ADSactly Short Stories - A Trial By Blood
A Trial By Blood
The Good Morning Market was the filthiest part of Oba town. Oba was not the cleanest of cities but if a sane human being were teleported from any other city to Good Morning Market during the evening hours of the day, the person would have difficulty deciding if he or she was crazy or the rest of the town were raving mad. Market women displayed their goods on the dirty, muddy paved street.
Most of the products were fruits or foodstuff like corn displayed on jute bags placed on the dirty road. Unless you knew the street a decade before, there was no way to see that it was paved with coal tar, to begin with. Taxi drivers, tricycle drivers and motorcycle riders passed through the road in no particular order, each navigating in the best way possible to avoid the numerous ditches on the road. It was impossible to know the depth of those ditches when it rained so; the only sensible thing was to avoid the ditches completely.
On the corner of Dika Street by Market Road was a crowd gathered around the equipment producing some sounds and flickering lights of varying colours and hues. A sane person would wonder how everyone walking on the slippery paved road avoided falling into the open gutters. From a distance, you could see people returning from work. Majority of them had their shoes in their hands. If the fact that they were walking on a filthy road with broken bottles, mud, banana peels, vegetable waste and every sort of biological waste littered on it with bare feet while the shoes which were supposed to protect their feet were carried in their hands, does not get you worried, then the way they jumped every minute or so would.
From the corner of Dika street, several people shouted "Goal!" jubilantly, and you would realise that those people standing on the street corner were watching a football match on a small TV set placed in the bar owned by Mr Eze. Other times it was a WWF wrestling match. You would think that the bar was filled up with people, but if you cared enough to walk closer to the bar, you would find it empty except for two or three idle drinkers, one of which was Babylon. Babylon was a permanent feature of Eze's Palace as the bar was called. The way he hung around the bar, all day long, he could have been a painting. No one ever saw Babylon come and no one ever saw him leave, not even Eze, the bar owner. Like the lily of the valley, Babylon did not have to work to feed or drink: customers at the bar seemed to have taken his welfare as their responsibility.
Sampson was a dark, muscular and handsome young man of twenty-one years old. He looked every inch like a prize fighter, but he was hardly seen in a fight most of his adult life. He told his friends that when he lived with his grandmother in their remote village, he helped her till the farm of which she had become too old and weak to do by herself. All that hard work would have made him wiry if the woman did not feed him so well. They did not believe everything he told them. The popular opinion among the girls amongst whom he was famous was that he developed all that muscle from playing football. Whatever the cause, Sampson had a body that was the source of admiration of every girl in his high school and the source of envy of his mates. But the envy was not enough for them not to like him. He played as a defence in the school football team, and he was responsible for almost all the wins his team recorded during his time. His reputation for stopping goal scorers earned him the nickname Agafe which connotes impenetrable. When he is hailed impenetrable, a warm smile would slowly start from his mouth and spread to his eyes at the same time accentuating his pink lips and dimples on both sides of his face. "My man," or "My girl," he would respond. You were either his man or his girl, and you had no choice than to be either of those when you called him Agafe.
Over the years, the residents of this part of town learned not to expect any help from the government. If the roads became too bad, individuals organised themselves into groups and found debris with which to fill the holes and make the roads better. Police would not come to keep law and order. So when a group of vicious criminals arose in the area, a more vicious vigilante made up of the worst people in the town came up as the solution to rising crime. There was no requirement for joining the vigilante except untarnished ruthlessness. Having a criminal record was not an impediment. The recruitment process involved some fetish ritual or ceremony in which the recruit would be required to sacrifice the life of a confirmed criminal at the altar of some obscure deity which function was completely arbitrary. An equally fantastic process achieved confirmation of criminality.
Each member of the Sakaba vigilante carried a machete that was dedicated to the deity that guided their operations. When a community member reported someone else as a criminal, the accused is apprehended and brought to the vigilante office where a vigilante member would raise his machete to the shoulder of the accused. If the accused were guilty of the crime, the machete would turn a bloody red colour, and there would be no further need to investigate the crime. The punishment was always death. It is not difficult to imagine that the man, in whose hands the life of any accused person depended on, would gain enormous power. Slowly but surely, crime became less lucrative than being a Sakaba vigilante member and the more ruthless of criminals retired from normal criminal activities to become Sakaba members. Soon, the Good Morning Market part of town became too small for the vigilante group, and they spread out over the whole of Oba town, and the city police could not match their firepower. For the first time in the history of the town, police really became friends with the citizens. If one's neighbour reported them to the police, that neighbour was considered a loving, kind neighbour.
Sampson graduated from secondary school three years before, but he could not go to the university to continue his education because his mother had not returned from Cameroon as she was supposed to. She had Sampson and raised him by herself for three years as a single mother before she took him to her mother in the village to return to Cameroon in search of "greener pastures". Sampson always wondered what made the pastures in a neighbouring country greener than his own country, but he has waited more than a decade to ask his mother, but she was nowhere he could find her. So, instead of heading out to school, he waited. While waiting, he became a vehicle mechanic apprentice in his cousin's workshop. One hot afternoon, a young man, not much older than him rode his motorcycle into the workshop for a minor fault to be fixed. Sampson was quick to help. It was a hot afternoon, and Sampson could not say no when the customer offered to buy him a bottle of drink at Eze's Palace. While at the bar, things took a turn that no one expected. After drinking, it was time to pay, but instead of paying, the stranger produced a pistol from his hip pocket.
"I am a shooter," he told Eze, brandishing his gun. "I have a job to do tomorrow. After I have gone for collection, I will return and pay you. Are we going to have a problem?"
"No problem," Eze replied, looking at Sampson with sad eyes.
"Sir, I am sorry. Let me pay. I will go back to the workshop right now and come back with the money," Sampson offered.
Eze nodded, and the two young men left. Sampson ran to his cousin's workshop and quickly returned to Eze's Palace while the other young man rode his motorcycle away from the area. As soon as Sampson arrived, the vigilante group were waiting for him. Nobody knew who called them or how they showed up so quickly. Sampson was immediately apprehended. All efforts to convince the vigilante that he was innocent of any crime came to no avail. They tortured him for two days without food or water to reveal the name of the other fellow, but he had nothing to offer them. When they felt he was wasting their time, it was time to try Sampson with the machete.
Oboni, a tall, slim member of the vigilante particularly known for swift judgement was in charge of the case. Some people suspected that killing people served him some private purpose because of the enormous pleasure he took from it. He unsheathed his machete and placed it on Sampson's shoulder. Even though it was getting dark, Oboni proclaimed.
"It is blood red."
It took a week for the news of Sampson's death to reach his grandmother because no one knew how to deliver it and they feared that it would be the end of her. She knew something wrong had happened when she did not receive any call from Sampson for three days at a time. When a car pulled up in front of her house in the village five days later, and it was not the only taxi that conveyed the villagers to the bus terminal in the next town, her fear was confirmed.
No further investigation was made concerning how Sampson died, no police came. The business people at Dika street and the market women at Good Morning market lamented how the boy did not deserve to die, but after three market days, other events overtook the news of the boy that was judged criminal only because a stranger put him in a position of which he never asked. In less than one week, the streets of Oba town forgot Sampson, and it was once again business as usual, but his grandmother will always remember.
Authored by @churchboy
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