"This way! I see a house ahead!" Didion shouted
back to the rest of the group. The ice cold rain just started to fall and
the wind whipped across the open field as the group climbed the hill up to
"Will they find us here?" Renee asked. The youngest in the group, they
found her only a few days before, the only person alive in the small village
of Avion. She had hid in a cellar and, by luck or divine intervention, the
government soldiers had not opened the door. For two days she huddled inside
listening to the terrorized screams of her friends and her family, as the
soldiers killed them one by one with a casual slice of a machete or the calculated
aim of a rifle. When all was quiet, she waited another day inside the cellar
fearing the silence meant that they laid in wait for her. But it hadn’t.
They had left; they had much work to do.
Didion put a strong arm around her shoulder. "They've moved on. We'll
be safe here for awhile. We'll rest and eat and then set off again in a few
days." Renee smiled up at him. She felt safe as long as he led their
group. "We'll have to bury them though." He pointed toward the family
that had occupied the house. They lay dead against the barn wall, shot firing
squad style, a man, his wife and their four children, dead at least a week.
The four men of the group, Victor, Rafael, Jean and Claude, headed to the
barn in search of shovels.
"Come Renee, you, Sharon and I will see what food is left in the house," Sophia
said taking her hand and leading her away from the carnage.
The cupboards in the house were well stocked with food. Most families had taken
President Emmanuel's advice and bought all they needed before the curfew was
instituted. People waited patiently in their houses, waiting for everything to
be sorted out, as Emmanuel, their savior, had said. In the end, the only thing
that they had waited for was their own killers.
Sharon slammed the cupboard door. "What a waste! What is it all for?" She
leaned on the countertop of the spotless kitchen and wept. Sophia rubbed her
back in comfort but kept quiet. They'd all seen enough to know the emptiness
of hollow words.
Sharon had been part of the initial group. She, Rafael and Claude had escaped
from a group of soldiers who had collected them from the factory where they worked.
In the forest, the three had met Didion. He assured them that he knew the way
to the border, their only escape. Since then, day by day, they picked up the
few survivors the government troops let slip through their deadly net. They were
now eight. Eight survivors in a province which had a population of 500,000.
The women began cooking. After some time, the men came in from their gruesome
job. "Is the water working?" Jean asked.
"Yes, " Sophia said. "I saw a shower down the hall." Jean
down the hall for a much needed wash.
"A bath and some food will certainly help," Didion smiled. “I
think the border will be about another two days walk. If we stay here a night
we ought to be okay for the last stretch, then we'll be safe."
"Safe? You're a fool to think the government will not have the border well
spat. "We'll be sitting ducks!"
Didion waited, his fingers crossed at his chin. "Perhaps. But they only
have so many soldiers. They haven't finished their work in the north of the province.
We will find an opening, have no fear about that. Haven’t I led you well
so far?" he asked, barely keeping the annoyance from his voice.
"Led us? We let you join us -do you forget so easily? And no one has agreed
that you are our leader. Besides, who knows where you're intending to lead us
said. He stood to his over six-foot height, much taller than Didion and stronger
too. His display was not lost on the group.
Sophia quickly changed the subject. "Food is almost ready. Perhaps there
is a bath upstairs. Most of these farmhouses have two." Rafael went down
the hall to see if Jean was finished and Claude, Victor and Didion went upstairs.
"This won't last long you know," Sharon whispered.
"We must try to keep them calm. Didion said it's only two days. Two days
will all be safe," Sophia said.
"Do you think they'll fight?" Renee asked.
"It's not if, it is only when. For our sake we should hope we make the border
first," Sharon said.
After days of sleeping like cats on the floor of the forest, the group was sound
asleep in the comfort of beds that night and heard nothing when the soldiers
climbed up the hill to the farmhouse. It was only the clumsiness of one of them
tripping over a shovel that woke Rafael. He peered out the window and saw the
group coming up the path to the house.
He crept to where the women slept. "Sharon," he whispered. "They're
here. Hurry." He woke Renee and Sophia and they crept quietly down the stairs.
"What about Didion and the others?" Sharon asked.
"How did the soldiers find us? I'm telling you Didion's involved. We can't
the others without waking him. We must go or they'll kill us, too."
Reluctantly, the women followed. They snuck out the back door and ran down the
hill to the woods. They huddled together waiting. It wasn’t long until
they heard shouting and later the shots of guns.
"Oh God save us!" Renee cried. Sharon took her in her arms and rocked
Sophia sat dry eyed, as if in shock.
"You wait here for me. It sounds like the soldiers have left. I want to
they've done. I want to confirm that Didion is one of them," Rafael said.
"Why? What does it matter? Let’s go! We need to go!" Sharon begged.
"No, wait here!" Rafael ordered. “I want to know. I need to know
At the farmhouse Rafael found that the soldiers had left. At the front door lay
the bodies of Victor and Claude. He raced through the house and found Jean shot
dead in a closet where he hid. Didion was nowhere, as Rafael had expected.
He picked up a few supplies and headed back towards the forest. Quickening his
pace down the path from the farm, something caught his eye in the tall grass,
it looked like a body.
As he stepped closer to get a better look, a voice spoke from behind him. "There's
no need to check who it is. Who could it be except Didion?"
Rafael turned. Sophia stood with an army rifle pointed at him.
"And then there was one," she said smiling, and the sound of the shot
echoed against the farm buildings. She slung the gun on to her shoulder and headed
her comrades waiting for her down the road.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Lauri Kubuitsile's writing has appeared in New Contrast (South Africa),
Mselxia (United Kingdom) and Spinetingler among others. She has one
published novel, The Fatal Payout (Macmillan 2005). She lives in Botswana.
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