Aug 7, 2012. African athletes have disappeared from the Olympic Village in London, the newspapers screamed. Sources say that the athletes’ action is an attempt to escape the hardship back in Africa.
* * *
Mrs. Scarlet woke up to a scratching noise in the middle of the night.
“Honey, I think there’s someone downstairs,” she whispered in fear.
Her husband grabbed the rifle from the bedroom shelf and the couple stole their way down the spiral staircase.
“The noise is coming from the guest room!” a frantic Mrs. Scarlet whispered.
The guestroom door was locked and her husband, gun at ready and heart drumming, carefully pushed it open. Nothing inside: only darkness. He reached inside for the switch and flipped it on as he swung his rifle in an arc, anticipating an attack from every direction. It was Mrs. Scarlett who pushed him aside and stepped into the room, towards the bed. “It’s only a boy!” she whispered.
And sure enough, there, curled in a ball was a young black man in his late teens, sound asleep.
“He looks exhausted honey, we should let him sleep.” Mrs. Scarlett, the voice of compassion in the house pushed her husband out of the room and closed the door behind her. “Let’s go back to bed honey, the poor thing will do us no harm. In the morning we will find out who he is and see how we can help.”
“Go ahead,” her husband said. “I’ll join you in bed in a minute.”
“Where are you going?”
“To get some water. I’ll be in bed shortly.”
Soon enough, the couple fell back into bed making sure to lock the bedroom door behind them. But no sooner had they slept than they were awoken by a pounding noise on the front door.
“I wonder who it is?” Mrs. Scarlet asked as she sat up.
“I’ve got it,” her husband said as he jumped out of bed. “You don’t have to wake up. Go back to bed honey.”
But Mrs. Scarlett was hot on her husband’s heels as he ran down the stairs and unlocked the front door. Two policemen stood there, eager looks on their faces.
“Did you call for help sir?” the policemen asked.
“No we didn’t,” Mrs. Scarlett said with a puzzled expression.
“I did,” the husband replied calmly as he motioned the two policemen into the house. “The intruder is in the guest room.”
Suddenly, Mrs. Scarlett was very angry and she stepped in front of the policemen. “Officers, sorry for wasting your time but we are good here. I assure you that this is all a mistake, we have no intruder in the house.”
“Honey!” the husband cut in. “You don’t understand. Those are the kids who ran away from the Olympic village. The police have been looking for them for days.”
The two policemen pushed Mrs. Scarlett into her husbands waiting arms and advanced towards the guestroom. The first cop raised his boot to kick the door but Mrs. Scarlett stopped him with a shout. “The door is open!”
Feeling silly, the cop opened the door very slowly, and then stepped inside. A few seconds later, they had him yell. “There’s no one in here!”
Mrs. Scarlett looked relieved as she stepped into the room. The bed was made, the room cleaned out. “Well, there you go. Can you leave my house now, please!”
“I swear he was here a while ago,” the husband insisted.
The first cop looked into the man’s eyes and saw the truth, then spoke into his walkie. “Get the dogs in here now!”
Mrs. Scarlett almost fainted.
Somewhere down the streets of London. Ochibusa craned his neck and perked his ears. At first he thought that he was dreaming but then he listened again and this time he was convinced, the unmistakable sound of dogs barking. Fear took over and he began to shiver. I’m strong, am fearless, he told himself. It was something he had done since childhood to cultivate his conscience… to defend his mind.
With the dawn light gradually breaking in the horizon, Ochibusa hurriedly glanced at the map in his hand and tried to implant the directions in his mind. So much for waiting till morning to see the Buckingham Palace, the police were hot on his trail: he had to move fast. He looked at the map one last time, then started running.
The streets of London were a maze and sometimes the young man felt like he was running in circles. White stucco and diverse buildings loomed in every street and brought self-awareness… made him feel small. The soundtrack in the air was that of folks opening shop: the bakers, fishmongers, dairy and retail stores. The clothes shops wouldn’t open until later he knew. Ochibusa also knew that London had a high employment density in the central area and that gave him two hours running time before people noticed him.
Oh, the Bugkingham Palace, Ochibusa thought. So many nights he had dreamt of visiting the place: 775 rooms, 55 Royal and Guest bedrooms. He had imagined taking the first step across the threshold into the Grand Hall and up the curving marble stairs of the Grand Staircase. With the police so close behind, he would never get to see the Palace.
Yes, Ochibusa had done his research well. London was the most visited city in the world, measured by international arrivals. It was also the world’s leading financial center alongside New York City, with 69 percent of the population being white, 5 percent Black Africans… 58 per cent Christians and 8 percent Muslims.
His feet pounded on hard concrete as he ran and his heels hurt. He missed Africa and the soft grass but he pushed on in youthful defiance. He heard the incessant dogs barking a block away and a blinding terror overtook him. The scripts were turning: he would have no chance against the vicious creatures and the thought tilted delicately at the back of his mind, almost driving him insane. I’m strong, am fearless, he whisperedas perspiration dripped down the sides of his face.
Charles Street came up in a sharp turn and he almost missed it. This was the last street to his destination. A straight hundred-meter dash to a large building that looked like a school. A high barbed fence and a single gate entrance surrounded the building. Ochibusa turned around and saw the headlights of a car heading straight for him and he knew that the cops had found him. Fifty meters to go! It was now or never.
Many years ago in the land of Ochindo in Africa, war had erupted and Ochibusa’s parents had been killed. Ochibusa vividly remembered being disguised as a girl and being handed over to a new family for adoption. He clearly remembered seeing his big brother dashing into the forest away from the rebels and later on receiving the good news that the United Nation had assisted his brother to leave the country. The people who had killed his parents had also wanted to kill the sons. They called it cleansing… a polite word for murder. Many a night, Ochibusa had woken up screaming in terror: his nightmares after so many years were still fresh: women being raped, babies being killed … people’s limps and bodies rotting on the ground.
For many years, Ochibusa had searched for his elder brother until finally… a break through. His older brother was in London, hiding in a refugee camp.
Ochibusa looked back in desperation as he heard tires squeal, twenty meters to go. He had come to the Olympics to run and there was no way he was going to let some fat cop catch him. He was wrong. A muffled growl made him half turn and what he saw turned his blood cold: German Shepherd dog, 80 pounds of muscles, black nose, razor teeth, so much for worrying about cops. There was nothing scarier than the silhouette of an attacking dog. Ochibusa felt his knees buckle with fear but somehow he managed to stay strong. As fast as lightning, he veered off the road and ran across the grass to the adjacent side of the fence, and away from the gate. With two huge steps, he leaped into the air and grabbed the fence like a spider, then crawled to the top and vaulted over. His knees buckled again as his feet hit the ground but he managed to retain balance. The dog arrived at the fence and started barking ferociously and Ochibusa turned and made eye contact. Then in his native language, he said a single word and the dog whimpered, and then sat very still. Good boy. Ochibusa quickly dodged between the apartments and vanished.
Unlike the refugee camps in Africa which were defined by tents and unhygienic conditions, Ochibusa was welcomed by an array of brick apartments … a temporary settlement designed to meet basic human needs had been turned into a permanent home due to the duration of instability in the African country. The sun was high above and early risers strolled around. A ray of hope lit inside Ochibusa when he recognized his fellow countrymen. “Where can I find Bunosa?” he asked a few people and they pointed him to an apartment in the middle.
Ochibusa ran and burst through the door. “Brother?” It was a studio apartment and inside on a bed, sat a young man in his mid twenties drinking tea and enjoying his solitude. His eyes looked up surprised at the intrusion and just when he was about to get angry, he recognized the boy. “Ochibusa? Is that you?” he quickly put the cup down and hugged his younger brother.
Ochibusa was in a hurry and quickly pulled away from the embrace. “I don’t have much time brother. I came to tell you that our parents are alive!”
The news was like a blow to the head and the older brother looked stunned. “What? What are you saying little brother?”
Ochibusa waited for the words to sink in. “They were never killed. They were hiding. The only way to protect them was to declare them dead. You see?”
Bunosa understood but still a cloud covered his eyes as his mind traveled down memory lane. “I used to dream about them all the time brother. I used to see them running towards me, searching… and every time they found me … I turned around and they were not there.” Bunosa’s eyes were hazy and Ochibusa was caught in the moment. In the next few minutes the two brothers sat transformed in mind as they thought about their parents and the pain of separation. Bunosa couldn’t believe that they were alive.
Ochibusa looked his brother in the eye and then said with conviction. “This time brother when you turn around, they will be there waiting for you. I promise you, they will be there.”
Bunosa looked dazed by the news. “If our parents are still alive, that means that am still…” Suddenly, something grabbed Ochibusa’s leg and two policemen dragged him out of the apartment. He screamed and people in the apartments hurried over to see what was happening. There were four cops in total, Ochibusa in the middle of them looking terrified. Bunosa dashed out of the tent after his brother and quickly halted at the sight of his brother in the cops’ hands.
“I have to go home now brother!” Ochibusa yelled. “I will give mum and dad your love!”
The cops dragged the little boy away and suddenly a raging fury lit inside the older brother. “Stop!” Bunosa yelled at the cops and they stopped at the voice. It wasn’t just any voice. This was a strong voice… a voice of a man used to talking down on people… a voice of a leader. More folks gathered around.
The older brother steadily walked over to the policemen, then turned and addressed the crowd. “My name is Prince Bunosa from the land of Ochindo!” he said. And before he could say another word, half the folks in the refugee center knelt down. The other half who didn’t recognize the name, knelt slowly as they recognized the presence of greatness. Even in the rugged clothes, Prince Bunosa stood tall and strong. The policemen looked around in fascination and said nothing.
Bunosa continued as he turned to the policemen. “Release my brother officers. I will take him home myself. He is the son of a King. The President of your country will not be pleased if he hears about this.”
Ochibusa’s eyes lit in joy at his brother’s words. Yes! he exclaimed. Finally they could all go home and be a family again. His brother would teach him how to be a prince and a strong man in the society.
One of the officers suddenly scoffed. “I don’t give a sh….” he paused. “I don’t care if the almighty sent you here. This boy has broken the law and he deserves to go to jail and get deported.”
“He has a six months visa sir!” The Prince said firmly. “And like I told you, I will take him home myself.”
The policemen looked at each other and made up their mind. “Sorry sir, we have a job to do here.” They grabbed the boy and started moving towards the gate, but a belligerent looking crowd of refugees was blocking the exit.
“Move or we will shoot!” the cops yelled.
Prince Bunosa walked in front of the gun and said calmly. “You have to shoot me first sir!” He brought his head close to the gun and Ochibusa gasped. “I will say this one last time,” Bunosa continued, his eyes boring through those of the cop. “Release my brother and I will take him home!”
It was a choice between shooting fifty innocent people and releasing a single boy. It wasn’t much of a choice and the policemen relented and released the young prince. The refugee camp roared with shouts of jubilation. It was a small victory but a victory non-the less.
“Wait!” Prince Bunosa yelled at the cops then ran into the apartment and came out carrying four bracelets. He slipped them into each of the officers’ wrists. “So that you may remember Africa,” he repeated four times.
The cops thanked him and walked towards the exit looking confused. They had lost control of the situation and it had happened so fast that none had seen it coming. “I wonder what that boy said to the dog?” One of the cop said as the group walked away.
But the other cops didn’t reply. They were staring at their wrists in disbelief. The bracelets were made of pure Gold! They looked up simultaneously and exchanged knowing looks. None of them would ever report what had happened: the paradox between the law and self-conscience.
Suddenly the director of the camp appeared in a bathrobe. “Bunosa!” he called. “If you go back to Africa, you violate your refugee status.”
Bunosa smiled and sighed. “A time comes in life when a man has to stop running and face his shadows. That time has arrived for me.”
Prince Bunosa turned and looked around at the eager faces. “My people,” he said. “The powers that be have driven us away from ours homes for too long. I will go back to Africa and prepare a home for you. What makes England and America strong is not the money or the might of the military. What makes these countries strong are the ideals of the people and the belief that they can achieve anything in life if they work a little bit harder and a lot more smarter.” The Prince paced the ground and looked at the crowd with keen eyes. “My people, I will leave you with the words of our ancestors: without land, a man is nothing. I will go back to the land of Ochindo and restore it to its full glory. I will restore the dream that was once Africa!” Prince Bunosa bowed and all around aped him.
The director almost bowed but caught himself in the nick of time. The people cheered their Prince and Ochibusa ran into his brother’s arms and this time, the two held each other for a long time. “We are going home big brother?”
“Yes Ochibusa, we are going home, but first I have to show you how a King lives.”
The young boy’s eyes lit like a Christmas tree. “You gonna take me to the Buckingham Palace?”
“Yes,” the older brother confirmed. “I will take you to the Buckingham Palace.”
30th Aug 2012: London Newspaper. Long lost Prince returns home to the Land of Ochindo.
Off to AFRICA
My book A Whisper in the Jungle has been picked by a publishing company and approved by the board. It has been scheduled for release soon.
The music is all around you, all you have to do is listen
Without God, what are we? What do we have? What is life...