This is the beginning of a story set in the mountains of Waziristan/Afghanistan.
The gravel crunches beneath my feet as I make my way along the broken path up the hill. My lips are parched; my vision, a blur of circles through the lattice. The cursed burqa keeps slipping beneath my ankles and I stumble on.
My destination is still a long way up … over the top of this hill and beyond the rocky ocean that lies below. It is a cold day, like the countless other days this year across the mountains of Waziristan. But I sweat under the heavy synthetic fabric.
Another cluster of pebbles and I grab onto a stunted bush sticking out of the earth. I try to heave myself up but the burqa refuses to budge from beneath my ankle. Too late. A shower of gravel and I stumble … a blur of blue and hazy browns, from bush to stone and brutal bush again. My shoulder hits a boulder, I hear a scream. Finally, thankfully, I hit a flat slab of rock. It knocks the wind out of me. Darkness.
I am alive. Despite my bleeding palms and knees, despite a lump of agony that is my shoulder, I am miraculously alive. An inch off the edge, I am breathing in the fresh mountain air and struggling to sit up. Things could have been worse; below lies another sea of jagged rocks. These Northern stones are seldom friendly to the stripling fugitive. An inch off and even the mountain vultures would be disappointed with their find.
I sit up and shuffle away from the edge. I lift up my burqa and reach for the satellite phone from my tiny backpack. I must return to camp; I need to rest.
Mosi will have to wait until tomorrow.