The first drop landed on my face. Then the second. Then the third. I opened my eyes reluctantly. A new day had dawned, but there could not possibly be anything new about it. I knew exactly what it had for me – unless there was going to be some kind of miracle.
I turned on my right side. I saw my baby sister already sitting up on the grass, legs curled in lotus. Nirvana was not in sight.
“Nia.” I sat up to face her.
“I’m hungry.” Her bruised face could not conceal the pangs eating at her, her big eyes now droopy and glassy from the turmoil of recent events. Grease and dirt covered her rounded cheeks from all the crawling we had to do the day before. Thank God we dodged the bullets. Thank God we made it out safe.
The bad boys from the South had given chase quite relentlessly, quite impressive if you take the weight of their guns into account, some almost the length of their height. But they had to catch their breath at some point. What had they in mind, anyway?
I put on the wrapper that now doubled up as bedding and placed it round my shoulders. Dew drops had gotten to it too. Not to worry, it would get really hot in a bit, and then the cool patch on the fabric would be a welcome reliever. I stood up and dusted off my clothes.
“C’mon.” I stretched out my hand to Nia. “Let’s go find breakfast.”
She grabbed her doll and pressed it hard on her chest before taking my hand and getting up. The image of Princess Sofia the First was now muddied beyond recognition on the front of her nightie.
“I hope we get some sausages today.” She tagged along optimistically.
I worked hard to maintain a smile. We could barely get wild fruit, leave alone home-fried sausages like we used to, but Nia… How to squash the dreams of a toddler. Heaven knows we could use some right about now, just like the old days when mum would whip up pancakes, or omelet, and then dad would drop us off at school. We would have egg or Nutella sandwiches for lunch. And don’t forget fruity yoghurt. My favorite was Frusion – mango and peach… and sometimes a bottle of juice. But that was before they came; before the sky fell and the war began.
They say it is our fault. The wrong man is sitting in the big office.
“You let him in”, they said.
“Go back to where you came from!”
I did not understand. We were born and raised right there at Kilele City.
They dragged Nia and me out and placed us in an old white pick-up and sped away, before we heard gunshots. That was the last time we saw mum and dad. They took us to a camp in the bush. There were so many other girls our age. They said The Red Dragon has taken over Kilele, and beyond. They said no one was coming for us. Nia cried but I did not believe them. Someone had to be looking for us. Just like in the movies. They would find us in no time. Right?
That was months ago.
I closed my eyes to channel back good times. “Me too, Nia. Me too.”
I opened my eyes and looked for the morning star. I had taken the time to learn the constellations in time for my exams: The Hunter, his belt, his dog… I could have used every support I could rally. But as if to test the resilience I had scavenged, it had gone into hiding. Dark towers of smoke chocked most of the horizon. I looked back the way we had come the night before and then the distance ahead. We had no choice but to carry forward. So in silent hope and fickle defiance we traced a winding footpath that snaked through the thinning canopy, up to a vast patch of browned grass, into the scorching heat of the rising sun.
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