STORY : Kilishi

Kilishi. That word meant heaven served on steaks to a child who grew up in the cold city of Jos. It was snacks for school kids, desert when dinner journeyed home late. As kids we loved Danladi, not because he was tall and looked funny when he smiled: for he had no teeth sitting his cavity, he was loved because he sold Kilishi to kids at a very cheap price.

The uprising that grappled the north was one that simmered through to the mind of everyone even the youngest. The religious divide that existed between the christians and muslims was one that stifled association, set limits to places we would go and places we dare not phantom in its faintest imagination to go. The same places we were welcomed few weeks back.
As a child I lost my best friend Kabiru, warned by our parents separately not to be seen with each other, we avowed to stick by their rules for they filled our minds with scary tales of how our separate religion was a threat to each others existence and in its totality that ideology seemed alien to my young mind.
It was on a sunday, we had returned from church. “Jesus Has Risen Mission” that was the name of the church my father manned as a pastor, it was a branch, a splinter of the main church which had its address written as “NXW 296 Weston Drive. Calgary, Canada” in the huge signpost that was boldly displayed at the entrance of the church.
The aroma of jollof rice set to ‘ripe’ in well sauced goat meat was what taunted our nostrils. I was about setting the dinning table, a small wooden table made of mahogany wood and three plastic chairs placed at both ends of the table and one at the center. Not long after I had arranged the table did the wild uproar from outside steal the serenity in our house. I dashed outside hurriedly to catch a glimpse of what had transpired.
Men and boys in their numbers, armed with various objects, from cutlasses to big logs of wood as they poured out into the street, screams from people who ran for safety startled me. I saw burning tyres, I watched as a pregnant woman was shoved into the fire. She struggled for life, got into a scuffle with boys numbering over six who were hitting her viciously with logs of wood. She held on to the last strand of life as her weakened limbs managed to stretch a hand further and that’s when a man pushed the boys away, I heaved a sigh of relief for the woman but it was short-lived. The man dispersed the boys and brought out a dagger from his Jalabia and angrily dug the dagger deep into her stomach, blood gushed out as he twisted the knife, the blood splattered on his face to the wild admiration of the crowd.
The rage and thirst for more bloodied scene pushed the crowd further as they ran into people’s houses and dragged the occupants out. I ran into the house in fear, I bumped into father as he grabbed me by the hand, the pangs of fear had marred his face, teary eyes and jittery body. He dragged me under the dinning table, from under the table I could see mama’s feet, I heard her talk to my father, a voice laced in tears she said “Honey, what do we do?” And all papa could utter was “I am confused.”
Loud bang. Stale silence. Another bang and our locked door flew at different directions, three men walked in, swearing and spewing obscene words ” inda ne wadanda shegu? inda ne wadanda wãwãye suka ciyar ta hanyar da dubura!” One of the guys yelled as they pursued my father and mum who ran into an adjoining room. Loud scream and a plea for mercy from my mum was heard and minutes later that of dad followed as he screamed “Jesus! Ebiere! Ebiere!” That was my mothers name and also the first time I had heard papa call mother by her name.
Minutes later I watched as papa was dragged to the living room, his shirt covered in blood, the same he wore while preaching at the altar. His eyes met mine and he blinked in fast flicks, signalling me to stay put, I watched him turn to his oppressor begging for his life to be spared “Please don’t kill me, please dan uwa na!” I watched how swiftly the matchete the attacker was holding severed papa’s skull leaving a deep cut as the attacker struggled to pull the matchete from his skull while blood drooled out of the open skull. Papa’s eyes popped out as the matchete was pulled out of his head, he laid lifeless few inches from the table as my hand clenched my mouth not to mete me out.
The other guys joined in the parley with their matchete as they dismembered papa’s body and that’s when the terror that stood naked before me glistening in my father’s blood made me stick my head out a bit to see who my father’s killers were. I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw that fragile old looking face, that face I greeted every morning on my way to school.
I was shocked when I saw Danladi, the Danladi who sells Kilishi.
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