The burial site in western Tanzania was not on next season’s camping list — hot, yes, but not the stench of rotting flesh outside my tent, nor in the middle of a tribal war. I wiped sweat from my face and swatted away a swarm of red-eyed flies eagerly awaiting another feast.
I leant on my spade, took a guilty swig from my water pouch, and looked back at the refugee village. The gate opened and a laden truck wound its way along the pitted track towards me.
‘Rush Hour,’ I thought. ‘Too many to count.’
Two months ago the last well had dried-up; now I was dependant on tanked-in water from Arusha. But so were the rebels. It was their stronghold, and several of our tank-loads had been highjacked and the guards killed. I wondered why I remained – Doctor Ineffective — now a forced labourer since my medical supplies had been ransacked and stolen. All I could do was to shovel sulphur from my diminishing pile into trenches, in a vain attempt to sanitise the burial operation.
The 6-15 arrived ten minutes later than schedule, and my gang was waiting to accompany the passengers to depart in an orderly fashion. Into the trenches went the arrivals, neatly lined-up and covered in dirt. Sweat, toil, and tears when relatives were recognised and peacefully buried.
But not all.
A commotion arose and I strode over to confront a group of angry men surrounding the body of a lady dressed in ceremonial clothes. Around her neck was a string of pearls — a priceless ticket to Freedom. Desecration or not, the prize was coveted by any one of these desperate natives. Wild-staring eyes followed my actions as I drew my bowie knife and cut the cord. Angry murmurs as I unthread each pearl into my hand, and curses when I threw them all into the cess-pit – now three metres deep.
‘It’s water we need for all, not stones for one man.’
I wasted my breath, they would not understand. I turned away, only to feel a knife thrust deep into my back. I fell to my knees, and as red mist turned to black, I realised my season ticket had expired.