Anguish
I couldn’t see anything. They had blindfolded me. “Walk faster! Do you think this is a wedding procession?” One of them shouted when he realized I was slowing down my pace. They had given me a stick which was to be my guide as we walked through the thicket. A prick here, a bruise there, an itch, outch! That was my body. I was bleeding on my knees. They had made me kneel earlier on. We had passed through bushes where the wild grass sliced my arms like a blade. The sun was high in the sky, shining like it always does at noon. It shone without caring that its heat was not helping me.
The sun shone without caring that its heat was not helping me.
The sun shone without caring that its heat was not helping me.
I had wounds all over my body, I was thirsty, what I needed was some fresh, cold water from the stream, not the sun’s heat. The whipping they had done to my body had generated enough heat to warm an igloo. My body was burning. “Make her sit down!” Shouted their leader. They were four of them. I couldn’t see them due to the blind fold but could distinguish their distinct voices. “Give her the milk, Zigi!” Kizito ordered as I later came to learn his name. Kizito was the leader of the gang. He had a deep voice which he only used to order things around. He was the shortest of them all. Zigi  had a deep baritone and was the tallest. “What are the two of you doing?” Kizito shouted at Mugisha and Kambi. The two were having a tete-a-tete. ”What is that you are discussing? Share it with all of us.” Kizito asked in anger. “I’m the boss here, so you have to share anything you have with me, got it?” “o.k” Mugisha and Kambi answered in unison. Mugisha was fairly tall. He had the lightest complexion compared to the other three, which made his tribal marks visible from a distance. Kambi was thin and short. He was also the youngest of them all. He was fond of smiling even when nothing funny happened. He could just stare at a random spot on the ground and smile sheepishly. Kizito often told him that he was sick and needed to see a medicine man the soonest.  Kizito felt like a king . He was imperious, acting bossy and sometimes being a bully.

“Has she had a gulp?” He turned to Zigi, “She has.” Zigi answered. They had forced me to drink their stinking milk from their filthy gourd. The gourd which contained  sour milk was releasing a stench similar to that a carcass releases. I had refused to take any of their shitty milk but a few slaps they gave me reminded me I had no choice. “Does it contain any poison? Why are you forcing me to take it?” I fearfully asked. “It’s very good you silly brat!” Zigi answered me after a smack. “It’s stinking healthy! hahaha.. ” he told me as he took a sip. “Am I dead to you? hahahaha…” He laughed and handed the gourd to Kizito.

“Let’s go!” Kizito commanded. I slowly rose to where I had been sitting and took my stick. We had been walking for the past six hours and I could not tell for how long we would walk. I was as tired as a worn out shoe. I myself was weary, dehydrated and in pain. The torture I had gone through had made me weak.

It was at dawn when we had heard a commotion outside. It’s my elder sister who first heard the noise and woke me up. We rose up from the mat we had been sleeping on, and went to peep through the window. There was a group of men standing on our compound. We couldn’t see all of them as it was still dark but we could see that they were more than a dozen. Before I could utter anything to my sister Amina, we had heard a loud bang. It was  our door that had been broken into and six men got in.

our small hut.
our small hut which was the kitchen cum bedroom.

One carried me on his shoulder and another carried my sister. The others ransacked our small hut, which was used as the kitchen during the day and acted as a bedroom at night. I, together with my sister were taken out and that’s the last time I saw her. The guy who carried me was heavily built. I felt like he was a giant. I noticed that our cow shed was empty as we left our  homestead. It’s the raiders! They had come again. It was a retaliatory attack. I could tell.

They emptied our cowshed.
They emptied our cowshed.
They took our livestock with them.
They took our livestock with them.

My village had raided the cattle of a neighboring village nine months earlier. We had expected that they would attack us the following month but they never showed up. We waited for the second and third months but they didn’t come . Villagers later concluded that they had given up and couldn’t strike after four months. How wrong they were, The village we had attacked, Bomani,  was scheming how to execute a counter attack. They had been planning for eight months how they would teach our village Chaka, a ‘lesson’. Their attack was strange this time. They never carried anything apart from livestock when they attacked, but this time, they were taking young girls with them, they were also hurting the males. “This is the mother of all attacks!” I heard one of them chant as they made away with our livestock.

The gigantic guy had carried me for four kilometers when he put me down. You can’t escape now that we are a distance from your village. Use your legs and follow the others,” he told me as he put me down. There were other girls from our village who had also been abducted. I saw my friend Shinde weep as we walked. She looked sick. Shinde had been diagnosed with a heart problem when she was ten, she often fell ill and was always visiting the medicine man for herbs which helped her everyday. She did not participate in heavy activities while at home. The only chores she could do was sweep their compound. Her mother, who was a widow was also aging and not in good health. Both Shinde and her mother relied on their brother for everything they needed. I looked at her dry lips and knowing how fragile her body was, asked one of our captors to give her some water. “Shut up! I am no stream. Who do you think you are to tell me that?” is what his reply was. There was nothing I could do to help her . The captors could not listen to any of us. “Everyone stand still!” he commanded. We had been walking through a forest and had approached a clearing.

The clearing
The clearing.

One of the captors reached out for his bag and got a large shuka. “What are the shukas for?” I whispered to Shinde, “Maybe they want us to lie down on them before they kill us,” Shinde whispered back. Oh my! They were going to butcher us like animals, I thought. “He took out a pen-knife from his back pocket and started to cut the shukas into long, thick pieces. He cut over twenty pieces then turned to us. “We don’t want you to recall the way once we are out of the forest , so we have a little surprise for you.” The captor said. He was preparing the blind folds from the shukas. He called us one by one and tied the pieces on our eyes. It was my turn to be tied when we heard a loud thud. It was Shinde. She had collapsed. The captors saw her fall but did nothing. “Let her die. Her kinsmen will come for her corpse.” One of them said sarcastically as they burst out in laughter. I cried after seeing Shinde. She was frail and had just passed out but no one could help her. What if it gets worse? I thought as I was being tied the blindfold. All I felt in my heart was resentment and acrimony towards our captors. I loathed them. Why didn’t they just take the animals as they always did? They had killed or injured the men back in the village, made away with our cattle and kidnapped us, the young girls. What kind of human beings were they? No, they were animals. People who have no heart are animals. They are just like the serpents in the bushes and lions in the jungle. I thought of my sister and cried. I didn’t know if my father was alive or was among those dead, I said a quick prayer for my brother and mother. I hoped they were not hurt. After blindfolding us, they gave each one of us sticks. The sticks were to guide us as we couldn’t see a thing. We left Shinde at the clearing. I thought of all the bad things that could happen to her if hyenas passed near her, I thought of what would happen if she woke up and found no-one around, her being a weakling, she would not get to the village on her own. I thought of the worst. What if she died? Her mother would mourn for days, her brother would be heart broken. I stopped thinking about the bad and prayed that all would be well with her. They had tied the blind fold on my eye so tightly that my eyes hurt.

My eyes hurt from the blindfold.
My eyes hurt from the blindfold.

We had walked through the forest when I realized that I was not in the company of other girls. What had happened? I didn’t recall any one telling us to separate. It turned out that they had planned that they take different ways while we were in the forest, so no girl would be in the company of another girl. We were a group of more than sixty at the clearing, (we the captives plus our captors) but once we were out of the forest, I realized there were only five of us. Four raiders and I. I had thought that they had tortured us enough on the way but they thought otherwise. The torture was to begin once they separated us. They whipped me severally, calling my elders names, they made me kneel on serrated bricks. A sharp stone jabbed me, perforating my skin till blood started oozing out.  I thought I would die. I was whipped some more, and I loathed them more. Abhorring them is all I could do. I could not free myself and they were hellbent to teach my village a lesson. For a second there, I wished the raiding that happens in our community could stop for once. We were going through a lot of affliction at the expense of seeing who the mightiest of all communities was. It was hell. I was in distress and pain. If only my clansmen could stop this ‘I’m mightier than you, wait for us to raid’ nonsense, It could be better for all of us. I say nonsense because I didn’t see the importance of killing and torturing villagers just so your village would appear superior. But then again, what  did I know?  I was less than two decades old. This practice had been going on for hundreds of years. Way back before my great grandfathers were born. Who was I to change that? Could I even change it through a thought?

“Get up!” Zigi’s voice disrupted my thoughts. I touched my knee and could feel blood flowing. I was going to die! I had lost so much blood. He unfolded me and took the stick. The setting sun burnt my tiny, black pupils when I looked up. I had been used to darkness due to the blindfold. My eyes had been shut for more than six hours. I saw the light again. It’s like I was walking through a dark tunnel and had finally come to the end, where the light was. I looked at my body, I had so many bruises, you would think my clothes had sharp edges. My clothes were torn. I was semi-nude. I looked at the four heartless men who had made me go through that and felt what I always felt for them; hate, venom, bile and all the anger that the whole world could carry.
“What do we do with this swine?” Kambi asked Kizito. “Our mission is complete, Let her rot there.” Kizito replied.
The stinking gourd of milk.
The stinking gourd of milk.
They threw the gourd at me.
The gourd which was stinking like a carcass. It still contained a little sour milk. “Let her have her last supper before wild animals come for her.” Kambi said. The four of them left me at the thicket. With torn clothes, a stinking gourd and a rag, that which was the blind fold, I was left to die, and rot if no-one found my body. I saw them go down hill as they laughed their hearts out. They must have enjoyed tormenting me. Twelve hours had passed since they forcefully took me from our hut. I recalled  being woken up by my sister that fateful morning. Where was she now? She was probably left to die too in an un-known location. What if I survived? I would go and ask the elders to stop this garbage they called ‘Battle of Supremacy’. Would they listen to me? They would probably think I had gone bonkers. There was no female in the counsel of elders. What would a clueless teenager have that would make sense to any elder? How would I even start it? I would probably tell my mother, to tell my father, to tell my uncle who would talk to my grandfather, who would eventually pass the information to the council since he was a member.Was that even possible? I questioned myself. “Everything is possible if you have faith, “My late grandmother’s words rang in my head. Yes, everything was possible, but my idea was absurd, . My father would say it was surreal, loco, bizarre, unearthly, he would call me all manner of names. Was I trying to change a whole communities’ culture?
The sun went to 'sleep'
The sun went to ‘sleep’
The biting cold penetrated through my skin pores making me shudder and shake like a shriveled leaf on a windy day. The sun had set. It had gone to ‘sleep’ as children often said . The moon came out. The stars too, they were so many in the sky.
The moon and stars came out.
The moon and stars came out.
I looked back but could not comprehend where I was. I looked at the East and West, all I saw were bushes. There was a narrow path which Zigi, Kizito, Kambi and Mugisha had used but I could not use that. It was probably leading to their village. I couldn’t follow them. I chose to go back even though I didn’t know where I was going. Any route was better than the route that the four monsters used. “Hey you, the highest of all gods, you protected my ancestors when they were in danger. You are the greatest, the mountains and seas know that, even the forest that we had passed through knows that. Protect me, my gods, this is my hour of need, I know you can hear me, protect me please, the highest of all high gods.” I murmured to myself amidst fears, hoping that the gods would listen. I walked for a few minutes but my legs couldn’t carry me anymore. I lay down on the grass, bruised and drained. I had given up. “Let whatever that was to happen to me happen, if the gods can’t protect me.” I whispered to myself.
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