*Emerald, this one’s for you. ❤
A peek into the past – Rameez:
I stare silently at the spot we’d been standing on just few seconds ago, now a raging blaze.
I can still feel the heat on my back as the bomb went off and the shack ignited.
A shiver runs down my spine.
Sitting up fully, every bone in my body begging for mercy, I gently move dad off me.
I sigh. He’s out again..
The crackling sound of the hungry flames greedily swallowing the shack is the only noise in the quiet night.
I look at dad, a piercing pain stabbing at my heart, as I gently trace my shaking fingers over his bruised face.
I look back at the fire; a beautiful destruction, glowing brightly in the dark night.
My gaze moves back and forth between dad and the fire.
Dad is in a terrible condition. No doubt he needs urgent medical help..
The fire will begin spreading soon..
My mind is at the edge of insanity, my body, entirely exhausted.
I close my eyes tightly, swallowing the lump in my throat.
Blinking back tears, I reach into my pocket..
My fingers feel them, the small round pills inside my pocket.
I withdraw my hand and reach into my other pocket, the energy bar wrapper crinkling as I pull at it.
Sighing heavily, I stare at the energy bar for a mere few seconds, before shoving it back into my pocket.
I glance at my father, hating the guilt that surges through me, knowing well that he would not approve; at all.
Fighting the conflicting emotions within me, I swallow one, and then another.
A few seconds later, as I stare helplessly into the distance, I swallow one more, comforting myself with the fact that I have nothing to lose.
I shake his shoulder gently, trying to wake him up.
“Dad, let’s go.”
He stirs, his eyes opening briefly before closing again.
“Dad,” I say, louder this time.
He opens his eyes.
“We have to go. The fire is spreading.”
A look of confusion appears on his face.
Gently I help him into a sitting position.
“Here, eat this,” I say, unwrapping the energy bar and handing it to him. “We need to start moving.”
Seeing food, after what must be much too long, he hungrily reaches for it. With slow, weak movements, he consumes the energy bar.
“Do you have another?” he asks.
“No,” I reply, regretfully. “I left water stashed on the way though.”
“The faster we get home, the faster you can eat,” I say, trying to motivate him.
He sighs, closing his eyes.
“Mummy is waiting for us,” I add quietly.
His eyes shoot open, his gaze connecting with mine; penetrating, searching.
“She’ll be really worried if we’re not back before dawn,” I say.
My mention of mummy seems to have roused something within him. His eyes are suddenly alight, a blazing fire, as fierce as the one raging in front of us.
The truth is, I myself have not seen my mother for 3 days. Since the day they sent me away with the parcel of drugs to sell, I haven’t been home.
Trying to encourage myself with my own words, I let them flow, despite them probably being untrue.
“She’ll probably come herself looking for us. We can’t drag her into danger. We have to go.”
I stand up slowly, trying to ignore the pain encapsulating my body.
But dad makes no attempt to move. He simply watches me, his eyes still seemingly searching mine.
“What is it, dad?” I ask, a slight feeling of uneasiness pricking me.
A heavy silence settles in the air.
Dad takes a deep breath. He closes his eyes, drops his head.
Then, his voice a hoarse whisper, he speaks three words.
“They killed her.”
My breath hitches. My heart… my heart seems to stop.
My ears plead to have heard wrong, but dad doesn’t repeat himself.
The anger inside me rises again. It’s a sudden feeling that I’ve still not grown accustomed to. Despite it happening so often, the molten lava that seems to rush to the tip of every point in my body still sets my entire being alight.
“No they didn’t!” I scream.
“Dad, they didn’t!!!” I yell, louder this time.
But I can’t even believe my own words; they sound more like a plea than a confirmation.
Calm down, Rameez. You need to keep sane.
I take a deep breath, swearing in my mind.
“Dad,” I say, trying to keep my voice collected. “Mummy is fine. I seen her just before I came. They didn’t kill her. She’s okay. Dad, she’s okay. Come on, I’ll show you.”
I hate the way my voice shakes.
Forcing the thought of what would happen if I’m actually not correct out of my mind, I offer my father my hand.
We’ll deal with that when it comes. Now, concentrate on getting home. Just get home. Deep breaths, come on. Just get home. Dad’s going to be alright. Mummy is alive and well. You’re going to be okay. Everything is going to be fine. Just get home.
Slowly I help dad up. He leans against the tunnel wall for a couple of seconds.
“Try to keep a positive thought in your head. It’ll help you to keep going,” I say.
It feels strange offering my father advice..
We begin walking.
“Like, I have water kept a little bit from here. So if we keep walking, we get the water. If we stop, we don’t.”
I glance at dad from the corner of my eye. His lips are moving inaudibly. He doesn’t quite seem to be listening.
I swallow a sigh, concentrating on moving one foot in front of the other without pause, whilst at the same time, trying not to move too fast, lest it become burdensome for dad.
Occasionally I glance back.
Slowly, a single step at a time, we make progress, until, finally, I see the road on the horizon.