This is how Papa paints the mountain.
He sits in front of the rotting canvas, the numb fingers of his right hand grip the brush and the aluminium paint tray dances on his quivering left palm.
Mama warns me never to disturb Papa when he paints but I still do.
Today, the painting is almost done. Papa has perfected the blue of the mountain's peak, the melting snow no longer looks like spilt milk and he has fixed the brown-brown skin of the elephants and buffalos grazing at the foot of the mountain.
"Ke kwanu," I greet.
"Who are you?" He asks baring the little remains of his chequered teeth.
"I live here," I tell him because I don't have the muscle to remind him I'm his son and then explaining to him what a son is. Papa does not seem to remember much these days.
"So we are like neighbours." Papa sets down the paint tray on the floor. "You remind me of my son Zim."
I smile, pat Papa's shoulder and run into the house before Mama sees us together. The last time Mama caught me talking to Papa, she yanked at my ears and called me 'devil's child'.
Tonight, Papa calls us to come and see his finished painting. Mama and I chewed our tears and smiled away. We know at midnight, Papa will crawl into the painting and return to the mountain.
We all came from the mountain and must go back there some day.
#WriterPrompt is a regular flash fiction event we run on our Facebook page, although it is currently on hiatus. Writers post stories in response to a picture, then workshop them with other participants and members of the SSDA team. The tragedy and simplicity of Innocent Chizaram Ilo's untitled story won over ther judges.
Can you tell us when you first realised you were a wordsmith and why do you think you are so attracted to the craft of storytelling?
INNOCENT: "I am a storyteller and I would like to tell you a few personal stories..." - Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's TED Talk - The Dangers of A Single Story, piqued my interest. I wanted to introduce myself in that same way to people: "Hi, I'm Innocent and I tell stories." I wanted to inhabit strange bodies and places.
Storytelling helps me to paint the world the way I see it or want it to be. There is a magic in how single words, when placed side by side, evocate laughter, thoughts, tears, pain and healing.
I want to be a part of that magic.
What, where and who inspires you to write.
INNOCENT: There is no one thing that inspires my writing. A walk in the rain, looking out of my window in the morning, eating, reading, watching movies and dreams.
Places also play an important role in my writing. The university campus in Nsukka, my mother's kitchen and my bedside view. Writers like Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Lesley Nneka Arimah, Yiyun Lui and Petina Gappah rock my world.
If you had one tip for a newbie writer, what would it be?
INNOCENT: One tip. One tip. Listen to the tiny voice in your head. Communicate with that voice. Yes it's crazy, I know. Karen Russell calls writing "Taking dictations from imaginary people."
Innocent Chizaram Ilo lives in Nigeria but dreams about inhabiting strange places and bodies - this is why he writes. He studies undergraduate economics but prefers writing stories anytime of the day to analyzing clunky graphs. He draws strong influences from Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Lesley Nneka Arimah, Petina Gappah and Yiyun Li. He once wore fake glasses to up his nerd game. It didn't work.
Interview by Jason Mykl Snyman