Monday, 1 April 2013

The Invasion Of Africa: A Ship Boys Account

The ground opened. I froze. Smoke rose from the avalanche, like curly apparitions. I turned around to see if my companions were coming. They weren't. Only the silent blackness of the night stared back at me. The old man Ntule had warned us.

We didn't listen. We went ahead and trampled on the forest, and ripped its virginity. Who wanted to hear about blind folklore? After having come this far. This forest, where the caves are filled with unimaginable treasures - An eldorado ensconced in the dark recessions of the earth.

The months at sea had been torturous; men fell on our sides like tired trees. It started with malignant bouts of sea sickness that graduated to dengue fever - that dreaded mistress of the tropics - it shook them with epileptic frenzy, and then left as suddenly as it came, only to return once more. Fiercer.

We had a priest on board, he believed we were being tormented by a demon from hell, we had invited the demon when we decided to leave our families and estates behind, on a greedy quest for Liquid gold. He argued and ranted on and on about eternal damnation. Why he agreed to join the expedition I could not tell, for he purported himself with a certain air of piety. A queer man, he was always alone, in his little cabin on the lower deck. You could hear his sonorous voice as he sang hymns, sorrowful ones, like the one about stubborn sailors, a ghost ship, and a doomed expedition. Some nights I sneaked up to his window to observe his queer dining mannerisms. He was a curious object.

Ours was Jonah's boat, we realized, after his daily genuflections before the cross at the ship's chapel and exorcist incantations didn't work. The captain ordered him to be thrown overboard, and that was the end of the dengue. Since we were at sea, no proper burial was conducted for the dead. They were simply thrown overboard.

Food was a ration of caked floor and sugar, three bites and the morsel disappears, with yawning bellies revolting against the insufficiency. There is one thing however, that was abundant on our ship.


Rum is the sailor’s companion, through lonely and cold nights; we fight the biting frost, with sip after sip, bottle after bottle. When those storms rage with hells fury, we respond with blood shot eyes fired up by litres of rum. We respond, fury for fury. We grab the oars, we tear down the sails, we throw out the water, our food, but never our rum, yes, rum helps us fight the evil on the sea;  rum keeps our spirits up. We keep our rum.

There comes sparsely, a time,  perhaps a cool evening, when the demons that trouble the sea concern themselves with matters less earthly, when the last rays of sunshine paint the sea golden, we sit around a game off cards, kiss our rum, share memories, and sing that old sailors song:

Fifteen men on the dead men’s chest
yo yo yo and a bottle of rum

Drink and the devil has done for the rest
yo yo yo and a bottle of rum!

We were at sea for six months, and in those six months, I grew into a man. My muscles grew firmer, my face grew beardy, and that little boy that left port Gaunamo turned into a fine sea man. Captain Flint anchored "Theresa" at a bay north of Cape Verde. We took our guns, our rum and the little food we had left and headed into the thick black forest. It was called Nkiwasakegi, the forest of gold and death.

For three days we travelled on foot, stopping only to eat. We did not make camp at night, Flint said it was too dangerous. We came to a little hut in a large clearing the evening of the third day. A ragged old man, whose semblance to cartooned drawings of death dispelled all doubts as to the mortal disposition of the impostor stood at the entrance. His long bony fingers curled around a dirty brown stick like octopus tentacles. He held this in front of him, shaking furiously. I looked to see his eyes, but what I saw was a black hole where sockets should have been, and in that black hole, a blurry shade of grey, shone with eerie green. Strands of what remained of hair hung lazily from a balding scalp, reaching down on both sides of a protruding cheek bone pivoted by a jaw as shrunken as cow hide. He looked far away, past us, past the miles of jungle behind us, shaking furiously.

When he spoke, his voice was a tiny hoarse sound and his lips barely moved.

He said "Why have you come? Children of evil! Why have you come to disturb our peace? I was told you would come, in my dream, but go back to where you came from!"

While he spoke Flint interrupted "Where's the map old man? Give us the map!"

"You will have to come past me to get it!" was the throaty reply from the old man. He shook more violently, stumping his feet and shaking the stick at Flint, threatening.

"You children of evil! leave! leave before I call forth Nkiwasakegi! Now!"

Flint threw his head back and let out a loud laughter that bellowed through the Jungle, then he stopped abruptly; his face taut. He turned to us, drew up his left eyebrow in his usual sarcastic manner, a questioning look in his eyes. One by one he walked past us poking with his knife.
 You, are you afraid?
 Did you come all the way down here to listen to this?
 Did you hear that?
A wicked smile creased across his face as he slowly made his way around our little company intimidating, prodding.
"Is any one afraid?"
 Satisfied that no one was about to chicken out, or at least no one dared show any sign of doing so, for the punishment would be instant death, he turned to the old man, spread his hands in the air and bellowed.

"You see! No one is scared! We aren't scared of your Nkiwasengi or what! We are not Afraaaaid!! So go ahead, call your monster!"

With that he pushed past the old man into the hut, the old man turned slowly and followed. We heard a sound, an unmistakable sound. Flint re-appeared moments later, his face was pale, and he had a faraway look in his eyes. "He's dead" he said and waved a dirty piece of cloth before us. No one needed to ask what happened to the old man. We were all partakers of the sacred oath of Silence. No one ever questioned Flint. No one.

We took the map, and marched, and trampled... We were Mabel Segun's Olympus, we sauntered deeper into the jungle; demi gods.

The smoke rose higher, until the forest was hid from the moon. Torrential rains roared down. Ntule had said "in my dream, none of them returned".
 A fictional adaptation of Mabel Segun's poem A Second Olympus
written by Tchidi Jacobs
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  1. Ïş there a continuation? Ïş that it? Cos I'd like †o see Flint get his commeuppance.

  2. Nice adaptation. I Ope dey eventually got the gold dey came for.

  3. @Shakespereanwalter The story is an allegory of the invasion of Africa, the old man represents Africas tradition nd culture, the forest represents the people, flint and his crew represent the imperialists and the gold which they sought for represents both literally and figuratively, the wealth of Africa. The story ends with the old man's warning that they did noy return and in this, the Author posits that Africas colonisers invaded Africa to their own detriment, having trampled on the right of a people for self determination.

    Thanks for stopping by!

  4. Ǩ≈ζ , d story reminds ♍ε̲̣̣̣̥ of the treasure island. Wish U̶̲̥̅̊ completed d story to knw ♓☺w d sailours died. Wen are we seeing d nxt part?