Celebrating East African Writing!
Written by Ras Mengesha
Among the child-soldiers was a girl named Fati. Like all other girl child-soldiers, Fati was as cruel as the old grigriman priestess back home in Togobala. She smoked too much hash and was always fucked up and would occasionally tell me things I did not understand as she danced a sensual earthy dance with her hands touching her body and her gnousse-gnousse – she was crazy!
One time, shortly after we became friends, we went to scout a deserted village. Only ash and memory lived there anymore. Colonel Papa le Bon had instructed us to check it out after one of the sentries spotted smoke in the early morning air. Fati walked ahead of me. Two other child-soldiers walked behind me. We were silent. I kept my eyes in front, Fati didn’t make it any harder though. Shit! The way she swayed her hips made me want to put my kalash down and jump on her. But Colonel Papa le Bon would be cross as shit if he heard. Child-soldiers were not supposed to do sex. We were supposed to remain virgin. Pure. Bullshit!
Anyway, so we had checked out most of the village, turning grass beds over and breaking pots just for fucks sake. Fati was singing an old funeral song like it was a disco song, that’s how fucked up she was. She sang and danced holding on to her kalash ready for anything. I tried to ignore her as the other child-soldiers watered their mouths on her. Shit!
We were almost done with the village when we heard a noise coming from behind one of the huts. Fati stopped dancing and held her kalash like a real soldier. I felt the blood in me rush all over my body. She really was something. We followed her behind the hut, confident that there was nobody left in the village to form an ambush. When I got to Fati I found her crying. Tears were running down her cheeks like fucking streams. It was a sad sight and it made me sad. She just stood there crying, her shoulders jerking and then she started wailing, loudly like a spoilt brat.
Fati stood about a foot from a set of twins that had been left behind. The mother had just left them there and ran into the forest like they were nothing. Like they were nothing. I guess that’s what war does. The twins just lay there, not crying but reaching; reaching out for something they would never have. They were too young to be child-soldiers like us and Colonel Papa le Bon would not want to keep them. They would be too much work. They stretched out their tiny hands towards Fati who just stood there crying. It’s what happened next that made me realize how fucked up Fati was. This was a different level of fucked up – you cannot even blame hash for this kind of crazy.
While the twins stretched their arms towards Fati, the rest of us stood there watching her. Fati had this mesmerizing thing about her, so the boy child-soldiers would often find themselves lost in her. I always tried to ignore her in front of the others. But not now. I couldn’t look away. She stood there as if fastened by our gazes. Then she stopped crying. She reached out for her kalash and as if they were nothing, as if these children were nothing more than air, than a memory, than a dream, Fati pointed it to them and then squeezed the trigger.
The tat tat tat tat tat filled the entire village ripping apart the peace that hang in the air. The birds in the nearby trees to fled to a more peaceful sky. She squeezed and the kalash went on tat tat tat-ing until all the bullets were emptied. The twins made no noise, and if they did the kalash drowned it all. One moment Fati was looking at small children crying, the next she was looking at a mound of flesh laughing. She laughed and laughed and laughed, and when she grew tired of laughing we went back to camp, back Colonel Papa le Bon. We left what was left of the twins there. The army ants would have a delicious feast. I guess that’s war for you. Bastard!
You see, I’m not lying when I say Fati was crazy and fucked up. But I think I was crazier and more fucked up because no matter what she did, there was nobody left alive that I loved more.
Fati reminded me of my Maman. She was beautiful. Her face smelt like the warm bread Maman made back in Togobala before the war started and the warlords divided up the country. Fati walked like she was not a child. She handled herself like a real woman, like Maman. I felt safe in her. She reminded me of things I had, things I should still have, things all children should have, things taken away from me, forcibly. I loved her but it was never enough. I guess love is not obliged to give you all you think you deserve.
She had become a child-soldier after…. Actually that’s a long story and I’m not obligated to tell it, at least not to you. But as soon as she had breasts growing on her she became a child-soldier. I found her at Colonel Papa le Bon’s camp and fell in love with her immediately. But I did not know it was love, all I knew was she made me feel the way Maman made me feel before she died.
A few days later, after scouting the village and kalashi-ing the twins, Fati came to me crying. She said gnamas shadows were following her. She said the twins’ gnamas were following her and that she was cursed – cursed to die without anything good ever happening to her. I held her tight and rocked her like a fucking baby. War is shit! She cried and cried and I held her until she fell asleep. I carried her into one of the child-solder huts and placed her on a grass bed. I sat there and watched her sleeping, lost in my thoughts. I thought of home, of Togobala, the goats, Maman’s bread, my friends. Togobala must have been in ruins now.
“Where am I?” She startled me.
“In a hut.”
“The gnamas…” She sat up and looked around.
“You are safe now.” I touched her shoulder.
Fati reached for my hand and squeezed it. I shifted my weight and then relaxed. At that moment we were not child-soldiers we were not children we were not adults. We were entities in the great universe. Beings created by Allah to roam the paths created for them. We were stars in the dark sky shining to the light that came from within. We were the birds constantly in search for bluer skies. We were streams flowing into the ocean of humanity, we were us and we were not us. We were.
“Do you love me?”
“Yes I do. With all my heart.”
“What is love?”
“I don’t know, but whatever it is, I have it all for you.”
“Do you think this war will end?”
“Do you think we will be alive to see the end of it?”
“I don’t know.”
“Yes… Yes Fati…”
“I love you.”
I used characters from Ahmadou Kourouma’s Allah Is Not Obliged. Birahima, the main character and narrator is a child-soldier angry at the world. He narrates his travails from his home village of Togobala to war-torn Liberia. At one point he meets a girl child-soldier called Fati, but only in passing because Fati dies soon after they meet. In my story however, I try to see what would happen if Birahima and Fati fell in love, and how this love would be – between child-soldiers and more so in a time of war.
© Ras Mengesha 2014