Abubakar Adam Ibrahim’s Dreams and Assorted Nightmares reads like a voyage into a Stephen King world – reality with a twist of terror. But Abu writes like a hair maker deftly plaiting perfect cornrows laced with a dark weave. He is a performer as much as a storyteller and each word, sentence, paragraph, story is an act dramatised on the stages of our imagination.
Dreams and Assorted Nightmares is a collection of short stories like a bunch of fruits on a single tree or even a bunch of bananas or a cluster of grapes; as the stories share a base from which they sprout to enwrap us in the sweet melancholy of dreams and nightmares that Abubakar Adam Ibrahim stitches together like a masterful dreamcatcher.
Zango, the imaginary Nigerian town the stories are set in, is small-town Nigeria, where dreams are born and burned by a scorching fire of the combusting reality of the fictional Zango as art reflects life.
The stories and the characters leap off the page fully formed and swinging at your imagination, grabbing your attention and keeping you reeling from story to story. The masterful stroke of Abubakar’s storytelling is the element of connectivity that strides from one piece to another giving the event of Dreams a continuity that makes the reader see where short stories and novels share parentage. Abu straddles the two vehicles adventurously to give you an impression that the real character of this book is Zango as it chews and spits the stories of its seeds and fruits that ripen and rot on its tree of magic.
From the little girl who becomes her mother and picks up whoring, to the seer whose visions of doom drives him mad, to the love that transcends the material; Abubakar allows Zango to breathe and shift form to accommodate the breath of the stories she’s pregnant with. At the end Zango is like us – populated by cowards, lovers, failures, stragglers, dreamers, murderers, artists, hunters, children – and Zango is not like us for like the magic from which it is knitted, it is rooted in a mystical tree which still submits to the call of the axe and the monster that brings the whole story, the whole world crashing down to the dust of finality.
A tense read, in easy everyday language buoyed by an elevating diction, Dreams and Assorted Nightmares will give you hope initially and then snatch it just when you are taken by the beauty and innocence of its appeal.