The ‘dreamolition’: A short story
I wake up to the sound of my door creaking open. Someone has just entered or is about to. I must’ve forgotten to lock the door since I got knocked out the previous evening watching Ricky Gervais' comedy special on Netflix. The hour is, I’m sure, only still a few centimetres away from midnight. So I spring up. Bolt immediately into the kitchen to hide. And pick up the only knife I have. Visualising how I’ll aim for the neck so the act can be easier when I’m faced with the mortal decision of either killing or getting killed.
But when the shadow creeps behind the sofa adjacent to the door that leads into the kitchen and I take a glance, it reveals the frame of my landlord’s eccentric son, Emmanuel, who can’t be more than eight years old. I return the knife but can see the object is within his line of vision. His laughter fills the small one-bedroom apartment, which I’d moved into in the first week of August 2020, weeks after the notorious lockdown was lifted in Nigeria.
I had grown tired of killing and taking pictures of scorpions in my old apartment across the highway and, since I’d made some extra bucks from freelancing and sitting my ass indoors during the lockdown, I started surfing through Jiji for a bigger place to stay. That search led me here. A standalone bungalow sharing a spacious compound with a two-bed occupied by the landlord, Mr So, and his family. And it was newly built. I moved in and made it my new home.
I’ve been here nearly two years now and will likely be here at least another year after that. Mr So has three kids. One was in uni when I became his tenant and the second just joined her at the same school down south. So, I’m the closest thing to a sibling and young person that Emmanuel has around — except for kids in school. It’s admittedly too much responsibility for me.
Anyway, he and I have a ritual these days. When I get home from work, he runs excitedly out of their house and starts narrating some incident that happened in his school or asking some question only a child would dare ask or telling me about a new movie he’d just watched or sharing something he’d just learned — like how people who are creative often don’t have tidy rooms or how one dime is literally even more valuable than most schoolchildren’s pocket money or how life forms first arrived on Earth after Mars’ destruction and will return there after Earth is destroyed.
But we both know all he wants to do is sink his ass in my beige sofa and watch Rick and Morty.
Since he discovered it on my Netflix, he’s become a fan. So every evening, we watch one episode and then I can get rid of him and watch something else by myself, like an hour-long episode of Ozarks or, like yesterday evening, Gervais’ Netflix special, SuperNature.
I am relieved it is only Emmanuel and I don’t have to kill anyone in self-defence. After escorting him out, I shut the door and see a circus of ants on the wall just behind the door. My apartment is itching to be a crime scene, after all. I fetch my can of insecticide and begin a genocidal rave. I visit other parts of the apartment and fleet there too. Every single corner. I even discover some tiny toilet I had no idea existed. Why in the world would I need two guest toilets, I think. When I’m done, I return to bed, proud of my accomplishment.
I do not get a good amount of sleep because, not long after, I hear someone breaching my door. Shit. Did I forget to turn the lock again? When I step out, I see Emmanuel and a younger kid, four or five years old, on my porch, scampering away. The younger kid is strange, yet familiar. I’ve always thought Emmanuel was the last-born so where did he come from? Before I’m able to arrange my thoughts and memories to make sense of what’s happening, I notice something else.
My landlord’s house has been hollowed out by a bulldozer.
There are other people in the compound trying to sympathise with him and his family. One of them laughs as he mocks how deeply I must’ve slept not to have noticed the house collapsing around me. Taking the cue, I look back to see my rented home in ruins too. Roofless. Uninhabitable. It’s drizzling so I rush in to make sure my clothes and appliances are safe, but see that someone had already taken the pains to cover them in tarpaulin.
In the past week, at least two dozen houses had been similarly demolished by the developers to make room for some river that flows through the estate and to prevent a recurring annual flooding disaster. Our house had not been marked for demolition, but it sits precariously at the precipice of disaster, overlooking the ghosts of what used to be people’s homes.
The apartment opposite ours was marked in that ominous red paint though (the residents given four days to move out, an ultimatum that has since lapsed), but we embraced the possibility that it was a mistake. The handiwork of an overzealous worker running ahead of his mandate.
We live very close to the carnal. The wreckage surrounded us. But we assured ourselves it would not get to us. Now it has. I cast a glance at Mr So and there’s a sadness on his face that asks where the fuck we are going from here, as if he’s trying to take responsibility for my sudden homelessness. But there’s also something about a sad, forlorn look on Mr So that seems questionable. And the second I question it, an unravelling takes place that feels like the director and camera crew in a prank show getting caught by their victim and admitting their fraudulence.
Gratefully, I open my eyes into the comfort of a whirring fan, a group of croaking frogs in the far nightly distance, and my bed.