IN BROKEN MEMORY
The 13-year-old walked slowly, his little feet dragging him along. Commandant was in front, urging the boys to move. Timi couldn’t care anymore, he was tired. His gun hung heavy on his shoulder. Above him, the sun gloated from the safety of the sky. It looked like a welcome salvation, safety from the hell that was below, so close yet so very far away. Timi felt like pinching the Sun from the sky and throwing it away. The world should be in darkness, the sun should not be up there, shining like there was nothing wrong going on down here.
“Stay sharp, boys,” commandant ordered.
The man’s voice reminded Timi of last night. Last night, the horrors, the fears, the lines that were crossed.
“Timi, come here,” the commandant had called with a rough voice. His voice was everything in the camp; law and order and the voice of God, that was what his voice was.
They were just a group of rebel soldiers who had everything to lose—soldiers who were dying out slowly but surely if kids could be soldiers.
“Sah,” Timi had saluted fiercely as he had been made to do the first time he joined them.
Commandant watched him, red eyes roaming over his little body, his tongue licking the part of his mouth not covered by his bushy beard.
“You are always too serious, Timi.”
“At ease, boy, at ease. I want to show you something. Close the door.”
Confused, Timi walked to the door and pushed it shut, but not before catching Buusu’s eyes. He thought he saw the pain on the boy’s face but he did not understand, could not.
“I want to show you pleasure.”
“Pleasure?” Timi repeated, zombie-like.
“All work and no play makes you dull. You’re too dull. I want to help you. Remove your clothes.”
The rag passing for shorts came off the little boy’s body. That night, commandant made him hold his thing and asked him to rub it. Then he put it in his mouth and kept pulling his head, forcing his manhood to the back of his throat. Timi wanted to run, but it all overwhelmed him. Commandant was a good man, besides, if he ran, where would he run to? Commandant had taken him when he was about to be killed. He had pounced on the federal forces and dragged him right away from the claws of death. Pity, he had been unable to do it for his family.
When commandant’s manhood forced its way into his butthole, he found himself arguing with himself again. His screams were muffled with his head pressed on the mattress close to the ground, as the commandant thrust into him again and again.
Those were the only words after everything. Timi limped out of the room, clutching his dirty singlet while the shorts he had pulled on threatened to let go of his tiny waist. Every one of the boys looked away as he came down. The chattering died, eyes sort the nothingness of flames, the darkness surrounding them, tree branches, anything but Timi’s eyes running over with the melancholy of his new experience.
“Come,” a voice said beside him, startling him.
Buusu took his hand and led him away from the others where they sat watching the commandant’s room. Slowly, the chattering picked up again, as nothing had happened. Timi’s eyes glistened.
“He’s done it to all of us,” Buusu finally said.
The pity was peering out from the corners of his eyes as he stared at Timi. It was baptism, an agonizing one, but still Baptism. He was part of the boys now.
It was shortly after the baptism that danger struck. The person that sent over the mortar bomb must have known exactly where the boys were, for it landed right in their midst. Timi gasped as a severed arm flew right through the air and landed on his laps. He threw it away, getting up at the same time. He was vaguely aware of Buusu beside him, picking his gun, moving backward, retreating in the manner commandant had taught them. The next shell landed right on top of commandant’s room. Timi was startled. Amidst all the madness, guilt sprang from somewhere within him; he had wished the commandant dead.
Dark figures were coming towards the camp when someone leaped in front of them and opened fire on the enemies. The sound of gunshots brought the boys the awareness that they had weapons.
“Retreat!” the commandant screamed as he fired right at the advancing figures. He was alive.
Timi failed horribly at maths in school, but he knew they were more than 50 before the attack last night. Now, they were less than half that number.
A sound caught his ears; Timi froze and listened carefully, wading through the forest had taught him his ears were more important than the rest of his body. Buusu collided into him.
“What’s the problem?” Buusu hollered.
Timi listened for a while. Nothing. “Nothing,” he said and continued.
Buusu, he couldn’t be more than 12, vulnerable looking, and always trying to cover that with a forbidding frown on his face; he reminded Timi of his younger brother. Lost younger brother. As Buusu followed, the first gunshots exploded through the day, narrowly missing them.
“Down!” Timi screamed. His gun sprang into his hands. He didn’t know where to shoot, but he held the trigger anyway. His bullets distracted the ambush team long enough for commandant to come back with the other boys. Bullets whizzed and swished through the air. The enemy had men hiding in places the boys could not reach.
“Go! Go!” commandant screamed.
The boys moved back, retreating.
“Fucking move! Run!”
They turned and raced through the forest. A resounding boom shook the place, knocking the boys to the ground.
“What?” Timi thought with his head swimming from the explosion. The enemies were gone, but so was the commandant.
It had been 8 months, this war, littering bodies like broken memories along the way. And home was not any closer.
Written by Ogechukwu Emmanuel Samuel