His trained eyes saw the thick cloud of dust in the distance drawing nearer before he heard the crunch of heavy tires against the dried clay blocks that littered the path. Like a symphony well-practised by an orchestra, the lads playing along the streets took off in the general direction of their settlement shrieking and screaming. Fathers deserted their cattle. Mothers grabbed their little ones. Brothers called for their sisters as they ran after neighbours and family getting away.

Abuad had outrun his brother as they made their way back from the fields and now in the chaos, Mother, Father, Nana were nowhere to be found. As he stood confused for a few crucial seconds, a bullet whizzed past him, singing his cheek and propelling him forward. He sprinted towards the hills calling for Waheed as he left, and only when he felt he was a good distance away did he glance back. Men clad in forest green had jumped out of the trucks, only their eyes visible. Assault rifles adorned their muscular arms and for some reason, they shot at anything that moved. Body parts—human and animal—went to work on the plains and gave it varying shades of red.

From his vantage point, Abuad saw another group of vehicles approaching. Their trucks were very much like those of the first but before they could stop, the first group opened fire on them. The convoy came to an abrupt stop and for a split second, all was mum. Until men emerged from the second set of trucks and returned fire. The first group withdrew, using the brick houses as shields. One of the second suddenly came forward with a cylindrical object. Another fed something into it and it went off. A second later, a house that had been standing was blown to bits. Abuad watched, transfixed.

Bullets were exchanged and the man with the ‘bomber’ caught one in the throat. His blood donation to the earth came in spurts. The rest of his team advanced and after a deadly game of hide-and-seek, only one of those who came first remained standing. Abuad remained hidden and saw as he dragged his bloodied body to one of the trucks they came with. He climbed in and not long after, Abuad saw the brightest light he had ever seen before an explosion so loud knocked him against a rock behind; darkness gathered instantly and permanently.

The world knew one thing for sure within the next few hours: a dirty bomb had turned a third of a West African state into a wasteland. The first eyes to investigate reported breathless, gutless bodies with parts scattered all around. Streams, bright red, lay unmoving, and the lone body of a child was sprawled in the hills. Silence and death settled heavily on the villages; and at the entrace of one of them, a deeply scorched patch of earth marked the centre of the apocalypse. 

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