Man In Black Episode 35


The whole class sat around a large fire, talking, laughing and milling over the events of the day. They had just finished training with the super bazookas and were preparing to turn in for the night.

Chuks went over the events in his head, the noise and laughter all around him immediately reduced to whispers.

Their field instructor had been the first to fire the anti-tank to show them how it was supposed to be done. He had done it easily, shouldering it and then pointing it up at the dish-like steel circle on top one of the steel poles and then pulling the trigger.

Chuks still remembered how that greenish rocket at the super bazooka’s mouth had flown straight into the field instructor’s target and exploded, showering bits and pieces of the rocket down at the foot of the pole. The whistle as the rocket flew, the explosion, the smell of burning air and the shower of shrapnel had all seemed unreal.

But then Instructor Max had turned around as if all of it was perfectly normal and asked who wanted to go first, and Chukwudi, believing he could do it, had raised his hand, hardly knowing as he did that he just signed up for the most disgraceful moment of his life.

He managed to figure out how to couple the rocket launcher with the bits and pieces he remembered from when the field instructor had done his own, and then he raised the heavy thing to his shoulder, again, exactly as he had seen Instructor Max do.

But when he pulled back that trigger with both fingers, the bazooka must have slipped, maybe just a little, because no sooner had he pulled the trigger than he felt as if the bazooka transformed into a horse that reared back its hind legs and kicked him in the chest. It had all happened so fast, one second he had been aiming the thing, the next a terrible blow to the chest had thrown him back so hard, he took two other students down with him when he fell.

Chuks had coughed up sand, and a few people had run to see if he was okay, foremost among which was Segun.

After the initial shock of what happened, everyone else had started laughing at him. It had been so disgraceful, a grown man like him covered in dust and sand, but after the others went their turns, Chuks shook off shame and joined in the laughter.

Paul had tried moonwalking while carrying the rocket launcher. Maybe the guy thought it would make him look cool, Chuks couldn’t say. Needless to say, it didn’t end well. The weapon had slipped from his hands while he was dancing, and as he scrambled to keep it off the ground, he had pulled the trigger by mistake, and the same backblast zone that had forced Chuks to eat sand had thrown Paul ten feet into the air.

Chuks distinctly remembered the way the guy sommersaulted through the air, so fast, one moment he was up at the height of the dish part of the targets, the next he sommersaulting back down to smash his stomach into his rocket launcher. And judging by the way the guy had vomited all over it, it seemed Chuks had gotten off easier.

Maybe that had been better for him. The way Instructor Max had looked at him while he was displaying his useless Michael Jackson moves, Chuks suspected that the guy would have ended up far worse if his weapon hadn’t gotten to him first.

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Paul’s own had been scary, to be honest, but thankfully his own had been the worst by far. While three or four people had fired theirs succesfully and even managed to hit their marks, Segun never found out how to fire, and many of the rest couldn’t even carry theirs into position.

At least Chuks had launched the rocket, anyway. He had heard the thing whistling through the air as he was thrown back, but even after he fell, he still heard the whistle for a few more seconds, before it began fading gradually. He didn’t need anybody to tell him that the rocket had disregarded the target he had chosen and gone to find another better one, maybe hundred or two hundred metres away.

Chuks drank from his bottled water. His eyes found Paul, sitting beside his friend, Shine, the dancing flames of the fire in their centre illuminating the expression of pain on his face, and the hands that hugged his stomach. Sometimes, that guy behaved like someone that had no sense, but Chuks honestly felt sorry for him.

He had a feeling Instructor Max would crack down on them after today. It seemed mostly as if he had just let them indulge themselves. Chuks saw his friend out of the corner of his eye stand up and come to sit beside him.

“Feeling drowsy?” He whispered into Chuks’ ear. The latter shook his head.

They sat in silence for a while. Then someone shouted.

“Shey we wan sleep here today? E just be like sey make I fly go house.”

Chuks didn’t even have to turn to see one Shine, Paul’s close friend, looking as if he was being forced to stay there with everybody else. Many affirmative mummurs followed his comment. He then began bragging to all who would listen about his house and everything he had inside. Segun snorted at that.

“The irredemable showoff. On a serious note, though, how are we handling tonight’s sleep situation? It’s already half past ten.”

Chuks scratched his head. “Honestly, I no know o.”