The agreement has been finalized. A thrilling cloud of triumph has engulfed Mazi Udemezue and his household. Gathered in that sitting-room, the entire family handed justice to that pot of freshly prepared pepper-soup as a mark of victory—a triumph over poverty and derision.
The inter-family competition reached climax and this time, the Udemezue’s are to be recognized and respected in the entire community for having planted a son in one of the countries in Europe. This thought has possessed the entire household; to that effect, Joe is to be pulled out of his second-semester, third year, University exams in preparation for the journey to one of Africa’s neighbouring countries—Spain. In the spirit of oneness, the family gathered to celebrate. A unanimous agreement was reached by the family to take the entire community by surprise, by keeping discussions about their supreme triumph a top secret.
Three out of their four farmlands had already been mapped out for sale to cater for the air ticket and other exigencies of the trip as demanded by Ken… the syndicate, who had concluded agreements with the family to secure a befitting place for Joe in Spain.
“Ladies and gentlemen, Welcome to Casablanca Airport. Local time is 03:30pm and the temperature is 34 degrees Celsius. For your safety, remain seated with your seat belt fastened………………”.
The feminine tone of the flight attendant was appetizing.
Gripped to the marrow by nostalgic feelings, Joe remained mute in his seat as the aircraft taxied to the parking lot, not in the least mood to open up discussions with Ken who sat beside him.
Waiting patiently in that luggage claim room as their luggage journeyed towards them, Ken instructed Joe on where to keep the luggage and wait for him while he quickly goes to grab a bottle of water.
That was the last time Joe saw Ken.
Hours after Ken disappeared; the reality began to dawn on Joe. Mr. Ken has abandoned him. The initial arrangement was to have a brief stop-over at Morocco and to proceed to Spain an hour after. Now, signals of nightfall are fast overtaking daylight and Joe must find a place of shelter before darkness becomes absolute. The money in his pocket could barely take him to the closest two storey building that was awaiting completion.
With his luggage kept at a corner of one of the filthy rooms, Joe sat down confused, his mind, a whirlwind of thoughts.
Not quite long, three young men emerged from nowhere. Joe shrank in fear. Joe is to receive the beating of his life from these young boys who have specialized over time in trailing young African youths abandoned by their “masters” at the Airport while on the same course as Joe. One call by the boys, a Hilux Van arrived; in it were one “Sergeant” Malik, two security guards and two frail-looking young men whom Joe later identified as Peter and John from Togo and Ivory coast respectively, who were victims of the same predicament as Joe. The boys are to be taken to an isolated cell outskirts of the main city for an unknown number of days. A specialized cell for youths who become vulnerable after been abandoned at the Airport.
Having lost all their belongings to hoodlums and guards, Joe and his colleagues remained locked-up for days in that isolated, dark, filthy, God-forsaking hell of a cell, too dazed to talk to one another.
From there, they could hear the drone of a Hilux Van in the distance and in a moment, Sergeant Malik and his men arrived. Joe shrank in paralytic fear. The door of the cell was thrown open.
One after the other, the boys had their hands tied at the back, with steel chains taking absolute custody of their legs. Their persistent plea for leniency was greeted with malicious smile from Sergeant Malik who took intent supervision of the events in the company of three hefty guards, all armed to the teeth.
Darkness was impenetrable.
Having succeeded in bundling the boys into the back of the Van, Sergeant Malik and his men hurried in, in readiness for the arduous task ahead. Joe and his colleagues are to embark on a distressing 6-hour journey to the unknown, a journey to the land of uncertainty and illusion, a land where the possibility of life is next to impossible.
Turning right at that notorious junction, Sergeant Malik and his men headed straight to the road leading to the world’s mightiest desert—- The Sahara.
About 4 hours into the journey, Joe could perceive at intervals, sickening stench that travelled with the wind. The stench gained concentration as the journey advanced and in a matter of moments, the cause of this stench would leave Joe permanently sealed with fear.
Malik and his men had already planned their ordeal and to them, the rule was apt: “SEPARATE THE BOYS WITH MILES OF EMPTINESS”. This rule, they obeyed to the latter and in a matter of minutes, the Van pulled to a stop. John the Togolese was bundled down, unchained and abandoned in the middle of nowhere, at the mercy of desert animals and climatic violence, in the dark, impenetrable moonless night.
The journey continued.
With considerable kilometers from John, Peter the Togolese was bundled down and dumped, leaving Joe and two guards at the back of the Hilux Van.
Eventually, it was Joe’s turn to be consigned to fate.
Unable to accept the harsh realities of being stranded in a barren sea of bareness, Joe clung to the uniform of Sergeant Malik in desperate plea not to be abandoned. A deafening slap from one of the guards threw him to the ground. Malik and his men turned on the ignition and the van roared to life.
Joe remained paralyzed with shock as the Van vanished into the distance, his heart pounding heavily with a mixture of fear and impotent rage. This time, that same sickening, life-threatening stench has become totally unbearable. As he tried to make a swift move in search of fresh air, he stumbled on something and fell. Lo and behold!, a smouldering human flesh. The reality began sinking into his consciousness faster than ever and the fear in him crystallized.
Sealed with unconcealed fear, he crawled a little distance and waited in desperate desire for daybreak.
A night in the desert united Joe with shock and despair but then, the brutal realities of daybreak have made the night something to be desired for him. Behold the bodies of promising, young African youths littered everywhere in the desert while in desperate bid to get to Europe.
For Joe, he must act fast if his dream of getting to Europe will not end in such anti-climax as that of those littered everywhere in the desert , but then, how far can he go in such a vast sea of sand with neither food nor water?
The temperature is beginning to climb and before evening, it will attain a blistering 45 degrees Celsius. Joe took a gamble on his options and embarked on a grueling trek to his right in desperate survival against the odds.
The Sun had already started unleashing nuclear terror on the desert floor and before noon, Joe was already ravaged by hunger and thirst. “Struggle must continue no matter how dangerous”, he admonished himself and continued his ominous trek under the baking Sun of the Sahara. Just ahead in a distance, he could vaguely see a continous line of walls shrouded in mirage. He managed to double his steps. Behold! the double, 6-metere, fortified, anti-alien, razor-wire fence separating Morocco and Spain. His heart gained momentary relief but then, this latest discovery left him with nothing to be cherished as the stench of those shredded bodies of promising migrants at the foot of the razor-wire fence who slumped and died after unsuccessful attempts to scale the fence, kept him gasping for breath.
So far, Joe’s system has already been pushed to the limits and he clearly knew the implication of a second day with neither food nor water in the desert.
As the battle with hunger, thirst, hopelessness and scorching temperature s reached climax, Joe was left with only one disgusting, ominous choice: SCALE THE DOUBLE, 6-METRE, RAZOR-WIRE DEATH TRAP.
With the little energy left in him, he began the titanic struggle not minding the consequence. The anti-alien, razor-wire fence showed no mercy in shredding Joe’s flesh and blood oozing out from his mangled skin wetted the ground beneath. With one last effort, Joe scaled the first fence and fell across in a barrier in-between the fences. Every energy in him has been lost to the first attempt and blood was fast oozing out from all over his body.
In a matter of minutes, Joe was already soaked in a pool of his blood and hope for life began diminishing much more rapidly. Temperature has already attained whooping 44 degrees Celsius and no sign of help could be found anywhere. His internal struggle to regain consciousness met brick wall as his system, having lost ample quantity of blood, was beginning to shut down gradually. Within him, hope, energy and determination were gradually replaced by disappointment, depression, dehydration and above all, fear of death which hovered imminently around him in the scorching blast of the Sahara Sun.
Now, totally eluded by impulse, Joe remained motionless on the baking desert floor; helpless, hopeless and dehydrated with a pair of eyes that glared at bareness. The desire for Europe had fizzled out in him moments ago, John and Peter were no more, death was abundantly around and help was completely out of sight.
Helplessly trapped between barriers, Joe Udemezue lost his grip on life and gave up the ghost.