We heard the sound of another bell. Someone else had fallen. I heard roars of wails from the side of the hall where the mothers stood. I watched my own mum cry too. We had lost everything, comfort and everyone. All the male Youths who had reached the age of accountability were forced to the streets as fighters. I was a victim too.
Two years before now, we were attacked and almost a dozen of us was killed. My father was a burden on us because his bones had grown feeble. My mum had just me and my sister, Anne.
“Josha!” someone called me. I didn't turn instantly, because I had faith in my fears. I knew that something was wrong but even as I bent my head, I didn't know what.
“Your father wants to speak with you.” I looked at the village doctor that attended to him. His face had already conveyed the message of my father's passing. I rushed in, and he was still breathing.
“Josha”, he called, “you are my first fruit and indeed, the best of my upbringings. The beating of my heart is already slowing down. I'm not scared that I'm joining my ancestors in the deathpit. My fear is you.”
All the moment I watched him speak, all that I prayed for was his survival. While he feared about me, I feared about him too. I had already created in me a bowl of uncertainties. I wasn't even sure if I'd stand his death.
My father was a brave warrior before he was struck by the night fly. He was at the gate alone before the city fell fighting for us, against our enemies that emerged from the Sidlips. The sword he wielded had already gone blunt that night. The blood of the uncircumcised had watered down the strength of the blade.
I was with the women, fending for the men that were injured when I saw some sharp sparkles of light. I saw them gather together like virgins waiting to be burned in turns. At first, I saw innocence in their standings while they reached their hands for another. I could hear them chant a somber tune that sent melancholic messages in harmony. The scene was turning Blissful and I watched with all keenness while the clashes of blades could be heard from the dogfight that happened outside.
Suddenly, I saw one of those beautiful stars run off the assembly. She had flowers on her head and her legs were as delicate as that of Rose. I saw the other stars reunite and raise a funeral song for her. I was the only one that beheld them, yet, it felt like we were many. That star that had run out turned into a monstrous creature on the air and reached for my father where he stood. I ran as fast as I could to warn him, but before I could get there, he had been infected.
He had the will to fight and uphold the gate but his strength suddenly failed him. We had to take him in for treatment, but who would watch the gate? All our able men had fallen, either in death or in bed. I was just twelve, but I could hear the voice of responsibility beckoning on me. I had no choice. My father's sword was heavier than I thought. I could not wield it, so I decided to search for something else that could exact same damages on our enemies.
While I searched, I heard the shouts of the assailants loudly. They were already close. Their swords, daggers and fire throwers were already thirsty for our weak bloods. I looked at the foot of the wall, all I could see were books in piles. They were useless. The gates had been locked on my command. What stood between the rest of us and our enemies was an empty me.
“Shoot down the gates!!!” I heard the commander cry.
I couldn't help but wonder why they didn't kill me first.
Why would they focus on the gates?
Was I important to them?
I had sworn to protect my dying father and my loving mother. I had sworn to keep watch on the gate till our soilders were reborn. I wasn't going to fail them, even if I had to fail myself.
I ran off, and stood in front of the gate.
“If you must shoot down the gate, you'd have to go through me”, I challenged. Even those words I spoke were not proud of me.
“He's a minor”, I heard one of the soldiers say. He was in the Frontline and he looked fierce too.
“I don't want to hurt you boy”, the commander said while he drew closer.
“If you don't want to hurt me, then, you shouldn't hurt those that I love. Which hurt is bigger than this? Bloods have stained my city. The cries of babies and their mothers, fathers and their sons have been all we're forced to eat. I don't want this type of life. It is better I die here.” What was speaking in me at that moment was beyond me. I was no hero. I was no lifesaver, but I found myself going the extramile to prove those points.
“You leave me no choice boy. May your soul be guided”, the commander finally said to me, and walked back.
“Shoot them down!!!” he finally commanded. At his voice, I had already embraced death. I committed those that were to live to the hands of Whoever made us. I bent my head, because I was unwilling to see the fire that would roast me.
But I didn't die, I never did. As they shot at the gate, at me, I saw diamond-made shields fly across the gates, containing the fire. They shot again, the shields flew again.
“Run back inside!” a female voice commanded. So, I looked and I saw a beautiful lady riding on a horse racing towards us from the East. Her sword was nothing like that of my father. It was a sword of justice. It burned in rage, as I watched her drive through them, slitting their throats, cutting their clothes and turning them into ashes.
“We're safe now,” I reassured the fallen comrades inside.
“How did it happen?” mum asked.
“A young lady fought for us”, I simply answered. I wasn't willing to make anyone feel weak, but indeed, all our comrades were ashamed. Only a lady fought an entire army that threw us into mares.
“She's not just a lady!”, an elder shouted. All attention was immediately drawn to him. To me, he was just trying to defend us.
“She's trained. She's a member of an undying special force.”
“The Hand Of The Originator?” another elder asked.
“Yes!” The first answered.
“She'd come once in a while when our battles had become fiercer...and no one challenged her.”
“I've found my hero”, I told myself.
“We don't know where she lives and we never had the chance to ask her”, the first elder said as though, in response to my wish.
“Josha!” father called from the inner chambers. I ran in. I had already forgotten that he was down. He was sitting up on his bed.
“You knew...” he started, “you knew that the night fly was coming for me.”
“The night fly? What's a night fly?”
“Those things you saw in the sky weren't stars; they were not lights. In fact, they were the very dark that we dread. They are the fire flies.”
“Tell me about them, father”. My love for history, myths and Legends had already gone deep in the first phase of my life.
“There's a story that was usually shared to us by our fathers. The story is as sacred as the truth in it. Only abled men were permitted to know about it.”
“So, why are you telling me?” I asked. At this point, we were already sitting together and he looked better.
“I'm not telling you, because you've been told already. The stars revealed themselves to you. Nobody else could see them. They wanted you to witness my death and the cause of it, ” he paused and took a sip from the cup of honey water that stood at the window.
“But...” I cut in, “Why would the star want to kill you?”
“Me? It wasn't just about me. It was about us. All of us. The stars would come for us one by one, and waste us all.”
“There must be a solution father.”
“Not 'Must'. These stars had been right from the ancient times. They work for a ruler known as Abaddon. He is referred to as, the son of darkness.”
“So, does Abbaddon want to kill us?”
“But, he hunted you!”
“Yes, he hunts us.”
“If he doesn't want to kill us, why would he hunt us?” At this point, I needed explanatory answers. There was no time for parables and stories. My head was already pacing around in fear.
“Abbaddon wants us to serve him. If we refuse, he'd kill us. I refused to serve him, and that's why, he came for me.”
“If serving him would stop him from adding more pains to the ones we see today, why won't we just serve him? What is the big deal there?”
“Son, there are more to understand. His reign would be that of terror. He has no respect for lives. Our women would be raped, and our sons butchered. Your greatest fear son, would be to be under that tyranny.”
For some minutes, I kept my head low in confusion. Was there no hope for us at all? The short sleeves I wore were sticking to my skin fearfully. Everything around me spoke the same language of fear. The little tongue of fire that sat on the head of the candle stick that stood on the stand just at the other edge of the bed was busy shivering in fear.
All that rang in my heart and in my head the whole of that night was 'Abbadon'. That name had suddenly sent down every man in our city. Even those that still fought, stood without hope. We all lived with the fear of dying each day.
Eight years have passed, Abbadon had not disturbed us. Everything had gone back to normal. Women now treaded the streets fearlessly with their babies on their backs. Our men now walked armlessly, trusting in the shaking arms of comfort. Even our ladies were seen at the corners, enjoying their youthfulness with nothing more than lustful usefulness. The next moon that would surface on the sky was supposed to mark my twentieth. Many expectations were queued about the type of man I would become.
“He would be strong, like his father”, an elder once told my mum. As I heard him, what I felt wasn't pride, but unbelief. I may have had everything, but not strength.
“I reject it sir. I don't want to have a warrior as a son. I want someone that would be filled with love and sympathy like me”, my mum objected. She had always taught me that the sword is heavy. Hands that carried it never carried anything else.
The elders wanted to raise soldiers that would hold the city just like the likes of my father did. The mothers on the hand, believed that violence was not the cure for violence. After all, fire would never quench fire.
We were now left with the choice of choosing the type of life to live. I was growing rapidly oblivious to their thoughts. My muscles were already puffing out like grinding stones in my hands. I felt the weight of my own skin each time I raised my hands.
Three months after my birthday, I started considering a peaceful life. The thoughts of pleasures started hunting my dreams. I had become man enough, at least, that's what my mum told me. Each time I looked at my sister, I felt something special about her. It wasn't about the way she talked, acted or walked, it was all about her looks. Sometimes, I would feel the urge of peeping through her dress to see what her inside looks like. She was, at that time, the only lady I had a close look on.
“Anne,” I once called her in the darkest bossom of the night.
“Yes?” She was not yet asleep. Sharing the same bed with me made her sensitive and ever prepared.
“Do you look the way I do? I mean, are our bodies the same?” The question was as useless as the feeling that hunted me that night. My eyes were up and the brightness of the lamps that guided the room formed beautiful circles on the roof.
“No, we don't Josha. I'm totally different from you,” she answered, pretending to be on a sleep tour. Anne had grown to be smarter than myself. She went to schools owned by strangers and learned the things known to them. My mum was so focused in keeping me homely that she even forgot to draft a future outside the home for me.
“Please, what is our difference?” I asked. What I wanted was not explanations. I wanted to see the bliss that could make a man go amidst.
“Hmmmmm,” she turned to me, her right hand on my chin. I felt the warm coldness of her soft hand. My sister was beautiful and that night, she was even more.
“There are many things that make us different in our bodies,” she began.
“For instance, the two fleshy bumps on my chest that are not on yours, my big hips and even...” Mother turned. That teaching was not meant for me...and even if it was, the night was the worse time for it.
Mum sat up, and we both pretended to be fast asleep. I watched her go outside, take care of herself and come back in, then she lifted the lamp and pointed it to our faces to make sure that we were asleep. Surprisingly, Anne was already snoring. I wanted to laugh, but no! I was fixed. Soon, mum untied her wrapper and I watched her roll it backwards and then push it down. I wanted to look, but she was looking towards my direction, so I remained down.
Without further interruption, she did what she wanted to do and returned to the bed. Before her arrival, I was already long gone, tired of the fruitless wait.
“Good morning mama,” I greeted her the next morning while she was making the breakfast with Anne.
“You can get a wife now”, she said. I froze. Who told her I wanted a wife?
“Why?” I asked. I wasn't talking to her. I was only talking to myself, but then, she heard it.
“You're of age. Your father married just a year after now.” As she was speaking, she managed to maintain her gaze on the seeds she was picking from the bowl.
“Okay ma”, I made to leave. The conversation might get to a point of questioning.
“And, Josha! I want you to know that it is normal.”
“What is normal?” My heart was already beating fast.
“Your inquisitiveness. There is always more to this world to explore. The more we see is the more we should see.” Now, she lifted her head and looked at me. Anne was still in her pretence, washing the vegetables that she had washed before.
“I fainted the night I saw your father in his natural self. It wasn't fear. I was in awe of the glory that stood in between his legs.” She wiped her face with the left division of her wrapper, making sure that her eyes were almost locked with mine. I couldn't hide the fear and shame that shone on my face.
“I don't understand what you're talking about,” I said quickly and made to leave.
“I was listening to you last night...” she said. I thought I had moved, but my legs were heavier than steel.
“I wanted to show you myself what every woman has that you don't have. Listen, what corrupts a man is not what he looks at, but what he sees. If you understand that these things are normal and without glory, you'd live your life without noticing their existence.”
I couldn't stand the conversation again. I felt some changes in my own body. They were reacting to her words, so I had to run. I stood in the room with my bulgy eyes fully open, confused.
“My son ooooo!” I heard a woman shout from the entrance.
I ran out again, and joined my mum and sister as they both ran towards the gate.
“He's dead,” the village doctor confirmed at our arrival.
We heard another shout from the Council Hall. We ran towards that end in unison.
“He's dead”, the father of the diseased also confirmed at our arrival.
Soon, there were shouts everywhere. Men were dying mysteriously. The cause of their death was yet unknown. I saw a man wheel in seven unmoving bodies and drop them at the entrance of the council hall.
“What could this be?” An elder asked in confusion. Just then, a messenger ran in with a letter in his hand. I received the letter from him, and I gave it to my sister immediately. I had feelings that the paper might contain an explanation to the sudden deaths.
“Many more would die before we finally invade the city. We have released deadly poison into the air your breathe. One-by-one, most of you would fall. Those left cannot stand us.”
The letter's message was clearly a shipment of our ends. Everyone in the Council Court had to cover his or her nose with a scarf. But even with the covering, two abled men still fell. We won't stand watching, more deaths were coming. At that time, it seemed like the best thing to do was to return the war to all who stood for Abbadon.
I thought I was alone on that decision, but I was wrong. Soon, every man that could fight was already standing with me. Our mothers that preached 'No-to-violence' were now the same that blessed our fingers and pushed us into the hell of vengeance. We all had the strong will to fight, but we didn't have the strength and skill we needed...but there was no time.
We ran off like angry birds released from their cage.
“Stop!” We heard from within the gate. I turned, it was my father. The dying man stood, and his eyes had blood stains.
“I came to give you my own blessing,” he said. He then, staggered towards me and held my hands.
“Father, you need rest”, I quaked. Anger was now in my eyes. The last person that fell was a friend, and even as I watched the women standing and wailing, I felt the importance of using the sword.
“I will soon rest, son. Do not fight like we did, aimlessly and without guide, if you must succeed. There is an old Scholar who live at the foot of the valley. You must consult him. He will give you the necessary directions you need to win.”
Stay tuned for the next episode.
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