The elders say our country is rich that is why we have so many problems. This does not make any sense. In fact, it sounds like rubbish. A rich man does not suffer, only the poor one so I don’t understand why they say the country is rich when we are suffering like this. When did richness become a problem? They say something about mineral resources—the root of our problem, what does that even mean? I don't really know because it's been long since I go school.


The warm wet salty substance that seeped through his lips jolted him awake. He almost broke into a run but was stopped by a violent kick from someone towering above his body zipping up their trousers.

‘Where do you think you are going?’ He heard whispers and laughter around him.

'Stand up!' a voice thundered.

His snail-like response was rewarded with another kick on his side, which made him stagger. He lifted himself off the ground slowly accompanied with pain from his spine to his head and the rest of his body. His head felt heavy and throbbed so much that it seemed like his heart was beating from there. He felt so weak and scanned his surroundings to figure out where he was.

'Stand properly! Like a soldier!' The same voice bellowed. The man who was above him earlier, slapped the back of his head so hard, he was surprised his legs didn't betray him.

'Are you deaf? Master said you should stand properly' he said.

Small boy followed the order. The unpleasant taste of blood and urine in his mouth riled his stomach. He felt digested contents rise to his throat but managed to suppress it. It was difficult to combine focusing on what Master was saying and trying to figure out where he was or how he got there. He scanned the part he faced as he listened to words flying out of the hefty figure called Master who had a gun slung over his chest, a red strip of cloth tied around his forehead and fingers entwined in front of him. From what he could make of Master's figure sitting on a tree stump with the help of burning fire not too far from him, Small Boy saw that the last finger on Master’s right hand was missing. His heavy head conjured possible mishaps that could have resulted to the loss. Eight boys possibly his age mates sat on the ground around Master while two older boys fanned him as he spoke. There were more people some sitting on the grass and some standing armed with guns, bayonets, and machetes. Although he couldn’t see behind him, Small Boy could hear screams and sobs from the tent out of sight.

‘Shut them up before I come there to do it myself. Make sure the one spending the night with me is tamed. I don’t want a noisy fowl I'd be forced to strangle.’ yelled Master.

The noise was too much for his head to accommodate and his backside cried for a seat. His rumbling stomach made him remember he hadn’t eaten. Then he remembered it was the same wretched stomach that put him in the trouble. He couldn’t run fast enough. Pointing at a figure tied to a pole not too far from the gathering, Master continued, 'you see that man over there? That's your first assignment tomorrow. To kill the enemy without sympathy.'

Small Boy's eyes blurred from tears as he turned to look at his first assignment, in shape of a man whose head slumped over his chest with bloodied face and looked like death was about to snatch his soul in seconds.

'If you try to escape, I’ll send you on an errand to heaven. Do you understand?’

‘You’ll deliver a message to God from Master.’ shouted someone from the gathering, which made everyone laugh.

'Do you understand?’ Master’s unsmiling mouth repeated.

‘Yes, sir!’

‘There is nowhere to run to. You are part of us now. Your family is gone and... '

His eyes widened in shock. Gone? What did he mean by gone? Small Boy felt hot and cold at the same time on his insides as tears slowly crawled down his cheeks. He felt the sudden need to itch his body as his chest tightened at the recollection of how he got to his present abode. What happened before he was hit on the head with the butt of a gun, slapped him in the face. He remembered his mother shouting that he should hide but the hunger that troubled his stomach did not agree with his legs. He remembered running with his friend who was faster than him. As Master’s words faded, Small Boy eyes looked around for a familiar face but instead a throng of alien faces met his gaze.

Run! Small Boy run!! His mother's voice echoed in his head...



To be continued

Muhsinat Kamardeen

Published by Muhsinat Kamardeen