There was a sandstorm the night before we departed and it was on this night that Barre decided to betray his boss. “Winds in Dol Dol are strong enough to topple a camel and rip off the roof. They collect sand and debris and you don’t want to be outside when they come,” Uncle Ayaan often told me and I sometimes found it difficult to believe him.
That night, I was on guard again. This time tipsy from a cup of wine and I was having a difficult time staying alert. An owl cooed and a soft wind began to blow. It kissed my skin and gave me a much-needed cooling sensation from the day’s heat.
Earlier, we had just had a meal of sorghum ugali and camel meat. “Come, drink with me,” my uncle slurred while lifting up a cup of fermented grapes in the air as his wife Hani snuggled beside him.
“I need to keep watch,” I said.
“We already killed the bandits, remember?”
“Tomorrow,” I said while pushing open the door to go to our hut. Bobobo and Beatrice following behind. After the Tusker debacle between Njoro, Beatrice, and I, I had vowed to stay away from anything that took away my wits.
“You’re a bad liar because tomorrow never comes. Just say you don’t want to share a cup with your good old uncle. Who has been nothing but a gentleman,” he said.
“One cup,” I said half-heartedly, sitting back down and Bobobo and Beatrice followed swiftly.
“One large cup coming up,” my uncle grinned.
I felt dizzy after I drained the cup, which my uncle made sure I did to the last drop. “The boy finally becomes a man,” he said proudly as I wobbled to my feet once more. “Let’s go,” I slurred to Bobobo and Beatrice.
“This is our last night, let us share stories and make merry.” My uncle insisted while pouring me another cup, as I sat back down. “Does the fool drink?” he asked and I shook my head sideways. I had never seen Bobobo drunk and I wanted to keep it that way. “There’s always a first,” Uncle Ayaan said while pouring him a large cup.
Beatrice was spared from the circus because she was now fast asleep on Bobobo’s shoulders. Mumbling her famous words every hour or so: “Where am I? They are coming, they are coming.” It was a heartbreaking thing to witness.
“Where is Barre? It’s unlike him to miss a party. He can usually smell it from a mile away,” Uncle Ayaan droned on and that made me put my cup down. From the very first time I met Barre, my blood curdled and it continued to go bad whenever he was around, even after he saved me from the jaws of a bandit.
I wobbled back to my feet and picked up my gun. “I won’t be long,” I slurred and stepped outside. “This cup will be right here waiting for you when you get back,” Uncle Ayaan barked, slighted that I was running from his drink and stories.
The cooing of the owl caressed my ear immediately I stepped outside and a breeze kissed my skin. The moon poured down from the sky and made the night look like day and for the first time, I realized how beautiful Dol Dol actually was.
“Who goes there?” I asked frightened after I heard a noise. “Who goes there?” I repeated myself while cocking my gun, only to realize it was the wind whistling, bending nearby shrubs, and making the camels grunt with agitation as it did. “Keep it down, out there. You cannot refuse my party and interrupt it at the same time,” Uncle Ayaan barked with an alcoholic slur.
I saw it just before it hit me. A shrub coming at full tilt toward me. I ducked at the last minute and it knocked the door open. “There’s a sandstorm coming,” Hani barked. “Get back inside and bolt the door,” she added while getting up with urgency.
As I was staggering in, Barre came out of nowhere. “There he is. I told you he can smell a party from a mile away, didn’t I?” Uncle Ayaan droned in his cups as Barre entered the hut followed by five big men and Uncle Ayaan’s humongous hut now felt like a prison cell.
“Dol Dol is not big enough for two rulers,” Barre said while going behind Uncle Ayaan and putting his knife against his throat. Hani jumped to defend her drunk husband but two of the men that came with Barre held her back. Another two held my arms and the fifth one watched Bobobo with a keen eye. Bobobo was now humming to a song that none of us could recognize. “The drunken fool is no threat,” the man eyeing him said.
“Dol Dol needs a visionary and you can’t think beyond your wine and wife,” Barre said. “You have been good to me, so I won’t spill your blood. Take your wife and your camel and go as far as its legs will carry you and I promise you none of my men will harm you,” Even as he said it Barre knew that with a sandstorm coming, my uncle and his wife were as good as dead. “Resist and watch her die before you join her,” he continued then glanced at me, Bobobo, and Beatrice. They will remain here and be my servants,” he said with finality.
We left Bobobo and Beatrice inside and stepped outside to saddle up Uncle Ayaan and Hani onto the camel. The wind was screaming with shrubs bouncing off the compound. The sand mixed with the wind and made visibility difficult. I don’t think Barre’s men saw the tornado of sand that was coming towards us. At least not until it was too late.
Hani took out two of the men holding her and she began dragging her husband back to the hut. I ran to give her a hand, the alcohol in my system having worn off at the sight of danger. As I did, Barre came out of nowhere with his knife in the air. I braced for impact when a hollow tree trunk swept in and knocked him out of the way and we managed to get back in the hut.
The whole night was filled with the sound of screams, the cracking of shrubs, Uncle Ayaan snoring, Beatrice mumbling in her sleep, and of course, the peculiar sound of Bobobo humming to a song that none of us recognized.
When morning came; part of the huts roof had been blown to smithereens and we were all drenched in sand and minor wounds. We had to destroy a part of the wall to get out because the door could not open. When we did, it was as if the world had turned on its head. There were sand dunes everywhere and a hand was peeking out of one of them. At least what remained of it. Because the skin had been ripped off and only a skeleton remained.