“Enough!” blasted the dragon.

The tentacle clamped over my mouth was ripped away, then the one around my chest. My greedy lungs gulped the air, in large quick swallows. It was as if my body didn’t understand that we were better off dead. But my inner Tar Beast knew the truth – I’m worthless.

As I panted, mighty paws patted the bedding, talons poked under the sheets. “I think Tar Beast’s gone,” the dragon said.

I nodded, too tired to explain that I’m never fully rid of my inner Tar Beast. “You should have let Tar Beast have me.”

“No,” the dragon said.

“Look at me. I can’t even sleep and I have two imaginary friends: a good dragon and an evil Tar Beast.”

“It is perfectly acceptable to have imaginary friends so long as you know they are imaginary. Your sleep condition, by the way, is called insomnia.”

“That doesn’t sound good,” I grumbled.

“It isn’t, but you could ask for help.”

“Just four hours,” I murmured. “If only I could get four hours, things would be fine.”

“Actually,” the dragon said, “teenagers need between nine and nine and half hours of sleep.”

“Who has time for that?” I said. “I don’t even think Connie gets that much.”

“I suspect your cousin Constance is probably like most teens, with only seven to seven and half hours of sleep. Her mood swings would probably improve if she had more, but that is beside the point. You are the point.”

“If I’m gone, my parents could afford to send her to my school, instead of only paying for her Model C,” I said.

But as soon as the words left my mouth, I knew my cousin would be horrified at the idea of leaving her Model C. Connie likes it there. For starters, at her school the brown faces out-number the whites. Nobody treats her as some unusual circus freak. “Wow, you’re like, really smart,” some of my classmates have said. As if it is a shock that good brains can exist inside heads that don’t sprout silky hair.

“Precisely,” the dragon said.

“Hey, get out of my mind. I didn’t say anything.”

“I am in your mind,” the dragon said. With that, she hopped off my bed, and curled up on the floor. A tendril of smoke escaped out of her nostril, curling into the air, a ribbon of burning dreams.

I swallowed carefully. My throat was still sore from earlier, from my body’s panic as the tar had tried to suck me in.

I thought about Connie, the youngest daughter of my Auntie Jolie. Auntie Jolie is my mother’s older sister. She was “a wild one,” according to my mother. That’s why Grannie’s Madam didn’t “waste” her money on Jolie. Auntie Jolie was still a teenager when she gave birth to Cousin Valentyn, who has gone on to make Auntie Jolie a grandmother well before he turned eighteen.

So it was my mother who went to University, first one ever in her family, and now she and my father are paying Connie’s school fees, “Because your Auntie Jolie doesn’t need more grandchildren,” my mother said.

As if nobody in a Model C school ever got pregnant.

As if nobody in my pricey private school ever got pregnant. Although, at my school, all the parents just send their daughters to get an abortion, and then carry on as if nothing has happened. I’m sure my parents would pay for mine, too. That is, if there was ever a boy who’d want to have sex with me. But who would? As my classmates are fond of saying, “Ms Nerdgasm is in a committed relationship with books.”

Nerdgasm. I looked the word up on the internet. Apparently, geeks use the word as a boast. In their world, only special, wonderful, brainy people, who are awesome, can have a nerdgasm. But I’m not stupid. My classmates are not using “nerdgasm” as a compliment.

I’d love to be a geek who read comic books, watched sci-fi films, and read books like The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy or stories by Nnedi Okorafor. I’ve missed stories. Ones I’ve made and those others have created. Tales with adventures, action, mayhem, and where the heroine survives – victorious! – at the end. But there is not time for fantasy anymore. Only textbooks. Facts.

I missed those other worlds. So much.

“You’re being pathetic,” Tar Beast hissed, from under the bed.

My fingers slipped under the mattress, locating my weapon.

“Don’t!” the dragon cried.

“Yes!” Tar Beast exclaimed, with glee. “Oh, yes.”


Tell us: Do you have inner voices that tell you something is good or bad?