Ikem held his breath alongside his brothers in arms. The men he had met, hated, fought against and now stood together to stop tyranny. He felt a certain kinship that couldn’t be explained or better yet, felt by none other than those who did what they did. The sound of the enemy engines and loud guttural chants of the opposing soldiers pierced his ears and did as they were required to: drive fear into the Biafrans.
But even as he felt that fear, he also felt a burning desire. A passion to do what was demanded of him, for his people, for his family and for his peace. The soldiers hid behind rubble and burned-out cars and blockades, peeking around the corners as the enemy approached. Ikem, just like every other soldier there, knew the importance of the Onne base and more, what could befall all of Biafra if they couldn’t pull through.
Ikem heard their commander shout from behind him. Uchenna, his only friend in the battalion, stifled a laugh and watched as two soldiers broke their ranks and advanced towards the incoming enemy vehicles. They had set up explosives on their path, which would blow the approaching vehicles sky high. The soldiers took their places behind the detonators, waiting for the vehicles to get in range.
The sound of a powerful rifle rung out in the air, causing Ikem to stiffen. He heard Uchenna swear in Igbo behind him. A quick peek around the corner told him that the soldier who manned the detonator had been shot down. The sound of the rifle echoed through the air as a second shot hit the other soldier in the chest. Commander Izu yelled loudly over the battlefield and the soldiers charged. Ikem took his submachine gun and ran out from behind cover, firing controlled bursts at the enemy vehicles.
The enemy returned fire, jumping out of their vehicles, shooting back at the Biafrans. Ikem dove to the floor and fired straight up at a soldier who was aiming at him, his bullets tearing through him like a hot knife through butter. He rolled on his back behind an enormous tree trunk to reload his Lanchester SMG. The roaring of bullets and sounds of screaming men made the entire field a nightmare. The noise was deafening and the air heavy with gunpowder and smoke. The explosion of a grenade nearby caused him to drop the clip of his gun.
He bent over to pick it, but got a kick in the face by a steel boot. Everything suddenly smelled like blood. He heard the clicking and wracking of his attacker’s gun, poised to fire at him. Acting quickly, Ikem swung his leg at his opponents from his position on the floor, knocking him off his feet. He proceeded to place his boot firmly square in the face of the opposing soldier. Now disoriented, Ikem pulled out his combat knife and drove it into the man’s neck and twisted it, before pulling it out
Ikem reloaded his gun and got to his feet, his face dirty with smoke and grime and bloody from his broken nose. As he jumped over the tree trunk, Uchenna tackled him back to the ground, and then pulled him close to the fallen tree. Confused, Ikem raised an arm to question his friend, but the sound of bullets slamming into the tree trunk on the other side made him understand that his friend had pulled him out of the way of a hail of bullets. On their bellies, they crawled behind a nearby car and hid behind it.
From their new vantage point, they watched as the bullets careened into their mates and killed the ones who couldn’t find cover fast enough. Ikem looked at the person firing and saw a soldier manning a Gatling gun that had been placed on the top of a truck, standing in its bucket. The machine gun fired hundreds of rounds at their forces, cutting down everyone.
“Aah!” A bullet grazed Uchenna’s arm, spilling blood. “Mmadu gbagbuo onye-ahu!” He shrieked.
Ikem locked eyes with his friend and tightened his grip around his weapon. His eyes sold his actions before he could speak. Uchenna quickly grabbed his arm with bloody fingers.
“If you go out there, the bullets will cut you in half!”
An idea struck Ikem. He opened the door of the car which they hid behind and flexed it back and forth until it broke off its hinges. He hefted the door in one hand, gun in the other, crouched low, hiding behind the larger portion of the door. One final glance at his friend, and he ran out, across the car into the line of fire. Bullets hit the door which served as a shield for Ikem, slowing him down. Some of them flew over his head, through the window of the car door, while the others bounced off the door.
He knew that the gun couldn’t bend towards the floor directly in front of it as it sat atop the vehicle, so once he was close enough, he would be out of the range of fire. Ikem put his SMG up through the window and fired blindly at the vehicle. One of his bullets hit the soldier feeding the machine gun with rounds. Ikem got close enough to the vehicle, threw down the door, and jumped onto the trunk firing bullets into the soldier manning the Gatling gun. Ikem kicked his body aside and spun the Gatling gun to his right, using his enemy’s weapon on them, firing into the enemy soldiers.
Uchenna roared from his position behind the car and charged on the Nigerian army, alongside his brothers, driving back the opposition. When the gun exhausted its bullets, Ikem picked up his Lanchester, hopped off the vehicle and ran towards the enemy forces.
Biafra would not fall, not while he lived. Not while he had breath in his lungs. This was his home, his land, and it was the reason he bled. It was his country, the land of the rising sun.
Dexter Alex is an African storyteller, freelance writer who enjoys plotting schemes alongside his writing. His works of fiction are mostly aimed at exposing new ideas to the minds of his readers. He is passionate about music, literature and bread.