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A Thick Silence

By Uchechukwu Agodom


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Author Note: I am a Nigerian writer. My poems have been published in an anthology of the Association of Nigerian Authors Enugu State Chapter (with the title The Poet Sinned) and on some websites like, and I have poems, short stories and other manuscripts for novels, drama and films yet to be published and produced as the case may be.



A thick silence sat like a rock in homage to Allu, as he watched the horror that was his wife lying in a gutter, and he listened to the silence to a very lengthy course… A woman’s supple voice of mourning touched him, and he stirred his feet into the dirty gutter where his wife was lying long lost in the caravan of death, and he carried her out of the gutter and laid her on the side of a street in Mogadishu that the gutter fringed at one side.

A crowd of voices grew from the voice of the mourning woman.


"….we are still dying."

"Guns roam the land."

"Like the people in search of life…."

"Guns in search of life."

"… In… of life?"

"How did she die?"

The question was pointed towards Allu, and in busts of sorrow said,

"A group of hungry gun-cradlers sowed this foul gas here present before us…. This corpse," pointed to the corpse, "is my wife…we were going to hunt for food, in borrowing wings, for hunger was dangerously desperate with us, when we encountered the gun-cradlers- young children, indeed. They chorused that hunger kept preaching to them and that they have no choice but to harass people and get as much issues from people as possible… They shot her when she resisted them…. They shot her in truncating issues…"

Allu began to sail in higher crying wings of sorrow, and the crowd, too, wrapped in mounds of sorrow aligned with him.


The rubbles of the war were still very much alive, and the pillar of sorrow, which he had discarded, like old skin, pounced on him again. The war had ravaged his children into the great beyond. The war had spared Allu and his wife, but a fragment from the rubbles of the war has kissed her wife. The rubbles of the war were still very much alive.

Atop a tree at the fringe of his farm, he watched his world in his village. The farm was hopeless, housed only by spent splinters from weapons. Living along with human voices were voices of guns, here and there. The stars were too dim to sing, and the clouds were too dim to house soulful mist.

The sound of a truck near the farm tossed him into unease. He dropped from the tree like an unripe heavy fruit and listened. There were voices in the truck. He passed and pounced aside some grasses and faced the truck. It was packed full with people primed ghastly. He climbed into the truck, as the truck began the uncertain journey.

He was rebounding to Mogadishu.


Allu saw Mogadishu welcome them with signs and wonders of violence, a rendezvous of gunmen kissing long columns of rifles. A roadblock of gunmen, of stones, of skeletons of vehicles encountered them on a lonely road.

"Stop!" A gunman sporting a dark spectacle and dressed sorrowfully roared. The truck halted. The faces of the travelers in the open truck saw bleak profiles dangle before them. Allu saw the gunmen sweating with their rifles, and he sweated like a porous pot.

The gunmen were not peaceful in their poise, and neither were they love-bound. A gunshot kissed the sky. A stone dropped on the truck. And an uneloquent tug of voice ranted a disorderly tone.

"Come down!"

A heavy silence slapped the scene longer that the gunmen could tolerate.

"Come down!"

The men and the women in the truck struggled down. They were told to lie down in an unquiet gasp. They lied down.

Then each sentence the gunmen made began to be punctuated with a rattle of gunshot, and with corresponding echoes of fear from their victims. They began the long search for treasures that were not their own.

The sun was smiling very high in the sky and extracted as much mounds of sweat from the gunmen and their victims as possible. They separated those that have money and other precious items from those that have none. Allu has nothing for them. They collected the treasures into a sack.

A sudden glow of madness intimated one of the gunmen, he posted the mouth of his gun against those that have nothing and another gunman roared to restrain him, but was too late, and the gun blared in tom toms of hatred for some seconds. The damage was horrific. Seven bodies became litters on the grounds. Allu held his right hand ferociously, crying over his thumb and index finger that have been eaten voraciously by a roar of a bullet.

The gunmen ran away. The living turned into mourners. The sun was going down when the truck with the living continued on its journey.

The truckload of mournful people became charged with tears and was negotiating a bend when a sandy voice and a blare of gun flagged it down. The place was deserted but peopled with relics of war: burnt buildings, burnt cars, mangled signposts….

Two gunmen rattled them out of the truck.

"Strip yourselves! Naked!"

The men and the women did not understand them.

"Take off your clothes, your bangles, your everything!"

They did not believe the gunmen.

Ta! Ta! Ta! Ta! Ta! Ta! …

They understood that swing of blasts and moved in consonance with the blasts. Allu took off his clothes. The other men and the women stripped naked too, and nakedness swam in large thunders in the scene.

The two gunmen bagged the clothes, and splintered away in tugfull sprints.

Their victims watched the nakedness of life.


The wasting arm of hunger was all around Allu. He moved to quell it. He sentenced himself to a roaming bout like a wanderer, and his feet hardly sent reports of pain to him; and he pulled out the clothes(clothe) of a corpse on a road and put them on, and one day, was among citizens queuing for the job of carring building blocks at a reconstruction site of a building. The sight of old men in the queue who might not be able to carry blocks unnerved him, and he overheard a man asking an old man what he was doing in the queue and whether he was not endangering his life. The old man merely posted a weak smile in lieu of answer. The old men were standing as if they were reeds rocked by the wind.

Men would on selection as workers jump up and down in celebration; and Allu heard a heavy pop of sound of foul air from the anus of one celebrating man who jumped up. There was a blast of laughter.

Allu was rejected when his turn came, but an old man was selected. The act of carrying twenty blocks by each person selected was worth a very miserable meal.

He sat on the ground around the building and watched the selected men work. His mind went to miserable lengths, and was back, when an old man collapsed under the weight of a block and died. The old man was carried out.

Due to Allu’s persistent presence at the construction site, he was selected, and billed himself to carry many blocks at a lean profile of time. The workers worked like donkeys, and the image of the upcoming pay-spot at the end of the week dangled profusely before them.

Kursi, one of the workers, boasted that from the rate he was working, his salary could buy food for the suffering people of his village….

The day wore out. Allu went into the building and found a sleeping place, and beside him was Kursi snoring away. Some other workers, and wanderers too, made the building their sleeping place.

About midnight, Allu heard a clap away, and felt Kursi slip away, promptly. He opened his eyes, and saw the sky cradling starless night. He stole out to know where Kursi had gone. Faint voices played strings about words but were indistinguishable. He dragged himself through the thick-skinned night, around the building and away from the building but did not see any human being. He was dragging himself back to his sleeping space when his right foot pulled a broken block and he fell down in a confounding stance. The pain was heavy on him and it swam him through and through, and coats of dust, which he felt with his left hand, blinded his eyes.

Where was his thumb? Where was his index finger? He sought for them in the bounds of his painful poise, but did not feel them.

He remembered where they were when he staggered into a sitting position, and that was when his right hand started telling him about rudderless tales of pain. He primed to mourn, but he primed not to mourn.

He stood on his feet.

Wobbled. Wobbled. Wobbled….

He fell down again.

As morning riddles began to dawn, he rose up and went back to his sleeping space and found Kursi far into the arm of sleep. He sat down and waited the awakening of Kursi.

The bare flour was their bed spread, and the smell of faeces was a constant seed of assault.

Kursi awoke when people began to turn pages of life of the day in the open building, and he was so distant with remains of sleep when Allu asked,

"Where did you go in the night?"

"You, too, where did you go?"

Allu began a sudden examination of his right hand that bore the images of a missing thumb and a missing index finger. For the first time, a rotten odor feathered his nose and he spat out a thick bundle of saliva.

Kursi stared at him. He stared at Kursi.


Kursi acknowledged with a weak blinking of his eyebrows, and darted out a weak wave of his right hand. Allu dangled before him the sad story of his rotten hand and Kursi understood with a more or less unknowing look.

Men began to talk in unpunctuating tones, and the sun slowly climbed the sky with bubbles of stories….

Allu saw Kursi lured away by the voices of the men outside. He tore a fragment from the poor splinters that was his cloth, bound, poorly, the open wound, and walked out.


Allu lost a block when the wound in his hand gave him a sudden gnashing bout. The other workers were surprised for Allu was a strong man. The supervisor of the work came and saw him mourning in drops.

"What is wrong with your hands-your hand?"

"I have a wound in my right hand which suddenly began to shoot me." "And you were able to destroy a block? It is punishable by a sack exercise and by the loss of your salary."

"No, please!" Allu unrolled the bound on his hand and laid bare the open wound before the supervisor, who became aghast and gave out a shuddering breath.

"When l was coming to Mogadishu, some gunmen pounced on us, and so terrible were their ranting on us…"


"Thank you."

"But the rule of this job situation still prevails. I am very sorry."

Some of the workers were watching them sadly. Allu pushed upward a begging spree before the supervisor when a man came to the spot. The supervisor greeted the man in a very rich manner.

"What is the problem?"

"He contravened a rule."


"I read the punishment before him."

Allu brandished his wounded hand before the man and when the man saw it, sagged under the weight of sympathy. Allu told him the story of the wound.

"I hereby command," the man said, "that you shall neither be sacked nor your salary be withheld."

Allu bowed with thanks before the man.


They listened to the silence of the night, which was constantly disturbed by the voices of the people who stole into the building to pass the night.

"You should not work with your hand, for that was what the man told you." Kursi said.

"And I told him that l should work to be able to feed myself." "But it is not good for your life."

"And hunger, too, is not good for my life."

They fail into the waiting hands of sleep. When Kursi woke up late in the night and tore away from their sleeping point, Allu recoiled from the arms of sleep. His voyage through the moon-strewn night around the building bumped him onto a point where he heard Kursi’s voice. On further search exercise, he found Kursi cuddling a small girl, for the bold stage of the moon made them clearly visible.

"Is she your wife?"

There was a wall of silence before Allu.

‘Is she your wife?"

Kursi masted an obscure answer before Allu.

"Is she your wife?"





"She is my girl."

"Why do you…?"

"...defile her?"


"She defiles me, too?"

"Two defiles two."


"Too poor."

"Very poor."

"Not good for two- of you."

"I know."

"You know?"


"Good, you know."


"Too poor."

"Two poor."

"Very bad."

"It is her business."

"Her business?"


"Very bad."

Allu watched the girl slip away and he said after her,

"It is not good for your body," and turning to Kursi, "and we all cry for money, but you have some to give away to a…"

"She is suffering."

"She needs to find some other work."

"How is your hand?"

"Pain full."

Allu sailed the hand to his nose. The odor was like the odor from litters of dead bodies that he always saw lying unburied on the roads. A boulder pounded his heart.

"I can perceive the odor from your hand."


The pay-day came and the place was invaded by noise. The queue was very tout to the point of bursting. The men that were paid would jump in joy, and one man rolled on the ground piped on and on by the joy of the money that he was cradling like his life. Allu’s turn came and he posted himself with the ghastly odor sitting on his hand, before the men at the pay-post, and the odor prompted the men to ask unquiet questions.

"What is this?"

"Where is the odor coming from?"


They cusped their noses. Allu told them were the odor was coming from, and as he extended his left hand to collect his salary, a decapitating sound from guns rattled the place, and people staggered into a stampede.

A group of teenagers with guns and knives brandished into the place, raided the place and ran away, leaving the mark of death in the place.

The stampede saw Allu in an empty market place where there were neither sellers nor buyers but marks of war in staggering colors.

He sat on a lonely stone and allowed his eyes to roam the market place. There was not even a rotting foodstuff to be seen in the ghostly market place. He dragged himself up and walked away. His stomach and throat were so dry. He pulled himself away from the path of a moving bullet-mocked car that was heading towards him and found himself in a gutter where water of a strange face soiled him. He rested in the gutter for a long time.


After a long time trekking where he passed troubled citizens on troubled roads, he came to a burnt house and sat on the ground fronting the house.

The odor from his wound was very eloquent, and troubled his nose strongly. He unrolled the fragment from his cloth that bound the wound, and saw that it was very damp, riotously dirty and darted, on and on, a putrid odor. He feasted his eyes with the wound, and shuddered badly, when he saw a tiny maggot rollicking in the wound. Speedily, he fetched a small stick and used it to dislodge the maggot.

He probed the status of the wound further, an echo without a maggot met him. The wound began to bite and eat him. He began to mourn and cry.

A gush of gale flew by and deposited corpuscles of dust on the wound. He housed the wound again with the dirty rag. He saw the endless stretch of the road before him and people with unquiet states moving about.

When a car passed another followed suit after a long pause. A policeman whose uniform was a continuous map of madness encountered him.

"Are you okay?" The policeman asked.

A fever began to well inside Allu.

"Are you fine?"

The fever began to boil.

"Are you dumb?"

The fever began to rise. And the policeman shouted,


"I am not dumb," Allu answered weakly, "I am not even dumb to the well of pain biting me."

He unrolled the cover of the wound and showed the police man the wound.


The condition after the war has long sentenced him to the haven of wanderer and the lure of life was strong on him. And the boundless field of pain that spread in his right hand was heavy on him. And the drums of violence were riotous in the display of their lawless strides. And he ran for his life- for the lure of life was strong on him.

His feet drummed onto a place where aid workers just handed out food and have gone. He towered beggarly before few of his fellow citizens for a handful of food, but none gave him a minute of food. He gnawed past the scene followed by hunger.

Where night met him standing beside a burnt car, he negotiated his way into the car and waited for sleep to console him. He did not give himself away to sleep as gunshots and mad barking cars faced the night around him. He ran his fingers on his body and found that he was more bone than flesh. And more pain than peace etched him. He ground his teeth. He ran his fingers on his clothes and found his clothes a greater rag than rag.

He found the morning a singing mortar of words.

"You must be mad!"

"You are madder than a mad woman !"

Two women began to fight around the burnt car. Allu came out and parted them.

"What is the matter?"

They ranted away throwing punches of words against themselves. A bout of wind rained the abuse if(of) dust and debris on him as he walked to a mangled signpost of a hospital. He sat on the signpost and tried to contain the drum of fever in him. The fever tore him into rags in the wobbling train of pain. He was in a high pitch when he wanted to rise up from the signpost but could not rise. A kind of fear spelt by the unquiet state of his body battered him, and he rammed himself up and pointed the way to the hospital.

Not long, he was crawling before the hospital, drawing prints of mourning.

* * *

Allu groped for life when a nurse who was also an aid worker came to see, for the third time, how he was responding to treatment. The nurse loomed around him for a long time and left. Allu was lying down on the ground beside the hospital for the teaming number of victims of war seeking medical attention has trampled the hospital space for patients.

Close to Allu, in the cramped space about him, was a woman crying over the death of her one-month-old child. She was a cloud of tears as she held her head on her sore-possessed hands, the dead baby before her in a mass of lifeless poise.

Throng of patients suffering form various diseases and wounds from gunshots and violent acts were constantly visiting the hospital with various degrees of sunken faces.

Allu sat on the ground where he was lying down and studied the sky that was an excellent mass of brilliance. He was on it when the nurse came again.

"You are fine, now."

Allu stared at her.

"Please, you have to go for we need spaces for other victims and sick ones that have not been treated, but come back the day after tomorrow".

Allu stood up.

"Thank you, and God bless you aid workers".

The nurse thanked God


In the night, Allu found a home in a shell-shocked house, but he was not the only inhabitant, for homeless people and rats built a heavy presence when the night advanced further.

While he was sleeping, he felt a tugging battle on his right hand, opened his eyes and found a big rat gnawing away the bandage that housed his wounds, and the rat bounded away as he stirred to catch it. The scene further told him that another business was going on in the house, apart from the business of sleeping for he found some people roaming the house with hurricane lamps.

He groped close to a man carrying a poorly founded hurricane lamp. The man was also bearing a short iron rod. A big rat ran close to the man, and the man with a frightening speed brought the rat’s knee before death with the iron rod.

"May I join you?" Allu asked him.

The man looked at Allu closely and ignored him.

"May I?"

"The world is an open wound."

"May I…how?"

"The world is an open wound."

The man handed Allu a bag, which he had been hiding under his clothes.

"Hide it under the cover of your rags. In this place they raid everything. They raid life. They raid human beings. They raid animals. They raid the sky with gunshots. They raid the walls with gunshots. They raid everything … that is why they even raid hunters of house rats to strip them of their craven source of lonely meal…"

They heard men shouting and cursing at one part of the building. The man quickly held Allu and dragged him into a blinding race out of the house.

Later they found themselves at a far distance from the shell-shocked house in the night.

"What is your name?"



"Let us grind our feet on the ground further away from here."

They walked a long way into a mud house.

"My house."

"Your house."


"The bag is heavy."

"It is."

"You have …"

"I have no family …I use to have …but the war, the war, stole it."

"The same with me."


"I can eat anything to survive."


"Rotten food, rotten meat, faeces …"


Murku looked at Allu sadly, and said,

"You are not serious. When you have nothing to eat …"

A distant gunshot checked them.


Hooting through and through the small mud house to Allu, that he was going to one of the dry market places to strengthen out an issue, Murku ran out of the house. Allu watched him vanish in a thick crowd of troubled people.

Around the house, were fallen houses and at the back of the house were parentless children brandishing noise of all colors before the world. They were sitting on the ground. They were all bone and no flesh. And a vagabond dog strongly tethered to a ravaging skin disease and a mouth of drooling unsightly saliva embarked on an endless shots of barking at the homeless children.

The stage saw time at noon, and when Allu began to sweat feverishly, the stage of homeless children and a vagabond dog drew him outside the house.

He saw the dog posted a little distance from the children. He picked a stone and fired it at the dog. The dog sped away, leaving at where it stood a sprawl of unsightly saliva.

He approached the children.

"We want to kill the dog."

"We are hungry."

"We are dying."

"We will kill it."

Allu went away, back into the house, picked four big dead rats from Murku’s bag, walked back to the children and tossed the dead rats before them, and the children, electrically awoke, into a different state of feverish pounce on the rats on the ground. The children tore the rats into pieces. One of the children got wounded in the act, for he bled and bled away the few blood left in him. He wept.


Since Murku left his house, Allu has been waiting for him, and Murku have stayed two days longer than the one hour that he had said he would be away.

Allu draged himself through some empty markets that he could reach in search of Murku but did not see him. As each truncating search brought him closer to a strange emptiness, his heart sank heavier. His last port was a blind market of rubbles, of ramshackled stalls and of faeces heavily bonded to the grounds. Murku was not seen.

A crop of ravenous birds flew up and down under the tutelage of disturbing stones fired at them by a mad woman. Allu saw the rendervous of ravenous birds and made a motion to find out what they were feasting on. When he negotiated his way past a confusion of fallen stalls, he found that the birds were on a serious scavenging odyssey, for before the birds, lifeless, flies-ridden and unnervingly odour-bound, was a human body very, very far away with death.

Since the specter of dead bodies has becomes a common place act, since he has seen more than the forbidden specter before him, he has seized to mourn about, around and for the dead he encountered. But the sight of the faceless dead body before him threw him into jolts of mourning.

The dead body has no clothes on it.

The mad woman was still enjoying herself.


On the fourth day of his stay in Murku’s house, as he was coming back from a wandering mission, from a short distance, Allu saw the house a rich presence of disorder. The hanging door was yanked out and invisible some where. The house was a porous mass.

"Is Murku back?" Allu asked himself.

He went into the house and found a strong absence of Murku, the strong absence of Murku’s bag that was the only item in the one-room house, and the presence of a shocking feeling in himself. He searched for the door of the house around the place but did not see it. He went into the house and sat down.

There was no sound to lend credence to the presence of other lives around, outside his own. The place was deserted.

He was bold enough to fall into the well of sleep that has been luring him. After a long time he awoke to a longer feeling of shock. He slept again as the sun was spinning long hot tales.

He awoke again, and as he was further down the well of sleep, he swam again and again.

When the silent and moonless night came, he awoke into its waiting arms and sailed into the night, but did not go far when a frightening bark of a lonely dog sent him back into the house.

He was hugging a tall wall of fear when he fell into the well of sleep.


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