Literary Zone

Short Story: The Escape

4 March 2008 at 07:22 | 907 views

The Escape

By Bakar Mansaray, Toronto.

Allie Rainbow and Sheku, like most of the residents of the town of Karina went to bed exhausted after celebrating the beginning of the farming season. The occasion was marked by prayers, feasting and dancing. Although people like Allie and his son Sheku were sceptical about the worsening crisis in the country, yet they hoped that this year’s harvest would be better than the previous ones. However, their hopes were shattered just before dawn when they woke up to the sound of gunshots and screams. The so-called freedom fighters known for their atrocious behaviour were in town. The rebels, they called them. Houses were being looted and set ablaze. People were being beaten, raped or murdered. An announcement was made by the invaders that nobody should attempt to leave the town. They threaten to kill anybody who would be foolish enough to try to escape from their grips.

For the past five years, these marauding rebels cum freedom fighters have been on the rampage, fighting against the government troops in a country ravaged by civil war. As far as Allie was concerned, the war was largely brought about by the lack of social amenities and the rampant practice of greed and corruption. Since the country gained political independence forty years ago, the people appeared to be very much self-centered, highly possessive, and complacent. Little achievements or none were made within this lengthy and depressive period. While some people thought that they were more superior to others, some seek to perpetrate degradation. Successive governments, whether colonial, democratic, military or civil-militia could still not provide food, basic primary health care, and education for their subjects. Instead, all that the disgruntled children could see was war, perpetrated by unscrupulous people fighting for power and wealth. Allie Rainbow was not saying that all of the above-mentioned issues were not present in the pre-independence era, but it was to say that they had now become common practice like opium to the people.

After three days under siege, Allie and Sheku, decided to escape from the carnage in Karina. They packed their few belongings into a small bundle and headed up the hills. Like most other residents on the run, their idea was to use the hills as a by-pass from the main roads in view of seeking refuge in the neighbouring town of Kabumban. They heard rumours that this other town was relatively safe as it was in control by the government troops. Allie and Sheku kept trudging up the hills when all of a sudden Allie heard the whistling sound of a bullet close to his right ear. Without second thought, he ducked for cover, pushed his son away, and then turned his head around to see what was happening. It couldn’t get much closer than this.

He was amazed to see one of the freedom fighters with a pistol in hand taking a second aim at him. The fighter was a half-naked young man with a belt of bullets criss-crossing his torso. He wore a wig on his head and dark sunglasses. With his heart pounding against his chest like a pestle in a mortar, Allie pulled Sheku into a nearby shrub searching for extra cover. They dodged here and there as they continued their journey up the hills, fleeing from home. Every step of their ascent brought Allie closer to exhaustion. He could hardly breathe. He regretted having been a smoker for the past twenty years. He now realized how much damage cigarette smoking must have done to his lungs. Finally, they arrived in Kabumban to find a large number of displaced people who have escaped fighting from other towns and villages. All they could say was that a tragedy has been averted.

© Bakar MANSARAY, 2007