Short Story: That Fatal and Perfidious Noise by Victor Okechukwu

Spread the love

In the early 90s, my father always sent a letter to uncle Peter in Kaduna pleading for money and help. And, at each morning’s devotions, we would pray for half an hour that nothing hinders him from receiving the message early enough and answering quickly. If not, we would return to school three or four weeks after the resumption. When we prayed, we knelt like cows waiting for the slaughter, nodding our heads at every Amen. My father and mother would pray so loudly in such a tepid tone that I wondered if they had gone mad. My sister and I prayed mildly, moving our lips in a slack, rapid mumbling, like a penitent in the confessional gabbling out a litany of sins and urgently demanding forgiveness. My parents were down-to-earth religious, though they only went to church on special occasions. Yet I was always astonished at the way they read and quoted passages of the Bible and screamed long hours of prayers to God for money. They were not jobless, my father was a ‘hustler’ in a warehouse at Surulere and my mother was a receptionist in a store at Rosonwo Street. 

One thing about growing up with my religious and poor parents was the way they always believed that prayer could solve everything. I remembered when my father told me he was fasting so that God would kill all the rats and ‘abnormal’ insects in our flat. Of course, it was bizarre, how would God send a host of angels to our flat just to strangle all my father’s ‘enemies’? Above all, it was plain madness. Since I was seven, I had rejected all their mouthwatering talk of demons and angels, hell and heaven. We lived in the deep slums at Bolaji Avenue. Under a leaking roof, facing decayed walls, peeled ceilings, naked wires at every corner, half-fallen doors, broken cupboards, cockroaches, rat-infested rooms, disgusting sewage system, unhygienic water, and noise pollution were what made life suitable for a hardened me. My father idolized the two rooms and parlor on the fourth floor because he loved coming out half-naked. His brown pale face, sleepy bulging eyes, and fat round belly made him look like a confused drunkard, which he was far from. And sometimes he said living there made him understand the deepest meaning of life. Though my fair, plump mother hated the conditions of the house at first, my father bullied her into believing that the house was the best of our luck, so she became his evangelist on why poverty was the best manufacturer of good children. You know what, we ate twice each day (morning and night) and paid our school fees two weeks before exams and the irony in all this was that my father would always say that ‘God served us best in his dining hall’

My sister was a beautiful, fair girl with dimples on both sides of her cheek but we lived like cats and dogs. Each time she wanted to change her clothes I refused to give her the room, it wasn’t that I longed to see her naked body, but I was mad about the way her bottom was growing big. It sounds foolish but I had begun to watch porn videos and my zest to see a ‘real woman’s body’ was what made me always behave oddly toward her. It was during that period that I noticed that her belly was swollen and the way she always hisses while caressing it. I had asked her about it, but she didn’t reply, and though she hated me I still loved her. She cursed me sometimes in rage when I made her extremely furious and she couldn’t beat me; being afraid of my growing manliness, and I loved it when she got angry, especially when she cried and scattered her long black hair, rolling on the brown carpet like a happy maniac. The first time I made her go crazy was when I sprinkled orange juice all over her uniform and ran to school early one morning. She was only beginning her preparations when she saw the stain. After seeing it, she did not want to go to school, but my tyrannical father forced her to and she arrived late at school in tears while others mocked her. Even some teachers made a jest of her. That day, when we got home we fought till we nearly killed each other. The second time was when I told my father that she did not give me food, which was not true, but because I was a heavy consumer of food and had insulted her, she gave me half the usual. Dad beat her for half an hour, remembering other evils she had committed. 

My sister, Jennifer, found it hard to trust anyone. She hated her parents for the way they neglected her and continuously beat her anytime she did wrong. One day she bought spoiled bread and especially father wanted to ‘beat stupidity out of her’. She always looked depressed and troubled, and I noticed she was constantly with Emeka her classmate: a plumpy, gray-eyed boy, with a brown broad face that made his ear stand out. Despite not seeing them in any sexual display, I believed she was having a sexual relationship with him, and I didn’t want to tell my parents. 

“What’s going on between you and that fat boy?” I confronted her one day after school. “It’s none of your business.” She replied, bending her head over her assignment on the bed.

“Of course, it is my business.” 

“Please, just leave me to myself.” 

“Who is he to you?” I said angrily. 

“A friend!” 

“I will tell Daddy when he comes back.” 

“Why do you hate me?” She rose from the bed. “And what kind of a brother makes a fool out of her sister every time?” 

“I don’t know.” 

“Aren’t we of the same blood? And we are living together, what is it with you?”

“I just don’t know. But, I like what I’m doing to you.” 

She shifted from me in fear, staring into my eyes, and took her pillow, embraced it tightly around her chest, then said “Go to hell.” 

“No, I would die with you.” 

“I will soon marry and you will be left in this hole to die, not with me.” 

“Maybe that would do a lot of good,” I said with a hurtful tone. 


At least I would be free from your madness.” 

“You’re an idiot!’ She turned and slept and we never spoke in a week. My mother once asked why I hated her but I said that I never felt hate, only ‘weird love’. 

Within five months Jennifer’s stomach had grown big and one night I heard Dad and mom shouting at her, and after that, beat her until she fainted in the corridor. My father was angry, he had said that it would make God send him to Hell like Eli in the Bible. I was furious with how they dealt with her but I couldn’t do anything because I had become a coward, having a father that was demented made me struggle with the ropes of reasonableness. My father took it more seriously than I expected and though she did wrong, nobody was there for her at the beginning when she needed care and love. If she had found it outside and a guy had gotten her pregnant it was not her fault. Jennifer could not confide in anyone in what she felt was necessary as a woman, and when I recalled the closeness between her and Emeka, I discovered she was happy that someone checked on her in school, bought her things when she was hungry, made her laugh when she felt like dying. After my parents had beaten her, I tried speaking patiently to her like a brother, perhaps, a changed one, yet she felt insecure. As time went on I became less selfish and rude and I gave up the room anytime she wanted space. Sometimes I slept in the corridor on a wrapper, and the following day she would tell me sorry. I pitied her each day and for weeks she couldn’t eat, I don’t know why, but anytime she tried eating, she threw up. At first, I thought she was pretending, but I later came to understand that she was angry with her condition. Some nights she cried and rolled on the bed and I sat by her holding her hand, asking myself who is the father of this child? She knew I had in mind to ask her, but I preferred she felt appreciated rather than troubled. 

One night, she had gone early to bed while I was rereading a dog-eared copy of All The King’s Men. I was enjoying the enduring intensity of the political novel, under the yellow glow of the iron lamp, on the desk, at the corner of the room, facing the window, and hearing the chirping and humming noise of birds and generators. Feeling cold, I had wrapped half of myself with a blanket, and hearing a little noise I turned sideways reluctantly and Jennifer was standing close to me in tears. I thought I had seen a ghost so I fell. 

“Sorry, I didn’t mean to scare you.” She said holding her big belly. 

I couldn’t say anything, it wasn’t her, and if I hadn’t stayed with her for so long I would have run out of the room. Her face was swollen, pale, and sweaty as though she lacked blood; her eyes were dim and the pain of pregnancy was written all over her body. I gave her the seat and she sat subduing the pain, while I sat on the floor. 

“I want to tell you a secret,” she said.

“You look beautiful when you smile,” I said and she burst into laughter. “On your wedding day I would tell your husband that if he doesn’t treat you properly, I will beat him to death.” 

“It’s Mr. Tolu’s.” She said gazing into the darkness of the room. 

“I don’t understand.” 

“It’s the English teacher.” 

“What happened to him?” 

“He’s the father of the child.” 

“What!” I said, almost standing, “why didn’t you tell me?” 

“He said if I told anyone he would deny me when they question him.” She looked straight into my eyes. “I wanted to abort the child but the doctor advised me not to do so, for it was late when I found out.” 

“Why didn’t you tell me?” I was already angry with her and she could see it. “There was no need for that and you would have gotten yourself in some kind of problem.” “Then that would be right for him.” 

“Look at me.” She said holding my face, “No… Look at me. It’s going to be alright, but don’t tell anyone.” 


“Mum says when I give birth, we would be calling her our sister, not my daughter.”

“No, how can you deny your child?” 

“Aren’t you seeing things the way they are, and that’s the problem I have with you? We don’t have money and I have dropped out of college, so others won’t know anything concerning it. If in the next four years a man comes to marry me, the bride price would be worth it to Dad and mum, to console them for all the wrong I have done to them.”

“How old are you?” 

She slapped me, “You of all people should not ask me that.” 

“No, I want you to say it to me.” I said even though they slap made me feel uneasy.


“I would kill Mr. Tolu,” I said with every fiber of determination in me. 

“No,” she pushed her seat closer and took my right hand, “Don’t do that, if you understand the pains I go through all night, you would at least rescue me from the shame, I won’t live with both. I wouldn’t leave this house till I have given birth.” 

“How did he do it? When?” 

“You know I kept failing English and when he saw what I was going through that period, he drew closer to me. That was what Emeka was trying to find out when you wanted to kill me with your gaze and questions.” 

“I didn’t know, if I had known I would have…” I said and began to cry. 

“I didn’t leave my bed to accuse you.” She said with authority. 

“Please forgive me.” 

“Of course, I have done that .” She said slapping my shoulder.

“I don’t deserve it, I was not myself, I didn’t know what possessed me, you know I just wanted to misbehave and is…” 

“Stop that, Micheal, don’t blame yourself for anything.” 

“What if you die in this pregnancy?” 

“Shut up, don’t be stupid. Why would you say such a thing?” 

“I can’t live with this pain.”

“You need to hear the truth.” She said wiping the tears from my face, “Your sister would be well and you will be anything you want to be.” 

We hugged each other and felt fresh solace and affection. But that night I couldn’t resist the guilt. I struggled to pretend, but it wasn’t my habit, and each day I glanced at her, I felt like killing myself. I didn’t dare ask her how she got tangled with Mr. Tolu because I didn’t want to hear more about him. In school I was quieter than usual, I made sure no one knew the situation at home. During that period I moved fully to the sitting room, and when Jennifer asked me why and I said I wanted to give her space. But she knew it was a lie and she tried convincing me to return, but I didn’t. I never slept in that room again because if I did, it made me feel as if I was her husband; she loved holding my hands when I was still sleeping on the single bed we shared, and she always crying with her braless breast on my chest sometimes made me horny. 

When neighbours and classmates began to ask about Jennifer, I told them, she went to Aba to learn a trade in our Aunts place. In the night while I read a page of The Joy Luck Club, I told her how I was making Mr. Tolu angry and he doesn’t punish me. She always laughed till tears rolled down her eyes and sometimes the baby jerked when she laughed. 

Jennifer gave birth to a baby girl and while we were extremely happy we got information that a three-story building two Streets away collapsed due to decay and that made it two in the space of one week. What was our community transforming into? Lives of people were at risk and you could feel the frustration in their voices. When people were packing the fallen stones and rods in search of survivors, we sat around Jennifer’s daughter with happiness. Later, we heard that seven people had died from the incident. Two weeks later, I didn’t know who informed Mr. Tolu, but when he came to visit Jennifer, I almost fought with him at the door, and he left. He resigned from his teaching position, and disappeared, as Jennifer had predicted. The baby girl had curly hair, a glowing fair face, and pink lips; she was an exact reflection of Jennifer. So, my mom named her Sarah because she believed that though she was born in an unusual case that she would be a great ‘woman of God’. We promised to take her as our sister. 

A few months passed and Jennifer resurfaced in the neighborhood. People were shocked but we had planned the lies we were going to tell them. She got a job at the neighborhood store, bringing in the money, while mom acted as the nanny. Mom nursed the baby so that Jennifer’s breast wouldn’t shrink, which allowed her to keep a right figure. 

Things gradually began to form and we acknowledged it that way, that we had another sister was at first very difficult to reconcile with. And having to go to school and return and seeing Sarah as my little sister who could have had a father instead of growing up with a lie, was the hardest fact to accept. My father surprisingly was the happiest amongst us when Sarah was conceived but Jennifer and I couldn’t turn our backs on the truth. We were shocked that our ‘saint’ father could be happy. Our neighbours and friends began to ask questions which turned out to be a frustrating period for me because I needed to tell lies and recommend the same lie to Jennifer and my ‘saint’ parents so that the lies could be corroborated. I became scared of myself because to live by lies was like allowing a sharp knife to go through your heart. 

Before Sarah clocked two and half years old, I had finished college and was waiting to get admission into the university, yet Jennifer was still working in the store and they had promoted her to the office of Secretary. And money never became a serious concern for us again. I stayed at home reading novels and aiming to realize myself in a decaying, confused society. One day, Jennifer returned with a rich man who wanted to marry her. My parents were delighted but I was unhappy, not that I envied her, but I had a feeling of this-should-not-be-happening. Sometimes I thought about whether I didn’t want my sister to marry and live in peace, but the secrets and lies which we all pretended to forget but it kept boiling in me. To be honest, it strangled the life out of me, and each day I wanted to move along with that kind of life we had created, it was as though I was moving into a dark tunnel that led to a tomb. Afraid of what would be my condition and how long would I stay there I felt I had to redeem my life. Frank became serious with Jennifer, and he dropped her at home from work, almost every night during their courtship. Jennifer was happy and proud that she had gone beyond her past, and anytime she returned from work I did as much to feign that I loved the state of things. 

On a Saturday evening, she had told me earlier that Frank was coming to take her out for dinner and I made a promise to myself to solve the situation by telling Frank first. What would it yield? After all, we had all done regrettable evils in the past. But I was tired of the whole situation. Do you know what it means for one to be so tired of a situation that he becomes obsessed with finding a solution, like a drunkard after reading his sack mail walks into the bar and knows what best to do. So I went down the street and had a glimpse of Frank when he was coming. Standing at the border of the asphalt road, I felt comfortable looking at the sun going down, orange in the sky, a roving shadow of thick blackness spreading in the clouds. When he saw me, our eyes met and I felt a conscious refrain, yet I decided to walk toward him. 

“Good evening,” I said. 

“How are you doing? Is there any problem with Jennifer?” He said. 

“No,” I said, shaking my head but still gazing into his eyes. 

“What is wrong?” He noticed my mood. 

“Did Jennifer tell you anything about her college life?” 

“No, and what does that have to do with our relationship?” 

“I think you ought to know Frank,” I said, now determined. 

“No, please I want to see Jennifer and it’s between me and her, no one else.” He said almost walking away. 

“Don’t you think you have the right to know?” I asked angrily. 

“No, it’s her past and it will continue to be so.” 

“Sarah is her baby!” I yelled. 


“When she was in Goshen College, she got pregnant by our English teacher and we all hid it from our friends and neighbours.” 

“Why didn’t she tell me? Jesus, we were supposed to be married two months from now, and I’m making hard preparations already.” 

“I think we have all forgotten about it because we call Sarah our little sister, and we see her that way.”

His eyes were moist, and I didn’t know that truth hurts sometimes, but I thought he loved her. 

“If you love her, you would go as planned and forget the past as you rightly said.” I pointed out already confused about the result of my judgment. 

“Would you forget this kind?” He said and left almost in tears. 

That evening Jennifer returned in the night with a swollen red eye in tears and she stared at me for a long time then said, “Why? Why? Why did you do this to me?” And I was speechless? She went into her room and began to cry. I thought I was her Messiah. I wanted to save her from the future. She didn’t talk to me for several days. She resigned from her job and locked herself crying every night and each of that night was as though I was living in her hell. One morning when we met in the corridor, she said I would better kill her. I tried explaining but she didn’t look into my eyes, and when she did she asked, what sin had she committed? Then I knew that I was going to live with the guilt as long as that sentence remained in my head. I pleaded with her to forgive me. Every day I went to her door and knelt, in tears yelling for forgiveness like an insane sinner, but she didn’t reply. My parents were angry with me. Can you imagine that? For eight years I had seen them as maniacs but now I was the one who was more religious and deaf to logical principles. I became a stranger in the house and no one dared talk to me or mention Victor. Three days later, in the morning, that kind of morning coated in quietness, when nobody wanted to rise from bed, a neighbour found Jennifer’s body broken and her skull wide open. She had fallen from the fourth floor of her room window perhaps in the middle of the night. What could I have done? I ask myself. I don’t know, sincerely there is something within us that pushes us to do wrong and though we search for truth it seems late. I loved her and why would she take her life when I wanted to be with her every day? How does she expect me to live with this pain? Was this the reward for the lies we had lived with? I thought she went past Mr. Tolu’s betrayal with ease, so why was mine a torment to her? The sky has turned thick black and the drops of sorrow would soon melt on my window glass. Sarah on the couch looking at me and I know she has questions, though she can’t talk, but she has questions, and if she grows to remember this day… 

The End

BIO: Victor Okechukwu is a writer based in Lagos Nigeria. He’s reading mass communication at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka. He loves writing short stories with in-depth craft and risk.


Click the button below to subscribe to our Newsletter

Connect with us

How good was this story?

Click on a star to rate it!

Average rating 0 / 5. Vote count: 0

No votes so far! Be the first to rate this post.

You may also like...

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

%d bloggers like this: