Water Takes All of Me

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Let me tell you one story about what water did to me. Kai, water, very wicked thing. Every time I think about it, I shake my head and wonder why God create it. Our priest used to tell us every Sunday that God is very loving and cannot think of destroying his people again. So why did God create this wicked thing called water? Water have no care for anything. See, if water want to come here now and stay, it will scatter everything that is blocking it. You cannot stop water. It is powerful. I still remember one time, in my former school, that rain fall one day and scattered the roof of our class. Everybody was screaming that the world is spoiling. Our teacher told us that day not to fear, that it is God that removed the roof of our class because he wants to see us very well. We believed it that time. But as I grow, I know that that teacher lied that time. It is not God that removed that roof anything. It is water. That is why I said water is powerful. It is so powerful that it removed my family from me. Now, see me today, I am alone. No Papa, no Mama, no Bibi, and no more play with little Kojo. Water have carried them to very faraway place. Me, I don’t know where water have carried them to. I only watch them swim away. But they don’t want to swim. They don’t want to go away from their house. But everything is going away because water have come.

As this big water is pushing away my Papa, Mama, Bibi, and little Kojo, they keep shouting and crying that somebody should help them. But who can rescue them from the almighty water? Who can jump into that water that is big like ocean and doing like lion that is roaring, and drag my family and other people out of its big hands? Nobody at all. So, they continue shouting until the water close their mouths. It is as if the water tell them that if they like, they should shout too much, that it will not bring them back to their house.

As I watch them go away, I start to cry my own, and my whole body was shaking too much. I wish water carry me with them. I wish I did not agree to go and play with those boys that morning. If you ask me where the water carry them to, me, I don’t know. But sometimes, it is doing me as if they are enjoying anywhere they are. Maybe the water carry them to Heaven, and they are eating azu ndu and nkwobi, and isi ewu and all those sweet sweet things that Papa tell us about, but Mama cannot cook because we have no money. But what if the water did not carry them to Heaven? What if that big water is coming from Hellfire and want to carry them to devil? When I think of this, my heart jump higher, and my cry start to increase. It is true that water have push them away. I cannot change that. But God please let it not push them away to Hellfire, because it is a place where people suffer too much. Papa used to tell us that if you go to Hellfire, devil will flog you very well on your bum bum and make fire to burn your body. So, every time, I tell God to not allow that water to carry my family to Hell. They have suffered too much on this planet earth. It will be bad if water carry them to where they will suffer plenty.


We are poor, but we used to be happy. Me and little Kojo used to carry containers we collect from dustbins and put small insects inside them. Then we will show Papa and tell him that we are capturing all the animals in the world. Papa will laugh and say that it is not possible, because where are we going to keep all the animals? My trouble sister, Bibi, like killing our insects. She say they used to make her body to scratch her. But me and little Kojo used to fight her, then she will cry and go and report to Mama.

In our former house at Orogwe, Mama used to sell big akara. If you see those akara eh, your stomach will rejoice very well like dog that see big bone. Many people in that area like coming to buy Mama’s akara. They used to say that God gave her the talent to fry akara. Every morning, Mama will wrap plenty akara for us to take to school. That used to be both our breakfast and lunch. Then when we come back from school, we will go to one small well that one big man dig for us, and fetch water to wash plates and our uniforms. After that, Kojo and I will quickly do our assignments and then run out of the house with our containers to gather more insects. Sometimes, some of our friends will follow us if they are free in their own house. We will catch grasshoppers, butterflies, plenty ants, cockroaches, earthworms, and one day, one of the boys caught a very big rat. That big rat made us know that we have power to catch other big animals. We even agreed to gather all our strength and catch a big lion if we see it any day. But do you know what happened to that rat? On our way home, the boy that held it from the legs did not hold it very well. So, the rat jumped out and while running away, mistakenly jumped inside one small pool of water on our street. I still remember how the rat was shaking inside the water, because it reminds me of how my family was shaking, too. That time, it was funny watching the rat shaking. All of us were laughing at it. One of the boys with us, Nnamdi, said the rat did not have sense, because how can it manage to escape from the people that catch it, and then it did not escape well? We laughed and laughed until we got home. Like that rat, my family did not escape water, because nobody can escape from water.


After my family die, I go to one small village they call Osu, and stay there alone. I did not know anybody living there. First, I live inside one small shed that the owner abandon. In the mornings, I will go and help people to farm, or harvest, or wash their cloths and run other errands. Then sometimes, they will give me money or food to eat. That is how I have been surviving. But it is not easy because sometimes, there is no farm to work and no other errand to do. So, on those days, I’ll stay hungry and cry in my heart. My chest used to pain me from too much crying. Even my eyes, too. But man must survive. After all, Papa used to tell us that. But now, I think it is only water that man don’t used to survive, because if not, my family will still be alive today.

Whenever there is no work to do or errand to run and I know that I will not eat that day, I will go to one small river where the village people used to do sacrifice for their community. I will sit near the water and ask it many questions. I do this even though water is my enemy. When Papa still used to do carpenter work, he quarreled with one of his colleagues one time. Then one day, Papa said enough is enough and go to meet the colleague to talk. After that day, they become friends again. It was that day that Papa tell us that it is good to talk to your enemy sometimes because it can make them repent and become your friend. That is why I used to come and talk to this water. I tell the water that I want us to reconcile. That I want to love it, but it must first bring back my parents and umunne m. But the water does not talk back to me. It will just stay like that, only showing me my shadow. It made me hate the water more. But I do not give up. I continue going to that stream, hoping that one day the water will talk back to me and vomit out my family. If that happens, kai, I will dance eh. I will dance more than this village people dance group.


Now, I am walking alone near this river. After a long time of talking to this river, I still cannot pronounce the name. River Onu-something. It’s too long, biko. I only know River Niger, the one that our teacher, Master Bulala, tell us about in our school. Bulala is not his real name. I have forgotten his real name because my mind is very scattered now. We only name him Bulala because he like flogging stubborn students on their bum bum. Master Bulala can flog. Just like devil. In fact, sometimes, I don’t know whether he can flog more than devil. Master Bulala and his cane is like umu ejima, twins. But we like Master Bulala because he used to tell us many things about the world. He is like prophet, because things he say will do to us have started doing. When water carry my family away, I remember that Master Bulala used to say that water will start to carry people away very soon. He will tell us that River Niger is increasing. He used to blame the nonsense government for not doing better things. Any time Master Bulala is complaining about the government doing nonsense things, we used to pray that God will make him the president so that he will start doing the good things that he talk about, for our country.any time rain is falling. If only sun shine that day, by now, Papa will be talking and drinking with our neighbour, Mr. Nnadi. Mama will be in the market to sell her vegetables. Bibi will stay in the house to wash plates. Me and little Kojo will be in the bush catching small insects and putting them inside our containers.

The water is clear and I can see my face inside it, shaking small small. Me and little Kojo used to go to one small stream near our settlement to catch fish and shake our face in the water. That stream used to be in one place, so we used to say that water is very calm. But that day that water carry them away, I learnt that water is not calm. Water is very stubborn. It don’t use to hear word.

That day, we were cooking small fish that we catch inside Mama’s pot when some boys, which are my friends, come and tell me to follow them to the bush to see our trap. I remember that little Kojo started crying small when I stand up to follow them. I tell him that I will come back fast fast and finish cooking the fish with him. But he start to cry higher because he did not want me to go, and I start hearing Mama shouting from inside the house that why am I making my brother to cry. But I did not reply. I just run with those boys to the forest to see their trap. Chai, I wish I did not go. I wish I tell those my friends to go and leave me, that I want to stay with my little Kojo and cook the fish with him. Water would have carry me with them. I used to cry too much when I remember how Kojo was crying because I leave him. The pain used to hit my heart like when Bibi is pounding pepper and crayfish in Mama’s mortar; gbim, gbim.


As I turn to leave the river and go home, I saw some small children playing with something. I go to join them and see what they are playing with. It is a big orange and four of them are kicking it around like ball. I join them and kick the orange but the hunger in my stomach is beating me too much. But I want to play, so I continue. The place we stayed to play the ball is in one small clear place close to the bush that surround the river. As we play, I still use one eye to look at the river, because I am expecting it to vomit my family. I really want to see them again.

One of the boys named Kanu kicked the orange very far inside the bush. Another boy shouted oooom and say that Kanu supposed to be playing small small. Then Kanu tell him that he should not worry because he can go inside the bush to bring it. I decided to follow Kanu so that it will not be as if I am not contributing. Me and Kanu enter the thick bush and I fear that snake will bite me. We used our hands to remove the leaves and branches that block road. One of the branches that have thorns chook my hand and small blood come out. But it did not pain me. Kanu was walking in front of me as if he know the exact place where the orange land. Even, how can we see the orange when there were many things on the ground like dry branches, too much green leaves that will not allow us recognise the green orange, ants walking like how we used to walk when we are marching from the assembly ground to our class. We even see shit. Very big one and very brown and fresh and I wonder who shit it now now. Maybe it is one of the boys. I get tired and tell Kanu to come so that we will go out. But Kanu want to find that orange. Even when I begged him that we should just pick another orange and go home, Kanu shake his head mba. Then small time, Kanu tell me to not make noise. He was looking at the white chicken feathers on the ground. Then we hear small voices coming from one direction.

“They are doing sacrifice here,” Kanu said.


“The village Dibia,” Kanu reply and walk small small towards the place the noise is coming from. The place is… ermm…kai, there is one word Master Bulala teach us o…yes, sloped. It means that where we are standing is higher like mountain and where those two people are standing is lower like valley. We see two of them, one is an old man wearing white cloth while the other is a small boy wearing red cloth. They are standing beside the river. The small boy is holding a fowl in his hand. The fowl have died. It’s like they killed it in that place we saw the feathers because we also saw small blood there that have mixed with sand. The old man is saying something to the water which we cannot hear very well.

“That is Ichaka,” Kanu said to me. He bend down on the ground and ask me to bend too, so that we can watch them.

“What are they doing with that fowl?” I ask as the old man take the fowl from the small boy and move inside the water. I was afraid for him because I thought the water will carry him like it carry my family. But it did not carry him. That means, this Ichaka is very powerful o.

“Ichaka is very powerful o,” Kanu said as if he heard what I thought and wanted to agree with me. Ichaka reach one part where the water is touching his knee and stop. He turn the fowl dead body in circle plenty times as he is still saying what he was saying. He then throw the fowl inside the water and shout very loudly. The small boy start to dance and clap his hands as Ichaka come out of the water. They start to climb up towards us. Me and Kanu was afraid and crawl away quietly. Then we stand to our feet and run away, leaving the orange we came to find.

After that day, I keep thinking about Ichaka and how the water did not carry him. By this time, I am now living with one old Mama that hire me as her houseboy. I used to eat only once in a day but it is better like that. That day I see Ichaka, I did not eat anything before I go out. But when I go back home, the hunger disappear because of too much thinking in my head about Ichaka. Even when the old Mama call me to come and eat food, I say no, thank you, that I am not hungry. The old Mama tell me that if I don’t eat now, that I will not eat again for that day. I say no problem and enter my small room. That time, it is not food that was my problem. It is how to meet that powerful Ichaka that is stronger than water and tell him my story. Maybe he will help me talk to the water like he did that day. He will tell the water to bring back my parents. With what I see with my two eyes that day, I know that man will have more power than water. When I ask Kanu to take me to his house, Kanu ask me why. I tell Kanu my story and Kanu cry very well. He then tell me that Ichaka will help me but I have to look for fowl for him. Fowl? That is not a problem at all o, I tell him. The old Mama I am now living with has plenty fowls at the back of her house which she used to sell at the village market. I will just go there and steal one. She will not notice it because she is old. Her eyes are closing small small.

The next night after Kanu tell me about the fowl, I leave my room and sneak to the fowl shed at the back of the house. All of them are sleeping. But when I open the cage small small so that the old woman will not wake up and start shouting thief, the fowls stand up and make noise. I feel like slapping them. Why did they not continue sleeping? Stupid fowls. Anyway, if they like, let them make big noise, I must take one of them. If the old woman like, let her wake her up and come outside to chase me, I will just carry the fowl and run very fast. You think I cannot run? I can run o. When Papa tell me to go and buy something, I will just run and come back sharp sharp. Then Papa will call me aeroplane. I target one fowl, the one that is close to the door of the cage, and grab it. It shout too much. The other fowls start to shout, too. My heart start beating out of fear. I leave the cage open and run out with the fowl.

Kanu was waiting for me at the small primary school in the village. As he see me running, he come out of one of the classroom and walk towards me. He collect the fowl from me and tell me he will hide it somewhere. Then we planned to go to Ichaka’s house the next night. I run back to the house and I see the old woman walking out from the backyard. She is holding one long stick which help her to walk because her left leg is not good.

“Where did you go?” she asked me.

“I go to chase the thief, Mama,” I reply. The night is blowing too much breeze but I am sweating small. The old Mama did not talk again. She just walk into her room and close her door. I sit at the door of my own room, and stare into the sky. The moon is shining small because some white clouds is blocking it. I am happy that time as I watch the sky, because I know that my family will soon come back and if this sky that I am looking at cry again, the water will not swallow them. This time, I will fight the water very well. In fact, it’s like I will tell Ichaka to give me small power so that I can fight water and then fight the government that cannot do better things to stop water from killing people. Master Bulala say government is only doing things they are not supposed to do. Like scattering people’s houses. And it is true, because I remember where we used to live before. It was a small house that they use cement to build. Papa did not have money to build big house for us. Remember I said he was a carpenter. In Nigeria, carpenters don’t used to have money. Only wood and plenty nails.

Then one day, after government scatter his shop and other people’s shop, he stopped doing carpenter work. They did not only scatter his shop, but they also scatter our house and other people house. They say we cannot live there because they want to plant trees to control the climate. But they did not later plant trees. Instead, they build nonsense road that will still spoil. Master Bulala complain very well about that thing government do to us. He said government have displaced many people.

That day that I follow my friends to go and check trap in the bush, we were talking about how wicked government is, and how good it will be for Master Bulala to do election and become our president because we know he will do good things for us. As we were still talking, it start to rain. First, it was small and we think it will be like that. After we check the trap and there is nothing in it, we say let us pluck small mango before going home. But the rain increased and the bush is far from our zinc houses. We stay under one tree and wait for it to stop. But it don’t want to stop. It is becoming heavier and heavier. Thunder is blowing and lightning is striking and heavy wind is blowing, and we are shivering. One of the boys start to shout at the rain to stop, but the rain does not listen.

As we were under that tree, shivering, one of the boys start to cry because he thinks the thunder will blow him away. One big tree fall down near us and we scream. We have not seen that kind of rain before. It fall as if it want to destroy the earth. It is like the rain that Master Bulala tell us about in the Bible that scatter the whole world but only one man named Noah and his wife and children and some animals survive. As we stand there screaming, I also pray that the rain should not destroy the world.

When it look like it will not stop, we say let us be going home like that because night is coming and the bush is dangerous. We throw away all the mangoes we pluck because we cannot be walking inside the rain carrying mangoes. The whole street is full of water. We walk inside it even while the rain is still falling. The water is almost reaching our stomach, and our legs is touching the ground that is filled with poto poto.

Many cars have stop in the water. One stick electric pole have fallen on top of one house and the people inside are screaming that light will shock them. I laugh small because I feel that they are foolish. How can light shock them when government don’t used to bring light?

When we reach our area, we are not seeing the zinc houses. They have scattered inside the water. Many clothes, pots, stoves, books, chairs, and other things I cannot remember again are floating inside the water. One of my friends shouted ewoo because the water have scattered everything. All we can see that time is water that have covered the face of the earth as Master Bulala used to say any time he tell us about that rain that destroy the world in the Bible.

Some of the zinc they use in building the house are floating while some are below. It cut my leg. Then I see them, and others shouting. I shout to them but they cannot hear me. Little Kojo is struggling in the water and it look like he is even dancing.

Papa, Mama, and Bibi, all of them are struggling and shouting and crying that someone should save them. Me, I cannot swim. I can only shout to them but they keep following the water until I cannot see them again. There is one very big ditch where government used to dig sand from. It is close to our area. The water carried everything, including my family, and flow inside that ditch.

Finally, the day I was to see Ichaka reach. That evening, after the old woman have eaten her dinner which I cook, I sneak out of the house and run to the primary school to meet Kanu. Before that time, I sat in my room and think about how I will scream once my family come out of that water. I thought about Kojo, and how we will carry containers and start picking animals again, because we must pick all the animals in the whole world.

That night, breeze was too much. And even though I ran well, I did not sweat, only my heart was beating fast. When I got to the primary school, I saw Kanu sitting down in front of one of the classrooms. He rush to me when he see me and tell me to be fast because his father will soon start looking for him. We walk away from the school to where Kanu tied the fowl to one plantain tree. Kanu loose the fowl and it make small noise. That stupid fowl, noise maker. It did not know that the whole village was asleep. We start walking to Ichaka’s house.

“But Tochi, what if you don’t see your family this night?” Kanu ask me.

“I will surely see them, Kanu. Ichaka will bring them out of the water,” I replied.

“If water carry something, that thing don’t used to come back again o,” Kanu say, looking at me somehow. I did not like that look. It do me as if Kanu want to tell me that my family will never come back, that Ichaka is powerful, yes, but he don’t have power to bring my family back, that true true, water is powerful and even stronger than the Ichaka. Chai, I did not like how I feel that time. Small part of me believed that Ichaka will bring them out. Another part believed that Kanu was telling the truth; I will not see them and I will continue to be alone.

“Water also carry my brother one time like that,” Kanu say and I stopped walking to look at him.

“Water carry your brother?” I ask, because the thing surprise me o. Kanu don’t used to do like who water carry his brother.

“Yes,” Kanu reply. “In my house, we are only two. Me and that my younger brother. I liked him very much eh. I used to fight anybody that look for his trouble. Then one day, we went to the market to buy foodstuffs because my mother was sick. At the market, rain started to fall. We ran under one small shed and waited and watched. Before you know it, the rain was now heavy. Very heavy, with wind blowing angrily as if something annoyed it in Heaven. Before you know it, the wind started throwing away many things that they market women were selling. One, her bucket where she used to keep her money flew away, scattering the money away in the rain. The woman was shouting that her money cannot just go like that. So, she enter the rain to pick them. Then as she was running, she slip and fall down. By this time, water have full everywhere. The rain was very heavy. Then my brother run inside the rain to go and help her stand up. That my brother is very kind. That is why I love him very much. Not only me, even our parents, our teachers, our neighbours, everybody just love him. As he ran to help her, I shouted that he should come back, because by this time, water was now washing away everything, the tables, the stools that the market women sit on, vegetables, peppers, meat, everything. I was afraid that the water will carry him, too. But he kept running towards the woman because she could not stand up. The water was surrounding her with anger. Then I saw my brother fall down also, the water was reaching his stomach, then his shoulders, then his neck, and then it covered him. I shouted and ran to pull him out. But I could not. I could not even see him. Many people’s bodies were already swimming inside the water. I managed and ran back home under the rain, crying and shouting that water has carried my sweet little brother. Even at home, water full everywhere. My parents were standing outside in the rain because the water had covered everything inside our house. When I tell them about my brother, my father screamed and ran out towards the market. My mother fall on the ground, inside the water o, and started saying that her son will never die. But me, I knew that my brother has gone. I saw how that water swallowed him. And it pains me that I could not help him. I really wish I stopped him from going to help that woman. When the rain stopped, my father came back carrying his dead body in his hand. My brother was swollen and when they press him, water poured out from his mouth and nose. So, that is how water carry my brother. I started to wish from that day that he will come back. But he did not. Dead people don’t used to come back.” Kanu finished talking.

I did not say anything. I was feeling pity for him. But I was somehow angry because Kanu is not giving me hope. So, I keep quiet until we reach Ichaka’s house. His house is small. It look like it have only one room. Kanu knocked on the front door. Nobody answered. He knocked again and one small boy open the door immediately. I remember him. It is the same small boy that follow Ichaka in that stream that time I saw him first.

“We want to see Ichaka,” Kanu tell the small boy.

“He is at the backyard. Go there and see him,” the small boy said as if he is commanding us. I felt like knocking his head for talking to us like that. Did he know how many years I used to senior him?

We walk to the backyard and we saw Ichaka sitting under one shed, in front of some red things. We see one thing that has a human being face. When Ichaka see us, he shout that we should remove our slippers before entering before his gods. We obeyed and sat before him. Then he ask us to wait, let him finish doing what he was doing. Ichaka is thin and I wonder how he will bring my parents back from that water. But I just believe that he is powerful. When he finish what he was doing, he turned and ask us what the problem is.

I opened my mouth and tell him my story of how I lost my family. Then I tell him that I saw him talking to the water and entering inside it one time and the water did not carry him. That it made me know he is powerful. “Please, Ichaka, I want you to go back to that water and tell it to bring back my family.” I kneel down and plead for him. Ichaka laughed very well, his Adam’s apple shaking as if it want to burst out of his throat. It annoy me that he was laughing. But I keep quiet.

“You want me to bring back the dead for you?” Ichaka ask, looking at me. His voice is not big. I thought he will have very big voice like Papa. “It is not possible. I cannot tell the water to bring them back. Even if I can, it is not this water that swallow them. Is it?”

I shake my head.

“So, no need. Just go home and sleep. And keep thinking about them, inugo?”

I start to cry now. It is now real that I cannot see my family again. I stand up from there and run away, crying all the way.

Chukwuemeka Famous

Chukwuemeka Famous

Chukwuemeka Famous is a Nigerian writer whose short story ‘Oyinbo’ was shortlisted for the Pack Light Writing Contest. He has also been a finalist for the Quramo Writer’s Prize in 2020, was longlisted for the Bold Call Writing Contest in 2022, and was nominated for the 2022 Young Writers and Creatives Award. His debut novel, We Will Live Again, was published by Griots Lounge Publishing in 2023. More of his writing has been published in the anthology Pack Light: Memories of Growing up in Africa, Ibua Journal, The Shallow Tales Review, WSA Magazine, and elsewhere.