“Friend” by Jesse Jojo Johnson.

I have always liked the clever ones.

Mother said I pick the weirdest. The mad, mad girls – the wild and unrestrained. They are the most interesting, I should admit, though I’ve heard it whispered that they make an unwise pursuit. Things get complicated easily, they really do. But what I must correct is the wrong perception that I do this intentionally. On the contrary, I avoid them like a plague. Or I try to. I don’t know, whatever I do, I end up with one worse than the previous.

Take Serwaa. When I first met her, she was a scruffy toddler in the habit of deliberately sniffing out trouble. Every single time. I remember one episode: The Baiden’s had moved in a week ago and were familiarizing themselves with the neighbourhood. Their ambassadorial visiting rounds brought the small, affluent returnees to Serwaa’s. It was a sunny Sunday afternoon, the sort that wears the life out of you for God knows what.

Serwaa’s parents hosted the lawyer, his civil engineer wife and their twenty-something year old medical student son in the living room. Mrs Dorothy Baiden left her handbag on the floor beside her seat. The Sunday family movie played muted as the lawyer dished out his favourite courtroom episodes, applying a London accent generously when he meant to imitate a client or an opponent, interjecting with Fante obscenities where appropriate.

The laughter and wine must have blinded them as Serwaa went through Dorothy’s bag unchecked. My little girl found a treasure, walked up to her mother (a newly trained nurse, I forgot to mention) with a strange contraption and demanded the truth “Mummy what is a pregnancy test?” She announced.

Daniel Baiden’s conception with a toothless smile and there, won my heart. I’ve spent more time with Serwaa Adomah than I thought I would. I usually get tired of playing with them. Girls grow up fast and they quickly learn what this and that means, and when to stay away and when to give in. But Serwaa was different. She was a good book that never ended – a story that will not grow old. Mother said I pick the weird ones.

I must have stumbled on the maddest, cleverest girl in Accra. I stuck with her through pre-school, kindergarten, Christ the King and Wesley Girls. I didn’t only have pleasure watching her sleep at night. No, I was good to her. I taught her music and how to sing. I helped her in every exam she sat. I gave her wit when she needed it to get by. I always told her what to do, when to do it, what not to do – and she always listened.

It was like she knew me, that I was there. Whatever she thought of me I can’t tell. Some parts of the mind are always hidden, if you must know, but we had an unspoken contract, and understanding each other was enough to get by for twenty seven years.

Until her twenty-eigth birthday, when that same Daniel, the one from earlier, had the nerve to walk up to her with much more than a birthday gift. Poor boy, I smiled, waiting for the sarcastic rejection that never came.

We had been through several crushes and five failed relationships. Daniel was different. The pair had a connection and, knowing Serwaa, I knew something was wrong. She was happy. With another guy.

Serwaa started seeing him. First it was once a week in his room. Then every Tuesday and Saturday. In two months, Friday nights were booked at Eddy’s Lounge. Now she was too busy to talk; absent minded during holiday-classes, slacking in her studies because lover-boy next door with his iPhone and hoodies was too much for her silly little heart.

Panicking as I never should, as Mother has explicitly warned me never to, I took matters into my own hands. Dramatic as I am (I do have a fine instinct for such) I waited for the eve of his birthday. They had been texting all night – he across the street in his dingy bedroom pretending not to realise it was only minutes till he reached twenty-six, she waiting to spring the birthday wishes on him – general lover’s play. As midnight drew, I sneaked back into her room and sung our favourite song in her ear. The trick never failed.

In a moment, Serwaa was with me in the little odd world we shared. She said she’d missed me. I said she lied. We had an argument. Then a long conversation filled with reflection on what we had been before all this. She woke up at eleven in the morning with a headache and thirty missed calls to worry about. Frantic (and mad at me, I swear) she rushed out in her nighty to his house.

Mr. Baiden greeted her. “Daniel left before breakfast. He said something about meeting his boys for a drink.”

She was stunned.

“I know. Something happened last night eh? Don’t worry. His temper will cool soon. Come inside.”

Serwaa slumped in the chair and browsed through channels, waiting for her phone to vibrate – calling and scolding herself for acting too desperate. “Maybe I will surprise him when he finds me home, with the family and all.” she thought to herself – or maybe said to me. She felt my deep regret and shuddered. Minutes later, her phone buzzed with Daniel’s number.

“Ermm…do you know the owner of this phone…” and Serwaa Adomah blacked out.

It’s been four years but Serwaa still cries every August 3rd. Our conversations have been infreqent and cold. Subjects seem harder to find, now that things are…complicated. She says she’ll never love again. I tell her she’s mad. She says it doesn’t matter anymore. I insist I was only jealous – I messed up but that’s just the way I am. And when I leave her alone, all she does is cry.

“Wide Awake” by P. K. Opoku.

“NO!”

Aku jolted out of her bed, panting heavily. Her heart was racing, she slowly came to terms with her surroundings and sighed deeply, Not again. Oh God, not againMaybe I should go and see Pastor Owusu like Frank suggested, she thought to herself, All my reading has gotten me nowhere. Aku had been suffering from what she assumed was sleep paralysis; sometimes, in her sleep, her eyes would open, she would be fully aware of what was going on around her.

… But she could not move a muscle in that state. It terrified her. The very first time it happened she thought she was dead. After several mental prayers to God about how she swore she would change and be a better person, she somehow sprung awake. Ever since then, she had been too scared to fall asleep comfortably.

After her morning cleansing rituals, Aku walked outside her house to join the waakye queue for breakfast.

I wonder if the pastor will think I am demon possessed… I feel fine though…, she argued internally. Had it not been for the new character that recently started appearing in her paralyzed sleeping state, she would have ignored the phenomenon. The curved, disfigured woman-like creature kept crawling into her room, her joints twisted in opposite directions. Arms grew out of her body; her face, her stomach, several random places as if they were reaching out to her. Her long dark hair hid her face, and that creepy sound it made. Its head was always cocked awkwardly to the side; it never looked anywhere straight.

“Aku eeeei!”, the waakye seller exclaimed, banging her ladle against the food pan. “What’s the matter? Your mind isn’t here today. How much are you buying today?”

“Sorry, auntie”, Aku excused herself, “I’m not hungry anymore”. Aku exited the front of the line promptly and walked hastily over to the bus stop by the road to get a taxi to her church.

If this doesn’t help, I don’t know what will, she thought.

*******************************************************************************

“I’m sorry oh, pastor has gone to prayer camp!”, said Joyce, the church’s semi-literate administrator. Aku’s heart sunk. She was completely lost as to what she should do next.

“But, madam! I can help oh! What do you need? Is it prayers? You have no problem, I can pray paa. I am a prayer mama!”, Joyce boasted to no avail.

“Thank you Joyce, I’ll come back tomorrow”  She set off back home, finally deciding she would spend the rest of the afternoon cleaning up the house.

Whew!, she exhaled while sitting back into her chair. That took a lot longer than I imagined, but at least I’m done. She looked out into the dark night sky, fighting her tiredness. She liked to keep her mind busy so that she could stay awake. She often counted to a billion in twos.

2… 4… 6… 8…

She breathed deeply.

… 124, 126, 127… Ei! No. 128, 130…

132, 133…

500, 555, 665, 66…….

*************************************************************************************

 

Her eyes flew open. They searched the room frantically, but everything seemed quiet, still…

The distinct screech of nails against the tiled floor. Crawling feet and scratching hands like spiders. Guttural, barely human grunts echoed in the room. The creature came with its friends this time around, she wanted to get up and run,  but her body wouldn’t budge. Her pulse immediately went up. Before she could even start ‘bargaining’ with God, they came close to her bed, slowly circling in on her. She knew she couldn’t go anywhere. Her eyes widened as one of the creatures reached for her, she tried to scream….

Nothing….

“The Apprentice” by Akosua Brenu.

He had ordered for me to recite from memory the incantations he had just taught me. I was in the middle of it (stuttering and gulping often) when my boss, Chief Priest of Komkosu, Nana Bonsua fell on the floor of his shrine in what I concluded to be an epileptic seizure.
I froze on the spot for seconds, my lips quivering in spite of myself, his quaking body before me. When I came to, my mind immediately transformed into a maze of propositions to salvage the situation:
A variety of incantations for various evil spirits galloped into my mind. Dosage calculations for various healing herbs whizzed past each other. And somewhere in the thicket, memories of outrageous spiritual manoeuvres trickled in.

His usual foreboding self had never warned about this and it was beyond my speculative abilities or spiritual discernment to come to know this peculiarity about Nana Bonsua. As I stood confused before him, I fancied a thought that he was, perhaps, teaching me another trance procedure. Quickly as it came, that singular thought was banished and I began to probe my mind for solutions:

There were Asesewa leaves for fevers, diarrhoeas and ‘other kominis’ as Nana had put it. Bresuo leaves were for skin lesions and abnormal itches. Krebo stems were dipped in water, and were to be thrust into the patients throat to deflate swollen bellies. There was nothing for epileptic seizures, as far as my three-week training had taught me.

The left leg of my boss hit and overturned the calabash of Kola and jolted me from my reverie about solutions. Without contemplation and with fear of what could happen if I did not act, I grabbed all two varieties of leaves and began to moisten them with my tongue. I took a single Kola nut from the ground and wrapped it carefully in both leaves.

With rapidity inspired by my heightening fear, I dashed towards his twitching body in front of me. Kneeling, I shut my eyes, swiftly recited the incantations I had learnt for trances, parted my boss’ lips and teeth and inserted the kola nut.

I was rising away from Nana Bonsua’s body, keen on observing the effect of my medication, when his left hand grabbed my wrist. I shrieked, tried to pull away my hand, when his eyes opened and his mouth spat out the kola nut with surprising force. With his other hand, the now conscious and alert priest grabbed his cane from inches away and began striking me on my shaven head.

“FOOL! FOOL! FOOL! IT’S BEETS FOR EPILEPSY! FOOL!” he yelled as he hit me, his left hand gripping my wrist, with his back still on the ground, and me brought back to my knees by his side.

“Musings on a May Night” by Ivana Akoto Ofori.

Rain is here. I wash my clothes and I wait in fear for the element that desires nothing more than to prove my work futile. There’s nothing like the paradox of a Ghanaian night in May to spark memories. Indoors- ɛhyew wɔ mu: it’s hot. Outdoors-awɔ de me: I’m cold. Yet I’d rather not wear a cardigan (yes, even in spite of the vicious mosquitoes). I wouldn’t be able to feel the cool breeze. It’s as close as Ghana’s air ever gets to frosty, though “crisp” is a better descriptor.
What I’d really like – forget that it’s late – is a bowl of fufu and steaming hot abɛnkwan, to counter (or complement, whichever you prefer) the cold air. My thoughts take me back to ten years ago, age eight, on a similar May night. Except I wasn’t wishing for palm nut – I was pounding it.
That day, there was a major row in my house. It was the day my mother decided to fight back. To be honest, I was proud. The abuse had been going on for too long anyway with her doing nothing, allowing Dad to smack her in his drunken state. I’m glad she chose that day to do it – a day when he was sober. He’d be conscious; aware of what was happening. Pain felt in sobriety is best remembered.
I didn’t always pound the palm nuts for the soup; only when Mum was busy. That night, she was the most meticulous I’d ever seen her. Scrupulously, she gathered every piece of material he owned, packed it neatly into a suitcase. Of course, in all the suitcases, there was no money. This was how the economy worked in my house: mum supplied the cash. Dad demanded it – then proceeded to spend it all on booze. I was still pounding by the time she was done, when Dad came home to find exactly three suitcases outside the gate and a resolute Mum refusing to let him in.
There was no physical injury that night; only quiet castigations. My mother wasn’t that kind of person. My father? He was utterly broken. He couldn’t have raised a finger, even if he tried. In hindsight, it amuses and amazes me how completely the male abusers forget that the females can fight back through will instead of violence. Upon this realization, they become utterly dumbfounded, speechless, powerless victims, like fish. That’s why, for me, May nights are always gentle. No beating, no screaming; an assurance of the existence of a reticent victory.
Of course, it was a mixed moment; good but bad, depending on how you looked at it. On one hand, the loss of a parent figure; On the other, the attainment of freedom. A paradox, just like a May night: indoors, ɛhyew wɔ mu; outdoors, awɔ de me. Yet, I had always preferred the cold.
He lay on the step in front of the door for an hour, begging to be let in, promising reformation. Then, when his pleadings proved futile, like the rain dousing one’s recently-washed items, he left. Indoors, it was hot. So when he departed, I went outside. Like I’m doing now, I ignored the mosquitoes and savoured the May night’s air. The air was tranquil, crisp, and saturated with the feeling of liberation.I looked up at an overcast sky. The rain was finally here.

“Warfare” by Edem Dotse.

My mistake was not waiting for instructions from the other side. Without clearance, I shot up into the night sky, my thick black hair flapping against my face. Times had changed, and we did not usually fly out at night, on Thursdays or Fridays. It was too dangerous. I had heard too many a tale about deadly encounters with warring angels to be so foolhardy. But I was desperate. I knew I was running out of time and I had to complete my assignment. My host was becoming unsettled. I could feel her, restless in her sleep as the grisly details of the night unfurled in her mind, as a dream.

It was a bleak, rainy evening. I was on my way back from a meeting in Dzodze with the group of elder witches who hired me concerning a stubborn relative, known simply as ‘the target’, who was impeding the progress of my assignment in the life of my host. Several suggestions were thrown around, including sickness and financial setback. However, nothing conclusive could be decided.

I felt my body jerk violently amongst the clouds. I delved into my mind, feeling for the connection with my host. She was decidedly disturbed. But her moans and grunts were distant, and I could only faintly feel them. I dipped lower into the atmosphere to navigate from the clouds. I thought it might be the turbulence distracting me. But our link seemed to be growing thinner with each passing moment. I did not understand why.

Then, I felt it. It was faint but clear, like heat radiating from a light bulb in a ceiling.

There was another being in the sky.

I was not prepared for a fight of any kind. I flew higher up into the clouds, hoping that they would cloak me. Whatever it was, it was getting closer. I could feel it getting closer.

The connection to my host dropped before I knew what was happening. Something was wrong. She had woken up. I began to panic. The link would come back in short flashes every now and then from her thoughts, but I could not piece together what was happening. So as dangerous as it was, I shut my eyes and let the night dissolve around me, until all I saw and felt, from the external world, was nothing.

 Darkness… Flash! Walking, Stairs… Streets… Cars, traffic…

The series of images came in quick flickers, akin to the death of a fluorescent light, declining in pace and intensity. Bits of disjointed sound came in the same way. I focused as hard as I could, but she was awake, and miles away. I would get nothing. Amidst, the chaos, I heard a voice I recognized. A voice that filled me with dread. It was the target.

And that was when I felt the push.

I was sent spiralling downwards in the sky by a shove from a huge creature. I looked above me as I fell to see a silhouette of wings in the distance. I spun around as quickly as I could and flew back up. There was nowhere to go in the open sky. I had to fend the angel off or I wouldn’t stand a chance.

Rising up in the sky, I saw a blur rushing towards me. This was no ordinary angel, he had incredible speed. I summoned all the force within me and fired a blast of energy through my right hand. He swiftly dodged, delivering a punch to my face. I was sent reeling backwards. In my confusion, I could still hear fragmented voices.

 Break! Break every chain!

The angel was rushing up towards me. I spun out of his way and fired a blast of energy into his back. The resulting explosion sent him hurtling higher up into the skies. I spread out my arms for balance and stretched them towards him, waiting ‘til he descended into my crosshairs. I began powering up energy through my arms. I would finish him off, here and now.

“Arghh!” I felt a searing surge in my right shoulder, which knocked me off balance. As my arms flailed in free fall, I felt more pain shoot through my right thigh and screamed out. I looked down to see the tip of a steel broad head, glowing red hot, sticking out of my bloodied leg.

There was another angel.

 We send arrows! Arrows to scatter the enemy!

The arrows came in quick succession of each other. I twisted my frame so that I would begin to fall headfirst and get a closer look. My injured shoulder made it difficult to navigate. I felt weaker and weaker as I fell.

 We arrest every opposing force!

The angel had descended upon me, gripping me tightly. I was beginning to lose consciousness. I felt my body being pulled, and its wings flapping above me. Suddenly, there was a sharp pain in my head. The connection to my host was back, and stronger than it had ever been. I finally realized what was happening. I would not make it.

It was all over.

Evil spirit, we command you- leave her! Leave her!

——————————-

“They marked her for death. But they will not get her. I say they will not get her!” The pastor cried out.

Ewurabena’s eyes opened. She gasped and began panting heavily, realizing where she was- lying on the floor at the All-Night deliverance service. Yao, who had invited her, was standing in the distance, praying loudly. She sat up, with tears in her eyes, enchanted by the sounds of the organ. She was still breathing heavily, from the horrible, horrible nightmare she’d had.

The pastor took her by the hand, and lifted her up into a teary embrace as the audience applauded.

“It’s alright,” he said, “It’s alright. You are free. ”

“The Flood” by Neuki Nuertey.

The fiery flame was vaporizing my wax; I was growing shorter by the minute. Cached in one corner on a Milo tin on top of an old wall unit between mold-smeared walls and furniture, under rotting window frames, silhouetted against peeling paint flaunting damp patches, my drooling wax was the least of my concerns. It was the rain. It was threatening the leaking aluminium roofing sheets with torrential patters. As Sima lifted her bathed baby from the plastic basin to wipe it, she realised I was almost dead.

 

“I need to replace this candle, but your drunken father is now sprawled in his own vomit at the liquor shop, I know. Who will go out to get candles now?” I could hear her grumbling to herself.

 

Just then I heard paws pounding on the door amidst incessant whining as though the pounder was being pursued, and as Sima stretched to turn the knob while clutching her baby this way, the family dog rushed in, shaking off droplets of rainwater from its fur.

 

“The rain might get worse. I have to go buy some candles quickly,” Sima finally resolved.

 

She left me and the dog in charge of the baby, who was lying on the mattress in peaceful slumber with the basin at the bed’s foot, unperturbed by the heavy downpour. I continued to light their darkness, yet not for long…

 

*****************************************

My cloud-sons are locking airs again, thundering and spitting rapid fire at one another. They were condensed hence had to splash their fury on earth. So they splashed, softly and rationally at first, until even I, the Sky god, could neither rest nor control them. I noticed as Sima, coated in hand-made polythene robe waded through the sparse puddles of water to get candles ahead of what might be a long, dark night.

 

I quivered at the consequence of what mere mortals would have to bear as a result of defiling the earth goddess, and spitting fume in my own face. Man has pushed me to my extremes. When I rain, I pour. When I burn, I scorch. I quivered for Sima and the little mortal she had abandoned in the darkness. She splashed and stumbled out of the marsh in which their house was seated; past the gutter her husband had built their house by; up the dumpsite along the snaky pathway with scattered household units arranged in no coherent pattern. I heard her thoughts: “If these trees hadn’t been cut, people would not have built their houses in the water’s way”.

The trees had been sawed into strong planks to construct a small bridge across a deep gorge created by the furious splashes of my cloud-sons. Sima trod cautiously over the bridge.

 

My cloud-sons splashed more rapidly…

 

“Can I get two candlesticks, please,” Sima requested, wholly drenched by the rain.

 

“Ei Aunty Sima, you hardly visit us these days,” the little attendant sparked off some conversation as she hopped onto a stool in order to reach the shelf.

“Was Oko Papa here today?” Sima moved on to weightier matters.  Oko Papa was her husband. Everybody called him that.

 

“Yes oo. He took two shots of the regular, danced around for a while and headed home when the sky threatened grey”. I hated her garrulous tongue, yet Sima seemed apathetic.  She had grown immune to his buffoonery.

Before she could pay for the candlesticks, the attendant pointed her finger precipitously with shock on her face.

“Look, Aunty Sima,” she screamed, “The bridge is being washed away.”

 

Initially, I felt the severity of the situation did not dawn on Sima judging by her lax approach to the news, until she opened her eyes in horror and exclaimed, “My baby”.

 

I observed from my Sky throne- hands tied- a poor mother dashing through the rain in utmost despair and fright for her lonely baby about to drown. And true, the gorge was her dead end. For when she got to it she noticed the rain had swept the wooden bridge away, filling the gorge to its brim and copiously cascading down the dumpsite towards their home with such rough force.  She started yelling for help, but the rain drowned her voice…

 

*****************************************

The situation was getting dire. I had almost burnt my wick to my own death, save several inches sitting in the liquid of my wax. Yet I gave the baby a faint glow of hope. The rain was crawling in from underneath the door. It had filled the room, swallowing the legs of the bed, with the plastic basin floating tumultuously atop. The dog was barking and howling, loud enough to awaken the sleeping baby who started a little supplication for relief on its own, shrieking and kicking.

 

I was thankful when the door squeaked open.

Oko Papa staggered into the room, his eyes blood-shot, wielding a liquor bottle, sensing danger yet too drunk to react swiftly. He fell heavily in the pool, and dragged himself through it to reach his blood.

 

The door was ajar. The water flooded the room rapidly. The rain crept up the wall unit and swept away the Milo tin on which I stood. I fell, a splash…BLACKOUT!

 

*****************************************

Sima was still waiting by the gorge when her neighbours arrived with her baby, clad in warm clothes, safe and cackling.

 

“We found her floating in the basin”.

 

Sima held her baby guardedly, as she would a missing but found nugget.

 

“He drowned while trying to save your baby, we presume”, one man told Sima as Oko Papa’s body was ferried by on a board by do-gooders, all wrapped in a traditional funeral cloth.

 

“Ritual Penance” by Kuukua Annang.

Nii Afotey bent over the aluminium bucket with his shovel in hand. He diligently scrubbed the shovel with a metal gauze and soap. He was once a mason but that was a long time ago, when he still had youthful hair on his head and teeth that could bite bones. Now his only pastime was doing menial jobs around his compound and scrubbing his precious shovel weekly.
Mansa, Afotey’s wife and her sister Tawiah looked on, they still could not understand Afotey’s obsession with that particular shovel. It was so old and rusty; the handle was broken and one screw on the shaft was missing. Still Nii wouldn’t let go of the shovel. Tawiah often teased her sister that she had a shovel for a rival, and though Mansa laughed along her sister’s jokes, she occasionally caught herself giving it some thought; Today they had the same weekly conversation.
Afotey listened to the women’s chatter in the porch. He knew what they were thinking, they had asked him so many times but he never said a word in response. He continued scrubbing in silence. As he scrubbed he ran his hand over a small dent in the back of the blade. That dent was part of the reason the shovel had become a sacred object to him.

Afotey’s mind took him to the path that led to his farm, he had just finished work on his site and was heading home, but he decided to uproot some tubers of yam to give to Mansa his betrothed. She was a beautiful lady and of wealthy lineage, so he had to make sure her parents understood that he could take care of her. Already, Kojo from the big city had started making advances at her. Afotey could tell by the attitude of Mansa’s mother, that she preferred Kojo to him. Afterall, Kojo was rich, and from the same tribe.

He recalls meeting Kojo at the crossroads to his farm. No one knows about their encounter and Afotey had hidden the truth in his heart for so long he no longer remembers vividly. Now he’s unsure what really took place. Only snippets remain … the sound of a gun… The instinctive shielding with the shovel… The retaliatory smacking of the assailant… Moans of pain…blood…

 

Kojo was buried a week after Afotey and Mansa’s marriage ceremony. He and his wife moved to the big city soon after. He took his shovel along and though he worked as a carpenter he never disposed off the shovel. Each week he would bring it out and scrub it thoroughly. It was a form of penance ritual for him. But no matter how long or hard he scrubbed, he still couldn’t wipe those snippets of memory…especially the blood…out of his head.

 

Afotey rinsed the shovel and raised it against the sun. The shovel was so clean it glistened against the midday sun. Yet, he knew he would bring it out again next week and the week after for his weekly penance.