This is the shirt you put on.
“It can smell you. And it hasn’t had breakfast yet,” Nonso says to you as you both stand by the well.
You look at your brother. Nonso isn’t wearing his best shirt, but his yellow one with a big hole near the neck. You can see the delight behind his dark brown eyes, enjoying your fear. You do not want to be afraid anymore. You want to drain his delight right out of his eyes. So you make a quick decision, climbing the outer concrete ring of the well. This is forbidden. Grandmama has told you several times that only Nonso is allowed to climb up. You look back, enjoying the surprise on Nonso’s face at the sight of your newly found bravery. You move closer to the metal opening. This is the first time you have looked down the well. It is not like you thought it would be. The water isn’t brown and you can’t see the sand particles that always settle at the bottom of your bucket. There is nothing on the edges of the rings. No sign of the green slime that Nonso always says stays on top of the water. The only thing scary in this long and hollow well is the darkness lurking at the edges.
You look to your brother and smile. “I knew you were lying,” you say.
“I’m not lying,” says Nonso.
“There’s nothing here.”
“Of course there isn’t. The Thing is a predator. It’s stalking you. It knows you are looking for it. It won’t show itself unless it’s ready to take you.”
You ignore Nonso and look down the well. “If you really want me, come get me. I’m right here and I’m not afraid anymore,” you yell.
Your voice echoes back. You wait, watching to see if a sharp-toothed monster will come up. But there is only your rippling reflection floating on the square shape of light. You wait to hear the growl; to hear a sound; to see a tentacle erupt from the liquid to grab your tiny arms and drag you down while Nonso would stand and laugh at you, and as the water filled your ears; he’d say that you should have listened to him. But nothing is happening. You grow confident, minute by minute. You look to Nonso, your head high and your fear banished. “You lied. There’s nothing -”.
The growl cuts you off.
You turn to look down, but all you see are patterning ripples on the surface.
“Nonny,” you say. “Stop trying to scare me. I’m no longer afraid.”
“I’m not doing anything,” he says.
You can see that he is slightly amused, yet you know that Nonso is telling the truth. You don’t think that he can make the sound you have just heard. You look back down the well and watch the ripples as they hit the borders of rings.
“Did you hear that?” you ask him.
You don’t want to tell Nonso what you have just heard. You know he will make fun of you. Laugh. So you say nothing, climbing down from the well. Nonso climbs up. He drops the leather carrier down the well; you hold your breath, expecting something to jerk the buga down and Nonso with it. But nothing happens. Nonso fills your bucket with brown water. You grab your white bucket; the one that has “Amanda weds Nedu” inscribed on it and walk away. You go as fast as your legs can carry you while Nonso begins to fill his yellow bucket.
“Grandmama,” you say when you go through the metal door of the kitchen.
“What is it?” says your Grandmama in her scratchy voice. “Are you done bringing in the water?”
“Not yet. Nonny says the Thing can smell me and wants me for breakfast.”