Victims – Episode 7
A Story By Rosemary Okafor
Ukwuoma was seated at her favorite Nim tree, watching Ogugua chase grasshoppers and butterflies. The child’s stomach has been growing bigger and bigger and it worried her, he has developed fever two nights ago which disappeared once the sun came up.
Her eyes caught a figure from afar, the girl she saw with the young officer was walking rapidly towards her, she halted on seeing Ukwuoma seated under the tree, she was carrying a bowel and a waterproof bag. With her eyes on the floor, she muttered something and wanted to hurry away
“Ehn…wait…” Ukwuoma called her back
The girl looked at her, and walked on. She had a shawl over her head.
“Please!” Ukwuoma pleaded at her, as she stood up to walk towards the girl
“Watin you want?” The girl asked looking around uncomfortably
“I just want to know how your brother Abraham is doing, he was sick the last time I saw him” Ukwuoma said. Getting to the girl and placing her hand on her shoulder. The girl shrugged it off.
“He is fine, I want to give him food and drugs” the girl surprised Ukwuoma with her English.
“Can I come and see him sometimes?” Ukwuoma asked
The girl looked at her abruptly, she couldn’t understand why this woman wanted to hang around her and her brother, she wanted to avoid Ukwuoma like a plague for the good of herself and her brother
“Ehm no Ma…yes Ma…he will not like you …”
“I can try…”
The girl swallowed hard, it was obvious she was afraid of something or someone, Ukwuoma was bent on finding out.
“He said I shouldn’t tell anyone that I will end up making myself a laughing stock” the girl said
“Why?” Ukwuoma asked
“He said that every woman is doing it and that is how to survive here”
“And you agreed with him?”
“Yes na, watin I for do, my brother would die if I no gree!”
The girl held her face with her hands and sobbed. She reminded her of herself, the child has been forced to become a woman by circumstances.
She was vulnerable, Ukwuoma could see that now, that beyond the tough skin the girl seated by her was still a child and is afraid and bitter.
“Since when has he been doing this to you?” Ukwuoma asked
“I no fit remember how many time, but the first time, he asked me to come to his office and he would give me more food with liquid milk for my brother, Abraham likes Liquid milks a lot, so I went to his office…I didn’t want to do it, he forced me, he said my brother would die and I would be responsible…”
The girl broke off; she was choking with her own sob. Every tale she let out painted pictures of Ukwuoma’s story, reminding her of what was taking from her, driving the blade deeper into her heart.
She may not remember the faces of those that took her family, only the gores and hanging flesh that would hunt her dreams, but the face of the young officer with his sinister victorious laugh after he had his way with her would always remain with her.
“…it was so painful, I told him to stop but he didn’t…”
“Why didn’t you stop after that?” Ukwuoma asked
“That was the only way my brother could get better feeding and drugs, he keep coming back to me with these offers and threats, as long as I agree with him, he will take care of my brother, but if I don’t, he would make sure we don’t get anything here…”
“The night I saw both of you?”
The girl started crying again, Ukwuoma held her, placing her head on her shoulder and tapping her gently, but within her, something was building, something ugly, and something dark.
“I was sleeping when he came inside the tent to call me, his other Army friends used me that night, he brought them along, he said he would love to see them do it with me, I begged him but he said it was the only way to prove my appreciation to all he has done for me and my brother, they were drunk. After they left, he wanted to do it from the back but…but…it was so tight and hurt so badly…then you came in”
“Jesus Christ! And you went there again today?” Ukwuoma asked
“I am scared of making him angry, he can do anything to us… he didn’t do anything to me today”
Ukwuoma held her knees with her hands, rocking herself back and forth. As much anger and resentment she harbored towards this Man, she knew the poor girl was saying the truth, they where all at the mercy of these powerful corrupt new task masters who could dangle hunger and food as baits to get them on their knees begging.
The girl sniffed and straightened herself;
“Why am I even telling you this? You are no better than any of us, you also have sex with him…” the girl said challenging
“He told you that?” Ukwuoma asked, not looking at the girl, but at an empty space
“And more…he warned me not to even talk to you that you are dangerous”
She didn’t know why, but she felt a connection between this girl and herself, she felt the failure and shame of not fighting for her dead children, she felt life giving her another chance change the guilt she felt every day, she felt something more deep in her gut, and it scares her
“I was raped…by that b******” she said coldly to the girl.
Later that night, as she sat silently on the spot she always sit with the old man, with Ogugua sleeping and battling with fever, she muttered to herself, how on earth did she get here? Why would she be in this condition? How could she lose everything in months, why would God or any other deity out there abandon her and give her the heavy burden of a mad woman, a sack that contained nothing? Who did she offend?
Then the cry came, from the depth of her core, a gut wrenching cry that tore the fabrics of her being and blocked her brain from reality. After the tears, came the guttural laughter that was scary even in the dead of the night, the few dwellers that passed by looked at her and concluded that she was mad;
“This one don mad be that o” one said
“Who no go mad for this place, this place alone no be madness?”
She was transported to the time where she chased “Okpana” in her grandmothers’ farm; she was just the girl’s age, the girl that had become meat for the pleasure of the young Officer and his friends.
The girl heard her cry and her laughter; she carefully came out and watched the older woman drown in her misery.
The silence is deafening
I can feel the troubled souls from the sound of their breath even as they sleep
As I creep out from the little hole that houses me in the day in search of the crumbs from their plates
I see her, this woman, still awake muttering words to herself
Too distance in her thoughts to notice me picking from what is left of their food
That is the advantage of being an Ant
This place used to be our colony, with one of the most beautify mansions owned by Ants
What do humans call it again? ‘Ant Hill’ yes! I got that from one of them when they came to destroy our home that has housed hundreds of thousands of us, many of us died of stampede
Others left in search of a better place
I choose to stay with few others, hoping to make something out of this whole situation.
As I make it back to my hole, with some food balanced on top of my head
I have that usual feeling that her story is not yet ended, so I will hang around, if possible, journey with her as she journeys
But tonight sleeps on… tomorrow holds another story …
To be continued
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