We were almost at the junction that leads to my town when we heard the ruckus. Some young men ran past us,shouting at us to turn back the bike rider asked me to come down and he drove off leaving behind a trail of black smoke. I ran towards my town my heart pounding in my ears.
” Young Man dont go there” An old homeless man called out to me ” Trouble, i tell you, trouble is there” He walked away.
I ignored him and kept running, i could see smokes from afar, God please let my family be alright i prayed as i ran further.
” Young man!” a woman hiding in the bushes called out” They are shooting over there”
” Who is shooting at whom”
” Come, come and hide here”
I had to look for my family, i ran further towards the town, i saw some group of armies coming and i dived into the bushes until their van had rolled by. I came out of the bushes and kept running. I was almost at the market place, when some group of boys in shorts with red bandanas round their necks marched towards me singing at the top of their voice, they were burning tyres and marching in cycles. I got under one of the market stalls until i could hear their voices from afar. I crept through the empty market until i could see the street where the march was to be held. Thousands of dead students were on the ground, i could see some little children in uniform among them too. I heaved up my breakfast and puked till i got dizzy.
Someone touched my shoulder from behind and i screamed.
” Shhh.. Its me Kojo” Lyon one of the God sent said.
” Where is my brother!?”
” He’s fine come i will take you to him ”
We crept through the market till we got to the mission catholique church, Lyon opened the gate glancing over his shoulder to make sure we weren’t followed. He closed the gate after us.
” What happened? Why is my brother involved in this? ”
” Its a long story”
” Make it short!”
” We were recruited by Seyram,to bring the president down, besides each of us had a personal vendetta against the bastard anyway. We knew he is a powerful man so we were fortified against his charms or so we thought! Only the overall best student could get close enough to him, to stab him in the chest with the ‘ Special charm’ knife and that’s where your brother comes in”
” How could he drag my brother into something like this?”
” Albert was assured that his family won’t lack for anything and he’s also doing it for his country.”
” So what went wrong?”
” Seyram was the right hand man of the president, he also convinced him to come visit our town. When the president’ s plane touched down, he ( Seyram) told him he got information that the students planned a coup. He betrayed us! but he payed dearly for it, the president knew he was in on it too and ordered him beheaded at once before he gave orders that fire should be opened on all the students while he watched from his helicopter in the sky”
” How…how did the president know that he was in on it?”
“He gave him our full names and he was the one who advised him to come to our town in the first place. The soldiers were screaming our names as they opened fire”
” Where are the others?” Where is my brother?”
” The others has been dragged off to God knows where, i managed to escape and i have to leave town tonight. I entered into this thinking i could rescue my family…he ( President) married both my sister and my mother, he made my father his slave too.”
Lyon took me to the back of the church where there were tall grasses, he whistled to let them know it was us. Albert was in Mensah’ s arms, Mensah was trying to stop the blood rushing out from his chest with his shirt. I knelt beside them.
” Albert ” i cried. He had been shot in the shoulder and he was losing blood quickly.” We have to take him to the hospital! ”
” Its too risky, we have to wait and sneak him to the hospital at night.” Mensah said.
I started crying. ” We have to take him to the hospital now!”
Albert reached out and held me with his blood soaked hand. ” Don’t cry Kojo, don’t cry, i will be fine”
” Hang in there Charley” Cousin Mensah said.
” Am not..going anywhere” Albert whispered with blood gushing out of his mouth.
I put his head on my thighs while i wiped the blood from his mouth ” Lyon..Lyon..please can you go look for Father Flavi? he might be able to help ”
Lyon looked stricken ” We can’t let anyone know we are here!”
” Please, please ” I cried.
” its better if no one knows we are here Kojo. If i can get a knife i will try to dig out the bullets” Mensah said.
” No am fine” Albert whispered.
Father Flavi won’t tell anyone i tried to convince them.
Albert suddenly went into a fit, Mensah held him down while Lyon kept pressure on the wound. I held him and cried, i cried till he stopped jerking and laid still in my arms. Mensah started crying too, while Lyon sat down staring into space. Albert won’t go the university, he wont see little Pam grow into a woman, he won’t see me become the big man i wanted to be. I cradled his head and cried into the night.
” We have to bury him” Mensah said in the wee hours of the next morning.
” I will take him home” i said.
” We don’t know if the streets are safe yet ” Lyon said.
I stood up and hefted My brother ‘ s heavy body over my shoulder, i staggered under his weight and Mensah reached out a hand to steady me. ” I am taking him home”
” let me carry him, i will come with you ” Mensah said seeing my mind was made up.
” No you stay here, you are wanted” i said.
They followed me to the church exit, opened the gate for me and i slipped out. The air smelled foul of dead bodies and i forced myself not puke. There were burnt tires on the road, some houses had been touched down. I walked slowly, my back ached from the weight of my dead brother’s body. I wondered if i still had a home, if my mother and Pam were alright.
” Who are you! Where are you from”? the group of boys i saw the previous day were suddenly upon me.
” My name is Kojo, am from Yoto ( A state in Togo). ”
” Who is that on your shoulder!”? The leader of the group barked at me.
” My …….my brother. He was shot yesterday”
” The soldiers are still roaming the streets.Where are you taking him?
” Home ” I said in a tired voice.
” You!” He pointed at one of his boys ” help our fellow brother take his late brother home. Make sure he is safe!”
The giant like man hefted Albert’ s body from my shoulder like a sack of rice and flung it on his shoulder ” Show me the way to your house”
” Thank you sir!” i called as i hurried after the rebel. We ducked several times when we thought the soldiers were coming. I was happy to see my father’ s mud houses were still standing, Mensah ‘ s compound had been burnt to the ground, not only is Ama one eyed now, she is also homeless and her brother is on the run. What a life! We knocked on Nma ‘ s door severally but there was no response, my escort gave the door a firece kick with his foot and it opened. My whole family, Nma( Mother), Npa ( Father), Pam, Kofa and Afine were huddled together in a corner of the small hut. They gave a chorus of screams as the door opened. My escort dropped Albert in the middle of the hut and left quietly.
” Ah my son……. My son….” Nma sobbed touching him.
Afine came closer and clutched his head to her chest wailing at the top of her lungs. That moment i realized that Afine must have been coerced by her family to marry my father. Afine never stopped loving my brother, little comfort that gave me anyway because it was too late. Npa ( Father) tried to touch him but Nma ( Mother) beat his hands away. Little Pam held his ( Albert)’ s stiff fingers crying. Kofa put his arms around his sister comforting her.
” My son……my son….. i prayed all night for the lord to keep you safe…..i prayed and cried all night hoping the good lord will keep you safe……my son…” Nma cried.
I sat in a corner of the hut feeling numb. It was like i was no longer capable of emotions.
Yoto boys started killing the Northerners, the king called them and spoke to them. Some Northerners also lost their children on that fateful, he beseeched them to bury their deads and not take laws into their hands. The president gave a pathetic press release asking his armies to stop ‘ killing innocent’ people, in his words. Although the armies were no longer on the streets, people were still afraid to go out of their homes. Josey, my mother’ s distant cousin, who was also known as the Town’ s gossip lost her triplet girls on that day. The little girls were in Pam ‘ s class, Nma couldn’t go to the march on that fateful day because little Pam got sick the previous night.
Josey became dumb ever since her girls died, she doesn’t respond when spoken to, doesn’t talk to anyone. All she does is to stare at nothing. The girls and Albert were buried on the same day, some of my ex classmates also lost their lives including my friend, with whom i watch horror movies. During the funeral which was held in my father’ s compound, i was asked to go into the room where the girls were dressed. If Albert were to be alive, as their uncle, he would have performed the final rites of touching their heads with seven cowries seven times for their smooth transition into the other world.I entered the room, all three of them were on Nma’ s bamboo bed sleeping peacefully. They were attired in black and white poka dot gown. Their hair was in two braids. They looked beautiful except for the purplish colorings on their arms and forehead where the bullets had pierced them.
” Bertha, Filbert, Preta” tears streamed down my face. I repeated their names seven times touching their foreheads seven times respectively.
This rite has to be done because they didn’t die a peaceful death. This is the only way their souls could be accepted in the underworld. My uncle was still in jail, Mensah was also on the run so the triplets’ s father even though he was not truly our uncle performed the rites on Albert.After the rites performance, Father Flavi came to pray and he brought his congregation with him. He has been visiting homes to pray for their dead ones and he looked weary. When it was time to take the bodies to the cemetary, Albert and Bertha refused to go. The people carrying their caskets suddenly became immobile, the women wailed and Nma ( Mother) flung herself on the ground. Afine helped her up also crying her heart out. Filbert and Preta when they were alive was always together so it was no wonder that they hurried those carrying their caskets along simultaneously towards the cemetary. Berta was her mother’ s pet, she refused to go without her mother. The women lifted up Josey from where she sat, they led her towards the cemetary and Berta followed once again.As for Albert he refused to move, gins were poured on the ground, fowls slaughtered and their bloods poured on the ground but still he refused to go until father went to talk to him and begged for his forgiveness. Afine too cried begging and openly declaring her love for him while Nma and the other mourners looked on not knowing what was going on. Albert started moving slowly towards the cemetary. As for me it seems as if a part of me had died and something dark and evil had awaken in me.Revenge they say is better served cold.