Four weeks had passed and it felt like Deji had been at the camp for years. He wanted out as badly as a junkie needed a fix. His life had become a blur of orders and inadequate sleep, coupled with bad food and deadly angst – his. He was ready to implode. In discussions with the other recruits, he had labelled the camp their jail often alluding to a jail break sooner or later. Everyone thought he was a fool for entertaining thoughts of escape, except Mosunmola Badru the one good thing that had happened to him in that dreary place.
After the summary dismissal of the first recruit whose name no one remembered, ten others had been let go due to their inability to keep up pace with the rest of the pack. The boot camp was no respecter of persons, you either completed a task early or get brushed aside.
Of the ten that were let go, four had broken bones from the rigorous exercise campaign that they had to undergo. They were sent home to recuperate and sergeant Bala had promised they would be given a second shot at the training. Deji could not imagine himself agreeing to a part two of that kind of ordeal.
The six others were either tardy, had a wrong attitude and two had actually been caught having coitus. It was as though hell had invaded the earth. Sergeant Bala had raged like the devil himself and it took all his restraint not to shoot the couple. He had subjected them to the most demeaning and deadly corporal punishment. It was a sad day.
Deji had survived long enough for two reasons, first, he had a mission to prove the devil (sergeant Bala) wrong. And second, Mosun, she was easy on the eye and he found himself feeling again in her company. Love or not, it was for her that he remained, chiefly.
He had escaped the camp a week earlier, when the eleventh recruit had been dismissed. Since he had talked about it and gotten no response, he worked on a plan, studied the outbound routines and learned just how the dismissed recruits were transported along with shift replacements. He waited.
That fateful day, after jumping through hoops, climbing the overhead wire mesh that almost killed Dotun – another recruit, he felt he had had enough and quit. He hid under the truck just like in ‘POW The Escape’ and rode with the truck for more than twenty minutes. Then he started having second thoughts, thinking of Mosun and the other guys who hadn’t quit the program. His resolve to escape shattered whilst he was under the truck.
He made a new plan then; he would not quit until he was dismissed. He slid off when the truck slowed a little and began following the tyre tracks back to base. He got there after thirty minutes of jogging, running and walking. He slipped quietly into base and would have gone unnoticed except for one little fact, sergeant Bala was sleeping soundly in his bed.
Deji was at a loss, how could the man have known he wondered, superfluous. His sting operation had taken less than two hours, a little over an hour actually, still the commanding officer had caught on. He felt like smothering the man in his sleep and damning the consequences. He steeled his nerves from actually going through with the thought and silently turned away.
As he made to move away, sergeant Bala roused. He froze.
‘Young man, where did you go?’ Sergeant Bala was smiling.
Deji had never seen the man smile before, never seen him amiable, he represented everything that was evil. So why was the man smiling at him? His guard went up.
He wanted to lie, but something urged him not to, so he blurted, ‘I just escaped from the camp and decided to come back.’ He had a defiant look on his face, daring the man to dismiss him.
‘Okay. Hope you’re back now.’ The man slid off his bed noiselessly still smiling as he walked away.
That incident rattles Deji still, as he could not fully comprehend why he had not heard anything else on the matter. He was sure that sergeant Bala was cooking something sinister for him, and strangely, he was not one bit bothered. It might be a welcome development to be kicked off the boot camp.
Over the last week, he had found a new vigour for all the exercises and trainings. Dotun and Isah his friends there wondered how he was able to reignite his passion having bet that he would be the next to go. Still, not one person had deserved the boot, yet.
He had become a better lover too, becoming attentive and patient with Mosun. Their sexual tension was now palpable. He had been awed by her beauty the first time he saw her. And seeing her naked daily was not doing his members any good. His soldier had actually saluted the first time he saw her naked. That incident had been both embarrassing and awkward for him. She just smiled and pretended like she did not see.
Two days ago she had brazenly touched him in the showers, and washed his back. Deji had cringed at first thinking it was his ‘suspect’ gay friends only to see her smiling under the downpour. He calmed a little and it ended there. Throughout the drills that day he was distracted but had managed to complete his tasks on time.
That morning she had smiled at him again, taunting him to touch her. Daring him to defy sergeant Bala’s orders and copulate with her. He was living on a fool’s island and did not know what to do really about the situation. He was contemplating his line of action when private Jimoh came into their bunk house.
‘Okay guys, it’s time to hustle, let’s go!’ He was clapping to punctuate the urgency of his demand.
Deji planted his feet on the floor, this was one activity he had earnestly looked forward to. Shooting and marksmanship, he was going to be a world class sniper he thought as he joined the others on the way out.