Excerpt from “Cupboards in the Dark” by Yewande Omotoso
13 Sep 2016
This is an excerpt from PEN SA member Yewande Omotoso’s story “Cupboards in the Dark”, from the anthology How Free is FREE? Reflections on Freedom of Creative Expression in Africa, Arterial Network’s free ebook compilation of poems, articles and works of fiction on the subject of freedom of creative expression in Africa. Read more about the eBook here and download it from Arterial Network’s website.
THEMBI COULD HEAR it. A knock-knock. She thought to get out of bed and put her ear to the wall between her room and her parents. She peeped over the top of her duvet.
The big shape was the cupboard, but in the dark it looked like a ghost, a giant tokoloshe, a monster waiting … one of those things from the horror movie she was not supposed to watch but did anyway.
The dark shape looked as if it could talk, as if it had moving parts and if she stared long enough it would start walking. It was on nights like these that Thembi wished she had a sister, older or younger didn’t matter. There was that sound again. Knock-knock.
She would even be happy with a brother on such nights.
Her parents had told her she was going to have a brother and her mother’s belly grew a bit and then after some time it became small again. And still she had no brother.
Thembi ducked back underneath the duvet, and to really feel invisible she closed her eyes. The noise continued. The reason she wanted someone else in the room with her, someone like her not an adult, was because on nights like these she wanted to be able to talk, get through the darkness and the unnerving knock-knock.
She wanted to be able to say, “That noise again, can you hear?” and “Can you see the tokoloshe?”
There was no one to talk to right away. And talking about what happened at night the next day was not the same. But it was better than nothing so Thembi spoke to her only friend, Esther.
The following day at school, during playtime, Thembi looked for
Esther. She wanted to ask her to come to the far-off swings that scared the other children. There was a story that if you sat in those swings – the ones with rust and not nice paint – an evil spirit will enter through your toes,
move up your legs and never leave your heart. Thembi didn’t believe in things like that – not during the daytime anyway. Swings could not send spirits up your toes, it was stupid.
with rust and not nice paint – an evil spirit will enter through your toes,
move up your legs and never leave your heart. Thembi didn’t believe in
things like that – not during the daytime anyway. Swings could not send
spirits up your toes, it was stupid.
Cupboards in the dark, though.
(Image courtesy of Arterial Network)