It was some time in September; my siblings and I had just had our breakfast and were engaging in all manner of childhood shenanigans while the plates and cups were left unattended to on the table, when we heard it. It sounded like thunder to me. I looked out the window and the sun was still smiling down at me.
My mum came out of the kitchen screaming to my dad while simultaneously wiping her hand on her wrapper, EN! EN! EN!!! “It is gunshots that I am hearing oh!” My dad stood up and walked out to the verandah. We all filed behind him, thick black smoke rose lazily in the distance, incoherent voices sounded from afar. My mum asked my dad, “EN, What do we do?” My dad stood, deep in thought before he replied, it is probably nothing, just the vigilante trying to scare intruders away, almost immediately, the sound of “Allahu AhK’bar” pierced the air drowning my dad’s words.
It was quickly followed by the sound of iron being scraped across stone. I gnashed my teeth together as I always did when I hear such sounds. I was really confused, why is prayer been called in the mid-morning? Why did the local vigilante now need guns to operate? What could possibly be burning that caused such thick black smoke? My thoughts were interrupted by my father’s voice, he instructed as he clapped his palms together:
“Run, run, run to Baba Dimeji’s house”
“Why?” My brother questioned.
“so that we adults can secure the area” he replied.
“what about you?” My elder sister asked.
“we would be right behind you” my mum replied. We’ll just get a few things and join you children.
My mum disappeared into the house while my dad ushered us out of the gate. There was a look on his face that I couldn’t place: fear? Confusion? Confidence that all would be well?
“Let’s go, let’s go” my elder sister said, as she immediately assumed the role of our mother. She placed my kid sister on her back and we began running/walking down the street. We saw a lot of people: some leaving the neighborhood like ourselves; some directionless; others standing in front of their houses. My brother saw his friend and stopped to chat but my sister-turned-mummy kept urging us on.
We trudged along till we got to the main road which was devoid of vehicular traffic, whereas human traffic was not in short supply. We held hands, looked left, right and left again then we ran across the road together and began descending the hills. Our neighborhood was so hilly that it was named ‘stone area’.
A beautiful white cat with black spots meowed and being the ailurophile that I am, I called out to it and it came running. I bent down, stroked it a little, spoke to it in cat language picked it up, and cradled it in my arms. It warmed up to me – maybe it could also feel the tension. When I raised my eyes, my siblings were lost in the crowd. I called and searched among the many heads but I couldn’t spot them in the crowd. Suddenly, I spotted a girl wearing a flowery purple dress that swayed with the wind, she had a baby on her back, I ran to her, calling out my sister’s name but alas…She was not the one.
Still cradling my new found companion firmly in my arms I decided to make my way to Baba Dimeji’s house on my own. It was a familiar path. Before I continued my descent down the hill, I turned back once again to see if I could spot my parents but there was no sign of them. Instead, the smoke had grown thicker and gathered more energy. I ran down the hill, crossed the little stream, up the hill and through the stones till I got to Baba Dimeji’s house panting.
The back door swung open and Mama Dimeji came out, she took one look at me and took me into her large bosom, after a while, I untangled myself from her embrace and saw her husband and kids standing beside her. I searched to see if my siblings made it there before me but there was no sign of them.
I wasn’t bothered, I was confident that they’ll soon join us, my parents inclusive, they’ll come carrying our clothes and my favorite toy.
Photo Credit: Dreamstime | Sam74100