The Carcasses in the Desert
By Olatunbosun Adetula (Nigeria)
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THE CARCASSES IN THE DESERT
By Olatunbosun Adetula (Nigeria)
The entire camp was pervaded by fear, fear of the Janjaweed and fears of their future. Terror had overtaken the whole camp like a flood. Doctor George pondered about how he would pass the message to Goi. He had difficulty for he could not follow his perverted logic. He knew the young boy would be happy if they both traveled together to Hull.
Many questions popped up across his mind. He knew that a negative response from Goi would make him sad .When he called Goi, surprise flickered on Goi’s face. Goi sat closer to him as they sat on the small bed inside the tent.
“Look Goi, there is something I want to tell you,” Doctor George said emotionally. Goi looked at his face and saw a catalogue of tears.
“What did you want to tell me sir?” Goi asked.
“Look I will be going back to my country,” Doctor George said, like he could read his mind.
Goi cried and put his head on Doctor George's lap .A day before, Goi saw him when he vomited blood and he knew something was wrong with him.
“I am so sorry sir,” Goi sobbed.
“It okay, I will be fine,” Doctor George said, rubbing his head.
Capsized by emotion, Doctor George stood up and was almost out of the tent when he glanced back at Goi.
“Wipe your tears Goi, you will be following me back to Hull,” Doctor George said and suddenly Goi's face shone like a new dawn.
Goi cleaned his face, ran to the doctor and embraced him. He threw the stick in his hand away and the deep pain on his face vanished like a cloud. Goi ran out of the tent when Doctor George left the tent, running after him and jumping on his neck. The soldiers and other doctors in the camp looked at them with curiosity.
The camp was boisterous with sad and starved faces early in the morning. Amun was collecting his food and waling back to his tent when suddenly, like a bolt from the blue, Grandpa Yol saw him. At first the old man couldn’t believe he was the one but when he looked at him again, he became convinced that he was the one. He smiled because it was Amun, his personal adviser.
“Amun, Amun, Amun,” Yol shouted. Amun looked behind him and saw him and his wife on the long queue. Amun ran to them, so excited to see the two old people.
“Amun, so you are here,” Grandpa Yol shouted and embraced Yol.
“I am so excited to see you,” Amun shouted, greeting Nyot. She was particularly happy when she saw Amun; in her heart she believed she was seeing one of her family.
Amun waited patiently for them when they collected their rations and they walked together to Yol’s tent, which was just a few metres from the kitchen. Yol, Nyot and Amun talking for a long time, reminiscing about their people and how the attack from the north had scattered them in the village. Amun could hear bitterness in Yol‘s voice.
Amun looked at Grandpa Yol and asked him. “Sir when last did you see Goi?’ Amun said he knew they would have looked for Goi for a long time. In his heart he could picture Goi on the bed inside the doctor’s tent.
“It been a year since we knew his whereabouts.” Yol said when he looked at Nyot's face. The old woman cried, and used her wrapper to wipe away her tears.
Amun looked at Nyot's face, going to her side and sitting beside her. He held her hand, and looked at her face and spoke.
“Dry your tears old woman; I have good news for you.” Amun said and Nyot opened her watery eyes, her wet eyes holding a look of silent appeal.
“What so you mean, Amun?” Nyot asked . She stood up and tied her loose wrapper.
“Look, Goi is in this camp,” Amun said finally and confusion appeared on Yol's and Nyot's faces. Surely, they thought, Amun was mad .Grandma Yol tied her wrapper and urged Amun to stand up and take her to where he had seen Goi.
“You really have to calm down your nerve old woman.” Yol said and looked at Amun's face.
“Goi is in this camp, sir; I saw him,” Amun swore earnestly.
“Where did you see him?” Yol asked him.
“He is staying with a doctor,” Amun said as if was dropping a fire on Nyot's lap because she stood up and went out of the hut.
When Yol came out of the tent, he watched as she walked away toward the United Nations section of the camp. He called her name but she won’t bulge. Instead she walked faster toward the tent. When all the refugees inside the camp saw her they were shocked by her actions, so they went to Yol and asked him several questions. But Grandpa Yol saw that the people were about to become a crowd, so he smiled and went into the tent.
At the doctor’s tent inside the camp, two soldiers stopped Nyot. Her old face became crimson as she stood in front of the two soldiers. She looked impatient and agitated. The soldiers told her to go back but she remained adamant and stood her ground.
“Look I want to see the head doctor,” Nyot insisted, sweat dripping from her brow. She was restive., having the strength of a lion. H\er wrapper was loose and she tied it repeatedly.
“You can’t go in there madam,” one of the soldiers said politely.
“No I must see the doctor today,” Nyot shouted and shed tears.
“Look Madam, Doctor George is very busy with some of the patients,” the soldiers said.
“It is important, I have to see him,” Nyot wailed as the arid breeze swept through the camp and sent dust to the sky.
Nyot spoke in her local dialect, curing the soldiers when they didn’t allow her to enter the place. The soldiers stood their ground, not able to understand what she said. Later an old man that walked with a stick came to meet her; all the local people in the camp stood and watched from the distance.
The old man held her by the hand and spoke to her but Nyot loosened her hand from his grip.
“Leave me alone; I must see my grandchild today, I swear I must!” Nyot wailed in agony.
As the altercation continued between Nyot and the soldiers, Doctor George came out from one of the ambulances. He cleaned his greased face and then one of the soldiers he went to meet him. He explained the situation to the doctor and they talked for some minutes before the soldier pointed to Nyot in the distance. When Doctor George saw her, he wondered whether the old woman was sick.
Nyot saw him. As if she had known him, she called his name. Among the doctors in the camp, he was the most popular. Doctor George was perplexed when Nyot mentioned his name, for few of the refugees knew his name. They just called him doctor.
As he walked toward Nyot many thoughts jostled for space in his mind. Doctor George could sense her irritation as he got closer. He told the soldiers to leave her alone.
When Nyot saw Doctor George her fear was dispelled .She greeted Doctor George with her nostrils flamed with anger. As she confronted the doctor, she talked in a high pitched voice. She told the doctor about Goi and how his father and mother had died and how she took care of him ever since she was a baby. When she told the doctor her story, Doctor George looked at her with pity.
“Please calm down madam, Goi is fine” Doctor George said, and Nyot smiled to hear that Goi was fine.
“So I will see Goi again?”
“Your grandson is fine and okay.,” Doctor George assured her.
Doctor George smiled and embraced Nyot. Her heart fluctuated between excitement and fear. Doctor George was so happy to see her. When he told her to calm down Nyot smiled and sang in her local dialect with tears of joy streaming down her old gray face.
“Follow me Madam,” Doctor George said and Nyot was too glad and excited to tail him into his tent.
As they both walked toward the tent, the doctor smiled because he knew Goi would be excited to see her. In his heart Doctor George knew that the process of adopting Goi would be smooth as ever.
Goi was lying on a stretcher inside the tent. As he slept there, he heard voices but he couldn’t understand what they said, so he stood up with alacrity because one of the voices was so familiar. Suddenly he was restless and the rhythms of his heart beat pounded like a drum. Then he went outside.
There he saw his granny and Doctor George in front of the hut. He ran to her. When they met they embraced and cried. Tears of joy flooded Nyot's face and she wouldn’t leave him alone, Doctor George watched them with joy across his heart.
“Granny, I missed you,” Goi sobbed. Nyot bound him to herself like the neck of a garment, afraid she might lose him again.
“My beloved child, I missed you too,” she wailed. She cried and her face shone like dawn. Doctor George watched them with fascination and he smiled.
Nyot was so happy. The calm on her face seemed almost divine. Tears of joy cascaded down her face. Doctor George watched them with love and sympathy. They held on to each other for a long time. When they disengaged, a rueful smile cut across Goi’s face and he fell down to his knees and apologized to his granny for all that he had caused her. Nyot lifted him up his feet and they embraced once again. This time she resolved to never let him disappear from her side, forever.
Doctor George was dizzy with excitement; Nyot thanked him a million times. She knelt down in front of him and thanked him all over again. But when she knelt down, she saw that Goi injured leg.
“What happen to your leg, son?” Nyot said and stood up.
“It is a long story granny.”
Goi's face was grave when he told his granny about the incident. Nyot drew him very close to herself and rubbed his head with her fingers. The emergence of Goi brought a ray of sunshine to her grave face and sadness vanished from her heart. Finally she stood up and danced in excitement, singing melodious songs in her local dialect.
Doctor George allowed Goi to follow his grandmother to her tent. He watched at them with a smile across his face as they left his side.
Back at the tent, Grandpa Yol was too excited when he saw his grandson. Nyot embraced him. She was still so excited to see him. She called on her neighbours to come and see what God had done for her. She didn’t bother to ask him many questions, for her happiness at seeing him passed everything that she could ever have dreampt of in her life.
Later, as they sat down inside the tent, Goi told them all about Doctor George and his kindness. Amun came to join them later. He was excited to see Goi reunited with his grandparents. Later, as they sat outside the tent because of the heat, Doctor George sent assorted fruits to them.
After they finished their conversation, Goi looked at Nyot‘s face and he cried. Nyot feared that he wanted to go back to the doctor's tent.
“What happened to you, my son?” Nyot said and Yol sat down.
“Granny, I am very sad” Goi said and was almost at the point of tears.
“What happened to you, my son?” Nyot asked and Yol looked at Goi's face.
“My son, I won’t prevent you from going to the white man. You are free to go and meet him,” Nyot said. She stood up and wanted to drag Goi back to Doctor George's tent because she didn’t want to see him in pain again.
“No \Granny, leave me alone. I am not talking about the white man; leave him out of this, right?” Goi said.
“What happened then?” Yol chipped in, as if he read his mind, Amun was the only one who knew why Goi was sad.
Amun shook his head and urged him to say what he kept in his mind.
“Look granny has been a long time since I last saw Moi. I can’t find her in the camp,” Goi said emotionally.
Nyot breathed deeply, looking at Goi's face. She stood up. Goi held on to her hand like a drowned man clutching the last straw. Yol looked on in silence.
“What happen to her Grandma, please?” Goi pleaded and Nyot sat down.
“Look, the little girl lost her mother and ever since I have not lay my eyes on her again.”
Yol could only manage to shake his head. Amun couldn’t utter any word from his mouth. Goi looked at Nyot's face and expected to hear that Moi too had died like her mother.
“Granny where is she? I told you I haven’t laid my eyes on her since her mother was buried in the village.”
“Look Goi, there was commotion in the village. Had I seen her I would have told her to come and leave with us, but I didn’t see her,” Yol said.
Goi held Nyot's hand. He looked sad like a condemned criminal. When Nyot looked at his face, agonies were written all over it.
“What happened Goi. Why is your face so sad?” Nyot asked.
“Look Granny, there are many things that you people don’t know,” Goi said.
“What are those things?” Nyot asked.
“Moi is carrying my baby.,” Goi said. These words dropped like a bomb.
“You can’t be serious,” Yol shouted and looked at his face.
“How did you know this, Goi?” Nyot asked and looked into his face.
Goi breathed deeply and cleaned his face. Then he spoke. “I ran away from the house when I heard her cries,” Goi said in a tortured voice. Yol and Amun laughed and Nyot smiled.
Goi watched as they laughed at him. They were so dizzy with laughter that he got angry. Later Yol drew him close to himself.
“Look Amun has told us everything. Moi wasn’t pregnant. She was crying because she lost her mother,” Yol said and Nyot laughed.
“I don’t believe you Granny; I don’t believe any of you.”
“It is true, Moi wasn’t pregnant, and she came crying to the hut that day because she had lost her mother,” Yol said as Goi went back to sit on a log.
“I can’t believe it. This must be a dream,” Goi shouted.
“You are a free man,” Amun chipped in and hit him on the shoulder.
“Look, tomorrow we have to find her; we are going to look for her all over the camp.”
“I have to find her,” Goi said.
The next day, they went all over the camp and looked for Moi but unfortunately they couldn’t find her. The camp was lively and calm and there was no fear of attack. The sounds of gunshots were on sabbatical. In the night Yol couldn’t sleep, so he stood up and went out of the tent. When he got outside, the whole camp was silent like a graveyard. He saw the United Nations soldiers keeping watched and he moved about all over the camp. Yol sat down on the log in front of the tent.
Yol looked to the sky and saw a black bird flying across the moon. He shook his head and went back into the tent. Throughout the night, till the break of dawn, he couldn’t sleep. Two weeks later, Doctor George had difficulty persuading Nyot to allow him to adopt Goi. Nyot found it difficult to understand his logic. It took the intervention of Yol and Amun to convince her, but at last reason prevail. She surrendered Goi to Doctor George.
On the day of Goi's departure from the camp, Nyot couldn’t sleep. She lay awake all night long with tears of pain cascading down her old face. She knew she would miss Goi. She wanted to change her own mind but later she found herself unable to do so. She knew that she had her own life and Goi had his own life to live. She couldn’t change what destiny had in stock for him. She prayed for him and wished him tons of good luck.
She looked at the pictures that Doctor George had taken of them, seeing herself in the picture with Yol, Goi, and Amun. She especially loved the one with Goi and Doctor George; she kept it under her pillow inside the tent. Nyot wept bitterly when Goi entered the Range Rover that would take him and Doctor George’s to Khartoum. She stayed inside the tent and wept. When Goi looked at her he couldn’t stop the tears that were flowing freely from his eyes.
When the driver turned the ignition key, Nyot came outside from inside the tent and prayed for Goi. She wept and prayed to the bangle in her wrist. All the refugees gathered around her and shared in her sorrow.
Yol was happy for Goi. So also was Amun, and although they cried but they were glad that he left when the ovation was the loudest. They knew he would forever live a good life. Yol went to meet his wife and immediately the car left and sent dust to the sky. When they met they embraced and all the refugees in the camp ran after the vehicle. They knew in their hearts they would miss the doctor who loved everybody.
As the car got to the road, it stopped suddenly. Goi came down and ran to meet his granny as her husband was taking her back into the tent. Nyot suddenly looked behind and she saw him and she left her husband and ran to meet him. They embraced for so long that tears dropped from Yol’s face.
“Go in peace, go in peace,” Nyot wept.
“Grandma, I will miss you,” Goi wept.
They embraced again and the car's horn sounded, so Goi left his grandma and ran to the car. In the night Nyot couldn’t sleep. She wept all night long, Yol tried to pacify her but he knew that no amount of pleading and begging could wipe away the tears from her eyes.