Fiction: When No One Is Looking

‘Life is tough. So, so tough. Oh god of the cursed Iroko, bless me. Persecute my enemies. Give me wisdom that I may win the king's quest’, he prayed. Of all forest trees, the tortoise thought this Iroko to be special. It was a dwarf. His belief—Only he who could dwarf the tallest of the forest's trees had the power to grant his desire—made him a devoted worshipper.

The Prosperity Ark

Co-ko-roo-ko!, the town crier came alive announcing the break of dawn. He ended his prayers and set out for the square. The road to the square went up and down, a train of hills and valleys. It was still morning, yet numerous footprints were visible on the carpet of dew on the road. Trekking uphill sapped his energy more, he was tired and his feet were plastered with clay dust. Eventually, the clucking of birds and rustling of dry leaves gave way to voices and chorusing. He had arrived.

Everything and everywhere was bathed in clayish dust. Mirths of wet clay flew up and down. Castles without roofs littered the square. Everyone was busy, each person bending in the scenery. The fathers moulded, the kids ran errands and their wives chorused the praises of their husbands. Only the tortoise was aloof. 

It's been four days since the announcement. No day escaped his visit to the square. Yet one thing kept him intrigued—As the clouds receded for the sun, and the sun for the moon, so did the mood of the square. Lamenting in the morning, “Aah! Who destroyed my castle? This wasn't how I left it last night”; Labouring at noon, their bodies smeared with streaks of yellow-red clay powder that mixed with sweat; Scheming in the evening, “Eh! He is almost done? When morning comes, only its pieces will be left.”

When the tortoise wasn't intrigued, he was boasting, “Hear ye! Hear ye! Why have you decided to labour in vain? Only one person can win, and you know that's me.” “How?”, they asked bewildered. “You aren't working, just loafing and jesting. You truly are a joke.”

He wasn't the only one who visited. At midday, the town crier starting from the square went around the town resounding the king's quest— “The king's daughter is to marry the next market day. The one who builds the finest castles for her will be hugely rewarded. Three days to go. Let the wisest win.” Rinse and repeat, two more days passed.

Poetry: Forever Babies

The next morning, every contestant gathered at the square. Only the tortoise wasn't present. When someone mentioned that he saw him snoring while coming, it was the final nail in the coffin—one less person to worry about clinching the reward. 

“It takes half the time between two crows to build a castle to finish. I’ve worked for days now, yet I’ve never been so far behind”

“We keep shouting ‘the finest..the finest’. Not one person here has a completed castle, talk less of a beautiful one”

“Two days ago, I was almost done. When I arrived yesterday, instead of the castle, it was the pieces I saw on the floor. No one seemed to know what happened.”

“Same here. Nothing survives the night.”

“We all know what is going on. We just won't confess.”

“What then is the way forward? Shouldn't we just let one person win”

“Noooo…No way I will agree to that unless it's me”

“You? Same you who is tightfisted. You won't even sniff the scent.”

“Ehn, ehn. Let's all lose together then”

And so the argument continued. Tiredness kicked in eventually. One by one, they rambled back, each person to his workplace

The day went on, and eventually, the sunlight began to recede. Shadows became chameleons, disguising themselves under the cover of darkness. It was nighttime, the eve of the King's reward. Many tried to keep watch, but the day's stress brought sleep calling. The last of them to stay awake started snoring after bringing down castles around the square. Everyone was asleep, except him who slept while the sun gave her light.

In the cover of darkness, the tortoise knew his prayers were answered because the moon shone brightly. And when he had finished building his castle, the finest of them all, no one was awake to destroy it.

Moral— Learn to build in secret. Leave the results to do the speaking.


  1. Eiiii, deep deep. Lesson learnt. That's such a beautiful one, Oluwagbemisola

    1. Thank you very much. I'm glad you loved it.πŸ’œπŸ’œ
      P.S: Klistivivi is the writer here😁.


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