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by emma
Rated: E · Novel · Foreign · #1549309
start of my book, this is only the first 4 chapters so dont worry thats not how it ends!
CHAPTER 1



I looked around my home with such admiration and reverence that any outsider would have believed me to be slightly insane. I was staring at a mud hut in the middle of the savannah. Admittedly it was no Taj Mahal but to me the vision was of perfection. The dirt walls as sturdy as any castles, the roof of intertwined reeds supported by thick trunks which no water would ever penetrate seemed to me to be the sort of home anyone would dream of. As I pulled my eyes away from the vision I had created, I critically scanned the surrounding structures: when I embarked on this project the men of my tribe – the Daramini Tribe – had laughed, they underestimated my skill because I was a female. ‘You will never succeed Undara’ were the word that followed me everywhere. Although they were spoken in a joke like manner they had still caused me to become more determined than ever to prove them wrong. As I eyed all the other huts I began to realise that although mine had taken roughly a month longer than any of the others, and it was admittedly not as precise, it seemed to be as sturdy as any of those which surrounded me. An overwhelming sense of pride rose up through my body and I began to run through the long grass, stems whipping against my legs as I floated past the other families which lived with me in this small section of the African savannah.

As I ran the smell of my country blew with the wind into my face, the red dirt swirling up from beneath me. I sped up, my surroundings transformed into a mirage of fire as the earth engulfed all. That feeling of total wonderment and awe is one I will never forget: with just one gust the elements had transformed my home into a foreign land and with one more slight change in the wind they placed it back around me. I have gained a respect for nature, as any person would growing up in such close proximity with it, but I have only just started to realized the total and unrelenting power it holds over us all. I have lived here all my life, born and raised as a true African, and as a result I have never been subjected to the complications that modern civilization holds. I have no desire to become part of the 21st century and therefore never imagined that there was anything better out there than the rolling landscape that stretched out before me. The low trees casting disproportionate shadows over the earth, steep cliffs rising out of nothing to caress the sky, the kaleidoscope of blood reds and subtle yellows in stark contrast to the deep blues and greens, and the herd of elephants which like us held a permanent residence here. I continued to move towards the dwelling which I hoped would hold the person I was seeking, but now with more reverence, more aware of the grace and elegance that the females of our tribe possessed and were respected for.

         I drew back the thin animal hide which shrouded the entrance, making a mental note to myself that I would have to find one of these for my own hut, and entered the dark space.

“Thembi? I have something I know you will want to see.” The confidence in my voice was overwhelming as I addressed my best friend. He was born a year earlier than me, but despite the age gap we have been inseparable since infancy. Now as I approach my 15th birthday we are acknowledged as more brother and sister than friends by the rest of the tribe. We bring out the best in each other, incomplete without one another and despite our relationship being frowned upon by some as being improper due to us both technically being adults, they know that nothing that trivial would ever effect us.

         “You really do give your self far too much credit Dara; I would bet my next meal that it’ll be knocked to the ground in the next storm.” Sarcasm heavily laced his voice but he nevertheless rose from his position on the floor where he had been mending a weak spot in the wall.

         “It will be better than this place at any rate! It’s already falling apart!” A teasing smile crossed my lips as we stepped back out into the glorious sun set. 

         “Come on, we should get your humiliation over with before the hunting party returns. I would hate for them to see your failure!” He began to run, silently challenging me to a race. I accepted immediately and we sped through the village raising the red dirt back into the air. Naturally he beat me, but I was awaiting his response to my creation with such anticipation that I was only slightly tempted to ask for a rematch.

         He turned to examine first the frame work, then the roofing and finally to step inside and inspect the interior wall. He was following the same routine that he and all the other boys from the tribe were expected to know, and that they used when they built a hut of their own. After several minutes of silent contemplation he angled his body back around to face mine. His expression was lifeless at first, but a flicker of the familiar beam of pride which he often flashed at me began to transform his features. The corners of his full lips pulling up in perfect symmetry, cheek bones accented subtly and eyes holding an oasis of secrets which ran as deep as the oceans: this was the smile he always reserved for me and which melted my heart every time he used it. My (write favourite in African) smile, my favourite smile.

         “Well Dara, I hate to say it but this is good! Obviously not as good as mine, but we can’t all be the best now can we.” A taunting smile flitted across his face.

         “Oh come on! It’s better that yours by a mile! No contest!”

         “OK fine! It’s better than mine but it took about twice as long! So really we are even: yours is better quality but mine was built faster. Fair?”

         “Fair,” I grinned at his compliment. “Where did the hunters go today? I’m sure they should be back by now, they usually are.” I began to walk slowly into the centre of the cluster of 22 huts which made up our village. Due to the addition of Thembi’s and my huts it was now the largest in the area.

         “They went out to the northern border, I think there is a herd of buck passing though down there and they wanted to catch them before they moved on.” He spoke with an uninterested attitude, one that I did not share. I had always found the activities of the male section of our tribe the most interesting; mainly because they were the only ones I was not aloud to participate in. The ring of logs we were heading for was the evening gathering place for all the tribe. A fire always blazed in the circle of charred and discoloured rocks when the sun slept and this was when they, and by they I mean the elders of the tribe, would discuss the important matters that needed to be attended to.

         I gazed back over the savannah, in an almost a trace like state now, so at peace with nature, in perfect harmony with my world. I could see the hunters returning, their dark silhouettes distorted through the heat haze, spears over their shoulders and the strange shapes of the game they had caught being carried by the larger members of the group. My stomach began to awaken at the prospect of fresh food and I was pulled out of my daydream by my obligations to help prepare for the meal.

         This was always one of the most eventful times of day, and also almost the only time that Thembi and I were separated; as the males and females had different tasks. He gracefully lifted himself from the weathered trunk beneath us and wondered off towards the returning hunters; he would be needed to help skin and joint the animals. As he left he gently brushed my leg with his hand and glanced into my eyes; silently congratulating me on my creation and telling me to find him tonight so we could eat the meal together. We never needed to speak aloud to convey simplicities such as these: we have always been so completely in tune with one another that words were unnecessary. I lingered on the natural seat for a few moments longer; contemplating which task would be assigned to me. I alighted ever so less gracefully than he had and wondered over to where my mother, sisters and the other women of the tribe had gathered. The children were permitted only to attend to the more basic tasks such as fetching water as their skill was not yet to be trusted with food. 

         My family consists entirely of females bar Zaire: my father, and one brother: Sango who was named after the God of thunder. Then there is my mother, one of the most respected women of the tribe, three sisters- Nuska, Keisha and Camille, of whom the last two are twins three summers younger than me and Nuska who is two summers my senior, and my grandmother Legba nearing 65 and the second oldest women of our tribe were all already present. We were a well respected family in these areas and this gave me the opportunity to indulge in such activities as building my hut, but when it came to chores that were necessary for the whole tribe to participate in there were no exceptions.

         “There you are Undara! Hurry girl! You can do the fire. There is wood and flints over there already. Go. Now!” the woman who had spoken was commonly regarded as the matriarch of the little group of women who had gathered around her. Short compared to most of us, and blessed with wisdom but not beauty. Being this as it may, in my opinion it gave her no right to speak to us as she did, and as I turned to walk back to the circle I had just come from I exchanged sour glances with my sisters, all of whom shared my view of her. She also always addressed us by our full names, knowing full well that we all preferred to be called by shortened versions. She insisted that a woman’s name was her most valuable possession and should not be trifled with for mere convenience. 

         I bent over the ring of stones and began to assemble the logs in such a way that the dried grass which was placed under them would catch easily and create a good cooking fire. As I worked, pondering as I went what Thembi and I would discuss tonight as we ate, I registered there was something moving behind me. The upright posture and haughty features were those of one of the elder twenty year old men of the village who had come to watch me work. My spirits dropped as I realized this and decided quickly that confronting him outright would be the best tactic for this particular occasion, as I was not in the mood for a night of awkward conversation and inconveniencing politeness.

         “Hello Soaves, what can I help you with?” I did not bother turning to face him and my tone clearly stated that I did not relish his company.

         “Oh – well – I merely wanted to know where you learnt to build, we were just admiring your hut.” His words had the studied sound of someone who had planed his response before approaching his target. He had chosen his words carefully however as this topic was the only one he could have selected which would have softened my resolve not to engage in conversation with him, and he knew it. I was on the edge of giving into this temptation when I realized that without even asking, Thembi would give me any detail I wanted. My resolve hardened once more.

         “My brother taught me. Why? Is it of any interest to anyone?” now my voice was the one heavy with sarcasm.

         “You know that any detail even remotely associated with you is always of interest to me.” His voice was soft, almost pleading with me to respond differently to how I had been for the past five months. At first it had been painful every time I had to awaken him to reality, but recently it had become more of a reflex.

         “And you know that I am not remotely interested in your interest for me.” My tone was slightly apologetic yet firm. I had no intention of committing my self to marriage any time soon and even less so to one in which I would not be content, despite the customs of our people.

         The fire had caught and as soon as I was sure the flames would not relinquish their hold of the wood I got to my feat, again with less grace than I would have hoped for and with another apologetic glance over my shoulder turned to return to the gathering of women which now consisted of only four people. As reluctant as I was to be set another task I was even less keen to continue my conversation with Soaves; so once again I strolled over the worn patch of earth to where Nuska and several other women were still assembled. To my relief they were no longer assigning tasks but chatting with one another. I relaxed easily into the flow of the conversation and by adding in the occasional nod and agreement my mind was free to wonder. I was speculating what Soaves would say to the other men when he returned looking so dejected (the way he always did after even the shortest conversation with me). That at least sorted out the topic of discussion for Thembi and me tonight; he would not be able to stop laughing at me as he always did after one of these encounters. This didn’t bother me as it would anyone else though: his laugh was one of the few sounds I would give anything to hear. Superior to the stream trickling on its journey down the mountain it had carved it’s self into, or the wind sweeping the savannah finding its way into the smallest of secret crevices in the cliff face. It was infectious, and no one could resist the power it held to warm the heart and create peace throughout the body of the listener. I was so eager to hear this melody that being teased seemed far too small a price to pay, and the fact that I had heard it several times a day every day since infancy even when I was not being humiliated was irrelevant. There always seemed to be something to laugh at when Thembi and I were together, a fact which mystified everyone but us. At least this time he would be truly amused at something we didn’t both find funny and not just laughing to humour others jokes which he did not find particularly entertaining, because I knew that this was one of the few topics he truly enjoyed talking about. Anyone finding me even remotely attractive was intensely interesting and comical to him. There was another emotion that was betrayed by his eyes behind this interest that was bewildering to me and that he was oblivious of, but which always slightly tainted the humour for me. I couldn’t fathom why he found it so deeply interesting, but before I could spend more time trying to figure it out Nuska tugged on my arm indicating we were about to eat and therefore I needed to move.

         As I had predicted the evening was spent with Thembi’s melodic laugh warming my heart and the icy glances sent my way by Soaves cooling it right off again. But I was far to content listening to Thembi telling me what the other men had said about the hut to let the ice cool me down too much.

         “They particularly liked the weaved roof, they think it may be more effective than simply tying the reeds together and laying them down in sections. I really am proud of you Unda; I never thought it would be that – great.” His voice faded into insignificance and he quickly looked down at the ground a confused expression clouding his face, his brows knitting themselves together. He seemed to be trying to figure out what had made him say what he had just voiced. He looked away but not before I had seen the embarrassment spread across his cheeks in the form of a bright red flush.

         I spent the rest of the evening sitting peacefully by the flames, occasionally becoming interested by a scrap of a conversation that had drifted over to where I sat cross-legged on the dry earth. Thembi had gone to discuss putting together a team of men to do a sweep of our outer borders with my brother. I was contemplating what I always did when I had a moment alone: the understanding that something wasn’t quite complete, that I was waiting for something, that something more was coming and I just had to wait for it. I had known it for years now, and had come to accept the fact that as hard as I tried I might never find out what my life was lacking. However just as I began to dwell on this once more the rhythmic voices of my people swelled and began to act as an instant lullaby to me. I curled up as I felt the overwhelming power of sleep wash over me. I would be safe with everyone crowded around and there was no chance of me getting cold out here, I had never been cold in my life, it was an event that simply didn’t happen here. My last thought before sleep claimed me was of Africa: as it always was and always would be when I was under the vast expanse of the heavens and could feel the hot earth beneath me.



*



















CHAPTER 2 – CHANGE

         

Several months had past since that peaceful night by the campfire, but despite the passing time the only thing that had changed was the moon in its monthly cycle. Now, once again, I was curled up on the earth by that campfire asleep after a night of celebrations: one of the quieter, more sensible couples in the tribe had just announced their intention to marry after they had discovered they were expecting a child. While the power of dreams once again held me in sleep I was aware of someone placing a heavy object around my neck. It was not cold but the pressure on my collar bone was uncomfortable. I pondered on the weighty object for a while and eventually decided that it was part of a dream that occupied the larger part of my consciousness and stopped trying to fathom the reason for this addition to my fantasies. I drifted into an even deeper state of oblivion and was totally unaware of time passing by around me. Hushed voices were calling me back to reality, but they were unwelcome in my trance. I had no desire to leave the place where I was so happy: with Thembi. No worries or confusions. Total freedom: my heaven.

         After the dreams had successfully been ruined by the whispers surrounding me I decided it was time to return and see what everyone thought was worth spoiling my paradise for. Individual voices began to emerge from the mass; I could here my mother, Nuska and Sango. Eager to understand and not to be excluded I fought harder against the drowsiness. In a small corner of my mind I realized that the weight around my neck had not been an aberration after all, but as the topic of my families’ conversation became clear to me that thought was pushed firmly out of my mind.

         “We can’t stay. You heard what the scout said, about how fast it’s spreading, we can’t risk it!” I heard Nuska hiss.

         “Well were do you suggest we go? It’s hardly like we can just wonder through the wilderness!” Sango replied in an equally harsh tone. 

         I was torn between the impulse to sit up and express the fact that I flatly refused the possibility of leaving my home, and the eagerness to hear more as I knew that as soon as they guessed that I was no longer oblivious to the conversation they would take it elsewhere as they always did in situations such as these. Even though I was not the youngest in my family I was always treated that way: possibly because I showed absolutely no interest in growing up, or maybe because I felt younger than the rest, but probably because anyone else would not be refusing marriage proposals from one man and then running around with another. It was ‘improper’ as my mother kept reminding me.

         “Our family will go where the rest of the tribe goes, there is no matter of a debate about it. When your father returns he will tell us where he is going and we will follow him – all of us.” My mother’s voice seemed oddly strained; this alarmed me as she was always the oddly calm and neutral member of our family. It was this and not the angry voices of my siblings that hardened my resolve to make my presence known.

         I sat up, now fully awake, my brain working feverishly to work out what had gone wrong and what I had missed. The sun was still low in the sky on its way up so I couldn’t have been asleep for too long. I read the faces that surrounded me, the faces that I loved, and was immediately aware that this was no inconsequential problem. Something big had happened and I suddenly understood that this was it, my whole world was about to change. I knew it had been too good for me.

         “Unda, oh my darling girl!” My mother was suddenly hugging me fiercely. I had never seen her cry before: the diamond droplets leaving delicate paths behind them like someone trying to divide up a desert. The sorrow that burned from behind her dark eyes was horrifying. There was something accompanying the sadness, but it took me a while to recognise it: fear. No not just fear: terror. I was stunned into total silence, incapable of movement. My whole perspective of life had changed and I was still trying to figure out what the catalyst had been. Thoughts were moving so quickly through my mind I couldn’t focus on any one of them, like trying to catch smoke with my bare hands, they evaded my desperately clutching fingers. I no longer felt connected to my body, I was watching from up above: seeing my life change from someone else’s eyes.

         I was forced back into myself by the sudden flurry of movement that announced my fathers return. He was accompanied by my other siblings who both wore expressions similar to that of my mothers and Nuska’s; we were all here. My head was spinning, heart hammering, eyes wet. I looked imploringly into my father’s face, his figure blocking the sun pouring across the ground, praying with all my being that his words would some how bring a miracle. But just as he was about to speak the first word that would change everything an unfamiliar, unexplainable sensation began to spread through me. A new sense of ironic reason began to pour into me because I knew that there was nothing I couldn’t beat if I had the people around me, nothing that I couldn’t face with hope and at that precise moment I think I grew up. In one heart beat I made the change that most people make in years. While everyone else around me was loosing themselves I found myself! The whole situation shifted although nothing had actually changed, I was suddenly so ready to face what ever was thrown at me, ready to protect my family and to fill them with the same irrational confidence which now ran though me. My expression must have changed as well as my perspective because my fathers resigned features rearranged themselves into ones of shock. I could see that I was already beginning to have an inexplicable effect on him; he seemed calmer, more focussed.

         “We have been told that it has reached the closes village to us: we are next, it is definite. We are leaving within the next three days. Everyone is to pack as little as possible as we do not know how far we are going. We have been told, and I truly believe this my dear ones, that we are going to be alright, it doesn’t seem to be moving fast enough to reach us within the week but we are taking no chances. We leave in three days. “He spoke in an official tone, resignation lacing his words however beneath it you could easily hear the hope, the hope that I was sure had grown from me and that I had mysteriously given to him.

         “What exactly is it?” it was the first time I had spoken, and even though my voice seemed to sound exactly the same I could hear there was a definable difference in the meaning of my words. Before this morning I would have been scared: worried solely for myself and what would become of my life. Now I was thinking only of the people surrounding me and how I could protect them. My own life seemed of so little importance that it shocked me for a moment, then gathering myself, I realized I had always been aware that I was waiting to do something but my guesses had been in completely the wrong direction. It had not been the chance to build a hut, or to go hunting: it was to be able to give every part of myself to help someone else. Here it was, and I had never been more ready for anything in my life.

         “We are still not entirely sure. It’s some form of disease that spreads alarmingly quickly and that kills without exception. The only way of avoiding it is to get out of its path, and at the moment we are right in the middle of it. We heard talk of it a few weeks ago but thought it was a minor illness that would fade, and in the interest of not alarming the tribe we agreed to remain silent. We are now all in too much danger to continue ignoring it. We must flee – now.” You could tell the sincerity in his voice was genuine, he honestly believed that we would make it out of this fine. I was still completely convinced his sudden change of mind from depressed and positive we were going to be anything but alright to confident and optimistic had a direct link to the sudden emotional strength raging inside me.

         It was all very simple after that, we packed our belongings and gathered food for the journey. Young, unfamiliar faced boys would often come running into the village, bringing news both good and bad for us to factor into our plans. Mostly they talked of more deaths, the increasing speed and power of the disease, the fact that no one had yet been able to discover the cause of it. There was not much use in naming it seeing as there was nothing else being discussed so there was no confusion, but some took it upon themselves to call it the (find out how to say devils touch in African) the devils touch, and we all began to find ourselves repeating the name as if by naming it a cure would be more within our reach. However our fruitless attempts and those of the surrounding tribes stumbled upon no such miracle.

         Three days after the initial meeting we had packed all the necessities, rounded up the herds and prepared everyone to leave. Throughout the whole process I had hardly seen Thembi; we had both been far too preoccupied, though he was out of sight he was most certainly not out of mind. There had been talk that he and his family were not going to follow the rest of us out of the village but make their own way to their daughter, Thembi’s sister, and her husband’s house a number of miles to the east. I had had one brief conversation with him on the day we made our decision to leave; he had said that he would follow his father as was his duty and as soon as he knew for sure where that would be he would tell me. I now cornered him, determined for an answer.

“I still don’t know Unda, I promise I will tell you…” he continued to speak however I was barely listening to his words, the story his eyes were telling was far more interesting to watch. There was the most spectacular mixture of emotions fighting for the prominent position in his mind, and although none of it was detectable in his voice to me his eyes were as vivid as a picture book. I watch intently as fear, anxiety, love, confusion and then fear again clouded his vision, like they were each presenting themselves to me in turn. However the cloud of emotion suddenly hardened into an unreadable wall of suspicion, I knew without looking at the rest of his features he had noticed my lack of attention to his words and was now wordlessly demanding an explanation. I slowly let my eyes drift from his and onto the surroundings.

         “Unda this is hard enough for me, not knowing what will happen, I really need you right now. I just wish you would understand and not try and quiz me for information I don’t have.” His speech was pleading, almost willing me to come up with some miraculous answer that would solve all the difficulties. I had underestimated him, he was already a step ahead of me: he wasn’t asking for an explanation as to my lack of inattentiveness, he already knew the answer to that question, he was asking me not to search him like only I could. I looked down, slightly ashamed of my breech into his mind with out his permission. I could feel the redness spreading over my cheeks, slowly gaining ground as I fought it fruitlessly: it won – I was totally awash with a red glow. Great. I hated the awkwardness of the situation: Thembi and I had experienced almost every kind of emotion possible together but awkwardness was hardly ever present and it was the emotion I hated the very most. By this point the tension present could have been cut with scissors, and by the look of Thembi’s face it was beginning to cause him physical pain, so in the interest of his health and my sanity I decided it was time to tell him I had some very important task to attend to. He would know immediately that it was a complete and utter lie but I had to get away.

         “Um, so I still have so last minute packing to do – and – well, some stuff to do, people to talk to, you know. So- I will see you- um – around? Keep me posted on your plans.” I visibly cringed at the transparency of my excuse, and promised myself that I would explain it to him when things weren’t quite so tense, but he seemed just as relived as I was at the chance to escape from the situation. I didn’t wait for him to reply to my lie; I turned on the spot and without hesitation began to run, against the wind, back to where my father was sat on one of the logs encircling the empty stone circle of charred wood.

         I dropped onto the perch next to him and only after I had sat there for a few minuets, contemplating the possibility that our little exchange just now may have had a permanent catastrophic affect on our friendship, did I notice I was not the only one with something playing on their mind. My fathers face was twisted in confusion and worry; two things that were not uncommon to see on the faces of my people at the moment but that were suddenly much more serious when worked into the expression of one of the people that were making our decisions. He was totally unaware that I was studding him, so deep was his concentration. I continued to sit in silence but now I was contemplating the look on my fathers face. I was sure that after a few minuets past he would come round and explain it all. After 15 minuets had gone and not one word had been said I decided that once again the tension and stress in the situation was going to have a serious affect on my sanity if I didn’t do something.

         “Um, hi. What’s wrong, we are all ready to go and are going to make it out fine. What’s worrying you? I’m sure whatever it is we will be able to get through it, we always have.” Once again my sense of certainty and optimism radiated into the space between us, I wasn’t sure why but the worse the situation became the better I felt about it all. As if the bigger the problem was the more fun it would be to solve. Most people had slowly come to the conclusion that I was mad and that I was beyond all help. My father however had been one of the few people who had not judged me and just accepted my strange attitude as a backfire of adolescence; it was clear from his expression now that my statement may have changed his mind. He was looking at me as one would look upon an irritating three year old who was trying to understand something that they knew was out of their reach but still continued to annoy everyone with their persistent questions. It was such a burning look that I quailed away from his gaze.

         “You just don’t get it do you! It is NOT going to be ok! When will you finally start acting your age and understand that rather than filling your mind with ridiculous fantasies of optimism!” He had stood up and was towering over me, the shadows his body was casting over me was banishing me to complete darkness, to a place where no one could save me from his wrath. People had begun to gather around my prison of darkness, and as if to confirm my belief that no one could help me the spectators that surrounded us watched but made no attempt to stop the onslaught. With one final disgusted, fierce look down at me he tuned on the spot and walked away. The silence that followed was deafeningly loud. Everyone stood frozen where they stood, unable to move. No one dared approach me, it had been made clear that I was in utter disgrace – though I was still confused as to why – and approaching me now would be defying my father’s orders. So they stood, unmoving, unchanging, just standing totally still.

         Some where in the background, breaking through the unbearable silence, a child started crying. Every head turned in unison in that direction, as though connected by the same string. We all remained perfectly still and quiet, all wanting to go and help the screaming child, but no one daring to move. Eventually one of the younger women began to walk away from the scene and towards the sound. We watched her go, as if her disappearance was the signal that we were aloud to leave the circle. I had never seen someone cross that distance of space so slowly, it was almost as if she were doing it intentionally, each painfully deliberate footstep taking almost double the time of an ordinary person. Eventually she bowed her head and ducked into the hut; the baby’s cries began to slow and eventually stopped. An audible breath of relief swept the clearing, and nervously the audience that I had managed to attract went back to the pursuits they had previously been engaged in. I remained, still frozen to my seat. I stayed there for a long time, watching the world go by but not seeing it. Once again my thoughts resembled a hoard of angry bees stinging the inside of my head, and with no way of solving the twisted problems that encircled me I waited, praying they would eventually sort themselves out.

         The sight of the local doctor walking across my line of vision caused me to jolt back into reality. Only then did I realize that terrified whispers surrounded me and the screaming cries of a child were piercing the clear air. I looked towards the sound and was without a doubt that it was the same child I had heard earlier, but it was different: before he had sounded in discomfort, now he sounded like he was in agony. Pleading for help, help we all knew had come too late. The little voice slowed and eventually stopped, and then a new scream entered the air, the scream of a mother grieving for her child.

         It had started, it was here.



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