The Chronicle Gambia

Creative writing – The Service Man by Alagie Barrow

I was at home when the call came in. We used certain codes to refer to issues with national security implications. I was told there was a 0105 (zero-one-zero-five) situation. I knew what that meant. I’ve been extensively trained to deal with any upheavals of that nature. I packed my little belongings, kissed my baby goodbye, and bade my wife farewell. I informed her that I’ve just been called for a mission at headquarters. With everything going on in our country, I could sense a look of concern on her face but I smiled as I left the house, to assure her that I’ll be just fine.

When I got to the parade grounds, many of my service peers were already gathered and chatting away. I observed the hurried paces of our commanders, taking instructions and nodding “Yes sir, yes sir” on their cellphones. We assembled in formation and our commander was summoned to brief us:

Ladies and gentlemen, the very existence of our nation is at stake. We are faced with an existential threat and they are supported by the West and opposition parties who want to see no progress in this country. They have unleashed thugs and bandits who are on the rampage tearing apart the very fabric and soul of our dearest nation. I just got off the phone with the President and I assured him that the good sons and daughters of this nation will never stand and watch while our nation is torn apart by other illegitimate sons and daughters of this land. I informed the president that you are all ready to defend this nation against anything that wants to see us on our knees. I have shared with the president, all the constraints we face as a security force, and all the challenges we have had to overcome. He is extremely proud of every single one of you and indeed as the last bastion of hope for law and order, he is counting on you to keep this nation safe for all and sundry. Ladies and gentlemen, the president sends his regards and gratitude to all of you standing here in formation and he has assured me that your problems will be history once we get these riotous vagabonds under control. You’ll be deployed in the lion’s den to disperse the unruly crowds and you must make sure we protect the fragility of our nation at all costs. No individual must be allowed to create havoc for the peace loving citizens of this country. Please take one minute and pray in your own way and go crush the bastards!“.

With that, we all erupted in cheers and hurriedly marched to our various lockers to don our riot gears. I got my uniform on, knee pads, elbow pads, body armor with no plate, helmet, truncheon and shield, and lastly, I loaded my brand new rifle that was donated to us with a thirty-round magazine. I got two other thirty round magazines and inserted them in the magazine pouch of my load bearing equipment. I decided to also wear my baclava so no one will recognize me. I don’t want to end up viral with my image all over the internet. The adrenaline in my unit was palpable but you couldn’t tell by the silence. We will not allow anyone to destroy our nation.

Soldiers intervention to quell a civil demonstration in Nigeria

We got in our riot vehicles in a convoy and headed to the main hotspot. I felt invincible. I felt invulnerable. I felt untouchable. Then I saw the crowd. I felt a flame of worry building into an inferno of anger within me. These bastards, I thought, they want to destroy our country in the name of some nonsensical democracy! We will teach them a lesson they’ll never forget. We took our positions. I was ready, gun loaded, face hidden, truncheon ready. We charged. At first we shot in the air but the crowd was not deterred. We shot over their heads as the escalation of force dictates, and yet to no avail. The crowd was stubborn. I got angrier. The smell of gunpowder mixed with the screams of men and women increased my adrenaline. I lost myself.

I saw a woman in the crowd. She was an older woman. Something about her reminded me of my mother. I saw her image but I could not see her person. She could not have been my mother. I saw a young man that could have been my brother. But all I saw of him was an image. He didn’t look human. I saw a young lady in a skirt with a packable dangling on her side. All I saw of her was her image. She didn’t look human. They had long since lost their humanity in my rage. As we charged at them, I lost their image in the haze of rage I built up. They were throwing objects at us. I wanted to lay a hand on just one of them and teach them a lesson. This was our battlefield where our mettle was tested. This is our moment to be made. We have a president and government to protect against the people. I heard my colleagues shooting. I cocked my weapon and switched the lever from safe to semi and inserted my finger in the trigger well. I shot indiscriminately. I saw people running. I saw people falling. I saw the old woman fall. I ran up to her. She wasn’t my mother. I felt some blood on my lips. I spit it out and it landed on her. People continued to run helter-skelter. I shot and kept shooting.

The people don’t understand. They don’t know the life I live as a service man. Inflicting violence on those that come before us has long since been normalized. We have learned to dehumanize our own in order to get what we want out of them. From questioning of suspects, to controlling riots, violence is what we know and live by. Along the way, we also lost our humanity. We see objects and not humans. When the dust settled and bodies laid strewn on the hot tarmac, we headed back to the parade grounds and we bragged about how many people we killed. We congratulated one another and hoped that the president will be happy with our work. Till next time! We have a president and government to protect against the undesirable citizens!

I felt beads of sweat on my forehead and heard my name being called by my nephew. I opened my eyes and he brought me the first Kass of Attaya and I heard the Adhan. It was time to pray. I need to call Rohey first.

  1. […] post Creative writing – The Service Man by Alagie Barrow appeared first on The Chronicle […]

  2. Sulayman sowe says

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