The world was silent when we died
Has come limping on the clouds.
Dried roofs and patches
Showing pellet holes
Mother earth was once beautiful
Now she’s a desiccated fool.
Harkeem laid on his bed, with the only sound ticking from the wall-clock, 2:30 am. He was listening to the cricket chirping faraway, the crescent yellowish lantern ignited the room. For some seconds he thought he heard some sounds outside his house. His breathing was irregular, he flash backed to the previous day, luckily Alhaji Danjuma has assured him more stems of cassava. His mind race to and fro thinking of how much hands he will employ to make the ridges. He gesticulates in the air writing some unseen figures. At some seconds, he felt Aliyha, his wife breathing warm around his earlobe. He turned to see her moving her lips closer to him, and her hand drawing him near under the sheet. “Not now Aliyha” he said cautiously.
She looked at him, even the dying yellowish lantern she could feel the warmness of his muscle she thought how she ended up with him for few minutes— “then when?” she asked rhetorically. Harkeem turned to her and kiss her forehead “very soon” he said. “Very soon! It’s been three years! I know you don’t have it outside but can….” she was interrupted “I know.” Harkeem tried to sound without showing his discomfort with the conversation. “Aliyha, I’m sorry if am being cruel to you. But I suggest we wait till when Surajudeen is twelve and by the time we would have settled ourselves properly. Find a better house, perhaps build one.” He was silent for some seconds and continued “we just lost everything to the insurgents. My work in the civil service, your shop and here we are struggling to make a great deal, thanks to Alhaji Danjuma who responded to our aid in time if not…” Aliyha began “I know that you’re trying but Usman should have got a baby brother or sister.” She said trying to cajole him. “We already have Surajudeen and Usman and may Allah protect them.” “I believe in you, may Allah crown your efforts with great success. What are yours plans to see Alhaji Danjuma in the morning.”
He explained everything and by the time he was done, Aliyha was already fast asleep. He listened to the ticking wall-clock then it chimed four times—4:00 am, outside his room he heard the cook crowed.
“Bar̃kâ da asuba—Good morning” Surajudeen and Usman said as they both came out of their room. The sky was already clear. Harkeem was dressing his cutlass and farm implements. Aliyha bent down poking the fire to the pot of beans “Sannu” she greeted them. They both look healthy except Usman who seems lassitude. He had sustained an injury from the field which made Harkeem gave him three strokes of Koboko-a whip made of cattle skin. Usman limped forward. Inâ kwânâ?—How was your night? Harkeem asked Usman has he limped to grab his cloths. “Fine.” They were silent—The rule has always been “keep shut whenever Daddy is listening to radio.” Surajudeen, the eight-year-old, first born, sat with his mother. Usman limped back to meet his brother. “Kanem FM, 97.7 University of Maiduguri radio.” A male voice resonated from the radio besides Harkeem. “A suicide bomber which claims to be among the Boko-Haram insurgents was apprehended yesterday around the University of Maiduguri. Thanks to the forces who were vigilant to have noticed his peculiar movements and idiosyncrasies gesture. He was apprehended around 6 pm by the….” “Aliyha! Aliyha!” Harkeem called. “Our government is trying to curb this people.” He said proudly “may Allah bless them.” Aliyha responded going back to poking the fire.
A neighbour, Ali walked pass “Sannu” he said waving at Harkeem, he stopped greeting Aliyha. Harkeem gaze fixed on his cutlass maybe he would have heard Aliyha talking. He was trying to set a new frequency on his radio to listen to the 9:00 am news when Aliyha walked up to him “Harkeem, there is something I want to discuss with you.” Harkeem barely raised his head up from the radio “we will talk when I am back from the farm.” Aliyha walked off and turned back— “But—” Harkeem raised his hand to silence her. She walked back desolately Surajudeen and Usman looked at their father, perhaps it was the loss of everything that made him changed attitude perhaps.
They all ate their meal in silence only disturbed by the stubborn radio who has failed to get a clear frequency. Harkeem clasped one hand round it and placed it near his ear as if it’s not audible enough to be heard from across the room. Surajudeen keeps his gaze fixed on his Tuwo, trying not to show his lack of appetite. A female singer voice blares at last from the radio, Harkeem finished his meal and set for his farm. Surajudeen helped me carry his bag while they walk to the farm. Aliyha went inside, Usman was outside playing with a wooden toy when the radio blares again— “Another attack was made this morning. We implore—” the frequency got lost again. Frustrated at the crazy noise coming out from the radio, Aliyha came out and turned it off. She sat on a wooden bench and thought about Ali.
She had been working when he came around, he asked for her husband which was in his farm at the time. Then began to tell her some amorous words. Her heart was thumping as he grabbed her by her waist—just a thought, she flicked it off her mind.
Both Surajudeen and Harkeem sat tirelessly beside a ridge. Harkeem brought out his Motorola phone and decided to call Alhaji Danjuma--first ring…second ring… “Not available” responded a voice. He began to unpack his bag, Surajudeen rested his head on a ridge and begin to doze off. His father checked his phone clock, 10:50 am. He wondered why his labourers were late today as he began to prepare.
He had just cleared a portion when thought about the government scheme for the provision of fertilizer for the farmers. He thought about his work before the Boko-Haram insurgency. Then faraway he thought heard gunshots, he stood up to breath in some air. Surajudeen lay on a ridge perhaps he was sleeping.
He bent down to continue his work when he began to feel the rush of stampedes, he looked up this time to see cows running towards his farm. Surajudeen jumped up immediately hiding behind his father. Harkeem walked in anger towards the running cattle. By the time he came towards them one-third of is cassava plant has been destroyed. He looked angrily at the herdsmen— “You rascals!” he barked. But they stayed without even moving a reflex. They felt relax like no one was talking. He walked to the boy who was leading the cattle, he seems to be between his fourteenth and seventeenth years of age. “You ignoramus, do you bring cattle to graze in another man’s farm. You are a fool!” He barked at the teen boy commanding the cows who was not bothered by Harkeem’s rant. He became so infuriated at the boy which made him landed two slaps on his face.
The boy stepped two paces backward then brought out a steel-referee-whistle and began to blow. In a moment, gunshots began to fire around the farm. A bullet kissed the ridge that was before Surajudeen right foot. Instantaneously, Surajudeen picked race alongside his father. They began to run taking the longer root which passes through the forest. For some minutes, the gunshot seems to have stopped. Harkeem and Surajudeen decided to rest on an Iroko tree when suddenly another gunshot reverberated and before they could launched in another race two bullets hit Surajudeen, one at his forehead and the other in his bowel. Harkeem watched as the eight-year-old began to jerk rapidly, he supported him and began to launch forward in a frog-like manner. The more he launched, the nearer the gunshots. He was almost out of the forest when a bullet hits him on his shoulder.
Aliyha turned on the radio, this time clearer— “Some herdsmen were said to have attacked a number of farmers this morning up to ten farmers have been recorded casualties of this pandemonium. Troops are been deployed to affected areas. That is all we have for the lunch hour News. Stayed Turn.” For a second she lost her mind staring blankly at the radio. Immediately, she ran inside slipped in her slippers and began her way outside.
Harkeem struggled to get up, blood began to gush out of his shoulder. He looked at his lifeless son and muttered some prayers. Few steps away he heard the herdsmen whispering, he calculated his steps and began to run. The bullets now were splashing dust to his boot, on his way his boot flew out of his feet he cared less of getting it back. In any minutes he will be at his place he began to muttered prayers under breath.
Aliyha was on her heels when she saw him running. For a seconds it was Harkeem running grabbing his shoulder then she saw them. Four perhaps five of them shooting in every direction, she began to ran towards him. Usman came running from the house— “Go inside!” Aliyha shouted at him. Harkeem was almost near his home when another shot hit his leg. “Arrrhhhh” he cried has he fell. He began to crawl on his belly when one of the herdsmen pinned him down pointing his AK-47 rifle to his head. He was dragged to his house, Aliyha stayed in front of the door guiding the doorpost with her hands by stretching both hands in different direction. The killer cocked his gun when someone shouted.
The boy whom Harkeem slapped his face walked forward to him, he bent and gave Harkeem a blow causing his nose to bleed. He ordered other men to bring any body from the house. Minutes later Usman was dragged out and Aliyha was pinned on the ground by another man with a bayonet. One of them brought Surajudeen’s body carrying him on his shoulder and dropped him in front of his parent. The lifeless boy stared at his parent as if he could see them.
The boy said some words aloud staring deadly at Harkeem, others chorused. He made Harkeem looked up “Die! Die!” the boy said showing his bruised mouth. Harkeem stared with mixed emotion of pity and fear at his wife and child. He began to muttered some words but before he was done the boy ordered loudly and sporadic shots were fired at Aliyha and Usman.
Harkeem stared at his wife and Usman has they both fell on one another, tears began to roll down his cheek. The boy looked at him and began to chuckled alongside the other men. He stayed in front of Harkeem and said something he could not understand. Harkeem stared petrified at his death has the boy unsheathed his dagger. For some seconds the boy caressed the dagger, he looked at Harkeem with fearlessness shot across his eyes— “Death! Death!” he said and swing the dagger horizontally. Harkeem last images were blur he grab his neck as blood began to gush from his neck. For some seconds his screamed in his mind and could not utter a word. He fell beside Surajudeen. His gaze focused on his wife’s body, Aliyha and his son, Usman. “Ya Allah” he prayed in his mind and then, Darkness. “It’s six o’clock” a voice said in the radio.