The Carcasses in the Desert
By Olatunbosun Adetula (Nigeria)
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THE CARCASSES IN THE DESERT
By Olatunbosun Adetula (Nigeria)
As the SPLA soldiers fought with the Arab militiamen in northern Darfur and the war became hotter, thousand of soldiers and civilians moved toward the south. Yol knew he would soon become a refugee. The stories he heard were just too unpalatable - the village was not too far from the United Nations Organization refugee camp. He told his wife to pack whatever they would need in the camp. Goi knew they would soon leave the village, so he got intimated with Moi. Alone at home one day, his desires for her burnt like a hot fire. Goi held Moi’s hand and Moi shriveled at the invasion of her privacy. Goi held her hand again and tried to draw her closer but Moi was reluctant although later he succeeded and kissed her on the lips. She suddenly stopped him. Goi was surprised by her action; he didn’t expect it and he looked into her eyes.
“What happened to you, Moi?” Goi said, surprised by her response. He looked drained and dry like a severed plant.
“I can’t do this please,” Moi said and shook her hand.
In his heart, when he looked at her face, he thought she was frigid; he drew her closer to himself and his body was strong against her own. When he wanted to kiss her, she put her mouth away and looked into his eyes.
“Promise me, you won’t leave me.” Moi said and pleaded, her voice was silent and calm.
“I promise you Moi, I will never leave you.” Goi said and told her that he wouldn’t leave her alone. If he thought she had agreed, he had another think coming because Moi had other things in her mind.
Moi stood up from the mat, picked up a blade on the window, and Goi flinched when he saw the blade.
“Don’t fear Goi, I won’t hurt you.” Moi said and sat on the mat. She tried to dispel his fear.
“What is this supposed to mean Moi?” Goi said and looked at the blade again. Moi grabbed his hand and looked at his face; he wanted to challenge her but it was too late, Moi had made an incision on his palm and she bent her neck and licked the blood that flowed out of his palm.
“Is this a form of ritual?” Goi asked her.
“No, it is not a ritual; it is an oath that binds the two of us together.”
“You must be ridiculous; I don’t believe all this.” Goi shouted.
“You better believe it, Goi.” Moi said.
Moi made an incision on her palm too and told Goi to lick the red crimson blood. Goi was so consumed with love that he licked the blood. Afterwards Moi looked into his eyes and heaved a sigh of relief. When she looked at him again, it was a look of love. He took her in his arm and they embraced. He planted several kisses on her lips and she drew him to the small bed inside the hut, where they both sweated on the bed as the moon went deeper into the dark night sky.
Grandpa Yol couldn’t sleep; he sat in front of the hut and talked to nobody but himself. When he looked at the sky, he saw a black bird fly across the moon. Two military helicopters whirred in the early morning sky. The government helicopters flew all over the village. When the villagers saw the two helicopters that morning after they were woken up by the sound, they ran helter-skelter .The Sudan People’s Liberation Army soldiers that guarded the village shot at the two helicopters. The helicopters didn’t shots back at the village. Instead they made several turns and disappeared into the sky.
Two days later, ultimatums were given to the people in Kiba to leave the village as the war got closer to them. Goi and Moi were unhappy at this turn of events; in their heart they believed that the war could not separate the love they had for each other. One day as they talked together inside the hut, Moi saw a bangle on Goi’s hand and touched it. She was fascinated by the design on the bangle. She liked the bangle so much that she wanted to remove it from his hands but Goi didn’t let her yank the bangle from his wrist. His granny had warned him that he would die if he removed the bangle on his wrist.
“Where did you get this, bangle Goi?” Moi asked him and fiddled with the bangles on his wrist.
“It was given to me by my granny.”
“It is so beautiful, I like it,” Moi said and touched the bangle again.
“I will tell granny to get one for your own,” Goi said and looked into her eyes.
“I will be so happy,” Moi said.
“Let us go outside,” Goi said and they both strolled around the village, their future heavy on their minds.
Two weeks later, Moi vomited and one of her Uncles that lived with them in the village took her to a native doctor.
People left the village in droves as the war got closer. The Blue Helmet soldiers came into the village and ferried the people into a camp one hundred and twenty kilometres away. Goi arranged his clothes neatly into a box when he suddenly heard the voice of Moi. She was wailing in agony outside Grandpa’s Yol hut. When Goi heard her voice, he didn’t come out of the hut. Instead he went out through the back of the hut, looking sullen like a broken pottery piece and his strength became sapped like a summer heat as he walked very far away from the hut. Goi’s granny, Nyot, cried when Moi narrated what had happened to her. She and her husband left for Moi’s mother’s hut, wailing in agony on the way. Many people joined them in procession to the small hut.
Moi stood in a corner, afraid of life. She wept, looking like a solitary bird by the river side as she wept and went inside the hut. Goi was nowhere to rub balm to the pain that ravaged her soul.
Goi cried in pain when the doctor administered drugs to his wound. As the doctor bandaged the leg, he was racked by pain. He tried to choke back his tears but he failed as the pain penetrated deeply into the fabric of his heart and he cried. Doctor George looked at his face; he pitied the young boy for the agony that he was going through. The driver of the ambulance had mistakenly put the truck in reverse. Unknown to him, Goi was behind the vehicle and the man didn’t see him, so the truck mangled his leg and fractured it.
“Oi boy, where are your parents?” Doctor George asked and Goi looked into his eyes.
“They are in the village,” Goi said and pointed to his village in the distance. As the doctor finished with the leg he stood up and looked into Goi’s eyes.
“I will tell the soldiers to take you down to the village,” Doctor George said and stood up.
“No please I can’t go back to the village.” Goi pleaded with the doctor and the doctor called two soldiers.
“Put him on the ambulance.” Doctor George said.
Thirty minutes later, the ambulance turned back and left the place and other vehicle followed suit.
Moi’s mother was buried. Heavy war raged in the north, the militiamen and the southern Sudan People’s Liberation Army fought themselves at the edge of the village. Goi’s granny and grandpa were the last set of people that left the village. They looked for Goi all over the village but they couldn’t find him; his whereabouts became a mystery that no one could unravel .When she couldn’t see Goi, Nyot wailed all day long and couldn’t be placated. Yol helped his wife climb the truck as they entered the last vehicle that departed from the village.
As the night draw nigh, the Janjaweed overran the village but the SPLA soldiers fought back and pushed them back. There were no civilian casualties as the two forces fought together. Nyot heard the enemy guns boomed in the distance, sounding kako kako like the sound of the kookaburra. A look of boredom was heavy upon her face. Inside the refugee camp in western Darfur, Nyot became very sad; the disappearance of Goi was like a burden too heavy for her to bear. Sometimes when she was really depressed, she would sit in front of the tent and brood for hours. Her husband tried to console her but she was inconsolable because Goi was her prized jewel.
Goi stayed in Doctor George’s tent inside the camp. His injured leg was swollen and painful but the pain that affected the leg couldn’t derail him from the thought of Moi. He cried all night whenever he remembered what he did to her; in his heart he knew she was pregnant and he was not ready to be a father yet. Nyot had warned him several times never to sleep with Moi when she caught them in the room one day just after she came back from the farm. Goi found himself in a dilemma inside the tent he didn’t know what to do.
As he adjusted himself on the stretcher, he remembered the oath that bound the two of them together. This was heavy upon his heart. He knew he couldn’t escape the wrath and he cried - he feared he may lose his life if he reneged on his promise.
Doctor George liked Goi and was fond of him so much that he put him inside his hut and told the nurses to take of him if he was not around. He especially liked Goi because he was very intelligent. As the wound healed, Doctor George gave Goi a stick to support himself whenever he walked around. With the aid of the stick Goi could walk all over the camp. The refugee camp was large and boisterous with people and their problems, naked little children playing about without a care in the world. The United Nations staff and soldiers had a hectic time; they found it hard to control the thousands of people that sheltered there.
Goi walked around the refugee camp and looked out for his beloved granny and grandpa. He asked a lot of people about them but nobody could tell who they were and where they were. As he walked around, he saw naked children and half clad women, their breasts dangling as they stared at him, their agony upon their mind. They smiled at him but Goi knew their smiles were bitter deep inside their heart. Inside the refugee camp, Goi saw many strange faces. When he got tired he went to a tent and sat down. He saw many of the Blue Helmet soldiers. They moved all over the camp, their guns dangling by their side.
As the arid air became hotter in March, many of the refugees stayed inside their tent. As Goi stayed inside his tent, he cried. When Doctor George came inside the large tent, he looked at him and asked him about his people.
“Are your parent dead?” Doctor George asked and looked into Goi’s face.
“Yes sir, my parents are dead,” Goi said with emotion laden voice.
Doctor George shook his head; he pitied him when he heard his reply.
“Are you living alone in the village?”
“No, I stayed with my grannies.”
“So where are they now?”
“I saw them last in the village.”
The doctor stood up. He went to his bag and brought out some wine, pouring it into a small cup and gulping it down his throat.
“Look Goi, I can’t tell you where your parents are at the moment because we have divided the people into two groups.”
Goi hoped that he would find his grannies crashed down. The sudden realization that her grannies must have been taken to another camp miles away caught him in the jugular and he looked very sad.
“Look Goi, I will try my best to look for them, I will ask many people in the other camp.”
“Thank you very much doctor,” Goi said. At least he believed that he still had a little bit of hope left to cling to. The doctor looked at him and spoke.
“What is their name?”
“Yol and Nyot Beluga is their name,” Goi said.
“I will try to remember,” Doctor George said and went outside.
When Doctor George left the tent, Goi cried. He was afraid the doctor might not see his granny again. When he thought about Moi and his unborn child, the knowledge of his guilt tormented him. He blamed himself for the pain he had caused Moi and also the prospect that he had broken his vow lay heavily upon his mind.
Later he went out of the tent and walked all over the camp with the stick. When he got to a tent and sat down, he saw some soldiers at the other tent, playing with two local girls. He shrugged his shoulder and rested in front of the tent blithely unaware of the trouble he had caused.
When he sat in front of the tent, a woman that backed a little baby came and made an attempt to enter the tent. When she saw him, she cursed him in her local language, shouting in the local dialect that he should go away. Goi was shocked by the woman’s utterances. As he made an attempt to stand up with aid of the stick in his hand, the woman threw stones at him.
Goi shook his head in pity. He knew it wasn’t the woman's fault. It was the fault of the heartless people who perpetrated evil in the camp. The woman thought he was one of them.
Granny Nyot was restive. If she had her way; she would have left the camp and walked all the way to Kosa and Wawa where the other camps were located. Although the camps where far away, over two hundred kilometers away, she was ready to walk to the camp if only the United Nations soldiers allowed her.
As she walked all over the camp and looked for her grandchild, her skin became damp with perspiration. When she came back to her tent after she had perambulated the whole camp, she saw her neighbour throwing stones at a boy in the distance. The boy walked with the aid of a stick. Nyot went to meet the woman.
“What happened to you, Kiiyo?’ Nyot shouted.
“Look old granny, I saw a little thief. He wanted to steal from inside the tent,” Kiiyo shouted. She wanted to pick up another stone but Nyot stopped her.
“It is okay Kiiyo, leave him alone,” Nyot said.
Kiiyo dropped the stone in her hand and followed granny Nyot back to the tent. They both sat down together.
“I have looked around the camp but I couldn’t find him, not even a glimpse of him,” Nyot said as Kiiyo removed the baby from her back.
“Maybe he was taken to another camp,” Kiiyo said and fed her baby breast milk.
“That is what everyone has been telling me.”
As the two women talked together in front of the tent, Grandpa Yol came back from his to and fro around the camp. Nyot saw a heavy look of disappointment on his face. Yol blurted out the bad news before she could stop him.
Yol shook his head in pity. His hope that he would find Goi in the camp disappeared like summer sun. He entered the tent; Nyot stood up and went to join her husband inside. In the night Nyot couldn’t sleep. It distressed her to think that she had lost hope and could not find Goi again. She thought about him, wondering what must have happened to him. She was confused and wondered why the little boy had suddenly left the house. Many questions cropped up in her mind as she lay on the mat inside the tent. As she thought about Goi and what caused his sudden disappearance from home, staccato gun fire reverberated all over the camp.
Doctor George ran out of the tent when he heard the sound of gunshots. Goi knew the Arab militiamen were about to attack the camp. When he got out of the tent, he saw hundreds of United Nations peace keeping forces running all over the camp, ready for any confrontation.
X X X X
Moi sat inside the tent like a lonely bird by the sea shore. Her face was clouded with gloom. Her friend Pagan came into the tent, spending some minutes with her and left as soon as she came. Moi couldn’t stop the tears that trickled down her face since she left the village. She couldn’t understand why Goi had deserted her when she needed him most in her life. Also, Goi couldn’t sympathize with her when she lost her mother. Moi couldn’t sleep, and there was carbuncle under her eyes. It was as if the end of the world had reached her. Things were hard for her, and she couldn’t patch her bad emotions.
Moi was really sad. Even when Goi didn’t love her; she had already made up her mind to love him forever. She knew Goi was in the camp somewhere. When she saw Mary inside the truck that brought them to the camp, she had asked her about Goi but she was not forthcoming. She only said she saw him last at his granny’s hut. It been a year since she got to the camp at Kosa and she needed Goi to stay by her side. Moi was lonely. If not for Pagan who kept her company and helped solved her loneliness to some extent, she knew she would have been wreck emotionally. Moi didn’t like Pagan; she only shared the tent with her. Pagan was a young and restless girl. When the Janjaweed attacked had her village, she was raped by the evil militiamen. Since then she became a wild and restless girl, without any care, and she moved all over the camp.
Pagan slept with many men and soldiers inside the camp. She was also a chain smoker. Moi hated the odour of cigarette but Pagan would never sleep without a stick of cigarette between her lips. At eighteen with a good shape and heavy breast, Pagan was the cynosure of eyes at the camp.
Moi couldn’t sleep. Her face looked pale like that of a sick patient. She stood up and went out of the tent .She walked all over the dark camp and looked for nobody but Goi, walking around the camp every day both in the day and in the night. Then it turned into a ritual. One day as she walked about and she got tired, she sat down and wept. As she sat down she spoke to herself like a mentally deranged person. Some women saw her near their tent and they followed her back to her tent.
In the middle of the night a terrible pain struck at her heart like a terrible bolt of lightning. Again she wept because of Goi’s sudden disappearance from her life. It pained her so much that it became her Calvary. As Moi cried inside the tent, Pagan was busy rocking the whole camp. She breezed through life and never worried about anything.
One night in the camp, Pagan went out and didn’t return to the tent again. When Moi didn’t see her in three days, she looked for her all over the camp. When she couldn’t find her again, Moi was as lonely as a tower on the sea shore. As she waited for Pagan’s returned, unknown to her, Pagan had followed one of the United Nations soldiers back to his country.
When the night became cold, Moi stood in front of the tent and waited for Pagan but she knew in her mind that it was Goi that she wanted.
X X X X
A few years ago, in East Yorkshire, England, a young man named George was sleeping on the couch inside the living room. His mother, Mrs. Rebecca, came down the staircase. When she saw George she went to meet him, touching him on the shoulder. George woke up with a start.
“George, wake up.” Mrs. Rebecca said.
“Good morning Mom,” George said and yawned and he stood up from the couch. The time struck nine on the wall.
Thirty minutes later, they both read a portion in the Bible. Mrs. Rebecca opened a chapter; it was Isaiah chapter 58 verse 10:
“And if thou draw out thy soul to the hungry and satisfy the afflicted soul, then shall thy light rise in obscurity and thy darkness be as the noonday.”
Mrs. Rebecca looked into her son’s eyes, removing her glasses and wiping the sweat from her brow and then wearing her glasses again.
“Let us go to chapters 11, 12, 13 and 14.” Mrs. Rebecca said and explained the relevance of the Bible chapter to her son.
Mrs. Rebecca was a deeply religious woman, a daughter of a Jewish immigrant who lived in Hull. Mrs. Rebecca loved her local church so much that she devoted all her time, energy and finance for her development. She was the women’s leader of her local Church.
Some years later, Mrs. Rebecca’s health declined rapidly and later, as the sickness ate through her body, she couldn’t leave the hospital until the day she died. She had suffered from ovarian cancer.
George became an orphan. He had lost his father earlier in car accident. The death of his mother capsized him and he found that his life had become dull. So George left his parent house in Hull and traveled down to Manchester to live with his uncle. At Manchester he had a spiritual encounter with God. George later became a medical doctor and drew closer to God.
Doctor George was in the living room, his eyes on television screen, one day when he saw the horror that took place in Darfur. On the screen he saw dark faces and the agony of the people of Darfur. As he watched the television screen inside his living room that night, the words of her mother came and rushed into his mind. He could see his mother’s face. When he went inside his room, on the bed he saw the Bible that his mother had given him. He sat on the bed and opened his mother’s favourite chapter and he began to read.
The following month he flew to Sudan with some other volunteer doctors. He was posted to Darfur. He would have left the place when he got there but his mother’s spirit urged him on, George was willing to face realities, twice he would have lost his life in crossfire between the locals and the militiamen men on camels and horses. George saw a lot, day in day out; he saw many men, women and little children wailing in agony under a hot scotched sun that was nearer the earth. Their shoes and slippers were torn and they walked like that in the white arid desert. George loved the people and he shared in their pains and in their agony. He especially loved the children and tried to help them in many ways he could afford.
Long before he traveled to Darfur he had already made up his mind to adopt a Darfurian child. He was sad when he saw Goi reeling in pain .It pained him also that it was his own ambulance that had fractured the innocent boy’s leg. He was particularly mad at his driver for the havoc he had caused. He wrote to the head of the United Nations mission in Darfur to replace the driver and the following week a new driver was assigned.
He was sad about the state of the north camp, the people and the fears they carried about with them both inside the camp and outside of it. A day before he flew to the capital, he saw an old man with bruises all over his body. The old man had escaped the guns of the Janjaweed but in his heart, as he looked at the old man, he knew he would never received good treatment at the camp.
The camp lacked basic supplies. Medical materials were scarce and many people sacked by the militiamen trooped into the camp in the thousands. As many people trooped into the camp, the crisis heightened, with the threat of invasion by the Janjaweed ever present on the people’s faces. The Janjaweed would have attacked the camp but for the heavy presence of the United Nations blue helmet soldiers who thwarted their efforts to attack.
George thought about his lover and fiancée, Elizabeth. They would have gotten married and had babies but for the cries, anguish and pains of people in Darfur which had driven him to the war ravaged country. George knew that Elizabeth loved him so much, and she had pleaded with him not to go to Africa. George was adamant. Unknown to her he had made up his mind to travel to Sudan. On the day of his departure he didn’t tell her that he would be traveling. As he stepped into the plane he knew she would never forgive him for what he had done. It was late when Elizabeth was told that George had vanished to Africa like the beauty of the field. Elizabeth cried out her heart.
Despite all the pain, loneliness and sadness she faced in her effort to stop George and prevent him from traveling to Africa, she still visited him when he got there. She came to the continent three times but her mind was not in the place. She was afraid; she could not stay with George in Africa. Later Elizabeth reduced her visits. Then, two month later, she sent him a letter explaining she had married a man who loved her and cherished her.
On reading the letter, George’s happiness vanished like smoke. He had known she would leave him; he had seen the handwriting on the wall a long time ago. At the age of thirty five, Elizabeth had waited for him well enough.
George knew that his days in Darfur were numbered. Some years ago; he had been diagnosed with cancer of the liver. George was terribly weak but he had hidden his sickness from his friends. But one day a friend saw him when he coughed out blood. His friend, Doctor Mark, knew he had cancer. He helped him to the hut and sat by his side and admonished him to return home.
Dr. George was very fond of Goi; he knew at last he had found a child in him. He was handsome, cool and intelligent. In his heart he already adopted him.