Dilman Dila has published two ebooks The Terminal Move and Cranes Crest at Sunset. His films include films include the masterpiece, What Happened in Room 13 (2007), and the narrative feature, The Felistas Fable (2013).
‘Dilman manages to convey aching humanity in stories that explore the fantastical and beautiful aspects of our world, whether imagined or real. A storyteller in the true sense.’
Dave-Brendon De Burgh – bookseller, author
A Killing in the Sun is his first collection of short stories. The title story, A Killing in the Sun, was shortlisted for the 2013 Commonwealth Short Story Prize. It features ten short stories that are fantasy, sci-fi, horror, murder and ghost mysteries, this makes it probably the first collection of speculative fiction short stories written by a single author.
Dila’s fiction returns repeatedly to the intersections of SF and fantasy, science and belief, superstition and traditional/indigenous knowledge, and to the intersectionality of identity.
Mark Bould, LA Review of Books
“Boke,” he said. “Killing yourself over a girl is really stupid.”
I stopped smiling. I did not like the tone of his voice. He was my friend. He was supposed to make me feel better. I wished I had used a quicker method like a rope.
“And getting angry over what I am going to tell you will be more stupid,” he added. I frowned. His lips started to tremble. He cracked his knuckles as he struggled to stop his fingers from trembling. “It might, you know, be, you know, a bit unpleasant.” The scar on his left cheek looked like a girlish dimple. It appeared to be grinning at me.
“It’s about Meg,” he said quickly, cutting me short.
At the back of my mind I wished it were bad news, that a car crash had killed her. But I was also eager to hear that she wanted us to get back together. Okello waited a long time, driving me crazy with the suspense. I did not press him. I held my breath.
“I’m going to marry her.”
I laughed. I thought it was a big joke meant to cheer me out of my depression.
“She, you know, came to me,” he stuttered. Every muscle in his body now trembled. “She just, you know, came and said she, you know, loves me and wants to marry me. I don’t know what happened to me. I don’t know why I accepted. Maybe she, you know, gave me a love potion. Yes! That’s it! She gave me a love potion and I fell madly in love with her.”
I lunged at him. The IV tubes attached to my veins ripped off, blood and medicine splashed. I punched him. He fell to the floor. I fell on him. My fingers found his neck. I squeezed. He fought, but I had a firm grip. I squeezed, and squeezed. Other patients were screaming. Strong hands grabbed me, and wrenched me off him. A nurse pricked me with a needle and everything went black.
After they discharged me, my younger brother came to watch over me for a few days. I tried to pull my life together, to get over Meg and Okello’s betrayal and move on. I went back to work in a small cramped room at the back of a jute factory. The Indian bosses understood. They did not fire me for going absent without leave. A week’s worth of work had accumulated. I buried myself in ledger books, and it helped take Meg off my mind. I smiled a lot. I told jokes a lot. At home, I watched movies or played scrabble with my brother. I did anything to stop myself from thinking about her. But one afternoon as we watched the X-Men, my cell phone rang. Reluctantly, I answered it.
“Hallo?” a woman said. “Hallo? May I know who I’m speaking to?”
“Who did you call?” I asked.
“I’m Nambi,” she said. The name sent a jolt up my spine. Was this the stranger who had sent me flowers? “Are you Boke?” she added.
“What do you want?”
“To talk to you.”
“Screw you.” I switched off the phone.
After nearly ten minutes, my brother’s phone rang. He answered it. I knew instinctively that it was Nambi. I wondered how she got our numbers. As he listened to her, a strange expression came over his face. He gave me the phone. I didn’t take it.
“This is weird,” he said. “Better listen to her.”
Reluctantly, I took the phone.
“I’m at The Mayors,” she said. “Please join me. There are things about Meg that I want to tell you.”
The Mayors was a restaurant-cum-bar at the end of the street. I frequented it to watch European football games, and to drink with Okello and the boys. Though it was my favorite hang-out, I did not want to ever set my foot in it again. Meg and I first met in there. She had turned up from nowhere, one day, looking for a job, and the manager hired her as a waiter. She had lived in a small room at the back with three other girls until she moved in with me. She still worked there, but had asked for leave to prepare for her wedding with Okello. Did Nambi know this? Why did she want us to meet there? Why did she not come to my home?
“I don’t want to know anything about her,” I said.
“She truly loves you,” she said. “She dumped you after she discovered what would happen to her husband during the honeymoon. She didn’t want you to suffer.”
“I don’t want to know,” I said, though my mouth had gone dry.
“Do you know that her entire family is dead?”
“Come to The Mayors. I’ll tell you how they died.”
“Her parents are alive,” I said. “They live in Merikit.”
“Did you actually meet them?” She gave me a few seconds to think about that before going on. “I’m her cousin. She lived with us after her family died. I am dead too, but I’m fed up of being dead. Meg wants to be a living dead too, but she doesn’t know what she’s getting herself into. Please come. Maybe we can stop her. Maybe we can save your friend.
“You see, she needs to be married in a church for it to work. She has to do it before the next rains, which is in two months. She picked Okello because–”
A strange sound interrupted her. Later, I discovered it was the sound of a fork stabbing her throat. I heard the gurgling, as blood spurt out of her severed neck. Her phone fell to the floor, ending the call.
I ran to The Mayors.
As I reached it, I heard screams. Two waitresses, Meg’s workmates, fled out of the door, yelling at the top of their voices. I dashed in. It was not a large room, only big enough for six tables, with old and musty furniture infested with cockroaches. A torn plastic carpet was spread on the wooden floor. It being late afternoon, the place was almost empty. The lunch-time crowd had gone, and the evening revelers had not yet arrived. Three men stood uncertainly around a woman who lay on the floor. One of them, George, the manager, was shouting into the phone, maybe calling the police, maybe asking for a car to take the woman to hospital.
She was still alive. Her legs twitched. She lay on her back, weakly fighting a fork that was buried deep in her throat. She would be gone in a few more seconds. Her eyes stared blankly at the giant ceiling fan that rotated in slow motion. Blood bubbled on her neck and pooled around her, soaking the wooden floor. It looked like blackish goo. And it stank.
Shortly after I walked in, she gave up the struggle and went limp. Her fingers slid off the fork. The light went out of her eyes. A sudden silence fell upon the room. George stopped talking on the phone. I looked at the dead eyes and I knew that an evil force had killed her for trying to warn me about Meg.