It was a quiet Sunday morning when I awoke to the mournful cry of my twin sister. The house stood still, shrouded in silence. Our entire neighborhood lay deserted, except for Mallam Musa, who resided in our compound with his daughter. My sister, Iris, always referred to the girl as a witch, for she never revealed her face. She concealed herself with a scarf that masked her from nose to neck, followed by a long hijab that veiled her hair down to her toes. She seldom spoke to anyone.
I heard Iris’s agonizing screams. Having been unwell the day before, I had fallen asleep before the sun dipped below the horizon. With a throbbing head, I rose from my bed and began searching the house, only to discover her in the backyard, her legs stained with blood. She writhed in pain and tears streamed down her cheeks. She looked into my eyes and confessed that it was not her fault; her boyfriend had manipulated her, presenting her with a nine-month gift.
Our parents adhered to strict African-Nigerian values, and Iris was considered the black sheep of the family. We were polar opposites; she was headstrong and often sneaked out when our parents were away. Now, she had gone to the hospital to seek an abortion.
Panicking, I rushed to the front yard and found the mysterious girl, the supposed witch, who lived with Mallam Musa. I urgently inquired about his whereabouts, my voice trembling with desperation. Understanding the gravity of the situation, she hurried inside to fetch him. As I trembled with anxiety, he agreed to assist me in taking Iris to the hospital and fetched his car keys.
Upon returning, I found Iris lying on the ground, her body surrounded by a pool of her own blood. Her life seemed to be slipping away, casting her into an alternate realm. Witnessing Iris, once vibrant and headstrong, in such a state turned my stomach.
I suffered from a severe health condition that triggered breathlessness and hyperventilation, exacerbated by dust, strong odors, climate conditions, and intense emotions, making it potentially life-threatening. Seeing Iris pushed me over the edge, and I collapsed on the ground, gasping for air. Mallam Musa rushed into our home to retrieve my inhaler, and after several puffs, I regained consciousness. Tears flowed uncontrollably, soaking the green turtleneck shirt that Iris had ironically given me as a birthday gift.
A few hours later, my parents returned home to find the house in disarray. They discovered me on the floor, cradling Iris in my arms, with my inhaler beside me. My mother, upon seeing Iris, burst into tears, while my father swiftly scooped her up and rushed her to Kubwa General Hospital. The journey was rough, as my father and his colleagues were responsible for the local government area’s roads, which had deteriorated due to embezzlement. Abuja was a bustling city, and we encountered a multitude of injured and deceased individuals. Regrettably, Iris did not return home with us; she had ended up in the mortuary.
The pain in my heart was unbearable, and it felt as though grief was consuming me. An overwhelming emptiness and remorse replaced the space Iris once occupied. Chains of sorrow wrapped themselves around me, their cold, unyielding metal digging into my skin. Love had turned to hate, directed inward for my inability to prevent this tragedy.
On September 22, 2008, tears filled our eyes as we laid Iris to rest in the Library of Bones. We wept as the pastor conducted the ceremony, offering prayers and sprinkling a handful of sand onto her casket. The graveyard was filled with mourners, and Iris had become one of the mourned.
On October 1st, my father, a politician, attended the Independence Day ceremony at Eagle Square. I remained at home, alone, and asleep. I felt a gentle touch on my hands, a beckoning call. It was Iris, dressed in white, urging me to follow her. I awoke suddenly, realizing it was only a dream. It recurred frequently, and I became afraid of death.
Days turned into months, and my father suggested we consult a renowned man of God, the general overseer of our church, who resided in Lagos, Nigeria. We booked a flight to Lagos and explained our situation to him. My father wanted to lift the atmosphere, which had never been the same since Iris’s departure. While Iris no longer appeared to me, I suffered from months of depression, sadness, anger, moodiness, and isolation. There was no one to confide in; I was utterly alone.
Weeks later, we returned to Abuja, where I reunited with friends, but I longed for my sister. Time passed, and classes and terms progressed, yet the feeling of emptiness persisted.
On January 1, 2009, my mother gave birth to a baby girl. She bore an uncanny resemblance to Iris. Even as a newborn, you could see Iris’s eyes, ears, nose, and hair in hers. It was a beautiful reminder. I held her in my arms, played with her, and sang her the songs I used to sing with my sister. I named her Ọmọ́túndé because I believed she was my twin returned again.
Michelle Adegboro, a 14-year-old poet and short story writer, is an active member of the Hill-Top Creative Arts Foundation (HCAF). She firmly believes in her ability to create ripples in the literary world with her words.