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Boy Soldier No More

He is thinking of the snow and how it blows in the wind. He had never seen snow before, this cold powdery white substance that gently floats down from the sky like tiny descending angels. It would be expected that this boy from Darfur would find it quite strange and unpredicted but yet he doesn't. He feels as if God is offering him peace and a clean slate. He lets the snow rest on his warm head and run down his face washing away his past.
Chioke, named by his father as "God's Blessing", stands with one foot in the snow, the other across his knee and his hands high above his head as if he's praying. He has much to praise, much to give thanks for. After all not many have lived to tell the tale of a boy soldier. No more then four have ever escaped. How lost for words he was when the tall man with the red cross emblem over his heart said, "Put your gun down boy, you have a better life planned for you".
This happened only the day after one of his worst experiences in the war. He could remember being struck with fear as it was nearly dusk. Chioke had been standing at his post for nearly 3 hours by then. As his feet stood in the grass, numb and with blisters, he let his dark brown eyes watch the sun and clouds as they disappeared behind the trees and past the horizon. There hadn't been action in days. He was starving and never really wanted to be brought into this mess anyway. The big men as he remembered, had just barged into his families home and abducted all the men in the household. His head hurt as he recalled how they beat his father and forced him to come with them, and how his mother wrapped herself around her two daughters like a cloak, protecting them from the madness. But that was months ago. He gave up hope of being relieved of duty a long time ago.
Chioke hadn't slept in days. He felt his knees collapse from under him as he rested himself against a tree and closed his eyes for a second, only for just a second, as he knew that if it were any longer he could risk not only hi own life, but others as well. There was a rustling from a far, stray bullets popping in the air and darkened figures running furiously towards him. The boy quickly hopped up with his gun in hand. A long rifle which stood taller then him when propped up on its side.
He didn't even think as he quickly shot at the figures, fearing for his life, not even giving them the opportunity to reveal themselves from the darkness of the night. "One, two, three" he counted in his head as he watched the figures fall to the floor one by one. His heart was beating rapidly, as if urging to jump up out of his chest when he knew he had just barely cheated death. Chioke traveled over to the bodies on the ground, walking rather unsteadily, which was understandable for the trembling boy.
He held out a torch to their lifeless figures and saw as little spatters of blood scattered across their face. The one laying to the right of where he stood had a clean shot right through his heart and the one on his left had several shots scattered across his torso. Tears glided down his face as he looked at them, "It was nothing personal", he said to them, "I just had to, as you had to." He came to know these faces well as they haunted him in his dreams, after he was moved to America.
Oh how he smiled with tears of relief streaming down his face, while he walked hand in hand with the kinda tall man. Charlie was the name embroidered in white thread on his dull red shirt. He had met Chioke the morning after his ordeal and couldn't bear to live with himself if he let this boy stay here in this madness. So he took him. He took him away to where he knew he'd be safe. Was it immoral for a man of peace to illegally take this innocent child away from war? He didn't know, nor did he care. In the pink and yellow lighting of the morning he took the boy awake from his standing post and led him to the tiny red plane he had secluded in the brush.
Chioke knew that something wasn't exactly right when Charlie took him on the plane. There was definitely hesitation going on in his mind but at this point he didn't care. Over the months he had learned to make quick decisions in his best interest. Whatever would benefit him most, that was what he did, and now getting as far away from this place as possible was sounding pretty good to him. The plane gave a little putter as it flew away. He had never been outside his village.
As he looked out his window he felt as if he was on top of the world, watching a whole other universe presenting itself before him. He felt free like one of those birds he had constantly watched soaring the skies in his spare time. He was a bird and he was free from it all. Never in his life had he felt such a relief.
Chioke was only a young boy when he left the war, not to mention young when he started in it. But as he reflected on that day, while he stood there in the snow he realized how far he had come. He was in a new location,with new people, new values and new morals. He was living in a world of a different culture. He knew his future that laid ahead would be a challenge but it was ok. Nothing could be more challenging then what he was used to. He may be in a foreign city, in a foreign world, but the experiences he would soon come across in life would not be foreign at all. They would be part of a person he would soon become, down the long road of free choices that stood in front of him.





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