Wednesday, 9 August 2017

A Soldier Agony

A SOLDIER’S AGONY – By Omeje Matthew

I moved my gun slowly. My aim came into full view. I was lying in the grass while Commander was sitting behind a tree close to me and yelling out orders. The tree branches spread out; it shielded us from the sun.

“Do you have a full view of them now?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Take them out.”


“I said take them out!”

“But the little girl and her mother stand no threat to us, sir.”

“Take. Them. Out. Magabush!”

No! No! No! I was still shouting when I felt a cold tender hand touch my cheek, I woke up with a start.

“What’s the matter Sweety?”

It was my wife Angela. I was lying on a sofa in our lounge. The air conditioners were on but I could feel sweat under my arms.

“You were shouting in your sleep.”

“Was I sleeping? It was only a nap. It’s… it’s nothing. What time is it?’’

“2 pm.” She said, pointing at the big wall clock.

“What’s the matter with you?” Her hand was on my bare chest. I was sure she could feel my heart beat.

“I am fine.”

“No. You’re not.”

“I am.” I left her, went into the bathroom, then I pushed the door behind me slightly hard.

In becoming a soldier, we were thought to be unmerciful; we could do anything to protect our subject. Perhaps that was the very reason Commander asked me to shoot the little girl and her mother while he looked away and let me bear the pain alone. This was the first rule. I had imagined that the little girl I shot was my daughter Annie. I remember the look on the child’s face, how she was smiling and was about to hug her mother as if she knew it was her last moment. I had shot her first before her mother. I wanted to save her the pain of seeing her mother die. Was this mercy? I thought of the fear and pain in the woman’s heart that second as she saw her own daughter’s head shredded to nothing, it would be much. Enormous. I thought, too, of the shock that came to her when she herself got hit. What did she think at that last moment? Did she forgive the “devil” that shot her and her daughter? I know she wouldn’t. She wasn’t Jesus Christ, no one would.

I imagined again that Angie was the woman, standing helplessly, watching Annie before she herself got hit. Holy shit! No. But how could I have shot them, just how?

And now, how can I stand before Angie telling this story? Could I stare into her eyes and say I was right? That in the army, in my first days, the lieutenant, the one with a lopsided face who always spat like he had eaten a snail, had said something. Never disobey the senior officer at any operation and never question him too. Do exactly as he commands… this is rule number two. It was for this very reason that I had pulled the trigger that moment.

I would open this door, then go and meet Angie. She would understand me. She would kiss me and say I was right. But deep down, something told me I was not right. Magabush, I call myself, you were wrong!

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