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Behind The Dust: A Story by Jude Ifeme

It’s been one year since the chaos and bloodbath in 12th Mile, but the relics of the violence and destruction still littered the streets; burnt-out cars down the alleys, a few houses razed to the ground in attempts to smoke-out their occupants, skeletons of motorbikes posing here and there – the human remains were buried in a hurry, their eternal homes unmarked.

First, it was jealousy, but the town was now blighted with a more dangerous malaise – greed. Like all easy-comes, the looted clothes have faded, the shoes worn-out and a common enemy gone. Those who haven’t squandered their loot were stuck with it half-swallowed.

“Get away from here!” Money ordered a herd of louts, simply called ‘the boys’, who have come to the shop to demand for money. With his hand frantically groping the counter, the boys reluctantly ambled across the street.

“The shop is for us all.” One of the boys uttered stubbornly.

“Who said that?” Money demanded, his loud voice bulging the roof.

A teenage boy, tall and sickly, slowed and turned around with an attitude. His eyes were bloodshot; he reached for a fold of marijuana stuck behind his left ear, stuck the wrap loosely between his lips and lighted.

“We come for the tithe,” he said flatly before turning his back to join his friends. Smoke wafted from him like his head was on fire.

Money, a huge muscular heap of a man, was rattled. Has it come to this? He thought.  He decided he has also come to the end of his patience with the boys; their demands have become incessant and really disturbing. He reached for his handgun and a phone and called up Biggie, Don and, after a moment’s thought, Stamp.  Stamp, a lanky young man of about thirty has been showing signs of weakness lately and Money was not impressed at all.

As the four men sat on a bench in front of what used to be a thriving provisions wholesale store to discuss the rising incidence of extortion and threat from the boys, on the other side of the road, the boys grew in their numbers.

12th Mile was once a flourishing town with an economy fueled by men and women from other communities; traders, artisans, professionals, they were called the non-indigenes. That meant they were not very welcome.

The indigenes, however, typically farmers and fishermen, landowners but without much initiatives, driven by sheer jealousy decided it was time to take back their land. Upon the decision to kill-off the non-indigenes, the indigenes shared their possessions amongst themselves.

The biggest gainers were Money, Biggie, Don and Stamp with risen fortunes and sharp status.

Don, now an estate tycoon, had realized nothing in six one year; the properties he killed so much to acquire have no occupants and no buyers because no outsider would return to 12th Mile.

Biggie possessed the only hotel in the town, but had found not staff to run the place because the youths are too lazy to work for pay. Income has also been impossible since the takeover; the stock of food and drinks have been downed by friends, family and corrupt policemen.

Don always had a knack for automobiles but all the cars he has appropriated remain unsold and unused because the indigenes were so smart to have also torched the only petrol-station in town, and no one else could figure out how to get resupplies.

Money had watched the owner of the shop for years, patiently praying for a day when he would take over the business. Now he has, but all he was left with was cash with no idea how to restock, and it felt like he was carrying the world on his huge shoulders.

The men have meticulously planned, watched and waited on their victims to grow their wealth, like farmers fattening their chickens. They were also responsible for the hate-crusade and the xenophobic killings that trailed.

“So what do we do now?” Money asked anxiously as he glanced at the fast-growing group of boys across the road. Some now armed with clubs their faces shrouded in balaclavas, “Don.”

“I don’t know,” Don replied despondently.

The other two have questions too, but it was too late, they knew. These were their brothers, their friends, but all have tasted blood and are not killers.

The dark clouds were gathering once again.

Jude Ifeme
Jude Ifeme
Jude Ifeme is a writer and member of Abuja Literary Society. He is based in Abuja, Nigeria.

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