In Chinua Achebe's Things Fall Apart, Nwoye, the son of the novel's tortured hero, Okonkwo, escapes his father's tyranny, disappearing into the new world of the Christian missionaries. Here, A.K. Kaiza re-imagines his fictional return, years later.
Of the day, it is the afternoon that I remember the clearest. There arose such a riot of light that, rather than blink or cup hands about my brow, I blocked my ears for the din that the light made.
The man that showed me the way to your grave spoke to me and in opening my mouth, solved the problem. I have heard many things said against me in my long life that I am a little gone in the ears, and with the long truck drive, the pressure had built and injured my eardrums. The man lent me strange words. I mumbled some, shyly for I was hiding my face.
It was not that the light was loud. Sure, it stood tall all around that long day, a relentless blaze as if the earth were under instructions to give up its darkness. It was my ears ringing. The pressure eased. Misplaced senses a-righted, unscrambled and returned to their rightful places. So I came alive to the silence.
I had come a long way, conveyed upon a cloud of unreality. Your fearsome face I feared would rear out of the bush. The tones of that voice that I had once trembled to, I expected any moment. I fear you still, in all these years of your death, yet wish to see you again. But to naught. Silence pressed all around.
Since that day, many long years ago, the District Commissioner ordered the Ashy Buttocks to cut loose your body, I have never returned home. I raised many children. Many are the grandchildren and greatgrandchildren--all whom I forbade to know you. The world moved so fast, I came to forget which way home was. Of your grave, no one remembered. That afternoon, after searching many years, I finally came upon it.
The few remaining steps to the grave were the longest journey I have yet taken, in my century and more of living. The briars and switches of time thickly in-grown I fought, cuts to my forearms, slashes to my shin, each cut hastening me forth. I was like a man crazed. Then there it was.
Of all the fear I had of you, of all the legends built of your deeds, a solitary hump upon the earth was all that remained. I felt time bend, right in the air, begin to creak, come loose and crumble to a thousand pieces. Never in my life have I ever felt such immense, sad, emptiness. I felt as if each single fibre of my being were that moment emptied of substance. No open mouth turned to the sky, no flailing arms nor fingers clawed at the air assuaged that afternoon. Only the light beat down, a relentless punisher.
Of what drove me off home, which I now see were forces driving multitudes...