Grunting noises come from within the hut as more people emerge. They have skin as pale as the clouds and are dressed in strange clothes. They cover the whole of their bodies and wear things made from cloth on their heads.
Once they catch sight of me, I know I don’t have much chance of escaping them. The smell of wet chicken is overpowering me now as I am tackled to the ground – a layer of rusty dust covering me.
Writhing around underneath my captor, I desperately gasp for air. Dirt enters my mouth and I cough, trying to rid my body of the bits coating the insides.
Wrestling with the brute, I watch as my family are led out of the traditional, sturdily built hut my Mamamuso calls home and away from the village. Screams of pure anger escape from between my lips. What are they doing? I am aware of the huge strain I am under – it is almost too great. My muscles flex and stand out rigidly as I fight for my life.
Tears are streaming down their faces. I notice marks and lacerations along their backs. Around their necks, wrists and ankles are restraining, hard, unnaturally moulded metal. Metal is not common in the village I live in, but occasionally it is required that I go to the main town nearby, which uses metals such as these. Sometimes I must go for food when it is scarce, other times to visit Sunkaru. Crudely welded, these restraints are not of the best quality, but they serve their purpose far too well.
My younger sister fails to suppress a cough. Easy as it is to cry, she manages to retain her dignity. Admiration for her gives me new strength – she is braver than most.
A knot that has been building up gradually inside me: snaps.
Roaring like a buwa, I attempt to throw the beast from my chest. Unwillingly, he is forcefully set aside into a heap on the floor next to me.
Leaping to my feet, I barrel towards the mokoyo holding the cold, unbreakable, entwined vine – like pieces of metal constricting my loved ones. Blood seeps around the lacerations in their backs, dripping steadily to the dry earth. What had happened to them?
As I hit the mokoyo holding the restraints, I realise my mistake too late to change the consequences. We land in a cloud of grit-filled mud. His hand is crushed beneath him. Usually, injuring the enemy is a good thing, but his crushed hand grasps the handle to the restraints. Piercing shrieks of agony hit me like a wave.
Hearing the wall of pain-filled, shattering screams, they hurt me more than when I was tackled to the floor.
Making a split-second decision that I may be able to fight them better with kelela form other villages later, I spring up from the dust encrusted ground and bolt towards the safety of the trees. If I can reach the trees, I will be able to find help – I can have my family back.
Each footstep brings me closer and closer to the beckoning forest that will buy me time. Every second counts for the fight. Any time I can scavenge aids the showdown between these intruders and myself.
Panting hard, I try to find some energy that means I can get there just that bit faster. There is nothing that I can draw energy from – I am slowing down. The worst part is – they are speeding up.
Wind whips across my back; something that had lashed out had only just missed.
Taking a chance, I glance behind be to see two puffing and panting white men chasing after me. They gain on me with each passing step. Concentrating on the forest before me, I am but a heartbeat away. My fingertips lightly graze the edge of the leafy foliage that would have granted me safety… if I had escaped.
As it is, the two white men built like the tallest trees in the forest are tackling me. Air bursts from between my lips, taking me by surprise.
Taken slowly as they try to acquire their breath back, I am shackled like the rest of my family and attached to the chain of captured Africans. Shamed by my failure to either free my family or free myself, I keep my head down as we are marched through a great distance of forest, dry deserts and sloppy mud to wind up on the bank of a huge river.
Only when I can smell different scents of the area do I lift my head up. Wearily, I shuffle along with everyone else who is chained together. Gasping in shock, I realise that more and more people have been added to the line of prisoners.
Out in front of us stretches the widest, yet calmest, river I have ever seen. The banks are hidden well, or are not there somehow. I cannot believe that a river this big even exists!
Salty, bitter smells fill the air, overpowering the familiar rich earthen scents. It gets stronger and stronger as we get closer to the large stretch of water. Waves gently lap against this side of the river, calming me slightly.
Looking around, I see that this is a much busier place than I had first expected.
Huge, crude, metal cages hold many African people. Moans come from those cages and it frightens me. Anticipation fills the air. What are they going to do with us? Are they going to put us in cages like that with barely enough room to stand? Are we going to be lined up and slaughtered like animals? Chased and captured again and again for the white men amusement?
Floating gently on top of the serene water in the river, a canoe house, sitting proudly, fills my vision.With another hard tug, we are led into the canoe house and locked away underneath the top, doomed not to see the sky or land for some time.