Samira raised her hand to her neck; something was choking her; she couldn’t breathe…her hand touched the smooth fabric of her hijab…oh; she sighed in relief, that was it…but wait, did she wear a hijab that….
Her classmate Mary stirred beside her, snapping her out of her reverie. Samira looked around the room; her classmates all studying; or doing their best to. It was hot; there was no light as usual. She tried to find a more comfortable angle…she felt weird. Something was wrong about today; she didn’t know what it was…
Her eyes went back to her book; she wasn’t ready for the exams; she hadn’t been studying. She still remembered when Mrs Bawa; their class teacher came to tell them that the school would be closed for the time being. She could still see the worry in her teacher’s face when the woman said ‘It’s not safe” Samira remembered how Mrs Bawa had looked out the widow, devoid of panes, to the rolling grass outside. The class had followed her eyes silently; they all knew what she meant.
The machine gun fire sounded nothing like she had heard it in the movies. The man standing at the door wearing fatigues looked like a figment from her worst nightmare. Time froze…and then shattered into pieces as he fired a hail of bullets at the ceiling. The class erupted as girls started to scream, tables were turned over, they started to run to the window…and then screamed again as men jumped into the class through the same windows that they were hoping to escape from.
Samira had been heading for the window; she saw the man climbing in but she couldn’t stop. She couldn’t stop. She couldn’t…the rifle butt to her head knocked her to the ground.
Ifunanya woke with a start, her heart pounding and the scream still in her throat. She looked around, her breath slowing as she registered that she was still in her room. A teenager’s room; with posters on the wall and textbooks placed carelessly. The dream had been so real; who was Samira? Was it a scene from a movie she had watched? She touched her neck, there was no hijab. She put her hand to her head where the rifle butt had hit it, it was wet. Ifunanya turned on the light and looked at her hand in disbelief; it was red with blood. As her breath slowed, she registered the persistent rumble of thunder.
The smoke from their burning school choked Samira. She looked around; breath catching in her throat…maybe she could escape…run…the push from behind motioned her forward. She looked back unconsciously and whimpered in fear. His clothes smelled of smoke and sweat, his face was almost completely shrouded…she looked into his eyes…they held no life; no mercy.
Dr Funke Oloyede was looking forward to getting home. It had been a long day and she was tired. She had already planned her evening; her dinner was waiting to be picked up at the Chinese place, a warm bubble bath, some jazz, she’d open a bottle of wine…
Pain knocked her to her knees. Her breasts, her head, her womb…the ache was intense…red spots danced behind her eyes.
Funke tried to steady her breathing but her breasts…they throbbed…she cradled them in her arms as she tried to crawl to her car. Her womb started to contract…it was on fire…it was like ice…the pain…the pain…the scream that tore from her throat was primal beyond her belief.
As she lay screaming in the parking lot, a light drizzle started to fall.
Samira looked around her wildly; they were in a convoy of trucks, all speeding down the road, accompanied by what looked like hundreds of motorcycles. Where were the soldiers; where were the people going to the market…to the farm…where were they going? Where was everybody? Despair rolled over her like a wave. She closed her eyes and began to scream for her mother
Sara smiled at her husband; he’d come home with another gift for her; sometimes she couldn’t believe how lucky she was; this wonderful man who treasured her like a queen. She kissed him tenderly; she was going to give him a treat tonight, after dinner.
Then the pain.
Her heart was breaking. he felt sthe tears coming but the drops could not satisfy the pain in her heart. Sara screamed in anguish as the pain of a thousand centuries broke her into pieces. She wailed… her hands, beating her breasts; she fell to the ground, legs unable to bear her.
What was this pain?
Almost as if it heard her, the wind outside began to howl.
The rain turned into a thunderstorm as Mother Earth wept…lightening illuminated their faces… almost 300 of them as they screamed prayers from throats raw from hours of screaming. They clutched each other, clothes drenched with rain and their tears as they prayed and screamed and called for their mothers.
Across the nation women responded to the cries that their ears could not hear; across the land fathers wept. Women rolled on the floor in agony as their wombs picked up the echo from children that they didn’t know. Children woke screaming from nameless nightmares of grasping hands and shrouded figures. Fathers bled from strange wounds made by invisible enemies. Mother Earth screamed in agony at the violation of her daughters as blood and tears ran together and soaked into the ground.
The people were alarmed and they came together, drenched by the never ending rain, huddled over against the pain, bandages failing to stop the bleeding. They talked and they shouted and they all agreed that something needed to be done, that the mystery needed to be solved, that the pain needed to end.
But nothing happened.
And after some time the rain stopped. Trees covered the blood soaked earth and the sun came out again. Little by little, the pain began to cease. Soon wounds turned to fading scars and nightmares restored place to sweet dreams.
The people forgot…
While miles away, almost 300 young girls, no longer innocent, looked at the burning sun as they tried to understand why their voices dried up in their throats, why nobody heard, why nobody came.
Photo Credit: Dreamstime | Jacques Du Toit