The explosions grew louder and more frequent; that was the angriest sound I had ever heard. Villagers ran up and down the street, their lives even more uncertain than when the communists attacked. Members of the People’s Revolutionary Army used anti-aircraft guns to defend the airport. A couple of the paratroopers disintegrated in midair, their bodies exploding like fireworks, but there were no bright colours. I left the window with my heart beating so hard I thought it would explode. I ran back into the house and turned on the radio. The announcers frantically shouted for the islanders to pick up arms and defend their country. I was confused, wondering if I should go to the front lines, or just let the warmongers murder each other. After all, this was my island, my forefathers had fought to free the slaves on this very ground. Why should I let these outsiders occupy my homeland? After five minutes of the announcer’s erratic talking, a Bob Marley song, “Ambush in the Night” was played. To this day that same song plays in my dreams over and over again. The young announcer’s voice shook as he began talking again, sometimes struggling to get the words out. Suddenly, his voice was replaced by the annoying sound of static; then the radio went silent. I sat there for a moment not knowing what to do. Then I heard a loud explosion and our brick and mortar houses shook. I jumped like someone had poked me with a nail, and ran to the front yard. A puff of smoke bellowed into the air beyond the lush green hill, top to the left of my house. It was then that I realized that the explosion had come from the direction of the radio station.
Then as if with a predetermined purpose, I got up and walked into the house, went to my bedroom, and retrieved my Red Bear-made pistol. Now you may wonder where I got the weapon. Well the government wanted a militia, and they got one – lots of islanders with guns. I checked the chamber to make sure there was a full clip, then reached into my dresser and got a few extra rounds. I walked down the street, my eyes scanning the rows of houses, anticipating any attackers. Trucks loaded with people’s revolutionary soldiers raced by, creating a gray cloud of dust that covered the village. Young men and women clenched their AK-47 rifles, some screaming at me to join them in the defense of the island. I shook my head; poor bloody souls were off to fight a war they could not win. I ran my finger along the smooth metal edge of the pistol. You can’t imagine the false sense of safety I felt with that bloody thing stuck in my waistband. I did not know what I was going to do, but I was becoming angry. First we had to endure the rule of the Union Jack. Then the Red Bears came with their inadequate ideology, brainwashed the population into believing they had a chance to determine their own destiny. Here I was, locked in this battle, confused, frustrated and scared. It did not help knowing that lives were being lost all because we were just a pawn in the destructive cold war. Now the invaders were here claiming to save us from certain destruction. I remember thinking was this not destruction I was witnessing at their hands.
I snapped out of my thoughts when there was another explosion. Jeeps raced down the street from the airport, carrying the wounded. Their screams caused my skin to tingle and burn, like someone injected hate under it. I forced my mind to shut out their agony, but the sound was unbearable; those screams still linger in my dreams today. The antiaircraft guns were firing constantly now, causing the air to taste like sulfur. Deafening explosions shook the brick houses, and the screams of frightened children echoed through the village. A debilitating exchange of M-16s and AK-47s erupted just down the street as the paratroopers hit the ground. An earsplitting explosion rocked the village as a building disintegrated. Villagers scattered in every direction, screaming. I instinctively pulled out the pistol and ducked into the yard of the house closest to me. I was shaking so hard I was barely able to keep my grip on the weapon. More trucks screamed by, stopping to pick up some volunteers on the highway. I wanted to get up and join them, but I decided that it was not my fight. Instead, I stood up, the pistol hanging loosely in my hand, my heartbeat echoing in my head. I stood there listening to the sounds of war around me. I have to confess, there was a rush of adrenaline running through my veins. Strangely the explosions were dull hums, like a fishing boat engine in the middle of the night when you are half asleep. For the first time in my life I did not feel human. There was a monster growing in me. I wanted to kill someone, make them pay for the fear I felt. A jeep sped by, fleeing the battle. There was a young man in the front seat with a bloody stump where his arm used to be. I almost threw up, but swallowed hard, then turned and walked back to my house.
I sat at the kitchen table and listened to the war raging at the airport. That whole day, I stayed in the house. I would grab hold of the pistol every time I heard footsteps on the road. That night, the electricity was out, so I sat at the window and watched the orange flares light up the sky. Revolutionary soldiers ran through the village, retreating from the battle, their voices fading into the dark, replaced by barking dogs, angry they were woken up by the commotion. I stayed in the village for a week, sometimes going down the street to see what was going on. There were periodic lulls in the fighting, and lots of villagers stood at the top of the hill overlooking the airport. It was like standing in the middle of a bloody movie set. The invading soldiers had advanced from the airport. I remembered thinking that that was the first time I had heard inner city blacks from “The City of Golden Streets” talk, well except for the movies. I remember scavenging for food in my garden, making it a game to go outside when the shooting was intense. I had some common yard fowls and I had to break down and kill one. Later that day, I took the rest of the fowl and let them go into the bushes behind the house. I watched them scatter in all directions, their wings flapping, their feet kicking up dust as they ran for their freedom. They were more like pets to me and I did not have the heart to kill them. I wanted to be them, just for a moment, feel the freedom they felt.