He was later at the foot of a hill, beside a spring, rolling on his stomach and playing with the grass, breathing the peaceful breeze of the quiet village. It was not long after that when four other boys from the village came by. Nweke never wanted to isolate himself anymore; everyone needed a friend – someone to chat with at least. His invitation to the boys to go up the hill was consented to. His story about seeing for the first time, army vehicles and soldiers intrigued the other boys and they soon became friendly like they’d known themselves for years.
Things now looked better to Nweke, even strange. Everything was different now. Life would never be a boredom to him anymore, even nature didn’t make life isolated. The boys swam together in a cool, clear body of water they found on their way up, hunted squirrels, prodded holes for snakes, climbed trees and pranced about in the greeness of the wild vegetation. Nweke felt important and was quite happy to be alive. Everyone needed friendship, it only mattered on the type. The boy was glad to break away from the prison of his home. He wiped his nose with the back of his hand.
The rainforest trees provided a sort of canopy above them from the sun, the floorbed was thickly-carpeted with dried leaves and twigs that cracked under the weight of the boys’ excited feet. They sang joyously as they went higher and they climbed occasional fruit trees they came across. The world was below and behind them until they finally warmed their way out through the ferns and impenetrable thicket to reach the hilltop. It was thrilling as they watched the stretch of road that connected the village to other places miles away; they saw patches of farmlands with dotted figures of farmers and they saw the zinc and thatched roofs of houses in the small village.
The boys were stupefied with the beauty of the sight from atop since it was their first climb to the highest hill. They looked on in silence. Everything’s all right; everything was very friendly and inspiring. Nature was extremely beautiful, Nweke thought. But man never appreciated things. He, with the rest could feel the peace of the environment and the shelter the vegetation had to offer. He imagined the animals in their natural habitat, probably watching them. Nweke knew all this calmness and greeness would disappear when man reached there, the animals and forest’d be raped. The war too would be destructive to Mother Nature……….
Suddenly the forest around them began to move. Nweke and others were still wondering what was happening when the bushes and leaves began to take the shape of armed men – guerilla fighters. Stillness descended on the boys as a squad of nine rifle-wielding rebels surrounded them. Nweke hovered briefly between two courses of either running and getting shot or staying and giving himself up to the rebels. Except for the squad leader, the other eight gunmen were still boys in their early teen years. Nweke knew one of them; Nik, the bully at school who’d run off to join the guerillas.
Without warning, the armed boys went in pairs to grab each of the four captives. Nik grabbed Nweke’s kinky hair, suddenly pulling out a commando knife which he brandished threateningly at Nweke’s exposed throat. The rebels all cocked their self-reloading rifles, ready to mow down the defenceless village boys. It was only the sharp order of the squad leader that stopped the triggers.
“I think we should recruit them,” said the raggedly-looking lieutenant.
“Oh, no, please sir,” the youngest of the captives began weeping, he was only twelve.
“Boys,” said the hairy man in stolen lieutenant’s uniform. “Two of you stay behind and watch these boys. Kill them if necessary.” Then he led six boys down the hill toward the village. Nweke watched Nik go with them.
Boldly, he asked their guards, “What do you want to do to us?”
“You’ll help us overthrow the government, you will become soldiers.”
“I heard your leader say that. I mean to our people in the village downhill.”
“You shall know soon,” grinned the armed boy.
The youngest of the captives moaned. “Our parents don’t know we are here. Please.”
The second guerilla smiled, shrugging. “Mine too.”
The boy began weeping. “I want to go home”
“Enough of that or I’ll carry out the lieutenant’s order!” snarled the first guerilla.
Then came the unmistakable sound of gunshots in small isolated bursts all around the village below. The wind blowing in gently from below carried the faint sound of screaming and chaos with it. Nweke shut his eyes and mind from whatever the guerillas were doing to his village, to his father’s house, and to his small family. He wiped at his nose, but this time it was dry.
—–>>>> To be continued.
Watch out for Episode 7