Spies Crawling on My Walls


I looked at the wall gecko hanging on the wall close to my favourite suit. I was hoping for some inspiration. Maybe three nods from the crawling being should do the trick. I started and waited, patiently. No nods. No inspiration came only a protruded tongue where it reached for an unlucky cockroach and swallowed the insect whole. I was blank. The wall gecko too was blank, the both of us staring at the empty space around us, our brains like the pages of a newly purchased exercise book.

What story do I tell?

Do I tell my readers about the removal of the fuel subsidy? But that was already all over the news, the recent fuel hike, the unbelievable rise in the cost of transportation, scarcity of foods et cetera. Or do I tell them about the recent outbreak of the monkeypox virus? They said it is more deadly than COVID. However, I need to do more research on the topic before dishing it out to my readers. I am almost approaching my deadline so I needed to write on a topic I know a lot about.

Maybe I should tell them about the wall geckos. Ah! The wall geckos, very misunderstood creatures. I did my degree in Zoology so I knew for a fact that they were not witches or spies or enemies or anything such as my elder sister Nene had portrayed them the last time she came to my place. She had seen one of them crawling on the wall and had yelled. And the next thing I saw, she picked up my broom and flung it at the animal. The wall gecko quickly crawled back into the ceiling from whence it came.

“Wall geckos are messengers of the enemies,” she’d said. “They are sent by those who don’t want us to succeed. They are sent to monitor our lives by people that don’t want us to progress.” She ended her sermon by saying that it is the reason why wall geckos are called monitor lizards. “They monitor our lives and give feedback to their senders. Hope you understand me? Whenever you see it in your room make sure to kill it.”

If I had been a boy of six years, still dancing naked under the rain, or wondering why the moon keeps following me around, I would have believed her. But I was a grown-ass man of 35 years and so I just chuckled. “You know I can’t possibly believe what you just said,” I told her. “How can a wall gecko, an animal trying to survive in its habitat, possibly be a witch?”

“Gbo! That is your problem,” she retorted. “Since you are the only one that went to school. Habitat ko Halimat ni. Who knows if it is the reason why you haven’t gotten a scholarship abroad and left this country for good? With all your brain. Or at least get married so we’ll know that you have achieved something important in life. 40 years old man. You think it is ordinary?”

I reminded her that I will be 36 by November.

“Don’t correct me! I know what I am saying! These lizards are not like the red-necks that are found on the walls outside the home okay? These ones are agents of the devil. Witches and wizards in disguise.”

“Okay,” I replied.

“Good. Now listen to me.” She moved the plastic chair closer to where I was seated on my bed. It was the only chair in the room. She then told me about the Ikwikwi, the one with large eyes that cries at night. She told me about the pussy cat and the bats. She said they are all agents of the enemies. “Or even the enemies themselves,” she said. “Because witches can transform into different kinds of animals, okay?”


“Good. I know what I am saying,” she sighed. “So what did you cook?”

Before Nene left that day, she took one of my pictures with her. She was going to show it to her prayer team. They would go to the mountain and pray for me.


After following Nene to the park that day, I made sure the driver was a middle-aged man. I waited till the bus moved, waved at her, came back home, picked up my pen and A4 paper and started writing. I wrote about the wall geckos. I made sure to let my readers know that there was no such thing as human beings transforming into animals or animals being agents or witches, wizards or what-have-you. It was absurd.

The next day was Sunday. After church, I would go to the market, buy ingredients for soup, garri and sugar and take them to Kene’s place. He would be the one to prepare the soup though. We would soak the garri while we wait for the soup to be ready.

Kene’s apartment was also a studio apartment like mine. He had lived here even when we met and became friends. We had met at the school where I taught. Kene used to be the Head of the Science Department and also the Chemistry teacher. I was the Biology teacher. Kene had resigned after he was offered a job to teach at the National Open University (NOUN).

Everyone was happy for him. Securing a job with the government was like winning a trophy. Kene was loved too. He was very nice, though he hardly talked. We celebrated with him and even the management wished him well.

I didn’t bother to knock before I opened the door. I met him lying down on the bed as always. No one came visiting except me. He was an orphan and an only child. His mother had died while giving birth to him and his father had died soon after. He was raised by his grandmother. She too died after he finished his NYSC.

I brought out the things I had bought from the market and woke him up. “Na you go cook na. Hope you know? But first bring plate make we soak garri first.”

I watched as he stood up and slowly walked to the kitchen. The once robust Kene was now bony. The boxer he was putting on was threatening to pull down from his waist. It has been six months now since he started working with NOUN and they had not been paid yet, those of them that were not done with their documentation.

I’d ask him what was delaying it and why he wasn’t done with his documentation. He said that it wasn’t his fault, that the school management kept postponing it. And that they promised to pay them arrears from when they started working.

“Government go pay una arrears tomorrow,” I wanted to say. “As if na today you de for this country.” But I just kept my mouth shut. I didn’t want to dash his hope. Three months into the job I had asked him to come back because the students were complaining that the new Chemistry teacher didn’t know how to teach, and the management were finding it difficult to get someone better because they were all requesting double the amount that was being paid to the other teachers every month. Kene had refused. He said the salary was microscopic. “I deserve better.”

I agreed with him. We all deserved better. “But is it not better than not being paid at all?” I asked.

He told me not to worry. “Once we are through with the documentation, they will begin to pay us,” he said.

I was worried about him. His sickness had eaten deep into his blood and the doctors were demanding that some money be paid before they commenced treatment. He said there was no one he could reach out to. It started two months ago when he had mistakenly cut himself while slicing onions. The cut was deep. The bleeding had refused to stop even after putting a lot of pressure on it. The next day he went to the hospital and after the test, he was told that he had leukemia. We were even glad that the NOUN job required him to work from home, so he was able to manage it.

He cooked and we ate. He was a good cook. He said his grandmother had owned a restaurant. So he learnt a lot from her.

After we were done eating, I stayed for some time with him, till I stood up to leave. “I have an unfinished story waiting for me at home,” I said. “If not I for sleepover.”

He said no problem and we exchanged goodbyes.


I didn’t tell Nene or any other person that I had been pursuing my dream of leaving the country. It was my secret. Well, I did tell the wall geckos anyway. But all they did was nod. If I had told Nene about my plans by now the whole family would have known. I didn’t want that. I didn’t tell Kene because I didn’t want to be discouraged by the look on his face when he heard that I would be travelling out of the country, leaving him all alone. I would tell him after all was done and ready. That way I knew there was no changing of my mind.

The day finally came for my visa. I had been saving up for it from the money I made from writing and online classes and private lessons. I had paid an agent to help me run it and he had given me full assurance. I was anxious. I was excited. I had gone to the market the day before and bought sweaters and leather bags.

Before 4 a.m., I had already woken up. I prepared and left the house at exactly 5.30 a.m. and went directly to the embassy. When it was my turn, my visa was declined. I was told that some of my papers were not valid. They could not be verified. I didn’t understand. I was asked to reapply after I had gotten the correct papers.

On my way back home I was almost hit by a car. I had crossed the road without looking. I stood for some time at the bus stop where I was supposed to get a cab back home. I was thinking. I was lost and confused. But the agent had assured me that the papers were valid. He has assured me of a lot of things too. Where I would stay, the job I would do, and how I was even going to get a work permit.

I reached for my phone and dialled his number for the seventh time. It rang but he didn’t pick. What was the problem? All my savings? I sent him a text message and it didn’t deliver. I dialled his number again and it showed busy. I dialled and dialled again, getting the same result.

Then I knew that I had been duped. There were no tears for me to cry. I took a cab and went straight to Kene’s apartment. I opened the door and saw him lying on the bed as always. I allowed him to sleep. I didn’t want to bother him. I lay beside him, but I couldn’t sleep.

I looked around the room, on the walls and the ceiling. Then it occured to me that the wall geckos in Kene’s room all left after his sickness started. I remember asking him why there were no wall geckos inside his room again and he laughed and said that wall geckos only showed up in rooms where there was food. Because the foods bring the insects and the insects in turn bring the wall geckos, he’d said.

I didn’t know what to believe. Maybe Nene had been right all along. Maybe what I had were spies crawling on my walls and not just lizards looking for food to eat.


*Photo by Pierre Bamin on Unsplash

Obinna Nwachukwu

Obinna Nwachukwu is Igbo. He was born in Lagos state, Nigeria, where he also went to school. He is a graduate of Industrial Chemistry, from the University of Nigeria, Nsukka. His short stories have been featured in Brittle Paper, African Writers, Writers Space Africa and An Anthology on Land.