The state of Baka, bordered by the equally small states of Malik and Radan, situated in the African continent, has four million inhabitants. It has been run by a dictatorship led by the notorious General Georges Patu for the last five years. He has ruled his little country with an iron fist policy, imprisoning, torturing and killing those who oppose him.
The people are very poor and often die due to the lack of food, treatment and medicine, but Patu, his family and his henchmen enjoy a luxury life. They have amassed a fortune in money and gold now deposited safely in various banks overseas.
The brutality of his army has instilled fear in the hard working people of his little country. Patu does not know the meaning of justice, fairness, moderation, and good governance. Those who oppose him come to one end – death.
He was very different when he was a child – shy and loving. He did not know his father, but his mother who was poor and lived in a shack, loved him dearly. She sheltered him from danger as he grew up in the often turbulent country.
When he was a child he had noticed the strange birthmark of a serpent on his chest and cried. Other boys did not have this mark. He felt different. His mother cuddled him to her chest and told him. “Do not cry Patu. It is a sign from God. You are the chosen one. Those who harm you and your birthmark will die a violent death!” From that day onwards, following his mother’s words, he felt strong and safe.
Despite the Army’s terror campaign, some citizens of Baka overcame their fear and opposed the regime. They gathered together a rebel force in the mountains to fight Patu’s dictatorial regime. And what was the world’s reaction? Nothing at all! Baku was a small, poor state with no oilfields, gold mines or other important commodities to export. Therefore the developments were of no interest to the rich and powerful countries of the world. They left her and her people alone to their fate.
On this very early morning in June, not even a solitary figure strolled along the capital of Baka’s main street. Not even a stray dog dared to show his head outside. The street was bare except for the lighted lamp-posts stationed at even distance all along, shedding their dim lights on the empty and dirty road.
The houses on both sides were completely cut off from outside, secluding their tenants from the silence and eerie atmosphere of the streets. Shutters were pulled down, doors securely closed, voices hushed. Fear engulfed the poor people.
One could hear the soldiers every hour, marching together, performing their repeated nightly checks, their strong boots beating on the hard stones of the street, making a strange sound that echoed from afar. Except for those occasional and fearful patrols, this was a dead street of the night.
At this very early hour of the morning the curfew was still in force. It had a long time yet until it was lifted. All the streets of this Bakanian city were heavily under curfew from dawn to dusk. Government forces had clamped down on any movement in their struggle with the rebels.
This street had witnessed vengeful murders and patriotic resistance. It had seen death stalk in to claim many victims of political oppression. Groups of fanatical patriots had given their sacred life to the cause of freedom and deliverance. Their blood still flows fresh along the streets like some fair example of man’s endurance to injustice. The fight was on, it may take years and years to be won, but only victory can bring the struggle to an end.
Soldiers were carefully posted at strategic points surveying the scene of silence, eagle eyes looking here and there, rifles at the ready lest one solitary figure shows his head. Everybody was to stay indoors …..That was an order!
While all this was happening outside, in one solitary house a life was hanging on the strings of life and death. A light flickered in the room, a dim yellowish candle-light reflecting the sombre state of the walls. The stately silence was being interrupted by the occasional sobbing coming from the far corner of the little room. There, resting in a wooden bed was an old woman hovering between life and death.
Her wrinkled face sweating with anguish and great pain, eyes looking upwards staring deadly beyond the ceiling. Soon after this curfew was imposed she was taken suddenly ill and her condition grew graver and graver. She needed drugs, medicine, medical care and attention.
Beside her, holding her sweating hand was her husband. He was aged too, rugged and rough, but thoughtful of the state of affairs. He was grieved seeing his beloved wife suffering slow death and pained hearing her sobs and cries. As her loving husband, he was desperate, to a state of hysterical madness that knew no bounds to reason or laws.
His name was Milaku, a rebel leader who had led his men in several raids against Patu. His dark face, flickering in the dim lights of the dying candle, was filled with pity towards his wife. He could not bear to witness her suffering so terribly. His mind cuddled with thoughts of her; memories of her undying qualities of a peaceful, loving woman; her strong yet tender character that feared the wrath of the Almighty but not the anger of mere mortals.
But there she was now, a helpless creature stretched in a humble bed of wood, a dying woman with no medicine or medical attention to cure her illness. He hated this moment, he hated those armed bullies that patrol the streets at night, and he hated life itself with all its miseries and tribulations. He hated these, but he loved his wife like she was his own soul.
Suddenly there were hard knocks on the door and commands for him to come out. Patu’s soldiers had found him and they had come for him. He could shoot them out, probably die in the process but they would then kill his wife too. If he gave himself up, she might live with the help of his good neighbours.
Milaku got out, his hands on his head, surrendering to the heavily armed soldiers. They took him immediately to General Patu’s headquarters. Patu looked the poor rugged man straight in the eye. So this was the man who, with his band of rebels, had killed so many of his men. This was the man who wants to end his reign. This was the man he had long been looking for.
Patu was a merciless thug, a murderer, a ruthless bully. He did not hesitate. He took out his gun and shot Milaku at point blanc range, killing him instantly. He will be no threat to him anymore.
His soldiers took Milaku’s bloody shirt off and laid his corpse in front of Patu asking his instructions what to do with his body. His first thought was to parade him around the main streets of the capital to serve as a reminder to his opponents that those who oppose him will die.
Patu’s eyes rested on the rebel’s body. He stared at his bare chest. His face turned white, fear got hold of him, he froze. On Milaku’s chest, still red with blood, he saw the birthmark of the serpent! Just like his own. His mother’s words rang in his ears – “Those who harm the serpent birthmark will die a violent death!”