, I’ll delete the lot to one or two. The ones approved by ‘I’. I hate her guts.

I know you are thinking I should let go of her and I’ve thought about it but even as I’m typing this right now, she’s in here laughing her heads off (wickedly) because she knows she’s here to stay. She knows she’ll outlive me, because I know that house, my mind will breathe and exists even after my body gives up the ghost.

And I can’t mute her because in between it all, she drops the most amazing writing and story ideas. She’s my perfectly ever-engaging muse. That’s where our love relationship comes in. I love her for the endless supply of stories she provides. Ever wondered why my stories are usually sadistic? Well….

And she’s my gossip partner, who else will I laugh about my boss with? Most times when you see me laughing to myself, it’s myself and I sharing an inside joke. And she spins the most romantic stories when she’s on her monthly’s. And she can be sweet in a mean way. She comes up plenty horrible ways to get back at people many of which I thankfully forcefully dismiss.

‘I’ is (am) a creative fellow, sometimes mean but usually to me and generally, there’s not a single dull moment between ‘I’ and myself.

Title: Different 

By Dela Azojani Adeorike

Samson was Delilah’s little piece of heaven and she was everyone’s desire. The six months with him had been a bed of roses until fourteen days ago.  Samson had invited her for a party. At the party, she couldn’t find him. She asked few people,” please am I his keeper?” said another hissing and cursing…when she found him, “meet me upstairs in five minutes’ time”Samson said giving her a snack. Walking up the stairs, shecollapsed at the door. With nausea, she ran to the bathroom for a puke only to feel something roll down her thighs. Delilah had been waiting him, but he wasn’t welcoming at all. ” where have you been? I have been worried sick about you, don’t you know-” Delilah said but he cuts in ” madam you don’t need to worry about me, hope your whole adventure with those guys was mind-blowing like they said”. He was gone before she could reply. Thinking of the whole incident, she found herself at Samson’s door, he had planned the gang rape and spread that she was a cheerful giver.  She waltzed in with a gun, points samsonand smiling, she pulled the trigger…