by Kathleen Partridge
Welcome to R.A.W. They were emblazoned across the banner, not a hard wooden sign across a building but a flimsy piece of cotton tied by string at its four corners. Hanging in front of the shabby tent waving about in the breeze it's bright red letters drawn as if painted in blood.
Moshi stared up at the banner in relief, as he collapsed in a huddle in front of it in disbelief and awe. He marveled at the knowledge that he had made it. Three weeks or more had passed since he had reluctantly crawled through the rubble of his homeland and followed his faith toward a new life. His mother’s sobs still ringing is ears, the shots, that had slain his father and uncle still reverberating around his head.
Tears streaming down his face he sobbed from the memory of his little brother screaming and clinging to his mother as chaos erupted all around him. Moshi’s mother begging him to get away to safety before it was too late. At twelve years old he was a threat to the militants and his life at risk.
Having taken her blessing he had done her bidding. Unable to bury his father and uncle he had left the task to anyone left alive in the village. He had crawled on his hands and knees or dragged himself along on his belly at times. Darting in and out of smashed buildings to avoid stray bullets and militants.
Gradually he had made it to the outskirts, the sun that had been high when he had started was now low. The temperature had dropped, darkness was about to envelope the sky, he hoped this would give him some respite, time to stop and rest, hidden by the blackness.
Days of dodging militants and bullets followed until more than a week had passed when he could take stock of his surroundings and plan a route that would hopefully lead him to a safer place.
Food and water were scarce what little he had was wrapped up in a shawl of his mothers, which he had tied across his shoulder. Much of the route he took was across desert land, dry and stifling hot during the daytime, cold and wind swept sand biting into his face at night.
Feelings of guilt and cowardice racked through his thoughts as he trudged along. Constantly admonishing himself for leaving his mother and baby brother to their fate; aware that she may be raped or worse, both powerless to defend themselves. Constantly seeking to quash these thoughts he focused his mind on getting to safety and getting them help.
If he hadn't come across a Red Cross jeep he would still be out there exhausted.
They had found him staggering in the desert, confused and dehydrated.
They lifted him into the jeep and gave him water. After he had rested a few hours he told them his plight. Unfortunately they would be travelling in a different direction to him so could only take him a few miles toward the border. With a fresh water bottle and a few provisions he picked up his small bundle of belongings and set off again from where they had dropped him.
“Make for the border,’ they had said. ‘Head in that direction.’ They pointed south. ‘Head for R.A.W and safety.” Then they were gone, the dust from their vehicle swirling around in the area, blotting it out as it disappeared into the distance.
Alone again he had trudged on, weary but grateful for the help he had received.
When the sun was high the heat was intense and he made little progress until it had dropped and the shadows were long. In cool winds and shifting sands in the evening he made headway,
With provisions gone and only a tiny bit of water in his bottle left he had crawled the last few hundred yards, too weary to stand. Yet he had made it; he could see the banner waving in the wind Welcome to R. A.W. (Refugee’s Against War)
Gradually Moshi became aware of his surroundings. He had not in his exhausted state of elation, noticed the rank smell around him, or the piles of mangled bodies lying in makeshift graves or mounds. He had not noticed the intense quiet of the place only interrupted by the sound of the breeze and banner flapping,
He was stunned, when the sight before him sunk into his brain; had he come all this way only to die in vain?
About the author
Kathleen is a new writer of adult fiction, children fiction and poetry who has returned to doing a pastime previously enjoyed, after retirement.