Here is where all the survivors come, a morsel of bread in the morning, two servings of rice at noon, tuwo at night. It’s same everyday but it is better than no food.
Every day more and more people come into the camp and the food servings reduce, while the latrines get filled. Relief materials come in daily, but I wonder where it all goes.
Two mornings before we were brought here, we woke up to gunshots.
It was the early hours of morning. Mother hurried to our room to get Danju, myself and Aliyah away. Danju was wearing a white vest, she asked him to take it off quickly or it will give him away. We took the path behind the house and headed for the rocks. Screams enveloped the air, it wasn’t the first attack, they’d often come, scare everyone away and take food from market stalls and houses, but that day, they killed everyone on their path, sliced pregnant women in two and took another away. After hiding under rocks for a day, we crawled off to the Cameroonian border, where the camp is. That was the last time I saw mother or heard her voice.
It is not a very bad place, everyone seems fairly relieved, but it is just not home. It doesn’t carry the fragrance of fine sand that comes with wind. Everyone sits in circles, relishing how they escaped one attack or the other, the conversation is always the same. There’s a man with half an arm sitting with a group of other men, I wonder if he was born that way. I walk up to them, he’s narrating how he lost the arm during one of the bombings in a park in Gombe from where he was returning to maiduguri after attending his cousin’s wedding. I stare at his hand while he talks and he notices, beckons for me to come.
“Boy, touch it” he stretches out his half arm. It’s smooth, very smooth. I take off my hand immediately and they burst into laughter.
“What’s your name boy?”
“Laban” I say and hurry off. He didn’t seem like the kind of man who should be in a camp of helpless people. He looked powerful, his friends laughed like there was nothing to be afraid of, like everything was as it should be.
People lay idly on mats, beside tents. A group of boys are playing soccer with nylon wrapped into a ball, clusters of women trying to offer help to nursing mothers or pregnant sisters.
I stroll around to look for Danju, and find him in company of two soldiers, one smoking a cigarette and the other listening to him keenly, he must be talking about trying to go get mother. The other soldier is shaking his head vigorously, I think I know what he’s saying. I wait for Danju to end his conversation, but it endures for a while. I keep looking around, there’s a sound of a nearby jet, it must be one of the surveillances, I pay no attention, till the first explosion, bodies get roasted in seconds, the soldiers go flat on the ground, I charge towards Danju and he pulls me to the ground, I lay flat.
“What about Aliyah?”
“I don’t know, I left her over there.” He pointed at the direction of the explosion, screams enveloped the air.
“She may have been hit” I cried.
There was the sound of another jet, and a second explosion, and I stopped asking any questions.