The Sling

General Kamiti could smell a nice aroma coming from a distance. Before joining the liberation movement in the forest, he was a chef to the colonial settler. Immediately he smelt the nice aroma, he flashed back to how he used to cook nice food for the colonial settler. So tasty was his food that the settler decided to increase his salary. He used to cook delicious food for his bosses like fish and chips, Sunday roast, cottage pie, steak, kidney pie, English breakfast, and more. Since he never learned to prepare British cuisine from school, he taught himself how to cook them. When he served his boss in the dining room, his boss was very happy and asked for more. Kamiti could not disappoint, and he made sure that his boss ate to his satisfaction. This made the White settler very happy, and he decided to increase his salary. One day, Kamiti had prepared very delicious food such that Peterson, his boss, had ordered a second and third helping.

Once Kamiti smelt the aroma, he decided to follow it to see what made his saliva come out uncontrollably. He decided to follow a footpath hidden in a deep forest to conceal his footsteps from British soldiers who were hunting the Mau Mau fighters like wild goats. Kamiti had been sent as a spy by his seniors back in the forest to go and look for food supplies back in the village. The freedom fighters had gone without food for several days and had to rely on wild fruits to survive. After the imperialist government learned that the fighters were getting food supplies from villages, they forced the villagers to dig deep trenches to surround the villages and cut off the food supply from reaching the forest. So, after this trench boundary, Kamiti and his seniors knew that if things went on like this, the freedom fighters would starve to death.

He tried to hurry up while following the food scent for he knew he had to return to his deep forest hideout before dusk. Therefore, he followed the sweet smell carefully without losing it; he knew he was on the right track. The experience he had in food production could not let him err in something important like this. Apart from preparing European foods, he was an expert in preparing his community’s traditional foods. Most of the time, when there was an occasion in the village, he was the one who was assigned the duty of guiding the cooks on how to prepare important foods like meat. As he hurried towards the village, he felt bitter about the colonial rulers in the country.

He could remember very carefully that this was not the first time they were using food as a weapon to suppress the Africans. When they were coming to colonize the country, they brought in soldiers from Europe to come and fight the Africans. The Africans fought the battle tooth and nail, and when the imperialists realized that they were not easily defeated, they decided to use a tactic called the scorched earth policy. This was where they burned down crops and killed animals that might be used by the Africans as a source of food. This policy affected Africans so much that finally, they succumbed to brutal colonial rule. When this happened, Kamiti was in his early teens. He had experienced the brutality of colonial rule, and so he had vowed to use all powers at his disposal to see that they succeeded in the fight for African liberation and freedom.

It was approaching around five o’clock in the evening, and Kamiti took bigger steps towards where the aroma was coming from. He reached a large, cleared area with no bushes or trees. He stopped abruptly and peered while hiding in a bush. From where he was looking, it was very clear that the colonial administration might have told the village to clear a large section of trees so that they could spot any freedom fighter coming out of the forest for food. At a distance, he heard a crowd of people talking and laughing loudly. At this level, he knew that any wrong move would see him dead or rotting in detention camps. When he listened carefully, he heard that the people were talking in English. Immediately he heard this, he knew that those were colonial settlers or police officers. He decided to go no further but look for another plan. In his pocket, there was a binocular he had been given by one of the visitors who used to come to Peterson’s home. This binocular was awarded as the visitors were happy with his cooking. Without wasting any other minute, he climbed a big tree that was nearby, and when he was at the topmost part, he took out his binocular and looked through it. The binocular was single-lens, and he could see the whole village. He remembered the book he had read about Egyptian history where a certain Egyptian god called Horus had an all-seeing eye where he saw the whole of Egypt kingdom.

 Looking carefully, he noticed that a group of White police officers stood guard over scores of African trench diggers. Standing on their side was an African chef roasting meat for them, the police officers were laughing at an African worker who lay on the ground and looked very exhausted. One of the police officers kicked the guy hard on the stomach and exclaimed, “This stupid African thinks we are fools. How can he claim that he can no longer dig the trench because he is very exhausted?”

Kamiti felt sorry for the young man, but he could do nothing. He knew that despite his carrying his gun with him, he could not manage to fight the ten officers who were mistreating his tribesmen. All the same, his mind turned back to the roasted meat that was being barbecued near the trench. He had not eaten for two days, only surviving on wild fruits and water. The best he could do was to go back to the forest and inform the other liberation fighters what he had seen. They would then lay a plan on how to find food because they knew that they could not fight or survive without it. Without the food supply, the fight for freedom would not succeed. Once he surveyed the area skillfully, he climbed down the tree and sat on the ground holding his chin. From what he had seen, it was almost impossible for any human to cross the other side of the trench to get food for the fighters. The trench was so wide and deep that anyone who would try to reach the other end would find himself or herself breaking their limbs.

Kamiti regretted the colonialists coming to his country. He remembered his family he had left alone back in the village and felt sad. At that time of the year, he could have been planting cassava and arrowroots on his farm. His farm was big, and many people came to buy foodstuffs from there. Right now, he had been demoted from being a farmer and chef to a gunslinger, but he never regretted it because he had to fight for the freedom of his motherland.

The sizzling sound of the roasting meat continued to meet his ear as he left the scene. He hurried towards the hideout where he had left the other freedom fighters. It took him about an hour and a half to get there. When General Wachuka and the other fighters saw him, they all stood and looked at him anxiously. General Wachuka was the head of the battalion. They respected him for his leadership and combat fighting.  They were very anxious to know what message he had brought to them. At this time, the hunger pangs were biting them seriously. Many of them had no energy left to fight the enemy. Immediately Kamiti arrived at the scene, he ordered everyone to gather at one point so that he could tell them what he saw.

“I had the honor of being sent to look at what we could do to get food supplies for our soldiers,” he began. “The works of emissaries belong to younger scouts, but the nature of the work required a more experienced person. Therefore, I was the one who was chosen to take this noble task,” he continued as others listened.

“I went to where the trench is being dug, and to say the truth, the trenches are very deep and wide for any human being to cross. Even our best cliffhangers I guess cannot cross the other side of these trenches. Hence, I think we have to know what to do to get food supply from the village other than crossing this dangerous trench,” he concluded. And at this point, the fighters became astonished.

 Everyone looked disappointed and hopeless; it was only General Wachuka who shot up and suggested that anyone who had got an idea of what they could do should stand up and say it before it was too late. There was one young man in his early twenties who stood up and said he had a suggestion. He was given a chance to speak.

“When I was attending a Sunday school with missionaries, we were told about how a young boy called David in the Bible used a sling to kill an enemy soldier by the name of Goliath. I would suggest we write a letter and tie it on a stone. One emissary will go to where we take our letter and fling the letter to the village using a sling. The letter would advise the villages to also bundle food in small packages. They would then fling the food using the same slings to the place where we used to collect it before,” he said.

After he finished his statement, everybody clapped, and they looked excited. They almost forgot that they were in a hideout in the forest. As the young man suggested, the letter was written and given to an emissary. As the letter described, the freedom fighters would be waiting for the food the next day very early in the morning at the designated scene. As the young emissary disappeared at a distance, the fighters wished the hours could fly off so that they could go and look whether there was any food to eat.

It was almost two hours since the fighters arrived at the suggested scene. They wondered whether they were the ones who had arrived earlier, or if the people designated to bring the foodstuffs might have forgotten. General Kamiti kept on moving from one place to another looking at his scratched wristwatch. When he looked at the watch again, it was four o’clock in the morning; he started to get worried but never told anyone about it. Another twenty minutes elapsed, and he was about to open his mouth to order his troops back in their hideout when a big lump of something soft hit him hard on his forehead.  At first, he thought it was British soldiers who had ambushed them. But when he came back to his senses, he thought he had smelt the sweet aroma of fried meat and potatoes.

After the first lump landed, others followed and within a duration of fifteen minutes, the whole place was awash with foodstuffs. A few minutes later, the food bundles stopped coming and everything was silent. General Wachuka and Kamiti ordered his troops to gather the food quickly and head back to their hideouts before the dawn light came out. Some of the fighters were very hungry, and they secretly went back into the hideout while eating what they were carrying. Soon the fighters reached their destination, and Wachuka told them to keep what they had gathered at the front.

“Today we are very lucky. We have managed to get food supply, but there is one issue that I would like to raise. We have seen how we have struggled to get food again after the enemy ordered the trenches to be dug. We need discipline when using our foodstuffs. Please eat only what is enough and keep the rest safe for next time,” Wachuka said.

The fighters did as they were told, and the rest of the food was kept safe in a cool dry place. That night, both General Wachuka and Kamiti told the fighters that they had to resume back fighting the enemy. So, when night came, they prepared their guns and other weapons. Before they could embark on the mission that night, Kamiti said he wanted to talk to them.

“Gallant soldiers, there is one thing I would like to request of you when carrying your guns, remember to carry slings and stones. This weapon has helped us a lot, and it may help us again. We can dismiss now,” he said as the fighters cocked their guns with much strength showing that they had regained the energy to fight the colonialist until they got their freedom.

Mungai Mwangi is a prolific writer. After high school, he attended college for an information technology course. He studied creative writing through correspondence. He has written articles for newspapers and blogging sites as well as a novel titled The Godly Merchant. He has received awards such as The Reading Ambassador from the the Start A Library Trust Organization and Story Moja Publishers. Currently he is working on novels and short stories. He can be found on Facebook at Mungai Mwangi.

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