Victims – Episode 15
A Story By Rosemary Okafor
“Her fever is not coming down; I may have no option than to get her to the hospital”
They have been up all night; Ifeoluway’s scream had woken them while her persistent fever kept them busy as Ukwuoma mopped her with towel de-epen in natural water while Mariam kept checking her temperature and giving her drugs.
Ukwuoma had Ife’s head on her l@ps and she rocked her back and forth while the girl shivered and kept muttering incoherent words to herself;
“She is losing her mind” said Ukwuoma as Mariam c@m£ in to check Ife’s Temperature again
“She is still in shock of what happened to her yesterday, she will come around gradually, it may take time though”
It was still early in the morning, darkness has not totally given way for dawn and the sleeplessness of the previous night with the wariness of heart and bones were beginning to announce their pres£nce on Ukwuoma, dragging her eyelids down periodically against her wish, her head dropped to her shoulders as she nodded to the rhythm of sleep;
“You nee-d to take a bath and get a good sleep too, you have been up since yesterday afternoon” Mariam said to her
“I can’t leave her by herself, she may wake up and harm herself, and her fever is still high like you said” Ukwuoma replied, looking at the old woman
“With the way you are going, you will equally fall sick any moment and will become useless to us, don’t worry about her, I will stay with her while you get some rest. I have called the hospital and inform them that I will not be coming, neither will you. There are other pressing nee-ds” Mariam folded the curtains and opened the windows for more air.
Ukwuoma carefully lifted Ife’s head from her l@ps and supported it with a pillow; she stood up from the be-d and stretched herself while yawning.
“I heard the state Government have not made any statement concerning this explosion” Miriam said
“What does it matter to him, his wife is safe” Ukwuoma p@rted the demarcating curtain and walked out, her skin shone with perspiration and dirt.
Mariam sat by the girl on the be-d, her face burrowed with worries;
“This is a safe place for you while I am gone” he husband had said to her the first time they moved in to the Barrack
She had not wanted to leave the life she hated, she had never wanted to leave inside the barrack;
“They are always dirty and unruly, raising kids there will have a lot of negative influences” she has voiced her displea-sure to her husband
But she had no option, as a devoted Muslim woman, the interest and happiness of her husband was her priority, and she knew he was also concerned about her and the children. He was deployed to Kano with other Men to cob the mas-sacres that was going on there,
“I don’t know what will become of you people if this crisis escalates, plea-se stay here, it is safe” He had pleaded with her
And so she stayed, she had waited for his return, and he did return, but this time in a fancy box, with his military boot parceled to her as a pres£nt.
She brou-ght his picture down and ran her f!ngerson his smiling face.
“This has been my safest place ‘ masoyina ’ till yesterday, but now I am no longer sure, I am so afraid ‘ ya Uban-gijina ’” she muttered.
Ukwuoma c@m£ back from the bathroom with a wra-pper tied around her che-st, her eyes fell on the little boy that l@yon the mat, while she lose and made the wra-pper ti-ghter. She worried about him more than usual and after yesterday, she feared what might happen to him.
“That man had called him Umaru” she muttered
She had heard the man whispered the name as she snatched the boy from him, she recalled how the man looked at the boy for a long time like one who did seen a ghost before he carried the boy;
“Have they met before? Is he related to Oguga in anyway?” she sat on the mat and turned her back on the slee-ping boy
Ogugua should have recognized him but the boy had fought the man.
“That face…that face looks like a face I have seen before” she shook her head trying to remember, but her br@in did not give her that plea-sure.
She turned her head and looked at her son again, fear gr!pp£dher as what Mmesoma said to her the last time she visited echoed in her head;
“Him Papa na Hausa?” Mmesomachi had asked her that day
“…Him resemble them, you no look am well? This pikin no resemble you at all, him resemble Hausa boy…”
Could it be…
“Barka da asuba ” Kudirat greeted her husband
“Lafiya ” Yusuf mumbled the responds and hurried inside the house
Kudirat stood for awhile contemplating whether to go after her husband and ask more question or to let things be, she decided on the later and walked towards the backyard with her tray balanced on her h!p.
She had observed his movements since two nights ago, she had watched him roam the compound that night; lost in his thoughts but couldn’t get herself to ask him what burdened him.
She knew something was wrong, the way he left with Fatima yesterday and didn’t come home till this morning, not that he had not stayed out for days before; but this one was different, Fatima did not come back with him and she had heard the news of the explosion.
She has known him for ten years, knew what he does and secretly feared for their lives.
“We live for Allah” he would always tell her
But she didn’t want to die neither did she want him to.
Yusuf sank into the only chair in his room and closed his eyes; his phone has been ringing since he turned it on, but he didn’t know what to say to his Uncle or to Ishmila.
He pu-ll-ed his head up and brou-ght out a picture from his br£@st pocked;
“It was him…it was Umaru that I saw yesterday…”
And Umaru had fought him, the boy had threw his tiny fist on him like he always did; to the little boy, he was an enemy, the Man that always made his mother cry.
Yusuf would always obey his uncle’s command and that included locking his young wife up for days.
As he pondered on what to do with his finding, an idea struck him;
He must use the child to his advantage, it was time to beat his uncle on his own game, after all, it would also be for the good of the sect,
“Another sacrifice to Allah” he muttered
But first he must get the boy.
“It’s about time” Imam Husayn stood up from his chair and walked towards his nephew.
He embr@ced Yusuf and gave him a pas-sionate pat at the back, but the boy remain motionless
“What happened to you out there? Ishmila told me you lost coordination” Husayn pu-ll-ed himself away from his Nephew
“Don’t worry, you will be fine, let us take a ride there is something we must discuss” Yusuf opened the door and both of them stepped out.
“Don’t think I am not grieved also on Fatima’s death, she is like a daughter to me…I will miss her too…” the Imam said as he walked ahead
Yusuf looked at him without saying anything.
“Allah rewards his faithful and those willing to make such sacrifices like the one you made…he will take your grief away like he took mine when
I lost my son” he stressed the ‘lost my son’ and looked at yusuf as if he wanted to make a statement before he resumed his walk.
“Hmm” Yusuf nodded
They st©pped in front of the tinted Metalic gray colored Lexus car, and the Imam turned to Yusuf;
“Where did you go to after the operation?”
“Ishmila said you dropped from the car before he could reach the planned meeting point after the operation, and Kudirat confirmed you were not at home when I called her…”
“I decided to have some time alone”
The Imam looked suspiciously at his nephew, Yusuf couldn’t hold his gaze so he looked away
“You have no time to mourn the dead, this Jihad must be carried out and Allah is counting on you…how is the training going?” He asked
“Fine…we still have few weak…”
“I will come to the camp next week to give them words from Allah, I know it will strengthen them” he opened the car and both of them sat inside
“the battle is going to get more intense and I want you to get re-ady, Bombing the Military base was a successful test…from now on, we are going to hold this city to ransom until it falls at our feet” he smiled as he drove the car
“I am counting on you to lead this Jihad and make this city fear Allah again” he gave Yusuf a challenging look.
The young officer sat in his dark and unkept room, rings of smokes escaped from his mouth like prisoner in chains marching to the slave market.
His right eye twitched periodically. The doctor said it was due to the damage done by the accident.
How he hated what he had become, his speech had been affected while one of his eyes twitched like a fli-ckering light.
He drew from his cigarette and puffed in the air,
He was relieved of his job when it bec@m£ obvious that he was becoming useless to the military, he couldn’t talk properly and his sight was affected too.
“To hell with them all!!!” he crushed the cigarette ashes on the old table, pu-ll-ed another one from his pocked and lit it, he gave a long drag from it
“I will not spare her, both of them, I will track them both, I will skin them and will enjoy drinking their bloods”
He gave a long drag again and puffed in the air while his right eye twitched.
“There is no religion accepted to Allah except Islam,
Whoever seeks religion other than Islam will never be allowed to live.
Quran is the only holy book given to us by Allah throu-gh his mess£nger; and whoever rejects what Allah s£nt down in his book, Allah will punish him for his rejection, recon him for his denial and torment him for defying his book.
I have submitted myself to Allah Alone, will carry out Jihads unto Allah. I have prepared myself to fight and die for Allah and Islam, and will not go back or betray the brotherhood.
la ilaha illa’llah, Muhammad rasul Allah…”
His name was Jonah, now it has changed; he now bore Issah he was a new man, reborn to unleash terror on unbelievers
“We fight for the course, we spre-ad Islam and bring unbelievers to their knees until they accept Allah as the only true God and Islam as the true Religion” the commander had said to him the day he was reborn,
But he don’t give afu-ck about their religious nons-en-se, what he nee-ded was power, to be able to wield weapons again and make people cower with fear.
“You can get all your heart de-sires if you agree to join our sect, even much more…” Ishamila had as-sured him
“don’t waste away in this rotten place, look at you…there is nothing left of you, the military kicked you out like bad news the moment they felt you are of no use to them, with no money to sustain you…no family to go back to, nothing”
“I am a Christian” The young Officer had said carelessly
“And what has that done for you? Will they pay your rent, give you food and money when you nee-d it?” Ishmila continued
“It doesn’t matter…” the young Officer had said, puffing his cigarette
“Your Pastors are bunch of selfish folks who uses your ignorant to enrich themselves, they will not do anything to help you, you will lose friends now you have nothing…join the brotherhood, fight for Allah and he will reward you with the good things of life” Ishmila tried to convince him
“Your Allah gives nob©dy anything, he is like the god of the church, and both are all the same, cooling off somewhere while their subjects suffer to their plea-sure” he was tired of speaking.
His speech defect annoyed him, the way Ishmila tilts his head to hear him clearly annoyed him, and the constant twitching of his eyes annoyed him even more.
But five days later, there he stood, reciting the creed and taking the vow, with vengeance in his heart, all he wanted was to inflict more pain to those that had hurt him, to be the demon that would hunt the military for a very long time, and to look that silly LovePeddler in the face while driving a h0t blade throu-gh her v*****.
Yusuf has seen broken men bec@m£ mighty army for Allah, some of them had joined the sect because they had no better option, they nee-ded help and the brotherhood had offered them help
Unlike him and some sons of the rich who joined the sect because they wanted to serve Allah, because Imam Husayn convinced them that service to Allah was what they should live and die for and that enforcing terror on ‘masu zunubi (Sinners)’ and unbelievers would bring sanity to the world
But he was yet to know the motive of the new recruit. Ishmila had vowed that the new recruit would be a major advantage to the group.
“I have worked with him, I have seen him do terrible things to people in other to bend them, since he know the military so well, he will not have any trouble carrying out operations there” Ishmila had said to him
“But you said he was dismissed from the f0rç£?” he had asked
“Yes, but I know this man, Allah will use him to grow the sect and give us victory, he knows his way around and can do anything to achieve our aims”
Yusuf looked at Issah as he mumbled the creed, he ba-rely talks or chats with anyone except when necessary, Yusuf had noticed how the man grips objects when he tries to pronounce words, and the twitching of his right eyelid;
“He is brutal and we nee-d him” Ishmila had said
“Then get him, lure him with any promise, Uncle Husayn will reward you”
“I am proud of you son!” Husayn cheered
He sat in his car and watched the group train. They were at the out sketch of the city, in a village forsaking by the government for a long time.
He has purchased the vast land after he returned from Hajj a year ago. They have become the government for the community, carrying out charity works once in a while and spre-ading Allah’s Messages.
“They are increasing in number, soon we will have enough men to break into every home and every community” Husayn said, coming out from the car
Both of then watched the group for a while, there were women and girls whose job was to cook and run errands for the group;
“I don’t want to bring this up but…after Allah used Fatima to give us a successful operation in the IDP camp…”
Yusuf grimaced with emotional pain at the reminder of the death of his wife; Husayn looked at him and looked away while he continued,
“I think Allah is guiding us towards recruiting women into the group, not for cooking and cleaning but…to pene-tratesome places where these men may find it difficult to pene-trate”
Yusuf frowned, he didn’t have any problem with Men sacrificing themselves for this course, but getting women involved reminded him of how he felt when his mother died, and what he felt when Fatima died.
“Every life is for Allah my boy, he demands for us when he nee-ds us, if sacrificing the women is what it takes get this government on their feet, then so be it. I want this state for Allah and will do anything to achieve that”
“Do you think it is wise Uncle?” Yusuf asked
“Everything is wise as far as this is concerned” Husayn exhaled some air and continued,
“I will be travelling tomorrow to Iraq, I have an unfinished business with some Brothers” he moved to the driver’s side of the car and eased himself inside
“Think about what I told you while I am gone, I want to get positive reports when I get back” Imam husayn drove off.
“…He was the tiniest and most fragile baby I have ever seen, he was weighing 1.7kg at birth, he c@m£ out preterm…” Ukwuoma was feeding Ife,
She didn’t know why she was telling her this story, probably for the sake of telling the story.
That was all she has left with her, memories from the past and like old pictures, these memories hung there, they burdened her heart;
“…we were afraid he would die but he didn’t, you can imagine our joy when he celebr@ted his first birthday…”
She shoved a spoon of Pap in the girl’s mouth and wiped some that were falling from the mouth,
“my father didn’t call to congratulate us when he was born and he refused my mother from coming, when I s£nt a letter to them to tell them the circu-mtance that led to his birth, only mother responded, apologizing for not being there for me but told me that my father has not forgiven me for marrying an unbeliever, a stranger from Yoru-ba whose mother wan an Ifa priestess”
Ifeoluwa coughed and Ukwuoma put the food aside to get some water for her;
“…I broke his heart by not marrying from the fold, mother said. I thought he would get over it and love me again, if not for anything but for the new baby, but…I was wrong. When we moved from Enugu to Kaduna, I wrote to him severally but he didn’t respond, neither did mother…maybe he also forbade her from writing to me, so I gave up…”
She cleaned the girl’s mouth again, placed two pillows behind her and rested her back on them.
The girl sighed and closed her eyes. She has been like this since the day of the explosion, thankfully she has st©pped talking to herself and gazing at nothing, she could now recognize them and un-derstand when they talk to her.
Ukwuoma took the plate and stood up,
“You never talk about them before” Mariam asked as she followed Ukwuoma out
“No, they are dead to me”
“You nee-d them now, you can s£nd words across, let them know you are alive”
“I am alre-ady dead to them, there is no nee-d, besides what good will it make? I have lost everything that would have made them take me back, My father will remind me that I am suffering for my disobe-dience”
“You have your son, Ogugua” Mariam placed a hand on Ukwuoma’s shoulder
“I am afraid he may not be welcomed to stay with them too”
To be continued
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