That scream, it arose from the ends of the horizon and drifted homeward. Its familiarity among my people breathed terror and aroused the acrid sense of death. In recent times, it was a rare auspicious omen for a day to pass without the nerves of every villager being scathed by the shrill scream from a haunted voice – or a group of such.
Each scream was accompanied, predominantly, by an ambience of confusion, panic and desertion.
This current scream grew louder as seconds ticked away, and I noticed that the once solo scream had amassed to itself several other screams that augmented the reach of its decibel and the seriousness of its outcry. I raised my back away from the farmland which hitherto growled under the piecing labour of my cutlass and drew in the now tensed scenery that lay before me. I saw my father. His face was a semblance of the famous local terra-cotta sculpture of “the wary face” done by Aranga, the great sculptor. I could see the crooked contours that adorned his forehead and the hopelessness in his eyes. The sweat balls that once clutched to his face awaiting evaporation now flowed freely down unto the agitated ground like the Orimi stream emptying into the valley of Ori. His grip tightened around the cutlass he held, and so did mine.
But the women: my mother and two younger sisters would have no bite from our meal of ‘time-waste’. Their hoes and baskets were embraced by the same agitated ground as I watched them scamper toward a haven of figments and nothing, leaving father and I alone; each of the threefold lending their voice to the rising scream.
“Akita! Gather the tools and yam heads!” My father bellowed. “Quickly!” came the conclusion.
We paced homeward, to my father’s large compound. Lands lay bare, divorced by shadows. A closer look at the grains of sand revealed their commingling with a red hue – blood. The streets that once wore smiles from the graceful play of children displayed a sullen countenance. Bodies that once served as vessels of life were now clothed with death.
Ah! They called them terrorists and in Orimida, my village, the pronouncement of their true name had become a taboo.
On some fortunate days, when they struck, my whole family ran to safety. But on this unfortunate day, none of the women survived.
This imagery as I have come to learn, both by experience and from tales, was but a mere snippet into the bigger picture of desolation and horror that often assailed the land and community I call home – Orimida.
The magnitude of the hysteria is better conveyed by this statement: with the rise of a scream (no matter the cause), every hind limb ran.
The year was 2014, precisely the 23rd day in the month of June. I lived in Orimida, a village in Etaha, a state in Namida country.
Few days ago…
Everyone in my village had heard rumours of the carnage perpetuated by the dreaded terrorist group. Even local gatherings at the village square served as avenue for the informed and ignorant to digest the life-threatening issue of insurgency. Then in Orimida, these stories were what they were – stories, that were best considered as rumours and insignificant to local matters.
“How true are the stories I hear?” questioned a man to his friend as they sat and chatted in the company of locally brewed wine, tombo.
“My friend… eh…eh” the second man cleared his throat. “What you have heard, I have also heard. Even Mallam Bello, that one that carries the white man’s town crier (an FM radio), says that he heard some terrorists wiped out a whole village in the neighbouring state, Bambi state. Massive explosives that shook the earth to its crust were littered all over the village; every animate object seen was shot at with sophisticated guns.” He explained to his friend with an air of discernment and then gulped his drink.
“Chai! But the government nah… Yes! The government of our country Namida, what are they doing about it? Are they not meant to protect us?”
“Protect you?” asked the second man amidst frenzied laughter. “My friend, it is true we have a government and it behoves the government to protect us… But in this situation, you are on your own!”
I had listened with keen interest and rapt attention to the conversation of this two friends but one thing struck my heart and echoed within my head, even days beyond the time of conversation. “You are on your own!” Somehow I couldn’t shake off the thought.
Nonetheless, the people of Orimida went about their daily businesses and routine hoping that the monster would never pay them a visit.
But As the saying goes:
“When one finger is stained with palm oil, it only takes a little while before the other fingers are stained as well.”
The verity of this saying is now proven in the case of Orimida; the demon of terrorism has contagiously travelled from afar and has come to pay a visit.
Flash fiction written by Uzor Michael C.