The Beef That Breeds Nightmares!
In light of the recent killings by fulani herdsmen in Benue state, I wrote this down. It is not my intention to downplay what happened to a place of fiction. It's just me, trying to make it feel more real, trying to picture it from the eyes of a victim.
May the souls of all those killed rest in peace.
There’s a flight response triggered in both humans and animals alike in the face of danger. Adrenaline, a metallic taste in the mouth, impaired cognitive function, fleeing, a strong desire to survive and there’s the other way we respond to danger, the freeze, and that is my response today. Legs firmly planted on the dusty ground, not shaking; fear lounging in the corner, not interested in what my eye is taking in, my heartbeat regular, my cognition is alive…. more alive than it’s ever been. I take in everything happening around me like the reporters who dare to go into the carnage of war torn zones, but unlike them, I have no security. I am exposed. I have no hope for survival, or rather, I’m not thinking about surviving or being a victim, I am just existing in that moment, frozen.
There’s a trickle down my legs. I have urinated on myself… that’s the only thing that gives away what my subconscious mind feels in the back of my freeze moment, or maybe I just couldn’t hold it in anymore, I was on my way to find a spot to squat and pee when everything changed.
I imagine the jests Terwase my brother would throw at me if he knows what just happened to me…. I, the city girl, the self acclaimed ‘know what’s up’ girl with painted pepper red nails and pink lipstick, with well lined perfectly highlighted brows peed on herself.
He would laugh for a lifetime, but he wouldn’t as it were, because he can’t, and he can’t because he’s lying dying a few feet from me, his stomach with a deep gash that has left his intestine or something that looks like it hanging out, his right hand semi-detached from his body from the shoulder… his eyes open and bewildered, fixed on me, his sister who was going to be a nurse, wanting me to do something to stop the pain, or maybe wanting me to run? But I am frozen. Beside him is his pregnant wife Ieember, dead already with a nasty gnash on her head and her neck, the baby that was on her back, ten month old Bem is sprawled, half removed from her back, his naked body looks lifeless from where I stand.
My grandmother screams calling on God as she falls from a machete hitting her back. The people that matter in my life are all falling or have fallen dead. I see others, neighbors and some relations running. Would they be able to escape?
The smell of roast yam fills the air.
I love roasted yam. In fact, that’s what lured me to the farm today. While they farmed, my grandmother and the very dead Terwa were going to roast some yam with some bush rat the younger kids caught and I wasn’t going to miss out on it. Just to show them that I wasn’t a farm girl anymore, I wore my borrowed shoes, the ones I took from carol my roommate, and I sprayed a little too much perfume… I came to slay them with my sophistication but here I am in the midst of the worst kind of slaying I have seen.
Heaps of harvested yams are on fire, yams from our hard work, yams that were to be sold for out livelihood and to sponsor my education set on fire… the smell of burning yam, fresh blood, dust and burning flesh hit me… I smell the screams of the fleeing, the dying people and the killers more than I hear them. I smell the smell of evil.
Bodies drop, babies cry, and as the blood hits the ground it cries out for vengeance. I see the humans, who may as well be demons raise their machetes and land them on the babies. The barbarians, eyes expressionless, a dark evil looming as they do their evil like zombies, controlled by something beyond what the human race can describe.
The Christmas holiday is over, and nursing school resumed two days ago, but with all my city girl façade, I love being home, I love being on the farm, even though I hate the work. I love being around my grandmother and her funny jokes, I love the pride my siblings have when they show me off to everyone in the village. I love speaking ‘perfect’ English to the clan head and the admiration of my childhood friends who didn’t get to continue school like me. I love my mother’s cooking and Father’s endless pride as he calls his first daughter ‘Doctor’…. so I delayed resumption, because as much as I love to become a nurse and one day a matron in a big hospital, I hate the stress of classes and homework, the teasing of some of my classmates calling me a ‘village girl’ just because my grades are better than them but I have a tiv accent they say. If I left two days ago, I would not have had to witness this. But I’m thankful I did not leave, because what is life without my family? I wonder where my mother is, is she dead already or did she run? She was to come meet us in the farm. What would my father say when he gets back? He went to the neighboring village to sell some products.
As I stand in the midst of the carnage, I see one of them running towards me, I still don’t run, he raises his machete with a menacing look on his face, it lands on my skull, I feel no pain, just a thud… in the freeze mode, there is a decrease in the feeling of pain. My legs suddenly shift as it gives way for me to hit the ground, before I land, another blow hits my side, I feel the blood gushing out, then a throbbing headache and for the first time, I begin to shake as my body no longer answering to my mind jerks, and then its blank. The last thing I see is the face of the devil, a herd’s man not older than eighteen.
My name is Mercy, or Mhorun as my grandmother named me, a child of mercy, reporting live, or dead as the case may be from the carnage of Guma.
A second year nursing student, an aspiring matron. First of its kind from my family, the only educated one beyond primary education. The city girl. The shanpepe of my father’s house.
With all of this achievements, I am still equated to the life of a cow… my life and that of my loved ones, taken in exchange for a cow, that is our beef, their beef with us… their excuse to wipe us out.