“Go! Take all the boys and leave the girls,” I heard commander Sesay shout.
I really didn’t quite understand why he was ordering us to do such heart-breaking things, but I wouldn’t dare go against his orders. Not just because he is heartless, but because I feel as though I have to please him and be on his good side. I also want to be on the good side of the people of Matru, but this is my job; this is the order I’ve been given and I’m going to ensure that I complete it. Maybe I’ll come back to Matru later with gifts and try to mend wounds with the Sherbro and Mende people. I know gifts won’t bring back their sons, but they will at least show that I am extremely sorry and maybe make me feel better knowing I tried to make them happy. But this would obviously be when everyone, including Sesay, is sleeping because if he ever saw me, he would have my head.
“Alpha, what the hell do you think you’re doing just standing there looking at all these people crying?! Tell your soldiers to continue moving. Be strict and firm with them. Tell them what you want to get done and at what time,” Sesay shouted once again, this time at me.
I didn’t even realise that I had blocked out all the screams and cries of the mothers of Matru. I don’t understand how I was able to completely ignore the chaos taking place, the screams and cries of all the women and kids, the constant movement and shouting and the complete disorder.
“GO THEN!” I shouted to the men of the Sierra Leonean army. “Don’t just stand there, move quickly! I want all of them in the trucks. All of them.”
On the outside I had developed the hard look on my face I was told to by Sesay – to put fear in the other soldiers’ hearts so that they would never go against my will. But on the inside, this didn’t feel like me. It felt like a new character coming out of me every time I opened my mouth.
Sesay stood behind Alpha smiling at the new man that he successfully created. He was proud of himself and knew that at this point he could get Alpha to do whatever he wanted him to do. Alpha was wrapped around his fingers; Sesay’s Cheshire cat grin was chilling.
At first I was confused. I didn’t know exactly what was happening, but I knew it wasn’t good. “Run and hide Abu, run!” I heard my mum whisper to me in a hushed tone. But as soon as I started running, I felt a really strong grip and pull on my arm. I looked up to see a huge boy. His face was young and open, but he was so big and muscular compared to my small figure, that I felt my heart almost biting through my skin. He was intimidating with a scar over his eyes and the beginnings of an untamed hairy beard. I heard one of the even bigger men shout his name: Alpha.
I just couldn’t control my bladder anymore, so I released that knot inside my stomach. When I looked down, there was a moist warm feeling running down my legs into my shoes. In that moment, I felt helpless.
He pulled me to this dark truck, and all the while I could hear the cold vicious cries of my mum. They were filled with so much venom and hatred. Seeing her in that state really broke me. But when I was in the back of the truck, all I could think about were the the possible ways this could go. I could die. I could be a slave. I took some time to reflect and then I started taking in my surroundings. There were other boys around me some who looked to be around my age, with some older and others even younger. The strong smell of ammonia was present, telling me that we weren’t the first set to be here. “What do they want with us?”
The realisation then came crashing down when it dawn on me – there were only boys here.
Soldiers. We would become child soldiers.
While we were on our way back to the camp, my mind swirled like a hurricane. I kept thinking back to all the events of the day. All the screams and cries. The looks on all the residents’ faces as I took their sons away from them. It really broke my heart seeing it first hand. God was frowning upon me now. I let my neighbours and my friends people down – but I had to make Sesay happy. If I didn’t, I couldn’t even begin to imagine the horrors that would befall me.
“Stop trying to please everyone all the time, Alpha. Have your own mind for once in your life.”
My mind flashed to the words of my mother; she had been killed by a soldier when they first took me.
My head hurts when I think about it.
“Abu! What the hell do you think you’re doing just standing there looking at all these people crying! Tell your soldiers to continue moving. Be strict and firm with them. Tell them what you want to get done and at what time,” Alpha shouted once again, this time at me.
Over the past couple of months, Alpha and I had got closer. I could tell he believed in me. He taught me that it was either kill or be killed. And so I did. I’ve killed a lot of people and I’m not proud of it, but I’ve learned to accept it as this is my way of life now. The first time I killed someone, I was scared for my life. I was hallucinating and paranoid. My guilt was eating me alive. Now I’m immune to all the pain. The guilt. The heartbreak and heartache. The paranoia. It can be overwhelming, but I had to learn to cope, with my leader by my side: the one I learned from.
Alpha stood to the side watching Abu. He held his head in his hands, sobbing. His body shook vigorously and his face had become red and swollen. He had created someone that he didn’t intend to create. He had created himself.
Just as Sesay had told him to.