Short Story: The Evidence of Things Unseen- a Speculative Fiction by Chinelo Onwualu
Considering that it’s the first day of vacation, and I’m staying on campus (NOT TO MENTION IT’S BEEN SNOWING ALL DAY!), I’ve had a wonderful time reading various short stories on brittlepaper.com today. One narrative in particular really caught my attention: the Evidence of Things Unseen- a Speculative Fiction by Nigerian writer/editor/journalist/self-proclaimed dog person Chinelo Onwualu. In a style that some may call “surrealist realism,” this story certainly has some magical (and dark) undertones unlike anything we’ve read all semester.
The story begins with a 12-year-old girl adorned in a hijab selling groundnuts at a bustling market in some undisclosed location. Characterized for her maturity (that I interpret as some kind of hidden wisdom or clairvoyance), her attention becomes fixated on a foreign man (presumably a white tourist) who she internally declares “to be the one” that she and her “sisters” have been looking for; specifically noting that they cannot afford to be mistaken once again. Upon deciding that there will be no more sales for the day, she puts away her groundnuts and hurriedly proceeds to follow this man as the sun starts to set, for “the coming of night would give him power.” Along the journey other hijab-covered girls (her sisters) join the protagonist until all 12 of these “Warriors of Light” have surrounded the man, their shadows elongated from the setting sun and their coverings strewn across the ground. From the depth of their dresses, they yield long swords as the man mutates- his face suddenly reminiscent to melting candlewax, his fingernails like sharpened daggers, and a laugh sounding “like the scream of a thousand tortured children.” The girls succeed in chopping this man to pieces, only to stand and watch his body melt into a “blackened pool” of nothingness. The story ends by attributing different names to this man, some calling him the Lord of Chaos, the Unmaker, or the most common: the Destroyer. My literary curiosities are left dangling as the 12-year-old protagonist mentally recites a prayer of thanks, wipes the blood off her sword, and returns to normalcy. I’m left considering the significance of the title for this story: the Evidence of Things Unseen- a Speculative Fiction. Who or what does this man represent? Would it be too obvious to think of him as a predator who has pried off children? Does this story relate to how Westerners are viewed in Africa? One thing’s for certain- I’ll be contemplating the meaning of this story for days.