The Child Soldier: Our Writing
Giving Voice to Youth Affected by War


By: Andrew Benson Greene Jr,
Coordinator, I*EARN Sierra Leone

I huddled over patches of human blood that has formed a pool right in
front of Papa's little dented thatched house. The scorcher, was that
glowing march sun that has began to melt the thick spillage of blood
like butter over the fire. Fresh from my hiding nook, it did not
strike my confused mind that the pool of blood was a costly
contribution of all the people I cherished in life.

The sun's rays that sprang from above stretched its claws
indiscriminately upon everything, everything my ravaged village could
show. In almost every sunset, I imagined real darkness. The only
thing that separated these two advertisers of nature's day and night,
was that the darkness of the day, had its camouflaging rays whilst
the darkness of night maintained its normal dark, true colour of
gloom. Yet, in these two darkness, the incessant rain of gunshots,
were of the same heavy down-pour.

For the entire gun-raining night, I wrestled with unconsciousness.
When I overcame her the next morning, he became truely apologetic to
have kept me unaware of my impending woes. But it were better for
unconsciousness to have maintained its masculine fibre, and out-beat
me for good, instead of me championing him and face the gloom
reality. I then spotted every member of my family lay strewn to the
ground, right infront of our mud-built abode. The ignition to burst
into tears was yet too cold in my system. Out of shock, an agape
mouth, plus series of shudderings atoned for my lack of expressing my
bereavement in the form of a clanging cry. First came the horrid
sight of my younger brother's hands, hacked and dismembered from his
body. Two little twisted hands, wrung and flung in the far corner of
the veranda, as if it has done an abominable wrong. as though the
rebels begrudged those little hands that were always in motion,
sweeping and tidying up our big compound, fastidiously picking the
sweet fruits from the guava tree. Soon, more and more ungainly
spectacles came in view, torturing my sight. Next, I spotted Papa's
chopped ears, aloof from his bulleted forehead. That head that used
to pump sweat after a diurnal day's labour for the household's daily
bread, now pumped blood profusely than all the sweating it has done
in the world. In Mama's wide-open mouth, I could imagine the last
warnings that sprang from it just yesterday. 'Becky' she called me,
'please do not forget to take the mortar and the pestle back into the
store after pounding the husked rice okay?' The strange, cruel, and
unwelcome visitors that pounced upon our village that very morning,
prevented me from carrying out Mama's instructions. Close to the
corpses of my loved ones, the house-hold paraphenelias dotted
everywhere, now lifeless as Mama who once yielded them. It would be
grossly improper to lift a mortar and a pessle when mortals lay still
and motionless.

I stooped to pick up my younger brother's twisted little hands. At
this point, my hands stiffened about an inch away from his damaged
body as if the resuscitation of fear has casted a spell upon my
hands. When the monotony of such dismal scenes casted fear at bay, I
flopped down on my knees, gathered the mangled limbs and placed them
beside the blood-drenched head. The narrow forehead that I had often
scrubbed till the soap lathered and its white froth changed to
mustard yellowish- brown. I would continue to scrub on Mama's
instructions. Mama will say, 'scrub him more severely' for she
thought such scrubbing would be a deterrent for my younger brother's
bespattering in the mud. I will scrub, and rub and wash, till the
brown froth is rinced away. I wish the thick blood upon his forehead,
were only the mud and his tiny set mouth will plead for me to lesson
the scrubbing.

I was revisited by a sudden grief, and the first salty drop of
compassion wetted my eyes till it whetted my appetite for shedding
more tears. I then took his tiny body in both hands whilst his
dismembered hands, lay trapped between my bent neck and left
shoulder. I then raised his body gently, aloft upon my right shoulder
and carted him into the house like a new hero. I did the same for my
parents until the deceased trio was carefully placed in Papa's
sleeping room, hoping that some relations of ours shall someday come
across their bones and bury them at least. I had no time to perform a
fitting ritual now. All I had time to do was simply wrap Mama's white
'lappa' around them until my beloved kin were enshrouded in the white
clothe that Mama often wore to church. I hurriedly shut the door
behind me and instantly realised that I have been forever shut-off
from their world, the incomprehensible unknown world of the dead; the
quietude of that sombre world.

Whispers of gunshots eavesdropped in my ears that those who fed on
havoc were not yet sufficiently satisfied of their atrocities. I
docked to the floor and creepped to next room where I hoped the
wandering bullets would never discover me.

The mud-bricked house, riddled with bullet holes on all sides,
provided me with a spying device. I then gradually began to peep
through one of the hollows designed by the way-word bullets. Soon, I
discovered to my discomfort that the gunshots that I heard moments
ago were the harbinger of masked faces.

When I got their bearings clearer, just as they drew nearer, I again
noticed that there heads were tied with a previously white, but now,
red head bands that was the result of a thorough immersion in human
blood. I realised that their charcoal painted faces interpreted
gruesome stories of death and massacre. The gang stopped in front of
my house as though they have breathed one more soul to devour. I shot
my eyes instead of moving it away from the pinhole that has served as
a reliable spying device. All my acts and gestures and thoughts now
were prayerful. I began mumbling prayers to myself that I hoped would
tempt the heartless gang of rebels away. I then started to open my
eyes gradually, gradually, like one who has dipped his face in
lukewarm salty water to remove the irritating sand in the eyes, but a
little hesitant, lest the peppery of burns be felt again. Like a
stubborn vision, the gang of rebels then lingered. They pointed
fingers at my house now instead of rifles. I was fearful of the fact
that their masked faces had the magic of seeing through the house. I
then felt trapped. I made up my mind,and sauntered towards
them,instead of they striding towards me, albeit, with heavy
hearthrobs. As I started to work with stiffened steps towards the
door, my shivering feet and disjointed steps, rattled at every step.
Then suddenly, one of the rebels guessed someone was still lurked
behind one of the shattered rooms.They nodded in affirmation as if
they have all to one cruel conviction. A gruffy voice rang..."come
out of the house you... Becky! get out right now or if found you will
be thouroughly raped and killed." More husky voices repeated this
verdict. I stopped moving abruptly, not out of fear this time, but
shocked and bemused to hear such hoarse voices pronounce my name. I
wondered how they could have known it. Groomed for death already, I
knew I must face it with eyes tightly shut, and breast projected to
make the bullets travel easily. I made this deadly preparations,
opened the door and waited. I heard a voic, sharper than the sword
that pierced Papa's ears.' No shooting' the voice commanded. Yet a
shot came aiming at me but missed my head an inch or two away. Almost
simultaneously, another shooting trailed the first which did not miss
the defiant rebel who attempted to get rid of me. I realise that the
teenage rebel who gave commands was the commando leader. He then
crave the permission of the rest to kill me single-handedly away in
the thicket of the bush, as though there was a kind of pleasure
derived from killing me that he did not wish to share with the rest.
The others allowed him to gratify himself . They leaped to their
feet, hooted and raised their guns skywards in revels and approval.
Instantly, my 'lappa' was stripped off my waist to chain my hands and
feet, as though I might stray away if they fail to fetter me. My
ripened feminish features of adolescence now exposed to the sordid
expectation of rape.

As daylight loosened its firm grip on the lifeless and the living
alike, along the path we took for our undoing, twilight merely
mimicked her predecessor. It portrayed the leaves as having stood on
edge like the scattered hair upon my head. I felt dizzy with fear
when his scrubby little hands began to play with my bare breast. He
pulled me to the side of the stream and left me half- naked, lying on
the grass. He squatted on the side of the flowing stream and dipped
his bloody hands into it . Soon, the clean, glassy stream immediately
turned into a dark opaque flow of filth and blood. He waited till the
dark stream has regained its clearness, and again disturbed its
natural whiteness by throwing the sword that he has unhitched from a
sheathe by his side and threw it in the farthest part of the stream.
With his back still turned towards me, I noticed that he has untied
the headband that has been masking his face and lend him a terrifying
bearing. He deposited the bloodstained scalf into the stream and
observed the same result of a thick flow of blood. It seemed as if
the blood that was right in front of my deserted house has been
scooped into the stream all of a sudden. He again waited till the
untidy red dark colour has been swept away by the over-powering tide
of water. He began to gradually wash his body, starting with his dark
face. Throughout all this ritual of cleansing, I lay motionless,
shivering in the cold cloudy dusk. He hoisted himself from his
stooping position, and turned round with a grin. I recognised his
face at once. With a stuttering low voice, I cried out his name;
"Sammy"! Sammy instantly knelt down with his eyes pleading. "Yes
Becky, it's me Sammy". I recalled immediately how he used to play
'stone-ball' at our village school. He wooed me once or twice then in
that childish playful way but I had turned him down on every try. He
disappeared since our school was attacked. He threw his gun away and
in a condescending tone that was no longer tinged with barbarism,
expressing sorrow for all he has done. "With your help alone Becky, I
will abandon the rebel movement. I have harmed my family, your
family, and those of my friends." I encouraged him to do just that.
"We better find a hide out and keep out of the way or else the gang
will find us and that will be the bane of our lives ", I suggested.
He nodded gently as he untied my hands and feet. He said he longed to
live a new life, away with me. "Becky, I wish to marry you". There
was palpable sincerity in his tone of voice. I needed days to be
orientated to such a life of trotting through narrow paths of twigs
and thorns. He waited for an answer, but I said nothing, waiting and
hoping that silence could relieve me of my troubles, and whispered to
him what ingrained in my mind. Yet I could look straight into his
eyes for they were not the fires that I saw earlier in the day.

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The History of The Child Soldier Project

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