Black Voices at UBC Short Fiction: The Servicewoman, chapter three

Devontee eyed Chidinma down as she stabbed her baby spinach omelette.

“You look terrible,” Devontee said. Chidinma stopped stabbing her dishevelled meal to stick her hand towards Devontee’s forehead. Devontee ducked out of the way.

“In Jesus's name! Your hairline will be gone by the age of 23,” Chidinma said. 

“I rebuke it,” Devontee said in his terrible Nigerian accent.

“You and this accent,” Chidinma said.

“Yeah. That sounds offensive,” May said.

Chidinma shot her eyes down at the sound of her voice. May smirked at her reaction. She slapped her tray on the cafeteria table, causing Chidinma to spring up. She flinched again at the sight of May glaring at her. Both carefully monitored each other as their bodies reached the table’s benches. 

“Hi,” May said. 

“Hi,” Chidinma replied. Devontee raised his eyebrows while his eyes darted between the two.

“Uh…... hi,” Devontee said. “Are y’all good—-”

“You’re Jamaican, right? So, why are you butchering that African accent?”

“First, it’s Nigerian, and I’ve been told by some that my accent is iconic,” Devontee said.

“Ha!” Chidinma said. 

“Second! What you just witnessed was an inside joke,” Devontee said. “And third, how did you know that?” 

“Chidinma…... told me,” May said. Her eyes hadn't left Chidinma since she sat down. “She told me a lot of things.” 

Chidinma took a deep breath as May’s violet rays shot out of her imagination. They gripped onto her eyes, and she heard her bones crack under the pressure of May’s unbelievable power.

“Chidinma,” Devontee said. “What did you tell this girl?” Despite her unwavering PTSD, Chidinma still found the strength to roll her eyes.

“A lot of things,” Chidinma said. “I don’t remember.”

“You’re actually heat,” Devontee said.

“Calgary slang,” May said. “Cute. Chidinma, we need to talk.”

“Leave me alone,” Chidinma said.

“Now, Chidinma, watch your tone,” May replied. May’s words poked at Chidinma’s ego. They pulled her eyes down to a squint and caused her lips to curl.

“Leave me alone,” Chidinma said. She stretched out each syllable this time. So, May leaned in close.

“I guess I’ll just have to get you to talk like last time,” May said through her gritted teeth. Chidinma’s eyes flickered frantically until they reached a golden hue.

“Leave me the fuck alone,” Chidinma said. Devontee and May jumped back at the sound of Chidinma’s voice. Her usual warm voice with annoyed undertones was taken over by a raspy bellow, and her English was replaced by a language Devontee and May did not understand. They ignored the gold smoke being heaved out of Chidinma’s nose from her scowl. Her eyebrows furrowed so deep into her forehead that they made dents, and her eyes were reminiscent of a lion waiting for the right time to strike. May didn’t need to understand the language that came out of Chidinma’s mouth because her eyes told her everything she needed to know. May’s eyes rebutted with a surge of purple; violet static bulged out her eye sockets as May attempted her own snarl. Devontee quickly pulled himself together, placing his body between them. 

“Hey!” he said. “Both of you need to calm down. Whatever’s going on between you two is not worth the white jackets coming in and snatching us all up by the neck. Breathe.” The girls’s eyes were washed over with white until their pupils went back to dark brown. 

“And since when did you learn Igbo?” Devontee said.

“Huh?” Chidinma said.

“That language you were speaking right now… with your newfound demon voice,” he said. Chidinma rubbed her temple. “It sounds a lot like Chioma when she would lecture you.”

“Chioma,” Chidinma thought. Her eyes turned red at the sound of her mentor’s name. “I’ve got to go."

“Chidinma,” Devontee said. “Are you okay—”

“Hey, you!” May said. She dug her index finger in Chidinma’s chest. “We still need to talk.” 

“Argh!” Chidinma said. She stood up and stomped to the cafeteria’s exit.

Devontee turned to May. “Look what you’ve done.”

“Bye,” May said.

“I-,” May shut Devontee up by whipping her curly dreadlocks onto his face as she swung around to stand up. “You got hair in my mouth,” he said.

“All a part of the dramatic exit,” May said. She began to skip to the sound Chidinma’s footsteps smashing against CSIS headquarters's ceramic tiles.

“Women,” Devontee said. He shook his head and went back to his breakfast.

“Chidinma,” May said. May’s chant bounced off the grey walls of the servicewomen's residence.

“Leave me alone!” Chidinma said. “Stupid girl.”

“Excuse you?” May exclaimed. Her eyes lit up from the purple rays that poured out of her sockets. She smiled as they squirmed around like tentacles.

“Chidinma,” she sang. “Chidinma!”

“What?” Chidinma said as she turned around. “Oh shit!” She tripped over her own foot. Chidinma tried to get up, but her trembling limbs stopped her from getting a proper footing. Reduced to a mouse, she started scurrying on the floor. May laughed at the view. “What is wrong with you? Why are you so scared?” May said. “Oh right, you’ve never been on a real field mission.”

“That shit is for the birds!” Chidinma said. “All of you are so ready to die for a country that doesn’t care if you make it back or not.”

“You expect me to listen to the girl cowering on the floor… boo!”

Chidinma flinched. 

“You’re in the big leagues now. You need to man up unless you want everyone to find out about you and Devontee’s little secret,” May laughed.

“You mean our little secret,” Chidinma said. “Last time I checked, there’s only one of us breaking into people’s rooms to suck the life out of them for fun!”

“Relax,” May said. “I just took enough life energy to learn about what you know about 9-7-5-6-7.”

“And since you know I know nothing, why can’t you leave me alone!” Chidinma said. 

“Because you’ve been chosen to-,” May said

“Girl, I ain’t Luke Skywalker!” Chidinma said. “Stop with all this nonsense.”

“Look,” May replied. “Let’s just talk.”

“No!” replied Chidinma.

“Why?” said May.

“Because you are insane!” said Chidinma. She spotted her room number and sprinted for the door.

“No!” May said. May shot out her new limbs, but Chidinma heard the cracking sound of May’s new appendages.

Turn around, Chi-chi,” a familiar voice said. It sounded like Chioma. So, Chidinma charged her fists with energy. And when they finally shone gold, she punched them in May’s direction.

“You little bitch,” May said as she used her tentacles to block Chidinma’s attack. Chidinma didn’t have time to celebrate her victory. Instead, a hazy black figure attached to the wall flickered like static. It inched closer and closer towards Chidinma. A jolt zipped through Chidinma’s spine. The adrenaline was enough to get her to her door. As soon as she opened it, she slammed it as if it would stop the terrors behind it. Chidinma ran to her bathroom sink and started splashing water on her face.

“Why me?” she said. She choked on the lukewarm water. “Why?” 

Chidinma,” the voice said.

“Get out,” Chidinma said.

Chidinma,” the voice said.

“Get out.”

Chidinma,” the voice, which was now a figure, said.

Get out!” Chidinma said. “You’re not real.” With each heave, gold smoke poured out of her mouth. The shimmers from the smoke attached to Chidinma’s dark brown skin and the gold weaved into her shrunken afro, creating freeform locs. The smoke reached through the mirror and pulled Chioma out of the shadowy figure.

Auntie Chioma?! What’s happening to me? How’d you do that? Did I do that? How’d the fuck did I do that?! This is not how my life is supposed to be,” Chidinma said.

Chi-chi,” Chioma said. “Breathe. I’ll explain everything when you’re in a… calmer state. Have you been eating?

“You’re asking me about my diet… now?

Sorry, eh, sorry,” Chioma said. “As of right now, I need you to do something for me. After you calm down, I need you to go talk to May.

No,” Chidinma said.

“Chi-chi, Chi-baby, please. Do it for me.”

Okay, auntie,” Chidinma said.

Bye, for now.” Chioma evaporated into the gold smoke. 

Chidinma took a minute to cry. After, she closed her eyes and took a long deep breath, but she was still in her new form when she opened her eyes. “Still sparkly and I look like the Black version of Goku. Just great. My voice!” Chidinma said. She retook a deep breath, but no remarkable change happened. “I need something stronger,” she thought. Chidinma ran to her bed and pulled a Nike shoebox from under it. She flipped the top open to reveal half a pre-roll. “Not enough,” Chidinma said. She grabbed a hoodie and toque from the floor, threw them on and headed for the door. She jumped at the sight of May leaning on her door frame.

“Don’t worry, everywhere is soundproof, so I didn’t hear your mental breakdown," May said. "Why are you sparkly?”

“Do you burn?” said Chidinma.

“Huh?” said May.

“You smoke?” said Chidinma.

“Depends,” said May.

“Bush?” said Chidinma.

“I’m assuming you mean weed,” said May. “And yes, I do.”

“Know where we can get some for cheap?” said Chidinma.

“I know a guy in Jane and Finch,” said May.

“Great. We can talk on the way,” Chidinma said.

Read the first and second chapter of The Servicewoman.

Stephanie Okoli is a third-year creative writing student, author and CEO of Daalu Media, a virtual safe space where Black Canadians can laugh and learn.

Black Voices at UBC is an open-form column publishing work by Black writers in UBC’s student community. If you’re interested in getting involved, reach out to