An Unforgettable Nightmare

My mornings, for the past couple of weeks, were long and weary and my nights, even longer and drearier. With my muscular arm losing its grip on the dry, lanky branch on which my tiny frame perched, I anxiously watched the small crowd that had gathered in a discreet clearing, about half a kilometre away from the village square.  The dry harmattan turned my otherwise supple skin, crusty and my teeth clattered from the cold wind.

The bespectacled, grey haired man standing like a demigod on the make-shift dais called the last name on the piece of rumpled, brown paper which his shaky, aging hands held and a wailing group of women threw their scarves off while the men dropped their heads in sorrow as another of their kinsman was cuffed and pushed into the Black Marine.

Every able-bodied young man on sight, was forcefully being conscripted into the army and they would not come home until the attacks on the region ceased. I lost a tear as cries of pain and anguish dented the cold, misty air.

Satisfied with what I had witnessed, I jumped down from the tree and was about to hop into the thicket of wild shrubs before anyone noticed my presence, when a strong firm hand latched on my neck from behind, causing me to aggressively kick my legs in defiance. I raised my head, as slowly as the grasp on my neck could permit, and shuddered when I saw the face behind my present woe.

He was the security officer of the Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) camp, where months ago I had volunteered as an Investigative Journalist and immediately knew that my end had come.  Pictures of scores of bare-breasted, hungry mothers backing malnourished children, young amputees locked in wheelchairs and sunken-eyed kids begging with varicoloured plastic bowls flashed like lightning before me.

They were victims of the war. All that remained of their abode –small, thatched roof huts- were in rumble, crushed to red dust. They had fled the armed invaders by pure luck.

Officers from the army and police, who were sent to that area, have all been murdered and the government couldn’t stand any more deaths of their own and so, they had taken an ignoble step to bring in under aged boys from the backdoor.

The security officer Tunji, alias the one-eyed gorilla, had warned me not to put much thought to what was clearly none of my business as a Journalist but only cover as much news as I was allowed to see.

Once, when I asked too many questions, he pulled me aside and told me that they orchestrated the attacks and since, they had infiltrated the organization concerned with sharing relief materials, it was easy to divert them and feed lies to the media. My job was to do as they said and not as I thought.

As I made to break free from his hold, he laughed derisively and spat on my face, which was already turning blue. I muttered my last prayer hoping that my end would come sooner as my legs had grown numb. The thought of a slow, painful death terrified me much more than death itself did.

However, he dropped me like a hot pot, when a swarm of angry bees encircled him while I bolted into the bush. I didn’t wait to see what became of him and suddenly, I stirred from the dream. The clock ticked 7:30 in the morning.

My body was entirely drenched in sweat, but I managed to sit up and look at my study desk:  my writing pad (a birthday present from my elder brother) and a Nikon camera (my companion of many years) lay as I had left them last night and the reminder for a zoom meeting which I was to chair nudged me to reality.