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The Thing in the Wall

Ife Olatona
17 years old
Washington D.C./Olun, Nigeria


The second place winner of our October 2020 National Teen Storyteller Contest, presented in partnership with the student-led and founded Decameron Project! We invited creative writers to share a flash fiction horror story.

If we whispered the name of a dead person, it winked like a friend. If we suppressed our fright and kept quiet, it would leave quietly after several minutes. If it appeared in a wall and we yelled, we were doomed. The wall would shake, become hot and crack. The thing would disappear, leaving an unfixable eyelike mark. Moments after, bits of concrete and paint would begin to fall from the wall.

My parents’ bedroom’s four walls soon began to look like a ghost’s painting because of this.  Dense with so many cracks that we wondered how the new ones found space, creepy eyelike patterns everywhere, the walls worsened each night because my mother screamed each time it visited.

After a month of screaming, she stopped sharing beds with my father, choosing to sleep alone in the empty visitors’ room instead. My father still visited her many nights, always locking the door. Whenever he came out, his breath was always hasty, beads of sweat shimmering on his bare chest. An indescribable glint of pleasure in his eyes, he would look like a man who had bathed in something refreshing.

The eyes never disturbed my parents at such hours. They would wait until my father had left the room, and just when my mother was about to sleep off, the wall behind her would shake. The eyes would appear on the wall, haunting her again.

“O God! Not again. I don’t want to remember. GO! Go away! Leave me. Leave us!”

My mother would scream and scream, her voice screeching into the night, breaking the soft music of crickets and croaking toads. The walls could crack, and we would all rush into the room, turn on the lights, calm her, and beg her to stop shouting. “Don’t make the walls worse,” we would say.


It looked into our eyes often, and so it knew them, and knew us too. It knew the motions of our eyes, the emotions walled behind them, the things we could not say. It recognized our faces, our voices and our names, but did not like to be touched.

A witness to many conversations – even though it had no ears and could not speak – it knew Demilade’s mischief and my father’s sparks of anger. It knew my mother’s grief, the ache spilling and spilling in all the corners of her broken self.

Whenever it saw strange faces, it blinked continuously, hungry for attention.

“Oh my, this is so creepy.”  Our visitors would gasp.

“Wow, so shiny, so beautiful.”

“Is this a sculpture? It’s too real.”

“See how it fits into the wall perfectly!”

“This must be expensive.”

Visitors, at the sight of it, would go on and on, showering us with admiration and questions, trying to touch it, hardly succeeding. Even when they did, it would flinch, disappear, and return to any of our walls when forgotten.


Whenever the strange thing visited my room, I did not scream. I, Omotunde, decided to be kind to it. It soon became a close friend. It appeared on the walls of my room more often, and I spoke to it for hours, mentioning my dead sister’s name every now and then.  I would weep each time I recalled how a fleeing robber shot her in the eye.

She had gone to play with some neighbors. On her way back, it was total chaos: bullets and blood and sirens and eternal screeching. The police were chasing robbers who had just escaped from a house on a nearby street. Both parties fired bullets.

My sister’s eyes rolled and rolled, confused.

My mother, worried, saw her a few meters from our house and ran to the gate. She kept screaming, “Run, run, baby girl!”

My mother ran towards her, her arms wide open. My sister ran fast.

The first bullet ran too, entering her eye. The second met her chest.

My sister was five when she died. We cried and cried. Our grief, a cruel whirling burden, was too heavy to be folded into language.

The thing had no mouth to respond but it always winked in acknowledgment each time I told the story, as if it had been there. It let me touch its eyelashes sometimes. Sometimes, they felt rough and cold, like the skin of a dead body. Sometimes, they were hot and angry. At the sight of a balloon or an old toy, they grew wet with gloom.

Whenever it visited his room, my brother Demilade would face the unlucky wall and kneel, confessing all wrongs he could remember, as if God had just broken through his walls.

Dad would close his eyes when he saw it. He would often weep, remembering his past words.

“Baby girl, talk. You do not have to break walls to speak.”

“Daddy is your friend. How many times have I told you to stop writing on walls?”

“Yetunde, look at me. Don’t nod, don’t blink, talk! You’re a firstborn!”

“Why are you looking at me like that? What do you want?”

At other times, my father would sigh. “Ever since Omotunde was born, you keep scaring us with these eyes. Isn’t it happier over there?  Why are you looking here?  Why are you looking at us? We are not murderers.”

Yetunde’s eyes would blink and blink, glistening with tears. They would leave for the night, disappearing from the walls.  At the first crack of dawn, my dead sister’s eyes would return to the arch between the dining and the sitting room, and blink twice. Like a friend, like a firstborn, they would visit our rooms and watch, winking at the sight of anything tender, teary at any glimpse of contention, at every wound of cultivated silence.