Lessons in Life

This story is not for the faint-hearted.  While it is a work of fiction it is based upon some of the horrifying things that I have heard in the news. – GB


The men descended suddenly from the hills near the village early one evening.  No one expected them and so they could surround the encampment, cutting off the main road, and attack, unimpeded.  They drove everyone from their homes into street and herded them to the school yard. Men were separated from women and children.  Boys, as young as twelve, were put with the men.   The women and children were raped and beaten and made to watch as their men were clubbed and hacked.  If someone couldn’t look, that person was whipped and forced to kill a man herself by chopping him to death.

The school teacher was a man of some education, and he tried to reason with the rebels because he had taught some of them.  They did not like this. Their leader, a man called Col. Iyadeji, decided to make an example of him, and teach the rest of the villagers that it was absolutely useless to resist.

Col. Iyadeji was a frightening man.  He was big, well over six feet tall, and heavy, perhaps two hundred and seventy pounds.  He always grinned at the group of women and children, and you would have thought him friendly except that he actually laughed and joked when someone was being flogged and he delegated the killings as if he were bestowing gifts.  The men who followed him gazed at him with worshipful eyes.  They jostled each other to be the one to please him, but they shied away like dogs that had just been kicked if he shouted at them. He might really have been a military man because he conducted himself and was treated by his band like one.  He walked with his back straight and often condescended to straighten the rags of the boys who stood at attention whenever he passed.

Col. Iyadeji looked triumphantly at the group of women standing to the right of the courtyard opposite him.  No-one wished to meet his eyes and people shifted their gaze as soon as they thought he would look at them.  I did not want to be beaten; I wanted to please him, so I did not glance away when he stared at me and I saw him sneer as he beckoned to me.

“Come here you,” he said.

            I could not move but then someone pushed me and I found myself stumbling toward him.

            “How old are you girl?” he asked.

            “I am twelve, Sir.”

            “Twelve years old, and you shall teach this teacher a lesson today.”

            I hung my head.  I wished that lightening would strike or that Jesus would appear.  I did not want to be alive.  I could not kill my beloved school teacher, the man who had convinced my mother that it was good for me to come to school because I would then be able to be a teacher like him one day instead of only having babies and planting vegetables for sale in the market.  He had told my mother that I was bright.

            “Come girl.  I will tell you what to do,” Col. Iyadeji said. “You look intelligent. Look at me when I speak to you… You are to go to that man, the great teacher,” he spat in the dirt. “…and when my men hold him down you are to chop off his fingers, one at a time and then you are to cut off his hands and then his feet at the ankles and his legs at the knees. They will not need to hold him then and you can catch him easily if he should try to get away.  Sever his…”

            I could not listen.  My heart was pounding so violently that I could not hear what he said.  I wet myself like the frightened child that I was, and Col. Iyadeji frowned at me.

            “Kofi,” he barked and a reedy little man came running forward with a cane. “Kofi, this girl is not what I thought she was, but you must make sure that she learns. Give her twelve – one for each year of her life.”

            I lost count after the third or fourth strike but when Kofi was through I was made to stand in front of the Colonel again and receive my instructions once more.  I stood there quietly, trembling.  I hoped that this was a nightmare from which I would awaken. Then I took the machete and did as I had been told.


About Gabrielle Burns

I am a Jamaican at play here in this vast playground in cyberspace....Yes, at times I do like to live dangerously, but I AM also working hard at becoming more interesting by the day... :)
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