“Jato’s Box” by Prosper Kwao.

They shook him awake. As he groggily opened his eyes and began to adjust them to the dim light from the aged incandescent bulb in his bedroom, he felt a strong blow against the side of his head.

“Ow!” he shrieked.

There were strangers in his room- Robbers. The pain at the side of his head increased and he quickly realized he had been struck with the back end of some heavy metal. Armed-robbers, he now confirmed. One of the robbers who stood close to him pointed the weapon in his face. He could not remember ever being so close to a gun.

“Shhh. Any wrong move, you go chop bullet. You understand?” a cold voice from the dark figure towering above him announced.

There was really no need to make any move. They were in his one bedroom self contained home. There were no other rooms in the building. There was no one to call out to. From what he could remember, his next door neighbours had made the trip to their village the night before; there was mention about a funeral in the family. He was truly on his own against these men.

He slowly leaned against the head post, sat upright and finally made out the figures of the two robbers who now occupied his room. Both men were at least six feet tall and wore black tank tops. Their bulging biceps poured out of their shoulders.

“Boss, I beg, my name bi Jato. I no-”

“-My friend, you better shut up,” the nearest robber with the gun said softly. The mixture of alcohol and marijuana sprayed out from his breath into Jato’s face.

“WHERE THE BOX DEY?” another of the robbers bellowed from across the room. He had stepped back and was now leaning in the corner close to Jato’s wardrobe, hidden from the dim light pouring out of the bulb.

“Boss. I no get any-” Jato began to plead but stopped short when the gun was again pointed squarely in his face.

“I go ask you for the last time. Where the box dey?” the same man called out from across the room.

They shot him twice in the head. And his brain split open, spilling fluids and the invisible memories of where he had dug out the soil and hidden the box containing the stolen gold.

*******************

For years, everybody wondered about Jato’s death.  The body had been lying in his bed for a week at least, before it was found, the policemen had said. Questions had been asked, sometimes with the intimidation tactics that were typical of small town policemen. Young men were rounded up and physically abused for answers. Slaps across both sides of the face and the back of the head were distributed freely. Still, nothing concrete was gained. Jato’s death simply remained a mystery.

But the June-July rains came heavily five years after Jato’s death. The weather-people said it was the highest to be recorded in a decade. The floods had carried few electric poles and cables away. Kiosks were uprooted and dragged away by the currents. The soil had eroded and the ground had split in many places. As people stood in the safety of stronger grounds, pointing and identifying the debris being washed away, Jato’s box floated along unnoticed and its black padlock swung with every movement. The rhythmic clanking of fifty bars of pure gold, inaudible to the observers who were too busy identifying their own properties, silently marked the drift of Jato’s box.

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