He felt a drip of liquid tickle the palm of his hand. There was no way
for him to know if it was sweat or blood. He felt an onset of grief when he realized he didn’t care to know the difference.
His hands were tied sharply behind his back. His head lowered towards the ground, heavy from the weight of hours and gravity. He felt the person to his left slowly leaning into him. The heat of the afternoon was clearly taking its toll.
He quietly whispered, “Sit up or they’ll shoot you.” The person on the left of him did not receive the message in time. There was no time between the guard’s boots creaking in approach from behind to the ringing in his ears.
He kept his eyes closed, head shifted to the right. He waited for the weight
of the person on his left to be lifted off of him. The weight was lifted. Eyes still
closed, the wire cutting into his wrists was snapped. “Go, Run free. You are free” He heard a voice shout into his ear. He lifted his gaze to the open field in front of him. The bodies of those “freed” before him laid scattered and rotting.
He felt himself stand from the kneeling position. His long black hair lifted
from his sweating neck and shoulders as he ran with a strength he didn’t know he had. He saw the first bullet hit the dirt ahead of him. The next bullet landed
inches from right his foot with a combination of the guard’s laughter. He swerved as he ran, a technique that appeared to prolong the inevitable for the others before him. His muscles and lungs burned from dehydration and terror, but he ran until the guards were far enough behind him to sound distant.
He ran until the bullets were not kicking up dust around him anymore.
He ran until the sun on the horizon in front of him had made a clear change, closer to its sleeping position. His pace began to slow, a light jog now a brisk walk. His mind racing. Had they let him escape on purpose or did the guard just have terrible aim? Would he become a symbol of hope for the others? Would they hunt him down now and bring him back to set an example?
He was lost in his worried thoughts when he slipped and fell down into a
cave. The cave was dark and moist and a reprieve from the hot sun. He laid there on the cool dirt floor and it was a while until he became aware of the little child in the corner watching him. The child had the markings of the guards burned into her arm. He knew soon he would be reported to the authorities and sent back to the camp. He hoped they would kill him quickly this time around.
The little girl stared at him. He stared back. She brought her finger to her mouth in a shushing motion. She turned and pointed down the short tunnel walls to opening at the end. He gathered himself and began walking towards the sunlight breaking in underground. He was unsure of his fate, unsure of the child’s direction but he was out of clever planning and optimism.
As he reached the opening of the cave, he could hear the sounds of moving
water. He was suddenly aware of his nagging thirst and moved closer to the noise. As the river came into view, so did the sight of hundreds of people wading, chest deep, downstream with it. He paused and stared for a moment, trying to register what he was witnessing. The little girl whispered from behind him “Hurry, into the water” and then she turned from where she had come from and was gone.
He quickly ran to the river bed and pushed his way into the herd of people.
Everyone moved forward together, skin reddened and blistered from the
hot sun. Some people had their arms full of household items, some arms were full of children. Some arms were empty and the lack of noise amongst the hundreds of people was haunting.
He silently moved with the crowd. He could tell that these were his people.
When exactly the divide between “us and them” had become official he was
unsure of, but he was not unsure that these were his. The glassy grey expressions of war were enough for him to know. His feet were already breaking open from the sharp rocks that lined the river floor. He imagined the condition of his neighbor’s feet. The man walking along next to him had clearly been at this for some time. He wanted to ask the man what his name was, where he is from, where they were heading but he stayed silent.
Up ahead, standing along the edge of the river were six-armed guards in full
uniform. He began to panic. His heart raced, and he was sure that this would be
the final end to it all. He followed the calm pace of the crowd as he got closer to the guards. Confusion began to set in as to why the guards were not shooting at them. He kept his head down as he walked passed the guards, careful to never make eye contact with the enemy.
After they had passed without damage, he finally leaned over to the man walking next to him and whispered, “Why didn’t they shoot us?”
They man turned his head towards him, as if being pulled upwards from a
trance. “This is their drinking water. If they shoot us, our blood will poison their