Pemi Aguda | Klo4
The girl stood outside the rusty red gate, the contentment of a great second date settling in her belly like hot chocolate on a chilly day. They stood together, staring at the criss-cross of the faded interlocking tiles, reverted to gangly teenagers- twiddling thumbs, wondering who would make the next move. They both did, looking up at the same time. She stared into his eyes, he into hers. And it was while she admired the lashes that framed his dark eyes that it happened.
It happened slowly. A mist encroached on her vision: vignetting- the edges of her sight blurring away and moving in until the picture before her was replaced. The very man who was right then staring back into her eyes was there but not there. It was him, but not… now. He looked older- the crinkles around his eyes were even more pronounced by the sinister frown adorning his face. His hands were cuffed and he was being led somewhere by men in blue suits. He had filled out- grown a beard, and a paunch too. He followed the men grudgingly, but at the door stalled and turned around to look back at… her.
Then it was gone. She was once again staring into his younger eyes which were now mottled in confusion at the life that had deserted her eyes. He asked if she was okay. She shrugged. The moment had passed. Their moment had passed. Flinging a flimsy excuse his way, she fumbled her way to the other side of the gate and left it to clang in his face.
But although she spent the next few hours pacing her room, then lying on the cold bathroom floor and then staring intently at the starless sky, she got no insight into the episode. And eventually, sleep eased the furrows above her brows and sent her questions to the planet where unresolved puzzles go to die.
But die, they didn’t. Ignoring the fellow in whose presence her first episode occurred, her world remained stable. Not until her HST 320 tutor had looked her straight in the eyes, acknowledging her raised hand to tell the class why she thought Abacha wasn’t that much of a terror- until her vision faded out and was replaced with a gory picture- her lecturer being knocked over by a speeding bus and being dragged along- a bloody bulk of broken bones. The scream that was rent from her throat was more befitting the corridors of the famous Yaba hospital than a lecture hall. Startled by the horror and potent pity in her eyes, the tutor let her go for the day.
It became common after this. She made the mistake of looking someone in the eye and whoosh!, everything melted away- along with her peace of mind and any vestige of normalcy her life could have boasted of. It was always the same, dark clouds moved in from the periphery of her vision and substituted the subject in her line of sight with a future version. Her sister’s fiancé with another woman. The teller at the bank giving a speech in an emir’s ensemble. Her best friend kneeling beside a coffin, steel-faced.
But in all this, she told no one, sure that her claims of seeing the future would be laughed at. Sure that no one really wanted to know what the future held. Sure she would be confined in a white hospital that smelled of paranoia. And so she grit her teeth when she saw the ominous signs- begging them to stay away; explaining her odd behaviour as results of a migraine. They didn’t leave.
But even she was curious; she was holding on to a huge tin of cookies but couldn’t look in. She tried to tell her own future; if she would ever be free of the onerous ‘gift’; if she was burdened for life; if she learned to live with it; if she was happy; if she became one of those women who stood at the edge of the market and offered to tell futures for a slice of bread. But when she closed her eyes to see, all she saw was darkness.
Her heart hung heavy in its bony cage; an unwanting seer; unheard seer. Trying dark frames, shuffling, head-down, so she wouldn’t happen to stare into eyes, her life wilted.
So, she decided to know. Standing in front of her mirror, she leaned over; pressing her nose to the cold glass, breathing shallow so as not to fog it up; she stared into her eyes. And stared. And stared, inching closer…
And it came. The familiar clouds of darkness seeped over the mirror edges. Just then, she felt a lance of pain in one eye, then the other. Twin gashes. She blinked but the blackness refused to be dismissed. Standing straight, she brought her hands in front of her eyes and saw nothing.
It was then she understood. The darkness she’d always seen had been her future.
Pemi Aguda is from Lagos, Nigeria. She is an architect during the day and a writer always. She writes flash fiction and short stories. She is an admirer of Alice Munro and Lorrie Moore.