I know the most painful way to die. It’s not when a bullet pierces through your flesh, or the peeling of skin in a fire, it’s not when your oxygen is cut off in a strangulation, it’s not even the excruciating heat from a stabbing. It’s by being alive. To live and watch the thing you love or once loved burn to the ground.
I should know this better than anyone. I am a million years old; a guru in living. I am unknown to most of the human race. I may be found in between the lines, silently hiding in the shadows, waiting. I may not be found at all, but do not fret or get annoyed. I will reveal myself, eventually, eventually…
What’s important is that you see and know the story of Maji. I consider them most unfortunate people. Things went well at first but quickly crumbled to the ground. How does a nation full of possibilities and hope fade away? How does a land filled with food from large tubers of yams to tall pyramids of nuts become one ravaged by hunger? How does a nation fall?
Corruption, Greed, bad leaders; all wild fires that consume everything in its path. And Maji did burn, burned so bad that nothing was left standing. Listen to their story.
The sky was not blue. It was a terrifying mix of dark orange and misty red. It looked like a giant terrible painting of splattered blood. Aima marched down the empty park. It was silent. Her footsteps and heavy breathing echoed in her ears. Her palms were sweaty and her throat was wound tight, like she was being strangulated by a hard-invisible hand.
She had every right to be afraid. Aman had her brother. He was just a little boy! He turned ten a month ago. He was so excited about having two digits as his age. He was innocent and young. He was in no shape or way ready to fight a war that didn’t concern him.
The war… it weighed heavy on everyone’s mind. On every mother, every wife, every family whose child or loved one was recruited as part of the army. But there was no choice but to obey. Disobedience meant death. The war was senseless, unnecessary, yet it would claim the lives of people, children, like Ben…
No! She would not let that happen. But how? She stopped in front of the large uncompleted building. Her heart pounded so hard against her chest that it hurt. Entering into the building would be foolish. But did she have a choice? How could she live with herself knowing that she did nothing to save her brother?
She took a deep breath and stepped into the building. It felt more like a lion’s den.
‘’Hah!’’ she jumped. Shouting? She towards the sound and her heart clenched at what she saw. A large man holding a knife stood in front of a crowd of boys. All the boys imitated his moves with sticks. It was probably a training session. She scanned the group for her brother. She gasped. There he was! A sob threatened to burst out. He was trying really hard not to show his fear. But it was written all over his face, his eyes were wild with fright. She wanted to step inside, pull him out and run away, but that would not end well.
‘’What are you doing?’’ a deep voice asked.
She yelped and stumbled backwards. Her hands shook as she eyed the large frame of Aman’s second in command, Rema. His face was void of any expression as he stared at her.
She said the first thing that came to mind. ‘’My brother’s in there.’’
He glanced at them and turned his gaze back at her. He said nothing.
‘’I want to take his place.’’ What gave her the courage to keep speaking? She had no clue.
He rose a bushy eyebrow. ‘’Do you know what you are asking?’’
She did. A female in the midst of savage men who had lost their conscience a long time ago. What she was asking for, was far worse than a death sentence.
‘’Go home.’’ He said and tears filled her eyes. He was not moved. ‘’Now!’’
She scrambled backwards and ran out of the building. Sobs erupted out of her. Tears that she’d kept at bay poured out as she walked back home. Her thoughts were jumbled. She couldn’t think straight. She was cold, empty and numb. What was she going to do?
When she reached her small house, she opened the door.
‘’Where were you?’’ Aima’s mother ran to meet her.
‘’I went to the park.’’ She said and her mother’s eyes widened.
‘’Why on earth would you do that?!’’
‘’I went to save Ben!’’ she cried.
Her mother closed her eyes. Her face contorted in pain. ‘’I’ve been praying.’’
Aima snorted. ‘’Prayer won’t save Ben.’’
She slumped on a mat and buried her face in her hands. ‘’I wish there was something I could do.’’
‘’I know.’’ Mother sat beside her and rubbed her back. ‘’I know.’’
Later that night, Aima lay on her back on the mattress. She remembered the day Ben was born. He was so tiny, so fragile. Even at age nine as she held him, she vowed to protect him. A tear rolled down to her ear. She ignored it and sniffed. She had gone over and over again in her mind on how to save her brother. She’d come up blank. She hated this helpless feeling. Why did her brother have to fight a war that would never end? Even if the rebels in the north succeeded against those in the south, those in the north would separate again and the rivalry would continue.
Aima sat up. What was that? A bell?
CLANG!!!! There it was again. Aima sprang out of her mattress and ran to the window. Aima stumbled backwards and shaded her eyes against the bright light. What… A long string of gunshots rang out along with screams. Aima lay on the floor, her heart pounding.
‘’Stay down!’’ Aima shouted at her mother. She remained still on the mattress. Aima crawled to her.
‘’what is happening?’’ she whispered.
‘’I don’t know.’’ Aima whispered back. She couldn’t see her mother but she could feel the fear and tension vibrating off her.
Their door bust open. Her mother screamed. Four men marched in. Aima gasped and clutched her mother’s torso. They were south rebels. Their batches of a navy-blue scorpion and their carton brown uniforms were hard to miss. One grabbed her hair and tore her away from her mother. They both screamed.
Aima stretched her hand to reach her mother. ‘’Mama!’’
‘’Aima!’’ her mother screeched. Aima scratched the man’s hand and opened her mouth to bite his arm. She had to fight.
‘’Hey!’’ he yelled. Aima froze as something hard crashed against her skull and she slipped into darkness, alone.
Rema gave up trying to sleep and was sitting up on his bed. He could not forget her. The girl from the park. He could not forget those deep black eyes begging him. He didn’t agree with recruiting boys as young as ten into the lions, but Aman had insisted, claiming they were too only just boys when they were initiated as well. And his cousin got his way, as usual. He sighed.
What in the…
Rema gripped his gun. A rapid string of gun shots rang. He rolled to the ground and lay flat. What was going on? Was it one of the rebel groups? He cursed. There were supposed to tolerate one another till after the war.
His door bust open and three large men goose stepped into his house. He was a good fighter, but that good. He rose his gun; he would rather die than be taken hostage. He pressed his finger to the trigger but froze as volts of electricity zapped through his body. He dropped to the ground. Oh no.
Aima groaned and opened her eyes. She rolled over from the bed. She scanned the room… or cube? Where was she? Every inch of the place was white. A soft melody played and the door opened. What in the world? She walked to the door and froze.
‘’You’’ she snarled. What was Rema doing here? Where were they?
‘’You’re here too?’’ He said. He was wearing a white shirt and white trousers. She looked down at what she was wearing. She was wearing the same thing. Were they in heaven? Mama spoke about it. If so why was Rema here? He should be in the hottest part of hell. Her hands flew to her mouth. Mama! Was she here too? She ran down the long white corridor, passing other people dressed in the same white clothes. But none of them were mama. The melody played again and she paused. It was louder this time.
‘’What is going on?’’ she heard someone say.
‘’please remain calm.’’ A deep voice echoed in the corridor. Seven tall dark figures appeared at the far end. Aima squinted, it was dark were they stood. What were they? As though they’d read her mind, they stepped into the bright light and there was a unanimous gasp. They looked human enough, but they were unusually tall and every pair of eyes were jade in colour even though they were all of different skin colours. They wore long dark robes that hid most of their skin but their faces were clear. Clear of any emotion. They just stood there watching. Aima shuddered. This was creepy.
‘’What do you want with us?!’’ She jumped at the sound of Rema’s voice. She glared at him. He winked at her. She gasped. The audacity of this man! Who did he think he was?
‘’We handpicked you all from Maji’’ a quiet murmur rose. Aima frowned. When was the last time someone called that name?
‘’There is no such thing as Maji.’’ A voice with a thick west accent said. Aima turned to look at him. The look on his face was familiar. Loss. Pain. Anyone could relate. Aima could. They’d all lost hope on Maji, there was only the south, the west, the north, and the capital. There was a loud flick and the whole place went dark. The lights came on again but they were in different place.
‘’What’s going on?’’ someone asked.
‘’Who are you?’’ Rema said. Aima glanced at him, then back to the strange people.
‘’We are the seven.’’ They all said.
‘’The seven?’’ Aima whispered.
‘’We are older than time.’’ The dark one said. ‘’We have come to help you, we have come to stop the war.’’
‘’What?’’ The place became rowdy. Everyone was speaking at the same time.
Aima looked at them. ‘’I don’t care about any of this.’’ She said. ‘’All I want is my brother and my mother.’’
One of the women looked at her. She was pale skinned with golden hair. She was beautiful, angelic even. ‘’ We understand.’’ She said. ‘’But in order to save them and everyone else, you must do as we say.’’
Aima nodded. Anything to save her family. She glanced behind her. They’d all grown attentive. Good.
The golden haired woman spoke. ‘’The war is beginning of the end. Not just for Maji. But for Africa, as a whole.’’ She paused and scanned the crowd. ‘’In order to stop the war, you must go back in time.’’ she continued.
Another murmur rose. Aima shook her head. Time travel? Was this a dream?
‘’That is all for now.’’ She said.
‘’We need more information.’’ Rema said. Aima had almost forgotten he was there. The skepticism in his face was clear. She had her doubts as well, but what else were they supposed to do.
‘’You’ll have all your questions answered eventually.’’ The dark one said. ‘’You will be divided into groups and sent to different points in time, you’ll be given further instructions then.’’
Aima sighed. This was unreal. The golden haired one stared straight at her. ‘’This is the only way to save those you love and so many people as well.’’ Aima gave a slow nod. She had no idea what would happen, but she had to save her family. They were all she had left.
© 2021 Emmanuella
Emmanuella (author) from Nigeria on September 04, 2021:
Thank you so much
manatita44 from london on September 04, 2021:
Noble effort. i don't usually follow stories in many parts. Two is the most for me. But you show great promise. Welcome here. Peace.
Emmanuella (author) from Nigeria on September 04, 2021:
Hi, I'm new here. I hope you like what I've written. There will be more soon!