My heart kept on beating faster as the hearse approached the village. The ear-piercing siren enveloping the hearse attracted the villagers who came out en masse to ascertain its destination.
That has been a common practice in our village. Each time an unexpected corpse is conveyed through the village, the villagers would come out in their numbers.
I sat in front of the hearse conveying the corpse. What disturbed me most was how I would break this news to the relations of the deceased.
Though, Emma was not my relation. In fact, he was not from Uhe, my hometown. He hailed from Eko, a neighboring village.
When I was in the village, there was a football march called the Uhe-Eko football competition. The football march, which had united the two villages was organized every Christmas period.
Emma was among the Eko football team. In fact, he was the goalkeeper. A talented one for that matter. Hardly would you score him a goal. His experience as a goalkeeper fetched him the nickname, Udo - the elastic.
I couldn't believe seeing this valued goalkeeper laying dead and his corpse being used by university students for practicals.
It happened in my fourth year as a medical student. At school, there was a very large Medical and Clinical Skills Laboratory where dissection and analysis of human parts were being carried out.
There were five tables in the laboratory. Each table had its corpse covered with a garment. Students sat in groups, according to the number of tables.
Expectations were high. As medical students, dissection and analysis of the corpses were very important to us.
We had no phobia for the corpses. In fact, dismembering them was a thing of joy. After all, they were armed robbers caught by the police bullets.
The corpse on my table was unveiled, just as we were set for the anatomy. "Noo..!" I screamed, as I noticed that it was Emma. "He can't be an armed robber," I went on to say, pointing at the bullet wound that burst his chest wide open.
I couldn't get myself. I began to shiver, as tears cascaded down my cheeks uncontrollably.
Emma went missing two years ago, after attending a soccer game screening exercise in the city. Though nobody could tell what prompted his death, what I am sure of is that he was not an armed robber.
He was a God-fearing man, who had never indulged in any form of crime, yet his body was riddled with bullets, and his corpse tagged an armed robber.
I could not lay my hands on this corpse. I knew Emma was innocent. He was only mistaken for an armed robber with no guns found on him.
I agitated that the corpse must be returned to the morgue. I challenged those who said he was an armed robber to come up with their evidence.
I completely disrupted the anatomy class, demanding that the corpse be released to me. I knew if I did not take up the fight, Emma would not be buried.
I had thought of contacting his parents about this fight, but dismissed the idea almost immediately. They were poor and old, and would do nothing more than wail.
It wasn't an easy fight. I was later taken to the school rector for questioning. After that, I was told to contact the relations of the deceased.
A panel was instituted to look into my complaint. I contacted some of my friends and those from Emma's village who were also students to back me.
It was a legal battle. Arguments and counter arguments, critical questions and proof of claims were the other of the day.
The battle lasted for over a month.
At last, I won and the corpse was released to me, hence my journey to the village.
I was almost in their compound when I saw some older women coming to meet us. Amaka Ude, Emma's mother was among the women. She looked depressed and frustrated. Her face was covered with tears, while her voice could be heard from a distance, mourning her son.
Then, I knew, it was no longer a secret that Emma was dead. Amaka wailed bitterly, obstructing the moving hearse. She rolled and rolled on the bonnet. She called on death to take her miserable life.
Not even the stone-hearted could hold back his tears. We were all in this game of wailing. Voices echoed, piecing the nooks and crannies of the village, attracting more people to the scene.
Though, it was not called for a celebration, yet I rejoiced. At least, Emma was buried and his soul would rest in peace.
© 2022 Chigbo Douglas Chiedozie