Rigorous
Volume Five, Issue 3



Fear on the River Banks

Cherbo Geeplay


I

After taking a short nap that seemed like hours, the worried man with a mind crowded with thoughts had the room in the house to himself. He wasn’t oblivious to the uncertainties and unrest crowding the far away hills.

Occasionally, the booms of artillery could be heard faintly in the early mornings, afternoons and evenings. He awoke when the day was well-maturing and the quiet of the city was completely pronounced, deadened, and suffocated like the air craven muted room.

Taken with these thoughts, Kona knew his mother was too terrified to leave the neighborhood. She had told him so. Besides, his dad’s health was poor. But, the woman was living a nightmare. Reports were filtering in that the militias were committing carnages. People called the militia "freedom fighters."

They were coming to give freedom, he thought, but underlying the nice jargon was fear and terror. The young man went looking for his mother, but she was talking to his dad, and they both seemed to be in deep conversation. So, he left her alone.

Lorpu stood between the door frames, watching her husband cough. They both stared at each other but said nothing. The bond between them was stronger in trying times. She wore an orange dress and a blackhead tied with matching beads. As the day grew clearer, so did the morning sun glow, bleaching her kitchen golden with sunlight. She moved over, leaving the door frame and sat on the bed adjacent to her love.

As voices of the guests crept into the room, the sunbathed both their faces. Chinua reached out to her and held her soft hands, squeezing lightly and gave him a reassuring smile. She called out to her son, but he didn’t answer. He was in the backyard and didn’t hear his mom.

There are certain words you uttered and some you cannot when living in a war zone, he thought. You don’t want to scare little kids and the women unless it was obvious that they already knew or it is absolutely necessary. Kona was toying with the idea of speaking his mind, but every time a thought came to him, he held himself. This was the ongoing battle that was pulling and hurling him in so many directions, tearing him apart.

For weeks, he had been sleeping on the couch in the large house his family owned, but he hardly slept. He stayed awake during the long night, stirring at the ceiling as the air was thick with the odor of strangers and the humid residues of the hot sun.

The day before, as their home was filled with guests and relatives who were fleeing the violence, he hardly had space to himself. So, he mostly stayed in the backyard enjoying the fresh air. All his friends were fleeing town, and his mother was worried about him. Conscription was ongoing and young adults his age were being forcefully drafted to fight for warring troops in the New Kru Town area where he lived.

The idea of leaving home tore him apart and he tossed off the idea every time it came to him. As he was home, pondering on these struggles, his mother’s friend named Juah happened to stop by as noon was approaching. The morning sun was raging hot. Lorpu left her husband, telling him that she was going into the backyard to do some work.

“Where’s your mother?” She asked, giving him a long look.

“She’s on the other side of the backyard,” he said in a low baritone, a forlorn look on his weary face.

She walked over calling, ‘Lorpu where are you?” She paused, looking around. “Lorpu, where are you? It’s me, Juah.”

There was a long silence. Then, a voice came up. “I am here trying to fit these things into the garage. Come here, I am right here.”

The two women came face to face, and started a conversation. Kona could hear the murmurs, but could not make sense of what the two friends were talking about. He moved closer, trying to make sense of what was being said. The way she looked at him when she came in had him worried.

Kona was determined to stay home and help protect his ailing father and smaller sister and mother. At 27 years of age, he and his spouse had come home a few days ago to stay together as the war raged.

“In times like these, it was better when the family were together than separated,” his woman had told him.

But he was on the verge of collapse, his nerves were everywhere. He was torn and didn’t know what to do. He was wrinkling his hands and moving his head sideways in a swaying motion, staring off into the distance while sitting on the small table in the backyard. Then, he caught himself and stopped. Someone might be watching and may think he was going out of his mind.

He was growing an afro; he ran his hand over it and felt the thick growth. It was still in its early stages, but was growing alright, just like his dad’s always had. The crisis had brought them closer. He hated an afro and always thought that it was too old fashioned, now he was growing it.

“Gunshots are everywhere,” Juah said, “the fighting is heavy west of here over those hills and may soon reach this community.” She pointed to the hills “I am afraid Kona will be drafted and forced to fight if the war gets any closer. He needs to leave and go somewhere far from here.”

He was eavesdropping on the conversation now. He heard everything the women were talking about, even though they spoke in small voices and whispers. He was shaking in his pants.

“This morning, a truck pulled up in a community and took young men over there,” Juah was pointing to the hills again, “they went from house to house picking up the boys while their mothers were yelling and crying. My sister’s son was one of them.” Tears were in her eyes and a frown was on her face.

He rubbed his hands together as the conversation filtered into him. He felt a great unease.

“Can I ask a question?” His mom was heard asking her friend.

“Yes,” she said.

“Do you think they will soon reach this community?”

“I have no idea,” she said, eyes blinking. “It is better if he left to go to some faraway village before they took him away.”

He was now more uncertain about his desire to stay, but he wasn’t sure he wanted to leave his family. After all, his dad depended on him and his ongoing concern was staying with his family, at all cost.

However, it appears that he would have to leave anyway. He had heard tales about conscription and drugging. He had dismissed these as rumors, but now all he could think about was his dad. His heart was racing and he could feel the heat from his ears pour down his neck.

If he left, he wasn’t sure about the road either. It was risky, but lying low and letting these ruthless men pick him up from home like a sheep waiting to be slaughtered terrified him. He was cautious about the implications, looking towards the doorway in which he always entered this home, and through which he would have to leave if he indeed had to go.

As he went to bed that evening, his mind was a warehouse of a thousand things running through it. When his wife asked him what was going on with him, he said nothing. He was careful not to hurt her feelings.

But, he woke up the next morning feeling sour, complaining that his ribs hurt, because he slept on his side all night. His complaint was probably due to the fatigue his mother had warned. This was because he had been restless the past few days and had to sleep on the narrow living couch due to the strangers displaced in their home.

But, he dismissed the complaints, mumbling under his breath that he would be okay. She listened quietly, and left the issue alone. She just wasn't in the mood to argue.

Dressed in a baseball cap, a green dashiki shirt and blue jeans, there was no way to cut his hair, but that was the least of his worries. As he bent over to lace his sneakers, his mother was watching him closely, There was a sullen look on his face and he was suddenly struggling to tie the strings on the white pairs. He stood up, yawned and began pacing the living room where his mom also was.

She was sitting by the window, crocheting her yellow and white threads. His hands stuck in his back pockets as he walked over and stood by his mother, looking into the yard. The grass was growing, and there was an eerie quiet. Juah had left, and she was by herself in her worried thoughts about her son.

He asked his mother, “How long is that going to take to finish?” She continued her crocheting, but didn't immediately respond.

There was a momentary silence. Looking at her face, he saw his image in his mother’s, whose resemblance he had. Her face was soft and pale; a lot must have been on her mind. He hated to see his mother so worried and was concerned about her.

He pulled the chair opposite her and sat down, laying his hands over her shoulders. The noise came from the kids in the other room, they were playing and yelling, innocently oblivious to what was happening around them. Outside, there was a heavy morning breeze blowing across the yard, picking up debris and throwing them about.

The sun was now rising. Through the curtain, the sunlight was filtering into the living room area. She continued knitting the threads, aware of her son's presence, but lost for words. She simply didn't know what to say. As she took a break from her crocheting, she walked to the window in the opposite of where she was sitting. She pulled the blinds, and immediately noticed a pageant of people walking on the narrow stretch of road leading from her property.

Women, kids, and men were in bunches, leaving the community with loads on their heads. She recognized some of her neighbors and tears swelled in her eyes. She wiped her eyes, but could not hold them back any longer and began to sob uncontrollably.

Her son left the room, as he wanted his mother to have her moment to herself. He hated seeing her in such a vulnerable position. The country was enclosed in pandemonium. Word was fast spreading that soldiers were on the streets, indiscriminately killing people who were thought to be government sympathizers or the rebels.

Most times, according to what was heard on the radio, indiscriminate killings were based on a fighter’s mood.

The community was barren and getting emptier by the day as everyone was fleeing town. As her mind raced, she realized that every day the neighborhood got quieter. She no longer had the joy in her heart that mothers had when their children played. The sound of children’s loud voices and cheering was now terrifying to her.

What would happen to them if these soldiers came? That was all she was preoccupied with now. She startled as tears rolled down her face and there was a burn in her chest.

It was for these reasons that Kona decided he would leave home. After much contemplation and distress, he decided to find a family member to save his life from the terror brewing around him. However, he would have to cross the bridge to actually start his long journey. In the morning he told his wife, he was leaving. They said a small prayer as she wept, wishing him good luck and safe trip, he tried hard not to weep. He was the man, but he later wept as he began the trip.

Crossing any bridge was always a terrible thing to do in wartime, he reminded himself. Many bridges were being blown up as people crossed them. Now that most of those fighting the war were mostly not uniform, it was hard to tell who was a soldier or not.

The sun was ragingly hot, and he was sweating madly. He was looking around frantically, checking to see if any soldiers were in sight.

As much as he wanted to cross the bridge, he found his heart beating in fear. The streets leading up to the bridge were quiet and not a single soul was in sight. The bridge was one hundred and fifty feet long or so, opening up like a red carpet spread before him. His eyes were everywhere, looking for the slightest hint of danger. The gulls were swarming the riverbanks, looking to feed.

He calmed down, but his heart was still racing. A small and short drizzle played out for about a few yet long minutes, heat rising from the dust. He reminded himself that he was a man traveling alone, and he needed to pull himself together. Sorrows overcame him as he accepted there was no going back now; he had to proceed whether he liked it or not. He sucked in a breath, his feet shaking under him.

He steadily put in great strides while moving his legs, the hard ground below his feet. The grit of the ground was holding him in check, but he was determined. He suddenly heard what seemed to be gunshots in the distance, but he wasn’t sure. He knew it was going to be dangerous, and the moment was here, it seems.

Having just crossed the bridge he spotted then stopped in a small opening of land that looks like a good hideout. He knew that he was vulnerable on the narrow strip of road. He gazed around and spotted a tree nearby. He decided he would take a break in the shade. But, doing this, he decided he would have to camouflage himself as the road was being used by the militia. He hid in the patch of grass beneath the growth surrounding the tree.

As he hid, he abruptly realized he was on a cliff. He could easily fall into the valley below if he was not careful with his movements. He peered down and spotted a man about a hundred feet beneath. The man was lying on the ground beside a creek, which was running through the vines, and his hands were tied behind his back with rope. The man was in apparent pain and rolling on the ground, he was taken aback by it, another surprise.

He could hear shouts and realized men were down there talking, but he could not see who. What looked to be the man’s belongings lay waste on the bare ground beside him. Gazing closely, he saw that there were slippers, a wallet, an orange shirt, a pair of blue jeans, and reading glasses.

He was sweating even more now, his green t-shirt was soaked as sweat poured from his body. Contemplating what was ongoing, he staggered, and then suddenly saw the glare of three soldiers with rifles strapped to their shoulders and backs below him.

One of the men seemed to be in command, as he was giving orders that the others quickly obeyed. They all looked ready to act and were zealous in their deeds. The lead soldier amongst them was energetically digging through the man’s belongings. The men were armed and talking among themselves while their prisoner laid on the banks of the running creek, sandwiched by huge rocks.

The commanding officer was muttering something to his men, but from his hideout distance, Kona could not understand a faint of what was being said. Birds were hovering over the trees, and flew away in their groups.

The three men suddenly peeked up the cliff, curiously. He feared for a moment that he was exposed, but they quickly returned to their chatter.

A sigh of relief overcame him. He debated if he should continue his journey or just stay to observe the play of events unfolding before him. He judged that this was the perfect spot, and it would be risky to leave the area. The boy scout in him told him to hold his position as he locked down permanently, deciding he would wait it out. A cold overcame him and it seemed like a weird ambiance enclosed the banks of the creek from his spot, from his vintage.

He shook his head in disbelief, as the spectacle before his eyes was unbelievable. There was no compassion for the man on the ground, writhing in pain and clearly in need of help.

Besides the three soldiers on the banks of the river bed, the beachfront was surrounded by rocks and tall trees. Some of these trees had fallen and their remains were kept fresh by water preservation with which they were soaked.

At the near outpost, there looked like what seemed to be a canoe. The far west side of the banks was covered in grass, a mild slope went downhill with a wall of upended roots from a tree protruding outward. Taking a careful look at the canoe, he recognized what appeared to be the black star imprinted with red and yellow colors. Though faded, he thought this must have been the flag for a country. Perhaps the canoe belonged to a group of fishermen.

The lone spectator was now even more curious. What was happening to the man lying on the ground? Why were the soldiers hovering over him and just leaving him there to suffer in the hot African sun?

For once, he thought of giving up his hideout to yell at them to leave their captive alone. He also contemplated going there to help beg for mercy and let the man go. All these were unfeasible, he told himself. He and the man would suffer the same fate, but the burden and guilt of doing nothing while this man suffered was chastising him. His guilt was growing by the minute.

The scout was watching intently, his eyes fixated and every muscle in his being tense. He could not leave just yet, there could be trouble ahead. Now, he was left to watch the execution of a man who might be innocent, or was guilty of some sort of crime for which justice was being dispensed. He wiped the sweat from his brow and cursed under his breath. The lead officer wore a red beret with two gleaming stars pinned, the beret was slightly twisted to the left. He was pacing up and down the banks with a pistol tucked in the upholster on his hip.

Fate is a stranger like the rain, it comes when least expected. How did this man meet this painful fate? Now his own fate was now uncertain, hanging in the balance on these cliffs like a rock that could fall at any moment. Being far away from home, he was unsettled by the sight before him. A small stream of tears rolled down his cheeks.

For once, he had forgotten everything there was to contemplate, not his missing family nor the hunger that pinched his stomach all day. He was clouded in grief.

Every now and then, the scout saw that the man lying on the banks would move slightly. He seemed to be a middle aged man and was clean shaven. However, he couldn’t tell if he was a soldier or a civilian. His hair was outgrown and bushy in an Afro style, just like him. He probably had a family and a wife somewhere looking for him like many other people who had gone missing.

Now, though, he was looking at a helpless man who could be helped yet he could do nothing about it.

He gripped the tree trunk. His sweat had abated due to having stayed under the tree shades for a while, helped by the afternoon’s breeze that was blowing gently. The man lying on the banks still had his wristwatch on his left hand. A surprise since those were the first things that were looted in such situations. Had the soldiers not seen it or was it cheap? He had no way of knowing these things.

The soldier, having consulted among the others, lifted the man and dragged him to a tree on the northeast side of the banks. They stood him up, or rather tried to as he was quite out of it and too tired to stand on his own. The younger soldier among them took out a rope that was in a backpack he was carrying. He loosened the rope and they tied it to the wounded body of the man. He stood at 6ft from the estimation of the scout.

Having tied him against the tree, they pulled back, and the man's neck slumped, swinging from side to side. He was clearly weak and tired. This act of humiliation was being completely disregarded to the man’s suffering and the pain he was going through. The savage punishment of the unknown citizen below touched him.

The scout surveyed the scene, which brought sorrow to his being. The soldiers now waited on the commanding officer to issue his order. It wasn't clear just yet if they were going to execute the man, or if they were going to leave him there to rot. All that was certain was that his fate was sealed. He was going to die. It was a dreaded scene.

The soft waves from the creeks current were weak, but nonetheless, it was splashing a small deposit of sediment on the banks. The old boat moved along every once in a while. The militia lit cigarettes and was smoking, laughing, and talking among themselves. All the scout could do was observe.

Kona looked away for a second, his eyes snapping away from the man tied to the pole on the banks of the creek.

He imagined himself being in the man’s shoes. What would it be like to be treated this way and have no one to help you, to sympathize with your plight? A bright beam was shining on the creek as the sun cast its rays. The scout was blinded by it as he looked at the spot where it was most radiant.

If the prisoner wasn't dead already, perhaps having suffered too much already, his pain must have dissipated. But, one can never know these things unless they are in such a situation, he thought to himself.

Befuddled by those thoughts, he heard gunshots coming from ahead of him, towards the destination he was headed. Extreme fear left him feeling cold despite how hot his skin once felt. He was shaking and knew not what he wanted to do. Go back the way from where he came from? Or should he stay here and watch the despicable execution of a man whose haunting memory would stay with him forever?

The unmistakable sound of metallic clicks was on the banks of the creek, as the soldiers pulled out their guns. The shooting died down from afar, the soldiers were afraid as well. Perhaps, he thought, they too were getting ready to fight off what may be coming their way. Perhaps this was some big shot, who was under their control. He just didn’t know what.

Tied and bound to the tree, the man quietly sobbed. The scout began to sob too, as the scene was just too much to bear. He reckoned that life must be slowly oozing out of the man’s body, even before the bullets that were meant for him were shot. The captors were always on the lookout for prominent politicians and well-to-do men in society—they were the ones to be blamed for the country’s problems—that was the consensus amongst militias. Death was grimly calling him on the small banks of the creek, and he himself was hanging by the thread on the cliff.

In a sense, the two of them were suffering the same fate. He was mentally drained as he watched the man below being tortured.

His mind raced back home to his loving mother, remembering the early Friday morning as he rose from the bed. He sat sternly on the couch on which he slept, sitting on the edge with his palms on his head in deep thought. His wife was still sleeping, as he sat there thinking.

He wanted to leave town and escape far away from the carnage that was enveloping the community, having heard the conversation between his mom and her friend, Ma Juah, as he called her affectionately. He had woken her up and told her he was leaving, but would be back. She didn’t understand what he was saying, but he assured her not to worry and that he would be back within days.

It was a dangerous time to be traveling anywhere for Kona, as he hung by the branches on the small cliff. What he attempted that morning as he set foot to travel the long-winded sojourn could either be worth it or not at all, as all hopes were flying into the air for survival. The scout had seen the man briefly moving his neck from side to side and his curiosity peaked again or rather heightened.

He still had life but was almost lifeless.

In his semi-conscious mind, the events that played out that morning with his wife were playing out like a movie script. He agonized over the woman and children that he left behind, hopeful that he had made the right decision.

The man by the creek felt no pity for himself it seemed at this point; the end was near, and he wanted it all to be over. He tried to swallow, but his throat was dry. He groaned from the pain in his abdomen from having been repeatedly kicked and thrown around by the young soldiers. He had pleaded for mercy because he was innocent and committed no crime, he reminded himself.

However, his pleas made the soldiers beat him even more.

A piercing, moving and excruciating agony was moving through his body. In this agony, he realized there were no feelings in his fingertips and feet. They had all gone numb. Then he realized that he had begun to bleed from the nose. A line of blood was forming along the bridge between his nose and lips slowly making its way to his mouth. He tried to straighten up, but he further realized that he couldn't move. He was held in place by the ropes that strapped him to the tree. He licked the blood that had made its way to his lips.

His pain seemed to heighten to a rhythmic boil, warming and accelerating to an unbearable anesthesia. He pinched his fingertips for life and felt a little sensation return. However, his feet were swollen and his hands were showing signs of numbness as well.

A thousand thoughts were going through his head. Why was this whole thing happening? Why did the war have to happen?

These lapses happened between awareness and sleepiness. He was faintly aware of his surroundings. It was too much to bear. In the trees above in the cliff, a crow was cawing, just as the evening sun was setting.

The scout was hiding out where the crows were, the ravens troupe a deep gloom over him, sending him an uneasy prospect. He seemed to feel every tremor. He was suffering for the tormented man and remembered his father's words. His father, whose love to throw around proverbs, would say often: “The madman, who pesters rocks into a throng filled with old women, forgets to realize that his own mother could be a victim of his violence and could be bruised.” He shook his head, wiping sweat from his brow.

Who were these men? This he kept asking himself.

From his hiding spot, he heard the crows again sound off above him as his eyes were painting the grotesque picture below. The evening was falling fast. He was anxious to get away from the spot that he was hiding. He was tired of staying in the area for too long. A needle-like pain spiked through his legs and thighs, forcing him to shift his position.

A few rocks and dirt fell from the cliff below, and the men who were in charge of their captor looked up. His heart sank deeper and was furiously pounding. What would happen now?

If the men came looking, he knew that would be the end of his story. He saw one of the men staring intently towards his hiding spot. He did all he could do to duck and simply stay calm. He was tense, watching his feet and everything around him. He was trembling with fear and trepidation, making sure nothing left from where he was. The men had no telescope, so he knew they could not see clearly. But, his heart was in his throat.

This was a game of cat and mouse, he told himself, this was life and death.

He kept his peace under the thick cover of panic that had overwhelmed him. Cars were moving in and off the dirt road, and he assumed they were soldiers. The convoy from his estimate must have been about six cars. However, he figured that they just might be drinking and smoking.

One of the cars stopped and a few men got out. It appeared that they wanted to pass water. He feared that his spot was being given up, given that the men below had been looking up there towards him and one of the cars in the convoy had stopped. But, He was between the scissors; caught between the rock and the hard place.

Time had frozen from his vantage point. Everything that was movable had stopped. He was alone, sandwiched between danger. Like the captive, he had no one to pity him. He was in a world of his own bonding with the man below who he didn’t know and was unaware that he was even watching.

He fondled his backpack for a pocket knife he had hidden in one of the inner pockets. It was a risk to be traveling with a knife, or even just shifting his position; rocks might go falling and give away his position. If the knife was discovered, it could get him executed at any checkpoint. It was a red sturdy blade that his wife insisted he take along, he protested, but she insisted.

Then, he heard a pointed voice in the bush where he was hiding. He drew the knife and looked intently. Not that the knife would do anything against a gun. But, it was all he had and his defensive instincts were alert to the moment. The sun had died down, but beads of sweat swarmed his body again. He was looking intently, turning, and being careful not to disturb the gravel beneath his feet.

Then, he spotted two guinea pigs feeding nearby. His heart cooled, but the preceding fear that had gripped him left him sighing. It is as if he had just completed the hundred-mile dash, as he was so out of breath. He was trying hard to control his breathing, which was heavy by now.

The sounds of the crows above him could be heard again, but they were flying away. The dull and rhythmical blare of the vultures were eerie. They had gathered to belt out a lament, he said to himself.

In front of him was the carnage, keeping his focus on the man while the calm river licked the boat. He watched as the water pushed it side to side as the puny waves came and went. Although he could no longer see the soldiers, he assumed they must have been nearby. What if he went down from the cliff and tried to paddle the dying man away and got caught? Why had they not already executed the man?

Perhaps, they had yet to receive orders from their superiors or they wanted him to slowly die. He worked these thoughts in his head and became distressed even more at how inhumane the whole event was.

II

His heart thumping, he lowered himself unto the banks, having not seen the men for a while. Night had partially fallen as he looked intently into the dark as the moon rose. The footprints of the soldiers were all over the small quiet beachfront where they had tortured the old man all day long.

He approached the man cautiously, his brows narrowed in a furrow. The frown on his face and his gaze were tell-tales of the life and death situation he was in. Cars were again moving in processions above him on the small dusty road. But, he was determined as he approached the man.

He lifted the man’s head, which was slumped to his left side. The man said nothing, and he felt for a pulse. He realized the man was still alive. He quickly gathered the man’s belongings that were scattered on the beachfront, putting them into his bag.

He went over to the Fanti boat with the flag, which he instantly recognized was the prints "Gold Coast" emblazoned to the sides. He inspected it carefully, turning it over and realized it was in good form and condition. The stench was oozing from the growth nearby and he quickly went over and peeked.

He saw dead bodies, perhaps two or three men or three. He wasn't sure due to it being dark and that the dimly lit moon had just come up. The men were murdered and their canoe now sat on the banks. He swallowed hard and decided to move towards the man. Buried underneath the sands were pedals. He quickly dug them out and positioned the canoe. His heart was racing and he was sweating again. The moon was up now and night had fallen.

This was his escape, he thought.

He had a flashlight, but won’t light it to avoid giving away his position. The road was infested with soldiers who might falsely accuse him. He had to take the chance with the canoe and go downstream.

He threw his backpack and the man’s belongings into the canoe, then took out his red Swiss knife and cut the man loose. He slumped the man over his shoulders as he lowered him into the small boat. He hurled and pushed the canoe into the water as fast and strong as he could.

Just as it was halfway into the river, he filled the empty jerry can that was in the boat and then emptied the contents to rinse it out. Fishermen always travel with containers for water to drink as they fished. He then filled it with fresh clean river water and sealed it before pushing the red and green canoe into the water and jumped in. He began peddling away. The currents downslope were high and strong as he and the dying man sailed away.

He fed the man some water as the canoe was now far away from the beach. After a few gulps, the man began to frantically cough as he tried to gain sanity. The scout threw water into his face and the man slowly awoke. He then fed him more water.

In the far end corner of the boat he saw a tuber and realized it was in good condition. Unlike eddoes or potatoes, it was okay to eat raw. Rich in sugar carbohydrates and starch, it was perfect for the occasion. He fingered his pockets for the knife and found it hidden in his back pocket.

The old man’s eyes had now opened and he asked, “Who are you?”

Kona peeled the tuber and replied,“I am nobody. I was on the cliff watching all along as they were torturing you. I took my chance too when I realized they were gone. The area is infested with soldiers. This was my only way out of the situation, you and me.”

“I did nothing to deserve what I got today too,” the battered old man said.

The scout nodded his head, splitting open the white tuber and offered a piece to the man.

III

The soldiers had decided they had their prey and wanted to go for a drink. Nearby, across the road, was an old lady who sold cane juice. There they went to catch their heads and would return in the middle of the night to finish him up.

They had waited all day to get word from their superiors on what to do with the man. While waiting, they had lost power in their walkie talkie.

When they returned to the banks, the boat and the old man were gone. This meant two things. Either they would be executed for letting a valued prisoner getaway, or they needed to make a desperate escape and hope they would never be caught.



Cherbo Geeplay: “I was born in Pleebo, Southeastern Liberia, West Africa. I published my first set of poems in 2009 in the Liberian Sea Breeze Journal. I write about the landscape, my Grebo heritage, and everything in between. I recently published my poetry in the Blue Lake Review, and the Adelaide Literary Magazine for which he was the finalist of the Adelaide Literary Award for Poetry 2018.”




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