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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: River (08/31/06)

TITLE: Point of change
By Folakemi Emem-Akpan


Point of change

The scenery has hardly changed. The river still looks half asleep, curling away from view in the fetal position, telling nothing of the lives it’s changed. The same pregnant stillness still pervades the air.

Is it four years already?


“I got a raise.” Biodun barreled into the house, lifting me off my feet and laughing his delicious masculine laughter.

“A raise?” I repeated stupidly. He was overdue for promotion, and we’d told ourselves ‘maybe next year’. It was a nice way of losing hope without seeming to do so.

“Yes, a raise,” he laughed again, “we’re going to celebrate.”

River Aimet was one hour’s drive away from Lagos’ never-ending chaos. We sang silly nursery rhymes with the twins the entire way. Our destination was deserted that sunny afternoon. We played chase with the kids awhile until my legs gave way. Then we sat near the bank, our feet immersed in the water, reliving those days when we were newly in love.

“Daddee, chase me…” Taiwo demanded.

Biodun shook his head no.

“I’ll chase you.” Her twin offered. Before we knew it, they’d disappeared round the bend.

Ten minutes …and the sound of the children playing. Twenty minutes…then a heart-rending shriek. Taiwo was holding his foot up, Kehinde was rolling around precariously close to the river; both were crying. A frightened rattlesnake was sneaking away into the underbrush.

The car was parked a tortuous half mile away. On the long drive back to civilization, Taiwo was silenced forever. Kehinde dragged out his final breath as the doctors scurried to tend him.

I sank into an abyss. Biodun sank even lower.

The next year was a torment. My arms were achingly empty. The rooms were barren, bare of life. I plodded through the days, working from dawn to dusk, numbing the pain with activity.

Biodun went through four jobs in seven months. He eventually quit and turned to bourbon. He was even farther away from me than the kids were. We shared less than a dozen sentences per week.

I was hurting; he was hurting, and it hurt too much to discuss the pain. We went through the motions of life, dying a little every day, sinking further into hell’s chasm.

On the first anniversary of the twins’ death, I came home to a phone message. They’d found Biodun at River Aimet. There was a single hole in his temple, and there was a gun.

They found only his fingerprints. He didn’t even leave a note.

There were no tears this time. Drained of all emotions, I just wanted to crawl into bed and sleep off the nightmare. I slept but the nightmare was even the more real. The twins were crying, Biodun was bleeding from the head, and they were all clamoring for my attention.

I woke up, drenched in sticky sweat.

The following day, I drove to the river. I sat down where we’d sat the previous year and pretended I was talking with Biodun, pretended the twins were demanding we chase them.

The carving knife sliced my right wrist nicely. My life source bubbled to the surface with a red vengeance. The sight made me laugh, then cry. I started to cut the left wrist.

“Stop that.”

I whirled around in guilt, in frustration, in terror.

The man was as startled as I was but did a good job of concealing it. “You shouldn’t do that.”

I tried to speak but couldn’t. My hand was beginning to ache now, my vision blurring.

He came closer to me. “Yesterday I found a man here. He shot himself.”

Nausea erupted in my belly. “He was my husband.”

His eyes opened wide in consternation, understanding, pity.

“Suicide has never been the best way to end life. Come, let me get you to the hospital.”

Feeling faint, I allowed him lead me back to the car, back to Lagos, back to life.


It’s been a long process.

It’s four years today that Taiwo and Kehinde died, three that Biodun did.

River Aimet remains the same.

Been three years since God found me. Frederick, the pastor who’d found me came visiting everyday. He spoke of another river – a happy one - one running through heaven. A place believers could congregate to talk. Did I want to be there? Of course.

I’ve come to say my final goodbye, here at the place they were taken.

Someday, I’ll see the twins again. So sad I can’t say the same about Biodun.

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Member Comments
Member Date
Donna Haug09/07/06
Oh, wow! What a heart wrenching story! You carried me to the depths with her dispair. I felt like the rescue and recovery could have been described with a little more detail to counter-balance the heaviness of the first part. I know word count is restraining though.
geoff anderson09/07/06
Very well written, with skilful use of dialogue. The opening paragraph is wonderfully evocative of life's beginnings (the river's fetal position and the pregnant stillness of the air).
You describe them coping with the deaths of their children with sensitivity and realism.
I only have two points to question, well three if I include the title, which is a bit 'bare' for such an emotional story, though I have no suggestions.
Firstly, I wish the story was more involved with its theme of River. It's merely a backdrop, which could as easily be a canyon. The reference to a heavenly river at the end doesn't really save it since the real river hadn't been particularly UNheavenly. I DO have a simple suggestion here and that is for the children to fall into the river and drown. Although this still doesn't make the river 'evil', so to speak, nonetheless it does imbue it with much more 'emotional responsibility' for the deaths than simply being a backdrop.
Secondly, you have two really heavy themes running in the story: grief and suicide. I accept that the latter was caused by the former but if suicide was intended to be the central theme, then somehow I feel it needed to play a larger part, perhaps beginning the story after the children's deaths and so concentrating more on ways to cope, among which is the most tragic, suicide.
But I was touched by the story, without a doubt.
Marilyn Schnepp 09/07/06
As for Biodun - don't forget Samson's suicide...and it mentions in the Bible that he will be in heaven. So don't assume you won't see Biodun again. Just a thought...in case this is a non-fiction story.
Lynda Schultz 09/08/06
I hung on every word. Great job.
david grant09/08/06
Wow. Lots of great reading in this work. Thanks for sharing it.
Lisa Cox09/08/06
Riveting....I found myself racing through it to see what would happen.
Sharlyn Guthrie09/12/06
Your story is heart-rending. I felt the mother's emptiness and pain. Great job in the telling of it.
Phyllis Inniss09/14/06
O, what griefs we have to bear! Your story held me throughout as I felt the pain and the loss. It seemed too much to bear, but you were saved, to tell it. Thanks for sharing.