AN EVENING SACRIFICE OF FIVE – Dedicated to the abducted Chibok girls by Patrick Elay

“If you open your mouth, I’ll kill you!” His eyes shone red in the night and his hands held firm to the axe as he drew her hair with her lips quivering beneath her hands. They all sat lost in the reality of the moment. The cries had gradually turned into sobs, fading into gasps and finally had become silence.

72 hours ago….

Aisha woke up at 5:00 am as usual and stood up from the line-up of her siblings lying on the mat that stretched from the door to the other end of the room. She was 13 years, and the second of twelve children. Since her sister was married off last year, it became her duty to wake up early and join the wives at the kitchen to prepare food for the men. She had five younger brothers and five little sisters, all sleeping on the mat as the moon cast a reflection of innocence on them. She covered her hair, tied the wrapper around her waist and walked out the room to the front of her father’s hut to gather firewood and fetch water before the wives came out to cook.

She thought about school as she picked the sticks from the back of the hut that served as the family store for yams and plantain. School was one of her favourite places, because there words were not slapped back into her mouth. At school she had friends and lots of laughter, and counting the hours between arriving home every evening and going to school the next day was the torture of her life.

Her elder sister Halima was married off by her father last year at the age of 14. She moved into her 72 year old husband’s house as the 7th wife immediately her dowry was paid. Halima’s dream,\ was to become a nurse like Nurse Sikiru at the village hospital, but all of that changed the moment those men stepped into the family compound with two cows, a big smile and a slim envelope.

The last time Aisha saw her sister, Halima’s eyes spoke volumes of pain and sadness only a woman would understand. Aisha was in J.S.S 3 now at the Federal Government Girls College and she prayed to Allah every day that no man would ever fancy her. She contemplated getting a scar to turn the desire of any man to stench, but decided to use that as her last strategy if it came to the worst. She was going to become a teacher one day and help lots of girls in the village have better lives by empowering them. When she was done with secondary school, she would also go to the polytechnic to study education.

The wives were already out as she sat by the fire, watching the water boil out of the pot. The women were very quiet and hardly spoke to each other. They lived to please her father only.

Six hours later…

Aisha was in her favourite class –Social studies. Her ears stood erect and her eyes scanned her worn text book, searching for something the teacher spoke about as the class suddenly became extremely quiet when soldiers in thick, shining, black boots walked into the class and instructed everyone to get up and follow them. The teacher was asked to stay behind and everyone got up hastily as the soldiers screamed in hausa instructing everyone to evacuate the class. There have been stories of school bombings across the villages and because everyone was scared, Aisha hastened to get out of the class into the truck, believing her life was in danger.

She didn’t realize how many girls they were until they were all huddled up together in the moving truck. She looked around for her best friend, Binta but she was nowhere to be found. Maybe she was in one of the other trucks.

The truck drove for a long time and when they got out, they were all huddled up into a warehouse. She found Binta and held onto her hands. They stayed together knowing that they had each other.

50 hours later….

As the clouds grew darker each day, the men who no longer dressed in military attire, but wore long caftans would come and select five girls. Something inside Aisha would shift whenever they came. They started with the J.S.S 1 girls as they had already been grouped based on their classes.  For hours Aisha and Binta would hear the screams of these girls and afterwards, they wouldn’t see them again. Each time the sun made an exit calling for the evening, every girl would grow quiet and begin to wonder who was next.

A J.S.S 1 girl Hauwa, crossed her group to Aisha and put her head on Aisha’s skinny thighs. She was scared as the J.S.S 1 students were left with fifteen girls. Aisha held Hauwa’s hands and while words never left her lips, tears forever flowed down her cheeks. The warehouse door opened and though a part of her hoped for rescuers, she knew the sacrifice of another five had come. Hauwa’s eyes shut still as the intensity of her hands increased on Aisha’s.

The men screamed in hausa instructing everyone to return to their class groups and Hauwa’s eyes immediately opened. She quickly ran to her group, counting every hurried step as her last. The men walked around the J.S.S 1 girls, speculating like they were selecting apples at the market. They picked the first three and looked at the remaining twelve girls quivering helplessly in fear. They picked the girl on the extreme left of the group and as the leader speculated for the final one, his eyes fell on Hauwa. Inwardly she cringed and Aisha’s heart went out to her. The leader gestured for her to stand up and follow them. The evening sacrifice was ready.

Oh how the screams tortured her! She wished for instant death but it wouldn’t come. Was it a crime to go to school and aspire for something other than being a wife? Was it a crime for a woman to dream? These were the questions that plagued Aisha as she forced thoughts to play through her mind even though the soundtrack to those thoughts were the cries that rose from the evening sacrifice.

She looked at Binta and both understood it was a matter of time before they passed through those doors, not to their freedom and dreams, but to be counted among the daily sacrifice of five.

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