Empty Pages: by Zulaikhah Agoro

Your father didn’t like me much. In fact, I don’t think he liked me at all. Still, as I watch him being lowered into the ground, I feel a twinge of sadness. Maybe because you’re not here to see him for the last time. Maybe because he didn’t live long enough for me to prove him wrong.

These days when I watch you sleep, his words ring through my mind. That day feels like an old picture, the black-and-white stained with a deep shade of red pain.

I stood outside your gate, soaking in the rain. The drops sliced through my skin like pint-sized blades. I think I was there for hours because when you came out, the sun was out again.

You ran out of the house, like a billow of wind from the North. I felt like I could breathe again. You ran to the gate, to me. You grabbed the bars and started to shake them. You looked like a deer stuck in one of my traps at the farm. Innocent. Beautiful. Dying.

Your father came up behind you. I will never forget his stare as his eyes danced along my body. It was like a blank page, devoid of the ink’s sensual caress. When he spoke, his voice felt like dry grains of corn rubbing against my ears.

‘Have you considered that my daughter here is a soon-to-be pharmacist?’

‘Yes, sir.’

‘Have you considered that she is now completing her bachelor’s in pharmacy and will proceed to do her MPhil in the UK?’

‘Yes, sir.’

‘Have you considered, young man, what kind of future you, an unschooled farmer, will have with her?’

That was when I turned away. I left my dying deer alone in the trap. Ndo Nkem.

These days when I watch you sleep, I remember that day. You look the same Nkem; that tortured gaze, the endless depth of your eyes, the silent tears. Do you know, these doctors, they call you a vegetable. They say your brain has abandoned your body. Nkem, they are wrong. You are not Ugwu or Afang. You are ripe tomato, fresh and juicy. I know you are just sleeping.

Don’t say anything now, Nkem but one of these days day, I’m telling you, I will take you home. I will show you my new crop. The season has been very good. I will remove all these tubes and pipes they have tied you up with and unplug that annoying machine that is always beeping too loudly. The noise is bad for you.

I will find that devil’s son that your father gave you away to. He will get a beating ten times as bad as the one he gave you till he curses his mother for giving him life. No, I will take his head off clean with my machete and make it into a stool for you.

I will take you home, Nkem.


Zulaikhah Agoro is a fourth-year Building student at the University of Lagos, and Campus Editor at LinkedIn. She curated the Random Thoughts series on frandela.com and her work has been featured on Agbowo, Bella Naija, the Okike Prize Anthology and Brittle Paper. She was shortlisted in the top 10 of the AFREADA Photo Story Contest 2016 and the top 35 of the Africa Writes x AFREADA Short Story Contest 2017. She writes and edits freelance pieces when she is not busy daydreaming about spending money she doesn’t have…yet

This story was published as a finalist of the  AFREADA x Africa Writes Competition. Writers had to produce a 500-word story from a dialogue in Chigozie Obioma’s latest novel, An Orchestra of Minorities. 

Read all the final stories here, and you can vote for your favourite stories here. Deadline to vote is Wednesday, 19 June.

Related country: Nigeria

All rights to this story remain with the author. Please do not repost or reproduce this material without permission.