I watched helplessly as everything burned down.

I tried to make my mind blank and be thankful for my escape; I just couldn’t and the heavy lump in my throat knotted tighter.

This neighbourhood was the worst place on earth. A pity I’m just acknowledging that fact now. The atrocities wrought here even in broad daylight necessitated its famous name S&G.

The common saying was that S&G was above the law. It was the law! We mobbed every police man who dared trespass but worse than uniformed men, we loathed preachers.

The stench of burnt carcass nauseated me .I imagined my 13 year old sister, Nneoma burning in there.

She was all I inherited from my parents and I loved her more than my own life.

I never allowed her to see me get high or being intimate with a woman and I give her my earphones when the neighbours’ moaning got too loud. The day I saw her going through my pornographic videos, I deleted all of them and made up funny excuses and lies to make her forget the incident.

This evening, I locked her in my car with a new novel and my mp3 because I wanted to smoke inside the house. She was ever so obedient, never makes a fuss.

When we heard the gas plant explosion, I made straight for the car. I knew she wouldn’t hear the cries and commotion that was usual business here in S&G. The car was in flames when I got there.

I never cry, never have, not even when my parents died; that’s why they call me Okwute(stone ).

I hate to imagine Nneoma dying so I imagine it to be Pinky instead; the girl I was with last night. Her moaning still rang in my ears, not the usual sensual way but more like torture. Abominable! My sins and that of this city flashed before me and for the first time, I begged God for mercy; for a second chance. I remembered the tough preacher whom we dealt harshly with. He lasted longer than the rest despite looking so frail. We’d set traps for him and laughed hysterically at his ignorant face. It was always such a sight! He’d still smile and had a way he looked at me. I hated that look, like he pitied me. How can this frail chicken pity a whole Okwute? I always wondered frustratingly.

He must have known I thought, feeling so ashamed. Like a whisper in the wind, I heard, “you are no longer Okwute; I give to you, the heart of flesh”. Could that be God? Certainly not! I was so unworthy. If only I could get a sign, anything at all!

I shrugged it off at first but I felt the cold tiny hands again and turned. Nneoma!

Urine trickled down my thighs and the tears flowed seamlessly.

Before I could ask “how”, she said “the preacher saved me”.

Sodom and Gomorrah is gone, the sin city has been razed” she whispered.

I didn’t even know she knew what S&G meant.

Writer – Chidera Robinson (winner of CLH’s second picture contest for the month of April)

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