A couple of days ago a friend of mine sent me a link to this post on www.thenakedconvos.com. It led me to a very interesting challenge: a story told backwards, in time blocks of two: two hours earlier, two days earlier, two months earlier and two years earlier. The premise caught my attention immediately, as did the word-limit. I had never written a story as short as 1200 words before, and neither had I ever written a story unfolding in reverse. And so I decided to give it a go.
This is what I came up with.
Aigbe watched Esosa tumble backwards onto the floor. He thought to himself that she quite looked like a fish out of water – flailing about, reaching for support that would not come. He watched the back of her head crash onto the cold, tiled floor with a sickening, wet sound. Leaping astride her semi-conscious body, he rained three solid blows onto her torso, working his way from her lower ribcage to her sternum. She yelped, shook and choked with each blow, unable to fight back.
“You are the one that will die, not me, Stupid Harlot!”
He spat into her face as the last blow landed and she choked violently, jerking with the impact of the blow and recoiling from the glob of projectile spittle that had hit her face.
“You! Are! A! Mad! Dirty! Prostitute!”
Each word was punctuated by a slap that sent waves of pain coursing through Esosa’s head. She could barely speak or shout or scream in protest, much less move. She felt herself start to slip into a numb blackness but she tried to hold on. Aigbe wrapped his hands around her neck and muttered.
“Witch! Harlot! Your plan has failed!”
Esosa closed her eyes and let the numbing darkness take her as her husband choked the remaining life from her, his wedding ring pressing into against her carotid artery…
2 hours earlier
Esosa smiled to herself as she poured the brown powder into the bottle of Merlot. She re-corked it and shook it violently until the powder began to dissolve. She knew Aigbe was already on his way home. Frank Ocean played softly from the speakers; her long dress billowed about her legs as she walked purposefully to the dining table. Today she had prepared Aigbe’s favorite dish, the one he ordered on their first date. She smiled at the memory. It seemed so long ago. Esosa checked the bottle of wine.
The poison had dissolved completely. That was good.
She went into the bedroom she shared with her husband, lay down on the bed with her eyes closed, and waited.
The sound of the car horn a while later told her that Aigbe was home.
Esosa walked to the dining room, opened the bottle of Merlot and poured into two glasses. She took one in her hand and held it to her lips. She breathed deeply, once, tipped her head back and swallowed the wine.
Wiping her mouth, Esosa picked up the other glass and went to meet her husband. Aigbe walked in through the door and paused. His wife was wearing his favorite dress, the one that hugged her hips so sensually, and was waiting for him with a glass of wine in her hand.
Esosa smiled, showing her perfect teeth. “Hello, love.”
She walked over to her him and kissed him gently, lovingly. Aigbe smiled his slow mischievous smile. “Oookay, talk about a warm welcome. What are we celebrating? Don’t tell me I forgot our anniversary again?”
“No,” she replied, placing the glass in his hand. In truth he had forgotten their anniversary, but that was last week.
“What are we celebrating, then?” he asked again.
“Us,” said Esosa simply.
He smiled wider, and drank the glass empty. Esosa watched him do it.
She would tell him what she had done. But not now, she thought to herself. She would wait till he ate the dinner she lovingly prepared. She would wait till they made love in their matrimonial bed, wait till she satisfied him in every way.
And then she would tell him…
2 days earlier
“Do you have it?” Esosa asked.
“Do you have the money?” came the quick reply.
“Do you have it?” Esosa retorted, firmly.
The young man scowled. “Yes,” he said.
She nodded. “Good.”
The youth reached into the pocket of his oversized jacket, his eyes darting left and right, scanning the empty street. He had refused to meet with her anywhere else.
The youth drew a plastic bag with a fine brown powder in it out of his pocket, but did not offer it to her. He held it loosely between two fingers, waiting.
Esosa glanced at it, then back at him. “How long did you say it takes to act?”
“A couple of hours, give or take. Maybe three. More than enough time to be far away from the scene when it happens.”
She nodded, satisfied. More than enough time. Esosa opened her handbag and pulled out a wad of cedi notes. She was paying much more than she knew she should, but it did not matter. She handed the money over to the boy. He handed the bag over to her.
“One more thing,” he said. “You did not meet me here. You have never met me anywhere, ever. After we leave this place, you don’t know me and I don’t know you. Understand?”
The young man turned and started walking away. Esosa called after him, “Wait.”
“Are you sure it’s painless?” asked Esosa slowly.
The boy nodded. “There’s no pain. It’s like dropping slowly off to sleep.” He chuckled. “Or so I’ve been told.” He continued walking.
Soon she stood alone on the street, a bag in her hand and her head full of memories…
2 months earlier
“What did you say?” Esosa whispered. But she knew what she heard. She simply could not bring herself to believe it.
It cannot be…
The middle aged man sitting across from her – the Doctor she knew and trusted for years – sighed and rubbed his temples. “It’s a relatively new disease to us. We… we don’t know much about it yet. But the tests are definite. I’m sorry.”
She felt her world collapsing around her. From far away she heard her own voice asking:
“Is there a cure?”
The way the doctor avoided her eyes answered her question even before he said, “No. It has no cure, as far as we know.”
There was a long silence.
“How will he die?” Esosa asked quietly.
The doctor hesitated. “Sorry..?”
“How will my husband die?”
The doctor hesitated again, but something in her eyes begged the truth. There was no point in feeding her false hope. “Slowly,” he said. “And when the time comes, painfully.”
There was another, shorter pause. Then Esosa rose. “Thank you, Doctor. Thank you for being honest with me.”
He asked, “Would you like me to inform him?”
She replied, “No. I will.”
But she wouldn’t. She never would.
As Esosa exited the Doctor’s office and closed the door behind her, she knew exactly what she would do.
2 years earlier
Esosa had never felt as happy as she felt that day. As the priest recited her vows and she repeated them after him, she was the luckiest woman in the world. Aigbe, standing with her on the altar, flashed her a secret smile.
The old priest intoned, “In sickness and in health… till death do you part.”
“Till death do us part,” said Esosa.
“I now pronounce you man and wife.”
Then Aigbe took her in his arms and kissed her, and the crowd assembled in the auditorium erupted in cheers, and in that moment she was the happiest woman in the Universe.
And deep in her heart Esosa made a vow.
Not even Death would do them part.