African StoriesEditor's ChoiceLife and General FictionNaija Stories

The Bullet in My Neck

Grandma died today, to begin with.

The first thing I had seen, as I sat on her bosom was fear. Yes. It queued all over her wrinkled face. I felt her heart whacking against her ribcage. As her diaphragm raised so high, threatening to burst out of her lanky chest. There was panting. And I also saw all the quivering. But the clattering of my teeth was more obvious of all, as the drizzling fog of death dripped gently upon our helpless shoulders.

They were particles of tears, escaping from Grandma’s hazy eyes. But mine were rigid and sealed with a cord of horror. Enchanted by its queasy waves. I felt Grandma’s cold hand crawling to my shoulder. She struggled to bury me underneath her warm bosom. Then, hot tears finally broke loose from my eyes. They streamed perpendicularly to my pale cheeks. Mucus blanketed my dried lips, preventing the absconding of cries from them. This was the nastier of them all. The mucus blocked my nostrils from gasping some fresh air. After some minutes, I barely let out a sob.

“Hey, honey! Keep it low and sealed. Trust me, we gonna go through this, okay?” Grandma’s whispering voice soiled in fear.

Dreadful echoes began to sing across the streets. Bawling of children and adults pierced through the silent night. The ambiance was now noisy, raging with growling, grunting, bleating and wailings. Our livestock must have scooted away for their lives too, I thought. And, maybe, we were all going be eaten by some wild beasts tonight. My soft heart huffed in palpitation with several pangs of suspicion colliding in it. I toppled over Grandma, while trying to hide under the bed.

Soon, the echoes drifted slowly to distant horizons. But that was because something bigger had taken its place. The coming of a heart-shattering pitches. There came the banging, and then the breaking, and finally the flinging. Our door went flying in the air. This was followed by the barking of a gun and the clucking of cutlass. I saw it; I heard it; and I felt it all. They all spelt doom. So I quickly slithered away from my hiding place.

Of a truth, I was not a chicken-hearted boy. But I had concealed my trembling self upon the cold floor. How could a-fifteen-year old heart of mine stand such a horrible night? If you put yourself in my shoes, you’ll understand my plight.

“No body moves!” a guttural voice suddenly roared.

I could smell the stench of cow shit, oozing from a giant boot that trapped my head against the coarse floor, with my nose fighting off the disgusting smell. Surely we gonna die tonight! This thought crept into a corner of my head.

I raised my head quietly to gasp some fresh air. Ah! It nudged against a metal. This was one of the barking guns.

There was this lankily built man in his thirties, who had cutlass fastened to his waist. He had even cocked the gun ready to fire at me. I saw in his dreadful eyes the hissing flames of dead. He looked merciless. A mocking chuckle escaped his pouty lips, as he smirked more devilishly, ogling those sets of eyes at us.

“What is going on, Granny?” I whispered.

“The Fulani Herdsmen! They have come for us! They have come for the neighborhood,” Grandma rumored in between tears.

“What do we do now? Why didn’t the police stop them?” I let out another whisper.

“Because they can’t!”

“Why?”

“Because the police are the Herdsmen!” Grandma’s eyes appeared pitiful.

“How?” I asked amidst my panicking lips.

“It’s the disease we face in this part of the country. The leaders are its carriers!”

“Why?” I whispered again to Grandma’s ear. I wished I never visited the Eastern part of the country. Or, no… I wished I never stayed up till this very night. “But how could I not visit my only Grandma?” I muttered audibly enough.

“Hey, if you raise that head again, you won’t find it on your neck anymore, ” the man with a guttural voice yelled, as he cocked his gun again, aiming it at me.

“No! Osondu! No, just be quiet, dear. Ah! Please don’t shoot my grandson! He is just a boy!” Grandma blurted out defensively.

“I said be still you old infidel!” the guttural voice roared but the cocked gun barked, and then, the bullet whizzed. Grandma lay cold and still before the lanky man could flee away.

“Oh, Granny! Why? Why did you have to raise your own head? You shouldn’t have come to intervene? Must you have to die protecting me?”

The bullet that killed Grandma had etched about my neck like a precious necklace of torture. For nothing else would live to remind me of this night. The very night at which some unknown gunmen wiped out all our livestock, and took her away from me. All in a cold grip of death.

I had sworn on Grandma’s carcass that every part of this country will feel the excruciating pain this bullet had caused to my neck.

Grandma died today. But her death is just the beginning of my story. The reason for the bullet in my neck!

She had called me Osondu. And in Nigeria, my country, all begins and ends with a life race. The race for survival!

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