I was 11 when I joined the rebels—a child. The first man I killed was about 90, squatting to shit. “Fada of one dem Fedral soja,” Skaii said. I did not see how that qualified the old man for this kind of death. I shot him from behind, in the head. He fell forward, on his face, shit hanging out of him. When we turned him over it was the wrong man. Skaii wasn’t sorry—he just lit an old Newport and pissed in the man’s open mouth. “He waz gonta go soon anyway,” he said, as he shook his wrinkly pisser and folded it back into his jeans.
Yes, jeans; we wore jeans to fight. Levi’s. From Americah. The bloody Americahns, said they couldn’t give us proper uniforms, soldier uniforms, so that they wouldn’t be seen as interfering, in an “inter-tribal conflict”. So they gave us these jeans—faded fourth-hand Levi Strauss. And dying Nike sneakers.
But they were giving the Federals MIGs and Stealth Bombers and F-16s. . . We had to make our own guns! Hand-made guns! Even the Belgian mercenary our Chief hired was shooting our boys from behind, while they pissed! All these white people have the same colour of heart—black. It reminded me of that Joseph Conrad book I had read in school. Heart of Darkness.
“Iz Joseph Conrad White?” I asked Skaii. He looked at me as if I had a weeping sore on my forehead. I looked down at the old man’s corpse, sorry for him, sorry for myself. The first man I killed in this war was the wrong man. . .
But the last wasn’t. It was Skaii.
He was celebrating the announcement of the end of the war on top of a teenage village girl. I shot him from behind, in the head, like an enemy. He would never have guessed it was me, his best friend. He would never know. He just fell forward, on the naked girl. She didn’t move; didn’t come out from under him. Didn’t scream, or weep, or sniffle, nothing.
She must be scared I would kill her. I told her, in the gentle tone I would use on a lover if I had one, that she could keep his jeans and sneakers and cigarettes. She still didn’t move.
I went closer. She was dead, too.
I saw where the bullet had entered her head, a black dot, clot. Skaii had shot her before he got on her!
‘Sickfuckah!’ I spat, and killed him again. Three times—Bang! Bang! Bang!
The tears came down in floods around the curses I was spitting on Skaii’s corpse.
When I finally calmed down and put the barrel in my mouth all that came out was an empty click. I squeezed my eyes shut, hard, and wished the salty, metallic taste of the Luger would be enough to kill me.
It didn’t. I wept for hours, like a child. I was a child. I had forgotten how to be one—how to love, to play, sing, cry. . . My childhood—the innocence, bliss, sweet craziness—had become a casualty of war, lost forever.
When the survivors hit the streets, celebrating, I sat in the dark, mourning. I had survived for nothing
Copyright Olubunmi Familoni