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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Soul (07/13/06)

TITLE: A Simple Exchange
By Folakemi Emem-Akpan


A simple exchange

It was a simple exchange. Was supposed to be. But two years later, I know I’ve been cheated. Deceived, battered, and robbed.

It started innocently enough. A chronically poor person, I’d been friends with Ayo for as long as my memory serves me, and he was no better than me. Together, we’d scoured the streets of Lagos looking for every and any job, even tried our hands unsuccessfully at scam mails for a while. Then I got married down and he moved away.

When next he came to town, he was a big man, complete with agbada, scraping servants, and a bewildering entourage of cars. Me? I was bogged down by a wife, three kids, and an unsteady job. We were hardly surviving.

“Let me into your secret.” I begged, ready to do anything. Rob a bank…go back to scamming…anything.

I was ready to do anything but what Ayo asked me to do.

Staring at him wide-eyed at the local doctor’s place, I wondered if I ever knew him at all. The Ayo I’d known was gentle, peace-loving and couldn’t kill a fly even if his life depended on it. Then it dawned on me. I’d never known him.

“It’s the only way, Chris. After all, it’s just a case of dog eat dog.”

“Ayo?” my voice shook so much I thought I’d fall down and die.

“Grow up,” he snapped at me, then turned to the aged medicine man. “Baba, he will come around. He’s too poor and desperate to do otherwise.”

I did grow up. I did as they said, came back in a month with the freshly cut head of a young boy. He couldn’t have been a day over twelve. I couldn’t bear to look at him too long, because each time I did, I thought of how his family must be grieving. The unfortunate boy. One game too much, the killer who’d sold him to me had said. Playing football and away from school, my paid hitman had lured him away. Lured him away to kill him.

Haunted by what I’d done, I tried in earnest to forget it, blank it out, but the soap Baba gave me was a constant reminder. Each night, as I bathed with the foul-smelling substance, I thought again and again of that young boy…whose remains was now part of my soap’s ingredient.

The money came.

Unexpectedly, in torrents, from every conceivable and inconceivable angle. Contracts started to pour in. friends long forgotten contacted me and gave me projects to execute, projects worth millions of Naira. I had arrived.

Then began the torment.

The first nightmare crept in on me subtly. I was alone in my room, for I couldn’t ever have sexual relationships again, not even with my wife (just one of the long lists of do-nots I was given by Baba). The young boy smiled at me in my dream, hugged me, then pulled out a dagger from the folds of his trouser, and stabbed at where my heart was supposed to be. I woke, with my heart throbbing and the left side of my body numb.

A mild heart attack, the doctors called it.

The boy, whose name I would never know, came to me again, burying a long fishing pole into my belly. You guessed right…my kidneys failed.

Then my eyes, my mouth, and my legs.

“We never give all the details…” Baba told me, “If I had told you all that would happen to you, you would have backed out.”


“Ha, you’re wondering why he’s alive and well. He might be alive… but he’s never going to marry…and have you…have you seen his back in a while?”

I shook my head no.

“He’s battling with his own ailment, only keeps it well hidden. He’s got a cancerous sore underneath those elegant clothes and it’s going to be the end of him.”


“What did you expect? You sold your soul to the devil.”

Was that what I’d done?

“Can’t we reverse it? I don’t want the money anymore.”

“It can’t be undone. You entered into a contract and I believe both sides have benefited.
You got your money…and he got his victim.”


He never answered…only his coarse laughter trailed me as I limped to the waiting car.

In some African countries, some people still practice ritual killing, which involves killing another being in order to get rich, as ordered by herbalists.

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This article has been read 617 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Cristy Zinn07/20/06
Hectic piece. You had me from the beginning. Skillful, hard hitting writing.
terri tiffany07/20/06
Whew...this was a tough read but a well written one. Word by word, the detail was fascinating.:)
Jan Ackerson 07/21/06
Yikes! A "selling one's soul to the devil" story that's not fantasy, but reality...gripping and heartbreaking. Stunningly written.
david grant07/21/06
This was a scary read. Very well told. (A solid reminder to those here at FW hungering for a "win" in the writing challenge. Its not worth your soul)
Amy Nicholson07/22/06
Isn't it amazing how "people can get away with murder", even if only symbolically, all over the world! A gruesome, yet well-executed story.