That Was All Me by Abigail Chukwu won the first edition of Afriverve/Afristory Festival of Short Story. The theme for the edition was Violated.
The water dripping from the ceiling into the bowl on the floor makes a ‘klum klum’ sound. That was why I put the bowl there, not to hold the water, but because the room was too quiet, and I needed sound to remind me that I was alive. I look up at the windows far up above, close to the ceiling and sigh as my plans to escape dissipate in my mind again.
I hear a faint chime signaling that it’s time to go to the big house. I wonder just how many girls are remaining. When I first got here, we were twenty-three. For every trip we made to the big house and back, we reduced by one. Yesterday we were twelve and today, we would be eleven. It makes me wonder who would be cut this time around. Would it be me?
My door opens, Danke comes in. They call him the transporter. He is in charge of moving us to the big house- Him and his gun. He walks up to me and points at the bed. Not again. I’m hurting too bad. This has been going on for too long. When Danke is done with me, the men at the big house would do the same. It has been the same cycle since I was brought here. He points at the bed again, I shake my head. I’m done. I want no more of this. He looks out for a bit, then he locks the door behind him. I curl up into a ball on the floor. He removes his belt, and it begins, he flogs. I scream till there is no more screaming. I’m weak now. He carries me, throws me on the bed, rips my clothes and throws them all over the floor.
With every thrust comes a sneer and a mockery “you’re not that beautiful”, then a gloating “no one will do anything to me, you’re wasted material anyway”. Heavy breathings and a loud grunt later, he’s done.
“Oya get up make we dey go” he says, buckling his belt. He tucks his gun in his jeans.
“Find something good to wear oh, and use makeup to cover that face of yours.”
I struggle to get up, stagger to the wardrobe and put on a dress. I clean my face up then use a bit of foundation and powder to cover the parts of my face that may have turned purple. He points at the door and I walk slowly out of it. I meet the other girls outside, my eyes, they betray the last few minutes. Nora frowns, Amara looks sullen. In the silence, they empathise.
In a single file, we are led out of the compound in the middle of nowhere, down to the big house with Dante waving his gun in the air.
There is a party at the big house tonight. The fat, terribly smelling, moustached owner of the house comes out to inspect us. He takes one look at me and frowns. He looks around and bellows in a loud voice.
“Who is responsible for this?” Nora coughs, takes a quick glance at Dante, and turns away. Too late. Danke sees her, so does the owner. The owner walks up to Danke and slaps him.
“Half of your money for this month will leave for the money I’m supposed to gain today. I was supposed to sell her off today. Take them away! Back to the shelter, and should this repeat itself, I will kill you! ”
Danke asks us to walk back that path we came through. We do as he says.
We get close to the compound in the middle of nowhere, and without warning, Danke pulls out his gun and shoots Nora in the head. As she falls, we shudder, we swallow our words and a few of us start sobbing. He bends and starts pulling her out of the way. I look at the next path by my side and without thinking, I run. Amara takes the cue and runs after me. A few girls follow us before Danke realizes what has happened and begins to shoot. As he shoots I hear screams behind me, the girls, they are falling. Amara catches up to me and we both run faster. The gunshots soon fade. We run till we can run no further.
Hours later, we find a road and a car.
“Ninola wake up” Mother says.
I open my eyes to see her hovering around me, her ten foot tall igele resting peacefully on her head.
“Today is your thanksgiving, we need to thank God for saving you”, she says smiling.
It’s been three weeks since I returned home.
“God had nothing to do with my escape mother, that was all me”. I pull the covers over my head and turn away from her.