A TALE TO BE RETOLD
Slain folks all over. The rebels had ambushed us while they were returning from a covert extraction of a family of six. With strong odor of burning rubber and soot from the wreckage of our upturned truck taking over the landscape, all my teammates lay lifeless.
I thought peacekeeping meant ceasefire, reminiscent of wide grins, contract-signing amid warm handshakes, not this cold, life-hanging-in-the-balance partying with rifle and RPG, shell and shrapnel.
What. Am. I. Doing. Here!
Some two feet away, a shrill cry erupts. A baby’s. Whilst I reconsider feigning dead in order to rescue the child, one of the roving insurgents resurfaces, scouting for survivors. The whimpering catches his attention.
I shut my eyes as he swings his machete in a vicious arc. The crying ceases midway as warm, infantile lifeblood splatters on my face. He wipes the bloodstain on the wriggling infant’s body. I squelch an instinctive whimper.
He catches the sound.
As he shoots a look in my direction, I freeze my gaze. Lips tightly retracted and full teeth bared. If I can sustain this countenance it won’t be for long. I keep at it, but his patience seems to outlast my perseverance. I can’t do this much longer. Happily though, he turns to leave but almost at the same time an ant crawls up my eyelid. Whether to blink was not my call, no thanks to reflex action. With bated breath, I pray it’s not noticeable, but the militant proves he is no fool.
He produces the infamous machete.
This is it. Game’s up. The glinting blade of the machete comes to perch precariously on my jugular. A couple inches further and it’d be adios to this terrestrial ball.
Sizing me up, he sees I’m unarmed save my camera.
“Free de man,” barks a truculent-looking bloke sporting an assault rifle, half a dozen armed fellows behind.
Hesitant, Mr. Machete eases his weapon away, but not before a vindictive swing of his rusty boot across my face. I nurse my nosebleed.
“Thank you, thank you,” I keep uttering, apparently not to the captors who ordinarily would do no less than take my life but actually to the One who kept them from doing so.
My tremulous hands oblige the ring leaders’ request for snapshots. As many as desired and in all poses, the camera shutter humors them with abandon. For another chance at life, this memorable snap of the soldiers retreating across the horizon is a testament of my gratitude.
Beyond ample films to develop into photographs, and a stockpile of reports to file, I’d doubted if I’d ever have more than the over-reported war stories to tell the world before my photojournalism career wraps up.
Now, not anymore.
Written By:Bunmi Oke