Thursday 19 – Sunday 22 February 2015
The sound of the gunshot bounced around the room but was ultimately consumed by the book-laden walls, thick damask curtains, and heavy furniture. Winston, having quickly progressed through surprise, horror, and physical shock, was now slumped to his left hand side and propping himself up on the arm of the chair.
‘Francis, what have you done?’ He gasped for air as he spoke, and clutched at his side, wincing in pain.
‘I shot you, Uncle Winston, and if my rudimentary medical skills are anything to go by, you’ve not long until you either pass out from the pain, or just die from blood loss. You’re a weak, old man and there’s little chance that you can apply and maintain enough pressure on the wound site to stem the bleeding.’
‘Why, Francis? Why?’ Winston sucked air in as carefully as he could.
‘I told you – I want to know what happened in 1892, and you’re going to tell me. And after you’ve told me, I’ll help you with that.’ Francis waved the gun in Winston’s direction.
‘And I told you, boy, that’s not going to happen. I made a promise never to speak of it again, and I will keep that promise.’
His uncle’s reply irritated Francis, and he let out a scream of frustration. ‘You will tell me what I want to know, uncle.’ He fired a second shot into Winston’s left leg, just above the knee.
‘It doesn’t matter what happened back then. All that matter is what happens now, here, in this moment. That’s what happened in 1892. That’s what we were all forced to learn. Me, your father, everyone around us. Just be content with that, Francis. Knowing the details will do nothing to quench your thirst for knowledge, or truth, or whatever you believe you’ll glean from learning about it,’ Winston snapped.
* * * * *
A battlefield in Ijebu, Nigeria.
British troops raze tribal homes, bodies are strewn over the ground, and a village is destroyed.
‘Major Frobisher, the surviving natives have been subdued.’
Frobisher waved his subordinate away. Irritated, he threw himself into the chair behind his field desk, poured a glass of whiskey from a half-filled bottle, drank it in one mouthful, and then refilled the glass. A dishevelled Colonel sauntered into the quickly erected battlefield tent office, and sat on the edge of the Major’s desk. He held out his hand, and within a few moments, the Major had poured another glass of whiskey, and placed it into the Colonel’s waiting hand.
‘What do you think, James? Is it over and done with or should we expect another attack from them?’
‘I don’t know, Winston. We never expected this level of resistance from them in the first place.’
‘Well, it’s done now. There’s no point lamenting over the loss of their lives. After all, they’re just natives.’
James stood, violently kicking his chair back. He grabbed Winston’s shirtfront, and pushed him back on the desk.
‘They’re just natives? They’re just natives? What does that mean, brother? Are you that insensitive and heartless?’ He shouted loud enough that a group of passing soldiers were startled and ran on their way hoping to avoid the internal conflict of the battlefield tent.
‘They’re uncivilised, James, and they should have bowed down to the might of the British Empire before their sudden desire to confront us resulted in this, this massacre.’
‘You imbecile. This tribe were people like you and I. Men and women and children with families, trying to eke out a living on the land. They were no threat to us.’
‘No threat to us? It is you who is the imbecile, James. They impeded our trade route. They refused to enter into any negotiations with British representatives. They did not recognise the power of the British, and nor did they recognise that this land is now a part of the British Empire. It belongs to us, not them, not anymore.’
Unable to stand the condescending rhetoric spewing from his brother’s mouth, James quickly drew back his right arm, balled his hand into a fist, and punched forward with all of the strength that he could muster. Winston’s head flew back, and seconds later blood began to pour from his nose.
‘You’ll pay for that, James,’ Winston mumbled, cupping his bleeding nose in his hands. ‘I’ll have you stripped of your rank. You’ll be back at the bottom of the food chain by the time I’m done with you.’
. . . To be continued . . .