The Neighbor’s Son
The men marched on silently, each in their own thoughts. Some were scared; others felt brave while the rest didn’t even know the graveness of what awaited them. It was pitch dark and that wasn’t helping matters.
Omwami led the way wearily, dread engulfing him every step of the way. He, especially him, knew what awaited them and he wasn’t looking forward to it. He knew he had no option though. This was it. This was their time to prove to the old guards that even they were capable of an upset, capable of taking care of their families and the community at large. It was a huge task bestowed them and he cursed Nyakambi in his heart because he knew he was the cause of all this.
Nyakambi. Good old nyakambi, or rather, bad old nyakambi. He who cursed as easily as he blessed. He of fire and brimstones. People had thought that old age would slow him down. Not him though. He’d grown fiercer with old age, tougher and unrelenting. People feared the old Nyakambi more than they did his younger self and it was kind of scary. Indeed most of the elders had become almost crazy- some of the villagers thought they were going senile. It was as if they now saw death staring at them and were scared of it. They imagined how the village would be without them and the thought itself drove them over the edge. The younger generation was cursed, they would say over and over again. To give credit to them though, the old men had been through a lot. They had seen their wives die, their enemies and friends too. They had fought long, hard, tough wars. Wars nobody thought they could win. Not two or three but numerous wars. They had fought for their families, fought for love. But what did the young generation know about love? What did they? About being in a situation where you see your best friend speared down, knowing that you are next but fighting tooth and nail because the thought of leaving your favorite wife behind cannot let you die. That was fighting for love!! Fighting for your children and for the love of the whole community. The young generation thought they knew everything, but they knew nothing! They were cowards! They could barely fight for themselves leave alone for another human being. They could not defend their community. The young men were a bunch of nerves; even the women were better than them. They couldn’t hold any weapon, not even a kitchen knife!
These and many other words had been repeatedly told to Omwami on the various occasions the elders met. Being the only young man in the council of elders, he had to bear the brunt of all their jokes, all the contempt for the young generation. He had always wished for the company of at least one more young man but he knew that was not happening anytime soon. The law of the land stated that a new member could only be inducted into the council only if one sitting member passed away. A whole generation could pass without anyone joining the council. Heck, even Omwami could pass away tomorrow and leave Nyakambi or Omwenga behind. These men dint look like they were going to pass away anytime soon. If anything they looked stronger. The new commodities that had come from across the seas; they dint use those. No salt, fat, or sweets for them. Poisonous commodities that the young boys overindulged in.
Suddenly, Omwami stopped in his tracks, signaling the others to stop too. He had heard the sound of breaking twigs ahead and he didn’t want to take any chances. After a long moment of listening and hearing nothing, they went on.
They were almost there now. In fact they could see Kiogoro’s outline and Omwami could feel his heartbeat increase.
He wondered what was going through the minds of the other three leaders; his friends Ayora, Ocher and Mogaka.
They were at the gate now and Omwami signaled the others to wait for him as he went to check the situation.
He was surprised to find no one at the entrance of the village which struck him as a bit odd. He carefully looked around; the place looked devoid of life.
He hurried back to the others.
“No one is manning the entrance,” he said in a low voice.
“Good for us,” one man said
“They must have gone to sleep. Maybe the guards went on a night romp. I don’t think they had the remotest idea that we would be attacking them.” Ayora said breathlessly.
“Don’t be idiots,” Ocher hissed. “For all we know this could be a trap.”
“A trap?” they chorused.
“Yes, a trap. To lure us into the village in a carefree sprit, only to find them waiting for us.”
“How, they hardly knew we were coming. How could they lay a trap if they dint even know we are coming? Wait, unless of course, you told them we were. Come to think of it, you have always acted in a suspicious manner. Who knows, you could be a mole!”
Before he could say more, ocher punched him hard on the chest and Ayora doubled over in pain, howling like an injured cow.
“Shut up all of you!” Omwami said angrily, trying to steady the tremor in his voice. “Are you people serious to the mission that brought us here? What kind of behavior is this? Kindly get your act together because we all know who the kiogoro are. They are not minnows and they are no pushovers when it comes to fighting. If you continue with this childish behavior you shall be roasted alive in a foreign land and make widows of your wives.” Everyone nodded as Ayora and ocher exchanged stale looks. Mercifully they dint say anything.
“We shall go in groups as arranged earlier. Do not rape, just fight with the warriors and carry anything you find useful. Remember pity, empathy and mercy are for the cowards and they will get you killed. This is our time to prove the naysayers wrong.”
The men started streaming in, showing an outward courage they knew they dint possess. They moved in a single file, steadying their weapons; weapons they were using for the first time.
As they went deeper into the village, Omwami had this nagging fear in his heart. Something was not right here, he could sense it. He led the way while tentatively praying he was wrong. As they came into sight of the first compound, he sent one of the men to go and check the huts.
They were deserted.
His fear grew. Something was definitely amiss. They went into the next compound.
Deserted as well. His heart skipped a beat. He could feel the proverbial cold sweat break out in his forehead.
He knew now that the whole village was deserted and he realized sorrowfully that he had led his village mates into a deathtrap. As he hastily begun calling them together to plan a retreat, he heard a low whistle nearby; a whistle whose meaning he knew only too well, and he knew they were too late.
OF course the others had heard it too for no sooner had it died down than they started running in opposite directions.
And that is when the nightmare begun.
One man screamed in pain as the sound of an arrow tearing flesh could be heard in that dark night. People were now running helter skater. The man who had been hit fell to the ground and no one as much as looked in his direction. It was survival for the fittest.
“arrrrrrrrrrrrrrggggghhhhhhhhh,” another person shouted.
Someone fell, another and yet another.
Everywhere you ran you could smell raw blood.
Omwami bumped into someone; it was Mogaka- his childhood friend.
“We have to hide,” Mogaka cried out. The panic in his voice was astonishingly real and it disgusted Omwami.
“Are you serious?” he asked incredulously.
Before he could say anything else, an arrow came whizzing by, missing him by an inch. It hit mogaka on one side of his head, coming out from the other side. Omwami stood there, transfixed to the ground. How???? His friend mogaka, lying on the ground with an arrow between his head. He could hear people running around; screams came from every direction and there was an increase in the smell of blood.
HE wanted to move but found himself unable to. He willed the tears to come, but they dint either.
He could have stood there forever but what brought him to his senses was the sounds of an arrow miss his ear. Instinctively he ducked and the feeling came back to him.
The anger inside him was overwhelming and he gave out a loud war cry, moving towards the direction the arrows were coming from. He shouted again, louder and the other followed him with renewed confidence. They began chanting, singing songs they had only sang while farming or herding cattle. Songs that were composed for occasions like this.
When the two groups met and the spears clashed, metal versus metal, that courage began waning fast.
The kiogoro warriors were more experienced and it showed. Plus they had the advantage of surprise. They also outnumbered their opponents.
People fell like flies. People Omwami had grown up with. Cries of help rented the air and he felt sick to his stomach- but he soldiered on. He struck and struck until his arm became numb, until he lost count. Still, he struck.
Right now he was a bitter man, an angry man.
They had been played. Someone had sold them out. There was a mole in their community. A lot of thoughts were flying through his head but one thing he knew for sure; someone had cheated them.
He fought on as bravely as he could, all thoughts fading to the back of his mind now. For once in his life he didn’t think about his wife; hers was a distant memory now. He only fought for his people now, for their safety.
He was happy to realize that the kiogoro camp was also reducing, that their people were dying too. He ducked an oncoming spear and the force with which the owner had applied forced him to go down and reflexively Omwami turned to him and speared him right through his chest.
No pity, no mercy, nothing.
He smiled to himself, knowing he will never be the same. This was a changed Omwami, a reborn Omwami and he hit out wildly, craving more blood. The smell of blood now made his nose tingle. It was fresh blood and it pleased him immensely. So this is what the elders meant? He liked this feeling, the feeling of killing someone. Destroying them. This is what they meant huh?
Suddenly, he tried hitting out but couldn’t. Where was his spear, he wondered. He took in a deep breath and realized his right hand was numb. He used the left one to touch it and realized………it wasn’t there. He touched his arm and drew something sticky and warm…..something that smelled nice, something that was……..blood.
Then it hit him like thunder. His arm was gone.
It took some time to sink in. he tried to cry but no sound came out.
His arm was gone!
He tried to run but couldn’t and that’s when it hit him again. He realized he was sited down.
His right leg was gone!
He slept on his back, knowing very well that he was going to die. He knew from the dizziness that he was losing a lot of blood. He said a silent prayer to Anyika, wondering why he had forsaken them at this hour.
They had lost, it was all over.
Nyakambi and the other six elders could laugh all they want but at least they had given it their all. At least he had.
Someone was running by and stepped on him without a care in the world. The last thought that crossed his mind before he passed out was the thought of his lovely wife Bonareri. Would she remarry? He hoped he would see her in heaven.
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