Death Knocks on our Door
The fights have been on for days, and echoes of their bombardment resonate before our eyes, in our minds and heart. We live in fear, but hunger is greater than all our fears. We have no food, water or sleep. Sleep? Sleep is a luxury, for the rich and poor. There are no rich and poor in the war, one cannot drive his car around, neither is one safe in their mansion; you are a target practice for the rockets and shelling.
Nwamaka is dead, she died many days away. She died of a protruded head, and a distended stomach. She was only a year into the war. We had to dig with our hands to make a shallow grave, because she was neither meat nor food. Each morning, we sit, and wait for death to meet us, but it will not come. We pray for death to steal us in our dreams, but it didn’t. We have forgotten the taste of laughter; it is the food in the stomach that bakes happiness.
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Each morning, we hear shuffling of weak feet, a neighbour, tired of lurking behind closed doors, meets death, and in the distance, a shelling turns him into meat. The thunderous sounds never left us, up until so many years, when we became men and silvered hair. Death knocked, and knocked, but refused to go away.
We are lucky to have a mother; father went to war with his den gun. She has some salt, tins of sardines, and corn flour. We finished the sardines, but there is no fire to make some bread. Mother looks at us, one after the other; she counts what is left of her flock: four, out of six. Nkemdilim still sucks her breast, Ebube’s weak limbs have grown leaner, but Ifeoma, and I are the eldest. Her eagle eyes fall on me. The fear in her eyes brings tears to mine, a mother is about to send her two lambs to the slaughter, but we are in dear need of fire, unless the rest of us may not witness the birth of another Christ. The church bells ring each morning, but no one answers.
Mother gradually lifts herself from the cold floor, and walks towards the door; we all look at her like the Messiah, which the teachers taught us in school, long before the shelling descended. She pokes her fingers up into the thatched roof, and brings down her bag. One after the other, we see her come out with so many things –things she saved from the war.
Our birth certificates, a picture of father, a pound! Our eyes grow large at the sight of it. You can see the hunger wear out, our war against hunger is defeated. The shiny metal gives light to our once dark airless room. We lick our lips, because we know that food is close by. I can perceive the smell of corn bread in the pot; mother makes it well. Mother holds the coin up like father James on a Sunday, presenting the body of Christ, and we all look up like the rest of the congregation. I imagine mother in white, making corn bread, and dishing it in our plates. But all of a sudden, the image fades away, when she calls my name:
I look at her, and she says:
“Take Ifeoma by the hand, and go to Papa Oyibo’s house. Take the Kerosene can.”
The war makes us count our words, and steps. Papa Oyibo is the only shop that kept open in the war. We don’t know how he gets his supplies, but at times, he calls us together, and gives out as much as he can. I pick up the kerosene can which has stayed idle for months, Ifeoma grabs my hand, I open the door, mother calls again:
I look back, my little ones gather around her like little chicks.
“Bring back your sister.”
She says it in such a way that brings worry to my soul. Ifeoma and I steal out of the house.
Ifeoma is my twin sister; she came out first, and I came second, but Ifeoma was as fragile as the plates Father James used for dinner. I remember mother carried her around everywhere she went, up until the last little ones came, and the war followed. Mother no longer looked out for Ifeoma; the war made it my job to look out for an older one. The war made Ifeoma lessfrail, and more agile. But I was the to bring Ifeoma back.
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The road to Papa Oyibo’s shop is a lonely one. There are no rats, squirrels, or lizards. It no longer matters to tap the wines or to harvest the crops; people harvest other peoples’ toil, but it doesn’t make, we are all in the war together. We walk, and rest awhile. Ifeoma’s spindly legs ache and her eyes look sad. Ever since we turned to the junction to Papa Oyib’s shop, she has grown too quiet, and cold. We are all hungry, unhappy, and afraid of the war, but there are people at home waiting. We can see Papa Oyibo’s shop ahead, and the lineup of people that dared the rockets. Ifeoma, and I quicken our legs, but a sharp deafening sound stops us. I throw my step back, but I am too late. The sharp sound descends, and it is followed by a thunderous quake. The dust of the earth blinds my vision, and when I see clear, I am shaking. I look, and my fingers press hard on the pound. I notice that the other arm is light.
I shout at the dangling limbs of my twin; her bodies spread idly on the dusty path. I won’t bring Ifeoma; the war leaves us one pound alive, and no sister.
Written byUdemezue, Oluoma
Udemezue, Oluoma loves to read and write. Oluoma enjoys oldies, meeting new people, and exploring new ideas or avenues. She believes that life is not complete without a taste of culture, romance, thriller, and suspense. You can catch her on firstname.lastname@example.org, udemezue, Oluoma Judith –Facebook, oluomaudemezue on Instagram, and @Udemezueoluoma on Twitter.