The Feeling Station – Toni Kan (Fiction)

“It was the best of times.

It was the worst of times.

It was the age of freedom and the age of bondage.

But above all, it was a time when no one was allowed to catch feelings.”

The words were not fully his. He had filched them from the opening lines to a book he read so many years ago. He had since forgotten the title and author but because he remembered the words, he decided to borrow them as introduction to the book he was writing, the one that would mean instant death if he was ever caught.

Onyema had found the book in the garage of the house they lived last in Lagos before the coup that brought in General Victor Umar and his MANGA doctrine. His father had bought that house as a surprise and then transplanted the whole family there.

It was a lovely five bedroom duplex set in lush grounds and it had come fully furnished.

“A white couple used to live here,” his father said beaming with pride as they took a tour of the house. “They left everything as they moved back home.”

The “everything” they left included the book whose opening lines he had turned to verse.

His mind was in turmoil as he headed to work. The night before, he had dreamt about his father and mother and waking up had found his pillow wet with tears. It was a long time since he last dreamt about them and lying in bed with sleep gone he had felt a twinge of guilt as if not dreaming meant he had forgotten them.

He was lucky he didn’t live too far from home. His office was just three miles away from the boy’s quarters apartment he lived in rent free thanks to his uncle who was in the military.

If not for his uncle’s generosity, he would have been living in one of the military controlled male hostels that littered the city.

He was dressed in a black t-shirt and blue jeans. This was the outfit du jour for most people, many of them young and mostly oblivious of what had been before everything changed and Nigeria became a country which no one visited and no one left.

Nigeria was now an island unto itself with a thriving economy and a people who seemed united like never before but underneath it all was something no one could have imagined 20 years earlier when the country was Africa’s largest economy and a thriving nation of young men and women left heady with a surfeit of freedom and drunk on life and living.

The young people who raised the #EndSARS cry had grown old and become the parents they once railed against.

He was two blocks away from his office when he saw her. She had on a black t-shirt and blue jeans but it was her feet that caught his attention; they were shod in bright pink sneakers.

Pink was not something you saw often. Colours were becoming extinct. Black and grey had become primary colours and seeing her, young fresh and traipsing jauntily, Onyema did not realize when he opened his mouth and intoned:

Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?

Mortified at having spoken out loud, Onyema slapped a palm over his mouth but his mouth snapped open quickly when the young woman turned and smiled and then spoke words that made his heart flutter:

Dude, I am more lovely and more temperate

Rough winds may shake the darling buds of May,

But summer’s lease ain’t got shit on me.

And then she turned and ran.

“Wait,” Onyema, screamed as he gave chase, but she was light on her feet and by the time he turned the corner, the girl was gone.

He stood, bent over and panting, his eyes scanning the street, looking out to make sure that no one had seen their brief exchange especially the military police operatives who patrolled the streets of Lagos and other major cities.

Satisfied that no one had seen, Onyema continued on his walk, his heart fluttering with joy as he recited Shakespeare’s Sonnet 18 out loud but under his breath for the first time since long before the coup.

The coup that changed everything did not really come as a surprise.

Boko Haram was resurgent a mere three months after Abubakar Shekau was killed in an ambush in Bama.

The military, strung out and tired had raised a squad of 10 men with one objective – neutralize Shekau. It took six months and the lives of eight of the 10 before the dreaded Shekau was pinned down one Friday afternoon after prayers and sent to his maker. It was a proud moment for a country that had lost large swathes of territory and thousands of gallant soldiers to the dreaded insurgents.

A proud Chief of Army Staff, General Victor Umar, stood before the press with Shekau’s bullet riddled body on full display for the cameras.

“It is with tears and joy that I announce the neutralization of the dreaded Abu Mohammed Abubakar bin Mohammad al-Sheikawi aka Abubakar Shekau and his band of insurgents,’ he announced as camera flashbulbs went off.

“Today, gallant soldiers of the Nigerian army led by men of #OperationFinishShekau decapitated the leviathan and brought relief to our nation and men of the armed forces. But it was victory attained at great cost. All but two members of that squad lost their lives but we secured a huge victory nonetheless.”

The next morning, newspapers were full of praise for the gallant forces and the hashtag #ShekauGone was trending on Twitter.

It was a happy president that addressed the nation two days later.

“Fellow Nigerians, the reign of Boko Haram is over,” he declared with a wide grin that became a meme and stretched from the internet to t-shirts and mugs. Nigeria was a country delirious with joy.

The president promised to compensate the families of the dead soldiers of #OperationFinishShekau whom he had promised posthumous national honours but months later when the annual honours list came out their names were missing.

The military bristled but the politicians were unconcerned.

“Soldiers are trained to fight wars. They should not do it for national honours,”a flippant Minister of Special Duties had quipped casually during an interview on Channels TV.

It didn’t help that the army was still smarting from the politicians’ poor handling of the #EndSars protests which had seen several soldiers face a court martial over a decade before following the shooting of unarmed protesters at Lekki.

It was a quip made in poor taste and soon the bristling became a murmur and then rumours of an impending coup were on every lip. The army was not happy. They had fought for decades despite privations and poor welfare. They had seen their ranks depleted as Boko Haram waged an asymmetrical warfare that defied strategy and logic and when they finally triumphed none of the promises came to pass.

“We swore an oath to defend the constitution and sovereignty of Nigeria. It may not be a special duty but that is our duty. As soldiers we do not fight for honours but promises are promises,” General Victor Umar said during an interview.

It didn’t help that with Boko Haram gone, other pockets of insurrections intensified. Amotekun was setting the South West on fire while IPOB was causing mayhem in the South East. The Shiites and sundry bandits had control over large parts of the North and Abuja was suddenly empty as people who did not work in government fled.

But soldiers would not fight. They were not just over stretched and morale was low. Nigeria was about to really catch fire for real when General Victor Umar stepped in with his Make Nigeria Great Again (#MANGA) following the coup of 31st December, 2040.

“Fellow Nigerians, it is with a heavy heart that I, General Victor Umar, address you this morning. We all have been living witnesses of the drift in the land especially with insurrections and insurgencies becoming the order of the day. Our academics and doctors have fled abroad, while our hospitals have become mere consulting clinics without drugs. Our naira is as useless as toilet paper. Last night, leading dedicated officers and men of the Nigerian army, we overthrew the civilian government and abolished the constitution. The country is now under the leadership of the Supreme Military Council with me as your Head of State. The politicians have pillaged and despoiled our country and as the millennials used to say #EnoughIsEnough. We are taking over in order to Make Nigeria Great Again.”

It was a bloody one.

The president and his ministers, state governors and members of the national and state houses of assembly were publicly executed except those abroad and who refused to return even when their wives and children or aged parents were to be killed in their stead. Their bank accounts were frozen and the monies returned to the federal government. Houses that sat empty in Ikoyi and elsewhere were turned into youth hostels and low cost housing for entry level workers aged 20 to 27.

Political parties were abolished and all living heads of state and party chieftains were executed without trial.

The streets flowed as if with blood but it was not just blood, it was a sea of human beings dressed in bright colours streaming around in celebration and euphoria.

Young men and women littered Instagram with their photos, faces bright with smiles while the placards they held close to their chests left them looking like petty criminals taking mug shots.

#NigeriaSpring was the song on every lip and the trending hashtag was #MANGA – Make Nigeria Great Again.

The world watched, apprehensive yet hopeful that something new would spring from the soil watered by the blood of the corrupt.

General Victor Umar had promised heaven but delivered paradise. Schools were revamped, teacher salaries were increased, doctors who had fled abroad returned to the country in droves, soldiers had brand new weapons and uniforms and the hospitals were stocked with medicines as Nigerians were barred from seeking medical treatment abroad.

It was the best of times.

Then the D-S centers began to spring up.

Men would receive the D-S center summons days before pay day and they would rush off to the center nearest to them because you would not get your salary alert without a D-S center clearance certificate.

The men went and came back safely but there was always, something, wrong.

It was the wives that noticed first. The men seemed sluggish and even after they had been fed their lavish pay day feasts nothing happened in the other room. It was as if the men went and came back empty, hollowed out, their souls missing its essence. Women traded stories in hushed tones with each other in the salons and at schools when they made school runs.

And then they began to invite the women too to the D-S centers. Men and women now needed to present their spouses D-S clearance certificates before they could receive state attention or send their children to school. Every one needed it for treatment at the general hospitals or to pay for light or water.

It was the online platform, Savannah Reporters with its intrepid editor, Fikayo Sobombo who broke the news. It was a long piece with the headline – “See How D-S centers Are Turning Nigerians to Zombies.”

D-S centers was short for Desensitization Centers and according to the report, citizens who visited the D-S centers were loaded with anti-dopaminergic and Antiemetic, so called dopamine antagonists, which led to loss of sensitivity and feeling in the individual.

Editorials flooded the media and then the online space while strident hashtags followed on Twitter and elsewhere: #DownwithDSCenters.

The military government countered swiftly but there was no denial, just an explanation.

“The D-S centers are important to our country because they have been successful in lowering crime rates, corruption, insurgency and anti-social behavior,” the Head of State announced in a nationwide broadcast.

The reaction was so swift it was as if the military government had been waiting because the next morning there were posters on street corners, propaganda vehicles blaring out messages while social media and television were flooded with short documentaries and explainer videos.

The trending hashtag was: #IStandWithDSCenters.

Schools and universities were taken over by the military police dispensing dopamine antagonists to protesting students.

It was suddenly not the best of times.

Riots exploded. Military police vehicles were attacked by irate youths and the military responded swiftly with live bullets mowing down 200 people in one day.

That was when the clampdown began.

Students and activists were arrested and detained but not for long. They were released days after their arrests, doped out of their minds.

As the riots escalated the military government declared martial law, shut down schools and houses of worship as well as all land and sea borders and then they cut off diplomatic relations with the world before shutting down the internet. The only pipeline open was for selling crude oil.

“This is worse than the Covid-19 lockdowns,” a well-known social media influencer screamed before taking a leap off the 3rd Mainland Bridge in a botched suicide attempt that was streamed live on twitter.

The country had suddenly moved from the best of times to the worst of times.

It was four days of loitering and waiting, hoping and praying before Onyema saw her again and it was obvious she was waiting for him.

“Shakespeare boy,” she called waving as her shoulders quaked from laughter.

“That’s very funny,” Onyema said, his heart beating hard as he sat down beside her at the bus stop. “Waiting for a bus?” he asked.

“Nope. I was hoping you would come around with more poems,” she said and laughed that same shoulder quaking laugh.

“You laugh too loud. We could get into trouble,” he said looking around.

“With mirth and laughter let old wrinkles disappear.

And let my liver rather heat with dopamine.

Than my heart cool with mortifying antagonists,” she recited, inserting her own words as she had done the first time with Sonnet 18.

“Do you respond to everything with a poem?”

“Nope, but you started it.”

“Lord! So where is that from?”

“Merchant of Venice.”

“We are doing plays now?” Onyema said throwing up his hands in mock despair.

A bus stopped and as passengers got out, the two young people averted their eyes and then when the bus stop emptied they both spoke at the same time.

“What’s your name?”

Onyema smiled as he watched her laugh.

“You go first,” he said.

“Juliet,” she said.

“Romeo,” he said suddenly gripped by fear.

What if she was military police? What if they had discovered he owned and read books?

“I have to go,” Onyema said getting to his feet.

“It is early, offices open in 42 minutes,” she told him squinting at her wrist watch.

“Got things to do.”

As he dusted his pants, she looked up at him and said “Shame. Away be gone.”

Onyema took three steps then turned and came back.

“You never know who to trust, Juliet.”

“That was why I hid and watched you for four days. I wanted to be sure,” she said. “Are you anti-DP police?”

“Are you?” Onyema threw back at her.

“What do you think? I wear pink sneakers. I have books hidden at home. Books my father made us read but which he would burn today if he found them. I was glad to finally meet an anti-DP but I guess the fear is real,” she said and looked away.

“I am anti-DP,” Onyema admitted sitting down beside her.

Anti-DPs were a small segment of the population who did not respond to the dopamine antagonists. They took the dose, slowed down then perked up hours later. They could still see colours, read books, enjoy poetry, listen to music, catch feelings and enjoy sex.

“Where do you work?” she asked.

“Sector 12. Political Section.”

“I am in Sector 10. I dropped out of uni. I man the tills at MangaMart.”

MangaMart was the government owned supermarket that sprang up after the government shut down the Spars and Shoprites and Hubmarts and Ebeanos.

“My name is Onyema,” he said extending his hand “and you are the most joyful thing I have seen in years.”

“Me too. When I heard you recite Shakespeare, something danced in my belly.”

They laughed and then stopped as they saw two military police officers round the corner. Onyema sensed trouble and wanted to leave but the pair was approaching too fast.

“Ladipo Bataye. GRA Ikeja. House 47. The Boys Quarters. If we escape this, meet me at noon on Saturday,” he said quickly as the duo came upon them.

“Rise, please,” they demanded and the couple rose.

“What was funny?” the taller one asked.

“Nothing, sir,” Juliet said and his slap sent her crashing.

Onyema stared without moving. It was a test; react and it would be all over. He was not supposed to show emotion.

Juliet wiped the blood off the corner of her lips as she got to her feet.

“Are you guys catching feelings?” the same one who had slapped her asked, then not waiting for an answer, issued a command. “Kiss him.”

“The blood,” Onyema said, pointing.

“I said kiss him!”

Juliet took one step forward and placed her lips against his. Onyema stiffened. This was a hard test. He was already aroused just sitting there and talking to her. Now, he had to fight with all his will not to be.

“Touch him,’ the man said. “Put your hand down his pants.”

Onyema took a deep breath as she undid his belt and began to slide her slim fingers inside his boxers. He was gritting his teeth and making sure not to make eye contact when a bus came into view.

“We have to go,” the shorter officer said as the bus drew close.

‘Keep going,” he commanded ignoring his partner and keeping his eyes trained on Juliet.

Onyema felt her fingers slip into his boxers and touch him and he was going to exhale when the bus door whooshed open and the shorter man tugged at his partner’s arm.

“Enough, let’s go.”

Juliet picked up her rucksack as they watched the two disappear around the corner.

“You are huge,” she said and winked.

“You are going to put me in trouble,” Onyema said relieved that she was real yet thrilled at the touch.

“Saturday. I will be there at 7am,” she said laughing as she walked away her shoulders quaking.

They were lying naked in his bed, her small breasts flat against his chest. She had arrived at 7am dressed in a long coat. She took it off as she stepped in and there was nothing underneath.

They made love like escaped prisoners and sated, dozed off.

“Have you got any food,” she asked rousing him and Onyema pulled open the fridge and brought out the jollof rice he had made the day before. They talked as the rice thawed and warmed.

“My father was a professor. Now he is just a teacher. He teaches what they have in the new books.”

“Must be hard for him,” Onyema said as he pulled out two plates

“I want to eat with you from the same plate,” she said and he obliged her with a smile.

“I wish he had died last year when he fell sick. My father was an intellectual. Opinionated, argumentative and brilliant. These mother fuckers turned him into a parrot.”

“I know. It is sad,” Onyema said as he reached for the glass of orange juice. Alcohol was prohibited.

“So where are your parents? I keep blabbing about mine,” she asked wrapping her naked body around his as he washed the dishes.

“Politicians. Dead. I was away at boarding school when they came for them. So, I was saved. My sisters were both taken. My uncle took me in. He is military and based in Ibadan. He comes to see me once in a while.”

“Oh crap. So, sorry Onyema,”

“It’s okay. The pain is dulled.”

“But the memories never go away,” she said kissing him as he dried his hands.

“Yes, there is that.”

“Does your uncle know you are Anti-DP?” she asked as she got on top and straddled him.

“Let’s not talk now,” he said as their bodies became one.

They dozed off again and then after making love for the third time she said she had to go.

“You know you can’t walk me out,” she told him standing on tip-toe to kiss him.

“I know and it kills me,” he said looking up at the full moon that illumined the night sky.

“Stay alive. I think I am catching serious feelings.”

They kissed again and then she turned and marched away without a backward glance.

Onyema watched until the night seemed to swallow her whole.

He shut his door and got back into bed where he buried his nose in the pillow as if to inscribe her scent in his brain. Coming up for air, Onyema wished he could call and make sure she was home. But phones were useless because all calls had to be patched through an operator and were monitored from the Office of the National Security Adviser (ONSA). Only the military used private phones and the internet and they were strictly for work. Those who were caught contravening that rule were publicly executed.

Onyema lived for the Saturdays when she visited.

They would make love then sit or lie naked and recite poetry or tell each other stories from the books they had read before the National Bonfire when all books except those approved by the government were burnt.

Now all books were government approved and mostly school texts or propaganda pamphlets and tomes.

Music was banned except for the jingles the junta churned out with alarming frequency. They were all rip-offs of once popular afro beats songs by the likes of Wizkid, and Burna Boy, Davido and Tecno, Tiwa Savage and Yemi Alade but with lyrics peppered with propaganda.

Words like joy, happiness, ecstasy and euphoria had been censored and erased from all literature. The internet was still banned but the cinemas were back and open only on the last Saturday of the month, the only day Nigerians could go out and have fun.

The rumours began circulating when giant parks started to spring up in cities and large towns. Anti-DPs were happy that structures resembling places of recreation were being built. Former churches with large domes were converted and once they were done declared open with as much pomp as was possible.

Former isolation centers built to combat Covid-19 were also converted to D-S Centers.

The country now had a 4-tier system and your level determined how much dope you got. The military; who were exempt from the anti-dopamines. The emergent elite; these were mostly newly rich and with connections to the military. They got low doses. Then there were the anti-DP’s who occupied a special stratum because they were enemies of the state and could still feel. Then the lowest on the rung were model citizens, the doped out-of-feeling who were literally zombies who did the bidding of the state and maintained the infrastructure.

But there was a fifth and unofficial level; the rebels and insurgents who infiltrated the borders and organised DP parties where Dopamine was distributed freely so people could catch feelings.

At the beginning, the military police would break up such parties and then take offenders to the D-S centers but as the rebels got bolder and the revelry continued they began to carry out laser elisions of the substantia nigra and ventral tegmental area as well as the hypothalamus of the brain, the core sites where dopamine is produced.

But then they got a brain wave and decided to build the parks which they called “Feeling Stations.” They were authorised locations where those who had been steadfast in visiting the D-S centers could go to, once a month, for a night of catching feelings.

Alcohol was available as was weed and sex. Women who got pregnant were taken to Baby Farms when it was time. Baby Farms were run by doctors, nurses and wet nurses. The children had their substantia nigra, ventral tegmental area, and hypothalamus of the brain elided as soon as they were born so they could be “model citizens” from birth.

Marriage was no longer a thing because to marry you had to feel and catching feelings was now a crime.

“Like some fish
Doped out of the deep…

Onyema was sitting by the open door and reading in the fading light of dawn when her voice floated up to him.

“I have bobbed up bellywise
From stream of sleep”
they both recited.

“That’s Wole Soyinka,” he said but she wagged a finger as she got out of bed.

“No Shakespeare Boy. Try again.”

“Wait, I know that poem. It’s “Night Rain” We read it for WAEC or was it NECO?”

“Correct,” she said standing and yawning, her beautiful breasts jiggling. Onyema felt a stirring and a feeling of peace engulf him. He loved her.

“Come here, let me kiss you,” he said setting the book down and reaching for her.

 “No, sir. You have to earn it. What’s the poet’s name?”

He sat back down and buried his head in his hands as he recited the four lines over and over.

“I know it’s not Christopher Okigbo for sure and not one of the younger poets,” he said looking up at her but her smile teased him and offered nothing.

“Come on, Shakespeare Boy.”

“I know who,” he said suddenly. “But kiss me first before I tell you.”

“Cheat,” she said walking up to him and planting a wet one on his lips. They kissed and there was urgency to it.

It was raining when he woke up later that night after another dream of his parents. Onyema watched her in the dim light cast by his laptop screen. They had played music as they made love and then fallen asleep in each other’s arms. It was the second time she was sleeping over.

He watched her beautiful, naked body; eyes shut, nose flaring as she breathed in and out, his heart full and threatening to burst with the love he felt for her.

He leaned over and kissed her on the forehead and as her eyes fluttered open, he kissed her on the lips then propped himself up on an elbow as he drew circles around her left aureole.

“What time is it?” she asked as she slapped his hand away and snuggled into him.

He smiled and then turning her face up to his began to recite the poem he had been straining to remember the night before:

What time of night it is
I do not know
Except that like some fish
Doped out of the deep
I have bobbed up belly-wise
From stream of sleep
And no cocks crow.

It is drumming hard here

And I suppose everywhere

Droning with insistent ardour upon

Our roof thatch and shed

And thro’ sheaves slit open

To lightning and rafters…

He was half way done when she began to cry, her body heaving as sobs wracked her.

“Hush,” he said stopping and drawing her close. “Hush.”

The rain had stopped and the sun was up in the sky when they awoke and Onyema was brewing tea when they heard the sound of car tyres crunching up the concrete drive way.

“Hide,” Onyema said lifting up his bed so she could crawl under then in one fell swoop, he picked up her hand bag, shoes and other stuff she had come with and stashed them under the bed. They had rehearsed this so many times.

Then returning the second tea cup to the cupboard, he pulled on a shirt and walked outside.

There were two military police officers standing outside and looking around the compound.

“Good morning, officers,” Onyema greeted as he walked towards them.

“Name and registration,” one of the officers asked.

“Onyema Dike. Delta East. 11/06/23. DE11062023/406.”

“Place of occupation?”

“Sector 12. Political Section.”

“You live here?” the second officer whom Onyema could see was a Captain asked.

“Yes, sir. My uncle’s boy’s quarters.”

“And your uncle is?”

“Colonel Okonkwo Dike. 2nd Infantry, Ibadan.”

‘Confirm please,” the officer ordered his subordinate who pulled out his tablet, typed in stuff and looked up.

“All correct, sir.”

“Are you here alone?”

“Yes sir.”

“Neighbours have reported unusual movement at night, visits by others, suspicion of unusual dalliance.”

“I have problem sleeping at night, nightmares. Sometimes I work out when I can’t sleep. Weights and push-ups,” Onyema said pointing to his dumb bells.

The captain’s eyes swept over the back of the house. He opened his mouth to say something then decided against it.

“Nothing to worry about then”

‘Yes, sir.”

They turned and got into the Land Rover but as the engine coughed to life the Captain opened the door and stepped out.

“Please supply D-S Center details and date of last visit?”

Onyema took a deep breath.

“Opebi Zone D. May 4th.”

The Captain turned to look at the other officer who was already typing into his tablet.

“Date of last visit again?”

“May 4th, sir.”

The Captain looked at his subordinate who shook his head.

“Get in the vehicle,” the captain barked, his hand resting on his service pistol.

Onyema walked briskly towards them and jumped into the back of the Land Rover.

He was gone for two hours because there was a long queue with it being a Saturday and close to month end. He had missed his last D-S appointment and was hoping to go during his break time on Monday. His supervisor had given him a waiver.

“I was so scared,” Juliet said as soon as he lifted the bed and she crawled out. “What did they do to you,’ she cried looking at his dusty feet. He had trekked all the way home since he had left without his wallet and had no cash or bus permit.

“DS-Center visit,” Onyema said as he sat down on the bed.

“You need some water?” she asked wrapping the duvet around her body.

“Yes, please.”

“How long does your down last?” she asked as she handed him the glass.

“Four to five hours,” he told her as he placed the glass to his lips. He emptied it but shook his head when she asked whether he wanted more.

He kicked off his slippers and lay down.

“Why did they come here?”

“Neighbours told. Someone must have noticed your visits.”

“Bastards,” she said and cursed under her breath.

“It’s okay. They are looking out for themselves too. You know how it gets.”

“I need to shower. You want to join me?” she said but he shook his head.

She covered him with the duvet then went into the bathroom. She started to sing as the water came down upon her body. It was Yemi Alade’s “Shekere.”

By the time she got out of the shower, Onyema was snoring softly as he always did when he was tired. She kissed him on the lips then dressed up.

She picked up the book he had been reading the night before. The cover read “The Duties and Obligations of a Model Citizen under MANGA.” She turned the pages and noticed that it was Dangerous Love by Ben Okri. She smiled as she got into bed and settled beside him.

“Burn all the books you want wankers,” she said under her breath as she pulled the duvet over her and snuggled close to him.

Onyema didn’t see her for two full weeks. They had agreed that it was best if she kept away for a while because they were sure the military police would be watching. It was hard because he had gone on relief duty at Ikoyi and so there was no chance of running into her on his way to or from work.

He had hoped to run into her at MangaMart the two times he managed to make it. A fleeting wave of the hand would have been enough.

He was awakened by a knock that Saturday morning. He looked through the peep hole and she was standing there looking beautiful.

He pulled open the door and grabbed her as she stepped in.

They kissed for so long it was as if it would never end.

“Happy birthday, lover,’ she said when their embrace broke.

“You remembered?” he said, his eyes clouding over.

“How could I forget?” she asked wiping off the tear that slid down his face.

“I love you,” he whispered as they sat down.

She had come stocked with goodies. Ice cream and chocolates, fizzy drinks and cup cakes. The sale of birthday and Valentine Day cards had been banned.

“I wanted to get a cake but it was too risky,” she said.

“These are enough,’ he said as he kissed her.

They had breakfast and then made love. It was long and langorous as if they were discovering each other anew.

“I kept hoping I would see you at the supermarket,’ she said as they lay in bed, her fingers drawing a demand curve on his hairy chest.

“I came by. Never saw you.”

“My shifts have been crazy,” she told him as she nuzzled his neck.

They talked, trying to catch up, to fill each other in on what had been lost in the time since they were last together and then they made love again as it began to rain.

It was night and time for her to go.

“Don’t see me off,” she said but he would hear none of it.

“I will walk you to the gate,” he said. “Who knows when I will see you again.”

They stood, kissing, by the door for a long time, then he opened the door and walked her out.

He heard the order as she stepped out of the gate and he made to bar it with the iron rod that served as lock.


They both froze as the two officers walked towards them.

Onyema pushed the gate open and stepped out.

“Good evening officers,” he greeted, his heart pounding.

“Name and registration?”

“Onyema Dike. Delta East. 11/06/23. DE11062023/406.”


“Juliet Okoh. Delta East. 12/07/25. DE12072025/597


“Cousins,” Onyema said.

The fat one looked from Onyema to Juliet then back to his colleague.

“Confirm consanguinity, please,” he said to his colleague and in one swift move, Onyema raised the rod and smashed the fat one hard against the face. As he crumpled, Onyema stepped over him and lashed out at the second one but it was a glancing blow. He staggered back then began to run. Onyema ran after him, wielding the bloody rod but he was fast and already on his radio.

Onyema dragged the dead man into the compound and then barred the gate. Inside his room he opened the fridge and brought out the two vials they had bought for a moment such as this. He passed one to her.

He also took out the bottle of tranquilizers they had at the ready. He gave her four tablets then took four for himself.

“I love you,” he said as he emptied the contents of the vial in his mouth.

“I love you too,” she said as she emptied hers.

Then after downing the tranquilizers they both lay on the bed and waited for the poison to do its work as the clamour of the sirens grew louder and closer.

**Art by Kunmi Akande

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