The Escape

“Mummy, look at me!” The little boy said as he ran in circles, imitating an aeroplane. Mud splashed around his ankles and the bottom of his cardigan as his tiny feet left depressions on the soil. The evening was cold but he didn’t notice it, well insulated by his body’s heat and his woollen cardigan. All around, the songs of a tropical night rang through the evening, composed by the frogs and the crickets, calling out their mates. The rain had left its mark and was still coming around, luxuriant green vegetation grateful for the downpour in the little town. Puddles of muddy water littered the road, causing the bicycle riders to zigzag around them.
“Chibuzor! Come back here!” His mother called. She was a chubby woman with jet black hair hidden under a floral patterned scarf. In her laps, she cradled a baby wrapped in an African print cloth and a woollen shawl. Her wrapper, which she wrapped round her waist, extended to her legs and served the purpose of keeping the cold away. She wore a white t-shirt, several sizes too big, with the word “USA” printed onto it. Before her, the compound lay open and unfenced, giving her a good view of the road that ran in front of the house and her playing son.
He ran towards her, still imitating an aeroplane, and then tripped, falling face flat into the mud. He quietly got up, knowing that he was in trouble and that crying was only going to compound his problems. To his surprise, she didn’t react. He examined himself and bent to wipe some mud off his knees. He stole another glance at his mother but she seemed to have not noticed his fall. He slowly began to walk towards the house, remorse written all over his face.
“Wash your face.” She said to him as he passed her and entered the house.
She was anxious.
Her name was Amaka and she had been expecting her husband, Chijioke, to have returned by 3pm.
The nation was in crisis as another coup had failed. The Governor General had decided that there had been enough attacks on his life for his regime and started wiping out all the people he considered responsible. He started by ordering the execution of 51 civil servants whom he said were guilty of selling information to the rebels. Then he moved to a village that had condemned his rise to power, calling it “brutal” and “undemocratic”, and wiped out a large population of the males. Sources had informed Chijioke, who was a civil servant that his institution was next and his town was a target too because of their protest. He had made plans with his wife to leave the town and left on that day to withdraw all the money in his account, ordering his wife not to go anywhere until he got back. And that was exactly what she was doing.
Chibuzor re-joined his mother on the veranda, looking cleaner than when he entered. He sat beside her on a smaller stool. They both said nothing. Chibuzor shuffled restlessly and occasionally scratched a mosquito bite on his leg.
“Mummy” He broke the silence.
“Yes?”
“When is Daddy coming back?”
“Very soon”
“Did he go to work?”
“No”
“Where did he go to?”
“He went to get some money.”
“Does he want to buy something?”
“No, but we will need the money very soon.”
“Mummy”
“Yes, my son?”
“Why did you put my clothes inside a bag?”
“Because we are going somewhere.”
“Is it Uncle Uche’s house?”
“No, it’s not.”
“Where are we going to?”
“I don’t know.”
That was the truth; she really didn’t know where they were going. All she knew was that they had to leave the town and go far away. The tears welled up in her eyes and she struggled to hold them back.
“Mummy”
“Yes, my dear.”
“Are you crying?”
Her heart broke and she hugged him and held on to him, shifting the baby to one arm.
“No, I’m not” She said as she got up “Let’s go inside.”
They entered the warm house and she made him a cup of hot beverage. The flame of the lantern illuminated the room but cast shadows everywhere. She fed her baby while he drank his beverage.
After a while, the lights from the headlamps of a truck brightened the room and the truck stopped in front of the house. Amaka peeped through the window and saw Chijioke thanking some people in the truck. She quickly went to open the front door and hushed Chibuzor before he could complete his welcome song.
Chijioke walked into the living room and hugged his family. He dropped his bag on a chair and sat down.
“That man is a dog!” He said referring to the Governor General “He ordered an all-day curfew, nobody is to go anywhere. I’m lucky those people knew other routes, they helped me a lot.”
“Thank God” Amaka said “So what do we do now?”
“We have to leave now.”
“Now? It’s late already.”
“His soldiers are coming tonight, I’m too sure of it. That’s why he ordered the curfew, so that people won’t be able to run away before they arrive.”
“Daddy, where are we going?”
“We’re going to visit one of my friends, okay?”
“Okay” He answered.
“Amaka, carry Ngozi and I’ll carry the bags.”
“Okay, let me get some oil for her.”
“There’s no time for that, let’s go!”
With that, they set out towards the next town, where Chijioke hoped to find the boat to take them to the West and then a bus out of the country.
They walked down until they got to the main road and then began to walk by the side. The silence was piercing, not a single soul was seen, not even the cars that normally sped down the road. Dots of light were seen from the houses of those who could afford generators. The only activities noticed were those of the insects that crawled and flew around. A dog’s howl echoed through the night and Amaka shifted closer to her husband for safety.
Chijioke could’ve have sworn he saw a pair of eyes staring at him down the road. They reflected like that of an animal, like a big cat. Amaka suddenly froze where she stood.
“What is the problem?” Chijioke inquired
“Ssssssss…” She stuttered
“What are you saying?!”
“Soldiers!”
It all became clear to him. It wasn’t a pair of eyes; it was a pair of headlamps, lots of headlamps. The military SUVs were heading towards them at full speed.
“Come with me, quick!” Chijioke barked at them.
They dove sideways and lay flat in the ditch beside the road. Amaka lay on her back and placed her baby on her chest. Fortunately, she had switched her wrapper for a pair of trousers.
The SUVs slowed to a halt beside the ditch. To Chijioke’s greatest horror, he heard footsteps and a chilling conversation.
“Oga, I fit swear say I see person for here.” A voice said
“But we can’t see anyone here, abi, can anyone see anybody here?” A second voice asked. A mumble was heard as the soldiers answered quietly “My friend will you enter the jeep and zoom off!”
Chijioke heard voices and then the trucks zoomed off. He got up slowly and surveyed the area. He saw the trucks flying down the road. At that moment, their baby started crying. He thanked his lucky stars that she didn’t cry a minute earlier. He heard Amaka sobbing and silently consoled her.
They continued walking down the road and after about two hours, they reached the next town.
At first it sounded like thunder, then drumming before they realized it was gunfire. The soldiers were at work, heartlessly shooting at everything that moved. A woman’s cry rose above the sounds of the gunfire and sent chills down their spines. Chibuzor started crying.
“What do we do?” Amaka asked with tears in her eyes.
Chijioke thought frantically for a few moments until he came up with something.
“Come with me.” He said and pulled her towards his direction. He scooped Chibuzor over his shoulders and began to run, with Amaka behind him.
Fear, sorrow and anger wrapped round him like the tentacles of an octopus, threatening to break his spirit. He had to reassure himself that they were going to survive. He knew that he had to keep calm to avoid making the wrong decisions.
They headed for the forest and were about to make it when they were illuminated by powerful halogen lights.
“Stop there!!!” A soldier bellowed. They ignored and continued running.
Bullets began to fly past them. A bullet shattered a tree trunk and sent fragments of the wood flying into Chijioke’s face. The pain didn’t even register. All he wanted to do was get away.
To his greatest horror, he heard Amaka cry out. She had been hit. Luckily, the bullet went clean through her arm, but she was bleeding.
“Don’t stop!” He cried as they dodged trees and bullets. The gunfire didn’t stop either, but it wasn’t heading in their direction anymore. The soldiers seemed to have picked another target.
“Let’s rest here. We’ll circle round and go to the harbour.” Chijioke said after they had gone a bit further. He tore a line of cloth from his shirt and wrapped Amaka’s wound. She sobbed and he had to comfort her. Chibuzor looked on, not knowing exactly how to react. He knew they were in trouble but his little mind had only a vague understanding of what was going on.
They continued walking, heading towards the harbour through the forest. Once in a while, they heard the sound of gunfire in the distance. The soldiers seemed to be moving away.
They came out of the forest and ran down the road leading to the harbour, ducking to avoid being seen. They ran down the line of canoes and ferries towards the end of the line where a friend had left his small boat for them to use.
The sound was deafening and undeniable. Chijioke looked left and saw his wife collapse. The bullet holes in her chest told the whole story. Dark splotches on her shirt confirmed his fears. His baby wasn’t left out either. The hot steel bullets had torn through her fragile body.
Chijioke dropped to his knees. A battle raged in his mind between denial and reality. He held her hand and she looked at him with fear and pain in her eyes. She looked at the unmoving baby and tears streamed down her face. A cough of blood and she was gone, eyes blank and mouth open.
Chijioke let out a scream that tore through the night. His mind was in shambles. He couldn’t think. The pain rose from his belly to his throat and he began to cry.
Another round of gunfire and he saw Chibuzor fall to the ground silently. The bullets had gone through his head and chest, no pain. Chijioke felt his mind slipping away. He bowed his head in his kneeling position, tired of everything.
He felt the cold steel on his head.
He began to recite Psalms 23. That was all that came into his head.
He felt the soldier squeeze the trigger.
The darkness came quickly, oblivion…
Chijioke woke up with a start, sweat streaming down his face.
“What’s the problem?” Amaka asked sleepily.
It had all been a dream…

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Categories Short Stories

3 thoughts on “The Escape

  1. Gosh!!! My heart almost jumped out of my chest. Good gracious! It was all a dream. I’m really happy about this end. I told you that i am a lover of happy endings.

    Like

  2. Lol…. Thank you for your comment. I’m honestly grateful.

    Like

  3. guy you completely carried me along! wosh! I found myself really thanking God it was a dream. fantastic! i loved it!

    Like

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