The loud music playing from the speakers from the fayrouz stand did nothing to interrupt Rein’s train of thought as he trudged past. He knew better than to let emotions other than confidence, laughter and nonchalance show in front of anybody but he lost control this evening. He hadn’t meant to but something inside him had seemed to snap. There was only so much of this madness called life that he could take; no more. He walked a few more paces before his stomach growled. He was tempted to ignore it.

Finally, he sighed and reached into the right pocket of his dark hoodie. He withdrew fastidiously rolled weed. He considered it for moments before replacing it in his pocket. Next, he reached behind his jeans and collected his wallet. Perusing through, he nodded in satisfaction at seeing enough for him to purchase sustenance.

A left turn at the first junction, a right turn at the second junction and a stride to the left brought him to the gate of his destination. As he pushed against the vertical lines of beads that served as curtains to gain entry, his eyes skirted briefly to the inhabitants of the eatery tent – a couple seated across each other, a mother and daughter side by side, two young females and two young males. There was an unoccupied table and he went to sit on it. He knew that he should go up to the counter to make his order and payment but for a moment, Rein wanted to simply sit.

It seemed as though the customers weren’t keen on a conversation because a startled gasp from one of the two young males drew Rein’s attention to them; he had not realized the near silence of the food tent beside the sizzling sounds of something frying in the closed-off make-shift kitchen behind the counter and cutlery clangs. The group huddled together to hear from their friend what the matter was. All Rein was able to glean from the conversations were the words strange animal, the danger posed, sighted, escaped, unknown. The young male showed his friends his phone and after they glimpsed at it, they withdrew their own phones and entered something on google. There were gasps and hushed conversations. The group stood and picking up their backpacks and phones, exited.

Rein dragged his feet up later and went to order the food he wanted. He was relieved when he ate it all and sagged against the chair. He had always felt like he bore a boulder on his lean shoulders and the weight constantly threatened to put him to the ground. He had turned to all available means he knew to ease the weight—drugs, women, work—but nothing worked. He sighed, he wouldn’t take his life but he wasn’t living it either.

Trudging back towards the direction of home, his eyes briefly met eyes that were golden where white ought to be and doe-brown irises. He yelled and jumped back.

“What was that? What did I just see? It could have been merely a hallucination, right? Of course, it was not a hallucination, I am sober right now.” he reasoned aloud. Rein was shocked at himself. That was the most words he’d spoken by himself.

At 7 pm, the street to Rein’s home was lonely even as lights neighbours’ security lights showed the way. But Rein walked in the shadows away from the streaming lights. Rein didn’t want to dwell further on what he may or may not have seen. A sudden movement in his periphery turned his head and he gaped at deep brown fur of something that reminded him of a soccer ball—a big one. Before he could further react, the fur rolled towards him and he stood frozen whether, from curiosity or terror, he couldn’t tell. Slowly, the thing unfurled and stood on its hind limbs with its back hunched and forelimbs hanging limp in its front.  And with the same unusual eyes that Rein had earlier met, it fixed its gaze on him.

Rein liked animals; he had nothing against them but all from a distance. He enjoyed the NatGeo wild channel on DSTV; things about animals fascinated him because often times than not, he understood them. They reminded him of him but free. He didn’t feel free. A voice in Rein’s head assured him that it was okay to reach out to this creature, whatever it was. But the logical part of him fought it. He could get himself killed and for what. For not taking precautions and not using common sense when it was necessary.  

The creature blinked and Rein could have sworn that time slowed in that single motion. An eerie sense of being in the presence of something uncommon caused the hairs on his skin to stand. He didn’t know what to do.

The sound of footsteps approaching caused him to turn and he started. Janet: his neighbour and his love once upon a time was coming to his direction. Not that she knew because he was in front of her house—not on purpose, the next one was his—and she was wearing tights, a baggy sweater and flip-flops—her comfy clothes—she also had her attention on her phone and didn’t falter in her pace until she raised her head and her eyes settled on him. He noticed the flit of expressions on her lovely face—from bewilderment to suspicion to calm. Then Janet’s eyes shifted to the creature and she jumped in fright. The three of them were now only a few paces from one another.

Nobody moved until the creature made a sound—it reminded Rein of the sound of thunder with its impact only somehow less.

“You must be hungry. I have food if you will just come with me inside.” Janet’s voice jolted Rein alert. Was she crazy? He thought. No one in their right mind, especially in their part of the world, would invite that strange thing anywhere. And she invited it into her home!

Janet, like him, lived in the same compound as her parents but instead of the main house, she stayed alone at the two-bedroom Boys Quarters. Before that day, Rein had never been in it. Things with Janet had ended long before she moved there for the time being; he knew she planned on leaving eventually. The belch of the creature startled him not because he forgot about it but the surprise that it could do that; it had finished a feast of rice and beans with pieces of chicken earlier.

The creature’s tongue lolled to one side of his mouth as its strange eyes lighted up with excitement looked from Janet to Rein.

“I think it wants to play,” Janet said softly.

“Why would we care?” Rein scowled.

“I don’t know. How did you come to find him?”

Rein cocked a brow. “It’s him now? I don’t understand you one bit. This situation is driving me nuts and you sit there all serene and unflinching as if this happens every day.” He realized he was venting his frustrations at her and a small voice whispered to him that he was wrong but he didn’t want to listen; he would care more than he already did.

Janet sighed as she wearily rubbed the heel of her palms against her eyes. “The most absurd thing happened to me last night. I dreamt of his coming. It didn’t feel like a dream and all day, while I have found myself busy, I noticed that I was readying for his arrival. I knew you would bring him but I didn’t know how.”

Rein felt the oddest sense of apprehension in her words. “What are you talking about? Do you know how spooky all of this is? We are not in some damned books and about to fulfil some mission. This is real life.” His voice was dangerously low; he was growling or so he thought until he paused. A sidelong glance to his right revealed the creature looking at him with disapproval in his eyes and a barely veiled warning not to cross the line. Rein sat up straight.


“Do you know what he is?”

In response, Janet unlocked her phone, opened a page and passed it to him. Tentatively, Rein received it and his eyes moved over the content on the page. Again, the words he had heard at the food tent that evening came unbidden to mind.

“An association of international zoologists, doctors and scientists known as M.E.R.R.U – mass environmental recovery researchers unit – have reason to believe that the chaiim pronounced chai-yeem has been spotted in our world. Before now, its existence like the existence of several creatures that make up life has been doubted.

To many, this strange animal has the danger it posed. Although few claims having sighted it, they insist it disappeared right before their eyes. This escape is not unusual for such a creature as the chaiim and presently, its whereabouts are largely unknown.

“This news is not meant to breed panic in any way for in the books, the chaiim are recorded to be extremely peaceful creatures who won’t stand to see strife without getting involved. They have not been known to hurt anyone either except in extreme cases. As for their origin, it is debated hotly that it appears once in a thousand years to avert crisis and restore balance before vanishing again.” Rein whizzed out air from his mouth noisily. “Ain’t this swell? We are dealing with serious sci-fi stuff now. This has all got to be some kinds of a bad trip and what makes this worse is the fact that I am sober for it.” Rein slammed his palm over his face and ran it down in swift motions, “Janet, what do we do now?” He heard the resignation in his own voice. It was weird; he felt the oddest sense of peace now that he was no longer fighting it.

“We have to help him.” Janet reached for the mug on the stool beside her and took a sip of the chocolate drink. As she was trying to place it back, it slipped from her hands. For the second time that evening, Rein felt the air thicken as time slowed and he reached for the mug halting its descent to the floor. He placed it on the stool and moved away.

“How did you do that?” Janet asked completely flummoxed and breathless.

Rein shrugged. “I think it has to do with our new friend Chaiim.”

“I feel like we are in for an adventure.” She regarded him with a soft smile. She used to give him that smile a long time ago. It spoke of shared secrets and intimacy no one else knew but him. He felt a tingling in his flesh. It pleased him. Somehow, the boulder has started to lift.

A soft hum of electricity caused him to look in the direction of Chaiim. All of him was glowing. Sensations like no other surged through Rein and Janet. It was as if in their mind’s eye, they were seeing their incapacities crumble like the walls of Jericho and in its place a new strength like warmth in their bellies that assure them of pleasant times ahead.

May 15, 2020 18:06

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Vrishni Maharaj
15:31 Jun 02, 2020

I enjoyed reading this! Good job :)


Chizoba Ebunilo
17:07 Jun 03, 2020

Thank you for taking your time to read this. I am glad you enjoyed it. Really


Vrishni Maharaj
18:39 Jun 03, 2020

Oh definitely! I would also love to hear your thoughts on my work, if you don’t mind! :)


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Palak Shah
14:15 Apr 02, 2021

This was an amazing story and super original; I enjoyed this wholeheartedly and hope to read some more of your stories. Hope you will also read some of my stories Keep on writing. ~Palak Shah


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Karin Mabry
02:46 May 21, 2020

Ok, so firstly, I never considered your animal to have the characteristics it did. Never. That was great, very out there. Secondly, I liked your style of writing, like you have read a lot. I've read a bunch but not necessarily a lot. Writers should, though. Lastly, like I said, very 'out there', like you took your ideas to the far stretch of where they could go, super original. 👍


Chizoba Ebunilo
19:30 May 21, 2020

You think so? I am honored Karin, honestly. Yes, I read a lot. It's how I know anything about writing. A lil secret, I was so lazy about writing this. I love to write but discipline is required because feeling like it doesn't come often. I hope we become friends. Thank you for commenting.


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