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A Dreams Curse - S. P.

Father usually came back home with a broad smile over his face after the days
work. He knew that happiness graced his threshold everyday as he would normally
become elated at the mere sight of Fatima whose voice and presence lightened the
burden of his rock-heavy heart. Fatima also knew very well that he was going to get
her local candies which he had a space for in his camel-skin pouch, but the space he
had for her in his heart was quite bigger. We did not have much but our father made
it seem like we had everything. On some days, he would travel to Maiduguri or
Sokoto and bring home some money with him. He used to tell us stories of how he
and Uncle Isa bought and sold rams in Sokoto and Kano. He would call out to my
mother and Fatima, whom he would always refer to as the mother that he never
had. He wanted her to go to school and marry an engineer, because he saw how
hard they worked on the new roads he saw while on his journey. He admired their
helmets and hands, and they were his idea of a hardworking man. Father definitely
wanted one for Fatima.
It was getting dark already but father had come home early enough to meet his
favourite meal of Wake and fresh cow cheese which I had come to serve him as he
took off his pouch and his other big bag. Usman and I had always wanted to know
what was inside fathers big bag since we were kids, only that we all feared him
even when he laughed. We all knew he was a good man; at least everyone had a
positive remark to make about him. That night, Isa had come to visit my father. He
was his bosom friend from their childhood days in Marte. We called him Uncle
because he was like a brother to our father. I hope Im not going to dine as a
spectator? Uncle Isa asked as he sat on the floor just behind the sitting mat which I
felt was meant for a purpose. Father laughed like a gorilla as he came out through
the backyard, delighted at the sight of his most trusted, and only friend. Usman
snuck out from where he had been prowling and sticking out his tender hands to
catch fireflies. Uncle! he screamed before dashing out to take a sit beside Uncle
Isa who patted him on the shoulder and brushed through his brown hair. Everyone
had come out to welcome Uncle Isa who we had not seen or heard from after his
disappearance from our village two years ago. I could hear Isa whisper to my father
in a hush tune, but it seemed I could hear everything. Maimuna, please take the
children in to play, Ill be in the front yard with Isa, father said. I felt he had noticed
how long my ears were growing of late.
I peeped through the torn velvet curtain that led to the front yard as there was no
door. It had become very dark, and I wondered why father would want us to play at
night when he would always advise us against the masquerades that prowled only
in the dark, looking for little childrens flesh to devour. Garba, there has been news
flying around camp that you are about to back out of the tribe, and are willing to
give out information to the infidels, Isa said sipping from a cup of Kunu. I thought
it wise to come and ask you if this is true myself and also advise you to leave Ngala
soon, he added. IIIsa, but you know this is wrong, my father replied. I soon

watched as Uncle Isa disappeared into the darkness as if father had agreed to
everything he had just said. In a flash, I saw my father retreat to our little hut
sweating profusely already. I knew something was wrong, and that nothing was
going to be alright no matter how father pretended he had it under control like he
always did. We could hear voices outside the hut as my father and mother rallied
Fatima and my younger brother. Maimuna, take them and go behind that door,
father said pointing to a door I had only seen for the first time in my short life. We
speedily rushed into the room as my father ran to the front of the house. We could
almost hear nothing, but were alerted to our feet by the screams of our father as he
was writhing in pain.
I could remember everything now. How we saw fathers head soaked in his own
blood, his eyes gorged out. The scream of Allah akbar by his killers before they
severed his head, how we hid behind a door for three days feeding only on palm
kernels. My father had only left us one thing; his big bag. I guess they did not find
what they were looking for and murdered him instead for reasons we would never
know. He had always wanted Fatima to go to school and become a doctor; his
dream for her to marry a hardworking man was gradually fading. I approached the
place where he hung the big bag and lowered it to peek inside. To my amazement, a
map and a short but fierce-looking blade were its contents. I figured father used it
for protection on his long journeys in case he came by marauders. An address was
embedded behind the map which seemed to show very complicated route guides
that resembled what a hunter would use to navigate through a thick, large forest in
search of an animal as big as God. My late fathers map had a flag and some
symbols inscribed on it. Without quizzing myself any further than I already was, I
decided within me to follow the map to wherever it led. If I would be able to trace
my fathers routes, then I was surely going to bring my fathers dreams to reality, I
thought. My mother, Fatima, and my brother Usman would erase the painful
memories of my father as we had come to experience it on that dreadful night.
By dawn I had set out even before the sun could make a full announcement. My
froglike feet rustled through the bushes as I decided to take a shortcut to the
travellers road which I reckoned was a few miles away from our village. I had
arrived at the middle of the road by noon hoping to find a lorry plying the route to
Biu. Some minutes later, I was able to flag down a lorry carrying a white herd of
cattle, and while it came to a halt, the driver gestured that I entered the back of the
lorry where I would savour the company of the cattle and two very dark
complexioned Fulani men. I could tell by their clothing and their tiny beads carved
from a series of nomadic journeys. Before nightfall we had arrived Biu where I
quickly alighted, thanked the silent driver and made for the adjacent bush path. I
took to my heels even as thorns tore at my heels and pines decorated my cotton
pants at every kilometer of the deserted path. The paths illustrated on the map
seemed shorter, but in reality it expanded all the way.

Finally, I halted. Panting heavily to catch my breath, I also caught site of some
roughly twisted barb wires designed to stretch across a long distance from where I
squatted. Approaching the demarcation, I crosschecked the map yet again to be
sure I was at the right place. I moved closer till I attempted to touch a part of the
wire to make sure it was not a mirage, when suddenly three men appeared from
behind me. One who looked better robed than the rest shouted at the top of his
voice as I stood in shock and fear of what would happen next. Kai! Dont touch that
wire else it will blow you to a thousand pieces. Its not a good way for a man to die,
youll die by my sword instead, he concluded gearing towards me in full speed. The
three men got hold of me and asked if I was a spy. I explained to them how I came
across the map, including the part where some men had killed my father. The robed
man nodded in astonishment and signaled the other men to bring me along. They
bundled me in ropes and dragged me by my hands, leaving my helpless feet to drag
through the thorny bush path.
I was whisked away with a black cloak wrapped around my eyes and dropped on the
floor about five feet from where a group of six men sat and seemed to pass
judgment on those I sat surrounded by. We numbered about two hundred and
twenty men and women. The judges wore expensive robes and turbans, and bore
curved, long exotic swords with the man in the middle wearing a camouflage used
by the military. I pondered deeply as to where I was and how I was going to die
trying to fulfill my fathers dreams. When it came to my turn for judgment, I was
introduced by the robed man I met in the bush as Mohammed Ibn Garba Ibn
Mohammed. How did they know exactly who my father was? But they were not
traders, I asked myself thoughtfully. The man in the middle said that my father had
served the cause well so much so that he was willing to repay him by sparing his
sons life and dedicating him to the will of Allah. At the snap of his fingers, I was
again whisked away to a smaller room where I was bathed, clothed and given a
knife. I was also instructed to move into an open field very close to the room at the
sound of the horn. The actions taken on the field indicated that there was a war
somewhere, and from further teachings and instructions passed onto others who
were also newcomers like I was, we were supposed to fight to the last drops of our
blood for the will of Allah to be done.
Four days after preparation, I was deployed along with some others with promises
of untold wealth and lifestyle which was dependent on how many people each
person could surrender to Allah dead or alive. I understood these teachings very
much especially as we drank from a pot of a carefully prepared special potion which
was said to put our hearts at ease while carrying out the work of Allah. It was not
long before I began enjoying the rewards of blood and the lives I had converted for
the cause. I returned to Ngala after few weeks in the forest, and several escapades
in places of operation to the astonishment of my mother who thought I was lost
forever after suffering the galling sight of my fathers headless body.

It had been sixteen years since I felt the warm embrace of my mother, though it
felt really strange and different from my childhood days at Ngala. Maimuna looked
really frail, not because she was old; she had married my father when she was only
seventeen, but she was worn out from the tragedy that occurred over a decade ago.
I felt embarrassed by the way she examined every part of my body with her hands
like she was admiring a fragile woolen material. But she was not to blame; she had
lost me for quite a long time. Come inside and take your footwear off my son, you
must be tired from the crooked roads and harsh sun rays. Ill prepare warm water
for you, Maimuna said as she hurriedly dashed into the clay kitchen. She returned
almost immediately to sit beside me on the mat like I was going to disappear as I
had done years ago. Yerima told us about the arduous nature of the trade over
there, she started. He even said that you had to shuttle between Sokoto and
Bauchi sometimes just to get buyers for cattle, she concluded expecting answers
to pour like water from my dry lips. Mother, where is Fatima, and how is Usman? I
asked trying to divert her attention from my business. Oh! she exclaimed and
continued almost without any pause. Fatima goes to that school up the hill towards
Birma, while your brother learns the hides trade with Mallam Gwarzo in the village
market, she replied. Fatima is preparing to take she was cut abruptly by the
entrance of Fatima whose beauty decorated the threshold as she made her way
through and dropped her leather bag on the floor to hug her prodigal brother.
Brother Mohammed, Im taking my senior exams this week, she hurriedly
informed me as she stared at my humid nostalgic and humid eyes in amazement. I
tried not to blink even as her beauty astonished me more. Thats my woman,
father will be very proud of what youve become, I said stroking her perfectly
formed shoulders. Yerima told us that all was well with you, and he usually handed
us the money you sent for our upkeep and my tuition fees, Fatima added. I always
knew hed take care of you all, I confirmed.
Yerima was Allahs informant in Ngala. He usually passed my messages across to
Maimuna and the rest all the time I was away. He knew the confidential and
dangerous nature of my mission, and was aware that I could not see my family
without notice and a confirmation of trust from the Shura. Money and clothes were
given to him by me for his work and for monitoring my family in my absence. I only
put up an act of pretense to blind my family to the reality of my affairs, as well as to
erase every form of suspicion especially as news had been widespread about how
many of our sons had signed up for the holy war.
All the gifts and foodstuff I brought from my journey were taken into the barn that
now served the purpose of a multipurpose storeroom. Later that evening, I broke
the news of my speedy return to Sokoto in order to attend to urgent business to the
dismay of everyone. Maimuna and Fatima bade me farewell as Usman helped me
carry my late fathers big bag which I had now inherited unceremoniously, although
he did not ask questions about its content this time; or maybe he had grown too old
for that.

Our holy war had taken a stronger dimension this time as I had perceived it would,
stemming from the short time frame granted to me for family visitation. There was
bound to be more bloodshed as we received news that the infidels had rained fire
on two of our artillery camps. We were simply ordered to kill on sight as no infidel
was holy in the sight of Allah. Summarily, we became punishers for Allah. The
tune always got wilder after we drank our potions and our minds transformed into
those of bloodthirsty beasts. We killed every man that did not belong to our fold,
and tore lasciviously at every woman and girl child; some of whom we took back to
our camps to serve as sport. News again came to us while we sniffed and enjoyed
our sanctified white powder by a small fire that over eleven villages in several areas
of the region, far and near were raided. The Shura also wanted us to assemble en
masse at the instructional base for a celebration of our collective victory- Allah was
On arriving at the base, it was indeed a very wild celebration; the holy warriors
and conquerors chanted very loud hymns of victory. It was an atmosphere of
abundance with a lot to drink, eat and touch. There was a whole lot of pleasure to
savour for one night even as our commander summoned our already elated and
obstreperous squad which he ordained as special and committed into his to the will
of almighty Allah. My happiness had seen no better freedom when I saw Yerima and
four other men of our anointed fold approach where we stood close to the
commander. He beckoned on us to come into his large tent where we some women
were bound from head to toe. At a quick glance, I could fathom that they were
rather younger women. The faces of our sport were tightly wrapped around the kind
of black cloak used on my first judgment as we were taught that Allahs was final.
They are all virgins given to us as a blessing from the almighty, and they shall
multiply and breed for our ordained rightly ordained caliphate, our commander
said gesturing with a nod that we proceed. It was customary within the camp that
virgins would only be unveiled after a path had been cleared to the womb. This was
done to avoid the sadness they bore on their faces which would only weaken our
thrusts and not our minds. All seven of us went ahead to take hard thrusts of
pleasure ignoring the painful screams of the innocent petals being torn apart.
Ordering us to release the new women from bondage, we gently unclad our
sport of the cloaks from their breasts to their faces. While some others did this,
other men and I longed for our breath again as we heaved huge masculine sighs of
relief. Raising my left knee, I gently unclad the cloak mask around the face of my
new woman to see the face of Fatima emerge in horrifying tears of pain and shock.
She became dumb as I stood above her paralyzed in a self-inflicted shame and
agony. I managed to take a final stare at Yerima whose face indicated no sign of
surprise. Reaching for my dagger which I pulled hurriedly out of my sheath, I saw
the huge figure of my commander instruct the men in the room to get hold of me as
I made for Yerima and slit his throat till I was sure his lungs were visible enough for

my sister to see. As I was dispossessed of my dagger and pulled by five heavy men
to the floor, I watched in tears as Yerima held his neck in both hands filled with his
own blood. In the shadow of the stained night, I felt my feet bruised through the
rough earth as I was dragged to a one-man secluded chamber to await my final
judgment for which I was ready. My fathers dream plagued me in my loneliness; no
one would ever feel as I felt.