Mofe carries the weight of his son’s death the way a madman carries dreadlocks on his head; specks of dust caught between tangled strands, crazy knots bludgeoned by the pains of this world. Grief.
Mofe holds this grief with all of his brown fur that was once white, standing on the edge of his skin. The Desert’s white raven birds, six of them, inch closer to Mofe’s feet; they file their talons in the hot sand that lined the floors of The Desert. The body that lay lifeless beneath Mofe’s feet, his son’s, must be eaten. After all, sheep have no business roaming the territory of Raven Birds.
But it wasn’t always like this; we didn’t live like savages when The Desert had lively oasis, green mountains, rains that breathed life into the rivers that housed the last Maloti Minnow fish; and who could forget the Blue Spring that livened the hearts of those who were hated for loving their own kind.
Everything changed the day the Northern storm almost blew us out of existence; the rains stopped, and the Maloti Minnow fish’s death strung our souls the way a violinist fiddles with the strings of a violin.
We watched as though our hands were tied to the back of our heads as the green mountains went pale, the zebras’ black stripes faded, raven birds turned white, the sheep’s white fur became brown, and we were left with hot mounds of sand.
But, if Mofe finds the strength today, to shave this grief off his head, he would charge at the birds with his horns, stump on their bodies with his hooves, and watch blood spill out of feathery bodies twitching themselves to death.
One thing you should know is that it didn’t all start today, this disaster that The Desert has become.
It began the year Danjuma, the skinny raccoon, won the presidential election, which he rigged with the help of the council of vultures – The Desert’s electioneering body. Borders were closed. He said nothing when the wolves hunted the sheep in their own pens; he passed a bill to rehabilitate the hyenas who kidnapped innocent masses and destroyed small farm holders’ farms; once, he restricted the masses from visiting the Blue Spring because it became a tool the youths weaponized against him. And in two years, The Desert fell into autocracy. Everything happened in a flash; reality slapped her palms on our faces before anyone could blink twice. Foreign investors were lost. Medical supplies and aids were restricted. Then the Northern storm came with its final blow. Still, most of us survived. We found ways; we shared food and homes; ate the young and elderly.
Danjuma died the same way an equally bad leader died in history, a poisoned apple from the bosom of a pretty peacock. One thing we all learned that stood the test of time was, skinny or fat, the bosom of a lady carries secrets unknown to man.
All was getting better till stomach ulcers raved The Desert. Our ends were destined. The ulcer came for the elderly first, then our kids. And when news of a healer named Okwudili reached our ears, our feet spiraled themselves into action, searching for this tortoise who could take away the pains of ulcer with Zibuzibu leaves.
There was time before everything fell apart. Time to have stopped Danjuma from tampering with the electioneering process; for Mofe and the rest of us to have fled The Desert; time after the Northern storm came; before the ulcer attacks. Even if it was an unpleasant place we could let loose our grieves. There was time for Mofe to have saved his son.
Mustapha Enesi is Ebira. His work has been published in The Kalahari Review, Eboquills, The Story Tree Challenge Maiden Anthology, and elsewhere. He was shortlisted for the 2021 Alpine Fellowship Writing Prize, longlisted for the 2021 K & L Prize, and his flash fiction piece, "Shoes,' was highly commended in Litro Magazine's 2021 Summer Flash Fiction Contest. He writes from Lagos, Nigeria.